Day 6: Algeciras to Ojén (130km)

This day was split into three parts, two of them being really positive and the other one, well you will see.

I was a bit traumatized from battling the storm the day before (yes, I am a good weather cyclist) and found myself procrastinating in the morning. I had stayed at a hostel for 30€ per night were normally foreign workers of the nearby petrochemical plant are staying. The host was a really nice guy who had been born in Germany and still spoke the language very well. Yesterday, I definitely cracked the 20 words threshold because of him. This does rarely happen if you stay in a regular hotel.

I finally got on the bike by 9am and the wind had indeed become much softer. Therefore it was cold and rained a little. First, I cycled into Gibraltar. On the way two local cyclists came by and we started chatting. I knew they could not have been “regular” locals because those fellow cyclists, if any, had ignored me constantly for the past five days. Indeed, one was a British pensioner and the other one was a retired policeman from Gibraltar. When they heard where I come from, they were apologetic for the weather and especially the wind. One said “You have to cycle up the Gibraltar rock. On a good day you can see the Sierra Nevada and a lot more from there “. They carried on whilst I stopped for pictures of this monumental freestanding rock in the sea which is a country by itself and even has a tiny airport.

The unemployment rate in this part of Spain is very high. 40% amongst young people. In Gibraltar in contrary, it is close to zero. As a result, many local Spaniards go there for work every day.

I crossed the border and there were in fact real bobbies checking passports and luggage. There were red doubledeck busses and London-style taxis. So funny. Right after the border, you have to cross the Gibraltar airfield which is closed when a plane lands. After that you get into the actual city which resembles Monaco very much.

I skipped the rock though because my legs were tired and instead turned North again, direction Marbella.

When I had prepared for this trip, I had heard in cycling forums that the coastal roads here were challenging for cyclists. On the other hand, the Eurovelo 8 cycling trail starts in Cádiz and goes all the way to Croatia. I had even downloaded the GPX data for my navigation system. So I felt in control and well prepared. This continued until my only option left was to cycle on the A7, a coastal highway, which looks and feels precisely like a very narrow and curvy German Autobahn. You have a space of about one meter to cycle on and the trucks pass you at 80 km/h or more. I was so scared and tense that I did not dare to press the “record” button on my camera. It was wild and lasted for 40km.

On my way, I got really angry about the officials of Eurovelo who market this route and it’s scenic beauty on the internet. Only by rechecking the site, I noticed in the fine print that the route was still “in planning”.

That part of the tour was very dangerous and this status “in planning” should be clearly spelled out by Eurovelo. It is irresponsible to propagate this part of the route further in the web.

I much rather cycle through the mountains from now on than repeating this experience. I did not stop in Marbella because I couldn’t stand any more cars and people. So I turned Northwest to climb up to Ojén where I had found a “Refugio” in a nature reservation area. Also, I want to visit Mark tomorrow, a fellow cyclist who I had gotten to know via a cycling forum in the net. He lives here and had invited me to stay with him.

The climb was rough but beautiful. Unfortunately, Rosinante had problems with her lower gears again which makes steep roads very challenging. However, I arrived at the Refugio in the last daylight – and I had a bathtub, the greatest luxury I could think of … until I saw the open fire place in the little bar. Life is good.

Over dinner, I started chatting with some hunters from Oregon who were here with a local guide to shoot a special type of Mountain Goat. They seem to be doing this regularly all over the world. That’s a different concept for vacation. Very nice people and I did enjoy the conversation even though my views on many things including politics will probably differ a lot. I find it always very interesting to meet people with a different perspective about the world. That’s way easier once you let go of mental categories like “right” and “wrong”. However, thanks to them and the cyclists in the morning I again easily cracked my 20 word threshold. And I had a good laugh. Mission accomplished.

Insight of the day: Believe the last person who has climbed a mountain more than the map.

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