Day 29, Santa Elena to Mazarron — 449km

Today nearly killed me, but it started out so fine. And it ended that way, too (I put this here for those of you on FB who are obviously not reading but commenting anyway).

After saying goodbye to my last companion for this trip, the very awesome Lynn Leitte, I set the TomTom to avoid “interstate” highways and take me to Guardix, somewhat south. Of course it took me through the same wonderful windy forest road from yesterday. Lovely. I was more awake and ready to enjoy it today. It was nice yesterday, but it was wonderful today.

Eventually, however, the landscape became arid. I would have sworn I was driving through the American west. The one from all the movies. There’s a reason for that. Many of them were filmed in the area I passed by today. There are several tourist parks where you can explore the film sets and enjoy a theme day. I may do one, but I didn’t do it today.

I passed a sign reading “Badlands de Espana” shortly before arriving in Guardix. I tried to stop for a photo, but it is sometimes difficult to find the right place to safely pull off the road.

Guardix and the villages surrounding it are FASCINATING. I wish I’d taken more pictures. The people in this area not only lived (past tense) in caves, they still live in caves. Apparently, it’s mostly the Romany in the area who live in the cave quarters. I didn’t press on this information, but I allowed an older woman who lives next to the viewpoint and interpretation center to herd me around and tell me where to eat. It was a run-down little cafe, but I was happy to eat and to support the neighborhood instead of one of the places down in the more normal town.

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I loved the overuse of the word “troglodyte” and also of the title “expert digger” in the relatively unexciting interpretation center. Dear troglodytes in my midst: I bought two postcards from the local woman. Two of you will be lucky recipients. I’m only sure about one of you so far. Of the others, I have to choose.

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After lunch, I drove all over the cave quarter (to the consternation of drowsing locals – Saturday afternoon) before heading out of town. I reset the TomTom to fastest route to the campsite I’d chosen.

And this is where it begins to all go wrong. The roads were lovely, but DRY.

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I had a nice conversation (sort of) with a local who has some bikes when I stopped for gas in the middle of nowhere. He thought my bike was making some strange noises. I reassured him that I have chain lube and would take care of it tonight. I haven’t yet, but I also got in much later than intended.

Things got even more dry. Even my jacket reeks now. (well, not anymore…)

I arrived at the campsite at the expected time: about 16:45. The street outside was being blocked out for a triathlon. The campsite was VERY very very very horrible-looking. A huge facility, with many lovely spots, but tents are relegated to the furthest corner from anything useful, with only pavement and no shade at all. At all. There were some children kicking a ball around the tent lot, which had no tents in it. The nearest toilets were nowhere nearby. I decided against it.

I spent a few moments trying to decide between the other ones in the area, which had sketchy reviews and which also showed no tents in the photos I could find. There was one about an hour and a half drive west (the wrong direction) which had looked good, and had good reviews from other bikers (tenters as well) in August, so they must have shade. I started towards them.

About ten minutes later I realized that was a dumb decision, as I had already seen that stretch and done most of the things I’d wanted to do in that area. So it would be, at best, a one night stay. There had to be another option in the right direction.

There are 3 campsites total where the horrible one was. I pulled in next at the other well-rated one. Their tent sites were also unshaded. Sigh. RVs have airconditioning and unlimited space for carrying extra shade. Why punish tenters?

I was thinking that the nudist campsite about an hour away would HAVE to have shade, and anyway, I like being naked, when I remembered passing a small one that had trees and an interesting coastline a few minutes before.

Win.

I had some trouble getting settled, but the Germans nearest me and the Dutch next to them came to my rescue (the ground, like most of these places, is hard and graveled, so you need a hammer and sometimes stronger stakes — most places either sell or lend them, but this one does not). I toiled for a while without help, but apparently looked so pathetic that they had to help me. The Germans are nice but don’t speak English or Spanish well, or rather, almost as bad as I speak German (some of you know just how bad that is). The Dutch people are from Bergen op Zoom and are super funny. We had a nice chat.

Then I went for a swim in the sea-water pool which is apparently naturally heated by geothermic vents (NICE!). I also did a load of very stinky laundry.

And then I walked along the rocky cliff-surrounded beach to the nearby town (about half an hour walk) to the first restaurant. I am quite happy. It is a welcoming place playing weird music, with mismatched comfy furniture, a pool table, and many other excellent features.

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When I’m done with my wine, I will put my headlamp on and walk the road back (instead of the rocky coastline), and I will sleep… sleep… sleep! In my shady place.

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