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Chapter 16: Bikepacking the Altravesur-Albunuelas to Niguelas

5th May 2019

You can see my YouTube on this ride here

After spending four nights at Ken’s BnB in Albuñuelas, I felt slightly rested but could have stayed longer, for more rest and the fact that I enjoyed Ken’s company and Lena’s of course! As it turns out I nearly added another night on, the reasons you’ll learn later.

**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**

I set off on the Sunday morning, Day 47 of my trip, the 5th of May, at around 9am, stopping at the local bar for a café con leche on my way out. For some reason the bar was buzzing, around 10 people were there, all men, perhaps it was a man’s day out!!

It took me a little time to find the camino out of Albuñuelas, through the steep narrow streets.

It was a beautiful ride, the narrow camino was surfaced with concrete, running along the left hand side of the ravine with orange trees lining the route. It’s a big orange growing area, there were so many windfalls on the ground, it seems such a waste but to the farmers it’s probably no pasa nada, as they would say!

The camino was heading east, with the sun rising over the misty mountains in my field of view. Mostly downhill too, heading towards the pueblo of Saleres. As usual I missed a turning and continued for a couple of kilometres in the wrong direction, uphill too. When I realised and turned around, I lost my bearings again and couldn’t find my way back to the correct camino.

Whilst lost on the camino, I noticed an old man and his dog in the campo, so I asked him if this was the way to Saleres. He walked over to me, and he was sort of gurning with his lips, he only had one tooth, so I thought he just did that. He started getting a little too close to me, but I thought he must be deaf. Then he grabbed my crotch, and rubbed himself, and pulled me closer to him. I backed off and shouted ‘nooooo’. It wasn’t scary, he was at least a thousand years old, and quite frail. But it reminded me that I’d let my guard down and that I should never let anyone into my personal space, and also that not everyone has good intentions.

Anyway I wasted half an hour completely lost, coming to dead end after dead end! Eventually I found where I should have turned off and continued towards Saleres. As I entered the village I suddenly realised I had left my insulated food bag and iced water bottle in the fridge at Kens. Dammit! Do I go back, which will be uphill all the way or should I leave it and buy new? Well based solely on the fact it was full of food I decided to return to Albuñuelas. By now it was a quarter past ten. I knew Ken was leaving to go to church in Durcal at 11am, so I would have to hurry.

By now the sun was blazing, I decided to take the road not the camino, as there was less chance of getting lost. It was tough, very hot with little shade and I was rushing too. I constantly tried to phone Ken, as he would pass this road on his way to church, he could have brought my stuff with little effort expended by both of us. Unfortunately, little did I know I was dialling the wrong number.

I was dialling the last Spanish number on my call history, little did I know I’d received a cold call from some random number. And that’s what I dialled, twenty times in fact! I was at this point thinking when I get to Ken’s, I’ll ask if I can stay another night, but the thought of unpacking and re-packing my bike was too painful to contemplate, as I find it annoying!

Anyway, exhausted and overheated, I arrived at Ken’s at five to eleven! Ken reminded me then that it was Sunday and all the shops would be shut, so it was a good job I returned! I retrieved my food, said my goodbyes again and decided to ride back to Saleres on the main road again, which was so much fun, as it was all downhill once out of Albuñuelas. That wasn’t the end of my mistakes. I got around 300metres up hill out of the town only to realise I didn’t have my gloves. I returned to where I’d stopped, at the mirador, to have a drink and a rest, only to find my gloves on the road! Argh, will I get anywhere today I wondered!

But wait, there’s more! I’d left my GoPro camera on since Saleres, which resulted in the SD card being full and the battery flat, so four major mistakes in the first two hours of the day, what else could go wrong!

The day had started so well on that orange-tree lined camino. By the time I got back to the camino in Saleres I was already tired and over-heated, all that resting I’d done had been spent on this morning farce energy sapping fiasco.

After Saleres the camino is nearly all uphill, this went on for hours, around four or five in fact! I passed through or around a few pueblos; Restebal, Melegis, Lecrin, Acequias, stopping at a nice restaurant in Melegis for a nice cold Coke, with free tapas thrown in, I had two!

It was a hot day, a tiring day and an uphill day!

The views weren’t particularly exciting either until I neared Nigϋelas. The camino from Lecrin to Acequias was along side a dry-riverbed/storm drain, slowly rising uphill, at one point passing under a mountain to mountain highway bridge, it was a long way up, and you can’t help but marvel at modern engineering, but also wonder how much maintenance such a construction requires. It must be monitored for structural defects I would think, these are the types of conversations I have with myself whilst riding or pushing!

Just after the motorway crossing the camino winds through an old road with derelict houses, perhaps the dereliction caused by compulsory purchase when the highway was built? The push-up to Acequias starts, it's on the surfaced mountain road, I was hoping there would be a Coke with my name on it in the sleepy pueblo, alas not!

A steep switchback takes you into Acequias, there was little shade so when I came across a bus shelter, I took the opportunity to have a little lie down and a drink. I’d had to change the SD card and battery in my GoPro in Albuñuelas, but still, somehow I lost all the footage and photos from Saleres to Nigϋelas. I’ve no idea how I made this mistake, as I’m usually very careful to transfer everything to hard drive. Anyway I did lose it. I can’t remember what the journey was like from Acequias to Nigϋelas, I arrived there around half four in the afternoon.

Nigϋelas is perched on the very edge of a ravine, it looks like some of the houses will fall off one day! The views had improved, with mountains all around. It’s a steep downhill, then steep uphill from the camino into Nigϋelas, and then farther uphill climbing to get into the town proper.

I didn’t need to go into the town, and deliberated for sometime as to whether to continue on the route or find a bed for the night. I had planned on wild-camping, but by now after around eight hours of hot uphill pushing I was exhausted and suffering from mild heatstroke again.

The next section was on a steep camino rising from 900 metres to nearly 1900 metres. I knew I couldn’t push-up that with my lack of energy so took the decision to find a hostal, and took the steep down/up into Nigϋelas.

In Nigϋelas town I couldn’t find a hostal on the map or a B&B, and eventually asked a guy if there was a hostal ‘ circa aqui’ and he said follow me! He was going that way in his car, luckily this was at the top of town, so I was following him downhill! He stopped outside El Secreto de Olivo, a hotel. I’d seen it on the map, but it was far too expensive, I think the owner, whose name I have ashamedly forgotten and didn’t write it down but I think it was Louis-Miguel. He said it’s the only place there is, so I went in and secured the last room for fifty euros, twice as much as I want to pay, he pointed out that it usually costs more to stay there!

El Secreto de Olivo has been beautifully designed, on entering there’s a large indoor courtyard, tastefully decorated, which serves as a dining room and bar with a gallery above leading to the first floor guest rooms. Luckily my large room was on the ground floor and I was allowed to take Bay in my room with me.

The owners cat, Randolfo took a shine to me and followed me into my room and settled down on my bed alas I needed to go out and get some food so turned him out. I took a walk into the town square, these are always easy to find and they are usually where the church is, which usually has a tall tower.

Nigϋelas was another pretty whitewash pueblo, the church had a quite impressive array of bells. I sat for a while in the evening sun, on the wall of a large ornate water fountain in the square. I chose the nearest bar to get some food, the lady was very grumpy especially when I asked if she could cut up my bocadillo and wrap it, so I could eat it the next day!

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