2018 Tour

I have completed the planning for my 2018 summer tour of Spain. Sadly this will be the last one with me as a member of the EU. Hope I am allowed back in after Brexit.

This year, my route covers 1500+ and I hope to raise a little dosh for a charity. Watch this blog for another post about the charity I will raise money for.

This year’s ride kicks off on the 23rd of August. Two weeks later, when I get back to Gibraltar I will be making an announcement on next years ride 🙂

I am supporting Action4Schools. But before I tell you about this organisation, let me address the elephant in the room.

I work for Save the Children International as the Global Humanitarian Technology Manager. In 2013, I completed a fundraising cycle ride from London to Africa raising money for Merlin/Save the Children. A year later, I raised funds again for Save the Children during ride 100. I will raise money for Save the Children again in the future.

For the next two years, I am supporting Action4Schools, a small NGO based in Gibraltar. As a small charity, Action4Schools raise cash for projects which have a positive impact on schools. Currently, the team is building water wells so that school students and the wider community can access safe water.

Please do support me by donating to my just giving page – https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mark-hawkins-2018

I am self-funding my ride. I am paying for flights, ferries, hotels, meals, and beer! All money raised goes to Action4Schools to fund projects in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

Read more about the great projects the charity delivers at http://www.action4schools.gi/

Day 1

First day on the road and we are already famous. Some great press cover in Gib about the ride, but more importantly the Gibraltar Chronical has told the story about Action for Schools. This story is about water and as a cyclist I know how important water is when you climb big hills in the heat of southern Spain. I will cover the water well programme in more detail in a few days. Beer and pasta took priority over blog writing, so here are just the highlights from today.

Oh and hats off for Sharon. Never done long distance  before. Bought a new bike just about two weeks ago. Just a handful of training rides and no more than 120 Miles and now tacking this epic!

So, here is where we went. A wee thunderstorm mid afternoon but the gentle rain was nice to ride in.

Saying goodbye to the old rock

Cycle track runs for a few miles. Have posted pictures of the birds nest before, but here we have a nest complete with either its owner or a squatter!

Mile 24 and my ride buddy is leading me astray!

Amazing views are the result of very hard climbing.

This is how we feel when we think we are at the top of a hill. But around the corner was another steep hill. 

The “A Team” made it to Ronda. More riding tomorrow. Good night all – we are off for much needed grub and a drink followed by an early night before the big ride tomorrow!

Day 2
Andalucía is an amazing place with friendly people. Every place we go to buy food, water or beer we are greeted with such warmth. On the roads, car drivers keep their distance and pass slowly. On the last hill today when we were feeling quite knackered, car drivers slowed down to ask if we were fine.

It has been quite hot out there today, close to 34 degrees.

Most of the roads are like this. Not too much traffic and good surface. 

Lunch break in some small town. Great architecture !

Spain is quite good at solar and wind energy. 

When a gas station closes, it is also bad news for cyclist in the heat as its one place less to buy water.

Why is there a bollard in the street?  Cant see any ships!

Sharon battling the hills. 

Day 3
After a night in a great hotel in Lucena, we are on the road again. The track through the Parc Naturelle was amazing. Part of the route was familiar as I passed along the same road back in 2015.

A detour was made to take on some water. Things got a little tough at towards the end as there was a lot of up hill during the last 20 miles. Some Spanish towns are well hidden until you are practically there!

Here is today’s map.

Setting off into the sun from Lucena

Lots of big signs asking drivers to be careful of cyclist. In Spain, cycling is popular and people are well behaved on the road. UK road users have plenty to learn from this place (Applies to motorists and cyclists)

Below- The familiar route through the parc.

Our detour for food and water!


Day 4
After two hard days where temperatures reached close to 40 degrees, we have taken it easy with a 41 mile ride.

Some stunning scenery yet again and yes it was bleeding hot!.. Lots of water stops.

Porcona is an amazing place on the hillside. You can probably imagine how difficult it is to climb a big hill at the end of the day. I was so tired that I did not notice that I was flooding the rooms in the house as I was taking a shower. The guest house was great, but from the state of the floor, I was not the first to cause a flood. I will happily tell the full story of the great flood over a beer!

