Today was in stark contrast to yesterday and culminated in me rolling into the Catalan township of L’Ampollo.
Stark contrast in terms of traffic conditions . If the roads out of Valencia and to the north were ideal for cycling then those north of Oropesa were most definitely not.
It all started well with a cycle through the small townships north of Oropesa. Km upon km of closed up summer vacation apartments and empty streets with grand round about sculptures.
These aren’t public housing blocks but rather thousands of empty vacation apartments waiting for the seasonal crowds from May to October. Every single apartment looked shuttered and the streets were eerily void of people. It was like riding through a ghost town.
I have ridden through quite a number of impressive roundabout sculptures but this one wins the prize for being the most grand. Its size and presence all the more obvious because of the deserted community around it.
If the sweet aromatic fragrance of blossoming orange trees wasn’t enough of a reminder that I was still in “orange” country then every cafe’s road side stall reinforced the message.
As I rode through the small orchards with the omnipresent aroma of pungent manure permeating the air, I was passed by the occasional heavy truck. Very soon I came across a lady standing roadside dressed as though she was about to go out for the night . Sitting on a small wall she was adorned in her best set of clothes and was a reading a book. A kilometre later I came across another lady who was wearing heels to kill and tight white jeans. A kilometre later much the same again. Then I came across a young gentleman dressed ready for night clubbing . Now these were either over dressed orchard workers or working for another reason. All of this at 11.30 am on a bright cloudless springs day. Bizzarre doesn’t begin to cover it. Got to make a living I guess .
One of the more novel seaside restaurant structures I’ve come across
It was at Torreblanca that I got spat out onto the N-340. There was no other way to go north other than through a national park that ran down to the coast and as far as I could tell had no path through it fit for a bike. So circumventing it on a major road was the only option. In the space of 10 km 714 trucks roared past me. That’s not a typo. 714. All that seperated me from them was a hard shoulder of about 4ft in width. I have never cycled so close to a guard barrier for so long. That hard shoulder disappeared for about 2 km when an uphill section arrived and the road authorities decided to make two lanes going up the hill and do away with a safety shoulder. Essentially I rode on the white ripple strip for those 2,000 metres . To say I didn’t enjoy the N-340 would be an understatement and tonight I am trying to figure out how to avoid it tomorrow.
At Benicàrlo I managed to duck into some smaller roads and managed to enjoy another picnic lunch seaside before being thrown back into the N-340
This gives you both an idea of the scenery (Cemex works in the background) and the proximity of the trucks to my 4 ft of “safety”. That being that little lane running alongside where the truck is passing by. This guy actually has his wheels marginally on the hard shoulder. You can see why I was hugging the guard rail where possible. Bizarrely a major motorway, the A7 runs adjacent to the N-340 for almost its entire length and yet the minor road (N-340) seems ridiculously busy. I can only guess that like their Italian colleagues the truck drivers of Spain have an aversion to paying for tolls.
Next time you think work is tedious spare a thought for this guy. In his right hand he holds a rod that spreads out over three “gullies” of planted seeds. With his left hand he is continuously pumping a lever in order for a fine spray of pesticide to shower the seeds via the rod. He makes his way up one row ..
Then when he gets to the end , moves two rows to his right and turns around and walks back down the length of the field. Repeating the same manoeuvre. The length of the field being approximately 150 metres . Width 75 metres . Up and down , up and down , pump - spray , pump- spray , pump- spray .....
Like nearly every orchard and vegetable paddock I have ridden past the labourer is an immigrant .
Oversized bonsai trees?
You pass plenty of irrigation channels in this part of the world. I waterskiied one of these once....
Don’t believe me ?
Check out this... circa 1989. That would be me being towed by my then girlfriends brother who was driving his farmers ute (flat tray complete with barking cattle dog atop) down the side of an irrigation channel in far western New South Wales. About 500 km inland from Sydney .