I’ve discovered that Spain is not difficult(as I first thought), it’s just different. I’ve become accustomed to the warm air like a giant hair dryer as I cycle, and I just need to wake early to beat the heat. I hit upon one town just as they were “running the Bulls” – the tradition of tormenting confused animals through narrow streets and then jumping over the safety of a huge wooden fence. Although not a vegetarian my sympathy lies with the animals rather than the jeering crowd safely behind barriers.
No matter how small the town or village there is always a bar open for a watering stop, often with bull fights on a TV in the corner. On one occasion exclamations of “Madre Mia” and offers of lemonade and ice cream from afternoon sherry drinkers when they asked me what I was doing.
I have had the pleasure of another VIP road companion as my brother Jeremy joined me for a couple of days. Together we headed southwards off the high plateau of Madrid with busy but joyful downhills to smaller roads leading to the jangled maze of the cobbled streets in Toledo. Here the melting pot of different cultures and mudeca (mix of Christian, Jewish and Muslim architecture) is evidence of the rich history over centuries of invasion and co existence in this part of Spain.
Back flying solo again and the dustbowl of central Spain is a harsh and inhospitable landscape at this time of year. Women in long house coats sweep away the dust of the day from their doorsteps and men sit on benches, legs apart, walking sticks in hand watching the world go by and gossiping in the shade of a tree.
I’ve cycled through enormous plains where there seems to be few beating hearts apart from mine. The sun bleaches the mountains surrounding into a shadowy and flickering shimmer. In the distance a lone farmer with a couple of wolverine dogs and a flock of sheep or goats graze on the few scraps of brown grass left at this time of year. Not so far from the Spain of Laurie Lee even after eighty years. Birds of prey soar overhead and the only green is the dark Spanish home oak and scrappy thorny bushes. For the few passing lorries and cars I must look a strange sight as I eat my picnic lunch – a lone girl taking cover under a sparse tree straggling by the side of the road.
As the villages turn Andalucian white they cling to mountainsides providing gasp inducing climbs and exhilarating hair pin bend descents. The arid landscape has almost imperceptibly turned more verdant with the canals and irrigation systems introduced by the Arabs centuries ago and still in use today. These provide enough water for the plentiful olive and orange plantations breaking up the dusty landscape with ripening oranges soon to be ready for our tea and marmalade.
So I leave behind the Flamenco city of Seville tomorrow with Laurie Lees words ringing true in my final leg:-
Spain enclosed me once more with its anarchic indifference, asking no discipline but the discipline of manners. I was back on the road, cushioned by its unswept dust, and by my anonymity, which would raise no eyebrows.”
Once again thank you to the huge generosity of everyone who has sponsored me. X
Youth Adventure Trust – https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodysseyYAT
Re-cycle – bikes for Africa- https://www.justgiving.com/cycleodyssey