Cycling from Granada to Madrid, Spain, 2018.

With a few days of food and water we packed up our Bombtrack’s and headed out of the beautiful and historic City of Granada and pushed on towards the Sierra Nevada. With well rested legs we thought we had a pretty good chance of tackling the elevation and terrain. As expected, I was stunned by the scenery that the Nevada had to offer, the abundance of wildlife and picturesque wild camp spots. But what came after the Sierra was surprisingly by far the most epic landscapes I have ever seen. Moonscapes, the topography of Mongolia, the Stan’s all came to mind, it was hard to believe that we were in Spain. 

It all began early one morning when Mat and I woke up in our cosy Refugio located within a large nature reserve and he dragged me out of my cosy quilt to watch the sunrise. We clambered up a stack of boulders and perched on the edge watching the day begin when we caught a glimpse of a cyclist in the distance. ‘Could this be @doubletrackfanatic’ Mat said. Turns out it was! Andy has been cycling around Europe for the past 14 months and has been following our trip on Instagram. He knew our paths would cross at some point, but it wasn’t until he clocked our 3 inch tire tread which confirmed that he was hot on our heels. 

The next three days were spent riding together through an array of landscapes that we likened to Japan, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, even Scotland. We agreed that we experienced all types of terrain, forests and lush jungle like panoramic. There were less frustrating hike-a-bikes that led to the most thrilling and challenging rocky downhills I have ever tried to tackle. Pedalling at speed through drooping tree branches, rolling over loose crumbly rocks, speeding through undulating dirt roads whilst coming across caves that weren’t even marked on our maps, it felt like a new adventure and truth be told, beat the Sierra’s hands down. 

Time spent with Andy was certainly inspiring. It was encouraging to hear of another bike-packer sharing your thoughts and feelings on the road, the highs and the lows as well as enjoying the adventure that every day brings. We swapped tales and chatted for hours about equipment and kit, photography, but also the cultures that we have experienced. It was nice to know someone else understands the same frustrations and the mental challenges but also the sheer freedom that bike-packing gives you. One thing for sure, I realised just how much I missed coffee until Andy kindly made me a few brews. 

The favourite towns we passed through; Sierra de Baza, La Calahorra, Baza and Alcaraz the more we came to understand certain aspects of Spanish life. 

Firstly I must mention the wild dogs. The shaggy beasts are in fact not strays as we first thought but they tend to the herds of sheep or goats recruited as their main bodyguard. These huge hounds resemble characters from the film “Isle of Dogs”, in fact they looked similar to us – in need of a groom and a wash. Turns out that they are not there to be stroked and tickled. In fact they would have zero remorse removing one of your limbs. This made cycling around every corner or up any peak through the Sierra’s a nerve racking experience, until we both grew some balls and started to yell at them. This well and truly changed the pecking order. After honing our best hound impressions we weren’t so anxious about these dishevelled muts.

Secondly, I must let off some steam and frustration of ‘Spanish Time’. We all know shops, restaurants, bars etc all close between the hours of 2pm-5pm for the well known tradition of Siesta. This hadn’t really been an issue before late as we would just wait an hour if needed for the supermarket to open. However, the further into our trip the more difficult it has been. We have arrived into ghost towns with the shutters down, waited around until 5pm and still no movement. It seems the Spanish open their supermarkets or restaurants when they want to, whether 6pm, 6.30pm, 7pm. An orderly queue formed outside a supermarket in Ponton Bajo suggesting even the locals had no idea when the doors would unlock. Don’t get me wrong I can sympathise, it is hot, there is no rush here but after five days in the mountains and all you want is a hot meal, the devil starts to show. Mat received the brunt of my rant…“All I want is a pizza”, “If I was at home I would have 20 deliveroo options, takeaways, 24 hour supermarkets”…………..Who the heck had I become I thought to myself. The devil incarnate. 

Two days later, I finally ate a pizza and I forgave Spain for all its wrong-doings. 

Despite those two little niggles I’ve had we cannot complain about our time pedalling in Spain. We have experienced extremely friendly locals. Just last night when we pulled up into Alcaraz we were welcomed to waves, cheers and smiles. The locals wanted to shake our hands and ask about our journey, it got slightly weird when we turned a corner towards our hostel and greeted by a duck on a lead. I’m still confused by this encounter, perhaps I was hallucinating from over exposure to the sun. Despite this we were both full of energy and love for what we were doing and where we were. 

We now push on towards our final destination Madrid to enjoy a few days rest, pack our beloved bikes into boxes, swap a few bits of kit and visit some art galleries before our next destination, Nepal. 

Spain, you leave us with the most incredible memories, confidence we can conquer any terrain and elevation, an addiction to beer in the afternoon and seriously dodgy tan lines.