Category Archives: Cycling

Cycling Tarifa To Nordkapp: Two Weeks Until Departure

The plan is that two weeks today – Thursday 9th April – I will be standing somewhere near the southernmost point of the European mainland looking north and thinking “here we go again…” (or even, “bloody hell, here we go again…”).

Between now and then, my time is split three ways:

  • A final week here in Cádiz learning Spanish (the school closes for Easter next Wednesday so I now have just four days of lessons remaining) at the end of which I will hopefully see some of the city’s ‘semana santa‘ festivities (if you have an image of a fat bloke in a red coat and a white beard, please get your own coat and move on…). This coming weekend is a bit of a blank. Should I go off and explore somewhere new or just take the opportunity while I have it of loafing around in Cádiz itself and relaxing?
  • After exchanging a few emails with my uncle (who is currently looking after Reggie, my bike) back in Estepona – on the coast just to the north east of Gibraltar – I have agreed to meet him in Tarifa early on what we British refer to as Good Friday. I don’t think that the Spanish call it ‘Bueno Viernes‘ but if you know otherwise, do let me know. I’ll catch the bus to Tarifa and meet Ron (that’s my uncle) at the bus station in Tarifa. Later in the day we will drive up to Algeciras and will spend some time in a place called San Roque taking in the Easter events. Over to you Ron: “This is a famous parade and often has at least 14 “thrones” The parade is one of the most famous in Andalucia and has applied for World Heritage recognition. I will certainly be going. It is all rather weather dependant as some of the thrones are over 400 years old and they do not venture out of the church if there is any chance of rain.” That’s what he told me in his first email. Last night he emailed me again with a snippet of information about a geo caching meeting taking place in Tarifa at 9.15am on Good Friday. I think geo caching is one of Ron’s interests and the meeting is taking place next to the sign which says ‘you are standing at the southernmost point of the European mainland‘. According to Ron, the group will be discussing the question as to whether the southernmost point of Europe is where the sign is, or whether it is on the Isla de las Palomas, the island that isn’t an island and that is currently occupied by the Guardia Civil. That does sound very interesting (and the kind of thing that might make a good tangential paragraph in the book). It will require a very early departure from Cádiz that morning but there is a bus at 7am so it’s certainly possible to get there by 9am. No news, incidentally, from the Parque Natural del Estrucho that I contacted following the reply from the Guardia Civil themselves. Once back in Estepona later on Friday 3rd it will be a case of last minute (well, last weekend) preparations for the big trip. Ron is taking Reggie (they sound like a couple of Costa del Crime villains!) to a bike shop in San Pedro (the town on the coast between Estepona and Marbella) called Yep Bikes. I exchanged a few emails with a guy called Roman who sounds as though he is the boss and he has agreed to check my bike after Ron takes it down there next Monday. I’ll be able to pick it up on Saturday 4th leaving the rest of the weekend to pack. 
  • The final segment of the next three weeks will be the two days prior to my departure from Tarifa. Two relatively short rides from Ron’s apartment to Gibraltar (where I will stay in a hotel) on Tuesday and then on Wednesday to Tarifa (where I will camp). 

I’ve also been thinking more about the accommodation for the first few days of the cycle. Campsites abound on the coast and I shouldn’t have too many issues finding one near Tarifa, a second near Conil de la Frontera and then a third not too far from Jerez de la Frontera, albeit near the sea. I’m now thinking that a longer ride all the way to Seville might be the best idea for Saturday as the accommodation options between he coast and the city are fairly limited. My approaches to three Warm Showers hosts in the Jerez / Seville areas have been negative but at least this forces me into getting into the camping spirit at an early stage of the long trip north. For more details of that first part of the trip, see this post written earlier in the week. 


Cádiz: The Post With All The Bicycles

I promised this a couple of weeks ago so here it is; the post with all the bikes of Cádiz, or at least some of them. I wouldn’t want to give the impression that the city is up there at the top of the European premier league of cycling but it holds its own, just. The cobbles make cycling a little uncomfortable I imagine but what would I know? My bicycle is 200km away in Estepona… Cue the photos!

