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I was incredibly warmly welcomed in Algeciras, and Jorge and his intercambio friends made me feel so welcome. The parcel was posted on the 4th, and got to Heathrow by 5am on the 5th where it was handed to the overseas department. That was where the tracking ended (and while I write this on the 1st of May it still has no more information). According to the Royal Mail it should have arrived in 4 days, so I had hoped that it would have been there when I arrived on the Sunday, but if not then, then certainly within a couple of days. By the Thursday I had lost patience, even though Jorge and his roommates had a seemingly infinite amount for me and my package. The reason the parcel was so important, was that it contained a replacement rail for my saddle, which had failed. I had been riding for a few days without a saddle, but standing up all day gets a little tiring and alternate saddles are just not comfortable (several people offered me one, so kind) as my bum is spoilt after the amazing comfort of a Manta. There were a number of other useful things inside, including a replacement Click-Stand, but the saddle rails were definitely the most important.

Staying with university students meant a fair number of parties, and so it was on the Thursday night. We got back a little late, and so it was on Friday that I was pretty tired when cycling away. In the first 20km I had two naps, the second of which I woke up to find 3 Belgians next to me. Stephen, Heidi and their daughter whose name escapes me right now were on their own trip, and had just come from Morocco. After I came around from my nap, we nattered about travelling in Morocco for a fair while and I gave them some advice for Spain. With no strong plan for the day, and as we were heading in the same direction, I happily took them up on their offer to ride together and so the nattering continued. Apparently they normally are not so talkative as they ride, understandably so, and their daughter made a comment about it to them. Their daughter was quite happily singing along while we rode, her favourite song being Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and was delighted when I joined in on the few English ones that I knew. My knowledge of Belgian kids’ music not being great.

The ride stopped when their daughter started making comments about being tired of sitting in her seat, and wanting to run around more, so we quickly found a great place to camp next to a bike path into the hills. We set the tents up, and Stephen & Heidi shared their pasta with me, although I didn’t eat much as during Spain I was going low-carb. It works so well there thanks to the joys of Aldi & Lidl, but I have little faith it’ll be sustainable in Africa. Their daughter was excited to see a new tent, and wanted a tour of mine. It didn’t take long, but she then sat in it and spent the next 20-30 minutes showing me all the photos she takes on her own little camera. Apparently she routinely tells her parents how wonderfully pretty the car parks they are in are, so you can imagine that not all the pictures were traditionally beautiful!

We rode together until the first town, about 15km in, as my route took me north to Jerez (where I had a Warmshowers host lined up) while theirs was towards Ronda… although over a coffee they weren’t sure about that considering the forecast was rain for the next few days. Mountains are beautiful, but if you can only see clouds and have to find places to camp they lose their beauty after a while. I can only imagine that is amplified with a kid.

I got to Jerez, and met up with Indy (Diego) & Ana, my hosts for the night. They were super lovely to talk with, and offered me a saddle when they saw that I didn’t have one. I assured them that it wasn’t that far back to Algeciras, and I was doing short enough days that it wasn’t necessary. They’ll be really busy for the next couple of months as in July they’ll set off on a trip for a few months in northern Spain and are getting ahead on their work to let them travel – the joys of a job that lets you be location independent.

The next day, it was to the capital of the area, Cadiz. Cadiz has 3 roads that get to it, 2 being bridges and another a motorway. Bicycles aren’t allowed on the bridge and so I was basically forced to take a boat across the bay. The main square is beautiful, but there was something about the city that didn’t rub me the right way for some reason and I didn’t stay too much time as that evening I’d be staying with Chuss, on Warmshowers.

Chuss is a very positive lady. She works as a translator between Spanish and English, but her main passion is birds and so after getting up super-early to work, she had time to drive me around the area, including to see the local wildlife which she is involved in the conservation of. I know pretty much nothing about birds, but her passion rubbed off and I heard the name of plenty of birds. At first she asked me the name of the birds in English, but then resorted to the app when she realised my knowledge of identifying birds is pretty much limited to pigeons, seagulls and robins.

As well as the nature, she showed me the town of Vejer, another Pueblo Blanco. There is a statue of the Cobijada, a woman in the traditional dress of the area. It has a definite Islamic look, but the statue is because during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s the women used the robe to hide weapons used to defend their town. Nowadays it’s only really worn during festivals, although apparently some of the older generation still use it as a regular item of clothing.

From Chuss’ place it was south along the quite lovely coastline, including going past the Cape of Trafalgar (not much to see, just a lighthouse). The area is much less-developed than for example the coast around Malaga. There are two principle reasons. The area has a fair military presence, which means that there is limited space for construction to take place. On top of that, the weather isn’t quite as favourable as the Costa del Sol with some pretty constant winds making tourists less happy with the whole hanging out on a beach thing (fear of sandstorms?).

I didn’t have a plan for the end of the day, but arrived in a small town just before I was going to camp. I stopped to ask for water at a restaurant, and when I got back to the bike was asked about my lack of saddle by 2 Dutch guys in their 40s. They were on their own bike tour, but theirs was motorised. I answered their questions for north of 30 minutes before they asked me if I wanted to sit down and offered me a coffee. I of took them up, and we nattered until almost 11pm. Other people might have invited me to stay, but their Dutchness and my stories (showing myself to be overly competent) meant that they didn’t and so it was rather dark when I rode up the hill out of town.

At the top of the hill I found a side road, and a small shelter which I decided I’d sleep under. It wasn’t going to rain, so I just slept straight on my sleeping mat. It made for some good stargazing, for the few minutes until I passed out, and then in the morning it wasn’t far back to Algeciras where my parcel finally arrived a day later! Of course during the delay there was another parcel sent out, and that was slightly delayed too.

Never use Correos. Wait until you’re not in Spain to post anything.

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