1st January 2011
Day 81 - Caravaca

Well, as we got back from the party at 8am this morning, and apart from the 4 hours sleep, lunch, photo editing and reading there really isn't that much more to say! I must point out though that last nights dinner was awesome! Enormous piles of roast lamb, good wine and the traditional grape eating during the 12 chimes were all a lot of fun. However, I was so tired last night that I ended up not getting drunk at all, but drinking way too many cans of red bull to stay awake. I must now stay alive all day so to get a proper nights sleep tonight. I have a lot of preparation to do tomorrow for the rest of my adventure, which continues on Monday.

2nd January 2011
Day 82 - Caravaca

The last day here! I have had a great time and Cristina and her family have shown me some tremendous hospitality. Today the family celebrated the "3 Kings", Dia de los Reyes Magos. Traditionally in Spain they people celebrate by giving presents not on Christmas day, but on the 6th of January, but as Miguel, Cristina's brother, had to leave for Valencia to take a flight back to Tenerife where he has been working, they had the dinner and the presents today. More amazing food followed, and by the end I was completely stuffed by an amazing Paella con Carne.

I took a little walk with Cristina and a friend in a park just outside the town, and then quickly made it back into the centre before it got too dark, so I could take a few photo's of the town from the castle. I also walked up the hill that the horses run during the May Festival. It's quite a climb, and the horses and runners do it in just under 10 seconds!

3rd January 2011
Day 83 - Caravaca to Lorca 63km

So... Back on the road again, but not after spending about 40 minutes (!) at the post office trying to send some things back to Munich. I managed to post 4.5 kg of books I had picked up along the way, my clarinet - which hadn't even made it out of the bag since Munich, and a ton load of receipts. But sadly the bike didn't seem to feel any lighter when I eventually got going at 11:40.

It was sad saying goodbye to Cristina and her family, but once I was on the road I quickly settled back into the rhythm - of hill climbing... Todays journey started off with an 18km climb of about 300 metres, a gentle ascent for most of it, except for the first 5km which were pretty hard work.

Once I reached 900m above sea level the road started to finally head downhill, as Lorca sat 40km away and 600m below me. The scenery was stunning! Spain really is quite beautiful. I had seen mountains (and climbed a couple) since I crossed the border over the Pyrenees, but they had all been by the coast. The landscape here was very different. Jagged peaks and high plateau's, dusty green fields and highly isolated little communities. The sun felt so warm, and the rest of the journey was highly enjoyable.

I couldn't stay in the first hotel I found in Lorca, due to the boiler exploding that morning and hence they didn't have any hot water, but found another eventually. Dinner was a baguette filled with some of the Jamon and Salami given to me by Cristina's parents. Sooooo tasty! It will be hard not to just eat it all in one day, and they gave me quite a lot! I know what I will be having for breakfast in the morning ;-)

4th January 2011
Day 84 - Lorca to Puerto Rey 60km

Today's journey was really easy going. The road from Lorca twisted along flat quiet country roads for about 15km before joining a main road for about another 20km. I slowly descended the 300 metres down to sea level through a couple of small towns, and was averaging 30kph on this part (!). Then the GPS kindly took me along some scary dust tracks (scary due to the number of angry stray dogs, and they were all big ones!) and along a river bed (literally along the dried up bottom of the river itself), before I finally passed a sign informing me I was now in Andalusia, and shortly afterwards I arrived at Puerto Del Rey. I hit the local big supermarket (full of English people stocking up for the week, giving me an idea of what was to come for the last part of my journey) and picked up some bread and cous cous.

Tomorrow will be a harder day, as I must make around 100km to Almeria, and over some tougher climbs. At least the road is by the sea for the first 20km (or rather 200-300 metres above it on a high cliff top road).

