An Absolute Beginner, no practice, no experience, not even a regular cyclist! I must be crazy :)
Stephen Peel

Stephen Peel

Cycling Around the World

Spain - Cycling from Madrid to Valencia

To the coast. I can't wait to hit the coast

9 Great days of rest, nice food, and a load of beer, and its now time to hit the road, tracks, and trails as I head over to Valencia on the Mediterranean coast.


I never know what to expect because I don't know where I am passing through or sleeping on any given day. I just know I'm heading to the coast. 


I love the coast, any coast. I knew going across Spain via Madrid was going to be tough, lonely, and hard to source food and water at time, let alone a place to sleep, and I got that from the fact that most cycle tourists prefer the more well trodden routes.


But hey, I'm loving it.

Day 51 - Arrived at campsite, maybe my first and last before the coast

Getting back on the bike was a great feeling. The bike felt heavy but not in a bad way. It felt sure and steady. My legs and butt settled in easily, and any hill I encountered was no effort at all. My satnav took me down a grubby old road, and then I stopped for a moment because I couldn't make out what I was seeing. It was like a small makeshift village of tin huts and shacks.

There were people there because there was washing on the line, but I couldn't see anyone so I took a few snaps with my phone. The place reminded me of the migrant camps we see on the news in France and elsewhere, but I have a feeling these were local people living here. They may be shacks, but it was pretty tidy and they even had a little football goal set up. A little farther on, and I was passing a huge muddy puddle on my side of he road, when a driver of a car coming towards me, thought it would be funny to come over to my side and drive through it, soaking me in the process.

What is wrong with people at all. So far, other than the UK of course, out of the two other countries I've cycled through, France has been the friendliest and the cycling was great, with loads of dedicated cycle paths and great roads, and public toilets too :) There are loads of places on the Atlantic coast of France that I would love to return to. It's no wonder there were so many cycle tourists while I was there.

Spain has some great scenery, and I would recommend a long weekend in Madrid. I haven't seen a single cycle tourist yet, and I get it, and it's not just the tough cycling. I still have a long way to go though before I reach Barcelona, I would like things to become less hostile and people to become more friendly over all. A tourist in a car will enjoy the scenery on a drive through, pop into what looks like a popular restaurant and get greeted with a smile, and then drive on.

Cycling for hours along back road with just me on them is great, but when things like this happen, with the goat herder, its magical
As a cycle tourer, you see and feel the place, warts and all. It's the weirdest experience. I've travelled all over the world, but never at this pace, and it will be interesting to see how some of those countries feel at this pace instead of the usual package holiday. The U.K. really surprised me. I know we are mostly super polite and friendly :) , but it was amazing how many people offered help and assistance even when I was fine.

Day 52 - What a difference a day makes

I left the "campsite" at just before 9am, and my goal was to get 8km past a town called Tarancón, as I was aware there was some cheap digs there if I couldn't find a good place to wild camp.

Within minutes of setting out, I was confronted with a huge hill which took me a good hour to get to the top of, and as I stood at the top having a drink and checking my phone, a motorbike guy passing the other way stopped and asked if I need assistance. I was thrilled he asked, and thanked him for asking.

Throughout the day, wagons were giving me an extra wide gap. There were people waving and honking their horns to acknowledge a cyclist, either that or my arse was hanging out of my shorts :). I had aimed for 78km today, and it was really hard going in the 30c heat and hill after hill. One hill took me 2 hours to get to the top of, but to be fair it was a nice gradual climb and the road was great.

In fact, all the roads were great today, and they all seemed freshly constructed, they were in that good a shape. All but one, my satnav had me pushing my bike up a really steep gravel track for 1.5km, and I was knackered at this point to say the least. But at the top of the hill was a town called Tarancón, It was tough going but a great suggestion :)

As I rode through the town, I looked to my right as I thought I saw what looked like a garden centre with shed for sale. My eyes then focused on the sign which said Hostal. I called straight in and found the price was about what I paid for some of my campsites, so great I was in. Calling them a shed is a little harsh it turns out, because inside its really great, with a fantastic shower room that's clean and with towels and soap, and the living/bedroom has aircon, wifi, TV, fridge, and a great bed and place to keep my bike.

