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Mountain Biking the Camino de Mozarabe Day Two - Alcaudete to Cordoba

Mountain Biking the Camino de Mozarabe Day Two - Alcaudete to Cordoba

A stage of two halves...olives then wheat, scorched earth then mud...

Alcuadete to Cordoba is a stage of two halves.  After crossing the mountainous ridges that protect the vega of Granada, the landscape is a roiling ocean of olive plantations all the way to Castro del Rio.  The camino climbs over the crests and plummets you into the troughs of this endless turbulent, swirling sea of olive green.  The plantations of Andalucia are truly a marvel of agrarian culture.  Its a cliche, but they really do stretch from horizon to horizon, crossing this area for two days and there is still no end to them.  Every facet of every peak and valley is covered in regimented rows of olives.  The logistics of cultivating this vast harvest is beyond mere observers, that there is ever enough manpower or machinery to harvest this crop, or that man or his machinery can even get to the top of the near vertical slopes is beyond comprehension... 




The routes is dotted with small but beautiful hilltop fortress towns, steeped in history.  Each town has a castle slash cathedral, revealing the violence and insecurity that is the background noise of the Iberian peninsula.  The route from Alcuadete takes in the Laguna del Salobral before heading on to Baena, scene of a previous disastrous camino attempt.  Along the way, small factories emerge from the plantations, columns of white smoke giving away their camouflaged presence, the air filled with the aroma of olives..its like breathing through a muslin soaked in oil. Baena is a beautiful little town, but stopping here would throw out the timing for the rest of the day, and our target stop was Castro del Rio.  A small "border town"  where the tumultuous topography of the groves becomes a little more becalmed, with longer, flatter sections, and less severe hills.  The cafe stop here was welcomed, even if a little rustic and limited, it was devoured.  We topped up liquid provisions and headed for the undulating hills that take you to Cordoba. The colour palette shifts imperceptibly from green to golds and terracottas...  There is nothing on the camino now until Cordoba, water is scarce, if any, there are no villages, no friendly little farmhouses to stop and ask for help...nothing to east or west, just the winding trail ahead of you. Spain has a peculiar type of soil.  Hard as marble when dry, as glutinous as a teenagers chewing gum when it gets the slightest moisture added to it, it undergoes a Mogwaian conversion to sentient, clawing, demonic life form intent on destroying your soul...




It had just rained, only slightly, a minor precipitation that didnt even darken the road completely, but it was enough.  As we headed out into the emptiness we had to cross several flat flood plains,  expanses of fertile soil that only hours ago would have been hard compacted trail, were now sticky goo.  Progress was slowed, especially as we came to cross the stream that cuts across the camino.  Obviously, there had been a recent, isolated, downpour here and flash-flooding had swept across the olive grove.  There was no way around this without a significant detour.  This would be messy.  Slopping across the inches thick grey mud was chess-like.  Some tried the delicate "tip-toe" approach, and headed for any apparently "dry" patch.  Others waded in and hoped for the best, it was like negotiating a mine field.  The focal point of the meanderings was the Roman bridge, a crossing that had been there for thousands of years.  It was almost washed out, and the single arch that once spanned the small stream was now isolated as erosion had scalloped the land around it, leaving it a bridge to nowhere.  We scrambled down into the stream and back on to the dry camino again. From here the camino winds and undulates toward Cordoba, a vast openness with no sign of habitation. Just rolling fields of gold and green.  We passed an upturned plastic chair, this bizarre anomaly in such a remote and beautiful place ; this aberration with its artificial colour and material, its unnatural lines, was a brash reminder that even in these remote places, we can still manage to bugger it up.




The last 10km into Cordoba is across a high, wide, featureless gravel road.  The sliver of distant greenery on the horizon marked the mountains behind Cordoba, encouraging a last sprint for the finish line, the Roman Bridge across the Guadalquiver.  Crossing that bridge, and entering Cordoba through the Triumphal Arch, was indeed a triumph; 83k across some stunning Andalucian landscapes.  We deserved a rest.

Distance: 82.90km Ascent: 1,231m

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Great cycling holidays, on road or off

Journey through Spains greatest natural park.