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…
Thanks! Good luck with the cycling, running and swimming! Just out of interest, what are you doing in Madrid? Working? Travelling? Training? Professional triathlete? 🙂
I’m just pleased I could understand your email! Although I do have a question – being an avid reader of your blog for the last few months, having just finished your first book and am half way through your second – why do you not ever use google maps to work out a route and the exact distance?! I am sure there is a reason… Perhaps it would take away some of the fun? If you are planning to come by Madrid on Reggie let me know 🙂
I have occasionally used Google Maps (or similar); the reason I don’t use them more often is probably down to the practicality of doing so. It’s not easy having to peer at the screen of a smartphone in bright sunlight; much easier to consult a paper map. I’m no Luddite however. I use the IT when it makes sense to do so – finding a precise location in a city for example or trying to work out where to go if I get lost – and I will probably use more IT in 2015 than I did previously. I’ve discovered the cycling layer of Open Street Map which is (or appears to be) brilliant. Even lots of the Eurovelos are marked. I’ve also downloaded some detailed offline maps via Komoot. Il keep you posted as to how I get on.
If I do get to Madrid it will mean I’m horribly off course(!) but I note your invitation. Thanks. 🙂
I thought that might be the case but thought I’d offer – have just joined warm showers so should put my mouth where my.. Online accounts are?! Completely agree about smartphone screens. I was given for my birthday some money towards a garmin 810 with the maps functionality which I am just starting to test out – seems pretty good on an initial use but they are ludicrously expensive! Will be following your journey through Spain especially with interest. Alice
You are way ahead of me on the planning front! I will be taking a similar route to you through Spain for some of the way, albeit in reverse and later on in May. Good luck!
I’ve got too much time on my hands…
I have reciently discovered your project and wish you lots of nice experiences along the way. As a bike user and lover I would like one day, when free time allows, follow the Eurovelo from Brussels, where I live, to Mérida, my birthplace.
Espero que los Pikoletos (ask your Spanish friends the meaning of this word -:)), te traten bien en Tarifa.
Saludos y hasta pronto.
This is handy, thanks Andrew. Will help me plan my route when I get to Spain!