I’ve had some hills to climb up on this trip and so far I’ve dealt with them. I’ve also had some super dooper headwinds to ride into and so far I’ve dealt with them. But when those two things gang up on me at the same time, well that’s just not fair. Throw in the rain as well and I just don’t think that’s playing by the rules!
The rain started in the night and made its presence known pattering down on the tent. We weren’t going to sit out another day though and the wind wasn’t as strong, so we decided to pack up and head off into the weather. I think we set a new benchmark for fashion today in all our wet weather gear – waterproof socks, waterproof trousers, waterproof jacket, waterproof gloves, waterproof jacket hood up and worn under the helmet. Just to add to the humiliation, my trousers are children’s because I couldn’t get any adult ones to fit me and even these ones are pulled right up over my ribcage to stop them being a foot and a half too long. So kids’ clothes just add to the overall fashionable effect and diminished self esteem. I also discovered as the day went on…they are not waterproof! Note to manufacturer!
So off we went and had travelled about 500m down the road when we needed to stop for Steve to pump up his tyre. Off we went again and stopped about 200m later because my lights weren’t working. They didn’t want to work either, so I was going into this raining and gloomy grey day without lights, so I just had to ride ahead with Steve behind, with the only light to give traffic some indication that we were there on the road. With those two hiccups so soon, the day had not started brilliantly and with the awful weather, this was a day to be on our game and try and avoid mistakes and hiccups along the way!
Then the hills started…with the rain…and the headwind. Oh my! That combination was tough. Climb…climb…push into the wind…pump the pedals for all I’m worth…brrrr with the stinging rain…splash from the trucks going past us and throwing up the spray from their tyres…on we went up and up and up. We had pretty constant hills today, just continuous corkscrewing around and around the high hills. So the hills were long and steep and winding. I’m not exaggerating for effect because at the end of the day the Garmin said we’d set a new personal record for ascent, so in all the hills we’ve had so far and all the climbing we’ve had to do, today was the most of all!
We were following the signs to Adra, our destination for the day. We had just climbed yet another long hill when what should I see before us…what’s that?…is that a sign?…a familiar looking round sign with pictures on it?…you’ve got to be joking! Yes…there was our nemesis, the sign that puts a firm stop to all pedestrians, tractor drivers, motor scooter riders and of course, cyclists. Why is it there at the top of the hill? Why didn’t we get a warning before we started puffing up this mountain!? It turned out the road we were on was about to become a motorway, so that sign was saying, “Ah, ah, ah…round you turn…back you go…nothing for you here.” Steve checked the map and we should have turned at the bottom of the hill to take us along the quieter coast road. So…nothing to be done but turn around, go back down that long hill, turn onto the coast road and…go up a new hill, that was a bit longer and steeper and more winding than the one we’d just gone up for nothing. All I kept doing was chanting in my head to the rhythm of the pedals. Just…keep…go…ing… Just…keep…go…ing… Just…keep…go…ing…
On we went…and up we went. At one point I looked at my speed and I was riding slower than I can run…it was slow, slogging pedalling.
Then…Steve got a puncture! So there we were on the side of the road, panniers unloaded from Steve’s bike, bike turned upside down and Steve with the tools, changing the tyre on his bike. I’m afraid all I did to assist with that process was to stand beside the bike, hold an inner tube and shiver. That was my only contribution I’m afraid. I was completely and utterly freeeeezing. The you-beaut Sealskinz waterproof gloves were…not! My hands were wet and freezing. The fancy-shmansy Sealskinz waterproof socks were…not! My feet were soaking wet and freezing. Those kids’ waterproof trousers were…not! I was soaked to the skin. So far my good ol’ waterproof running jacket was hanging in there. So I was soaked and freezing, standing there on the side of the road, a mere useless bystander in the tyre changing process. I was trying to look on the bright side and thought to myself, ‘at least at this very moment, right now, the rain has eased off. It could be worse, it could be raining.’ Then…it rained! I started to fantasise that a motorhome would drive past and a friendly French, Dutch or British tourist would stop and say, “Hey, we’ve got a couple of spare bike racks on the back, would you like a lift?” and we’d say, “That’d be awesome!” and then we’d be driven the rest of the way in a warm, dry motorhome. That fantasy went Phut! as the rain plonked on my head and slapped me out of my daydream. Steve did a bonza job on the tyre and it was changed in a twinkling, panniers reloaded and off we went again.
I’m afraid our riding lately has not given us the best view of Spain. The scenery is just stark hills and for those Tasmanians reading this, it was very much like the landscape of Queenstown and like climbing the hills out of Queenstown (without the flat bits in between). Steve actually said the comparison he made with the climbing we did today, was like riding up St Mary’s Pass. So we’d climb in the rain and then we’d get some downhills that would take us into tiny little one building ghost towns, with nothing there, only to have to climb back out again up more hills. That was the pattern for the day, without nice views or scenery to help, just blank hills.
Finally we rode into Adra and checked the map. The hostel we’d booked was on the outskirts of the town, so another 3km or so to go. The man met us at the door as we pulled up.
“You room?” he asked.
“Si,” I said.
“In here,” he pointed through the door to a corridor to park the bikes.
“Gracias,” I replied. We parked the bikes, Steve went with the man to do the checking-in formalities and then we lugged the bags up to the room. Steve graciously offered me first shower, so I could get a bit wetter, but of the ‘oh so nice’ hot water variety of wet. I could have stayed in that shower and cooked for hours! I didn’t though and after warming up, I handed it over for Steve to take some of the chill out of his bones. Although his wet weather gear seemed to perform better than mine, so he wasn’t feeling too bad.
So we didn’t end up doing our extra long ride today because of the weather, it was just another average one of 52km. I’d like to say I enjoyed the ride, but I think I’d be fibbing if I said that. Being cold, wet, windblown and splashed are not usually experiences we seek out as pleasurable, so I couldn’t honestly say it was a fun day. We couldn’t even stop for our ritual elevenses and photo because it was so wet and we couldn’t really sit around getting wetter and colder, so we just rode the whole way straight through without stopping, or even stopping for photo opportunities (not that there were any really). So we were pretty hungry by the time we reached Adra and after warming up in a hot shower, we wolfed down an apple and a piece of bread to tide us over (supplies were dwindling). Thankfully our room has a teeny tiny balcony for the air conditioner unit, so we could put the Trangia outside and I could at least end the ride with a cup of tea. Then we walked up the street to the supermercado and someone must have heard me complaining about the challenges here with finding food, because this one was pretty good and had an OK selection of things. I happily resupplied my fruit stocks, I found some rice milk for brekkie and Steve couldn’t decide from the extensive selection of pastries on offer. We were sorted!
We don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow. We’re heading for Almeria but when Steve checked-in at our hostel, the man said, “Mucho, mucho, mucho wind tomorrow.” So we may need to play it by ear. We may just decide to go for it though and figure if we can get through today’s trials and challenges, we may just be able to do it despite the wind. We’ll sleep on it. We’ll also see how dry things get – at the moment our room looks a dreadful sight with clothes and tent and all manner of things hanging up and around the place trying to dry out.
So today we were those cyclists you see when you’re out driving in your nice warm, dry car. The ones you either look at with pity and think, “poor you” or you look at with bewilderment and think, “why on earth are you out in this weather doing that, you complete turkey!?” We were those cyclists today.
So I don’t think the wind and the rain and the hills played fair today. I think they ganged up on us. Still, we played by the rules, even if they didn’t and just kept pushing on to the finish line. By gosh we made it in the end too!