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Chapter 15: Bikepacking the Altravesur-Jayena to Albunuelas

1st May 2019

You can see my YouTube on this ride here

I’d hoped to wake in a better frame of mind the next morning, I hadn't felt well the night before and I felt quite grumpy. I had a decent night's sleep in the tent and woke quite early with the sun just starting to filter through the trees. I really wanted to get my shoes dry, so spent a lot of time tracking sunny spots with my trainers, to keep them in the rising sun, I did the same with my solar charger, as I needed to charge my power supplies.

I set off, on this red-soiled plateau, it was mainly woodland, and quite an expanse, as though the top of a mountain had been cut off! Perhaps it had been, to facilitate the aircraft testing station?

Immediately I took a wrong turning and had to back-track, it was a nice flat ride on the plateau, then I was expecting a downhill ride into the close-by pueblo of Jayena. But no, lots and lots of climbing on the trail which eventually ended and was at an expanse of machine dug soil, where recently cut fire-breaks had trashed the beautiful sierra. It was hard to find the trail among this mess.

I found a signpost, but it was a little ambiguous, two trails nearly in the same direction but to different places. I decided to take the one I thought it wasn’t, as I was usually wrong! Alas this took me higher and higher, I could see the pueblo, and knew I should be going down. I’d ended up in the brush on the mountain side.

You can’t imagine or capture in pictures how precarious that is, there’s long grasses, prickley bushes, rocks and shale. Holding a bike to your side, stopping it falling down the mountain, as well as keeping your footing is quite difficult. I felt a bit desperate, I’d gone too far down the brush by now to back-track, eventually I saw below me the trail I should be on. So I had to tentatively get down the slope without dropping Bay or falling myself. It tested me! And this sort of thing bashes the hell out of the bike, the derailleur constantly getting tangled in the brush, the chainring hitting rocks, with sticks and grass getting caught in the chain and wheel spokes.

I was so relieved to get onto the trail, it was a mountain edge single-track, and was so fabulous. Mostly downhill, sometimes steep, sometimes rocky but a good ride down into Jayena, via a pretty river crossing.

I stopped in this sleepy pueblo for a bocadillo and a coffee, it seemed a little weird, I didn’t know until the next day that it was a public holiday, that’s why nearly everything was closed, and why so many people were sitting in the street!

I took a look around, there was a travelling market in town, then I set off on the road out of town which then becomes an un-surfaced camino, through hilly woodland. The general direction was up, for hours, at least there were pockets of shade from the trees.

My phone battery was running low, so I stopped to connect it to my power supply, but couldn’t get it to charge. I was flapping about, looked up, and there before me were two mountain bikers, with luggage!

It was Robert and Meta from Slovenia! They too were riding the Altravesur! They had only started on the Friday before, less than a week ago, although they started from Jerez, going straight to Ronda. What a fab weather window they had chosen, they missed all the wind and rain! Meta and Robert are riding this to a deadline, they have a flight booked on the 18th May, it was now the 1st of May, so they pedalled most of the route, whereas I push a lot of the uphill. They both looked very fit, their bikes and luggage looked pretty cool too.

We had a chat, they fixed my non-charging phone, realising my power pack couldn't be charged and charge at the same time, every day's a school day! Then they set off.

Seeing these two had encouraged me to get my arse into gear, and I rode more of the uphill sections, which went on for a couple more kilometres and upto over 1200 metres. Then a chalky downhill in open meadowland out of the Natural Park. At the end of the park sits a rather fancy tapas bar. I clambered up the slope only to find Robert and Meta there. They were sitting in the shade, quite sensible as the ride had been in blazing sunshine, but it got pretty cold quite quickly with your sweat drying on you!

The waiter was around 70 years old, and very grumpy, I found him to be hilarious, quite comical, everything you asked for, he kind of semi-acknowledged but gruffed and shrugged and stomped off. You couldn’t help but laugh at him. We all ate, and as Meta and Robert were leaving, I asked the waiter if he had Te Negro, and his only answer was NO!

