To Agua Amarga - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

March 21, 2024

To Agua Amarga

In the footsteps of the Grampies

We’ve been enjoying fine days ever since we returned to the mainland, but all that changes starting today.  Some intense weather is brewing in this corner of Andalucia, with severe weather events listed out nearly daily for the coming week.  At the moment they work in our favor as we look at a string of dry, very windy days with the winds blowing forcefully (20-25 mph, with gusts to 40) from the northeast.  As we’re travelling south, we can look forward to being blown up hills.  Good!  We can also look forward to stressful riding conditions as we navigate gnarly mountain roads with steep drop offs while we wrestle the wind for control of our bikes.  Not so good.

There’s more to be said about the weather down the road, but this will do for setting the stage for today’s ride down the coast to Agua Amarga.  Its terrain you’ll likely recognize, as it’s the identical stage The Grampies rode a month ago.  And it really is virtually identical, because we stayed in the same hotel here in Mojácar Playa, and their hotel in Agua Amarga is only two blocks from the apartment we’ve booked there.

The day begins with an excellent breakfast in our hotel, probably the most satisfying since we hit the mainland.  As we savor our excellent muesli, pastries, cheese, meats, eggs freshly scrambled to perfection and coffee we sit at a window side-table looking at a slate-hued sky and the sea frothing from the already intense winds.  Good thing it’s blowing our way today, or we might be sitting this one out!

A much different look this morning.
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It’s reasonably warm when we start biking south out of town - already 65F, more or less the temperature it will stay at all day - but with the wind it doesn’t feel like it.  The ride begins with three or four flat miles along the coast through the resort belt - easy cycling on a bike path most of the way, but not particularly interesting.  The interesting part comes when we leave the shore and resort developments behind and start climbing.  After a short climb followed by an equal descent to a small river, we face about three miles of a fairly steady uphill; but the wind is giving us such a kick in the rear that we hardly feel it.

This needs a video to show the palm fronds whipping around and to hear the roar of the wind and surf.
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Going up, with a helpful shove from behind. This must be what it feels like on an e-bike!
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Patrick O'HaraDon't you just love the rare times you are pushed up hill? It's strange to me how it seems to happen so rarely.
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2 months ago
The view ahead. Rachael’s still dropping to the river before beginning the longer ascent. I’m standing on a bridge high above the river. The side rails are only a foot or two high, so I’m standing in the middle of the road so as not to risk getting blown overboard.
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A colorful outcrop to admire on the other side of the river, as I begin the climb.
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A look back.
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A longer look back, as I near the top where Rachael’s waiting for me. The bridge down there is the one I took the earlier shot from.
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Still climbing, but not putting in much effort. with this wind, the 5-6% slope I’m on feels more like about 2.
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Looking down the seaward side from the summit, we’re immediately reminded of when we climbed it four years ago when we reversed this ride.  It’s a fantastic looking bit of spaghetti dropping steeply for the next two miles, but it’s even more striking viewed from below where you see how much of the road is elevated and cantilevered out away from the hillside.

It was an unnerving challenge then, climbing up on a windy day with nothing but air just feet to our right.  It was probably even harder on the nerves this time though with the wind even stronger, leaving us biking only about seven or eight miles an hour the whole way, with me leaving my left foot out of the pedal much of the way to catch myself against the pavement if I start to lose control.

A memorable, unnerving descent.
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It’s also a gorgeous one, but it loses something under today’s grey, greasy sky.
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Still dropping. I’ve been watching our elevation, willing us to finally reach the bottom.
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Video sound track: Drume Negrita, by Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban

Down at last, our next point of interest is a monstrous white ruin, the shell of some large complex missing all its windows, liberally tagged with graffiti, and with DEMOLICIO spelled out boldly across its top.  A perplexing scene, and I’m grateful to the Grampies for finding this article explains its story.  This is the remains of El Abarrobico, a mega-resort complex that was built in a prime location within Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park, one of the largest protected nature reserves in Western Europe.  Thanks largely to a relentless multi-year campaign by Greenpeace and others, the preservationists finally won out over the developers and their political friends and the property is destined for demolition.  

