Sunday, 11 July 2010

Days 36 to 40

The first day with their panniers back, the team struggled on, weighed down by their great shackles of oppression. They miserably cycled in the 40 degree heat to Bobadilla, now only 4 days from completing their journey. Tony's help had given them a massive push towards reaching their 40 day target, and now the outlook was good. After spending the afternoon asleep under a tree, as the evening cooled down the team enjoyed a lush little run through the seemingly endless olive groves, towards the orange haze of the setting sun, camping under the trees with all but apparent abandon. They woke up and cycled on south for miles and miles to Villenueva del Trabuco, over the foothills of massive sierras, and 20% inclines, only to collapse in blissful exhaustion at having reached their destination. They stayed in the town to watch Spain beat Germany 1-0 (much to the team's satisfaction) as Puyol slotted one into the back of the old onion bag with a striking head from a perfectly placed corner kick. That night the team set up their tents in a vicious wind storm, all of their tents struggling to cope with the howling gale around them. Team member Tom awoke a number of times to find a tent pole pressed against his face by the wind, as the tent nearly crumbled around him.

They awoke after only two hours sleep. Team member James' matt had been hurled into the abyss whilst battling against the wind when erecting the tent, and he was forced to sleep on the bare rocky ground. The weary team again pushed south, almost able to taste the ocean air and the end of their great journey. They breakfasted in Villenueva Del Rosario, and climbed up the mountains towards the town of Mijas. The great and glamorous glittering golden mountains gregariously spotted with green olive groves glistened in the afternoon sun, however, the views were somewhat distorted by the sweat dripping into their eyes as they relentlessly battled through the heatwave. However, they did enjoy what were perhaps some of the greatest views that spain had to offer. Whislt the team precariously picked plump purple plums from the roadside trees, team member James was suffering greatly. After heaving from having another salami sandwich packed with superflous and frankly dangerous amounts of queso blanco, James was really feeling rather faint, nauseous as it were. He battled through though, like a right little trooper, his calves pumping like hydraulics on the arm of a JCB. The team unfortunately plunged into the depths of Malaga by accident, lost in a gritty industrial mess, having only to climb desperately out again and back into the mountains. But after a long and difficult day, the team powered into Mijas like four black-panted steam engines, and rewarded themselves with the 10 euro Menu del Dia which consisted of salmon or tuna salad to start followed by chicken kebabs or sea bream to follow, with a glass of red or white wine. The restaurant happened to be the local of the late great Leonard George Graham, spawner of half of Team Graham's members, a legend that lived in the hearts of the team. They spent the next day cycling from cemetary to cemetary looking for George's grave, but alas, given the fact that the receptions were all closed, could not find the stone. However, spending the day in the beautiful mountain town of Mijas brightened the team's spirits, and they rolled down to the coast with pride and courage, safe in the knowledge that they would soon be able to reach their destination within 40 days. Whilst in Mijas, the team were lucky enough to stumble across Phil and Andrew, who took them in into their welcoming and vibrant abode, where the team were finally able to enjoy the pleasure of a decent shower.

The team still had miles to kill however, and the clock was ticking. Ironically, the team had to front their fears, and rejoin the most dangerous stretch of the great N-340 to reach Gibraltar. The team gritted their teeth, and jumped onto the death road. After 20 terrified kilometres, the road spat the team out into what can only be described as hell - its horrendous nieghbour, the E-15 motorway. The team were forced to run across the hellish carrageway which involved great skill and cahones, to reach the safety of a motorway traffic supervisor, who advised them to take a turning off to part of the southern cost near Marbella, where the team set up camp and rested for the evening.

The next day began with a spritely dip in the Med, followed by a short sharp shocking stretch on the N-340, finally reaching the promised land of Gibraltar - land of roast dinners, monkeys, and cockney spaniards. As Gibraltar's infamous rock popped her head out of the horizon, the team's emotions ran wild. With heavy legs and happy hearts, they reached Winston Churchill avenue, with a 'Awight mate' from the local cozzer. The team could finally relax and lavishly relish in the knowledge that their tremendous feat had been overcome.