On a completely different note, the little village of Palomares, which I came through just before I reached Puerto Del Rey (its just a few kilometres from here) was the scene for a rather incredible event in 1966. An American B-52 Bomber flying over Spain exploded in mid-air after colliding with a refuelling plane, leaving 4 nuclear warheads to fall out of the sky. One of the nuclear bombs fell into the Mediterranean and was found and retrieved several months later. The other three bombs fell just outside Palomares and two of them actually exploded. The hydrogen bombs didn't of course go nuclear but the conventional explosives inside did detonate, creating a dirty bomb as the plutonium spread out from the impact point, to an area of 2 square kilometres. A 3rd bomb hit the ground and survived the impact.

Finding this out (thanks to wikipedia) I looked a little more into these type of things. It turns out that there are many nuclear missiles and warheads currently unaccounted for, mostly disappearing in the 1950's and 60's, including two nuclear cores which disappeared, when the military plane carrying them possibly crashed into the Mediterranean Sea. The nuclear material was never found, along with the American B-47 that was carrying it.

5th January 2011
Day 85 - Puerto Rey to Almeria 106km

I knew this would be a hard cycle after checking out the elevation profiles of my intended route on the internet. I made my way 15km down the coastal road and through a few little holiday towns, before the road starting turning inland, and up hill... Over the next 8km or so the road climbed and curved up to nearly 200 metres, with many small ascents and descents. It was very hard work, but the view at the top was stunning. Although it is tough, there is always a great sense of achievement when I reach the top of each hill.

The road downhill was seriously scary! I tried to film as I free-wheeled down, but the road was so steep and twisting that for my own safety I gave up and put both hands on the breaks for the whole descent. I reached the town of Carbonaras and then followed the National road inland. It was an extremely long and difficult climb, as my legs had been worn out by the previous few hours going through the coastal mountains.

It took a few hours to reach the top, but my route turned out to take me through private land, and the road was blocked off. I had no alternative but to cycle much further north and follow a maintenance road that followed the autopista. This detour probably cost me 20km or so extra. I was exhausted by 2pm, and still had half the journey to make...

I passed through a large plateau covered in enormous plastic greenhouses. Pretty much every type of vegetable and fruit were being grown here under plastic sheeting, and the area covered quite a few hundred square kilometres. The little towns and villages I passed through seemed very bleak. The people were all either African or Central or South American, working I presume as fruit pickers. By this stage I was totally destroyed, but I pushed through the pain in my legs and finally arrived at Almeria just before 6pm. I had cycled constantly for over 7 hours. I checked my actual route on the internet afterwards on a site that works out the exact number of metres ascended and descended, and I had actually climbed over 1500 metres in total. That explains a lot! That's like cycling up an Alp!

Tomorrow I will rest a day in Almeria before travelling further along the coast towards Malaga as my legs need some time off!

6th January 2011
Day 86 - Almeria

Just relaxed. A simple day, mostly in the hotel, but I did take a walk down to the harbour front. Almeria has to be the first town on the coast where the harbour has not been turned into the usual line of expensive bars, restaurants and shops for the financially secure. It was a pleasant surprise! I found a little pub and relaxed with a diet coke - no alcohol consumed since Caravaca, and so I will wait now until Gibraltar to have a celebratory beer or two.

7th January 2011
Day 87 - Almeria to Adra 59km

I am relieved to say it was a fairly easy day.

The road followed the sea for only  the first 15km, after which it headed inland until reaching Adra. I passed again through the weird world of plastic sheeting - as far as the eye could see were fruit and vegetable farms. I wonder exactly how much is produced here? I am guessing that it is most of this country's food! It seems that everybody with just a little bit of land is in on the food growing business. I even passed whole factories just producing the plastic sheeting used for the walls and roof of these plastic greenhouses, or making the fold up plastic crates used to transport the produce.

On a slightly sad note, the weather seems to be changing. I have had glorious sunshine for the last month (pretty much without stopping) and today the clouds rolled in, and there was even a spot or two of rain... The forecast for the next coming days says a mixture of sunshine and showers... I am hoping for more of the former than the latter. I guess I shall see tomorrow morning. I have a harder day tomorrow as the road follows the coast all the way, and therefore goes up and down quite a bit as it twists around the cliffs and through tunnels. The tunnels are always as little scary due to the amount of traffic, and I have to keep stopping to switch my lights on.

