Luton to San Javier, Murcia by Ryan cattletruck for only £66 return which is bearable for 2hrs 20mins. We all managed to get our max 10kg including helmets into the regulation 50x40x20cm bags and paid the extra £30 for Percy to have a 15kg limit to include our pedals.
Arrived on time to 28degrees and picked up the Mercedes people-carrier then met the Bike Hire man at the first roundabout as agreed. The smallest (for me) was a collectable Colnago with an 18 speed Campag groupset and Sella Royale saddle, lovely. As Percy had the longest legs, he had the Decathlon cyclo cross machine with Hichens- type curly back forks.
Off to Campo de Palos, a pretty fishing village situated on a promontory complete with historic stone lighthouse on the Costa Calidad (hot coast) where Corkie had his apartment. We settled in, bought provisions for breakfast, fixed up the bikes and went out for a pizza and some LARGE gin & tonics in readiness for the big day ahead.
A 10am start to cycle along the side of the Mar Menor inland sea to Cartagena where we stopped briefly at a smart restaurant overlooking the harbour for a coffee. Adjacent to our spot was one of the first submarines built in 1888 by Leon Pucel.
We found our way out of the town which in 13th century had been one of the premier shipbuilding/naval ports in the Otoman Empire and still remains as an important base for both the Spanish and US Navies .It was such a pleasure to be cycling in the warmth and to be given respect by motorists even the police who waved us on at a roundabout as we left the town to tackle the hills.
The hills soon became mountains;hairpin after hairpin in 30degrees of heat. You thought that you might get a “blow” round the next bend, but it just got steeper and steeper I looked down, one 25 tooth cog left ( keep it in case I crack) half the electrolyte drink was gone already, no wonder Santani took EPO! The views were some compensation, views which included abandoned Pyrite and Lead mine workings, a source of wealth for Cartagena in the past. The mountain proved to be 1500m high.
Having won “the King of the Mountains” title on my Colnago and not wanting to take my feet out of the toe clips, I leant on a reflective post only to see it topple over the gorge with me clinging onto the barrier. At that moment, my mobile rang; “Johnny Rowe here” John had phoned to thank me for the card Joan had made and we’d sent.
Tom with the aid of a triple front clanger was next, then Corkie and Perc who all waited for me to finish chatting to John. An exciting decent followed where we reached speeds of 70kmph. NB in Spain the cars come up on the right-hand side of the road; could have been fatal! The adrenalin rush of the speed clouds your judgement.
In the foothills, we were travelling through some pretty villages looking for a rural café to have a late lunch when Corkie stopped worried that we’d dropped Percy and I went up his back whilst doing about 35kmph. The cuts weren’t bad but my ribs are still sore 16 days later. After a rest and a couple of Ibuprofen tablets we pressed on.
At the next village, we had a welcome baguette and beer/orange then pressed on against the wind towards El Algar via a 10mile detour due to a new road having been constructed. With 5miles to go, we just had to stop for refreshment before making for home. After showering, we managed to walk to Campo de Palos for a paella and more G & Ts by the quayside.
Having had a hard day, we spent the Wednesday cycling along the shores of the Mar Menor Northwards to get the ferry from San Javier to La Manga and back home
On the trip across the bay, I chatted to a couple from Horwich nr Bolton who live up the coast. They promise themselves to cycle along the beach on 1st January then return to the North of England until April when they come back to Spain where the houses are not suitable for cold weather. We heard that there was a Neil Diamond
Impersonator on at the “Square”, so we ate at a grand Chinese restaurant ( the biggest G&Ts yet ) before sitting out in the square and listening to a good rendition of “Crackling Rose”.
Next day, we took the van to Cartagena before leaving the historic town, now extensively renovated after serious damage during the Civil War. The intended route was a long ,less steep mountain climb with spectacular views followed by a long fast decent in a loop to eventually finish back at our start. Although it wasn’t so sunny, the atmosphere was close and after about 10miles, Corkie,who was suffering from a bug, had had enough. In deference to our leader, we turned and decended for ages whilst admiring the magnificent views back to Cartagena. En route back, we stopped at a village called “Botillo”, I think it was, for a snack and drink while Corkie drove back for a well deserved kip. Tom, Perc and I took our time and poodled back stopping for a look at Corkie’s local cove before a swim in the pool and a brush up.To satisfy Percy’s hunger for some meat, we visited an Argentinian restaurant for steaks and again enormous Gin & Tonics.
On the last day, we spent time clearing up, so that Corkies’ place was perfect for his return in the Spring then trundled off to a spot on the coast near San Javier called Los Alcazares for a long lunch at La Encarnacion, This was a place worth going to Murcia for. An old-established traditional resaurante with a beautifully tiled courtyard and tropical plants, mature local staff, not Morocans, where we ordered the “Lunch of the Day” for 15euros each. Whilst we were waiting, the waiter brought us pork brawn,, on fresh bread, then ham on melon, sole in batter with chips and aubergines then home made cream ice cream; a brilliant last meal to last us until we got back to UK in the evening. After dropping off the bikes and filling the van with only 20euros worth of diesel, we sat in the sun with a cool drink whilst eyeing the passing passengers. Home on time with no hitches; Corkies Barbara arrived like magic to take us back to our cars.
What a great area of Spain to go for a bit of a bike tour.