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Chapter 19: Bikepacking the Altravesur-Trevelez detouring to Alcutar

11th May 2019

You can see my YouTube on this ride here

I left Camping Trevelez around 10am, with no camp food left, as I’d eaten it all the night before, I needed to go into the town to resupply. Also, whilst in the town, I returned to the nice restaurant I’d eaten at on Wednesday, for some breakfast. Luckily this wasn’t a detour, the route rode through the town, then out over Rio Trevélez, where I took the opportunity to take a photo of Bay at the Rio Trevélez signpost, as I had done exactly four years before with my other bike, Stumpy, when I'd been holidaying there.

It wasn’t far after the Rio Trevélez that I turned on to the camino, which immediately became evident it was another painful mule trail. Robert if you’re reading this, don’t do it to me again!!! He said that from Trevélez it was half an hour push-up then down to Juviles. Alas, this was not the case, it was a very very long mule trail! Not as steep as the Bubion mule trail, except in odd places, but very long, mostly uphill and at times, overgrown.

The terrain varied from very rocky and steep, to meadow with grazing cattle, to mountain springs wetting the soil making it a slippery uphill push, to an overgrown tunnel of brambles! And cow shit. Lots of cow shit. Big pats in the middle of the narrow trail, so hard to avoid, this continued all along it! But always it was fantastic views across the sierra.

Over two hours I was pushing up, interspersed with a few rideable sections. I wouldn’t have minded except that I was expecting it to be half an hour! So I was continually feeling it’ll be going downhill round the next bend, but it didn’t!

Eventually I hit the camino, where there was a fantastic view to my right, over to the Contraviesa, basically the view from the Sierra Nevada, down towards the Mediterranean, as the crow flies around 20 miles away.

It wasn’t immediately a downhill ride on the camino, perhaps a kilometre or two in it started to descend. I got so carried away with the fast descent, that I hadn’t realised that I’d passed a hidden turn onto a singletrack two kilometres back, that I should have taken.

Argh there was no shade, the sun was blazing down on me and I needed to push back uphill for two kilometres. This took me an hour or so, I was pretty annoyed with myself, in fact it’s the first time I was really angry about my stupidity! I was again, overheating, there was no shade at all. Worst of all, I was on a deadline to meet someone.

On reaching the singletrack, literally a random right turn off the camino, quite inconspicuous, I’m not surprised I missed it. Anyway that’s no excuse really, I must look at the map more.

This was worth waiting for though, many kilometres of downhill, twisty, sometimes rocky, sometimes overgrown singletrack. A fabulous ride, I’d like to do it again please!

The singletrack eventually hits a narrow camino that steeply runs down to the main mountain road. And on hitting this road is where I have deviated from the Altravesur.

I’m desperately in need of new trainers, not only do they not have any tread left, my toes are hitting the front of the shoe, either my feet have grown, or the trainers have shrunk!! So the previous day I’d called my friend Richard, that lives a couple of villages on, to ask if it was possible he could give me a lift to a major town to buy some trainers.

Richard’s from the UK, but has lived in Alcutar, on and off for over ten years. He was the kind gent that had given me a lift to or from the airport a few times over the years. He has a parcel of land and is growing a crop of peas currently.

On the telephone he explained that he was very busy with his crop so couldn’t take a day out but said if I’d help with his pea crop he would see I get my shoes! So we agreed I’d make my way to his and we could discuss the details.

It took me some time, as it was around 4pm with the sun still high, pushing up a shadeless surfaced mountain road under the relentless sun for perhaps an hour and a half. I made my way, riding and pushing, from Juviles to Bérchules, stopping off at Hotel Los Bérchules for a desperately needed coke, it had been a long, hot, hard day! And it was so great to see Wendy and Alejandro, that run the hotel, with Alejandro’s wife Csilla.

It would have been an easy ride to Richard's from the hotel, it's all down hill, but we had spoken on the phone whilst I was at the hotel and agreed he would come up there.

Again I was suffering from the affects of too much sun. He had an errand to run, high on the sierra, so I bundled my luggage into his Land Rover, leaving Bay at the hotel, and we set-off high up above Bérchules on the mountain. This will be the route I need to ride next. But for now I’m stopping in Alcutar!