There are loads of shops right by me so I'm off to stock up and maybe have a beer :), and hope tomorrow is more of the same :)

Day 53 - 30c and cloudless. A beautiful day

Let's talk about these hills :) There is no flat land in Spain, none :) There are hills like Olympus Mons and dips like the The Mariana Trench, and between those are mountains, and even the very rare flattish bits have hills on them I was warned, but  being me, well I just won't let a little thing like a mountain stand in my way :)

But this has been great for me in my training. I started out from Cheshire which is just wavy really, then found my first hills from Coventry and on through the Chiltern's and South Downs, with days of rain to start me off, which didn't help. So as I was new to this and hills, it hurt, a lot, and yet these hills were nothing to what I would experience later, but were a great help in preparing me. Baby steps :)

Then came France, with very few hills to speak of on my way from the English Channel, to the Atlantic coast, and to just before the Spanish border. France, for my route, had loads of flat, days of it in fact. But I wasn't use to this either, so again I was getting great practice with keeping a steady pace in the high gears.

From the minute I entered Spain it was hills and more hills, and like a moth to a flame, I was drawn to the Basque Country hills and mountains in the distance, and instead of heading to Bilbao to find a softer route through, I went straight at those hills. Oh the pain :) It was hard for me, really hard, and thank god I chose to cycle from Cheshire down to Portsmouth first and across France, or I would still be on the Basque Country now :)

Then it was bumps and lumps until just north of Madrid, when I encountered my biggest mountains so far. So now how do I feel? Well, the legs still hurt, a lot, but I no longer feel sick to the stomach when a monster hill appears on the horizon :), I look it it now as it's just another hill. Don't get me wrong, I haven't found that love of hills that some people have, oh no, I would much rather the land be flat with the wind behind me, but it's become much easier to climb the hills, as I have gotten lighter and stronger.

And today, well I've only done 30km after doing 70km yesterday. At 2pm after hill after hill and 30c, I found a great place to wild camp. So I pushed my bike up into a pine forest and stood there. I thought what am I doing, I still have loads in the tank! Can I just sit here on my Jack Jones for the next 5 hours before putting my tent up, then another few hours before I go to sleep? Of course not!

So I got myself back onto the road and cycled just 8km more until I was right outside this great looking hotel :) The Hotel restaurante segobriga. While outside I went on Booking.com and saw the offer price for tonight was just €25. And here I am, stuff the tank :) It has a bath. I have had nothing but showers for so long, and now a bath. Bliss. The room is great.

But that's not all, it has a huge busy bar and restaurant too, and a pint of beer is just €3. Yes I have already had one :) It's a really great place, and as there are few or no campsites between here and Valencia, it's perfect. Bath time now, little snooze, then a nice meal and a drink. This will add km's to my cycle tomorrow. And to think, I was stood in the bushes just down the road a few minutes earlier.

You see, doing this without any prepared routes or schedules, I just don't know what's around the next corner or what the next day will bring, and that's Adventure! The guy staring at me while I took the picture might not have been impressed, but it didn't stop him striking a pose.

Day 54 - A hot and hilly day

60km done and I'm settled into another one of those roadside hotel restaurant places at just €25 again. Bar Restaurante La Sima. That might seem a lot of money to some hard core cycle tourers, but when you consider I was paying anywhere between €10 - €25 for a campsite, it's a bargain, especially while there is no campsites.

Not only that, but it means I can get a good meal, a bath, and a proper rest, meaning more km the next day. It's been a hard but really good day today. I called into a roadside restaurant and petrol station at lunch time in the hope of getting a proper meal, but with no menus and a blank stare while I was doing my best hamburger impression :), I walked out and into the small petrol station next door.

I bought 3ltrs of water and a packet of cheese corn snack things, and then got chatting with the 2 guys working there. Well one could speak really good English. They loved what I was doing and insisted I wore a hi vis vest which they gave me. Such was their concern for my safety. It made my day and the next 30km much easier. I think the town nearby was Cervera del Llano.

