When a German is bending Spanish rules – Travelling by bike on public transportation

Hello!

Jerte, very close to Portgual and 2.5 hours West of Madrid.

Greetings from Jerte, a town in the middle of Spain. Until 2 weeks ago I didnt even know that this town exists and now I am part of a 3 day non-competitive cycling event called La Extrema. Changing plans or creating sudden new ones is not unheard of for me. Spontaneity seems to be my middle name. I think it would scare me if I knew where I will be in one month time.

But back to Jerte. A friend from Salobrena told me about this event and it didnt take too long and I was signed up to La Extrema. The event promoter emphasized that this is not a race, it is solely about enjoying the social and adventure aspect of cycling. Well, perfect, that’s what I am about!

Although the actual cycling event will not start until tomorrow, my adventure has been in full swing. It started with getting here.

Between Solabrena (where I live) and Jerte lie 550km. Until last week, I thought this distance would make a great solo adventure tour over a few days to Jerte. And then I reassessed the situation after Guad al Xenil – taking a bus sounded just fine by me.

The bus network in Spain works quite well and it is a great way to get around. So, I bought tickets to Madrid where I would meet my friend to drive to Jerte.

6 hours bus trip ahead

It was a 6 hours bus trip ahead. The first bus to Granada (about 1 hour), then the second bus to Madrid (5 hours). When I bought the tickets I read that the bike has to be packed in a bag. But because this would be very inconvenient for me taking my hard-case bag with me I asked a few Spanish friends how serious this rule was taken. I was told I would be able to make it happen without the bag.

But it didnt sound too convincing to me. I anticipated some efforts of persuasion. I was completely living on the edge here. 😉

When I put my bike into the first bus to Granada, the bus driver even was helping me. No questions asked. I sighed of relief.

A bike is like having a puppy

Once in Granada while unloading my bike one of the station workers was very interested in the bike and within 5 minutes we were connected via Strava. It is fantastic how you sometimes connect with the most random people because you got a bike with you. It is almost like having a puppy.

Anticipating the same friendliness of the second bus driver I laid my bike into the luggage space. But one furious bus driver stomped towards the crowd and made one big scene. Not to me but to an innocent girl who was mistaken to be that shameless cyclist who would just put a unbagged bike in the luggage space.

Well, soon enough I got the full spectrum of Spanish “not-so-friendly” vocabulary. By this time, I had no idea anymore what was said and just heard one angry voice. It became quite clear that he would not be satisfied by anything and I saw my plans getting to Madrid ruined. Of course, it was my mistake! I should have packed that bike in a bag as indicated in the instructions.  So ungerman from me!

I think he realized that it would have been too harsh to leave me in Granada for not wrapping or bagging my bike (I did ended up taking it apart, just without a wrap or a bag.) At the end, I did make it to Madrid after a long, long journey.

Made it to the north pole?

Not only the length of the trip but also the strong temperature drop made me feel like we ended up at the north pole. So I ended up closing that adventure chapter for that day and went to bed in the hotel.

The next day my friend and I drove for another 2.5 hours (Spain is huge!!!) to Jerte and I finally made it to the event hotel. And it does not disappoint: 4 stars, all-you-can-eat breakfast and dinner buffet. I hope the staff is prepared for 50 hungry cyclists.

I received a big expression of disapproval by my legs on today’s ride. So tomorrow’s 163km and 3600m of climbing with a high chance of rain and strong wind will not disappoint in the category of being epic.

Hasta manana!

Buenas noches!


Why this Spanish Gran Fondo should be on your Calendar!

Have you heard about Guad al Xenil Gran Fondo? No? Me neither, 😊, until I was told by locals about it. After a 2 day recon, I just raced it last weekend and I highly suggest this Spanish Gran Fondo for your 2018 racing calendar. Now you might wonder, why you should race exactly this cycling challenge next year…. Here is why:

Because of the weather.

While it is still snowing in the Northern Europe (currently April), Southern Spain (Andalusia) has had great weather since….ahem….always. There is never really bad weather here and I have not been wearing arm or leg warmers since beginning of April and a pretty sharp tan line is emerging.

Guad al Xenil is here in sunny, warm Southern Spain. For this year’s race, there was a chance of rain. But in contrary to other parts of the world, I think the weather forecaster is just bored with predicting sun every day so once in a while he throws in chances of something. Rain never came. Although it started off cold because the race starts in the mountains, it became a beautiful day and I was way too overdressed.

Because of its time of the year.

Although Europe definitely is full of gran fondos, beginning of the year is still a bit sparse, especially when you have done all the famous ones already. So if you like to try out something new and want to leave your winter jacket at home, Guad al Xenil is a great season starter.

Because of its toughness.

It is a great season starter but don’t get me wrong, this is a tough race! 161km of racing with 3700m of climbing will definitely bring your fitness to the next level. So for those who are not discouraged by it, I would strongly recommend going for it!

Because of its atmosphere.

I haven’t been to many cycling challenges where I received so much encouragement! At first, I didn’t even know how to handle it when literally every cyclist who passed me or I passed had some “animo” (go,go,go!)  left in him or her. It was incredible. And the Spaniards know how to create an amazing atmosphere! Literally, the sound waves of the four ladies at the 17% ramp at the end carried me to the finish line.

