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My cycling holiday in Andalucia by TCM

We went on the OUCC New Year weekend and it rained the whole time so John and I decided we wouldn’t go to the Easter Meet because it always rains in this country even though Simon says it doesn’t. So John got out his Youth Hostel map of Europe and we looked at it. Finally John spotted SPAIN. The next day he went to the travel agent and found we could fly there for 99p. We looked in the Cranes’ Journey to the Centre of the Earth to see what luggage to take, and sawed our toothbrushes in half. John bought some special strong wheels from Gerson. We went for a test ride near Boars Hill.

I got two bike boxes from the bike shop and was going to ride with them from the Maths Institute to the station but because each box was much larger than the bike this was impossible. Fortunately Prof. Penrose and lots of other clever mathematical physicists helped me by suggesting I ring a taxi. We missed the train but it was ok as there was another one.

We checked in for the flight (it was the first flight ever for both of us) and started to pack the bikes in their boxes. Unfortunately we couldn’t take the pedals off because the spanner was in the bag we had checked in. I went to look for one around the airport but John went outside and bought a new one. We went through the xray gate and the airport people took away our camping stove because it had half a cannister of gas.

There was nowhere to leave the boxes at Malaga airport but we found a burnt out car in the carpark and left them in that. We rode into Malaga because we had to buy a new stove. We didn’t know what a camping shop was in Spanish so we asked “donde está la tienda de las tiendas” because the word for shop and tent are the same. The shops were all shut anyway because it was lunchtime. Eventually we got one and we rode up the hill out of town.

I got cramp so when we stopped to camp and have dinner I put lots of salt in the pasta. But it made us thirsty and we didn’t have much water. Also the tent fell down in the middle of the night so we had to get out and put it up again.

The next day we found a spring, so we got some more water at last. Unfortunately we dropped the map in the water so it started to fall apart. Also on the ride towards Granada John stopped and I ran into the back of him and fell off.

In Granada we went to the Alhambra which was nice. We wanted to go up the Veleta road because it is the highest road in Europe so we did that. Unfortunately at 2500m there was snow all over the road. We pushed the bikes along but it was a bit slippery because people were skiing down it. The Pico Veleta did not look very far away but the snow was too deep so we turned back. John very cleverly took a photograph of himself pushing the bike through the snow.

We went to Guadix along a nice roughstuff road. In one village it was hard to find the right road out. We looked carefully at our Military Map and went in the right direction but we went for ages along a mule track before deciding it wasn’t the right road. I don’t think the military maps are very good. The Michelin map is better but ours was in little pieces now because we had dropped it in the water.

John used to spend ages every day mackling around with suncream but in the end he was right because I got very burnt.

We went over the Puerto de Ragua and along the Alpujarras. There are lovely terraces here. We camped in a lush little field but in the morning the farmer came and looked upset. We were sorry we had camped in his nice field.

We went through a town called Lanjaron and when we were getting water we saw some English tourists so we said hello. They said it must be nice for us to be able to cook the lovely vegetables that were in the shops, because all they got in the restaurants was meat. But we didn’t tell them all we ate was pasta and tomatoes and smelly sausage.

It was quite hard to find shops in any case because they looked exactly like ordinary houses. It was even harder to find bread shops. You have to ask “Donde está la tienda de pan” and someone takes you through all the little streets until you get to the bread shop which of course looks exactly like all the other houses.

Once we went into a shop and we must have looked rather grubby because the lady in the shop said we were poor little things and we must go upstairs and have a wash. But we were afraid we would make her lovely clean bathroom and white towels dirty.

We tried to go up the Veleta road from the southern side in case the snow had melted but it hadn’t so we only got as high up as we did before.

We tried to do some more roughstuff but John said there was something wrong with his bike and it was making a noise. I took the hubs apart and lots of broken bits of ball bearings fell out. I put the three complete ball bearings back and used suncream as grease. Then we rode back to Granada to buy some more bearings. Neither of us will ever buy wheels from Gerson again.

When we got back to the airport there was only one of our boxes left but we found another bike box in the airport. We found that the clocks had gone forward some time while we were away so it was lucky we were at the airport really early. We still had half a cannister of gas left with the stove so we tried to burn it off by making lots of tea outside the airport. But when they kept announcing “would the last two passengers to Gatwick PLEASE make their way through the gate” we had to prise the cannister off the stove and hope that it wouldn’t blow up.

We did go to the Easter Meet after all, and it rained.

TCM. 2002

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