Categories
2012 Spain

Trip in Tenerife

In December 2014 I cycle counterclockwise on the Canary Island of Tenerife. The hilly road leads along the dry southeast coast, through the beautiful Anaga and along the rugged Gigantes, and I approach the El Teide volcano from two directions. This vacation I don’t take a tent with me. The weather is quite variable: sun, wind, rain and fog, and temperatures vary between 0 and 25 °C. In six days I cover 435 kilometers and climb more than 11,000 meters.

Day 1: San Isidro > Santa Cruz de Tenerife (90 km)

I had almost not been cycling on Tenerife right now. Yesterday at Eindhoven Airport, Ryanair didn’t want to transport my bike. I had packed it in a VK bicycle cover –just like I did when flying before, with KLM– but according to the check-in desk lady the bike really had to be packed in a closed bag or box. I subtly pointed out that the word “closed” does is not mentioned in the baggage conditions. Facing the queue behind me, which was getting longer and longer she allowed me take the bicycle at last.

After having arrived at Tenerife South Airport I leave the bike cover and other packing stuff at the hotel in San Isidro and start cycling on the TF-636 to the northeast. The views are not impressive, but thanks to the meandering road I am not getting bored. The differences in altitude and gradient are little. During the first half of today’s track the landscape is very dry. I don’t see many people, sometimes an old man who works the land.

From Güímar onwards the view towards the northwest is quite nice. On my right side the busy traffic on the highway is clearly visible. From here to Santa Cruz there is a lot of ribbon development. Santa Cruz itself is a fairly large city (over 200,000 inhabitants) and confusing for cyclists, and I’m glad I can use my Garmin to navigate to the hotel. That hotel is located in the middle of the cozy, Christmas atmosphere of the city center.

Day 2: Santa Cruz de Tenerife > Costa de Valle Guerra (70 km)

From the dull, densely populated hills near Santa Cruz I cycle in no time to the sparsely populated, green Anaga Mountains. These green hills form a strong contrast with the harbor, oil storage tanks and the drilling platform on the right hand side. On this beautiful Sunday morning there are many joggers and cyclists around. At San Andrés I continue on the TF-12: a very nicely constructed and not too steep road, which leads to El Bailadero on the main ridge of the mountains.

From there I take the TF-123 to the east, and then turn left to Cabazo del Tejo. I’m now cycling on a well rideable jeep track. The path ends at a place from where I have a truly phenomenal view of the huge cliffs along the coast to the northwest. From this viewpoint I take the shortcut to Chamorga: a 300 meter descent on a steep and sometimes slippery path. I have to carry my rear bags separately. And then I slip, and bump into the saddle with my ribs. Ouch!

The village of Chamorga itself is disappointing. I quickly head for El Bailadero and next Las Mercedes. The road goes mostly along the ridge and offers beautiful views to all directions, including El Teide in the distance. After a long descent I arrive at the Lagarto backpacker hostel: bed and breakfast for 15 euros, and for 9 euros extra I get a barbecue dinner and unlimited drinking…. With (surf)guests from Spain, Italy, Australia, England, France, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands it is very cozy.

Day 3: Costa de Valle Guerra > La Higuerita (90 km)

Damn! Maybe it wasn’t wise to drink alcohol and get to bed at 1.30 am. I lack the energy to cycle to El Teide, but… come on! The day starts sunny –I’m even putting on sun cream– but after half an hour it starts to rain and it stays that way until 5 pm. The track I made at home turns out to be challenging: the ‘white colored roads’ on the map are without exception extremely steep, often 15 to 25%. So I am happy to be able to continue from La Esperanza onto the ‘yellow colored’ road TF-24.

The road goes along and over the ridge to El Teide. It is cold, wet and because of the fog I don’t see anything of the surroundings: it’s really a ride to endure. To my surprise, a few hundred meters below the summit at Montaña de la Negra the sun breaks through, and my effort (more than 2,600 meters of climbing until now) at the highest point (2,300 m) is rewarded with a view of the 3,718 m high Pico del Teide and the observatory in the setting sun. It is cold here and there is even ice on the road. What remains is a long descent in the dark to La Higuerita.

