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Spain - Day 9 : View of Morocco

We woke up among sunflowers and put on the same dirty clothes we had been wearing for the past five days. This vacation the wild camping was nicer than on our other trips, mostly because it didn't rain. That way our gear stayed cleaner and we didn't wish for a hot shower as much. Today it again was sunny and warm. After 8 days of cycling we started to feel a bit tired.

 

The first 20 kilometers we still cycled through sunflowers. Then we reached Utrera. It looked more like the middle east than Spain. Everywhere were narrow streets and small stores. They people also looked more Moroccan than Spanish. In a store that looked like a market stall we bought some bread and desserts. 

The route passed over a large road, which meant we could cycle fast. I did get more hilly. After a while I realized we were deviating from the route in my GPS. We backtrack a bit until we found the dirt road we needed to take. We managed to follow it for a while until it turned into a rocky pile of stones. There was no sign of a road anywhere, only olive gardens. This meant we had cycled all this way for nothing, had to cycle back, and then still take the detour over the main road. A while later I noticed a large black bull in the distance.

Osborne bull

The bull
 

I had read something about them a while ago and knew they were a type of billboards. The associated company had started removing them years ago, but after people started protesting they were allowed to stay. This is the Wikipedia article about them.

A little further our planned route would cut another part off the main road. This time we decided to just stay on the big road. That was a bit further but we would be able to cycle much faster. We were again out of food so needed to buy groceries in the next village. We followed a smaller road that gradually went uphill. After a village comprised of just three houses the descent started. There were many squashed animals on the road. Rabbits, snakes, and birds. I think there was more wildlife because we were again in an area with more water. The area we were in during the past days had much less animals.

 

We passed through Espera, a mediterranean village with only white houses. There we found a relatively large supermarket. First we sought water and ice creams before buying fruit. Now we had to ask for oranges in Spanish. The man behind the counter thought it was funny. We first needed to pronounce 'dos naranja' perfectly otherwise he wouldn't give them. Then we also bought two 'manzana's' (appels). The man asked where we came from and where we were going. Then he asked if we didn't want to buy beer. We told him we wouldn't be able to cycle if we did. He said we should be careful for the police if we did. Then an old man with a hat also started talking to us. I didn't understand anything but he was funny. When we were waiting in line he came up to us again and pointed to my stomach. He said I was skinny from all the cycling. He wasn't so I joked he should also start cycling. He told us he did have bike.

After paying we sat down in front of the store. The old man came out a bit later and got his 'bike', which was actually a moped. The curb we were sitting on turned out to be part of someone's house. While we had laid out all our food and were eating the six ice creams we had bought people started coming out. The mother waived her daughter off and then noticed us. The said something like 'oh there are people here'. Then she wished us a nice meal and went back inside. I don't think the Spanish living in such small villages do much throughout the day, but they are very friendly. Just as the old man from the store. There were few young people it seemed. While we were eating someone drove by while playing loud music. Even the 'bad' music people played here was better than in the Netherlands. He was playing some weird remix of Sean Paul. The children that were playing music on their phones were also all playing happy music you would expect to hear on a tropical island.

 

We continued over shallow hills that allowed us to cover much distance. In Arcos de la Frontera we had a brief break at a supermarket. As usual we bought more than we had planned. When we entered we initially thought it was closed. The man behind the counter looked confused when we walked in, they were cleaning the scrubber and all the meat had been put away. Apparently the store was open but hardly any customers came in between 12 and 5. We bought some drinks and fruit. Bram had juice containing 10% lemon. Fortunately this was one of the few vacations on which his lip didn't blister from the sun, so it didn't sting. We took some pictures around Arcos.

Arcos de la Frontera

View near Arcos.

Arcos de la Frontera

Panorama of Arcos de la Frontera

After Arcos the endless fields of nothingness continued. We had calculated that if we did well today we would only have to cycle 40 to 50 km tomorrow. This evening there would be about 25 km that wasn't on our maps. We didn't know how long that would take. I figured we would be able to reach the start of that road tonight. Around 5 o'clock the planned route cut off part of the asphalt road again. We had learned from our mistakes and decided to stay on the main road. That way we would also pass through a big town and would be able to buy some food. It turned out the town was built on top of a mountain. It took half an hour to reach it, only to find that all the stores were closed. It was 5 o'clock, normally all stores would open around then. There was a store around the corner that would open in half an hour. The next village was 40 km away, so we decided to wait.

The supermarket indeed opened at 5:30, but they were clearly not expecting customers when we entered. As usual we bought food for tonight and tomorrow morning. We went down the mountain again and cycled until we reached the end of our maps. The next part of the route was still in our GPS. It was filled with holes but not impossible to cycle over. After a while the 'asphalt' stopped and the road got worse. It looked like we were cycling through Africa, but then again that was only 100 km away. We took these photos.

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The bad road

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Holes and rocks

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Expedition through the interior of Spain
 

The road only got worse. The positive news was that it went straight south and less to the west than we had thought. We figured that if it continued like this, we might be able to reach the most southern tip of Spain tonight. We pedaled fast. The road became a gravel path with many loose rocks. We had to be really careful to avoid those, while continuously being shaken apart on our bikes. It was clear we were in a poor section of Spain. There were horses along the road with their legs tied together so they wouldn't run away. It took nearly two hours to finish the road. We were happy when we saw cars and asphalt.

Osborn bull

Back on a real road we saw another bull
 

It turned out to be only 15 km until the campsite, even though we had initially planned to arrive there tomorrow around noon. We pushed ourselves some more and climbed up along the coast. It took a while before we could see the sea, something we had been looking forward to the entire week. We were surprised to see mountains behind the water, that was Africa. We were a few kilometers removed from Tarifa, the most southern town in Spain. From now on the road was all downhill. There were many campsites along this road so we picked the one closest to Tarifa. It was adjacent to the sea and only 3 kilometers from Spain's most southern tip.

Africa from Spain

View of Tarifa, with Africa in the background

The campsite was nice and surrounded by a white wall. At the front desk we saw there were excursions to Morocco. We asked if we could still book those just one day in advance. We could. Then we asked if we could do that using just an European ID-card, as Bram didn't have passport. The lady said it was only possible when making a one day journey, so that was fine. She gave us a pamphlet. We would lie on the beach tomorrow and, as we had arrived here sooner than expected, would still have enough time to visit Morocco the day after. I was looking forward to that.

 

According to the route description we made it was 1276 km from our starting point in Capvern to here (although in reality we cycled more). We tried to calculate how much time the way back would take. If it had taken us 8 days to get here the way back would probably also take 8 days, plus one day to climb the Pico Veleta, plus one extra day because it was 1340 km instead of 1276 km. If everything went according to plan that meant we would have 2 or 3 days of leeway after leaving Tarifa.

 

After registering and putting up our tents we went for a much needed shower. They had unique showers. The entire campsite was made in a Roman theme, including the bathrooms. Near the entrance was a statue of Eva for the women and Adam for the men. Inside was a long mirror spanning the entire right side of the shower area. The showers, on the left, had doors that were open at the bottom and only came up to chest height. The result was that while you were showering you could see everyone else showering as well. The showers themselves were nice though, with a lot of warm water of which you could adjust the temperature. After showering we drank a 'cerveza' (beer) before going to sleep.

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The route of day 9.
 

Distance cycled : 191.28 km