Hours in the saddle: 2hr 30 min
Plan for today - to have a jolly jaunt out from Antequera, just a quick spin up the local bad boy hill without the panniers and to have some fun!
First hurdle - to navigate the maze of one way streets to get to the road out of town..cobbled uphill one way streets. Lesson learnt..don't ask policemen for directions.
Made it out eventually and headed down into the valley and along. Very alpinesque feel with the mountain looming to the side. The climb up (called "La Boca del Asno" -Donkey's Mouth) was quite civilised, a few sneaky 11% sections but mostly between 6 and 8%. When reaching the top, I was disappointed to find no Puerto sign and the road seemed to level off. That was until I spied a side road going up up up! That'd do me..I was betting on the sign being at the top there so off again up this new hill. After a corner I spied another cyclist 'oh ho! Target acquired, let's be having you!' So I upped the ante and set off after him. Competitive and childish I know but I take motivation from where I can. And really it wasn't a chase per se..it was a gravel road, it was 12-14% all the way, and so I was only reaching 6.4kph as it was! It turned out he was on a mountain bike with a backpack too which really spoiled it. But still it got me moving. For 3km..it went on and on, my legs feeling surprisingly good on this gradient..but I couldn't work out how it was still going up! From what I could see I was at the top already where the heck else could it go?? A few cars went past and as they did the smell of burning clutch was left behind. Finally it reached an observatory, visitor centre and viewing points over the mountain and rocks.
El Torcal is apparently 'the most impressive karstic landscape in Europe'. No idea what that actually means but what I saw was lots of limescale rocks with foldings and random shapes. It is indeed the most impressive thing I have seen and an amazing random thing to come across by chance. At 1300m it had some fantastic views too..apparently on a good day you can see all the way down to Malaga and even over to the African coast. Check my instagram which is linked to this blog or Google image it, it is quite something.
I bumped into the mountain biker as I was about to head back down and he just arrived..he complimented me on my strong legs. Four meals a day, I said, at least 4
Going back down had been on my mind even when going up..up I love, down not so much, especially not at that gradient and especially not on gravel but it was only 3km and it went quite quickly luckily. I headed down the other side of the mountain to Villanueva de la Conception passing several riders heading the other way. I love the feeling of comraderie you automatically feel with cyclists on the same climb..that kinda knowing look you share of what you've been through and what's to come. If you are a mountain goat or a climbing machocist like me then you will see huge smiles as they head upwards. Others just grimace with pain and keep their head down hoping it will just end already. Watching them I realised that this little hill down to town was actually a bit of a bastard, and so at Villanueva I turned and headed back up rather than going further down the road to the next village for 1st lunch. As much as I like climbing, this was meant to be a fun trip out rather than a way to kill my legs. So sensibleness won and homeward bound I turned. It was indeed a toughie..14% even with hairpins.
As it wa,s I was back in town at 1st lunchtime so I headed back to the hotel and demolished some sarnies. Then a deserved laze about..it is siesta time you know! I have to say the Spanish day fits in well with bike touring..cycle in the morning, get to where you want to be at in time for lunch (12-3ish), then you HAVE to have a rest and lie down as its siesta and nothing will be open til half 4. Its perfect. You don't feel bad at all about resting as you aren't missing anything and you also know that everything is open late. It gives you a really long day to get things done in. It's the only time I feel I can really relax..later my mind will be on tomorrow..where I am going, which route to take, where the accomo is...and once that's started its very hard to stop. So siesta is really the only actual relaxing time I have and I try to make the most of it