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Day 8....... Villanueva del Arzobispo to Alcaraz... 88 km (total 645 km)

A day of two distinct halves, but we will get to that in a moment.

Last night as I rolled down into Villanueva it was the end of a long wet and cold day. It was bordering on dark and my hands and feet were frozen. Thus my sole focus was discovering where my hotel was. That’s my excuse for missing the prominent building that was on my left as I hit town and almost directly opposite my hotel. You can imagine my surprise then this morning when I stepped outside my hotel to realise that the building opposite was in fact a regional bull fighting ring.

Inaugurated on September 10, 1928 it was designed by the renowned architect Mr Angel Arbex. Of neo-mudejar design it showcases brick and horseshoe arches. There was a number to call if you wanted entry to the museum. So I chanced my luck. “2pm I open for you” came the answer to my query. “No thanks “ was my response. I had some kilometres to cycle.

For some reason these signs appeal to the simpleton that I am and I always smile when I see them. Nice of the Spanish road authorities to supply places where motorists can sit on the toilet and read the paper or a book. 

The terrain for the first half of the day was as it had been for the last 2 days. Olive grove after olive grove.

Mid morning just before I hit Arroyo del Ojanco I hit the longest straightest piece of bitumen to date. 3.6 km in length . The record has been set . 

Thankfully Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s , Aldi or Lidl haven’t made their mark here in provincial Spain. Yet. Shopping for food as it should be. 

Interestingly (or not) most small Spanish towns, if they’re going to have a night club, they place it in a building just on the perimeter of the town. Makes sense too I guess. Avoids all the noise pollution hassles that normally come with such establishments. As good as place as any for me to stop and sit in the morning sun enjoying my mid morning 25 km break. 

Just because it looked picturesque at the time. From the main highway I could see the old road and an older bridge it used to transverse. So I took a small detour. Something about the enduring nature of old bridges and structures that appeals to me. 

As I crossed the borderline from Jaén Province to Albacete there was almost an instantaneous change in topography and horticulture. After riding precisely 264 km and being surrounded by olive groves every inch of the way suddenly there were none! 

Proof if proof be needed. Not an olive grove to be seen. Now the soil was a very rich red almost pink like clay 

I rolled through some one horse towns that I swear could’ve been used as backdrop for a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western with tumbleweed rolling across the square. Noticeable were two things . One there was no one to be seen. Two, the towns were immaculately clean. 

So there am I riding along a desolate piece of road in the middle of nowhere and I spot this gentleman walking in the same direction as me but clearly thinking safety first and walking facing the traffic. Yes children, that’s how you do it . Anywaaaay... we are 10-15 km from the nearest town and as I pass I almost want to offer him a lift but I suffice with a wave of my hand , a “hola” , and shake of the head in bemusement . About 300 metres up the road I stop to take some photos of some bulls. 

As I am taking the bull photos up strolls the gentleman I had passed moments earlier. I cross over the road to try to understand (with my non existent pidgin Spanish) what exactly he is doing. Meet Antonio. He is 77 years old and doing a 30 km walk between towns. For no reason other than he can. Sitting at home in the afternoon watching “The Chaser” or repeats of “Neighbours ” is not for our man Antonio. To you sir I dedicate today’s ride. Respect. 

The aforementioned bulls!!!!!

And of course my town for the night just has to be at the very top of that hill to the right. Of course it does. Nothing like a 2km ride up a hill to finish the day. 

As I reflect on the past few days of riding I can safely say that the days ride into Granada and then out towards Jaén were the toughest I have ever endured on a bike. Coupled with yesterday’s climatic challenges (very cold wet and windy on a busy road) the three days were tough. As I cycled those kilometres in the back of mind I kept the perspective that I have chosen this challenge. However there are thousands of Nepali children who don’t have that choice . They don’t get to choose. They are simply given the challenge of surviving from day 1 . Survive or don’t. This is why the Nepal Youth Foundation is doing such good work and why I am riding 6,500 km for them. They, the Nepal Youth  Foundation, seek to empower the youth of Nepal to realise their potential in the hope that one day they can be given the ability to choose their future. 

P.s .

I picked up another 3 number plates today ! 

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