Our second segment in Spain took us from the Portuguese border at Ayamonte down to Tarifa, where the ferries depart for Morocco.
As the Portuguese south coast is like a different world from inland Portugal, so also is the Spanish south coast a different world from inland Spain. The border town of Ayamonte was a beautiful city of long walking streets but heading east the scenery devolves into an industrial and mass-agricultural landscape with ballooning greenhouses full of tomatoes as far as the eye can see.
Cycling from Huelva to Cadiz required us to navigate around large areas of coastal scrub land , but for long portions we were able to follow one of Spain’s many Viasverdes (bike paths created from old railroad tracks).
Getting from Huelva to Cadiz is complicated by a huge inland scrubland/national park called Doñana National Park. Believe it or not, the fastest route around the park passes through Seville and is outlined below.
But the journey did provide some interesting views.
Almost every power pole is the domicile of a pair of storks.
And following this canal on our way from Ayamonte to Huelva was one of the most pleasant parts of our ride, flat, beautiful, and paved.
And in Seville for the first time in our journey we had some serious bicycle traffic. It was dark when we did most of our riding through the city but I managed to snap one shot below.
After Seville we had a long ride south to Cadiz through an arid desert like landscape and then through some small hills. On the way, we harvested some cactus fruit from the side of the road.
And passed through some small towns.
Then the familiar white sand beaches and tourist waterfronts we had gotten used to in Portugal returned.
Getting to Cadiz from the north required the use of a ferry. Cadiz is a beautiful area and we spent two days relaxing in a hotel and enjoying the waterfront and some local restaurants. It was a our first day of rest since we began 23 days ago!
But cycling going south, contrary to advice of all available maps, we were able to cycle down to Chiclana de la Fontera. The journey slowely became increasingly diverse and interesting as we followed a series of back roads and trails down the coast, passing through the towns of Conil de la Fontera, Zahora, Barbate, and Zahara de los Atunes.
That night, just north of Zahora we slept on the beach without a tent.
And spent the morning on an empty beach.
The next day a 25mph headwind made us enjoy the scenery one pedal at a time.
But from here the journey became increasingly spectacular.
By the time the sun set we had only made it 20 miles but it didn’t seem to matter. We camped off a trail amidst a hillside of terraced mansions built on cliff rocks, hidden, of course by dark green pines. In the distance, the lights of Africa illuminated the horizon.
The following day strong headwinds again kept us moving slowly.
But there was something magical about this trail.
The final 15 miles was a grueling 2 hour ride against an unyielding wall of 25mph wind. When we had the luxury of turning to the right or left it became a side wind and knocked us off our bike twice into the ditch!
When we finally arrived in Tarifa we learned that the port was closed due to the high winds. The disappointing news came as a relief as we quickly justified checking into a hostel and going out to a kabob stand we had seen on the way in. Then it was chocolate, Simpsons and laundry in the bathtub!
It was in a small cafe in the Algarve that we were suddenly taken with the idea to head into Morocco. It happened when we discovered there was a ferry from Tangiers to Barcelona and the future reality of cycling up the apparently overdeveloped and possibly cold coast line in time for our “Christmas in Andorra” plan began to fade, replaced by a much warmer and exciting Moroccan loop! Soon after this, we discovered there were more ferries that could take us far across the Mediterranean. We decided to avoid all cold weather by taking two more ferries to Tunisia. Our new Europe plan looks like this, and handles the seasons much more agreeably. Thanks for following and look forward to the next post, our first venture into Africa!