|Daddy cat with three kittens in El Rocio|
|On the beach at Matalascanas|
|Our parking near to the beach|
|That horse on the beach|
|Here we are waiting for the sunset|
La Rabida and Christopher Columbus' ship replicas:
|In the hold of the Santa Maria|
|Columbus' first journey|
|The Santa Maria|
|Columbus' second, third and fourth journeys. On his fourth journey he actually set foot on mainland America, firstly in Honduras, becoming the first European ever to set foot on that continent|
|The monastery (who arranged the finance) and where they prayed before setting out|
|The discovery monument in Rabida|
Gibraleon and the Via Verde cycle route to nowhere:
|Statue of Columbus in Rabida|
|Our motorhome parking in Rabida|
|The secure (and free) motorhome Aire in Gibraleon|
|The iron bridge on our Via Verde cycle|
We stayed two nights, band practice the first night was ok, once they stopped tuning up and actually started practicing, while last night was very sociable. Alex in his yellow self conversion next to us and Jeremy and Debs in theirs next to him. He is a climber/skier/cycling kitesurfer who did some backpacking about 10 years ago.
Once we started talking he took us out of the pigeon hole he’d neatly slotted us into and we had a great time. He even had a spare cigar lighter plug which he was willing to donate to Brian’s laptop. The charger for which gets very hot, so hot it had melted the plastic and whatever held the end bit out. It really has been dodgy for a while, but is the only means of charging the laptop if we have no electricity, which is most of the time, so do you risk ‘fixing’ it beyond repair? They ignored me and did, hopefully it’s all ok. It seems to be so far!
|The really nice first part of the cycle way|
Alex was interested in Brian’s roll up piano, as he can actually play. Not sure Jeremy and Debs were that impressed as they were having a post lunch siesta, but much chatting and drinking ensued and we had a lovely evening till chased inside by mosquitoes. Scary they were...
Another 40 minutes has brought us to an independent Aire €10 free WiFi, toilets, showers and a lovely view over the marshes. (Campsite location: 37°13'18.3"N 7°19'19.8"W) (Campsite facilities with photos: click here then on item 71 in list) Tomorrow we will find a bit more of the via verde, for a little more cycling, a nice lunch and hopefully a boat trip. What’s not to like?
Brians version of the Via Verde de Litoral cycle route.
We've met quite a few people who have recommended the Via Verde cycle routes and how pleasant they are. The official website (http://www.viasverdes.com/en/principal.asp) states there are 2,700km of them all over Spain and are closed sections of old railway lines that have been converted into cycle ways (like a lot in the UK have). Old railway lines are generally flat or on a slight incline/decline, so are very easy, often they are elevated to give splendid views, fresh air and sunshine. The website goes into detail saying "It is well worth taking a trip on one of these trails where motor vehicles are forbidden. Not even mopeds are allowed on these routes, which are synonymous with safety and respect for the environment. From north to south and east to west, there are 117 itineraries and thousands of kilometres to be covered on fascinating routes that will take you to stunning spots and reveal a great deal about Spain's cultural heritage. The panels and signposts along the way will keep you constantly informed about interesting artistic locations and landscapes. In some cases there are even guides and guidedpublic paths visits available for certain areas: you just have to choose your line."
|First major problem encountered. Lots of undergrowth and an eroded path making it impassable. Detour required!|
OK, I'm sold, where is the nearest one? Well, the biggest problem we face is finding somewhere safe to leave Big Ted and, of course we will have to do it twice, once out and again in reverse to get back to BT. Not wanting to go out of our way too much I looked in SW Spain, where we were headed. Ah, there's on that starts in Gibraleon and heads west to the Portguese border, 33km away. Gibraleon has a free Aire that is secure in its own compound with lots of other motorhomes. So we could do as much as we want then turn round and come back again, stopping at one of those restored railway station come cafes they encoragingly talked about on their website I thought. Sounds fabulous and I'm already getting excited.
