Vale Da Azinhaga, Portugal - May 13, 2012

I am writing this from the tent in Vale Da Azinhaga, Portugal, pitched in a campsite that is quite the dump. A very bad introduction to Portugal actually. I'm in a breathless hole, with no view and no wind and so if it rains tonight like it is threatening to do, then it could get ugly. The site already has some ditches that previous campers have dug to keep their tent from getting soaked. Let's just hope it doesn't rain. The camp has wireless, but it doesn't work, they have a restaurant, but it's closed, and they have toilets but no seats. I sure I will long for it in Siberia if I make it there. I might feel a bit more charitable towards this place if it didn't follow on the heels of the place last night near Tarifa at the southern top of Spain. Now that was a place! I could sit in my tent, open the flap and look directly across the Strait of Gibraltar to Africa. Wow! Very windy = no bugs at all and absolutely clear skies. The only downer was that while I was hoping to see incredible stars, the camp had their own light system that they turned on. Illuminated the whole place like a movie set. Guess I'll have to wait until someplace else to see stars.

Camp at Tarifa, Spain

Camp at Tarifa

Where's Tarifa?

Where's Tarifa

Spent my last day in Granada just walking around the old part of the city... the part just outside the old walls of the Alhambra. It is really a good town for that. Some streets are so narrow, you can touch both sides at once. Walked for about 4 hours, then decided to take advantage of my down day and do some laundry. What a production. Nothing when you travel is easy it seems. I asked the lady at the desk where I could do some laundry and she didn't know... but she Googled it. Then told me there were two places... one about 20 minutes east, one about 30 minutes south. So, taking my chances, I bagged up my clothes and headed east. Went to the address she gave me but there was nothing but upscale clothing stores in the area. So doing the long side of the triangle, I headed for the other which she said was "very big!". OK. Well that place was big, alright. It's what they call a Hipercor. It's like a giant mall. So I asked the guard where the laundry was (not too hard to cross the language barrier when you're holding a bag of stinky socks and underwear) and he directed me this way and that... to a dry cleaners. Arg...not that. But I guess self-serve laudromats are not well known in Spain. He insisted that was the place. So, despite the fact that there were no washers anywhere in sight, they took my clothes and told me to come back at 9 PM. Fully expecting my undies and socks to smell of whatever it is they use, I got them back all pressed, folded and socks mated with no smell. Not even old smell. Now that was a fine job. Never had pressed undies before.

TheAlhambra

The Alhambra

Backstreet Grenada

Backstreet Grenada

Musicians (and jugglers) in Grenada

Musicians (and Jugglers) in Grenada

Had a little trouble finding the right road out of Granada. With all the construction, I guess I missed the turn in the town center and didn't pick up on it for quite a while. Anyway, had to double back through the construction zone, very slow and very hot, with lots of horn-honking going on then finally picked up on my road going south. Beautiful ride down there towards the coast with the Sierra Nevadas off to my left. Once I hit the coast, my plan was to just ride as close to the shore as I could but that didn't work at all. The cost down there is entirely builtup. Virtually solid. You ride the gauntlet between condo developments on your left and right, with one traffic circle after another. It was really getting exhausting with little rewards. I mean, it's nice there. It would be great to get a place, go to the beach, track down nice restaurants and music, have nice naps... but not such a great place to bike through. So I kept hopping back to the freeway to get somewhere else.

Headed for Algeciras. Not sure why. Always thought it sounded exotic. Just wanted to do a drive through. Very modern city, huge port. OK... been there. Not so exotic as I imagined. Saw Gibraltar from the back side. It's funny in that I don't remember seeing even one sign to Gibraltar. Maybe the Spanish are trying to starve it out. That word never appeared on any highway sign that I saw. Weird.

But past Algeciras the road climbed and the stretch from there to Tarifa was pretty grand with views of the Mediterranean , the Atlantic and Africa. I think I had seen it once before on a ship but I don't remember Africa being that close. You can actually see individual buildings... not every little house, but some of the larger buildings stand out. At the mountains in Morocco are pretty spectacular even from that distance. Very tempting. Yes, very tempting.

Very windy though in the Tarifa area. My guidebook says that it is always windy there. Lots of wind-generators and yes, very windy. While sitting outside the office at the camp, Little EEE almost blew off my lap and so I had to hold on to him with one hand and type with the other. Anyway, I mentioned to the guy what a beautiful camp he had, and he said "Oh thank you. And it is particularly beautiful today. No wind!" What? It was quite an exhausting job on the bike it was so windy. But I guess that was nothing.

More windy this morning, however. And so gusty that on the road, it was as if someone just shoved you. In one of the gusts, the mirror that had broken in the fall flew off the bike. I grabbed for it and thought I caught it, clutching it in my lap. But looking down, I didn't see it. Lifted my arm and clunk... heard it bouncing off of the frame. No point going back for it. It's really broken now. Pulled off and replaced it with my last spare. So back to two good mirrors, no spare. A little early in the trip for that.

The trip across southern Portugal was OK... but not spectacular by any means. Almost no view of the coast. Grasslands, eucalyptus groves, pines. Like lots of places. Overcast, muggy. I've never heard that Portugal was such a great place to drive through... just that the cities and beaches are great. Headed for Lisbon now and haven't really seen a beach yet. So we'll see.

Will write again from Lisbon


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Samuel Longiaru
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