Cycling Tarifa To Nordkapp: Planning Week 1

Can I just get something off my chest? Or indeed off my bed here in Cádiz. Digestive biscuits as sold by Carrefour here in Spain are not to be mistaken with what most of you and I would consider to be a ‘digestive’ biscuit. Far too sweet, far too crumbly and far too thin! There is now a great pile of crumbs next to my map of Andalucia as I have spent the last hour or so examing the map in great detail and munching the biscuits. Bad combination. Moving on… It’s now just over two weeks before I mount Reggie the bike and set off north to Nordkapp in Norway and it’s certainly the time to start thinking about the first week or so of cycling from Estepona (where I will rendez-vous with Reggie on April 4th) to Seville via the official starting point of my trans-continental trek at the southernmost point of the European mainland at Tarifa.

I will leave Estepona on the morning of Tuesday 7th April and cycle down the coast – via Gibraltar where I will stay overnight in a hotel – before arriving in Tarifa on the evening of Wednesday 8th. There are plenty of campsites in the Tarifa area and I will stay at one of them overnight. As to what happens on the official ‘cycling day 1′ from Tarifa is still a little up in the air. Two weekends ago I visited Tarifa with my fellow language students here in Cádiz and was disappointed to discover that the Guardia Civil have designated the Isla de las Palomas – or what we would call ‘Dove Island’ – as a military zone. Ironic, no? The island, in my humble opinion, is no such thing as it is most definitely attached to the mainland. Alas, the likes of me and you are not allowed to set foot on the southernmost point of the continent. There are occasional organised visits but after consulting with the tourist office in Tarifa, they don’t coincide with my departure date. So, this morning, assisted by one of my Spanish teachers here in Cádiz I wrote the following email to the Guardia Civil:

Estimada Guardia Civil de Tarifa.

Me llamo Andrew Sykes y soy un escritor británico. Escribo libros de viajes y actualmente estoy en España para preparar mi próximo libro basado en un viaje en bicicleta de Tarifa a Nordkapp, el punto más al norte de Europa en Noruega.

La semana pasada llamé a la Oficina de Turismo de Tarifa y me explicaron que no es posible acceder al punto más al sur de Europa en La Isla de las Palomas sin la autorización de la Guardia Civil. Necesito irme de Tarifa el jueves 9 de abril, y estoy escribiendoos para preguntaros si podriais dare la autorización para acceder a La Isla de las Palomas la mañana del 9 de abril de 2015.

Mis libros son muy populares en los países anglófonos y creo que seria una buena publicidad para la ciudad de Tarifa y la Guardia Civil si pudiera escribir acerca de mis experiencias visitando el punto más al sur de Europa.

Muchos gracias por leer este email. Un saludo…” 

What do you think? Will my pleading work? Have I missed any accents? No reply yet but I’ll keep you posted. 

So, it remains to be seen if I will start my cycle from what I consider to be the southernmost tip of Europe or just from the sign that claims that it is the southernmost tip (but isn’t). 

Tarifa is just the starting point however. At some time on Thursday 9th April I will set off north. My excellent Marco Polo map of Andalucia is produced on a scale of 1:200,000 – the perfect cycle touring scale – and such a scale equates to a credit card being 17.12km long and 10.80km wide. It took me a few minutes to work that out earlier tonight and it was required as I couldn’t find a ruler. To get me to Tarifa from Estepona via Gibraltar will require two days of cycling about two lengths of a credit card on each day. Bearing in mind that roads are not built as straight as credit cards are manufactured, that’s probably about 50km per day. An easy start to get me into the swing of cycling once again. Stepping things up a little on cycling day 1 I should be able to get as far as Conil de la Frontera (about 70km) and then as far as Jerez de la Frontera (another 70km) by the end of day 2. Between Jerez and Seville is a great expanse of not much at all. It will take me two days to get to Seville from Jerez but as to where I will stay overnight is still very much open to question. After a night in Seville I’ll be following the Ruta de la Plata, a cycle path that has its own website with lots of detailed information about the route. That will be a piece of cake, no?

