Ronda was a great place to step off the bike and hide out for a few days, but eventually the daily hike out of the valley to buy budget beer and Milka got tiresome and I made the decision to leave. The weather forecast predicted I would get drenched for a couple of days, but I’d managed to line up accommodation for those nights and after that it was supposed to return to 25-degrees-and-sunny-perfection.
The first day down to Torreguadiaro was horrible. Hills, headwinds, relentless rain and low temperatures tag-teamed to mess up my day. There was a 10 kilometre descent in the middle which was totally devoid of joy. Fat pellets of rain smashed into my eyes and cheeks and anyone stupid enough to be out there with me would have heard me shouting and swearing to ward off the pain.
My host that night turned out to be a female British ex-pat and experienced yacht captain. She told me to meet her in the upmarket Sotogrande marina and smuggled me into an after-party for the Forty Four regatta. I was too cold and sodden to enjoy a beer so I downed a couple of glasses or Rioja and scoffed a few plates of free food despite having eaten a whole baguette, herrings, jam and pack of nuts (estimated calories 2000+) only an hour prior.
The rain stopped but it was freezing and so we went back to her place to drink more wine and feed her hilariously-injured dog (check the video on my instagram feed). I’ve always loved the grit and courageous spirit of three-legged dogs but this one was even better because of the comedic aspect.
Algeciras was the next town – chosen solely because of its proximity to Gibraltar. I managed to avoid the rain and made it by midday and checked into a bargainous ‘hostel’ (which was actually a private double room with en-suite for E20) and then schlepped over to Gib on the bus. It’s as weird a place as I expected, and the most fun part was the formality of the passport check and walking across the airport to get in to the country. Traffic lights and telephone boxes failed to prompt much homesickness and I was disappointed not to find any decent beer, settling for a John Smiths in what was at least a fairly ‘traditional’ English-style boozer. I just roamed the streets as usual and returned on the bus for a relaxing evening in the privacy of my very own room.
Noisy neighbours and the obligatory barking dog prevented me from sleeping too well, which set me up for an incredibly long and arduous day battling a 20mph headwind, 4000ft of ascent and 70-miles to Jerez. The sun was out, but it wasn’t until around 5pm (still two hours from my destination) that my mood lightened, only to be smashed down again by a Garmin-prompted damp river-bed crossing which clogged my mudguards and made the last few kilometres even harder than they needed to be.
My awesome warm showers host met me and took me back to his lush apartment in the town centre, where I showered and we went out to get food for a vegetarian visitor. Multiple beers (and a few coffees to keep me awake) later, we headed out to indulge in a few sherries (E1 a pop) and beers. Wandering the streets, checking out various bars – it was the best night of my trip so far and Jerez my favourite town.
Which leads me to this afternoon where I went to the Tio Pepe sherry bodega for a tour and tasting. It was a memorable experience, and now I can kind of identify different types of sherry and know that I really like the sweet ones much more than the finos.