To the north of Porcona is a A road – Now motorway!  So we have a mile of this stuff to deal with  – – Arrggghhhhhh!!!!

There will never be a shortage of Olives – Spain will see to that!  

Another bloody motorway blocking the way. What is it with town planning?  Don’t these gits ride bikes?

But the detour takes us through some nice country lanes and bridges. 

and some old mill- possibly a retired cotton mill?

And finally its downhill to Montoro – the uphill to a really nice hotel. 

Day 5
The route up the N420 is not an easy one, especially with saddle soreness!  On departure from the hotel, we are straight into a big hill. As you will see from the pictures we were rewarded with some great views.

At about mile 10, we stopped to help out a lady who had run over a dog on the fast highway. I can not understand why people let their pets roam such a fast road. We got a couple of toots and thumbs up from whom we assumed to be the guy who went out to recue her.

The big challenge on this route is that there was not much in the way of fuel stations along the way. The last 25 miles was very challenging due to the intense heat and the fact were down to our very last sip by the time we got to our next pit stop.

The guest house was incredible. Friendly host who spoke great English and was able to tell us a bit about the town.

An amazing view from the hotel room to start the day. Its going to be bleeding hot!

On the way up. The view from the bridge goes on for many miles  – We were able to see the 20ish miles we already covered.

A selfie to show that we were here!

Strange rock formations  – dayglow green – perhaps sulphur?

Going up the last but one hill. The cloud was quite welcome as it cooled things down a little.

10 miles from the end and the place we reached with just a sip left in our bottles. Took just a few seconds to polish off 1.5L of water between us. The beer did not last long either!

Day 6
After yesterday’s gruelling ride, we were targeting a 45-50 mile ride, but hotel availability along our track was close to 65 miles, so we ended up taking easy and completed 32 miles. Think our butts needed a rest!

We arrived at our hotel by 1300 and found a municipal pool to chill next to (Swimming, beer, wine and food!)

No heavy going on the hills today, but tomorrow will be a different story!

We passed some ruins  – hard to figure out what had gone on here. These buildings were clearly a place of work where things happened. Perhaps an old quarry or something?  Further up the road was what seems to be the remains of where people lived. 

We pass through many villages like this – all picturesque. 

Today our route took us along the Camio de Guadeloupe. 

Day 7
This is my fifth road trip in this country and I hope there will be many more to come. This all started in 2013 when I completed the London to Africa ride. This year I get to share to experience with Sharon who is doing great. So far we gave done well over 400 miles covering some big hills. Sometime the temperatures have reached 40 degrees plus!

Here is the map from today. Scroll down for some stunning pictures!

Early starts are great – If we get out on the road by 0800, we manage to get some riding in cooler temperatures before Spain turns itself into a nuclear blast furnace!  

Spain has some great roads, but they have managed to make us brits feel very welcome by importing some of the Surrey potholes from the UK. 

Along the first (potholed) 15 miles we encountered some wonderful views 🙂

Yet another coffee stop (or beer stop in Sharon’s case!)

Castle McCastleFace. Lots of these here 🙂

Towards the end of the ride, we are navigating around a big lake – we will see more of this lake on day 8.

Day 8
We are more than half way through the ride. This morning we followed the edge of the lake for 15 miles before hitting the flat country. Tomorrow its back to the hills where we will return the great scenery.

Breakfast at Casa Rural  – Sunrise in the background

Moon has been partying all night and at 0900(ish) not quite ready for bed yet!

One last look at the lake before departing for the flat plains.

We see loads of these paper disks in the gutter. They belong to gas bottles. They just get blown off new bottles as the lorries drive along the road. There must be thousands of these discs all over Spain. At least they will rot in time. 

Tomato City. 

Locally produced tomatoes being tuned into a variety of tomato something’s

Day 9
Into day 9 of the 2018 tour where we are engaged in a tomato squashing contest. So how does it work?  well, on the roads there are plenty of tomatoes which have fallen from trailers onto the sides of the road. To score a point, you need to ride over a whole tomato and squash it. After a few I soon gave up as tomato was splatted all over my legs!

