Saturday 12 May 2012

Vía Verde de la Sierra: a great ride

In Antequera I happened to flick past a section of lonely planet that described the Vía Verde de la Sierra, an old railway that has been converted into a bike route 'greenway':
There are currently 12 of these greenways in Andalucía, but by popular consensus the Vía Verde de la Sierra between Olvera and Puerto Serrano is usually voted the most rewarding.  Aside from wild, rugged scenery, the Olvera Vía Verde is notable for its four spectacular viaducts, 30 tunnels, and three old stations-turned-hotels that are spread over a 36km route.
which is when our lazy strategy of not booking anything in advance paid off.  We detoured to Olvera and stayed in the Spanish equivalent of a country pub where the 5 locals in the bar all took a break from watching bull fighting on the TV to have a good long stare at me try to get a room and some food in my 2-year-old-level Spanish.

Great view from our hotel terrace, pity it smelt like manure from the farm next door
We hired dos bicicletas y el carro niño at 9am, as soon as the bike hire place opened, to try and beat the heat: it was going to be 36°C. With the help of some miming and our dodgy Spanish we got E installed in her carseat inside the baby trailer, and the number for a cab service that could pick us, bikes, and baby trailer up at Puerto Serrano, 36km away.

Beautiful, typically Andalusían scenery near Olvera, lots of olive groves  

650 m tunnel, that speck of light you can see isn't dust on the lens, it's the other end of the tunnel
Poppies and other wildflowers in full bloom
Peñón de Zaframagón, home to a huge number of  massive griffon vultures.  We saw 50 or so in the air.
Glad this one had lights.
The heat was brutal, but the terrain was mostly flat, and slightly downhill in our direction (Olvera to Puerto Serrano), and we were travelling west so E was shaded by her seat for the morning.  I would definitely recommend a head torch (wish I'd thought to take mine) or bike light, some tunnels have lights, but some of the long ones don't - a 650m tunnel gets very dark in the middle and it is quite disorienting riding in that - I kept thinking I was going to hit the wall.  There weren't any other tourists mad enough to be doing the whole ride, it was just us and a bunch of dudes in lycra :)  The taxi from Puerto Serrano back to Olvera station was expensive (50€ I think?) but he earned it: he loaded the bikes, and collapsed the trailer in the heat, and drove the 40km windy road back to Olvera.

I was very happy we got to do this ride, it was one of the coolest things we did in Spain.

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