Camping la Garrofa, Spain to Alicante, Spain

From 10/10/2015 to 19/10/2015

Day 20 – Camping la Garrofa to Sorbas – 64kms

We had a very bad nights sleep. The truck traffic from the two major roads just above us kept us awake all night. The ride into Almeria was ok and we found the N340a easy enough. From what we saw of the city is looked nice, clean with cycling paths everywhere but there were a lot of groups of north African man hanging about.
The climbing began as soon as we turned inland on the N340a and just before we left the city limits we stopped for supplies. Riding on the N340a was pretty good with a generous shoulder and all traffic was very courteous. We had booked a room at Hostal Sorbas as there was no camping in the area. Good clean room and reasonably priced.

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Sunrise from our camping spot.

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Last tunnel before Almeria.

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No pictures of Almeria city center just this one of entering the city limits.

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The Sierra Alhamilla mountain range we need to go around. Click to view larger.

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Crossing the Rio Andarax just before Rioja.

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On the N340a next to the A92 and the desert landscape after Rioja. Click to view larger.

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Many spaghetti westerns were filmed around these parts.

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Monique setting up her mp3.

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You can see why they choose this area for many of the old western movies. Click to view larger.

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And naturally there would be places to cash in. Click to view larger.

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And they even have a free swimming pool.

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The American western scene. Click to zoom in.

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The hilltop castle in Tabernas. Click to zoom in.

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About 4kms after Tabernas we came across the Route 66 diner and stopped for a coke.

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The inside was a throwback to the sixties.

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They also had several old classics parked out front like this Oldsmobile Riviera. They made them with a boat-tail between 1971-1973.

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We are now in olive growing country. There were olive trees as far as the eye can see. Click to view larger.

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Can’t see it here but just before Sorbas a nasty cross wind blew in from the right and was pushing into the road which made cycling very dangerous.
After checking into the Hostal Sorbas we went into town for a couple of beers and got some supplies before returning to our room.
This evening we changed our route. If we are to have a few days in Benidorm we need to take the train from Cartagena to Alicante. We do not like having to rush so the it would be best to take another train. We also had to book an Airbnb in Cartagena as there is no camping.

Day 21 – Sorbas to Camping Bellavista near Aguilas – 72kms

We got up early so we could leave before 09:00 and we finally managed to leave a whole half hour earlier. The down hill out of town was cool (borderline cold) but the couple smallish uphills warmed us up. After a while we finally got out of the mountains and the N340a joined the A7 for about 10kms to Los Gallardos were we took the A370 towards the sea.
We followed the undulating coastal roads passing many seaside towns with some really upscale areas. Around noon we saw some motorized paragliding on the beach so we went over to check them out. We found a nice shady spot were we had lunch and checked out the Red Bull motorized paragliding race.
We were looking for a nice camping by the beach so we could take a rest day but camping Bellavista wasn’t it. Rude staff, expensive (€20), no shade and we had to set up our tent on gravel.

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Sorbas from half way down the hill. Click to view larger.

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Following are several pictures of our ride out of the mountains and towards the sea on the N340a. Click to view larger.

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Still on the N340a after Almocaizar.

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Finally back on the beautiful blue Mediterranean sea. Click to view larger.

We had some nice entertainment with our lunch.

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We also saw this setup, one way to take your wooden cabin along.

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Monique in her element. Following are several pictures of the beautiful coastal ride.

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The newly built area of San Juan de los Terreros. Click to view larger.

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Just before camping Bellavista a cycle path began that led all the way to Aguilas.

Day 22 – Camping Bellavista to Camping Playa de Mazarron – 53kms

We got on the road early enough and tried to find some supplies but not good there was a national holiday today and everything was closed. No problem we always have extra just for days like these. After a couple of kilometers we got on the very bad RM11 heading north. The road was almost new but the surface was like glue and we had a steady climb. After about 20kms (which seemed like ages) we got to the turnoff and headed east on a quieter RM332 and some more serious climbing. Thankfully the RM332 had a much better surface but it goes through some hills and there wasn’t a breeze going east so in the midday sun the climb was really tough. Once on top though everything changed we had a glorious downhill with a real nice cool sea breeze.
The last 15 or so kilometers to the camping were again a real pain riding on an undulating road in the heat. But once at the camping it was forgotten.
Camping here is really good so we decided to stay an extra day to rest and after setting up camp we found a nice restaurant and got a couple of ginormous steaks.