The guys rode off, giving me an indication of where we were going next before leaving! I went inside and ordered a tea classico from the barman. He gave it to me in a huge lager glass, but it was very nice and most welcome. The waiter just stared!

Leaving the tapas bar was on a surfaced road for a short while, then back onto the GR7 camino. I was expecting a descent, but it didn’t come for a couple of kilometres we were at nearly 1300 metres by now. When the descent did come, it came in style and made up for the past two days of pushing up!

The scenery was dramatic, a deep dry-river bed full of large boulders, mountains both side, with baked rock walls lining one side of the smooth, dusty twin-track camino. I’m not sure how long the descent was but it went on for, I’m guessing an hour.

You had to keep an eye on the route, I over-shot a couple of turnings, but still it was heavenly! Downhill, twisty, dramatic, rugged, just beautiful.

**UPDATE 2021**

Sadly I have recently learnt that both Lena and Ken have passed away. I was so very sad to learn this. Lena had a wonderful life with Ken, who apparently passed away one month after Lena. Rest easy my friends

**UPDATE 2021**

The pueblo of Albuñuelas was where I was heading, charging down this fabulous trail, I missed the hidden turning onto a barely-there singletrack down to the town. So had to push back up the hill, there was a lady tending her garden in a remote cortijo, her husband came out, and I asked the way. He pointed me in the direction I needed to go, but told me it is muy peligroso, very dangerous and that I shouldn’t go down it!

He was right, it was a completely crazy, rocky, overgrown single-track. Just mad, I only rode one section, I didn’t have the energy to attempt any other sections, and some I wouldn’t even attempt on my downhill bike. It was radical! On reaching the outskirts of the pueblo, as usual, it starts very steeply uphill.

It was around half seven in the evening by now, and I was exhausted. Whilst on this pushup, I checked Google maps for accommodation and found ‘Casa Azul English B&B’. I called! Ken answered. He had a room for me, I was overjoyed, and this spurred me on to get up the hill that was scattered with fallen and squashed oranges!

I found Ken’s Casa Azul very easily from his directions, he ushered me and Bay in, with Bay to sit in an internal courtyard.

It’s now Saturday afternoon, I’ve been here since Wednesday night! Ken has been the best host ever, he’s lovely, his house is lovely, so is his dog Lena and cat Fred!

Ken’s been in Abuñuelas for fifteen years, he and his wife bought Casa Azul as two ruined houses, they completely reformed them into what it is today. It’s a townhouse, finished to a high standard, complete with courtyard, roof terrace and plunge pool!

Sadly, Ken’s wife Maryann passed away four years ago, Ken, 80 next birthday wants to retire, so is selling Casa Azul. Such a shame, it’s a really nice sound house. He wants to stay in the area as Maryann is laid to rest in the Abuñuelas cemetery.

I’ve loved listening to Ken’s life story, he’s lived a really interesting life, and he and Maryann have been life’s risk-takers, with various successful business ventures over the years. He, with a friend, was the founder of Heyford Fisheries, a popular angling spot near my home town! Originally from London, Ken and Maryann moved to Daventry in the 1980’s, Daventry is just 20 miles from Banbury, where I have lived for the last sixteen years!

Lena, the doggy, that I have re-named Lady Magdalena de Abuñuelas, was a rescue pooch, she is of the most beautiful character. I love her, she sleeps with me, we go for walks and generally I love being around her. Fred, the pusscat, well he’s a little aloof, wants to know you when he wants something only!!

I could stay here for another week, quite happily, but I plan to get on the move tomorrow. Time will tell!!


**UPDATE 2021**

Sadly I have recently learnt that both Lena and Ken have passed away. I was so very sad to learn this. Lena had a wonderful life with Ken, who apparently passed away one month after Lena. Rest easy my friends.

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