It’s a wet, blustery November morning at Gatwick Airport and I’m sitting in a windowless departure lounge for an EasyJet flight and looking forward to getting up and on our way. Papers are full of the news that Trump might win, even though we know already that he has in fact already won and the world has changed a little bit overnight.
I’m en route to Malaga for three days mountain biking with Howard who is the owner of an amazing mountain and road bike tour company. The company tour is operated out of Cazorla, in the Andalusian region of Spain and is located on the edge of a beautiful wilderness park which I can’t wait to explore by mountain bike.
The flight from the grey drizzle is, as they say, Easy enough. We arrive on a brisk tail wind and bump back in from the coastal down-wind leg to land and discharge like wet puppies into the terminal pushing and shoving to catch those first rays of sun. It’s warm outside, the baggage carousel has broken and words are had.
I get my rental car smug faced since it’s the shortest line in the basement car rental area. Flirting and joking I’m soon on my way, missing my floor and wandering around the car park for 10 minutes looking for my Dave, I mean Leon, my first derided, then loved Seat best rental ever.
GPS plugged in, controls set to blast and off we go. I have a sense to pull left from the terminal and head into Malaga, a popular town of some 800.000 folks, but stick to the prime directive and head north up into the suburbs and soon the coastal mountains.
A quick stop for artisan chocolate, pistachios (the saltiest I ever did taste) and then it’s back to driving. I was tempted by the local beer – red vest anyone but hey – driving! I didn’t plan a meal like this, I actually wanted to sit and eat a roadside buffet like we had on the road from Amalfi to Rome earlier this year, but the Spanish equivalent is not so gastronomic, nor, judging by the looks of things, quite as efficient.
Besides, the road beckons and I find myself pushing as fast as I dare on these amazing mountain highways that go on and on and on; winding and weaving through tunnels, valleys and tacking against the ridge line. Kind of like the mountain biking I’ll soon be doing I think to myself. I know it’s childish in a way, but I want more fuel for my inner child, who cries out in hunger to play on this silken tarmac playground.
I manage to get lost in my inner world for a long time before realize that I am also lost in my outer world. Some cursing ensues as I realize my GPS announcing a lost signal, and I have no choice but to slow down, then stop and then finally backtrack hoping it’ll find the signal needed.
Those who know me will also know I get off track easily with GPS. It’s a chore for me and a stress on top to set a direction manually, but now high up in unknown territory I have no choice but to head off the highway. I choose a route that cuts cross country, which is always a bad move in the horror shows, but today turns into a blessing, since I’m soon in a completely serendipitous landscape of low olive trees and tall silken grasses blowing as far as the eye can see. The occasional sheep and the odd truck is all I see, and the needle hovers recklessly at 140 as I egg myself on round corner over bluff. Did I mention the fog?
Eventually, at a brisk pace of 90 swear words a minute, my GPS returns to sanity and my self-directed adventure ends and as I close in on the hotel I realize what a fun way to spend a few hours this has been, slow down a little bit and enjoy the last hour as we climb from the valley to Carzola and La Iruela where I’m meeting Howard. Did I mention the fog?
Well, I’m pretty excited to catch up and the bar is super comfortable but also I’m pretty wrecked on arrival. We have a couple beers and sit in the bar and then a light supper (or was it? I can’t remember!) in the hotel restaurant. We make plans for the morning, which features a lung and leg busting 25km climb straight up the mountain that towers over the fort in front of the hill over the road before the hotel which is deliciously perched on the cliff high above the olive groves.
I’m all paramedic by 9pm so I pull the rip cord and head upstairs for my room which is delightfully furnished in high Rustic Mountain style, complete with sheep skin lined walls and a four poster to stretch your sheep skin out on. If that’s your thing. Wi-Fi is plenty fast, the shower is huge and smoking hot, there are lots of fluffy towels, and brandy in the mini-bar.A quick unpack and plugging in of several electronics and shiny new mountain bike shoes lined up ready to go. I am sorted. Very happy to be here.
Hello pillow, goodbye day.