Day 15: San Jose to Almeria - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

February 21, 2024

Day 15: San Jose to Almeria

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San Jose really is a special place, with its uniform "sugar cube" architecture.  We find it really quite attractive.

San Jose
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We wound our way through the town, past the various still closed grocery stores, and out to the far side of town. Out there we noticed a sort of sugar cube contradiction - cubes standing alone, and not stacked, or perhaps, just stacked in groups of three.

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Lonely sugar cubes?
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We set off along the highway, retracing our route, until the point where we would turn west in the direction of Almeria. As you can see from the photo below, the road did not offer  shoulder, so it was the classic case of riding the white line.

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We soon came to a roundabout, and in that roundabout there was a bit of a shoulder, and some small room to pull off. We did that, mainly because we saw some sparrows in a tree. I was lying in wait, waiting for a very flitty sparrow to fly into my viewfinder, when a car stopped opposite us. The girl in the passenger's seat rolled down the window, and said a bunch of Spanish, which we understood none of. But somehow we learned that the driver spoke French, and he leaned over and said a bunch of stuff. He must have been from a French speaking part of Africa, and we understood little of his presentation.  But we got the idea that the whole thing was that he had been coming around the roundabout, and got the idea that we were in the way. He advised us to get on the sort of little bit of sidewalk. We looked at this, and saw that it ended in three feet, and after that it would be back to riding the line, beyond the roundabout. Then in an ironic touch, a caf came behind our driver and honked at him - for blocking the way, and he moved along.

I am reporting this incident at length here because it was rather upsetting, especially for so early in the day.  We were thinking, we have bicycle toured maybe 100,000 km. All this guy did was to buy a compact car. So where does he get off delivering a lecture on cycle road safety?  And if there is no shoulder or pull-off in an area, are we to go hide in the bushes indefinitely, or do we have a right to be there?

Our bruised psyches were helped then by the appearance (again) of the sign shown below:

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We also drew support from road cyclists, who typically take the lane, ride double, or generally let motorists watch out, and back off.

Road cyclist positioning, compared to the poor berated Dodie.
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Perusing the map of this area had turned up some interesting things. One was the presence of a giant area that was surely a Michelin proving ground.  You assume that such things exist, in some remote area, but it was rather special to actually be present in the remote area.

Needless to say, there was not admission to the Michelin area.
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The major thing that we had spotted on the map was the existence of a large lagoon, characterized as a "salinas", or salt water flat. We were almost certain that this would harbour many birds, and most likely the  gorgeous Flamingoes. We used cycle.travel and RWGPS to make sure that if we went to the salinas, there would be some reasonable (paved) way to quickly continue on our way the Almeria. It looked ok, so off we went, although no matter what, it would be a substantial detour.

The gamble about the birds proved a good one, and as soon as we got to the top (north) end of the lagoon we found a bird blind and an info poster about the various birds what could be found beyond. This was the poster:

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From the blind, there were indeed Flamingoes and other birds to be seen, but they were distant and backlit. Even so we took some shots, and would have been happy enough. But we continued then through a small town (good for some chocolate cookies at a Spar grocery) and down the west side of the lagoon, with the sea on our right. At the south end, we took a gamble and got onto a dirt track back up the east side of the lagoon. That's where we got closest to all the birds, that were covering the surface of the salt water.

At the entrance to the small town by the lagoon.
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Karen PoretThis mosaic and information is easier on the eye than the usual city/town names in very bright colors!
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1 month ago
This strange watch tower stood by the sea.
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And this church, between the lagoon and the sea. See the flamingoes and other birds in the lagoon!
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Flamingoes are so colourful and acrobatic. We are always on the lookout for them:

Greater Flamingo
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Scott AndersonAnd not just any old flamingo. This is a Greater flamingo, a different species from the American flamingos you saw in the Yucatán.
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1 month ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonTrue. We first saw Greater Flamingos at the City of Arts and Sciences in Valencia. Also Chilean Flamingos that day.
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1 month ago
Flamingo
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Flamingo
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ff

Flamingoes. We take the blackish one in the foreground to be a juvenile. It has already learned the yoga poses of its elders!
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They are a bit like ballet dancers.
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A colourful and artisitc Flamingo
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There were lots of them, all over!
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Despite the successful ploy of coming up the dirt track beside the lagoon, most of the birds remained quite distant. We have been studying on how to get some half decent shots with out existing travel camera in such cases (and consulting with Scott Anderson), and did manage to capture some of the birds that were out there. And, (oh joy) several were ones we had not yet spotted or photographed this year. Have a look:

Common Shelduck
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Common Shelducks
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Black Capped Avocet
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Black Winged Stilt
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Black Winged Stilt - such long legs!
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24146 Ringed Plover - Adult
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24147 Ringed Plover - juvenile
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24148 Mediterranean Gull - non breeding
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Mediterranean gulls - beaks are starting to turn red
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Here is the track that took us to the birds!
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Out useful track finally failed us, was we found that it had been appropriated by some farmer for use as a sheep yard. The sheep were using the area to dine on plant stalks, and also what we know here to be the staple - tomatoes.  Other sheep we have met are tired of them, but these sheep seemed to be quite enjoying themselves.

