Cycling Around Spain
I wanted to experience Spain but didn’t have much money so decided to cycle around the country to save on transport and I took my tent so that I could camp every night to save paying for a hotel. I flew to Barcelona with my bicycle, my luggage and a plan to spend 6 weeks cycling clockwise around Spain and started by heading south along the coast. I stayed along the coast until Cadiz, before travelling North through the centre of Spain until the North coast near Santander, from where I would head east to return to Barcelona again.
I timed my trip so that I would be able to see a couple of the festivals that this country is famous for, so on the 16th of March 2009 I began cycling and spent 4 days hurriedly cycling 250 miles down the coast to reach Valencia for the last night of ‘Las Fallas’. Annoyingly on the first day my bike chain snapped and I wasted valuable time finding a bicycle repair shop but I still made it to Valencia with enough daylight to see some of the city.
The city was pretty, full of colony style buildings but nothing compared to seeing the festival, which was a fantastic experience and one that I think is quite unique. For a week the city fills up with over 200 wooden caricatures, up to 5 or 6 metres in height and then at midnight on the last day they set fire to them all and have fireworks. I arrived in the city at about 7pm and had problems pushing my bike through the streets filled with people. At 12:30am the excitement began and I watched as these sculptures burnt furiously, filling the sky with flames and cracking as the wood split open. After about 15 minutes I started cycling out of the city to find somewhere to camp, which gave me a unique perspective of the fires as I probably saw 30 or 40 of them lighting up the buildings and the putting an orange glow in the night sky. In fact it was quite eerie as it kind of looked like the city on fire. I ended up camping under a bush in a city park next to the famous museum of arts and sciences and in the morning discovered that the ground was covered in dog poo, as was my tent and my clothes.
I continued along the coast, jumping from one English resort town to the next, in particular Benidorm stood out as a place that has been literally invaded by tourism, it was an odd feeling suddenly seeing ‘fish and chips’ on sale. I camped most nights on the beach but did venture into the mountains on a couple of occasions to visit Granada and cycle the route de los pueblos blancos. This route cycles through a valley with lots of white towns decorating the green, forest covered scenery. At the end of the valley I found Gibraltar, officially part of the U.K, which I found very confusing to visit with all its U.K influence. A weird place; there is a border post to pass to enter the city, they have the same road signs and road surface as in the U.K and they use the Gibraltar pound. It had a weird feeling and as I looked at the 500ft high rock I just kept thinking why is this British? and how?, but more why?
When I reached Cadiz a few days later I started heading North and on day 21, Sunday 5th April I cycled 100km in an afternoon so that I could arrive in time to see the Semana Santa procession in Sevilla. This is the holy week celebration and is one of the most important traditional events of the city where people dress in penitential robesand walk through the streets with floats of wooden sculptures of Christ, the Virgin Mary or religious scenes. Some of the sculptures were beautiful, artistic masterpieces but I I found the costumes creepy as they walked along slowly and ritualistically, hidden by hoods and KKK style cloaks.
The city was beautiful with historic, wealthy looking buildings and it was a cool Spanish festival, a great thing to see and a special occasion for the locals, who were dressed in smart dresses and suits. I left after 2 or 3 hours because it was hard to push the bike through the streets full of people, so I cycled about 5km out of town and camped next to some big cactus plants.