TransAndalus. Day 3: Melegis to Pampaneira

Cycling the TransAndalus – Day 3

Today was plagued with bad directions, bad decisions and bad luck. We all need a day like this every now and again to humble us and bring us crashing back down to earth.

Sunday 7 June 2015

  • Total Distance today: 141.1km (65.3 miles)
  • Total elevation gained today: 8,281 feet
    TransAndalus. Day 3. Map

    TransAndalus. Day 3. Map

    TransAndalus. Day 3. Elevation Profile

    TransAndalus. Day 3. Elevation Profile

My alarm was set a little later than normal (0700). I had expected to rise, eat breakfast and be on my first climb before 0800. But it was Sunday. My bike was locked up in the hostel garage and there was no indication as to when this place would open. I was starving and explored the tiny village for a place to eat but there was nothing but a bar (and it was closed).

It was after 0930 by the time I mounted the bike and headed out in to the warmth. Today was forecast to be sunny and very hot all day, peaking between midday and 1400.

The route to Niguelas through the Valle de Lecrin (Valley of Happiness in Arabic) was straightforward; the towering mountains gradually becoming bigger with every pedal stroke. It was going to be a monster stage of 44.3km and 5,200’ over gravel tracks, so I stopped for quick coffee with toast and filled my bottles from a fountain.

From here, everything went tits up. The printed directions seemed completely ambiguous. I wasted so much time scouting each route and backtracking. It was all steep stuff and it was baking hot. I was becoming really frustrated. I spent almost an hour winding my way up one mountain pass before discovering my efforts had been in vain. I had to turn around and climb the other pass. I was really pissed off.

Nothing was easy. I had to ration my water intake. At around 7km I should have passed a water fountain, but I saw nothing. I didn’t know how far along the route I was anyway after the wrong turns. A man in a Land Rover kindly topped up one of my water bottles as I continued to press, slowly, higher. The views were magnificent, overlooking the valleys. I could see the Mediterranean coastline and felt I could smell the salty air. The long 20% climbs on gravel meant that all ascents had to be done in the saddle. Any effort to stand resulted in the back tyre losing traction.

I was fortunate to pass a man painting the valley below. He offered me directions and more water.

Valle de Lecrín (Valley of Happiness)

Valle de Lecrín (Valley of Happiness)


My own stupidity – I didn’t study the route beforehand. I hadn’t realised there was absolutely nowhere to stop for food. I expected El Tello to be a village but instead it was a deserted building with a running fountain. I anticipated the descents to be fast and that I would make up for lost time, but they were treacherous, often involving walking, carrying, and lugging the bike. Often, the descents were slower than the ascents!

I was hitting the wall: over-hungry and dehydrated. I made the decision to leave the (poorly directed) route and head down in to Lanjaron. Rather than follow directions down from the mountain I decided to follow my gut and take the straightest line possible. Mistake. It was a long walk down. My rear tyre went flat. By the time I rolled slowly in to Lanjaron it was 1600 and I was burned out. The last few hours had been a complete blur through being over-hungry and dehydrated.

After a long rest and a good meal, I followed the road as far as Pampaneira. It was a slog with regular stops to pump the tyres, both of which were suffering slow punctures.

That night, I inspected my inner tubes: 7 holes in one tyre; 5 in the other. One was discarded, one was replaced, and I fixed them up as best I could and wished for better luck for the forthcoming days.

The village of Pampaneira was such a treat. This was my first real experience of an Alpujarran village and I loved it. I enjoyed a few glasses of lager and wished I could have rested in this remote village a little longer…

View this ride on Strava

See full photos on Flickr

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