TransAndalus & TransMurciana. Day 6: San José to Mazarrón

Today I headed north, through Cabo de Gata Natural Park, to Agua Amarga. From here, I left the TransAndalus trail (and Andalusia) and continued along the coast as far as Águilas where I began the TransMurciana section of my trip through Murcia.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

  • Total Distance today: 175.9km (109.3 miles)
  • Total elevation gained today: 7,490 feet
    ransAndalus / TransMurciana. Day 6. Map

    TransAndalus / TransMurciana. Day 6. Map

     

TransAndalus / TransMurciana. Day 6. Elevation profile

TransAndalus / TransMurciana. Day 6. Elevation Profile

 

The End of TransAndalus.

I was dreading this morning. I had used all of the patches in my THREE puncture repair kits and my two spare inner tubes. I woke up to flat tyres. The receptionist in the hostel advised that the nearest bike shop was 50km (30 miles) away in Carboneras. At least this was in my itinerary. This stage included around 65% of trail, but rather than risk getting stuck on the trails with a show-stopping puncture, I opted for the roads.

It was a really hot day. It felt quite close as though a storm wasn’t far off. I pushed as hard as I could but with my tyres being mostly flat, most of the time, the speed/distance didn’t reflect the amount of effort I was putting in. Every 6-10km I had to stop and pump my tyres up. It was frustrating.

The Beginning of TransMurciana

At 25 miles in, Agua Amarga marked the end of my TransAndalus. The ‘guide book’ I had created from printouts from the TransAndalus website only took me as far as this. From here, I would follow the TransMurciana, only, the limited information I had on this route was in reverse (in an app on my phone). I had cobbled together a GPS route based on rides found on WikiLoc, but as I was to find out, this was next to hopeless.

I would have loved to have stopped for a coffee and to see a little more of the rocky coves of Agua Amarga but my priority was still finding a bike shop. I skirted around the town and continued, by road, another 5 miles in to Carboneras.

After a quick stop in a bike shop in Carboneras, I fitted new inner tubes. I was really hungry by now, but having already stopped in Carboneras, I felt obliged to push on a little further.

With the tyres rolling much better, I enjoyed this spell on the undulating coastal road with the Mediterranean to my right. The hotel I passed was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. A giant complex built in to the cliffs, heavily covered in graffiti bearing words like MAFIA and HOTEL ILLEGAL.

After a sharp, grinding climb, I used up the remaining water in my bottles. It wasn’t long before I found a cafe nestled in to the hills beside the road. Some English-speaking locals recommended some delicious tapas and found it beyond belief that it would be possible to finish in San Javier by tomorrow afternoon. They told me that the HOTEL ILLEGAL was actually the Hotel Algarrobico, constructed many years before but closed down before completion by Greenpeace.

The Exciting Coastlines of Murcia

Much of what I saw of Murcia didn’t compare aesthetically to what I’d experienced in Andalusia. However, following the TransMurciana along the coast presented some incredible, off-the-beaten-track beaches. Each cove was a sandy beach, private, unspoiled and away from civilisation. One cove had the remains of an ancient settlement inside the cliff face. I had read before that some of Spain’s earliest settlers had laid their roots down in Murcia and Valencia and I imagined them arriving on this cover centuries before. This was a perfect beach location for wild camping.

Honestly, check out Cabo Cope y Puntas de Calnegre if you’re ever in southern Murcia.

The GPX route I had been following became increasingly scatty, giving alerts as though I had taken a wrong turn frequently. Dusk was setting in and I was lost. The route on my Garmin was pointing to take me over a cliff. It extremely difficult to hike, but impossible to carry a bike up. Nevertheless, I scaled it by foot first and after finding it OK to reach quite a height, I tried again, this time going further with the bike. The drop below was precarious and the path became narrower to a point where it definitely was not possible to climb any further. Trying to maneuver back and then downwards was an absolute nightmare. It took longer going down than up.

Daylight was diminishing. I couldn’t pick up a signal on my phone and I knew that I was still hours away from anywhere to stay. I contemplated sleeping out on the sand dunes, but I didn’t have any food for the evening or for morning.

I cycled up a sandy track, through fields with high crops and couldn’t see where I was going. There were no roads or houses on the horizon.

Eventually I turned out on to tarmac and cycled a long climb (1,000+ feet after 90 miles of cycling!) to obtain a better vantage point. It was dark and getting cool. At the summit I still couldn’t see any towns or villages to stay the night, so I continued on the road, eventually picking up a signal and found that the closest town was Mazarrón, still 90 minutes away.

I passed through a small village called Las Librilleras. It was quite run-down and the road through the village seemed to be full of shit drivers. It wasn’t sensible, but I mounted the motorway in an effort to get to Mazarrón quicker. The prevailing wind helped me sustain good speed.

It was dark when I arrived in Mazarrón and the nightlife, despite it being only Wednesday, was in full swing. I noticed plenty of strip clubs as I cycled through the streets looking place to stay. Having lodged in an expensive place the night before in San Jose, I just wanted a modest (cheap!!) hotel.

…And I found one. The owner had shut up the restaurant for the night, but in typical Spanish fashion, his hospitality showed no bounds. He and his wife served me generously a wonderful Menu del Dia. I paid for a glass of wine and he gave me the bottle. I couldn’t refuse.

My longest day in the saddle during this trip coupled with finishing late meant my adrenaline was sky high. It took me hours to sleep, but this was the penultimate day of cycling…

View this ride on Strava

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