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Chapter 13: Bikepacking the Altravesur-Villanueve de Cauche to Valdeiglesias

You can see my YouTube on this ride here

From the hamlet of Villanueva de Cauche the Altravesur had a long ride on a surfaced road, first across agricultural plains with some escarpments and mountains beyond, then onto some steeper mountain roads. These went on for many kilometres. It was very hot, although the ambient isn’t too high, perhaps mid 20’s deg C, the blazing sun is hard to shelter from on a bike, especially on your face. At times, when there was wind, I could stay cool enough, but for the most part it was a pretty uncomfortable a ride, especially when the five kilometres of steeply uphill started.

Many motorbikes were using this road for a Saturday morning jaunt, perhaps 20 – 30 passing me by.

I stopped in any shade I could, eventually stopping to eat the half of Phillipe’s bocadillo that I’d saved for lunch and to have a rest. Checking the GPS at this time, I noticed I’d gone slightly too far up this road, only by around 200metres, it was a downhill ride back to where I needed to turn onto the camino towards Riogordo.

The camino was chalky and rocky, but mainly dry. After a couple of kilometres ascending, the camino became a steep, rocky, fabulous descent! It went on and on, the hours of pushing up the mountain road was worth this descent, which passed through mainly olive groves. I couldn’t believe my luck!

The descent was very steep at times, but so very good, and so very welcome! I rode into the outskirts of the town of Riogordo, then as usual the steep push-up into the town centre itself. I asked around if there was a hostel, and an English couple that lived there pointed me to Hostal Méson, which was a restaurant, bar and very nice hostal.

The barman, Antonio, was pretty gruff, but very nice. He sorted my room out and found a place in the back restaurant for Bay. The rooms were quite new and very comfortable.

My face had got quite red from the sun, it wasn’t burnt and stinging, just red. After a shower and getting changed I took a walk down the supermarket to stock up on food, and stupidly forgot to put any sun-cream on.

I had some dinner in the restaurant when it opened at 8pm, then got an early night. The next morning, I had some coffee and a tostada sitting at the outside tables in the sunshine. The town was busy already, directly opposite the hostal was the swimming pool, which was being used as a polling station. It was a general and local election.

Leaving Hostal Méson at 9am was one of my earliest starts! It was an uphill ride to the top of town to the camino. The sun was blazing hot by 10am, I got lost many times, missing turnings. This always makes it a little harder, not only because I’m going farther, but I’m getting flustered by not knowing the way!

On finding the camino outside of town, I bumped into a young man, Josef, that had a gorgeous Border Collie puppy named, what I think was, Toro. It was so very cute, and wanted lots of cuddles!

Dogs are everywhere in Spain, luckily they are nearly always fenced in. If there's a cortijo on a camino, there is usually at least one dog barking at me. Sometimes, they are very noisy and very big dogs, so I'm pleased they can't get to me! But I think it's a case of their bark being worse than their bite.

These two dogs were friendly enough, but you never know, so I'm quite wary of them.

The views were beautiful, sometimes just olive groves but mostly green hills with the Mediterranean in the distance to my right and mountains to my left. On the camino I came to a hamlet, again there was a very nice-looking restaurant at the entrance to the village, I stopped for a cup of tea and an ice-cream, and a good chance to cool down, then continued my ride.

There was a lot of climbing and very few descents, with it getting more and more mountainous as I approached the town of Ventas de Zaffaraya. It seems to be some sort of tourist spot, I didn’t have time to investigate, but did stop off at a restaurant for another cup of tea and a cool down.

Leaving the town, the Altravesur takes a single-track around the side of a mountain, this was rocky, at times shaley and difficult to keep the bike from slipping down the mountain, farther in it was more rideable, but rocky. I’d gone perhaps 800 metres only to find I’d gone too far and had to ride back at least half the way I’d ridden. The turning I missed was a nearly non-existent trail down the slope! It was overgrown, rocky, difficult to determine and a complete pain in the arse! I think this had been added to the route as there was some private land at the start of the camino, that was not permitted to be used. So this singletrack was running parallel to the camino, then dropping down onto the camino, after it had by-passed the private part. It wasn’t much fun, I can’t find a well-marked trail, let alone a barely-there one!

Once onto the camino, it climbed and climbed. It was 5pm by now, I was tired, hot and bothered, and there was no chance of wild-camping in the area, with fences both sides, or cortijos in view. It was a tiring push-up, I was weary and had overheated again. An old farmer stopped for a chat, he said this is no place for a woman to be camping alone, and later I sensed what he meant, or was it that he had put worrying thoughts into my head?

The land went from meadows to arable land, with many, what the Spanish call Navés, a sort of brick built shed, where farmers can rest or keep their equipment. It looked like an intensely farmed area, and with that would come seasonable labour, and with that would come less security. I don’t know if it was what the farmer said, or that I just didn’t like the area, but it really gave me the creeps!

I was hoping that the village I was aiming for would have a hostel, I shouted across to a farmer, in Spanish, asking if there was a hostal nearby, and he shouted back 'No hablo Ingles (he didn’t speak English)! This made me dislike the area even more!

The natural park was to my right, it was woodland. A sign pointed 4kms to a Campsite, but not only didn’t I have the energy to push uphill for 4 more kilometres, I really didn’t like the area, so decided not to go there. What I thought was going to be a village, was just a few houses. At the end of the camino I went onto a long straight surfaced road, for no more than a kilometer or two, which is part of the route. By now it was 7:30pm and I was quite desperate to find a camping spot, there was nothing.

Then, I couldn’t believe my eyes, like in a movie, I could see in the distance, letters on the top of a building. It can’t be, I was saying to myself, it can’t be a hotel, in the middle of nowhere! But it was, the letters spelled HOTEL with a space and another E, I think the other letters had fallen down!!! Rejoice!! I was so happy, and even happier when it was open and they had a room for me!

Los Caños de la Alcaiceria was the full name of the hotel, running by the side of it is the Natural Park of Tajeda, which is the Altravesur route. I seemed to be the only hotel guest, although during the day the farmers would come in for meals. The room was big with a balcony. As soon as I got there, I washed my clothes, hoping they’d be dry by morning. Alas they weren’t, so I decided to stay a second night.

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