Day 4: La Higuerita > Las Portelas (53 km)

Today I leave early and try to avoid the steep “white roads” on the map. The first part via Los Realejos, La Guancha and Icod de Los Vinos is quite nice. The road from Icod to El Amparo, which starts extremely steeply, is 8% on average all the way up to Montana de las Parras. At Erjos I dive into a ten kilometer long jeep track that leads through the forest to Las Portelas. It is mainly a descent over a reasonable road surface. Unfortunately, the vegetation is too dense to be able to see anything of the surroundings.

In Las Portelas awaits a very steep climb to today’s finish location: Albergue de Bolico. The houses here, painted in Basque red, contrast beautifully with the light green surroundings. I will stay here for two nights. The other three guests are also from the Netherlands. A Spanish biology student will be our host. The albergue has a huge kitchen, however I don’t have any food to cook, and in the village I can’t do any shopping. Luckily there is a restaurant on the main road.

Day 5: Las Portelas (rest day; 30 km)

I don’t have a lot of energy, my (bruised?) ribs start to ache (see day 2) and tomorrow’s stage looks tough. Conclusion: today I take it easy. First I descend to El Palmar. Suddenly a very strong wind starts blowing from the sea; I have to hide behind a wall for 20 minutes. The climb to Teno Alto is tough: going 400 meters up in just four kilometers on a bad road. Because of the low hanging clouds –which are dry by the way, very peculiar– I hardly see anything of the surroundings.

When I arrive at the plateau, the sun finally breaks through. I drive around on the many roads, and photograph chickens, geese and goats. Halfway down the descent back to the albergue I take a narrow, paved and occasionally extremely steep road, which eventually ends somewhere above Las Portelas. I cycle over the TF-436 to the Taibaba pass, but once there it suddenly starts to storm. After a quarter of an hour of hiding I flee downstairs. The rest of the day I hang around in the albergue.

Day 6: Las Portelas > San Isidro (102 km)

I get up early and am on my bicycle at 7.45 a.m. The TF-436 along Los Gigantes is beautiful. It is very quiet early in the morning; the tourists who want to descend into the gorge of Masca are nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately there is not enough (sun)light to make decent pictures of this valley. The four kilometers to Santiago del Teide are quite steep (10% on average), but because the road is so varied, I don’t notice it.

After a quick breakfast in Santiago I take the TF-375 and next TF-38 to El Teide. The road is very boring for a long time: 4 to 5% climb over long straight roads, where I can’t see much of the surroundings due to the low hanging clouds. Only in the last curve, near Cuevas de Somara, the sun breaks through and I stand face to face with El Teide. From here I enjoy the best view of the volcano, if only because of the contract between the light green trees, the brown earth and the blue sky.

At Boca Tauce (2,050 m) I turn left and cycle through a western landscape (the Cañadas) to the east. Where motorists on the rest of the island drive with extreme courtesy, the day-tourists coming from the terrible beaches of the Playa de las Americas sometimes drive in an irresponsible manner. The bizarre rock formations of the Roques de García (2,140 m) look funny, especially the balancing Roque Cinchado. (Although I find the lava formations in Iceland far more interesting.)

I cycle back to Boca Tauce, climb a little bit more, and enjoy the conifers that ghostly stand out against the clouds. What follows is a descent of 33 kilometers and 2,000 meters to San Isidro. There I buy an extra canvas sheet and rope in the hardware store under the hotel, which will minimize risk of Ryanair not accepting the bicycle for the air transport next morning.

I have really enjoyed this cycling trip!

Categories
2012 France

Climbing on Corsica

This is the report of our cycling trip on Corsica in April 2012. The trip takes us along the rugged west coast, over high roads and through deep gorges. Early in the season, the snowy peaks of the central mountain range are always in sight. In one week, Rudi and I cycle about 650 kilometers and climb 11,600 meters.

Day 1: Ajaccio > Porto (90 km)

From the campsite in Ajaccio we follow the wide and not too difficult D61 and later the D81 to the north. On top of the Bocca San Bastiano (400 m) we see for the first time the snowy peaks of the central mountain range that spans the island from northwest to southeast. We turn left and reach the coast at Pevani via a narrow road, where the waves are crashing against the rocks. At Ancone we have lunch on the sandy beach, where several people are sunbathing.