I've now done well over 2000km of actual cycling. The guys at the petrol station told me I was the first cycle tourer they had seen all year. I said I'm not surprised, it's nothing but hills :) They mentioned they watched National Geographic and said No Limits. That No Limits stayed with me all day. I like that.

I'm now about half way to Valencia from Madrid. I had given myself 10 to 14 days to reach Madrid, given the terrain, but this is only my 4th day. If I have 4 more days like this, I'll be in Valencia. But I have a good idea of what's ahead, more and bigger hills, especially just before Valencia. But still, it's great progress and practice.

Day 55 - Is a very special day, as it's my eldest daughters birthday

 And this is the first year ever that I have not seen either of my daughters - Chloe too - on their birthdays, and I miss them dearly, but know they are supporting me on this completely. With regard to the cycle day. The roads have been fabulous. I mean, it feels like I'm back on the roads in France, with rolling hills instead of brick walls and gravel tracks. This is what I'm talking about :)

This is probably where cyclist spend there time, this side of Madrid and South. It's been really beautiful. I completed 64km in 30c sunshine, and I am now - according to the satnav - just 134km from Valencia centre. I'm also in another one of those roadside restaurant bar motel thingies, and still at 25 Euro's. This time I even have a balcony :). The thing is, the rest and food and good nights sleep, is helping me cover more miles the next day too, and for the difference in price between a campsite and this, I would be foolish to pass it up.

I don't think I will make the centre of Valencia in just 2 more nights though, and still think it will be the 3 nights, which still would mean I will have made it from Madrid to Valencia in 8 days, which will be far better than I expected. Then it's up the coast to Barcelona from there. I can't believe that I've only just hit on these roadside motels, I bet there have been loads around. 

Well this side of Madrid anyway, there really was nothing on the other side :) I think as I'm getting close to the coast, things are starting to change, and that's no doubt due to tourism and people settling from other countries closer to the sea here. Bath, kip, change, and I will be down stairs again for a well earned beer and something to eat.

I shouldn't have looked :) Its not all rolling hills to Valencia, it bigger than that

I thought - foolishly - that I would just take a look at what all the fuss was about which lies ahead of me over the next few days as I approach Valencia. I thought I had been through all the mountains and hills already :) This is what I love about not knowing what lies ahead, and why I love not following well trodden cycle routes, and why I won't look too far ahead again :)

 Just look at this mess in the image which I have to traverse. Once up into the mountainous part, there are many reservoirs, so should make for some good images. Better add on another day or two.

Day 56 - Old school, baby. Old school :)

I put in 60km on these lovely hills. Sure there was some tough ones, but the scenery took any hardship away from it and it was a really great day.

Got my roadside digs again, and I'm just going over to the bar for a little one, then bath, kip, and back in for a nice meal. This place looks spotless and I'm banking on the food being great, as I haven't eaten a proper meal today, just bits of things really.

Tomorrow I should be able to see Valencia down towards the coast. Still got another row of big hills to get through, but the weather is forecast good again, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm really starting to feel that hills are no problem and all a part of the experience.

You see a hill in the distance, and before you know it your half way up. Its the second half that's the killer :)) These roads today and yesterday, and the scenery, have been the best. I will create a little map later, detailing the route I took and why I recommend it to anyone wanting a nice couple of days cycling if they are near here.

I'm now just 78km from the centre of Valencia, but will likely stop in about 50km more for the night, then I will have a full day the following day to cycle through Valencia and slightly up the coast to a campsite I have spotted.

Wow! I nice early start to tackle these hills, and what spectacular scenery

Day 57 - and a very tough day really

The first snake I've seen out here, and sadly it was freshly run over. Anyone know what sort it might be? Sorry for taking the image of a dead snake, but I'd like to know if it's poisonous.
Crossing through these amazing hills and mountains was fantastic, hard at times, but the scenery was worth every drop of sweat. I was surprised not to see any racing cyclists through here, as the roads are silky smooth. Without all my panniers I would have flown through but missed so much.
I left my Hotel-Motel Sol in Requena, feeling really refreshed, after a great evening meal last night, and a light bite and coffee this morning. I met some lovely people too, who I think were on holiday here, and I even got a big hug from one of them as she thought what was doing was great.