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We, however, did not enjoy being kicked to the outside of the track, and we had to push through a plowed field instead. We did make it fairly quickly to an actual road, and were on our way. By on our way, I do mean that we went down at first to the end of that town of Cabo da Gato, where EV 8 sets out to follow the beach toward Almeria. But this shows on the map as only a track, so we went back to the highway, where we knew we would be riding the white line, but at least it would be a paved white line!

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Out along the highway we noticed large numbers of those strange agave  "Century Plants", which we remembered also from Portugal. These plants are slightly over-hyped, because they bloom in 30-40 years, not 100!

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The landscape was covered with these.
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As we pedaled along, another touring cyclist came slowly up from behind, and passed us. At that time he said only one word: "Hi", and I expressed to Dodie that you can identify a person's native language, country, and maybe region from a single syllable.  I tagged this traveler as British.

Later, his partner a came along. They were both heavily loaded, for camping. When they later stopped for a bit, we pulled up and said hello. Uh huh, they were French, from near Lyon. So much for my detective abilities.We did not catch their whole plan - I think they are traveling for a year and a half. Right now they were going to Motril and would take a train to Granada. They assured us that the bikes can go by train, if it is the "medio" distance one. That is good news for us, who plan to train from Malaga to Cordoba, at least.

The "British" couple from France. To be fair, they have been recently cycling in Scotland.
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As we drew closer to Almeria, we were able to use the seaside path. One thing this featured was the type of palm trees that we know are favoured by the Monk Parakeets. You can easily hear them chattering as you pass, and unlike with many other birds that you hear, you can usually spot them as well.

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Monk Parakeet
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The seaside at Almeria
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Almeria immediately impressed us as a clean and open place, similar in ways to Valencia.  There are many plazas, usually with cafes, and a central core that is quite free of cars.

Our hotel, the Torreluz, is in a pleasant small square, though you can not quite see that from the photo:

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Dodie went in be the one this time to register, and she came out reporting that the hotel had collected 2 euros each for parking the bikes. She had given the clerk grief for that chintzy  policy. I remarked that  I expected the bikes then to have quite some luxury accommodation.  But I had to eat my words, because we were led down the street to what would otherwise have been a storefront, emblazoned with the name "Cycling Friendly". Inside there was a parking room, studded with ebike charge points, and another room with an extensive selection of tools. But the crowning touch was a bike "shower", with a nozzle offering reasonable pressure and reasonably warm water. Our bikes then had a nice shower for their two euros, and settled down  for the night in their private bedroom. Cool!

Cycling Friendly
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The bike shower
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Settling into our own, slightly less luxurious, accommodation, we sallied forth for a peek at downtown and especially the cathedral. Some gift shops along the way to the cathedral turned up some interesting items:

A clever tee shirt.
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Each figure has a different expression.
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marilyn swettSome of these look just like the live flamenco dancers we saw in Barcelona.
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1 month ago
Keychains featuring the good luck "Indalo". I ended up with a fridge magnet tile with the Indalo. Now I get to lug it all the way to Paris!
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A square by the cathedral
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The town has many pleasant spot like this.
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This Blackbird lived by the cathedral. We saw him as we went in, and as we came out.
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The cathedral did not have tall towers, but it did have Gothic design and quite high arches inside.  It featured, of course, a lot of gold and paintings and statues, and we rather enjoyed it,  surprisingly not having run into many churches here in Spain. It makes us wonder, given that they built a giant church in every little town in Yucatan that we visited.

A really good door.
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We think this, and the statues in the next shot are floats that will be brought at at Semana Santa.

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The cloister had a Spanish feel.
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This tree in the cloister must have been here a long time.
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Back on the street, we realized that we did not have the time or strength for much more exploring. But here looking up, we see a bit of the Moorish castle that we will have to visit next time.

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A peek into one of the many squares in the town.
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and into the square that houses the city hall.
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City Hall
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The way back to our hotel. It had been a brief but revealing visit. We like Almeria a lot!
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Today's ride: 68 km (42 miles)
Total: 662 km (411 miles)

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