Tag: sorbas

October Trip post 2

For my second ride of the week, and a non-car assisted one at that, I wanted to check out a road I had heard about and seen from above on a previous trip whilst walking! The closest mountain to my home in Sorbas is the Puerto de la Virgen. Usually tackled from Uleila del Campo and is a favourite of mine, and also many previous guests. However on a recent trip Lisa and I walked from the ‘puerto’ to the summit and the Ermita perched precariously on top. Taking in the stunning 360˚ views I couldn’t help but notice a narrow strip of tarmac snaking its way up towards us from the village of Benizalon in the next valley. I, of course, made a mental note to give it a bash at some stage before April 2015.

The Ermita de Virgen de la Cabeza atop the Sierra de las Filabres
The Ermita de Virgen de la Cabeza atop the Sierra de las Filabres

This meant that for my ride I had to head from Sorbas north to Uleila then, rather than scale the Puerto de la Virgen, head back south to the base of the climb up into the Sierra de las Filabres to the village of Benizalon. This climb has been missing from our itinerary since 2013 as we found the road surface had gotten too broken and rough (please remember that this in the context of Almeria roads!) However since our last visit in March 2013 the Diputacion de Almeria (local government) had been out with one of their fantastic road building teams and the result is yet another super smooth strip of new tarmac winding its way sinuously up the mountain side. The climb up to Benizalon is quite a tough one in itself, just under 8km from the junction to the summit – the first 2 km are flattish – then it ramps up from 659m to 1020m in 5km (7%). In the 26˚ midday October sun it was pretty tough going even with a silky smooth road under my wheels.
A quick downhill blast brought me into Benizalon, and I nipped into the always busy, Bar Leonora y Jaca for a coke. Even by their standards it was particularly busy today! Then navigating a maze of tiny streets I found the narrow road out of the village towards the Ermita Virgen de la Cabeza, a distant white precipice atop a towering peak looking out over the whole locale. The track, tarmacked beautifully of course, is primarily used for an annual Easter procession, on foot, from Benizalon to the Ermita, carrying a statue of the lady Virgen herself. It is however a great road for us cyclists, After giving up trying to work out where ahead of me it went next, I just carried on climbing, suddenly rounding a bend and finding myself crossing a ridge on the southern edge of the sierra, a sharp drop down to my right but with stunning views over Uleila and extending to Sorbas and even the coast in the heat-hazed distance. The road suddenly darted back round the northern side of the ridge and there was the white pinnacle, the Ermita, ahead once more. I was reminded of Ventoux and how the tower their seems so near and yet so far, seemingly moving with each bend in the road, disappearing from view then suddenly there like some mystical genie of the mountains! A series of hairpins followed and the gradient leapt into double-digit figures maxing out at 14% for a short while! Then under the literal nose of Ermita itself, about 1km from the summit, a travesty! The sudden end of the glorious smooth tarmac, replaced by loose shale-like gravel. Despite my best efforts it was virtually impossible to get any real traction on a road bike, certainly it would be ridiculously difficult to safely descend back down. So, slightly dejected, I turned and headed back down to Benizalon, skimming round the hairpins and then hurtled down the sensational, ribbon-like descent down the mountain, no cars passed me on the way up, I don’t think any came towards me on the way down. Then back to Uleila and home to Sorbas.
Such a shame that the tarmac ends preventing road bikes reaching the white Ermita itself, leaving the rider stranded almost within touching distance of what hundreds of Easter pilgrims reach on foot each spring! Still, like most climbs in Almeria, it is worth it all the same.

First Blog

As I am beginning blogging with a group of ‘non-writer’ boys in my Year 6 class at school next week I thought it might be good to practice what I preach. So here it is –

el blog de bici-almeria

I will be posting blogs about rides I have done with groups, rides I have recce’d, something I have discovered, heard or read, latest happenings in Almeria or whatever flits into my brain!

Not to serious but hopefully enough to engage a conversation or two.

Will start with a blog about a ride I did in the last week of the summer holidays, although it seems more than 2 weeks ago ….

… I’m going to call it Alto de Nijar & the Campo

As with most rides in Almeria in late summer it was scorching hot from about ten minutes after sunrise to well after sunset on Friday 6 September. As I love riding in heat I set off just after 10am – very soon I was riding into the warm hairdryer headwind along the N340 west to the turn for Lucainena. The first little rise up through the eucalyptus trees is perhaps one of my favourite stretches of road, nice and steady for about 1.5km knowing that you have a good long climb coming up whether it be south to Nijar or west towards Turillas and Colativi.

On this occasion I was heading through Lucainena, climbing parallel but up and away from the ancient railway track now a via verde cycle path. The road surface is of course immaculate as most in the area are, and after passing one of Europe’s largest solar farms,which looks almost reptilian as it clings to the hillside, I reach the summit of what I call Alto de Nijar, 635m after 23km. What follows is an exhillarating 15km plunge down to the pueblo of Nijar, great sweeping bends with magnificent vistas out towards the Cabo de Gata and the Med. On the way up I passed one cyclist and met one car, on the way down I had the road to myself, only sign of life was the occasional local harvesting almonds either by hand or using what look like mechanised upside-down umbrellas. I got up to 60kmh but have done well over 80 down here before – in the Clasica Almeria a few years back the pros were over 100kmh!Solar Farm @ Alto de Nijar

Deciding to make it a non stop ride on this occasion I skipped the temptation of tostado and coffee in Nijar and dropped down to the Campo with it’s vast expanses of plasticos, the ‘greenhouses’ that ensure us folk in northern europe are well supplied with tomatoes, peppers and such like in the middle of winter. I decided to see if there was a way of following a service road alongside the A92 motorway rather than heading towards the coast and Fernan Perez as normal when out this way. So after skirting Campohermoso I found the service road on the north of the motorway to be a perfectly fine piece of road to ride on and covered 20km in next to no time. Riding alongside a motorway is never the most exhillarating experience but when you have 1000m mountains to your left and a smaller sierra and the coast to your right it ain’t so bad after all.

Soon I was back on familiar roads, having stopped at a service station to top up depleted water bottles, the AL-140 gorgeous road up through a dried up gorge, I marvelled at the white elephant that is the partially completed high-speed railway between Murcia and Almeria. A remarkable feat of engineering, bridges, tunnels and cuttings galore, but with no apparent sign of completion any time soon. In fact they have recently put tarmac down, perhaps it will become a modern via verde!?! Going back under the motorway I began the double dip climb that makes up the last 10km back to Sorbas, past derelict old cortijos, entrance to marble quarries and more ubiquitous olive groves. Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned these already, they are everywhere!  A quick snake like descent into  Rios Aguas and back up the steep almost alpine switchbacks, complete with those concrete block barriers and then the final dash back into Sorbas. From the town it is just 3km back to my house, however as with all good rides there is a sting in this particular tail, a 18% sting, what I call the Muro de Sorbas …. that is another blog for another day.