Two things I forget to mention yesterday: storks nesting on top of high voltage pylons and bull fighting. The former were frequently visible on the road from Huelva to Seville. How enterprising of the storks to adapt these man-made monstrosities for their own use. And speaking of monstrosities, there’s the bull fighting. It was on the television in the bar where I stopped for tapa and a glass of vino tinto yesterday evening. I´m amazed and disappointed that Spanish society hasn’t seen fit to totally ban the barbaric practice of taunting and maiming dumb animals in the name of ‘sport’.
Onto today. The forecast was for rain and this time it was unequivocally accurate. I set off in the rain from the rather splendid Vincci La Rabida Hotel in the middle of Seville, using Google Maps to navigate my way to the N630, or Ruta de la Plata. As I mentioned yesterday, the N630 will take me all the way to the north coast of Spain and it announced the fact by stating on a signpost at the outskirts of Seville that I had just 804km to go. Road signs every kilometre count down the distance.
For a few miles it was quite flat. The wind was coming from a WSW direction. When you’re cycling long distances, wind direction is surprisingly important. Even a 4mph headwind can make progress noticeably more demanding, whereas a 4mph tailwind can make life a breeze, if you´ll excuse the pun. According to the forecast, today’s wind speed would involve gusts of up to 45km per hour. Combine that with persistent rain from mid-morning, my overweight luggage and the undulating landscape of the sierras of south-east Spain (I´ll need to look up the name for the particular range of hills I traversed) and you have the perfect recipe for a reasonably challenging day´s slog on a bike.
As I mentioned, wind direction is incredibly important to cyclists. Edward Enfield, father of comedian Harry Enfield, has written several books about cycling round Europe, some of which I’ve read. What he said about headwinds struck a particular chord with me. This is the sentiment, although it may not be what he wrote word-for-word: “You can conquer a hill but a headwind grinds you down and eats into your soul.” And it’s true. The WSW wind today helped me more that it hindered but when the road veered north-west the crosswind was testing. When I rounded bends to the right and was travelling north-east, I didn’t even need to pedal. In the sunshine, this would have been a completely different ride.
The N630 is the Marie Celeste of major roads: it’s almost eerie in its emptiness. The parallel free motorway takes most of the traffic. On some stretches I would only see a car every 30 minutes or so. It was safe cycling. Even those drivers that did overtake me gave a me huge amount of space and were amazingly considerate. Contrast that with the UK where the microJoule of energy needed to turn a car steering wheel an inch to the right to give a cyclist a little more space when overtaking seems to be beyond the effort that many motorists are prepared to exert. For the record, the Highway Code states that cars should allow a gap of 1.5 metres when overtaking, not 1.5 feet.
I had made a reservation at the Hotel Leo in Monesterio, some 60 miles north of Seville, but was quite prepared to carry on to Zafra, a further 30 miles north, if I felt up to the task. However, by the time I got to Monesterio I was tired and soaking wet, my best “waterproofs” having been overcome by the repeated deluges driven into every tiny gap by the wind. I parked the bike in the basement and headed up to my room. To my delight, there was a heated towel rail in the bathroom, which meant that I could dry today´s attire and wash some more clothes too, knowing they would be dry before morning. The alternative solution, drying clothes with a hair dryer is a long winded process!
This is Ibérico ham country and there´s a museum dedicated to it in Monesterio, about a mile back on the other side of town. I had not intention of venturing out again in the rain so decided to skip the experience this time around. The bar-restaurant of the hotel offered a phenomenal selection of ham dishes, so I had the lamb. Very nice it was too.
Washed down with a glass of red wine and a café con leche, lunch was followed by a rare afternoon nap. I can’t remember the last time I had one of those but I think I could get used to it.
I’ve been researching the route profile for tomorrow but can’t find it yet. The weather forecast is for showers, rather then persistent rain, and it will be a little cooler, around 14C. The town of Merida is about 60 miles away, so that’s a potential destination if the riding is hard again but I’ll try to put in a few more miles if I’m still feeling on form by the time I get there.
Despite missing my family back home, which I do a lot, I love my cycling and the phenomenal sense of freedom it engenders. Hard days like today can test that love but I know that tomorrow morning I’ll be as eager as ever to get back into the saddle and full of optimism and excitement about the day ahead. Onwards and upwards, but not too much of the latter, I hope. Time for dinner.