Between Sagone and Cargèse lies the beautiful Gulf of Sagone. We climb 500 meters through pristine hills to the Bocca di San Martino where we enjoy a beautiful view to the west. Piana is situated magnificently on top of a hill. The Golfe de Porto, snowy mountains and the steep rock formations rising from the sea called Calanches: all of this concentrated in one setting, illuminated by the evening sun. In Porto we find a nice spot on the almost deserted village campsite.

Day 2: Porto > Calvi (83 km)

We continue our route northwards on the D81. The road is well constructed: we climb at a constant gradient along the coast, with occasionally deep ravines on our left side. For a long time we have a beautiful view of the Golfe de Girolata with behind it Scandola, a peninsula that rises steeply from the sea. One can only get there on foot or by boat. At the Col de Parmarella we say goodbye to this exceptional area and descend 400 meters.

Just before Galéria we take the D81 bis, a road with a bad surface until the Bocca Bassa bar. The landscape has been a bit boring for some time now. That changes at the Baie Nichiareto: up to Calvi there are beautiful mountains and rugged coasts, nicely situated in the evening sun. In Calvi we first cycle to the citadel, from where we can look out on the snowy peaks in the southeast. After a snack we settle down on the municipal camping where we try to hide from the fierce wind.

Day 3: Calvi > St. Florent (108 km)

After a few kilometers on the busy N197 we continue on the D451. For a long time this road goes up at a mild gradient towards the hills, and once there suddenly via some steep (10-15%) hairpin bends to the strategically located Montemaggiore. The view from the D71 on Calvi, the villages on top of the hills and the clear blue sea in the background is great.

The road stays at approximately the same altitude from Cateri for a long time and leads through and past small villages that seem to be glued to the mountains. Via the narrow D663 we reach Speloncato. From this village the D63 leads steeply (8-13% with peaks towards the 20%) up to the Groce d’Olu (1,100 m). Here we enjoy the spectacular views, from the lighthouse behind Calvi all the way to the extreme end of Cap Corse.

On top of the pass road we order coke at a restaurant. I ask the host if the track to the northeast, which is marked with a dashed line on our map, is feasible, and he answers ‘Tout neuf!’. In reality it turns out to be a bad jeep track, but with its 360 degree view it is the icing on the cake. After having bounced down 400 meters, we take the D963 for a while and then descend further east on the N197.

After five kilometers on the N197 we turn left and reach Novella via a road along a railway line. What follows is a grandiose descent over a narrow, winding and recently asphalted chemin communal to the north, right through a green and completely deserted area. We cross the N1197 and at dusk we reach the port of St. Florent via the beautiful Désert des Agriates.

Day 4: St. Florent > Francardo (72 km)

In the middle of the night, the wind from the west becomes very strong. Not continuously, but with gusts. At first, we hear a rising sound, followed by strong gusts of wind that put the new tent to the test. In the morning, the wind has become even stronger while the mountains on the Cap Corse are shrouded in ominous air. That doesn’t bode well. We had in mind to do a tour du Cap Corse, but instead we decide to skip the Cap and head south.

Via the narrow D238 we go to Oletta. It is only a few kilometers out of the coast but the weather improves noticeably. We climb steadily over the D38 to the Col de Bigorno (885 m). Like most mountain roads on Corsica, this road has a moderate gradient of 4 to 5%. In front of us the picturesque village of Lento is bathing in sunlight, where we arrive after several sharp hairpins. It’s very beautiful here.

Next we take the D105, which runs via Canavaggia to Ponte Leccia. This is a wonderful, elevated road, with continuously offers views of the snow-topped mountains in Corsica’s central area. After about twelve kilometers we descend via a beautiful series of hairpin bends. After riding south on the wide N193 for a while, we stop at the Francardo natural campsite.

Day 5: Francardo > Corte (100 km)

Normally, cycling from Francardo to Corte would only take 45 minutes. However, today we want to make a detour. Now that we are here, we head for the Col de Vergio, the highest through pass on the island. After a few kilometers the Scala di Santa Regina starts, an increasingly narrow gorge with rugged mountains on both sides, and in the middle the mountain stream Le Gelo.

