A Tour of Andalucia, Spain – May 2018
The Andalucia May 2018 tour was my first long European ride. I have done many short tours in England and Wales but this was 17 days covering 2800 miles and there are indeed fond memories of the Alhambra!
I had heard on the radio and telly that the weather in the south of Spain in March and early April had been exceptionally wet, breaking many local records and it was cold too. Little was I to know the impact this was going to have later in May when we got to Andalucia.
Our group had fourteen Oxford section members riding eight bikes, six of them with pillion passengers.
So where is Andalucia?
Andalucia is a large autonomous region of hills, rivers and farmland bordering Spain’s southern coast. It was under Moorish rule from the 8th-15th centuries, a legacy that shows in its architecture, including such landmarks as the Alcazar castle in Seville, the capital city, as well as Cordoba’s Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral and Granada’s Alhambra palace. It also contains the Sierra Nevada to the east and Gibraltar to the south.
How did we get there?
Our route through Spain to the south is shown in the map below.
Our ride started well, it was always going to, for the tour had been meticulously organised by Martin Hall, who lives near Malaga with assistance from Steve Moxey. Martin had gone to a lot of effort to have days that would interest all of the group. For the culture vultures such as Tim and Jill Bolderston and Steve and Catherine Moxey, visits to the key historical sites just mentioned had been built in. For birders such as myself and Jane Robinson, there were several fascinating wildlife areas to visit. For Mo and Ian Dobie, Dick Robinson, George and Ruth Tarasewicz and Ray Cawte, they were there for the adventure!
Into day three of the tour, Wednesday 16th May, and with some 500 miles completed out of Santander, Martin Hall’s K1200 had a serious issue with its accelerator cable. Eventually it gave up altogether and had to be picked up by a breakdown lorry and taken to a BMW dealer in Seville. Martin and Gwynne in the cab of the lorry, trying to make the best of the situation. For many days afterwards Martin had to follow us around using a hire car.
I had splashed out on a new Rev-It suit with ventilation panels in the jacket and trousers. It was a no brainer that in the south of Spain near Malaga, it was going to be very, very hot. Not a bit of it! During our 17 days in Spain there were only two days where the temperature was above 25 Celsius. I need not have bothered with the suit. I used it more when I came back to the UK during the exceptional months of July and August! As I mentioned earlier it was all part of an unusual spring for southern Spain.
Some of the great highlights for me were the flamingoes at Fuente de Piedra, located in the north west of the province of Malaga. The lake has shallow, salt water and is internationally recognised as home to the largest colony of flamingos on the Iberian Peninsula and the second largest in Europe. It was estimated there were over 25,000 when I was there. For a birder, it was an incredible sight.
I mentioned the Alhambra in passing earlier. It is a fascinating visit but for me the intricately ornate Arab areas of the building without any icons or images was not to my taste. The Court of the Lions is of course stunning.
Every schoolboy knows there was a battle at Trafalgar. I had forgotten that it was in 1805 during the naval battle of Trafalgar, that Horatio Nelson decisively defeated Napoleon’s combined Spanish and French Fleet, which took place close to Cape Trafalgar, near Cadiz. I visited the area with Ray Cawte stopping to admire all the kite surfers really enjoying themselves with the fantastic beach and ideal wind conditions. Close to the Straights of Gibraltar, it is a very windy area indeed! I was given a very hard time on the RT being moved around by the forceful gusts.
During our tour we had some wonderful meals, often eating out in the evening in the late warmth of the day.
I fell in love with Toledo, what a magnificent city. Any reader who has got this far into the report must add Toledo to their bucket list. What can I say about the cathedral that has not already appeared in print. An architectural masterpiece and an extraordinary example of what man can build in veneration of a higher being.
For once I found some delicious tapas at a restaurant close to the cathedral.
So what were some of the highlights of the rides?
At Rhonda we visited the bullring and its museum and also the famous bridge over the El Taco Gorge. We rode down the famous Rhonda road towards Marbella, of course Ray Cawte had to get up very early in the morning so he could ride it in both directions!
The intrepid Moxeys, Steve and Catherine did the Caminto del Ray near Ardales (known as the King’s little pathway), first opened by King Alfonso XIII. The path is about three kilometres long and it goes along vertical walls and a footbridge goes over the Gaitanes Gorge. Hard hats were required!
We did a ride out from Lanjaron getting high up into the Sierra Nevada at about 2000 metres with some great riding with barely any cars around.
On the way to Toledo we were meant to stop over at Consuegra to see the Windmills of La Mancha. The only problem was that several hours before we got anywhere near the windmills we experienced the weather from hell. We had stopped for lunch at a small village and on the horizon the black clouds were gathering. It was so cold I loaned Gwynne my Gerbing heated jacket, for she was frozen to the core. Once we got back on the road again we experienced rain like I have never seen on a bike before, nor in a car. We were at Consuegra at the height of the storm and visibility was so poor no windmills on the skyline, so we kept going to our hotel at Toledo. Many blessings were uttered to express we had arrived safely!
Storks on top of chimneys of buildings and other suitable locations was a very common site. As I mentioned earlier the very wet spring set up a great foundation for them with loads of food such as frogs, insects and earthworms.
I learned a lot during the tour, both about how to prepare for a tour and about being with some very friendly bikers who helped me a lot and who have remained good friends.
A special thanks must go to Martin Hall who did a fantastic job of organising a wonderful tour.