8th January 2011
Day 88 - Adra to Almunécar 76km

I couldn't have been happier that the weather forecast was wrong! Yesterday it said today would have rain, but the sun shone the whole day and the temperature was 26 degrees! However, the hot sun made the trip a little harder due to the fact that today was all about stamina - having the will to climb some pretty steep hills. Hill after hill, ranging between 100 and 200 metres each, kept my speed down to about 7kph, so the only thing to do was keep the head down, concentrate on listening to my MP3 player, and settle into a slow but steady pace.

The road mostly stayed by the coast, and there were some pretty nice viewpoints at times, and so I took as many photos as time would allow. It took a lot of perspiration and determination to cover the 76km in just under 5 hours of actual cycling time. Considering the terrain I had to negotiate that is pretty good work.

I checked into a cheap hotel in Almunécar and after a shower and clothes washing I walked down to the beach to catch the last few minutes of sun. I am now sat at a bar on the beach, and just took this photo of a stunning sunset just a few minutes ago.

Tomorrow will be Malaga, and a friend of a friend has kindly offered me a place to stay for the night. I am so close to the end, and I am really enjoying myself now! I must start organising what to do about Morocco, and the flight home to Munich, as I haven't really researched much of this yet...

9th January 2011
Day 89 - Almunécar to Malaga 89km

What a day! The weather went from stunning hot sunshine to wind, cold and clouds, and the terrain went from 250 metre ascents to open flat plains, high cliff tops to beach promenades. The tower in the photo was one of many that I have passed in the last few days, and I expect are lookout towers from many hundreds of years ago (I shall have to find out). A hard days work, but I only have a few more left! I really feel so close now, and in two days I will finally complete this enormous journey.

There is not really much more to say... except I will be happy to finish. I feel like going home soon (!) but not until after a little trip to Morocco. I am really looking forward to that, as I have never been to any part of Africa before. I am thinking about 3 or 4 days in Tangier, and then 3 or 4 days somewhere else. The idea is just to get a little feel for the country, as I am sure it will be a place I shall want to return to. Then I will have to cycle back to Malaga I guess to fly home, so I will have another 2 days of bike time to look forward to, and it will be the first time I have cycled North since Den Helder in Holland.

I am staying with Manuel, a friend of Daniela whom I lived with in Bologna. He is studying photography and has been to Morocco a few times so I am getting lots of good tips!

10th January 2011
Day 90 - Malaga to Marbella 66km

I left late, at about 12, and settled into the ride to Marbella. Unfortunately the only way to get to Gibraltar along the coast is to use the rather scary Autovia. This very fast dual carriageway will take me all the way there in 2 days. It was no fun at all, and involved a lot of concentration with the cars and trucks speeding past me at a hell of a speed, and with very little space on the side of the road for me to cycle in, but urge to keep going with the knowledge that I have so little distance to make now kept me going, and smiling.

Marbella was quite a surprise. I was expected something like Benidorm or Malaga, but it turned out to be very quiet (well, at least when I am here in winter) and the beach and promenade were really nice. After checking into my hotel I took a walk along the beach and watched the sun set. Across the water and around the bay I could see the Rock of Gibraltar, and far across the sea I could also make out the tops of the mountain range that runs along the northern coast of Morocco. I could see Africa for the first time in my life!!!

Tomorrow will be a harder day, as I have 80km to do and a hotel in La Linea to find (on the Spanish side) before I head to Europa Point, which was always my final destination. Should be interesting being back on British soil as well. Might have to eat like the locals tonight and try and find some fish and chips :-)

This wont actually be my last day cycling as in a few weeks I will have to cycle back up the coast to Malaga to fly home, but officially, this will be the end of the challenge I set myself...