To Málaga - Vuelta a Iberia - CycleBlaze

November 19, 2019

To Málaga

In planning this tour, we naturally gave considerable thought to the climate and time of year.  We’ll be here in southern Spain until mid-December, and it’s not reasonable to hope for warm, dry weather to hold out until the end.  This late into the season, anything can happen.  In our last visit to Andalucia we flew home from Granada in mid-November, and the last few days were getting to be uncomfortably cold.

The past week brought a marked shift in the weather.  It’s significantly colder, we’ve started seeing rain, and it looks like it’s going to steadily worsen - most days in the next two weeks look cold, windy and wet if the forecast is to be believed.  Time to make a change.

This morning we leave our hotel early, while it’s still dark, and bike over to the bus station again.  We’re leaving the interior and heading south to the coast, where it’s about fifteen degrees warmer.  We arrive at the station not long after the ticket agent’s window opens at 7:30, get tickets for Málaga (2 passengers and 2 bikes, for 44 euros), and head to the bar for coffee and tostadas until departure time.

The ride is completely uneventful - it’s easy to load the bikes, seats are comfortable, the ride is smooth.  Not like taking a train in Myanmar, for example.  We arrive in sunny, warm Málaga about three hours later, we’ll rested and ready for a day ride west of town while we wait for our apartment to become available.

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At the Córdoba bus station
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Andrea BrownI suppose they have free, clean, non-squat toilets here too, pfft.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownOh, we do have our hardships too. The free, clean public WC we patronized yesterday didn’t have TP. We’re not ones to whine though; we just deal with it.
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2 weeks ago
Bruce LellmanYou mean there weren't signs for the toilet pointing you in a direction and then they led you outside and off towards the forest and then there were no more signs? Talk about no TP. There was no T.
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2 weeks ago
I’m sure we passed past some stunning landscape (we know, since we’ve biked through here before), but I slept through most of it. I came to just in time for a shot of the formations surrounding Antiquera.
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There is some spectacular riding to the west of Málaga - El Chorro is only about thirty miles off to the north, and the mountains around Ronda start about thirty miles to the west.  Closer in its a bit less interesting though - flatter, agricultural, and more congested.  the ride I’ve picked for the day is a forty miler that heads west to the outskirts of Coin, skirting the northern slope of a small formation, and then doubling back along its south side.

First, let’s take some pressure off and see Rachael’s video for the ride:

Video sound track: the Game of Love, by Santana w/Michelle Branch

If you were paying any attention at all, you should have noticed a few things.  First, the endless miles of bare, empty fields are gone, replaced by a much richer and varied environment.  Towns, villages, cars, people, trees, mountains - we’re not in Cordoba any more.

And, you’ll have noticed the attractive, clean, well marked bike paths - the sort of thing we saw in Seville.  In fact, biking in Malaga feels quite similar to biking in Seville, as long as you stick to the established routes.  It’s quite bike friendly, and especially scooter friendly.  

In downtown Málaga, heading west.
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Continuing west, still within Málaga‘s street grid.
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We’re about five miles from downtown here, and about to lose our bike path. From here we’ll follow the Guadalhorce upriver to the right of that formation straight ahead the low one in the foreground); circle it counterclockwise, and double back to the east again.
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There are a few things the video doesn’t quite reveal though.  One, it’s much warmer and more comfortable down here - something you probably figured out anyway from the citrus groves.  Also though, the video is a bit misleading.  It cherry picks the best part of the ride and doesn’t show you the less pleasant miles after we left town and before reaching the hills.  In fact, Malaga is a bit like Seville here too, in that it’s bike friendly right up to the town limits, but then it’s not - at least along the road I chose, through Cartama.  The middle of the ride was great, but it’s not really a route I’d recommend.

Looking west across the Guadalhorce basin. The river passes through that gap and then bends north to Alora and eventually El Chorro. If we kept going straight through those mountains, in about 30 miles we’d be in Ronda.
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Quite a different look here than we were seeing just yesterday.
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The view straight north. I’m not sure, but I think that rounded giant in the distance is El Torcal.
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Another look northwest. I think the white splotch is Alora, a town we overnighted in last time; and the deep gap on the horizon is El Chorro.
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We’re about to round the bend. The town ahead is Alhaurin el Grande. We’ll climb up to its outskirts, cross over a low shoulder of the ridge to our left, and head back east again toward Málaga.
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On our way east again, and looking north. The low, nearest ridge is the one we just circled.
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I’m pretty sure now. That must be El Torcal, the massive formation southwest of Antequera.
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These miles east from Alhaurin el Grande were the best part of the ride, by far. If we did this again, I’d make it an out and back along the southern half of the loop.
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Nearing Alhaurin el Torre, and the end of the good riding. We’ll be back in the suburban grid in a few miles.
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We check in at our apartment at 5, and settle in for a lengthy stay.  We’re booked for four nights here in Málaga, which looks perfect.  Rain is forecast for each of the next three days, after which things are forecast to settle down.  With luck we’ll experience dry, warm conditions and a persistent tailwind as we follow the coast east toward Valencia.

We’ve got some time on our hands here, so we’re under no pressure to do anything tonight but find a meal.  There’s an Italian pizza & pasta place a few blocks away, so we take a chance on that.  It’s a casual place, mostly a take-out joint really, but we enjoy our meal and our brief chat with the owner, a Sicilian.  One wall of his restaurant is covered by a huge blowup of the amphitheater in Taormina, with Mount Etna in the background.  I recognize it and ask him about it, and he glows - Taormina is his childhood home, and seemingly his favorite place on earth. 

Four nights here, and three off of the bikes!  Break time!

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Ride stats today: 43 miles, 1,500’; for the tour: 1,814 miles, 58,500’

Today's ride: 43 miles (69 km)
Total: 1,814 miles (2,919 km)

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Carolyn van HoeveYay, glad you easily loaded your bikes on the bus!
We were in Malaga at the beginning of December last year (a trip over from Dublin where my husband was doing some work). The weather was warm then too. Don't miss those roasted almonds you'll see everywhere. I salivate at the thought of them.
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2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Carolyn van HoeveI’m surprised to hear you had to wrap your bikes for a bus ride. Where were you traveling from and to? We’re considering taking the bus from Murcia to Valencia at the end of our tour, and hadn’t thought about needing to wrap them.
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2 weeks ago
Carolyn van HoeveIt was from Seville to Granada and it was quite a busy time - the bus was fully booked. Our bikes were a lot bigger too. I should imagine it wouldn't be so much of a problem this late in the season and given you didn't have a problem on this bus trip? It was an ALSA bus and perhaps they are stricter. We bought some cheap bike covers on Amazon.
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2 weeks ago