It’s early September, here I sit, nearly seven months on since leaving Australia, overlooking the beautiful, jagged, forested hills of the Los Guájares municipality of Andalucía. Comfortably swallowed up by the old leather sofa on the veranda of the wonderful Cortijo de Tajos. It’s just gone midday, the heat is building, the sunshine is darkening my screen, the only sounds are of wind chimes, cicadas and the rustling of leaves. Three of the four dogs are snoozing aside me, we’re being cooled by an occasional but welcome mountain breeze. How lucky I am, and I give thanks for this serene time I’m being afforded.
I’m not sure a lot has happened in those seven months, but my life, probably like yours, has changed. I was already wearing a mask and feverishly sanitising my hands on my arrival back in the UK from Australia on the 25th February 2020. Renting a room at my friend’s house, I prepared myself for what I thought was to come, stocking up on masks, disinfectant, and hand sanitiser. A week later, starting a three month contract at a local Formula E team, I was shocked to find that there were no precautions in place to avoid the spread of Covid. Being mocked didn’t deter me from disinfecting light switches, door handles, my desk and keyboard and the kitchen, every morning and a few times throughout the day. It did however deter me from wearing my mask, I ditched it in the office after a few days.
Two weeks later and the UK was starting to take notice of the threat of Covid19, by this time I had started to get a slightly chesty cough, a few days later we started working from home, which was perfect for me as my cough had progressed into some sort of monster! I’ll spare you the gory details, but over a six week period my lungs filled. There were two occasions where I thought I’d have to call an ambulance, something I was avoiding, as many people were dying in hospitals from Covid19. I helped myself as much as possible, I often slept in Puppy Pose, to give enough space in my lungs to be able to breathe. Three different antibiotics and an inhaler later, over the six weeks, and I was clear of whatever had infected me. The doctor only saw me once in that period, and she thought it was Covid 19, but I’ll never know, as I wasn’t tested!
After my work contract ended, my thoughts turned to preparing Bay, my Specialized Camber, ready to finish my bikepacking tour that had ended abruptly the previous June. He had sat in the box he’d returned from Spain in, for nearly 11 months, by this time the damage to my shoulder had mostly healed, so I had no problem in building him up and fitting new tyres, new chain and new fork luggage.
I also spent some time researching how I could lighten my bikepacking gear. I swapped a few items out, such as a lighter poncho and a lighter tyre pump. I spent time investigating how I could charge my laptop via a USB C cable, you can find a separate blog on how I achieved this, it saves around 200 grams.
In mid-May the news reported that the Spanish borders would open to non-residents around the beginning of July, so I took a punt and booked a flight six weeks ahead for the 5th July to Málaga. I booked a flexi-flight, with the costs to take the bike and extra luggage, it was quite expensive, £200, but I thought it was worth the risk. I was keen to get out of the UK before a second wave hit and all borders got locked down again. Little did I know that the expensive flexi-flights aren’t really very flexible, turns out you can only move it plus or minus 1 day, what a swizz!!
My idea was to get to Spain and do some voluntary work, with accommodation, until the weather cooled in September.
As it turned out, the Spanish borders were opened from the 1st July. Although masks were mandatory in the airport and on the airplane, it was never enforced. Just makes you wonder whether some people actually have brains at all!
I was staying in a hostal, in Málaga for two nights, to give me time to buy a SIM card and some camping gas. The gas was hard to find, the SIM card much easier! Which is the opposite to what I found in Seville last year. It’s a good job I had allowed the shopping time as I found I’d forgotten my prescription sunnies, what a pain. I had to visit four opticians before I found one that could cut some decent clip-ons to the size of my glasses. They’re a bit gimpy, but two months on and they’re doing fine, although I do lose them a lot!
The Alsa bus company in Spain has an excellent website, you can book your tickets, extra luggage and bikes, online! Bay was in a large box, I also had a heavy holdall and a heavy rucksack. Although close to the bus station, I didn’t fancy dragging the box from the hostal, so got a taxi for the two-minute journey!
I was heading towards Caballo Blanco horse ranch, in the hills above Lanjarón, where I had arranged to work for one to two months. Getting there needed two bus journeys, one from Málaga to Granada, then another Granada to Lanjarón, where Sarah would meet me and take me to Caballo Blanco. The two bus journeys passed quickly, heading along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada made me feel very nostalgic of my ride the previous year.
It was stinking hot! Over 30°C. On arrival in Lanjarón, I only had to drag the box a hundred metres to a bar, where I had a lovely asparagus and egg flan, whilst waiting for Sarah, who instantly recognised me, being the only person on the terrace with a blooming great big box!