The first problem on this one, the Via Verde de Litoral (http://www.viasverdes.com/itinerarios/itinerario.asp?id=63) is the warning notice it postes. It says: "Attention: Via Verde with serious maintenance problems. There are discontinuities in the layout, transit of numerous motor vehicles, and bridge with platform breakage, which makes it very dangerous to pass through."
|The wortst section, very thin and in a cutting. Below is the very soggy underpass we negotiated|
Gibraleon is a lovely little town, nothing to go out of your way to see, but is very clean, interesting and has lots of bars and cafes. The Aire is in a quiet area of town in a new car park with separate secure area specifically for motorhomes. There were quite a few parked there when we arrived including some Brits who we got on well with. We walked into town had a beer and tapas, relaxed in the sunshine, found the start of the Via Verde route, which was a wide, very flat path that looked perfect. This is going to be good, the weathers warm and sunny and set to remain that way, so we'll set off earlyish tomorrow before it gets too hot, take some lunch and have a great time, so we thought!
Next morning, out with the bikes, on with the shorts and t shirts, sun cream and some lunch in a basket on front of the bike and off we went in the slightly chilly morning, but knowing it was due to get to high 20's by the afternoon.
The first problem we encountered within 100m of starting was a school outing that were using it as an athletic track, so we stopped, wove our way in between to get past them then on we went again. Ahh, the fresh air, the open countryside, the views... There's a big iron bridge over a wide river that had metal sheets making it quite safe, so we rode over it and on along an arrow straight path with fabulous views. What a great decision this was!
We came to a section crossed by a rough track that had a tractor going over it to gain access to his olive groves and we went over it to find the track suddenly thick with vegetation and a single, narrow way between nasty looking undergrowth and overhanging trees. We stopped, I walked on to find the path eroded away by a stream, making it impassable. Just then we saw other cyclists bypassing that bit and going uphill on another track, but away from the Via Verde. A quick look at Navmii, the app on my phone that has local maps and shows public paths showed it as a route that went in a different direction. But hang on, I could see another faint path that swung around and rejoined the Via Verde. We're going that way. "Are you sure?" Jackie said, "Of course, follow me!" Off we went. Ooops, slightly wrong there, back up, try this bit, round there, through those trees, down that bank....Ahh, here we are, the old track again.
Well, its a bit bumpy now, but not too bad and it's definitely the old railway track as here's an embankment and an old bridge with no guard rails (that's a bit dangerous isn't it?), but it's great, isn't it! Oh, it's got a bit narrow again, lots of undergrowth, very narrow and now in a deep cutting. A scan at Navmii showed it went under a motorway, disappeared for a bit and then reappeared and continued on. "Come on" I say, "it'll be fine" We blunder on through undergrowth aware there's no escape up the steep bank. Here's the tunnel coming up that goes under the motorway slip road. I was ahead and got there first to see it waterlogged and obviously been traversed by many goats or cows so it was probably slurry. There's a couple of narrow edges of mud and deep water the length of the tunnel of some 20m. So, do we go back or do we try and get through this? Its an adventure right? Lets go on. To my surprise Jackie agreed so, deciding the left side looked not too bad, I trod carefully as close to the left as possible and pushed my bike through some mud and water. It's not going well, the wheels have stopped turning, why is that, oh it'll be the huge quantities of gloopy mud that have built up round the wheels and frame. My feet feel heavy, why is that, oh it's the huge quantities of mud stuck to my shoes making them look like tennis rackets on my feet.
Jackie sensibly chose the right hand route and got very little mud on her. By the time we got to the other side I just couldn't belive how much mud was on my shoes and the bike. Is there seriously any mud left in the tunnel? Surely most of it is on my bike! I poked a bit off to make the wheels turn and scraped my feet, but it removed only a limited quantity. What do we do now, the path is thick undergrowth and now even worse, but at least we're out of the cutting. A slight detour onto a farmers fields and back on the track when possible and then to the tunnel under the main motorway. Mercifully it was dry with a concrete base so we made our way through it and out the other side. Tim Holden, if you are reading this, it definitely reminded me of the mountain bike route we did on John F's stag weekend years ago when you rode through a huge puddle at high speed just as I was carefully going through, absolutely drowning me in muddy water, and you with an evil laughing sideways look at me as you went past!
|My bike after wheeling it through the mud. No photos of my shoes and, stupidly I didn't take a photo of the flooded tunnel|
A quick break for our sandwiches on the bridge with no barrier (don't lean back!) and then back along a steadily improving track back to Big Ted. Another hour or so to fully wash my bike and shoes, that dried very quickly in the hot afternoon sun, a glass or two of wine and a laugh with our new found Brit friends.
|Nearly back to Gibraleon and back on the good track|
|Traversing that big iron bridge again with Gibraleon in sight|
|Our campsite near Isla Cristina with views over the marshes|