Cycling In Spain: Trigueros to Arcos de la Frontera (196kms)

The white-walled village of Arcos de la Frontera
The A49 Autopista and the road I was travelling along, the less discriminating N-472, run in near-perfect symmetry all the way from Niebla to the outskirts of the Andalusian capital Seville. Despite being a national highway, I hardly sighted a car, and when I did, there was a reliable wide verge to escape into. A quintessential preview of the rolling Spanish plains, I was accompanied by bright-yellow ploughed fields on one side of the road, while rows upon rows of sunflowers lined the other. Though I still had a long afternoon’s travel ahead of me, this was 50 kilometres of straight, uninterrupted road that would soon just become a distant memory.

Fortunately not an everyday occurrence, but one that happens all too often for my liking, is getting lost. It gives me a good reason to pore over my maps, to ensure that I’ll be travelling along the quietest roads possible, and that like a plug in a power socket, they perfectly connect. An effective premise, but one that doesn’t always go as planned.

The view of the plains ahead, along the N-472
On reaching the outer suburb of Gines, some 12 kilometres from Seville’s city-centre, I became concerned about the build-up of traffic along the road. The most populated city in southern Spain, and the fourth largest on the Iberian Peninsula, Seville’s urban landscape was decidedly more sprawling than I ever imagined. There were plenty of signs to lure me further in the same direction but like the outer sheathing of a spider’s web, Seville’s ring-road, the SE-30, would have been a dangerous place to encounter. So rather blindly, I ventured south-west, along a road that was, at the very least, less laden with traffic. In all likelihood, according to local advice, I’d soon reach the edge of the difficult-to-cross Rio Guadalquivir, which travels more than 650 kilometres from the Cazorla mountain range in the north-east, to the Atlantic Ocean in the south.

The Rio Guadalquivir might be a long river – the fifth longest in Spain– but it doesn’t have too many noticeable bridges across its banks; a hindrance made worse if you’re an ageing cyclist with an awful sense of direction. So for the next 90 minutes, or more, I nauseatingly searched in vain for an escape route to the other side. There were plenty of road signs directing cars towards the Autopista, which ferries traffic towards Cádiz along the coast, or Cordoba and Madrid to the north-east, but not a skerrick of information about bicycles and bridges over the river. As for the directions, all I could glean from the many people I asked was that I was going the wrong way and even if wasn’t, I’d still need a car.

A bridge across the Rio Guadalquiver, at last.
Fed up and somewhat anxious about the near-100 kilometres still ahead, I sought the help of the policia local (local police) somewhere in the small city of San Juan de Aznalfarache. Difficult to pronounce and even more difficult to leave from, I felt I’d been driving in one of those dodgem cars that just go round and round in circles until your time is up. The problem was I had more of a ride than I’d ever bargained for.

On entering the police station I was approached by a young officer, who presumably inquired how he could help me. Unable to identify a word he was saying my initial impulse was to ask him if he could speak English. Running out of options, I chose instead to bite my tongue and see what happened next. Immediately recognising there was a problem too difficult to handle himself he gestured for another of the officers to come over to the counter.

Though also unable to speak a word of English, his replacement seemed more empathetic towards my predicament and kindly drew me a map of how to find the closest bridge across the river. Consuming considerably more time than it takes to replace a fuse in an electrical power box, I’d at last found the socket I’d been searching for.

Clutching the piece of paper in my hand like it was a hundred dollar note I followed the officer’s explicit directions to the letter. About a 20 minute ride to the bridge – though a rather inconspicuous bridge at that - it seemed so easy; as it often does when the job is done.

While at last across the river, escaping Seville’s outer web of suburbs still involved navigating my way through a hotchpotch of roads. In fact, I still wasn’t convinced I was heading in the right direction until I reached the National IV highway. A further two hours of hard riding through fairly monotonous landscape - save for the whitewashed village of Espera - it eventually led me to our overnight accommodation at Arcos de la Frontera.

No comments:

Post a Comment