I began the journey towards my destination in Gibraltar. It felt incredibly early, after the days spent in Barcelona, but I would like to get going while there was still a bit of coolness in the air, and the traffic wasn’t really awake yet. It had been a couple of exciting days in Europe’s possibly most interesting metropolis, and I would have liked to spend a week more there.
The roads were calling and there were new destinations to reach, and this time it was Gibraltar. I knew it was a bit optimistic, since there are about 1,000 km down to there, and I had more or less decided on an overnight stop, somewhere along the way. The sun was baking more and more, even before I got out of town, so I took the coast road N340 and N332 further south, which I had decided to ride the whole way.
It’s not the fastest route, but you get the greatest impression as you ride along the coast, and pretty much have to go through all small and major cities along the road. As the sun came up and got stronger, the usual morning mist burned off, and from around 10 o’clock, the sun was again baking down until sunset, around 11 o’clock in the evening.
This puts you in a dilemma as to which clothes to ride in. I chose what everyone else does: Helmet, t-shirt and jeans (except those that were shirtless and in shorts and sandals), and this outfit was what I started out in. While the road twisted away, the sun was more and more evident over the Mediterranean Sea on my left side, and mirrored beautifully in the calm sea.
In Catalonia, where Barcelona is located, most street signs, etc. are in both Catalan and Spanish. When you go further south, to the Valencia district, you can get by using Spanish alone. The same phenomenon applies in the Basque country of El Pais Vasco. Both autonomous regions cherish, as you know, their own language and distinctive culture.
There is already a lot of traffic, and it goes especially slow through the towns, and therefore you can’t go as fast as you might think. Every Spanish town has its own weekly market, where everyone does their shopping for the week, and the towns where the markets are really hard to get through, so you need to devote half an hour extra for these.
The winding coastal road is incredibly beautiful, and alternates between cliffs, sandy beaches, plantations, etc., all punctuated by small and large towns. The first major town is Tarragona, which is approx. 350 km from Valencia, which can be reached in late afternoon, and is very suitable for lunch by Spanish standards. When you’re riding in Spain, tapas just feels like the right thing to eat.
Just remember not to go overboard and order too much, as all of the Tapas is very tempting, and you can’t really choose between the many delicious delicacies. The large agricultural areas around Valencia are among the most developed agricultural areas in Europe, and can be harvested three to four times a year.
The area is called “Huerta” and was originally called “Heaven on Earth” by the Moors, because of its fertile lands. The city was founded by the Greeks, and later taken over by the Romans in 138 BC. Today, it’s just a fantastic city with a lot of content of every conceivable kind.
It was really hot, but as a Northerner I should not complain and just enjoy the temperature. However, I have to remember to keep my knees away from the tank that is now unbearably hot. The jeans are also burning, and you drive with your legs as far away from the engine and exhaust as possible. After Valencia comes coastal towns Oliva, Denia and Javea, which are so beautifully situated between cliffs and sea. The roads here are of high quality, and consists of one consuming curve after another, without straight sections between them.
The roads are fairly empty, now that the siesta has taken over, and this offers a few enjoyable hours of riding. However, one must be aware of local bikers, who like to get a couple of kilometre in, in the same period, and can execute hairpin turns at an incredible pace, even though there is 100-metre vertical drop on the other side of the auto-structure.
AT AROUND 6 O’CLOCK THE ROCK OF GIBRALTAR POPS UP
But it can’t be right, are we only in Calpe, what’s going on here? It turned out Calpe has its very own Gibraltar rock, thrown with the same casual manner onto the beach. This one is “only” 332 m. We’re riding out to the rock which appears to be nature reserve, and fantastically located at the end of a peninsula, where the town of Calpe is located right up to the rock. Here, we decide to stay overnight in order to investigate this natural phenomenon a bit closer the next day.
The rock, which is more like a mountain, turns out to be called Penon de Ifach, and is an amazing geological phenomenon. At the end of a reasonably flat peninsula, the rock mountain, completely unmotivated, jumps up to a height of 332 meters, as if it really was a giant meteor that had just happened to land here.
As mentioned, the area is classified as a nature reserve, and you can walk 2/3 up the mountain without too much difficulty, by prepared trails, where you’ll come to a tunnel which was carved into and through the mountain, in 1918. It runs along 50m through a difficult area. Having gotten through the tunnel it is possible to get the up last 1/3 of the mountain under your own steam, which I didn’t, mainly due to vertigo. All the way up there, are the most amazing views which cannot be described, but must be experienced.
Down again, we were just overwhelmed by the urge for a dip in the lagoon on one side of the mountain. If you like diving, the area around the rock is world-class, and there are several diving clubs in the area, where you can test your skills. Since I myself am a certified scuba diver, this was obviously tried, and I can only recommend it. There is an incredible fish life already from 1m depth, and had I brought my harpoon, dinner would have been ready.