One fun part of touring is planning. Where will we go? What will we bring? What route will we follow? Where will we sleep? Buying maps and using Google Street View safe in the knowledge that the best roads and paths aren't 'Street Viewable.'
Another fun part of touring is that you can be pretty sure that things aren't going the way as planned.
Stefan had been wanting to visit the Parque Natural Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas for some years. This natural park in Jaén, a province in the region of Andalusia, is the largest protected area in Spain and the second largest in Europe. It would finally happen from the 18th until the 28th of March.
Our first stop was a hotel in Hellín, where we would leave Stefan's car, 'Pedro's' our chains and mount new Vittoria tires. The closer we came to the national park, the darker the sky became. After checking several weather apps, we decided to try to avoid the worst rain by riding our intended loop clockwise instead of counterclockwise. As we will explain later, this proved to be a mistake.
The first day we managed to avoid the rain pretty well, but quickly ended up off our carefully planned route. After almost 100 km, we decided to leave the tents in the panniers and to find a hotel; always willing to support the locals and, moreover, I had started to wheeze and cough and suffered from shortness of breath on every climb taller than a speed bump.
On day two we managed to find our clockwise route again. After a beautiful, sunny day on the bike with stunning gorges and awesome views, we bought enough food and water to take us through the rest of the day, a shower, and the start of the next day. We managed to find a few more or less level square meters on the mountainside and pitched our tents. Less than half an hour later, it started to drizzle. Drizzle turned into rain, rain turned into a serious hail and thunderstorm. Luckily we had all-season Hilleberg tents and as long as the aluminium poles weren't buzzing, we were safe. Right...?
Climbing brings pride, a nice view, and an awesome descent. We both love climbing, but on the third day we should have become suspicious of the terrain. After each turn there was another climb. After about 30 km of muddy climbs in the rain and hail, we were dead. The highlight of the day was a group of about 15 deer running with us for a few hundred meters. They didn’t seem nearly as tired as we were.