What doesn't kill you just saves it for another day
Elevation: to scared to look
Previous injuries: deskinned bit of finger (just where it hits the handlebars) from too rigourous fridge cleaning the other day
Cut leg from cleaning the shower
New injuries: new cuts on leg from fighting with the bike, looks like wolverine's been at it. That would be much cooler.
Wow today..what a day. My first touring day...ever. I actually don't know where to start as side from to say it has been a 'character building' day. But lessons learnt and tomorrows another day and all that. Andalucia is meant to be a great place to start cycling in Spain. Not meanings it's easy but that you experience all things. Anyway its always best to start at the beginning...
One of the things that has been worrying me about the trip is the city riding. From experience Spanish signposts are often a lot to be desired and its pot luck if you take your correct turning. So knowing this and that it was quite busy car wise I thought an early start would be a good idea. I also decide to change the start of the route to avoid a short stretch of motorway style road near the airport. Both logical, but not sure either made any real difference.
I did however not get lost. (not due to good sign posting mind)
So it was as expected..horrendous stressful city cycling. Too many cars, too many roads..but once past Catena, the roads opened out and the cars disappeared. It was undulating but nothing too strenuous. I was left alone in the most amazing Andalucian landscape and the smell of blossom in the air.
This was however short lived as what made the landscape so beautiful was the hills/mountains and these were about to give me a sharp wake up call. The blossom smell changed to the smell of burning and perhaps I should have taken this as a sign as well as the black cat that crossed myath in el Burgo.
But before this, I got to Coin and finally about 2 hours into the ride had breakfast. I should have had 5x as much to be able to have survived better what followed.
My Michelin map gave me warning that a steeping climb was coming. It was not a good sign that even before this the gradient had ramped up at about 8%. Then there was a sign warning of a 'mountainous road' with a picture with a 9% gradient shown. Now slightly concerned I carried on..normally these kinda climbs would be fine for me and something I would enjoy. This was the first time with what was feeling increasingly heavier panniers on my bike.
From here things get a bit blurrier As the kms between about 45 to 15 just merged into forever climbing ( the kms are reversed as the road is new and the start is at Ronda so Ronda was km 1...well actually the end of that road ended 5k before Ronda but i preferred to ignore this.)
Also on the kilometre signs to which I was religiously counting down, there was an image of what I could only take to be Mowgli or Tarzan with a couple of animals. This amused me no end as I desperately tried to work out what either of these characters had to do with Andalusia. Funnily enough I never worked it out. Tho as I am sitting here I have just seen a statue of a man in a loin cloth..I will venture across and read the inscription to unravel said mystery shortly.
Anyway I digress..I do remember getting excited when the mountain warning signs finished. Again this was short lived as after a little descent it was back uphill again on what felt an ever steaper section! It was just relentless and hot! 32 degrees and it was just gone 11.
After another short break, it was back to climbing. This time I got overtaken by a couple of guys on bikes and that distracted me for a brief time..more to swear and look enviously at their svelt and lightweight bikes as they zoomed past.
The kms slowly went past..and the heat was making it so much harder.
The top of the next climb came and past...they guys in red that had zoomed past earlier had stopped for a break and so I went on leaving them behind. Another climb..and another..each as relentless and steep as the last and shade was few and far between. On times when what I thought was the corner to the end ended up being just another part of the uphill drag..I wanted to cry but had no spare water in me to do so. I even made a pact with god but he didn't hear and I had no final corner with an ice cream/beer van at the top.
At about 20km the climb was out in the open and disheartingly you could see it going on upward in the distance. I was beginning to slow was slow meant more heat etc etc..which was not good. Just then I felt a hand on my back pushing me along! One of the guys in red was giving me a helping hand and he pushed me up the steep sections while his friends made conversation. I don't think I have ever been so happy on my life..I nearly cried again.those three guys from Norway who I had not me before, made a little protective circle around me..on giving me a wheel to draft, one pushing and the other making sure I didn't fall back. Handing me water if I needed it.
And like that we finally made it to the top.
Then the downhill. Though my legs were exhausted, we raced the whole way down and that was the most fun all day, huge ass smile on my face. They looked after me all the way to Ronda were I lost them in the chaos of the high street.
I will be forever grateful to those guys though I don't even know their names. Strangely tho its not the first time I have been aided by Nordic cyclists but that's another story.
Anyway so Ronda!!!! Finally!!! When I lost the others I just thought food, give me food and lots of it. And stopped at the nearest cafe and demolished the biggest thing I could find. And things began to look alright in the world again.
On the way to the hotel I found my first fellow tourer or rather he found me, spotting my panniers he jumped across the street shouting. This lad and his girlfriend had been proper camping touring for 11 months and he was an hive of useful info. They were out camping by the blue smurf village ( Google it if you have no idea what that is..its the most bizarre place ever). Turns out they had done Malaga to Ronda on 3 days and he was in awe that I had done it in 1. The have been all over the world touring and are just going to keep going until the money runs out. Total respect for them and I hope he keeps in touch.
Now Ronda...well I have to say I have lost my heart to this place..I actually don't even have the words for it. Its been somewhere I've wanted to come to for several years now..and it has totally surpassed my expectation. I will put some photos of it on instagram to give you an idea. If it wasn't for THAT climb that has scared for me for life I would just stay here!!
Anyway I have rambled on a lot as a lot of bad and good has happened today, but I will leave you now.
One final thought...it was a hot hot day today by what I thought was by any standards..but no! The local cyclists I saw were in jackets and even the people here in town were wearing big jumpers! Madness, I would have killed to have felt cold today.