After the madness of Algeria, it was quite amazing to be in Spain. Walking from the ferry, where my host Carlos met me, I went past people hanging around outside even though it was already dark. There were young people drinking in public, and teenager guys hitting on teenage girls. All things that I’d normally take for normal, but definitely stood out after the Algerian experience. The other fantastic thing was the regular western toilet, rather than the Algerian one which I never photographed but is a squat toilet, a google for Turkish Toilet will provide more than enough.
The region of Andalusia, in southern Spain, where I’ll be riding gets its name from Al-Andalus – the original Arabic name for the region. The Arabic influence stretches much deeper than the name, and the whole area is full of Arabic architecture. The first example of that would be the Alcazaba (fortress) of Almería, where my host Carlos arranged a guided tour for me. He had asked me what I wanted to see in Almería and as the only thing I knew was that of the Moorish/Arabic influence that was what I mentioned. The tour was in Spanish, and it felt bizarre to be using the language again after an 18-month absence – especially given the Spanish accent.
The other thing about Almería is the tapas culture. Spain has it everywhere, but Almería seemed quite wonderful for it. The beers always came with a small plate of something small but delicious (not just a few olives or nuts). It’s a great way to get to know the local cuisine, and to try a great variety of different flavours because instead of just getting one thing per meal you get one per drink… so plenty. You can of course order an extra, by itself, but the price was not that far off the price of the beer which came with a free plate so why not drink more?
Instead of leave Almería straight away, I took the opportunity to visit the nearby Cabo de Gata Natural Park upon Carlos’ suggestion. He knew some people who had travelled along the whole coast of Spain, and according to them Cabo de Gata was the most beautiful part. The area around Almería is used for industrial-scale farming, mainly of tomatoes, and so the main ride out of town is a bit uninspiring, but then you get to small villages that were used for example in filming western films, such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as the whole area has that desert look. After that, you make it to the coast and it all goes lovely. Quite rocky, rather wild and a wonderful feel of isolation meant that wild camping that night, for the first time since Tunisia, was a doddle.