Paul Kimmage’s book Rough Ride has a disturbingly detailed description of a rider who decides to race a stage of the Tour de France with a stomach upset. With this image burnt into my brain I decided to spend the day in bed with a soaring temperature.
The 75 miles from Cordoba to Jaen had been a dream. Flat, traffic-free, even enjoyable. Something had to happen? Oh yes, the road stopped. A quick back-track led me to what I presumed was some sort of water processing plant. The security was tight and I was not greeted with a smile as I rolled up to the main security checkpoint with my fully loaded bike. After a tirade of Spanish words I discovered that the reason I was not welcome is that this was a high security prison. Whoops.
I pulled out my map and was shown how to get to Cordoba via Alcolea which avoided the motorway and the agricultural road I had been following which led to a dead end. By now it was dark and even with my new police-enforced hi-viz jacket and front and rear lights I didn’t feel particularly safe. No matter. I rolled into Cordoba with my disgustingly high temperature and dicky tummy and after being called ‘loco’ and even ‘crazy loco’ by a couple of drivers on the main route to the city centre I found a bed and slept. And the next day I slept.
Finally with the temperature gone and the stomach problem stable I rolled away towards Almodovar del Rio and then the next day to Carmona. For once I was not hungry on my bike. Whilst there are still no shops at regular intervals to stock up on rations, there are orange trees everywhere. Delicate, succulent oranges bursting with juice and flavour line the streets and the roadsides. In England you might be lucky to find a few blackberries, here you are cycling through Mr Del Monte’s back garden.
There are things you miss on the road: home cooked food, shower gel that doesn’t come in little sachets and sometimes, British weather. Today I have had a real taste of nostalgia with torrential rain all night. I am 138 miles from Africa and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) website makes grim reading. This plan to cycle to Cape Town might end up being a cycle to wherever is safe, as, unfortunately, if the FCO says a country is unsafe, my insurance company will not insure me. Some hardened travellers tell me insurance is a waste of time, real travellers travel anywhere, the FCO exaggerates. Whilst this may be true reports of a French tourist being executed recently and the realisation that it would be my family who would have to find the cash to fly me home if something happened and my insurance company refused to pay out means that for once, I have to be sensible; Like my new hair.
There are only so many times a man can play with his hair and tease it into a pony tail before he realises something needs to be done to remedy the situation. So on spotting a little hairdressers I proceeded to explain to the campest Spanish man I had ever seen that I wanted a haircut that was his length, but without the highlights. I now have a short-for-sport haircut which can be easily washed, managed and does not require styling or tucking under my helmet to keep it out of my eyes. Like a real man’s hair should look.
Tomorrow the torrential rain will have stopped according to the Spanish weather man so I will head south again. I’m looking forward to more oranges, more miles and more adventures.
Pictured is my Qoroz Moutain Won with the policeman who made me buy a hi-viz jacket!