Chapter 3-Bikepacking the Altravesur-Conil to Zahora

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I set off on Saturday morning to get to Zahora. The ride back onto the route took some time, this was in urban areas, it was very windy and difficult to ride in a straight line.

When I hit the coast, I followed the coastal path towards Zahora, which then crosses a vast expanse of sandy heathland, with the ocean to my right. The wind here was crazy, I couldn’t keep the bike on the trail, I was being blown sometimes over a two metres off the trail, time and time again. It was mad!

Around two thirds of the way across this expanse I stopped at an old fort, Torre Vigía de Castilnovo, to shelter from the wind for a while. I got talking to a lovely young Spanish lady, whose name escapes me, that was also sheltering from the wind. And this is where I discovered that the heavy winds had a name! It’s called the Levante Wind, which blows from the East, through the Gibraltar Strait, and hits the Cadiz coast for ten days, a couple of times a year. And it started the day I started my ride!!

I started to check the weather apps out, and this night it was to be blowing, what I thought was 45 kilometers per hour, but turns out it was 45 Knots per hour. Pretty bloody strong!

Eventually the heathland meets the beach, at El Palmar de Vejer, there’s what appears to be a river to cross, but if you turn right at this, onto the beach, the ‘river’ ends and you walk along the beach to get around it. My route was to ride along this beach all the way to Zahora. I tried to do it, but the wind was so strong, the sand blasting so uncomfortable, the sand so soft and deep, it was too hard a job heaving myself and 50 kilos of sinking loaded bike along it, so I decided to take the path alongside the coast.

It’s such a shame, but the path was right on the beachside, so I saw all the beautiful views anyway. The ocean is just perfect, the colour a bright turquoise, the beach is around five kilometres long. All along this road are restaurants, bars and surf shops, being out of season most, but not all, are closed. It looks a fab place to visit in the summer, I expect it’s completely rammed! It is heavenly, and probably one of the best beaches I’ve seen anywhere in the world.

Once again it was getting late in the day, the wind just got stronger and stronger, so I decided that I would find another campsite for the night. I rode away from the beach around a kilometre, only to find the campsite closed, so I continued on my route towards Zahora. After the beachside path ends I took to unsurfaced country lanes, with the coast still to my right. In the middle of nowhere was a BP fuel station! I asked the man for some campsite info and he told me there was one named Pinar San Jose in Zahora, only around 4km away. So, I rode there, on the surfaced road.

In fact, there were two campsites at the location of Pinar San Jose, alas one was closed. It was quite expensive to stay the night, for a small tent pitch it was 17.50 euros. And the pitch was directly opposite some holiday cabins, that were occupied. I thought I’d be in for a noisy night, with partying holiday makes in the cabins, but that wasn’t the case. The only noise was from the howling, gusting winds of 45 knots.

I hadn’t put the guy ropes on my tent thus far, but with the wind so strong I decided to fit them, only to find the tent didn’t come with pegs for them. In my emergency kit I had a spare wheel spoke and a length of carbon fibre flat stock. I broke the spoke in half, which made two pegs, then used my swiss army knife saw to cut up the carbon and used the file to make a lug to hitch the ropes onto. The ground on my pitch was so soft, you could push all the tent pegs in, all the way with one finger! So, I wasn’t hopeful on just how effective the pegs would be. In total with the four guy ropes, there was 10 pegs. I made sure all my heavy gear was in the tent, and me also, when possible, so that the chances of it flying off were reduced. The stress of the heavy wind was evident on the fabric of the tent, I think the stitching was at it’s limit of integrity, so I wouldn’t want to be using it in the higher winds that were due in the middle of the following week.

The Pinar San Jose campsite, although compact’ish, had good facilities, including WiFi and electricity at the pitch. It’s set in Pine tree planted sand dunes, and quite pretty. The toilet blocks were nice and clean, with good washing-up, clothes washing and shower facilities. Again, the pool and other facilities are closed due to low season. I’m just grateful these places are open at all!

I’d say that Rosaleda would be my preference, but this was pretty good! As I came out of the toilet block, I noticed, what I thought was a wild boar the other side of the site boundary fence, so I went over to take a look, an it was a beautifully happy black pig! That ran over to me, wagging its tail like an excited dog. It was such a sweet Puerco!

The night was fraught with very strong gusts, it doesn’t scare me at all, in fact I love being in the tent in the wind. My only fear is the expense and inconvenience of the tent splitting! I was up early, for me, and ready to go by 9am. The winds had eased, so that was good news.

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