Nice view of the hills ahead – the going is flat, but that changes later

Lots of irrigation to feed the tomatoes.

Something burning somewhere. the smoke got a little thick as we passed through, but we could not find the source.

Day 10
In the past, I have cycled from Miajardas to Montemolin in one hit. On this trip, we opted to split the leg so today we are on leg 2. The route was very scenic and it was great to follow the track I first took back in 2014.

Last night we stopped in the Casa Rural which had an amazing view. We were both a wee bit tired this morning and as a result, I did not do my usual final room check and as a result, left my passport at the hotel. This is going to result in a 75-mile round trip tomorrow which is really meant to be a rest day. So Sharron gets to visit Montemolin Castle and enjoy the pool. I get to ride more miles.

As the ride progressed, the wind increased from the south, which was not very helpful. As we neared Montemolin, it was so strong that even going downhill was really hard work!

Casa Rual and Horny Nachos (Real name is Hornachos). This was a great place to stay with an amazing view

Sunrise over Horny Mountain

We passed a few of these boxes which had a military badge on it, no idea what they were. 

Wind-driven pump at mile 10

The hill at the end of the windy ride. 

Day 11
Over the past few days, we have set out on the road before 0900 before the heat builds up. Today we had an extended period of cool as it was cloudy to start with.

The route today is familiar as its the third time I have been down this track. Not brilliant road surface but better than Surrey for sure. Sharron has been doing great, especially in light of the fact that she had done not much training.

Along the way, we spotted some interesting buildings. See the pictures below.

One last look at the hotel pool before setting off.

2 miles into the ride and I am at my first photo stop.

Part of this route follows the pilgrimage route. Unlike the route further north on last years ride, there were no pilgrims with their taping walking sticks.

Random strange building

A few of these along the N route. Mile sign on the outside. Disused, but looks like they might have been military checkpoints from another era?

Just outside of Seville, this disused place looks like a former school.

Day 12
Day 12 and we are still on a route I have taken before. The first 10 miles is not great. Urban cycling is not exciting at all. Near to Don Hermas, lots of roadworks, same as last year. The seems to be a new motorway junction being built, but no progress since I passed this way a year ago. Maybe a project which lost its funding?

The last few miles of the route took us past the junction I would normally turn to head towards Arcos. This will set us up for a new route to Arcos tomorrow. 

The Hotel we stopped at was in the middle of nowhere. The cafe across the road closed at 1700, so for evening food, it was a taxi ride to the nearby town.

Roadworks which have had the pause button applied!

That strange building which could be a convent

Mile 30+ break. We witnessed a tornado. A small one with little power. This photo shows its state just before it died.

No ride in Spain is complete without passing the Osbourne Bull. The bush is almost hiding its balls!

Day 13
Another short ride today where we had some cloud cover for the first part of the ride. The new route to Arcos was very scenic and more pleasant than the roads further East.  The climb into Arcos was steep but easier than the other route in. After Arcos, we stopped to view the Valle1 solar plant and then had an amazing Mousakka in Paterna.

Madina Sidona is a very nice town on a very steep hill. Why do they have to put these places so hi so we have a massive climb at the end of the day?

Another brilliant hotel. Life is good!

Riders locked and loaded for a short ride to Madina Sidona


An old windmill along the way. 

Flightdeck – no camera this year as I forgot the mount (another “Senior Moment”)

Great view of Arcos

In addition to the solar farm, we passed a wind farm. 

Day 14

1The final day. Total distance on this trip was 837 miles. Not quite 1000 miles, but close enough. Early start made so that we could get to Los Barios to meet up with a Gibraltar Cycle team. It was great to be escorted by Ian and the gang.

Fundraising has been a success and in the next post I will tell you more about Action4Schools and how the money will be spent.1

Early start – an amazing view from Medina Sidonia.

Bit of a fire damage along the route

Leaving Los Barios with members of a Gibraltar cycling club.