Great Mountain Bike Routes in Andalucia - GR7 2010 - Day Five - Araceli to Los Tolmos
Another great dawn as the sun crested the mountains and cast long warm shadows through the trees and over the cabins. Waking to the fresh sun, knowing this was the last day of riding, eased some of the pain of knowing we’d be in the saddle...again.
Everyone was aware of the sensitivity of certain parts! Although nothing compared to breaking your two front teeth after a trailer lid falls on your head. Lucas managed to sustain the only real injury of the trip, weird synchronicity as Denis (his dog) broke his tooth at Araceli a couple of years earlier. The trail wound its way across the heights of Sierra Cabras and joined the asphalted road to Canada de la Cruz and through the pass to the vally of the Santuario de la Rogativa. The asphalt runs out at the height of the pass and changes to a fast “fire road” of hard packed limestone and clay. We refuelled here with the final climb staring at us from across the valley. Thunder clouds building up behind us. The climb from the chapel of Rogativa is a tough one. Of course, its possible to bypass the climb, but where’s the fun in that?! The climb is pretty relentless, with steep sections, broken by even steeper ones. Switchbacks with loose rocky corners test your ability to keep momentum and traction, and each twist reveals another, tougher, climb. The skies were getting darker and the air cooler and more humid, to the west we could see the heavy bands of rain falling, even though we still rode in the sun. Hopefully the rain would just pass us, it didn’t.
The climb has three sections, the first sharp and unforgiving of errors, the second, less technical, a shallower gradient, but demanding; this is followed by a short descent to the last section, about a kilometre of very steep climbing to the highest point of the Villafuerte mountains, passing the springs of Aqua Cantalar (the local bottled water). From the the thunderous heavy rain falling on us it was clear why these peaks had a bottled water factory, and plenty of it was pouring down the once dry arroyos.
The descent to Campo de San Juan was fast and furious, and the last 2 kilometres of tarmac to Los Tolmos were somewhat subdued and quiet. Probably because it seemed that the ascents would never end! Maybe the storm had dampened our spirits a little, maybe because we were just completely exhausted after 4 days of tough cross-country riding through some of Spain’s greatest landscapes.