Overnight Bicycle Tour

Over this past winter I imagined an overnight bike tour in Andalucia — my destination the Caminito del Rey. The Caminito del Rey (the Kings little path) is an elevated walking path through a gorge near Ardales in Málaga province. It was built as a service path for workers on a nearby hydroelectric plant. I booked a night at a hotel overlooking the reservoir and started planning my route. 

I left home at about 9:00am to give myself as much time as possible to complete the route for the day. I left town on a two-lane highway and within a few kilometers was out in the campo following the directions to turn every kilometer or so on to increasingly smaller (and more beautiful) rough roads.

The Google map that I was following led me astray a couple of times. Once I’d followed directions right down a private road where my path ended at a tall, locked gate. Later, I was Instructed to cross an olive field. Luckily I was able to reroute on the fly and find my way onward. At another point, I had to carry my loaded bike up and over a dirt embankment to get onto the road from a path that had ended unceremoniously.

Andalucía is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscapes. And I had set off to have a great experience, to I stop a lot, look around and take photos. I even brought a camp chair along so I could sit down and peacefully appreciate the landscape over my lunch stop. Even though the up-hill portions were often steep enough I had to get off and push, the roads and paths that I was able to experience lived up to and beyond my expectations.

In the distance beyond the reservoir is the south entrance to the trail system of the Caminito. The elevated walkway winds through the gorge between mountains. I don’t love heights, so I didn’t take that hike.

The first day was about 50 kilometers. I wound around in a wide arc to the east, and then north up to my hotel. By the time I checked in, I was exhausted. The ride was longer by about 5 kilometers than I had originally anticipated, and with all of the hills/mountains it was slow going. The over-all riding time was about four and a half hours, but because of my stops… well, it was longer than that. 

The second day I rode about 30 kilometers. It was a much more direct route, and as Google Maps warned, there was indeed a “very steep hill.” In fact, from the town of Ardales south, my route put me on a very busy “A” road along with many large trucks. That was the hardest section of the entire ride. The main highway stretch was a consistent 7-10 percent grade for about 3 kilometers. General tiredness, loaded bicycle, a stiff headwind, and the side wind generated by big trucks passing made it too difficult to actually ride, so I pushed my bike up that huge stretch.

But that hard uphill led to one of the very best roads of the trip. When I came off the highway I was routed onto a gravel road that traced the top ridge. It was the perfect example of what I think of when I imagine cycling gravel roads in the mountains. A forest of conifer trees shaded the road from the heat of the day and gaps in the trees opened into spectacular views. I didn’t stop for photos nearly as much the second day, however.

The final kilometers of my ride took me into the town of Cassarobonela where I paused to get a self portrait in this traffic mirror.

Every adventure, large or small, has challenges. I had to end the cycling portion of my trip about 10 kilometers early. During the last long uphill march, the tendons behind my right knee started to hurt badly. By the time I stopped, I could barely walk. A friend I called graciously picked me up. It’s exciting to know there is so much more to discover.