29th November 2016

For a few minutes before 7am the quiet camino in the Valle de Ojen became a superhighway, four wheel drives racing past, hooting at my tent, in case I forgot I was there, before returning to its standard status of broad bike track.

The wind turbines continued their gentle whmmm hrrr as I packed up, and the sun painted the sky a thousand shades as it climbed over the Eastern hills.

Valle de Ojen turbines

I slipped out of the Valle to the coast, the azure Mediterranean tempting me out of the highlands. I passed the military zone, consisting of a few blokes in desert khaki, standing around in a cow field trying to work out how to get their tank out of the mud. The cows looked on nonchalantly, chewing the cud while waiting for the show to begin.

I lazed through the deserted tourist towns of the Costa del Sol, the ‘local’ bars easily identifiable by being open. I headed for the Faro de Trafalgar on a sandy peninsula.  It bore no scars or memorabilia of the naval battle beyond the name. I wandered the sands; marram grass, succulents and tin cans were all striving to thrive in the dunes.

I headed back inland, expecting to be stuck on dual carriageways for most of the afternoon, wearing my best grin-and-bear-it smile. I was unpleasantly surprised to hit a camino (track with a road name) made up of lumps of rock chucked at random, between deep ravines cut by the recent raging torrents. Good training for Patagonia, at least.

My surprise became far pleasanter when I hit a firm, sandy camino through a slither of lollipop pines, cutting through the open fields. I trundled through the dappled light, slowed only a huge herd of goats tinkling through the forest on their way for milking. Heavy udders hung low while mouths reached for any stray branches.

The peace was finally shattered by a loud crunching noise from Brutus’ rear end, and my resultant swearing.

I ground to halt and looked back to see one pannier bag half eaten by the spokes, after a screw came loose and the whole thing swung down and got caught being the seat stays. Fuck. A trail of toiletries had made a bid for freedom behind me.

TFIGGT – TF I got gaffer tape... I wrapped it all up like a shitty parcel, rescued my mooncup and deodorant from the bushes, and pushed on towards the city.

Through the industry of Puerto Real I made it the to bridge – looping high over the docks to Cadiz. The main carriageway was an Autovia, no bicycles, scooters or pedestrians. I went for the bus track – no pedestrians – I won’t be getting off... Three guys with a pet digger flagged me down to warn me, in Spanish:

“No. You can’t go there!”

“Donde esta la ruta para bicycletta?”

“San Fernando...” they offered, a 30km detour to avoid 3km of bridge, as dusk was falling too.

“There are many police...” They mimed having your details recorded and being marked down for ever as hardened criminal.

“It’s ok. You go. We never saw you.”

“Gracias!”

They looked up at the high arc of the bridge, and slapped their thighs.

“Fuerte!” that familiar call.

The setting sun glinted off the cables, the view evolving with every stroke as I headed over the water to Cadiz.

Cadiz

Having spent Sunday listening to Matt salivate while watching Rick Stein eating sushi in Cadiz fish market (“this is just about the freshest tuna you can get anywhere in the world!”), Gadisushi was the only option for dinner.

Most of the stalls were closed, just a couple of cervicerias and the sushi stand. One man was busy rolling, placing, cutting, creating edible works of art, while the others sat around chatting, glaring at the occasional customer who dared to interrupt. I placed my order, and sat as the table while the master worked his magic. The tight rolls and ngiri were delicious, but the red tuna sashimi was out of this world... Rick and Matt – thank you for leading me here!

Knife sharpener in Cadiz market, handy if Brutus ever needs to earn his keep... 

Knife sharpener in Cadiz market, handy if Brutus ever needs to earn his keep...