When we arrive at the reservoir, we sit on a bench in front of the supermarket and have lunch when suddenly three cows are walking on the street and in between the cars. On Corsica, straying cows and wild boars on the road are quite normal. About the pass that follows: Rudi is enthusiastic about it, but I don’t really like it. Not the twenty kilometers of false flat to the pass height, nor the wide road from the tiny ski resort.

From the Col de Vergio (1,477 m) we quickly go back along the reservoir and through the Regina gorge, and turn right at Ponte Costirla to Corte. After 300 meters of climbing, we have a magnificent view of the mountains that rise behind Corte. The evening sun illuminates the meadows and orchards in an astonishing way. Corte itself is a nice old university town with a castle on top of a rocky peak. After some searching and climbing, we find a nice campsite northwest of the city.

Day 6: Corte > Tattone (60 km)

This morning we will visit the ‘star attraction’ Valle de Restonica. This turns out to be a beautiful road: varied, with many bends, through forests, and with steep mountains around us and snowy peaks in the distance. The first part up to the bridge is at a moderate gradient (5 to 10%), while the second part is narrower and much steeper (9 to 15%).

From the end point (1,382 m) we return to Corte and then continue southwards. Where possible we avoid the wide and busy N193; we cut off at Botro and Santo-Pietro-di-Venaco (and gain considerably extra height). After a long descent to Pont du Vecchio there’s a climb to Vivario where motorists drive very fast. We’re not allowed to stand at Camping du Soleil near Tattone, because it doesn’t open until a few days later. We find refuge a bit further on, on a deserted campsite next to the railway line.

Day 7: Tattone > Capitoro (117 km)

From the abandoned campsite we immediately climb (15 to 20%) to the N193, and from there on to the Col de Sorba (1,250 m). This road is quite nicely constructed with hairpin bends in the upper part, but it’s a pity that track drills are making the entire pass road a few meters wider. While Rudi is performing an interval training today, I have my own troubles. Actually, I always have something to complain about: one day it’s saddle pain or cramps, and the other day itching in my eyes. And today it’s coping with the heat.

There is no shop in Ghisoni, so we have a sandwich at some bar. The owner asks where we come from. When he hears ‘The Netherlands’, he immediately shouts ‘Johnny Rep, captain of the FC Bastia!’ I don’t know Johnny Rep, and have no interest in football… After this, the Col de Verde (1,289 m) follows. This one is a lot more boring than the previous one and the views of the surrounding landscape are not inspiring as well. We descend quickly to Cozzaro, where we take the D757 to Grosseto. This is quite a nice road, except for the last, wide stretch to the Col de Granace (865 m).

In the intended finish town of Grossetto there appears to be no camping site, and it’s already 6.50 pm. We decide to cycle another 35 kilometers to a campsite at the coast. We go via Albitreccia to the Bosca d’Aja di Bastiano. Especially the last seven kilometers of the D55 are very beautiful. Then we turn right and continue on the D302 in the direction of Ajaccio. This is the ultimate descent: continuous 5% on a curved road. Near the campsite and just before sunset we enjoy a beautiful view of the Golfe d’Ajaccio.

Dag 8: Capitoro > Ajaccio (25 km)

On this last day it’s really hot. It is 32 °C in the shade and completely windless. We would have liked to make a big tour, but we lack the energy. That’s why we take a rest and read and drink a lot. Halfway through the afternoon we take a small detour through a rather uninteresting environment to the campsite in Ajaccio. It’s time to fly back.

Statistics

– Day 1: Ajaccio > Porto (90 km; 1,544 altitude meters)
– Day 2: Porto > Calvi (83 km; 1,050 alt.m)
– Day 3: Calvi > St. Florent (108 km; 2,022 alt.m)
– Day 4: St. Florent > Francardo (72 km; 1,311 alt.m)
– Day 5: Francardo > Corte (100km; 1,643 alt.m)
– Day 6: Corte > Tattone (60 km; 1,784 alt.m)
– Day 7: Tattone > Capitoro (117 km; 1,924 alt.m)
– Day 8: Capitoro > Ajaccio (25 km; 350 alt.m)