Chapter 1-Bikepacking the Altravesur-Getting ready and getting to the start

You can see my YouTube on preparations here

So, all equipment sourced, I went for mid-range everything except the bike luggage. Packing the bike was next on the list, I couldn’t use my Evoc bike bag as I wasn’t returning to the start point. Halfords gave me a bike box, they like getting rid of their empties! Alas the first one just wasn’t the right depth, a large framed full suspension bike is pretty wide as well as long, and the box needed to be wide enough to get the two wheels alongside the frame. The second box they let me have was from an ebike that they had sold, ebikes are generally bigger. I spent a day cutting it down, re-closing it and ended up with a very sturdy, and as small as possible, bike box.

I’d packed and repacked the gear I was to take, twenty times, each time taking things out and sometimes adding something! But I couldn’t get down to just using the bike luggage. I’d have to use, and nearly fill, a large rucksack. When I unpack now, there isn’t much that isn’t used, just some emergency items, of which I’ve used two already, to make some additional tent pegs, needed for the strong winds. Clothes are down to a minimum, and as I write this, I have a wet set of clothes that I’ve just washed and am having to wear my long-johns and mountain bike jersey out into town! Basically, including long-johns, I have two sets of clothes.

I’ll do a separate blog and YouTube on my gear.

My flight to Seville, from Luton airport was effortless, as was getting a taxi from Seville Airport to my Airbnb. I’d booked two nights with a lady called Manuela. Manuela didn’t speak any English, so we communicated using Google translate and my little Spanish. She wasn’t going to be at her apartment until the next day, so a kind friend of hers, Juan, settled me in. There are two longer term tenants staying there too, Victoria and Emilio. Both Spanish, but both speak English, in fact Emilio is an English teacher. And they were a great help to me, in getting some things sorted. I met Manuela on the Tuesday night as she had returned from her trip, we got along fabulously and she was very helpful, especially when it came to disposing of my bike box and miles of bubble wrap!

The apartment was on the fourth floor of the block, it was easy to get the bike up to the flat, in its box, using the lift. I was wondering how I would get it down, as the stairs twist around the lift shaft and are quite narrow.

I spent my time at Manuela’s building Bay, my bike, fitting the bikepacking luggage to him, shopping for camping gas, and trying to find a local SIM card. I wanted a local one, I had heard Vodafone had better coverage, but trying to find a decent pay as you go package proved to be somewhat difficult, especially with the language barrier. I feel the sales assistants could have been more helpful, after searching for a couple of hours I returned to the first Vodafone shop I’d been in and bought the best of what they had. The sales assistant in that shop was more patient and helpful than in the other Vodafone shop!

Anyway, it’s a good job I did buy a local SIM as my O2 is playing up. I’m using two phones, one with the Spanish SIM and my ‘normal’ one with the UK SIM. I dropped my UK phone quite heavily whilst crossing a bridge, perhaps that’s why it keeps losing signal? Very annoying!

I’d arrived in Seville on the Monday, and was to start my ride on the Wednesday, so after getting packed up Wednesday morning, I made my way down the four flights of tight twisty stairs with a fully loaded Bay, which was quite a feat! I got a real sweat on!

Before I made my way to the station, I popped into the service garage across the road, the mechanic tightened my pedals for me, as I’d not wanted to carry a heavy spanner just to do that.

My Spanish isn’t very good at all, I’d known a lot more ten years ago, but never really used it, so am having to pickup from what I remember. They really do speak fast, and with different accents in different areas, I find it tricky to understand.

The Seville station really is well organised. Everything was effortless, much more so than I expected, from buying the ticket for me and Bay, to boarding the train.

I was a bit miffed at getting short changed again, it had happened in a supermarket the night before, then at the station coffee shop. I decided to contest it with the senorita, and she gave me back the euro she had short changed me. Only for it to happen a third time in a supermarket in Barbate, again managing enough Spanish to get it back! I think they prey on the non-spanish, and it as always been by a young lady. Bloody cheek!

I had a reflective ride on the train to San Fernando, on the outskirts of Cadiz, passing through mainly farmland, almond, olive and orange groves. When the train stopped at Jerez Airport it brought back memories of the times I’d flown into Jerez whilst working at Renault F1, we’d test there many times a year. Reminiscing always looks rosier than it actually seemed at the time!

On arriving at San Fernando, I was concerned to see that I’d have to take the fully loaded bike up an escalator, I had flashbacks of when I tried to take my bike bag up one at Sydney airport, it was touch and go as to whether I’d have to let go of it, sending it crashing down onto people behind me, luckily I just hung on and fell into an embarrassing mess at the top, then helped by an airport worker.

Anyway, it was awkward but fine. It was riding the escalator that I noticed how very windy it was.

Riding through San Fernando to the start point of the Altravesur route, Calle Real was rather nice, I'm not exactly sure where you start from but it is somewhere on Calle Real.

Calle Real is a part pedestrianised, part tram tracked Calle, it was early evening by now and the Spanish had started their promenading, oh how it is so different to the UK, couples old and young walk hand in hand to their favourite tapas bar or restaurant. They’ve got many things right in Spain, maintaining a connection with each other, being one of them.

Barbate, where I'm writing this is a small seaside town. It has hundreds of small shops and kiosks, the tapas bars are always busy from nine until two, then from five until whenever! Some are open all day. But generally it is a very traditional Spanish way of life. I do wonder when they work and also what do they do in the siesta time of two til five??

I noticed that some large supermarkets have opened on the outskirts of the town. Aldi, Lidl, Dia etc, it's a shame because eventually it will kill this way of life. But I guess they want the so called progress that we have in the UK.

So here I am at the start point of the Altravesur route.

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