Because of its size.

With 360 starters this race is big enough to have plenty of competition but small enough not run each other over. After a 40km neutralization phase, the race starts with a steep climb and that was the end to the peloton. Every man for himself!

What I especially liked?

Hands down, the atmosphere made my race! The encouragement from anyone really got to me and made this race very special for me. I also loved the course. It is tough, tough, tough! The climbs are serious! The scenery is stunning if you have the time to enjoy it!

So mark your calendar for mid April 2018: http://www.guadalxenil.org/

To help with your trip planning:

Book your Flights to Granada, Spain with Expedia here.

There are plenty little towns to stay in. Lanjaron is a very scenic town I would suggest to stay at:

Booking.com

If you have any questions, I am looking forward to your comments.


9 Reasons your next cycling destination should be Costa Tropical (Spain)

Europe has plenty of fantastic cycling destinations to offer, Mallorca, Teneriffe or Tuscany to name a few. But there is another one out there which is still not very known and a gem for cyclists who are looking for a new cycling destination.

Costa Tropical is a small region located in Andalucia, Southern Spain. And it is a special one – particularly for cyclists. Here are 9 reasons why Costa Tropical is a cycling paradise:

  1. With 300 days of sunshine, chances are very high that you will be riding in nice weather. Currently, mid-April, we have 23 degrees every day. Even in the mornings 8:30am/9am it is so warm that arm warmers are not required.
  2. Respectful car drivers. Having lived in a country with constant conflicts between cyclists and car drivers, it has become very important to me to move to a country that respects cyclists on the road. Spanish car drivers give plenty of space and wait patiently before passing cyclists. You can find exceptions anywhere but in general I feel very safe on Spanish roads.
  3. Quiet roads. I am currently living on the coast but just heading 10km inland and the roads are mine. Since Costa Tropical is 90km East of Malaga and has not had the infrastructure for easy access until recently, it has been sheltered from the tourism boom.
  4. Terrain. At the edge of the Sierra Nevada you have access to a seriously good mountain range. And even before the Sierra Nevada, you can climb up a mountain with 1200m elevation gain straight from the coast.
  5. Agricultural zone. Costa Tropical is covered with agricultural zones. You can see all the greenhouses from the mountains. That means you know exactly where you get your fruits and veggies from – thanks to the unique microclimate at Costa Tropical.
  6. Costa Tropical is very Spanish. The people are friendly, warm and welcoming. The food and the mentality untouched by tourism. In fact, only a few people speak another language so my learning curve has been steep. Still, the Spaniards love helping so there has never been an issue to communicate.
  7. You can get around Spain on a very small budget, especially food is cheap. Since Costa Tropical has not had the same influx of tourism as in other regions, the prices are very low.
  8. Tranquilo: Stress is the last thing you will experience at Costa Tropical. The people are relaxed. There is always time to chat with someone on the street.
  9. Everyone seems to know each other. Everyone talks to each other and greets each other. There is sometimes a lot of honking but that is to say hi to someone they recognized on the street. Within a short amount of time, the cashier says hi, the policeman waves at you and the neighbor tells her stories although she knows that you dont understand anything. Everyone is friendly and genuinely interested in the life of others. There is a true sense of community here.

I hope you got intrigued about a cycling vacation at Costa Tropical. Book your trip here via Booking.com.

In the next post, you will find helpful tips how to make the cycling holidays happen.

In the mean time, if you like the post, please share it via social media.

Thank you for reading!


Booking.com


Five tips to make travelling your lifestyle

In the last 10 years, I have lived on three continents, five countries and about 30+ places. Some of them weren’t longer than a month, one lasted for an entire six months. It was almost worth noting down the address. I truly love travelling, moving around and meeting new people and cultures. I am not afraid of moving to a new continent without knowing a soul, the language or the culture. In fact, I thrive on the excitement of experiencing new adventures.

Rather than travelling, I call it moving because I do immerse myself into my surroundings, in fact that is a must for me. I don’t like to be a tourist and prefer to stay where the locals live and do what the locals do as told here.

Although moving to an unknown places seems scary at first, there are ways to make this an amazing adventure. Here are few tips:

  1. To make moving easy, I own just enough stuff that I truly need, nothing more. Despite being an absolute bike addict, I only have one bike. Carrying extras of anything makes me feel weighed down. The adventures I am experiencing discredit any materialistic belongings. Stuff weighs me down. Experiences lift me up.
  2. Be happy with yourself alone. Don’t be afraid to be alone in a new country where you don’t speak the language or understand the culture. Yes, it seems at first overwhelming and scary but exactly those intense emotions you will never forget and appreciate even more because they make you feel alive.
  3. Smiling opens doors. There is no better way to communicate. Enough said.
  4. Be proactive. Moving into a new country but then hanging out in front of the TV is not worth the effort. Get out with or without a plan. You learn so much from looking around.
  5. There is no better strategy to learn than observing. Find out why the locals do certain things. How they behave. How they interact. What is different than what you are used to and why could that possibly be?

Travelling is an enriching and rewarding experience. Just buy a plane or train ticket and get out! With or without plan.

Because life is a journey!