In my first real trip I went 8 years ago, at the age of about 19 years old. And it was in Spain. On bike. Today, when I describe to you places scattered around the globe, Spain may not seem like anything exotic, but for me it was that time almost the end of the world (at least this European one). Place the outermost at that time from home, where I went by plane. And that was the first time in my life! Takeoff and landing, which is what I’m doing now several times a month, then it was for me an experience almost like the first time of 5-year-old kid at the zoo, or the first time of the teenager in… they know what ;)
The trip lasted 5 weeks. Most of sections between the I was covering the mountain bike, which together with panniers weighed approx. 25 kg. I stayed at places of people met on the portal couchsurfing.com (portal, where users offer free accommodation in their own homes) and in hostels. In most cities I was usually 2-4 days. Forgive me sometimes the lack of photographs and their quality, but have in mind different type the camera I’m using today and above all lower skills.
During this adventure I was writing travel diary (in the end the real traveler must have a journal :D), who fortunately survived well preserved in the depths of my closet. And this post, unusually, will have the form of such a log, where I’ll try to present you, as much as possible, without censoring, today’s point of view and knowledge, convey the emotions that I had that time and contemporary, youthful perception of the world surrounding me. Okay, let’s go! :)
July 30th, 2007, 11.45 pm, Barcelona
Finally, I reached the hostel in the center of Barcelona. I was supposed to be here four hours earlier, but I had to face some unplanned events. We arrived two hours late. After I have collected my luggage (two bicycle panniers) and setting the bike (at the time of dropping bike as a luggage, it must be properly prepared), I went to the bus that connects the airport with the city. This, however, turned out to be full and there was no way for me to fit with the bike inside. So I glanced at the map and decided to ride to the nearest metro station.
As I soon found out, it was gently said, not the best idea. It was dark, the only road leading to the city was the motorway, on which cycling is prohibited, and I chose to take this short as I thought hastily, ride on 25-kg steed in jeans pipes (such a fashion that time :|) and in flip flops. I don’t know whether I was more scared that something will hit me, or that the police will catch me. After a few kilometers I was already wet. Through these damn pants I fall, which resulted in tearing flip-flops, not to mention raw elbow and dirty t-shirt.
It was getting late and I had no idea where I am. When there finally appeared buildings, I left the highway and in my poor Spanish (one semester of learning) I talked to the first encountered man who was doing evening jogging.
And here for the first time I fell in love with this nation. This charming 50-years old asked me to ride behind him while he running will lead me to the subway station. After approx. 20 minutes we arrived. By gesture he showed me to gave him something to write. I gave dairy. And so on the first page is drawn by him subway line with the name of the station on which I have to get off :)
July 31st, 8.35 pm, Tarragona
I’m sitting on the couch in apartment in Tarragona, while my host – Alejandro (known previously through Couchsurfing) prepares tortillas.
But the day didn’t begin so pleasant. Instead of using pleasantly cool morning on pedaling towards Tarragona (approx. 120 km), I wandered around Barcelona looking for the exit road. When I finally went on the road, the sun was already high above the zenith, and I could fully feel summer temperatures prevailing in hot Spain. Pleasant initially flat route after about an hour turned into a serpentine meandering along the slopes of the Costa Brava. First torment began after several kilometers of climbing. If not captivating views of the Mediterranean Sea and encouraging positive cheers from drivers passing me, I would have died.
I also realized that on Google Maps as opposed to reality, everything is flat… In my head thoughts, “Bravo Daniel! You planned it just perfect…”. When I finally got to Tarragona in place Alejandro was supposed to pick me up, he burst out laughing seeing me. When were writing to each other before, he thought I was joking saying that arrive on bicycle :)
As I requested, the first place to which we went was the beach. All this time, pedaling once up once down, I saw on the left side this beautiful view of the endless sea and so I told myself that the first thing I’ll do as I finally get there I’ll plunge into the water and I won’t go out!
But I left. As the evening will start Alejandro takes me back to the beach. This time for a party with his friends. I surprised myself that after such a marathon I still have the strength to go to a party, but a bath and a good meal have set me on feet.
August 1st, 8.45 pm, Tarragona
As it turned out, the company at the event was truly international. Romanian girl was with us (for the first time with my own eyes I saw that Romanian is not the same as Gypsy), two Turkish girls, two Turks and a Pole. On the beach, around us were spaced lanterns, the girls had flowers in their hair, and everything was accompanied by the rhythms coming from the drums, which played a gentleman… just sat a few meters from us and played.
We danced, drank, it was warm, the moon was shining, and I was pleased like a little child, that I’m actually traveling and getting to know other people!
Today, however, I started to explore the Tarragona itself, a city which, because of the numerous monuments from the Roman period was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ones which survived to our times, among others, were part of the city walls, a theater, amphitheater, forums, a circus and a necropolis.
The city itself I liked a lot, because of the atmosphere prevailing here. The lack of such noise and crowds of tourists like in Barcelona.
Impression on me also made observing in the evening on the main street of the city, locals dancing Sardana – traditional Catalan dance, a symbol of solidarity and unity of the Catalans. Nice view, when older people catch each other’s hands, forming a circle and stepping in the rhythm of calm music, once inside, one outside.
At the end of the day, Alejandro told me about the region of his origin – Galicia, noting that he just feels Galician, putting less value to Spain as a whole. Me on the other hand showed him the videos on Youtube about the history, architecture and nature of Poland, trying to proudly represent my country :) Before going to bed I said goodbye already with Alejandro, because early in the morning he had to go to work. Although we met just two days ago, without hesitation he left me the keys and ordered to leave them in the mailbox after closing the doors. Such a confidence! I fell in love with the Spanish nation for the second time.
August 3rd, 10.40 pm, Vinaros
Today I finished in the small port town of Vinaros, which is a stop halfway between Tarragona, and Valencia (my next destination).
I left Alejandro’s apartment at 8am. The first three hours went really well. After 11 in the morning I decided to have little break and accompanied by two collages from Italy I absorb 2 bananas. Both were impressed with my tour. Probably their admiration also intensified my bike, which compared to their slender racing bikes presented at least blocky.
The next kilometers were getting worse and worse. The burning sun, mountains (who would have thought that Spain is so hilly!) and all the time the wind in front. I wandered around 5 km/h. I was starting to feel powerless. Overlap thoughts that all this is pointless. In the end, I stopped somewhere on a complete wilderness (remember that I was driving the side routes, as on the highway, where all the traffic goes bikes are not allowed), where every few minutes pass me some auto. I sit on the wall and laughing at myself calling to Kamil, dear friend of mine (the one in Oman gallantly proposed to his present-day wife) and telling him that I’m dying, I don’t know where I am and that in general everything is great :)
About 5.30 pm I finally reached a small little hotel. I did 120 km and considering the prevailing conditions, it felt like the 300! The situation in my head slightly normalized when I went to the beach and dipped tired body in a pleasant water, thinking that the best is still ahead of me – beautiful Andalusia, the next meetings with couchsurfers, so it’ll be good. Must be! And tomorrow I’m going to Valencia may wind subsided, because the route to Valencia is in fact longer than today.