Almeria - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

November 28, 2019

Almeria

Happy Thanksgiving from Almeria!  Rachael and I have so much to be thankful for this year - for each other, for our health, for the opportunity and ability to keep doing what we love best for another year. 

And we’re thankful for Jeff and Kristen for providing this wonderful website where we can record and share our experiences.  

And we’re thankful to you for accompanying us on our journey and giving us feedback, encouraging us to continue on, helping us keep with the discipline of maintaining this journal so we’ll have it to look back on in future years. 

I can’t say we’re so thankful for the state of the world at the moment, which seems dreadful in so many different ways at once.  But for today we won’t dwell on that so much.

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It’s a bit odd waking up in Berja this morning, looking out our hotel window and seeing that the Christmas lights have been strung since yesterday.  The season is here!  Odd that it coincides with Thanksgiving, an American tradition.  We even saw signs announcing Black Friday in store windows yesterday.

There’s been a change since we arrived: the Christmas lights have been strung up over the square.
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A place we can recommend to you. Well located, friendly, bike friendly.
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We’ve gotten beyond spoiled in the last several days, ever since biking east from Málaga.  Today’s ride to Almeria is a splash of cold water, and brings us back to ground again.  The weather is once more totally awesome, but the ride is a bit wanting.  It’s technically not a challenging ride - a gradual four mile climb out of Berja, followed by a long, fast drop to the plain beneath the eastern end of the Sierra Nevada.  And half of it is quite dramatic - in particular the final few miles as we bike beneath the cliffs at the eastern end of the Sierra Nevada range as it plows into the sea.

It’s about that middle third though, with its fifteen miles of endless greenhouses.  It’s interesting, in an intellectual sort of way; and visually unique.  But we didn’t really need fifteen miles of it, to be honest.  And, it’s the company we keep - it was definitely better being all alone in the mountains with my best friend and a few ibex than spending the day in intimate proximity with racing motor vehicles.

So, we definitely recommend coming down here in the late season; but we don’t recommend today’s ride really at all.  Not all that bad really, but not up to standard.  If we’re lucky enough to pass this way again, the next time we’ll explore the interior route through the Alpujarra.

Prompted by a comment, I went back to read up a bit about these greenhouses, and found this article.  It’s true, this is the largest greenhouse complex in the world, and still growing - as we saw yesterday with the clearing for a new huge greenhouse on the outskirts of Berja.  This small region supplies half of the fresh fruits and vegetables for all of Western Europe.  Especially interesting, I thought, is that the reflectivity over such a vast area is actually cooling the region.  An answer to the horrors of global warming: we can all just wrap ourselves in plastic.

The information about the greenhouse workforce, primarily African migrants, is also interesting if depressing.  It squares with our observations - we saw many bicyclists riding through here, all apparently African migrants coming to or from work in the greenhouses.

