there were always going to be days like this....
Hours in the saddle: 4hrs
Time to get to Merida: 9 hours
It was meant to be a momentous day as it was but not for quite the same reason it ended up being..I knew it was going to be a long one but the end result being moving out of Andalucia and into Extremadura. Meaning also a change to Michelin map numerous duo! But of course the powers that be had other ideas of what would be momentous. That's not to say it was a bad day, just a day that didn't go exactly to plan. But what are plans if they are not meant to be or cannot be changed and adapted? Pragmatism being my middle name
Well the day started off well, coffee and tostados, and the sun even came out - first time I had seen the sun first thing for quite a whole. And it always improves the mood.
Hmm I say it started off well but I have forgotten to mention that I realised I had a slow puncture, so that was what I was up doing before morning coffee. The night before I had also been quite restless, worrying a bit about the bike. So quite tired already from lack of sleep before the fun started.
Puncture sorted I headed out into the sun and the rolling plains. It was all going so smoothly. But at about 40km in my chain snapped..not just snapped, I kind of obliterated it. I couldn't fix it, though I tried. Ok fine, I thought, I know there is a town a few km up the road, and it being rolling I could coast some of it. I ended up rolling past the Extremadura sign which was a little bit of a let down to not be cycling properly. A little while later I realised the plan, while sound and fine, was going to take a while and my legs were taking a beating from 'scootering' the bike. So new plan..grab the next car. Flaw to that plan is I had seen only perhaps 2 cars going my way that morning..but I am nothing if not optimistic. So on with the scootering, keeping an ear out for cars. A couple did pass but had no room to help. Eventually a pickup truck came by and I was able to flag them down and explain the situation. They quickly hoisted my bike onto the roof and we set off for town. They were so lovely that they took me directly to a garage which they thought might be able to help. I became the attraction of the town. People kept popping by to help and see what was going on. Again they thought I was German ..this time I corrected them, and they were all interested in my route. Eventually a new chain was found from somewhere in the town and it was put in place..hammers and chisels and tipex..you name it, they used it. Third time I tested it, it was clunking a bit and still not there but it was all they could do for me...aside from recommending finding a bike shop in one of the bigger towns. Just happy that it was in one piece again, I asked them how much I owed them and they said nothing it was for free. Bless them.
A few kms out of town, things weren't quite right, but I couldn't work it out. It felt like the gears were jumping but they weren't. I persevered til the next town..no bike shop again, but I did stop to have a proper look at what was going on. It turned out they had jimmied the joining links a bit too enthusiastically and it had created a kink in the chain. I tried manouvering it and get some oil in it but nothing seemed to work. I was stuck with the kink.
New plan then..get to Don Benito, the next even bigger town, and either see if there is a bike shop or get the train to Merida from there. Either way I couldn't get the whole way to Merida with the bike as it was -it couldn't have been good for the bike, it certainly wasn't good for my knee, and the kink was playing havok with my sanity. Spin spin spin KLUNK! spin spin spin KLUNK! ..over and over, meaning it was not possible to get any kind of rhythm going especially up hills and just generally it was annoying as hell. I do have to say one perk of the kink was it taught me to pedal lighter, any pressure on the chain and the KLUNK was worse. I also fixed a little quirk I had been having with my gears..silver lining and all that...
So after 30km or so I arrived at Don Benito. It was 3pm, lunchtime, so even if I found a bike shop it was highly unlikely it would be open. Train station it was, where the next train left two hours later. Time for lunch.
So nine hours from the time I left Hinojosa, I arrived in Merida. Strangely a good day. Bike is now in a bike shop up the road being fixed properly (hopefully). No sightseeing for me today but I have a day here tomorrow so I will save it for then. If Cordoba was famous for its Al-Andalus history and Muslim and Arab influence, Merida, while also having Al-Andalus history, is more famous for its numerous Roman remains.
Its funny..the only time it felt worryed or anxious today were on two occassions:
The first when my post-it of directions was covering my map, and I couldn't see the road number. It was devastating stuff.
The second when I locked myself in the toilet at the train station and couldn't get out.
All the rest was pretty plain sailing in comparison.
They say that necessity is the mother of invention. It is also the mother of learning a language. And when you are stuck and no one speaks English it is amazing how your Spanish comes along leaps and bounds. I was able to convey what the problem was and what i needed (it may not have been great Spanish I don't know, but they got the drift and that's the main thing), which is great for building confidence in the words. Understanding their responses is another thing however, particularly when delivered at high speed. But one thing at a time eh...