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Chapter 2-Bikepacking the Altravesur-San Fernando to Conil

You can see my YouTube of this section here

Cycling out of Calle Real, San Fernando, my destination was Chiclana de la Frontera. Once out of the urban area, I was riding through an expanse of marshy wetland, alongside it on a gravel road. With the wetland to my right and a railway track and motorway to my left, the very windy ride was pleasant enough.

I got lost in the narrow streets of Chiclana, which is where I dropped my best phone, cracked the screen and from then on it only intermittently connected to the network. By the time I’d got back on track the sun was starting to go down, I didn’t want to wild camp because I was so close to a town, so I stopped a passing cyclist to ask if there was camping nearby, he sent me to La Rana Verde campsite. On arriving I was surprised it was still manned, as it was early evening by now. Jesus was really friendly, he is learning English, so was keen to practice on me! He'd only been learning three years and was very good.

And there I camped, a rather inauspicious first bikepacking camp night! There were the usual facilities; toilets, showers, water etc but this also had electricity in the pitch, so that was useful! And at 8.70 euros a night was quite reasonable. This day I only covered 15 kilometers, not including the distance I was lost!

Wednesday night was a very windy night, it’s essential to set-up my long thin one-man tent with the thin end pointing towards the wind, I did this, then the wind direction shifted a bit, but still it coped well with the conditions.

It was not only the first time I used my tent, but also the first time I used my sleeping mat and quilt. The mat is ace, no falling off this one, like with my previous Exped hyper-lite sleeping mat, that I'd bought for the Himalayas. I wish I'd had the Big Agnes for that! No other padding is required, it’s quite thick.

I was a little chilly in the morning, but I think that was because I’d slept in just shorts and a top. I chose a quilt rather than a sleeping bag as I like to wrap myself tightly in my bedding, with a mummy bag you can’t do that. And there is a weight and space saving with a quilt, none of that silly top piece, I never liked that part of a mummy sleeping bag!

I had some coffee and cereal, broke down camp, then set off for Conil de la Frontera. These are all coastal towns by the way, so although some places such as campsites, cafes and shops are open, not everywhere is open, due to it being low season, March in fact.

I set off around 9am, and hoped to reach at least Conil de la Frontera before nightfall, then start looking for somewhere to camp. The first couple of hours of riding was through some urbanizations and golf courses, plus some extra roads to get me back onto the Altravesur route.

The Urbanization Roche was a rather up-market beach front housing estate, very nice.

I took a detour to investigate a nature reserve I was passing by, which led down to the Playa del Puerco. It was a nice spot, with plenty of space for camping and RVs, it’s not an official campsite, but there were several RVs and a tent that had obviously been there all night. It’s worth seeking out, it’s a big space and in a good location, shame I hadn’t got that far last night!

I stopped at the Puerto de Conil for some lunch, then continued towards what I thought was Conil de la Frontera, alas, I took a wrong turn somewhere and went in a big loop, ending up not far from the Puerto de Conil again, I'd lost hours!

Never mind, the loop I rode, through sandy pine woodland was quite beautiful. That was the second time I'd been completely lost today. It was around 4pm by now!

Eventually I found the right clifftop trail, that took me into the small town of Fuente de Gallo. The last part of the trail is a nice bit of downhill with lots of jumps, but I was having problems with my rear RollPacker, so had to take it easy.

My rear Rollpacker had fallen off a few times by now, it wasn’t until a day or two later I realised that the over center lever shouldn’t be pushed all the way over center but left on the high part of the cam. I also fitted two cable ties to hold the lever in that position, one to stop it moving up and one to stop it moving down. I also wrapped a bungee around the bracket and seat bracket. It didn’t fall off again at all for the whole tour.

By now I really needed to find somewhere to camp, I was not only a bit flustered, but my bum was very sore! I hadn’t ridden my bike for six months before this trip and my bum just wasn’t used to it! So, I decided I would find a campsite and stay two nights, taking Friday off, as a zero day.

I asked a couple that were out walking if they knew of a campsite, they sent me to the Eucalyptus Campsite which was way out of the direction I wanted to go but I went, it was closed. I was sore, tired and hungry, and pretty pissed that the campsite was shut. I asked a man just outside the campsite where else I could go, and he gave me directions to one that was only a kilometre or so away. Alas I didn’t have the energy to get up the hill, so had to have a quick pitstop and eat some bread I’d nicked from the restaurant at lunchtime. Don’t ask me why I wasn’t using my phone to find campsites or to navigate properly, I really don’t know why I was being so rubbish at organising myself.

How lucky was I, the Rosaleda Campsite in Conil was open, even farther from the route, a bit expensive at 15.50 euros a night, but well worth it for the facilities, including an excellent wifi signal! The facilities were second to none, with clean and fresh showers, toilets, washing-up, clothes wash bays, a supermarket and launderette. I think there are many other facilities such as a pool, sauna etc, closed for the low season though.

It was just what I needed at this point, some comfort! I really was flustered at getting so lost. I have two mottos for this trip. 1) The plan is, there is no plan. 2) Enjoy not endure . I must remember these, and not get flustered! I had covered around 18 kilometers this day, with an estimated 25 kilometers ridden due to being lost for so long!!

On reflection there was no reason to get lost, I was just being an idiot. And I think that is part of the steep learning curve of bike packing. And it was only my second day, so I forgave myself and got on with setting up.

The time goes so quickly with just doing stuff! I gave my bike a good check-over, did some washing and rested my bum, so not a bad two days.

I had a great two nights at Rosaleda, albeit very windy. The facilities are top notch and I’d recommend it as a place to stay, whether in an RV, caravan or tent.

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