I could almost be in Scotland. The views are big, the roads are empty, the gradients constantly unrelenting. I can hear the odd song bird, see the odd animal. The early morning air is sharp and I struggle to understand people. But I am most definitely NOT in Scotland.
The early morning nip gives way to a hot 26 degrees at the end of October, the animals are lizards scuttling for cover and crickets landing on my mitts. Beautiful autumn colours in the leaves are reflected back in the colours of the house walls and every village has a church or a castle dominating its skyline with a plethora of little streets and hidden bars beneath.
My wheel bounces off fallen almond nuts and I catch glimpses of red and orange as ripe pomegranates and oranges peep from under laden boughs. The olive trees are speckled green and brown and black as this year’s crop bends the branches and splashes of yellow announce the presence of some lemons.
We climb out of this richness and wend our way across barren scrub land plateau before climbing once again. Our reward is a wide angle view of the sea and the coastal plain and we then plummet towards some larger settlements where we find good coffee and sandwiches in a shaded town centre square.
Peeling ourselves off our seats we refind our bikes and miraculously find the right road out of town. What goes down must go up ……. 25km of Steady uphill to get home. Easy gear, steady smooth pedalling and easy silence.
The afternoon heat wraps us in a cocoon, stifles thoughts and stills tongues. It is accentuated by smells – of pine forest, of tarmac, of flowers. Small noises seem to add to this blanket, birdsong, the click of a gear change, the purr of wheels on tarmac, the drip of sweat on the handlebars. Everything is immediate and close. Normal life and that suitcase full of things to do, worries and concerns, seem a very long way away – untouchable in fact. Locked shut and buried by that blanket of heat binding us to our bikes.
So I’m not in Scotland, I’m in Spain in a part where a 3 course meal with drinks is 9 euros a head. Where no one speaks English but everyone says ‘olla’ (Holla), where the hills are beautiful and the roads are smooth. Where, for a short time, I can do what I want – which is to ride my bike for the joy of riding my bike in a beautiful place cocooned by heat and unreality.