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Leaving town we take a back road to avoid a few miles of highway and find the most colorful miles of the morning.
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We’re lucky it’s been dry. I suspect we’d have been turned back at the dip if there had been recent rains.
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An old mining facility, perhaps.
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Nearing the summit of the day’s only climb.
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Outside of Dalias we’re on a side road for a few miles avoiding the highway. Very quiet except for the buzz of saws cutting down a long line of plane trees. We’re lucky they let us bike underneath their equipment.
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Pablo Vunjon de Almeria
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Andrea BrownAnd his cabra montés azul, donde esta?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownSi, pero con ruedas.
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1 week ago
It’s a long, fast drop to El Ecido, and not as quiet as it looks here. Most of the time there’s steady traffic, enough to make you a bit anxious about building up too much speed.
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Entering the broad plain surrounding El Ejido, we stare across an endless ocean of plastic.
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Patrick O'HaraDid you find out what the crop is Scott?
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Patrick O'HaraOh, everything imaginable, I’m sure. See the narrative and link I just added. Thanks for prodding me to read up on this.
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1 week ago
Bruce LellmanIn China they cloche everything and the sun breaks the plastic down really quickly and it basically crumbles and becomes part of the soil. No way to pick it out. I took a good look at the soil and I'd say where I was looking it was composed of about 40% plastic. That's why I will never eat anything grown in China.
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1 week ago
Ron SuchanekThat is surreal.
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4 days ago
Surreal doesn’t begin to describe this.
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We’re pretty quick studies and grasp the concept here after a mile or so. We don’t need fifteen miles of it.
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Let’s get out of here. Rápido, rápido!
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In a brief break, we enjoy another bucolic picnic under the olive trees.
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Miles later we finally emerge from the World’s Largest Greenhouse and drop to the coast at Aguadulce. We enjoy a few peaceful miles along the beach before being pushed back up onto the highway again.
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Beyond Aguadulce the beach ends and we rejoin the highway. We’re rounding the eastern end of the Sierra Nevada range as it plunges under the sea. The views are wonderful along these cliffs and beyond to Almeria and Cabo de Gata.
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It’s awesome but more than a bit unnerving, pinched on this narrow road between the fast moving traffic and the drop to the sea far below. There are three scary tunnels too, but fortunately each has a side road around it.
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The roads around the tunnels give us brief periods to slow down and admire the dramatic setting. The farthest land visible is Cabo de Gata.
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Rachael dashes ahead, anxious to see if that place up in the sky with the dynamite view is for sale. She’s disappointed, but I remind her that we’d grow to hate the climb up there soon enough.
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Finally we leave the highway when we enter Almeria and find a bike path that we follow almost to our hotel door.
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Video sound track: Baia, by Laurindo Almeida, Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Charlie Byrd

Tonight’s Thanksgiving dinner feels really special.  No friends and family around us, but it’s an occasion we’ll remember.  We eat at Teteria Almedina, a lovely, small family-run Moroccan restaurant.  We enjoy everything about it - the atmosphere, the family, the food, the setting.  We’ve had Moroccan dishes before, but I think have never dined in a Moroccan restaurant.  It reminds us of a similar occasion in Munich many years ago when we dined at a small, family-run Afghan restaurant.

If we come back to Almeria some year and this place is still here, I’m sure we’ll return.  Over our meal we speculate on the idea of another winter in the region, with an interlude to ferry south and explore Morocco a bit.  Perhaps, if our luck and health keep holding up for a few more years.  Give thanks, and hope for the best.

For Thanksgiving dinner we ate at Teteria Almedina, a Moroccan restaurant.
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In Teteria Almedina
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In Teteria Almedina
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Peeking in on the kitchen at Teteria Almedina
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Finishing off the meal with tea and Moroccan cookies. Our server poured our tea from nearly two feet above the cups. I’d like to have had a video of it, and of her in her colorful wraps.
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We’ve hardly seen anything of the city, but this fountain reminds us that we should look around a bit in the morning. This is a replica of the fountain that originally stood in the cathedral plaza but has since been moved to the airport.
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Our hotel, just off frame to the left, stands next to the cathedral. The cathedral bells will peal out the hour all night long.
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Ride stats today: 35 miles, 1,500’; for the tour: 2,041 miles, 74,800’

Today's ride: 35 miles (56 km)
Total: 2,041 miles (3,285 km)

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Carolyn van HoeveWhat an eye opener the article about the greenhouses!
And thank you for the enrichment and inspiration your journal provides. It is worth the effort required in every respect.
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1 week ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveThanks so much, Carolyn. This made my morning. Andalucia is remarkable - it is so diverse. This corner is nothing like the rest of the province.
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1 week ago
Jen GrumbyStill catching up .. and just read the article about the greenhouses. Pretty creepy, especially with the image Bruce left of plastic disintegrating into the soil. And the work conditions!

Belated Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you both for the time and energy you put into the journal & videos. Always one of the highlights of my day!
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5 days ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyThanks so much, Jen. Followers like yourself make it easy to keep up the effort.
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5 days ago
Ron SuchanekThat was an Idaho stop back there. It's all on video.
Is your GoPro a 7? The image stabilization is incredible.
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4 days ago