UPDATE: Wednesday 25th March

I’ve been sent a reply by the Guardia Civil. The good news is that they haven’t said ‘no’. However, they haven’t said ‘yes’ either. They told me to email the Parque Natural del Estrecho which is what I have now done. I await their reply…

Cádiz: The Andalucian News At 9.10am

If you’ve got election fatigue in the UK, spare a though for the poor people in Spain. This year they have a triple whammy of local, regional and national elections to ‘look forward’ to. The election season kicked off yesterday with regional elections here in Andalucia and the socialists remain in power (they have never not been in power in the post-Franco period) in a coalition with a much smaller left wing party. I’m sure that you couldn’t sleep last night in trepidation of hearing that result.

Anyway… It’s interesting to note that the ‘socialist’ party here in Spain is actually known as the ‘Socialist Workers’ Party’. Perhaps Ed Miliband should consider a name change. The right wing People’s Party didn’t do so well losing 17 of their seats, mainly to the Podemos party (who seem to sell themselves on not being any of the other parties). If you know a little bit of Spanish that word – podemos – might look familiar. It’s the second person plural form of the verb poder in the present tense. Poder is the verb to be able to so podemos translates as (come on, I’m doing all the hard work here!)… we can. I like that and think that more political parties should adopt this approach to naming themselves. At this point I’m tempted to get overtly political and make some suggestions of my own, but as this is an apolitical website (I don’t want to alienate any of you!) I’ll refrain from doing so.

The socialists in Andalucia haven’t had a great time in recent years. Their former leader has now been charged with corruption but it doesn’t seem to have knocked their support. Under their new leader, Susans Díaz – she took over in 2013 – they have managed to retain exactly the same number of seats in the regional parliament. Her name is being mentioned as a future prime minister of Spain. You heard it here first.

In the absence of Peter Snow, here are a couple of charts detailing the results:

Yes, they are copied from Wikipedia which is where most of the information above has come from (although retold in a far more engaging manner and they didn’t go off on the poder tangent…)

But as I sit here in my regular bar sipping my morning coffee, not much has changed here in Cádiz. Apart from the weather. The rain appears to have stopped falling and we are promised a return to blue skies and temperatures in their 20s as from Wednesday. Let’s hope so. Most of my fellow students at the language school have now left although there will probably be new ones starting today. I’ll find out in about half an hour. I myself have only this week and then three days next week to perfect (!) my level of Spanish. Progress is being made and then I have a month of cycling through Spain to put it all into practice… Have a good week!


The Equipment Needed To Blog From Tarifa To Nordkapp

The photograph below has been inspired by BikeTourGlobal on Instagram doing something similar. That said, it follows on from the photograph that I posted to back in February (which is also at the foot of this post) showing all of the equipment I will be taking with me when I set off from Tarifa in southern Spain on the 9th April, destination Nordkapp in northern Norway. So, here it is; the technical equipment ‘required’ (I’m sure some people will disagree with some of my choices) to maintain a quality online presence while cycling across a continent:


So what’s in the picture? Well most of it is obvious but some less so. Working from the top left hand corner we have…

  • Canon EOS 100D digital SLR camera with 18-55mm lens
  • Battery charger for the above (& lead under the 2nd lens)
  • Canon 40mm lens (which, when fitted to the 100D body makes for about the most compact SLR camera on the market today)
  • Power Monkey Extreme battery pack (and charging lead under camera lead). I also have a small solar panel that I will be taking
  • SpareGoogle/Android phone locked to Vodafone UK (and charging lead)
  • GoPro handlebar mount
  • GoPro Hero 4 Silver camera, case and 3-way mount / tripod
  • Spare door for GoPro case
  • Charging cable for GoPro camera
  • Two Apple charging cables
  • Micro SD (used in GoPro camera) converter
  • Mini iPad
  • Wireless keyboard for mini iPad (charges with same cable as the spare phone)
  • SD card reader for iPad
  • Continental adapters
  • Two Apple plugs
  • Two 16GB SD cards (with a third in the SLR camera)
  • iPhone 6, unlocked (not actually in the picture – just the case as I needed something to take the picture itself!). A bike mount will also be taken for the iPhone.

So, any thoughts?

Here’s the picture with all of the equipment (excluding clothes):


Halfords: Get On Your Bike!

Fun video from last year. I’ve just watched it again after someone shared it on Facebook.

Tour De France 2014: Remember That?

Infographic courtesy of Blue Chip Holidays.