Good riddance!
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#175: Black wheatear, another lifer. I was sorry to come away with such a poor shot, but I’d better claim it. Who knows when I’ll see another.
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Maybe that great white blight will be gone from this pristine scene the next time we come by.
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Down from the top, the next four miles are a flat downwind blast to and through Carboneras.  At least we would be blasting through the town if it weren’t inexplicably a complete zoo with the seaside road and promenade jammed with slow-moving folks.  It really isn’t an inviting day to be out on the beach, so something big must be going on.

And once we reach the far outskirts of the town there’s another madhouse scene with long, long queues of stalled cars and emergency crews everywhere you look trying to control traffic.  We’re unnerved at first when it looks like we won’t be able to proceed on our planned route, because any detour would add many miles to our day.  First we’re told to stop, then to go over there, then over here, then wait again.  I ask one of the crew members what is going on, and he brings up a photo on his phone - it looks like there’s a large out of control fire at the nearby power plant.

Eventually, another woman going our way bikes past and just keeps going, and no one stops her; so we take our cue from her and start pedaling ourselves, not looking back.

Again, we’re so glad this fierce wind is our friend. For today, at least.
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Gregory GarceauYou should have brought your surfboards.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Gregory GarceauOh, shoot! I’ll bet that’s what that extra slot in the panniers is for.
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2 months ago
We’re in this place.
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In Carboneras.
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A madhouse scene.
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Dropping into Agua Amarga.
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Finally we climb the last hill before Agua Amarga, drop into it, and pull in to the first open restaurant we pass.  As luck would have it it’s a very upscale place, Michelin rated, and out of our league really.  But we don’t care.  We’re hungry and feel like we’ve earned a meal.

And then, right at three we head to the apartment we’ve booked for ourselves.  There’s a bit of a story here.  Typically there’s some sort of advance work with apartments to arrange a meetup or submit documentation in advance for self check-in or whatever.  In this case, we heard nothing until receiving a message this morning right before we left town asking when we’d be arriving.  I sent off a response, and then off and on fruitlessly checked the mail to see if there was anything further.

We arrived at the apartment address having heard nothing more.  The door doesn’t have anything identifying it as a lodging facility - no name, no number to call, nothing.  It’s just a locked door.  So we look up our booking reservation for a number to call, and see that we actually did receive a message not long earlier.  There’s a request for passport information, and a lockbox code is provided as well as a telephone number.  But there’s no lockbox; and when we call, there’s no answer.  We give it some time - ten or fifteen minutes - ten or fifteen bone-chilling minutes, because we’re standing on the street in a 25 mph wind - when I finally assert my occasional right to claim ‘the hell with this crap’ and give up on the place.  We’ll work it out with Booking later, but for now we bike two blocks to the nearest hotel, the Senderos, and buy ourselves a room for the next two nights.

Which is how we unexpectedly came to stay in the same hotel as the Grampies for the second night running.  And beyond that, from the looks of it we’re in the same room.

In room 2 at the Senderos Hotel, April 21, 2024.
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Same room, different bikes, about a month earlier.
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Today's ride: 20 miles (32 km)
Total: 338 miles (544 km)

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Gregory GarceauMany of the world's great cycling poets and philosophers (like me) agree: "It's easier to pedal uphill with a wind than downhill against a wind, but a sidewind will knock you down."
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2 months ago
Jacquie GaudetGlad you made it safely and on time. It's hilarious that you ended up in the same room as the Grampies! I expect it's the hotel's most bike-friendly space.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetPretty funny alright. What really surprised me though was to look back and see we’d stayed there four years ago: https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/iberia2019/mojacar-d79/#19367_wotib7fjh7iutv2tcc6c7dwr1wj. I didn’t recognize the place at all
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2 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Scott AndersonNow that is hilarious! Reminds me a bit of the time I used one of your routes in Andalucia and forgot to edit, so it took us to your very nice hotel instead of our budget booking.
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2 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Jacquie GaudetI remember that! Carmona, I think. We stayed in the ritzy Alcazar de la Reina for some reason.
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2 months ago
Scott FenwickWill be curious how yo make out with Booking. We have never had much success with them once they have your money.
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Scott FenwickOh, thanks for the reminder. I forgot to fools up and say how that went. I’ll include it in the next post.
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1 month ago