Days 30 to 35

Day 30

Having camped in Sagunt, just north of Valencia, where the team would finally leave this road of death, the team collaborated with team members Harry and James' dad, Father Tony, who met them in the town centre, and took them for a pint. He jovially reminded the team of his warning words, as he had told them that cycling along the coast would soon begin to grate on them. Tony thus directed the team inland toward pastures new, up winding mountain roads with breath-taking views, and almost empty of traffic. Having rented a hire car, tony was able to relieve the team of their Panniers, meaning each member was around 10 kilos lighter. Tony cycled with the team, helping them all the time, whether it was with lunch, their luggage, or a much needed round of cervecas. The team camped their first night with Tony on a dried up riverbed, where they ate chicken and rice with peppers, which was stewed for around three hours. Delicious.

Days 31 to 35

The team, some 40 kilos lighter, were now able to cover up to 130km in a day with relative ease. They travelled south from Betera up and over the mountains and down into Los Pedrones, where Tony treated them to pizza for dinner. They had surreptitiously camped in a field, and left early in the morning to again travel nearly 130km in a day, travelling down from the mountains onto the plains of Spain, which were somewhat beautiful in a strangely barren way. Along the flat the Team and Big T smashed the miles like hot roasted peanuts, but finding a spot to camp proved difficult, and eventually, to the surprise and great pleasure of the team, Daddy T put them up in the Hotel Europa in Albacete, where they showered, ate and rested peacefully. Having had their best night's sleep in a month, the team again travelled an overwhelming distance the following day, finishing in near Generve on the N322. It was he night before team member Tom's birthday, and they camped overlooking a huge valley, where they enjoyed hot stew, cold beer and red wine, and talked of great things, such as the life and death of stars, the apparent infinity of space-time, and the non-existence of negative numbers. It was surely a birthday eve he would never forget. The team continued on the next day, cycling hard and pushing the miles, as this was the last day that they would enjoy with no luggage on the back of their bikes. Tony helped them set up camp, and took them for a couple of beers on a farewell note. After he had gone the team stayed in the bar a while and celebrated Tom's birthday relaxedly, retiring eventually to ther campsite on the edge of the road.

Days 25 to 30

Day 25 and 26

The day after the team arrived in Arenys Del Mar, they trained it into the thriving metropolis of Barcelona, where they soaked up the sights, enjoyed some sandwiches at Bo Da B's, and enjoyed a thoroughly deserved night out on the town, where they met the Brasilian bandits Phillipi and Cleef, and spent the night with friendly Australians Matty and Leanne. Having got the night bus back to their campsite, the next day the team were forced to cycle through the city they had so much enjoyed the previous night. However, although cycling in presented no problems, the team had much to do in the city, and after finding an internet cafe and getting caught up in a gay parade, the sun was rapidly setting upon them. Navigating their way out of the city at dusk proved more difficult than anticipated, and it wasn't long before the team were drowning in the haze of an urban wilderness as night fell, and they had to leave the city via busy A roads. Although a somewhat distressing experience however, it was definitely a lesson and an adventure for the weary travellers, who eventually collapsed on a beach some 30km south of the city where they spent the night being worried about getting shouted at by an angry beach-combing-tractor-driving Spaniard. Tragically, due to his exhaustion, team member Tom misplaced the speedometer somewhere, and from here onwards, the team's awareness of time, speed and distance gradually began to slip away through their fingers, like the sand on which they slept.

Days 26 to 30

These days were not some of the team's best, as they were forced to cycle along the great N340 for more than 300km. This infamous road is an awsomely ugly artery of carbon monoxide that runs along the Costa Brava like a great hungry tapeworm. This road the team would quickly come to despise, as heavy goods vehicles and numberless cars, Hondas, Renaults and Saabs pushed past the team, filling their eyes and lungs with dirt and soot. This road of death controlled the team's lives for the near 200 miles that they spent on it, and the team gradually became lazy, as their lunch time stints on the sandy beaches increased, and their desire to cycle along la carretera del muerte ebbed away. The team did enjoy the lush Medditeranean water however, and camped on some wonderfully picturesque beaches.