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Sunrise from our camping spot.

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On the dreadful RM11. Cannot see it but the surface was like glue and the slight uphill and headwind didn’t help.

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Still on the RM11 just before Tebar.

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Roadside lunch stop on the RM332. By this time it was getting quite warm.
Following are several pictures along the RM332.

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Looking back.

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Great views on the nice downhill ride. Click to view larger.

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Monique enjoying the cool seabreeze.

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About 5kms before our turnoff to the RM-D6 towards Bonuevo and the camping.

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Our very nice camping spot, with a very welcome sea breeze.

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Monique enjoying the beach all to herself. Click to view larger.

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A great finish to a hot day.

Day 23 – Rest day

 Last night the wind picked up and it rained a bit but I think we missed the worst.
When we woke up the strong sea breeze was still there. This morning we got some breakfast, did some chores and waited till noon so we could start drinking beer. Life can be great sometimes 😉

The strong sea breeze stayed like this till evening.

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Despite the strong wind it was still quite hot.

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Monique is chilling in the tent while I’m sipping on a few San Miguel’s and listening to some good music.

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Blue sky and palm trees.

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There were several date palms doted around the camping.

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These two kite surfers were out for several hours and we had a great show.

Day 24 – Camping Playa de Mazarron to Cartagena – 46kms

Early start this morning and a new wind direction. Till now we had a mostly southern wind now it changed to a cooler northern wind which was nicer for the climbing. We got on the RM332 and headed north around the La Muela-Cabo Tinoso and  the 352 meter climb we had really tested us and we were glad we finally reached the top. The downhill was really great.
We had a nice ride into Cartagena and found the city to be very beautiful and clean. We were early for our Airbnb apartment so we headed to the train station to sort out our tickets for Alicante. We found out there is no direct train so we needed to go via Murcia. Our Airbnb hosts were a nice couple, he’s Spanish and she’s from Mexico.
We had a nice conversation over some great Mexican food and drinks. The room was clean and we had a real nice rest. Only down side was that one of the dogs pissed on one of my panniers.

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Riding along Puerto de Mazarron sea front.

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One of the nicest coastal towns we rode through.

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And the La Muela-Cabo hills we have to ride around in the distance.

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Looking back from near the top of this mornings climb. Click to view larger.

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Monique was glad to finally make it to the top.

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And the view of the other side. Click to view larger.

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Having gone over our only obstacle of the day, the rest of the ride was pretty easy.

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Almost looked like spring.

Day 25 – Cartagena to Camping Costa Blanca (right after El Campello) – 24kms

Got up had a nice breakfast and just before we loaded our bikes to leave I found out one of the dogs pissed on another of my panniers. I really had to control myself not to say something ugly and ruin a nice stay. Anyway we rode the three and a half kilometers to the train station and waited for our ride. These trains had a different configuration and there was absolutely no room for the bikes even though it was advertised. All the bags had to come off, on bike by the doors and one between the seats. The conductor didn’t seem to mind, probably not the first time.
Alicante is a huge and busy place. Even through it’s well organised with cycling paths, we still found it to be quite chaotic with lots of traffic, pollution and people everywhere. We couldn’t imagine how it would be in the summer time, guess that’s why we hate big cities.
We made our way to the sea and got on the N332 and rode north looking for the nearest camping. Camping here is ok, clean and not too expensive. Seems there are many here in campers and caravans overwintering.

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Waiting for yet another train.

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Alicante sea front boardwalk.

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And a most beautiful Spanish gallion at the Port d’Alicant. Click to view larger.

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Playa del Postiguet. Click to view larger.

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On the Av. Villajoyosa looking towards the heavily built up area of Cap de L’Horta. Click to view larger.

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Our camping spot under some olive trees with ripening fruit. We were glad we had good groundsheets.

