Day 9: Torrevieja to Cartagena - Grampies Go Valencia to Paris: Spring 2024 - CycleBlaze

February 15, 2024

Day 9: Torrevieja to Cartagena

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As is the case with every town where we have never been before, when we arrive in the evening and when we leave in the morning I am actively trying to get a sense of what the place is about. At times it's like the blind men and the elephant, as we see some small parts and try to represent the place with a few photos. Even if such photos are not not accurate or fair to the place, they are at least a representation of exactly what we saw, which after all is the object of the exercise.

Within the town, Torre Vieja was not at all stunning. The photo below is quit representative of what we saw while trying to leave.

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But we headed down by the water, and picked up some more attractive shots.

Torre Vieja near the water.
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More waterfront housing.
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These are quite nice.
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A Little Egret
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Back through town, and again, not so attractive.
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However we did find these completely wild chickens! 24135 Domestic Chickens
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Spanish Sparrow
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As usual, we set off following the Google track we brought from home, and sure enough it quickly ran us into the sand.

Into the sand!
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Karen PoretYou can see the look on Dodie’s face “NOT again”!!
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2 months ago

We turned around and tried another tack. But here we were barricaded by some sandy construction. We could see that fencing would stop us from bushwacking through this way.

Stymied here.
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But wait, that's a real road over there. Let's try it!
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These moves earned us the right to cycle through roadway surrounded by commercial development.  It's the N332, of course.  Note JYSK, which also operates in Canada, and Consum, a local grocery chain.

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In the distance, though, there were still oranges, presenting a pleasing wall of colour, and sparrows on a fence.

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24136 Rock Sparrow
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Making progress at this stage was a matter of piecing together bits of cycle path. They existed and were nice, but somehow after a few blocks they petered out, or at least became not obvious. Then we would scout around and carry on.

Stick on that piece of path while you have it
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Over to the side, some interesting houses.
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But cycling still looked like this.
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With some distracting sights like this (the plant, not the beer garden!).
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Bill ShaneyfeltI thought it was a cactus, but it is not! Looks like African milk weed.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/322318-Euphorbia-trigona
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Sue PriceHa! I thought to myself, "looks like a cactus, but I bet Bill Shaneyfelt will have it figured out" and sure enough!!!
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2 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Sue PriceWe thought it was a cactus also. Glad that Bill is on the job or we would never really know what is what.
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The authorities do think 332 is a good route.
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We decided 332 was in fact humbug, and we headed for some other cycle ways that could be seen on the GPS. This ran us first by an orchard in bloom. At this stage it would take a lot to identify the type of trees.

It is Spring in this orchard.
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The bike paths that had shown up on the GPS turned out to be small network ("Red" means network) closer to the water:

The people who put up the sign thought their cycle paths were a big deal. Though fun, they amounted to only a blip on our track for the day.
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We would follow Route 3.
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We did like finding the Route 3 signs. Numbered and signed routes are not common here.
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On Route Three we crossed a canal, that had some fun to see birds.

Gray Heron
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A pair of Mallards
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Mallard male
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There were also a lot of cats along Route Three. This one looked exactly like a cat we once had, whose name was Maggie.

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Karen PoretOr Bingley..
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The scene along Route Three:

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Karen PoretInteresting ( to me) the trees are in the street and not in the sidewalk. They are too tall to have been added after the sidewalk was laid, or were they?
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Karen PoretSidewalk looks too narrow for trees, but someone decided they still wanted trees, and used the roadway, I'd say. Good spotting!
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By the water we cycled under some palms, and made out the characteristic chatter of parakeets. We were looking up at these when two girls happened along. Dodie explained about the parakeets. The girls turned out to be Paula and Claudia, two nursing students from Cartagena, here for a day off. Claudia lives nearby. The girls were very animated and interested in where we come from and where we are going. It was fun and entertaining to be able to chat with them.

Monk Parakeet
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Bill ShaneyfeltCute invaders!
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Paula and Claudia
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We returned soon enough to 332, and it was not without things to entertain us.  Purple cauliflower, for example, and artichokes doing well, plus a bird new to us - the Serin.

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Bill ShaneyfeltPurple cauliflower... Interesting!
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Bill ShaneyfeltWe have grown this in our garden. It turns green when cooked.
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24137 European Serin
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Nearing the airport, there we very extensive  orchards of lemon, some of which were being harvested as we passed.

Lemon harvest
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A Cattle Egret by the airport.
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We also noted these large purple bushes and stopped to check them out. Yes indeed, wild Rosemary.

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Bill ShaneyfeltI can almost smell it! Makes me miss AZ.
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Rosemary
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Dodie especially is always looking up, and in this case spotted a Starling, perversely the Spotless variety!

