El Camino! Blazing down de road…

After a late and boozy night (the effects of which were exacerbated by my having ridden for 6.5 hours immediately prior) in Jerez, and the previous week skirting the Costa del Sol I wasn’t really in the mood for yet more urbanism, so I made the decision to skip Seville.  Everyone has told me how great a city it is and how I should definitely go, and I’ll probably regret it, but it’s been there for quite a while now and I imagine it will be there for some time to come so I can come back if I want to.

Instead I circumvented the city on quiet-ish roads with the plan to head north along the via de Plata Camino de Santiago route.  You may remember that I stayed in one of the hostels on the route a few weeks ago, and I backtracked briefly along the same roads.  I only realised this when I passed a place that seems to exclusively sell geodesic dome structures in the middle of nowhere, but for the second time, I couldn’t be bothered to stop and photograph it.  Stopping is weird.  It’s either all I can think of doing (and so I deny its allure), or the last thing on my mind, depending on how I’m going.

The first night was a failure as the campsite I’d aimed for (and even diligently checked the prices and facilities of in advance) turned out to be a smashed-up ruin.  After 60-odd miles in the happily-returned heat I doubted my decision-making abilities so I sat around for an hour or so eating sweet jam and salty nuts (not a euph’) until my blood/sugar levels returned to something approaching 50/50 respectively* before deciding to wild camp in the slightly unlovely ‘beauty spot’ I’d found.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. The benefits of the Camino route is that there are loads of hostels on the way.  They’re usually E10 per night and well-equipped for the price despite being filled with old white people who fear the heat and hence go to sleep around 10 and wake up around 6, which admittedly suits square-old-me very well.  I stray from their model in that I ride for 3-4 hours in order to arrive at the next hostel around midday (giving me the choice of beds and time enough to get to a supermercado before siesta sets in, in time to buy a few bottles of budget beer and baguettes before ‘blogging’ and buggering off to bed for a belated b….siesta – come on that’s a good run of ‘b’-words).

The staff in the hostels seem to be mildly miffed that I don’t have the Camino ‘passport’ thing that I missed out on by not going in to Seville, but relent anyway and let me stay. The people are uniformly white and even older than me.  The one guy I met who seemed to me only slightly older than me turned out to be a Teutonic freeloader who seemed to be snaffling up everyone else’s food without saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ or offering anything in return, whilst coughing and spluttering all over the place.  I was too polite to deny him a couple of eggs and some cheese but crafty enough to eat all of my Milka when I overheard him asking some Chinese guys for ‘Schokolade’ so that by the time he spotted me, it was all gone.  England 1 – Germany 0.

At least 3 of the 15 people in my room that night were coughing their lungs up, so I’m now petrified of getting the dreaded Camino Cold.

The next day (today) I planned another short (40-mile) ride but this time with 4000ft of climbing.  It started well and I raced past all the ramblers who had departed an hour before me (the Chinese were winning, followed by Japanese, then Germans, then the French bringing up the rear although I’m not sure Peregrinos are racing exactly) within 15 minutes.  It was refreshing to be out early in the morning even if the light was flat; I thought I was making good progress.

Then my Garmin route sent me down an off-road path.  In the current parlance of cycling it would be called ‘gravel-grinding’ and I could almost see the point of it – slightly more scenic than the ridiculously quiet road I’d just turned off and with enough excitement (given the heft of my bike and slickness of my tyres) to make it a bit more challenging.  Then it went upwards at 20%+, which is significantly challenging even to push a heavy-ass bike up.  Riding was impossible, and I became livid.

After that I riskily (I had no means of navigation beyond road signs by this point) re-routed back on to the service road.  An amazing route roughly a car’s-width err… wide, and twisty as hell.  Almost like singletrack in its technicality.  I’d love to come back and do it over and over again until I had it nailed. The roads here are amazing – smooth and fast and with almost no cars.

Then I reached my destination, stowed my bike in the toilet (on the hostel receptionist’s request) and bought food and beer and started writing this.  I’m totally up to date.  And as tomorrow will probably follow the same routine, I can really focus on drinking more cheap booze learning Spanish rather than getting sidetracked updating this blog.

*I know what respectively means, and that this doesn’t really work, but I suspect there are some stupid people reading this blog who need me to signpost jokes for them.  What I’m trying to say is that my blood is 50% sugar, 50% whatever-blood-is-made-of.

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