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Chapter 12: Bikepacking the Altravesur-Abdalajis to Villanueva de Cauche

26th-27th April 2019

You can see my YouTube on this ride here

Marie-Carmen and her husband Gabriel returned, Timo and Dah left on their motorbikes. The status quo was resumed. I wish Timo and Dah well, and hope they get in touch sometime!

Marie-Carmen is a very calm and thoughtful lady, she has travelled the world, built Refugio de Alamut and run it for twenty years and now wants to retire. I hope she finds a buyer and gets her wish for a quieter life! If you are interested in buying Refugio de Alamut contact Marie-Carmen directly!

My time at the hotel wasn’t productively spent! I couldn’t afford to do anything that meant paying, like going to walk the Caminito del Rey, which was only 10kms up the road. I’d have loved to have hiked the mountains above the Valle de Abdalajis, but I didn’t have the right footwear or any spare clothing that I could get dirty and wet. I was confined to the hotel, at most a walk into the village, except for one excursion, Michel had to deliver a van to Antequera, so I went along for the ride.

Best wishes to all I met at Refugio de Alamut; Timo, Dah, Marie-Carmen, Gabriel, Jessica the cleaner, and regular customers Christopher, Jesus and Michel. And neighbours Alain and Helene.

We’d had rain in Abdalajis for the week I was there, it was particularly heavy at times, and very much so on the Wednesday and Thursday before the Friday I was to leave. Which meant the clay surfaced caminos would be too sticky to cycle on. Some said they’d be OK, some said not.

On the Friday morning I decided I’d bypass the mountains and town of Antequera and ride the surfaced road. I want to do as much of the Altravesur route as I can, but sometimes I’ll just have to make a diversion, and not worry about whether I’m ‘doing it right’. Although Antequera has many sites of geological interest, I was a bit miffed to have missed those.

I wasn’t too bothered about riding far on that day, about 10kms in on this undulating surfaced road, I stopped at what appeared to be a campsite at Torcul, but it was more a shanty town with permanent huts and caravans, and only one free space between them to pitch a tent. There was a lot of people hanging about, it didn’t look very inviting, although there was a very nice restaurant on site. I decided no, this wasn’t for me and got back on the road.

There was a random roadside restaurant which looked quite nice called Venta Gazpacho. I’d give it a miss if you can, the woman behind the bar was incredibly rude and generally pretty bloody horrible!

Also along route was a Wolf park, I guess it’s a bit like a wildlife park but only with wolves. I stopped outside it and it brought to mind that one night a refugio de Alamut, I was outside at around midnight, standing in the brush, trying to get a phone signal, when I saw rushing by me what looked like a ghostly large dog, it was chasing something and snarling. On seeing this wolfpark, which is only 12 kilometers from the refugio, I was sure at that moment what I saw that night was a wolf. It was grey, large, too big to be any type of fox, and certainly wasn’t a domestic dog. That’s a slightly scary thought!

It was our first day of sunshine that Friday. A hot ride, with little shade in the blazing sun, for many kilometres, up the mountain road. Standard; I went the wrong way, riding a particularly long steep hill, only to find I should have turned off just before it! At least it was a downhill ride back.

The turning I’d missed was a camino, there was no choice but to ride this one as it’s the only way to stay on the Altravesur. As it turned out, although it was puddley and muddy in parts, it was traversable with care.

This camino took me into some beautiful scenery, mountains one side, green hills the other. At around 6pm I started to look for a campsite and found a spot after a few aborted reccies.

I setup camp, it felt a little exposed as it was at the side of a cliff-like mountain at around 900 metres, with nothing sheltering me in any direction. There was a slight breeze as I was setting up, perhaps stronger than a slight breeze, 5 – 10 knots, so I orientated the tent with the thin end towards the wind.

I tend to drink coffee in the mornings, the one thing I look forward to all day is my first cup of tea in the evening, after setting up camp. The one luxury I carry, and a heavy luxury at that, is soya milk to enable me to have a decentish tea or coffee. My first cuppa in the evening is always so welcome after a days riding. In Spain I’ve been buying vacuum packed single servings of something like sauted vegetables, I had one of these this evening with some instant mashed potato, and a wonderful cup of tea even though it is served in a rubber collapsible cup, so doesn’t taste the best really.

I don’t carry a lot of food and it’s something I need to get better at. Most of my meals so far on trail were really junky, like instant noodles and instant mashed potato. For breakfast I’ll have whichever muesli I’ve picked up from the shop, although in Spain the cereals are very sugar-laden so it’s quite hard to find anything suitable. I buy the small packets of bread, you can get ones with 4 or 6 slices, individually wrapped, so I can make toast and have a little single use pot of jam on it. The food needs to be lightweight and compact. I don’t carry any fruit and veg, it’s far too heavy, the same for canned goods. But there is a case that I have to carry the water to rehydrate the dried goods, so perhaps I should not worry about the food weight and carry less water. As I say I need to get better at the food situation.

My tent is an Ultra-lightweight one, it’s lightweight because the material is very thin, so can’t survive winds that a more robust tent can. When the wind picked up, falling directly down from the mountain above me, at 8pm, from a slightly different direction, I started to get worried! It was too windy to turn the tent around and was getting battered, so I used around six rocks on each guy rope to hold it down.

At 10pm I was so happy when the wind stopped, completely, not even a breeze, only for it to start again with a vengeance at 11pm. I’m guessing around 25 knots, this continued until around 4am.

I managed to get some sleep but was woken every so often by the wind. At least the tent survived the night intact! Although a small hole had been rubbed in one of the vestibule doors, where it had flapped against the rocks I’d piled up to hold the tent down. The winds were due to kick-off again at around 10am, after a quick cup of coffee I was up ready to leave before then.

It was a nice descent from my camping spot to the end of the camino that came out onto a main road, which led to the main highway from Malaga. I took a slight detour and rode into the hamlet of Villanueva de Cauche, although a hamlet, there was a very nice restaurant at the village entrance, Bar la Peña, run by Paco.

Bar la Pena - Villanueva de Cauche.   Paco & Fillipe
Bar la Pena - Villanueva de Cauche.

Paco was very nice and chatty, as much as I can chat in Spanish. I ordered a cheese and tomato bocadillo, made by Fillipe, who did speak some English, and had a couple of cups of coffee. Before getting on my way Paco filled all my water bottles and bladders as I’d nearly ran out, which was very kind of him.

**Update today, 23/03/2023, I learnt that the bar had closed in March 2022, hopefully it has re-opened, I hope Paco and Fillipe are well**


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