The wonderful road I had been cycling on over the last couple of days, vanished after a few km's, and I was once again on those farm tracks running at the side of the motorway, but these were the worst yet. Potholes and gravel, and steep. In such a mess that I found myself having to push my bike up some of them.

The road returned for a little while until about 45km's from Valencia centre, then it was industry and farm tracks and gravel roads, zigzagging through the countryside. I was hoping to have found a place to stay about 25km's from the centre, but there was nothing out there, just grubby looking industrial areas and farmland. So I kept on cycling. It was back-braking on the gravel, and then I got behind a tractor pulling crates of oranges.

He couldn't see me because of the huge trailer he was pulling, and the track was tiny and full of holes, so he was only doing about 4km's an hour so as not to damage the produce, so I'm in his dust for nearly 7km's :) The view of Valencia from the hills just wasn't there as I had hoped. It was a real shame that the roads ran out except for the motorway which I couldn't cycle on. There were roads that ran into the hills and around the world to get to Valencia, but that simply wasn't an option for me on my bike.

But anyway, I kept on cycling and eventually covered 75km's. I am now just 9km's from the city centre, so that's good for tomorrow, as I will be able to cycle around the city for much of the day, then get to the campsite before teatime. I'm in a Hostel, and this is only the second Hostel I have stayed in, and I just came upon it by chance. It has a bed, clean bedding, a shower, a place to keep my bike, and the biggest cockroach I have seen in years.

That's right, I opened the bathroom door and I thought the ironing board had fallen down! OK slight exaggeration :), but it was at least small mouse sized, or even a little bit bigger than a regular cockoracha. It went running out and right under my bed. I can't find it now, but there is a gap under the outside door a small horse could fit under :)

I'm going to sleep with a light on because I know they don't like light, and I will make sure my bedding isn't touching the floor. I'm also going to make sure all my bags stay on my bike. But hey, I'm not eating here anyway, I'm going to get changed and go out for something nice, and some roach killer or a mousetrap :). Tomorrow I will check out Valencia and get myself over to the beach or harbour to be on the coast.

So I did it, I made it to Valencia, through some really tough terrain for a beginner, and no doubt an experienced touring cyclist too. I have seen some amazing things, and some really horrid things. It's been a great experience crossing the country like I've done, and now its up the coast to Barcelona.

I followed this track in the image and it lead me to a railway crossing that was now blocked off, and I get it. The speed of the trains along that line are amazing, and I wasn't about to try to go around the barrier and carry my bike over, as the trains are far too quick and if I fumbled, that would be that, so I went round for quite some distance.

Day 58 - It's been a really great day for meeting people

On my way into the centre of Valencia, a cyclist cycled alongside me and we chatted for a minute and he offered to but me a coffee at a cafe just ahead of us, so of course I accepted. We had a really nice chat. Later I got chatting to some people from Belgium at a park restaurant where I was having my lunch. Then a family of English people who also wished me well.

Valencia didn't seem all that special, other than for the people I met, but on entering the Central Park things started to change really quickly. The park and surroundings were beautiful. And then I hit the beach. Now this was what I expected. Lovely soft sand, loads of bars and smaller hotels. I could easily have stayed there for some time, but I still had a few hours of cycling to do to get to my campsite.
 

For all those who aren't aware, I am supporting a very small children's charity based in the North West of the United Kingdom. 


Children with life limiting illnesses and there families, are given a special day in which memories are saved in the form of photo books or videos.


Its a wonderful charity and with it being so small, needs all the help it can get. 


Click the image to go the my Just Giving page. All donations go directly to JUMP Children's Charity. I receive no money from the charity at all, as I am self funding my own adventure, which is of course only right.