The Fat Kid Diaries: Week 73. Hola from Spain!

So much for Europe being a ´breeze´ compared to Africa, the last week has once again provided a reminder of why complacency can be so risky…the infamous easterly Levant winds of southern Europe proving the toughest of unexpected challenges in the race to reach the eastern Spanish port town of Almeria by the 25th, for the once-a-week-at-best ferry that departs from there for Algeria.

It certainly hasn´t been doom and gloom though…from chilly nights camping hidden amongst the vast olive groves of the region, the Fat Kid has also been treated to incredible warm and generous hospitality with nights of absolute luxury and food fit for a king (amazing how the Fat Kid has an eye for a good meal!), and also had an opportunity to explore some wonderful towns and cities en route.

Ending: Sat 22 Nov 2014
Starting point: Faro, Portugal
Ending point: An olive grove near Antequera, in the Andalucia province of Spain
Approx. Km’s covered: 440km

Some selected highlights:

  1. The surrealness (and mental and physical boost) of the stay at the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville, and exploring the city by foot and bike while there.
  2. Learning to appreciate olives! From a take it or leave attitude to them before, they´re now a Fat Kid staple. 
  3. Despite the gloomy weather conditions, the southern Iberian Peninsula certainly has places of great beauty.
  4. The Hotel Marqués de la Gomerance, an old converted palace in the wonderfully quaint town of Osuna.
  5. Finally having Algerian visa in hand, and managing to book a spot on a currently, very intermittent at best, ferry service from Spain.
  6. Jamón serrano – basically the Spanish equivalent of biltong!
  7. The bike lanes of Seville.

Some challenges:

  1. Even this far south, the short European winter days, combined with endless headwinds, make trying to cover any kind of decent distances a bigger challenge than expected. 
  2. The mostly dirt service roads alongside some of the motorways in Spain not as well maintained as one might expect!
  3. Stretching the Rand in in Euro-land! 
  4. The mission and disappointment of searching online for a place to watch the Boks vs Italy on TV, then finding a place to leave my bike, catching (an expensive) train, arriving at the pub 5mins before kick off, only to find that it has closed down for the winter off season.

The #HumanSpirit moment of the week:

  1. The eccentricity of the Dutchess of Alba…from the little bit I picked up, this was certainly a woman who lived life on her own terms!

Particular thanks to (as always, in no particular order, and apologies for the inevitable omissions):

  1. Marilize and Rob at the Westin in Cape Town, and the whole Starwood family for their continued support in arranging the odd night of absolute luxury in between all the nights camping…which always seems to come at just the right time!
  2. Carlo Suffredini, the GM of the Hotel Alfonso XIII in Seville, and your whole team, for the incredible hospitality and kindness…and for putting me in touch with Jesús…
  3. Jesús Sánchez of Hotel Marqués de la Gomera for your generous and  warm hospitality in Osuna…another incredible place to visit.
  4. Tom Caplan and Pixie Levesque for your Fat Kid beer fund support!
  5. Gareth Whittaker and your team at T&W for your creative genius…and Cam Howard for all your help until now, and that going forward.
  6. Nathan Homer for the European route advice – you can´t buy experience!
  7. Grant and Hannah Crews for the hospitality and everything!

Something random I learnt (aka a FFF or ‘Fascinating FatKid Fact’):

  1. The Duchess of Alba, who happened to pass away while the Fat Kid was in Seville (completely coincidentally!), held the record for having the most aristocratic titles in the world, being a duchess seven times over, a countess 19 times and a marquesa 23 times. Indeed, her full name is Maria del Rosario Cayetana Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Francisca Fitz-James Stuart y de Silva…so there Queen Liz!

What I will try never take for granted again:

  1. The ease at which all the basics are available in Europe…finding food, water, washing powder, vegetables, etc etc no longer a challenge!

Keep in touch:
Twitter @RonRutland

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