Spotless Starling
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We thought this was "amusing", the way authorities assume they can start and stop bikeways in the middle of nowhere. After hitting "STOP", are we supposed to float away?
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We left 232 and brushed down by the water, running into something rather special. It was the northern terminus of a 6,000 km migration route of the Montagu's Harrier. It comes from Africa to breed here. The poster mentions this area as the territory of other Harriers  (Aguiluchos) as well.

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This Western Marsh Harrier, like other Harriers, deposits its eggs directly on the ground.
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Further along this road by the water, we heard the characteristic croaking of Flamingos. They were quite distant across the salt marsh, but we did manage to see them:

Greater Flamingo
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Another Spotless Starling
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Bill ShaneyfeltOf course the bird should get top billing, but the chinaberry tree deserves a mention.

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/53720-Melia-azedarach/browse_photos?place_id=6774
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This road was part of EV 8, and we appreciated the signage warning motorists that cyclists would be around.

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The shoulder is narrow, but the cycling is no problem.
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We came upon a large field of broccoli, and when I noticed they were ready to eat, Dodie had to restrain me from giving some a try. It was a good thing, because here was a crew doing harvesting, and  they could object to having their veggies pilfered! Dodie mentioned that this harvesting, all being done by hand, would be back breaking work and indeed the photo shows that to be true.

Yummy
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Hand harvesting of broccoli, looks tiring.
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Here is a field already harvested, and a tractor fitted out to receive more produce.
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To this point in the day we had been cruising along, having our usual style of fun. But things were about to become lots more exciting, not to mention stressful.  We had been climbing, but not thinking much about it, until we came to a point where we could look down to the sea and to the road descending, and we realized we were really high up. The road then began to descend, and it was a dramatic thing.

We were just calmly cycling along...
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When we realized we were high above a bay
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And the road was about to descend like this
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It turned out we had arrived at Portman, a very famous town where lead and silver and who knows what else have been extracted since Roman times. The bay made a good harbour, and mining was very active here until well into the 20th century. We could see chimneys and remains of mining buildings, plus a land with many colours of minerals.  Reading later, we learned that this was the site of a very great act of ecological crime, in which huge amounts of mining waste had been consistently dumped into the bay, covering the bottom in places with up to 150 meters of toxic material.

Some mine buildings near town.
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The town of Portman
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Something I noticed, was soil that was bright purple. I tried to get a photo showing this, but the shots do not show the colour properly. I suggested to Dodie that we pick up a souvenir piece of it, but I changed my mind, saying it could be Purple Kryptonite. Dodie pointed out that Purple Kryptonite does not exist, shattering my fantasy. Fortunately she did not pass any comments on Green Kryptonite, or on the deadly Gold variety! But seriously, when you read the list of toxic chemicals in this area, it seems anything is possible!

Even without colour correction, it is clear there are all sorts of minerals in this soil.
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On the other side of Portman, there was a steep climb, matching the descent we had made into the town. Beyond that were some further descents. It would be easy to go too fast here, and we had to take care.

One thing was, we were even in this area because of swinging out beside the interesting Mar Menor lagoon, rather than making a bee line for Cartagena.  That was fine, but we had had no advance knowledge of the steep ascents and descents around Portman. Just on distance we had pushed our bikes to the 85 km range, and now we had asked them to help with the steep hills. The battery indicators were beginning to scrape bottom.

The descent is quite steep.
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Strange mining ruins.
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We are still descending, as slowly as possible.
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What is all this?
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Looking down into valleys near Cartagena.
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Photogenic new crops.
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At one point we noticed a flock of birds, behaving rather strangely. It turned out to be painted racing pigeons.  You can make out some red wings in the photo. We are glad we now know something about this, else it would have just been crazy circling birds.

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Scott AndersonThat’s really strange. I wonder if it’s a trick of the light somehow. They look like pigeons or maybe parrots, but I can’t find any red-winged like this.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Scott AndersonThey are a flock of Painted Racing Pigeons. Google it, the whole sport is fascinating.
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Scott AndersonTo Steve Miller/GrampiesOh, that’s right. Of course. And yes, that is fascinating.
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Distances  were now becoming of urgent interest, and we were glad to see that Cartagena was near. This time we had booked not a hotel in the old core, but something out on the highway. It was not entirely clear how to get there with the bikes, because of the big roads around. In one roundabout there were some police (Guardia Civil) hanging out, and we stopped to show them the GPS and ask for a safe way to reach the hotel. To be fair, they thought about it, but had no real idea. Finally, with the GPS quite zoomed in, Dodie found a little road that took us to an overpass that took us to the place. 

We were gratified on arriving at "Posadas  de Espana"  and having rolled our bikes in, and up to reception, to have the desk clerk just coolly say we could stash the bikes in this locked room over here.  I also have a big desk in the room with a convenient power plug for writing this blog entry, and there is a bath tub. After 85 km and that giant up down up down road profile at  Portman, the bath tub is where I am heading!

7 kms could be an issue!
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That's our hotel, if we can get there!
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Today's ride: 82 km (51 miles)
Total: 385 km (239 miles)

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