We agreed that for accommodation and food, I would help with the pea picking. Rich found a beautiful corteeco, Corteeco Cairo, for me to live in. It’s at the other end of the village to his small-holding, but only a fifteen minute walk away. Corteeco Cairo has been reformed, to a unique and high spec, by friends of Richard’s, Peter and Theresa. The large corteeco sits on an elevated outcrop on the outskirts of the pueblo, with fantastic views of the valley dropping to Caddy-ar, then further views to the Sierra de Loohar. Living in the UK, Peter and Theresa use it as their Alpuharras holiday retreat. Very kindly, they agreed to let me stay here. I find peoples kindness quite amazing, letting a complete stranger live in their beautifully renovated and furnished home, that they quite obviously love. So I thank them very much.

One thing you get used to in the Alpujarras is stray cats. Last time I was here I ended up feeding around 12 - 15 of them. It's no different at Cortijo Cairo, within hours of being here the cats called around!

Luckily, as funds are low, there's only five of them. Gold-digga, Anabelle, Mogadishu, Moon, and Stumpy. The cats are quite manageable, but there's a local farmers dog that waits at the cortijo door for me, night and day. She's lovely, but a complete pig and I'm having trouble feeding the cats as she just slithers along the ground and plants her head in every bowl, clearing them in seconds.

I've named her Hoover, she really is such a kind mannered soul, but very stupid. She can't follow any instructions and just jumps up at me all the time, which I love except for the fact she is covered in ticks and god-knows what else.

After Rich run his errand, we returned to his small-holding, where we chatted, then Rich cooked a most welcome dinner.

I’m not sure Rich had realised how knackered I was that Saturday evening, I desperate to get to sleep but didn't get to the cortijo until nearly 11pm, so to bed around midnight. Worse still, he wanted me on the farm the next morning to start work.

I arrived around 9am, and spent the day weeding around the peas, it seemed a bit of a pointless task as the peas were nearly ready for their first harvest, a little horse bolted/stable door jobby!! I think I was doing it wrong anyway, I was being far too conscientious, I realised later.

Anyway, I was weeding that very hot day, until 8pm. It was tough, and I was totally knackered. Rich had said make myself at home in his house, so when I was tired, I made myself a cup of tea, perhaps two in the morning and one in the afternoon. With a two hour lunch break from 2pm to 4pm, when the sun is at its hottest, Rich cooks a fantastic lunch, I really enjoy that part of the day!The next day I arrived at 8am and worked, weeding again, until 6pm. This weeding is putting a strain on my right shoulder that I injured a few weeks before. I took to cutting the 3 feet high weeds down as they were too hard to pull up.

At 6pm we took a ride out in the Land Rover to Ugijar to pick-up the pea crates from the market, as the next day, Tuesday, we would start picking. That was a tough day too, from 8am to 8pm, bent over, in the blazing sun, with around a total of 3 hours of breaks. It’s not as brainless as it seems, you need to make a judgement, is the pea ready to pick? Is it nearly ready to pick but will go over-ripe before the next pick? I found it a little stressful as I didn’t want to reduce the market value of his peas by doing it wrong!

I was so happy when Rich gave me the day off Wednesday and Thursday, heaven! Time to recuperate, and finding time to catch-up with Jenny from Pure Mountains and Wendy, Alejandro and Csilla at the Hotel. And to chill TF out! Also you need two hands to pick the peas, each time I detached a pod it gave a little tug on my dodgy shoulder, so down days gave my shoulder a little rest.

And so we got into a two days on, picking, then two days off, rhythm, which suited me well. In fact on day two of the pick, I’m pretty bloody useless, as I’m so tired! We’ve been averaging 100kg of peas picked per day, with I’d say Rich picking say 10-20 kg more than me. So that’s me for a few weeks. I’m writing this two weeks on from arriving, Day 67 of my tour, Saturday the 25th May and this day I’m on day three of four consecutive days off!! Love it! But back to picking Monday bleugh! I’m thinking I’ll probably do two more weeks, when the main pea harvest will be over, then get back on the Altravesur.

It’s a shame I’m not riding now, as the last four days have been cloudy and cooler, you can bet by the time I’m on the mountain, it’ll be blazing sunshine!

I had a wonderful month in Alcutar. I managed to meet up with Amanda, Andy and Tina, who I had worked with the previous summer. And I made a new friend, Antonia, who I met whilst hiking to Cadiar. There's no wifi at the cortijo, so I managed to read four books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I was sad to say goodbye to Rich, but I think he'd had enough of me by then!! And I was sad to leave the cats and Hoover too, I got quite attached to Hoover, the little shit that she was!

I have got my new trainers btw! Heaven to walk in, two sizes bigger than I usually take!

Adios Amigos


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