Day 25, 26, 27 and 28 – Camping Costa Blanca to Benidorm – 50kms

This part of our tour was to be one the second worst day (experience) of cycling. The first being getting robbed in Parga, Greece on our 2007 tour from Milan to Athens. To keep a long story short we thought we knew this guy Hugo (who used to live in Maastricht and now resides near Benidorm) enough that when we told him of our tour he said we could come and stay at his place for a couple of days at the end of our tour. That way he can show us around and we can enjoy the Spanish way of life before our flight home from Alicante.
So we rode the +/-50kms (out of our way) along the very busy and dangerous N332 to his place. After all the greetings we settled in with a couple of drinks to the usual chit chat. The second day we just lounged around did some shopping and cooked a nice dinner as thanks for letting us stay at his home and Monique and I were to take him out to dinner the following and last day.
But it we didn’t get that far, and on the second morning he had some kind of issue with me and out of nowhere we were told to leave.
Naturally we were upset by this but no problem I got out my tablet got a room in Benidorm, we packed up and left.
Now I can go on and say many bad things about this asshole but I will not go down to his level. We just felt sorry for him and hoped his rich friends don’t get bored with Benidorm because than he’ll be left all alone in his hillside retreat.
On a good note, we did spend an interesting day in the center of Benidorm and saw how some people enjoy their vacations. Holidays from hell would even begin to describe what we saw. For instance it was barely noon and the beach front bars were full with beer guzzling, overweight people showing all, including a couple running around dressed in woman’s lingerie 🙂
By night time all the bars and nightclubs were open and the party continued till the wee hours of the morning.
Opposite poles compared to our cycling adventures along rural and seaside roads in nature.
The day before we left we had bought some bubble wrap and tape from a DIY shop and on the last morning we rode to the main bus station a couple of hours earlier, wrapped the bikes and got to the airport. Everything went smooth.

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Still nice and quiet in the early morning hours.

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Looking back from Av. Jaume i el Conqueridor at Playa Muchavista and the heavily built-up area along the coast. Click to view larger.

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On the first of several hills along the very busy and dangerous N332.

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Crossing the Rio Amadorio in La Vila Joiosa. Click to view larger.

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First view of the Benidorm skyline.

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It felt a bit strange/intimidating, riding on a cycling path in the middle of a four lane rode.

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While riding into Benidorm we passed an open market which was also selling road chickens and we bought one.
Later we found a nice bench along the seafront and tore it up 🙂

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Looking east. Click to view larger.

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Looking west. Click to view larger.

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Av. Armada Espanola.

Day 27 – New Payma Hotel

We were lucky to have found this place. Lucky because it’s fairly priced and the last room available.

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While walking along Av. Madrid we saw the cafe Valkenburg and stopped from a coffee. Valkenburg just happens to be a village a few kilometers from Maastricht.
Benidorm is just full of mainly English and Dutch tourists.

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Our Hotel room is on the top floor of that building, and our room was second from left.

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The rooms at the top floor ware the only ones with balconies were we could store our bikes.

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Benidorm by night from our room. Click to view larger.

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Because of our early check out and late departure we ended up with a long wait at the airport.

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And our trusty steeds finally home.

Epilogue

This has been one of the more interesting tours we have had.
Portugal was by far the best country of the two to tour through. From the friendly people, the seemingly endless coastline, brand new cycling paths, courteous drivers, great camping’s, very competitive prices, etc. etc. etc. As a matter of fact we are already planning a return trip to Portugal with the aim of spending all of our time in this beautiful country.
Southern Spain (along the coast) was good to cycle, but unfortunately we will not be doing that again in the future. We found the southern coastal roads to be very busy, the areas extremely built up (which made for the higher prices), aggressive drivers in most large towns, all in all not a very pleasant experience. There were sections that were ok, but for the most part not.
Some time in the future, we would like to cycle other parts as Spain is a big country with many different landscapes, but not for a while though.  We would not recommend cycling the southern coastal Spain to anyone, there are just too many other more beautiful and peaceful places to cycle in Europe.