First and foremost; this post will not just be about our travels from Oliva to Torre del la Sal. It will mostly be about the innumerable amount of good people we have met since then. It will be about the people who have gotten us off of the “thin ice”, who have been our guides and those who have just provided good words of wisdom.
After we stayed in Oliva, we headed north towards beautiful Gandia. Before we headed out of the city we needed to find the correct road to take, fearing we would end up on one of the major roads. We asked a nice woman in the center of Oliva if she could direct us and she offered for us to follow her in her car towards a bike path that would take us directly to Gandia. While we were on this path we really started to get a taste of how many cyclists there are in Spain. It was almost like every half kilometer we would see any where from one to groups of 6 cyclists riding. After we had been on the bike path for a while we saw an older gentlemen taking a break from his bike ride on a bench off to the side of the path. He asked us where we were from and how far we were planning to go. When we told him that we were heading to Roma, he seemed very impressed. He then proceeded to give us some great advice on places to camp in Spain, he also advised us to get better road maps because the ones we were carrying were rather rudimentary. After we chatted for a bit, we said adios and continued towards Gandia. Not 3 minutes later, he was right behind us on his bicycle, eager to talk more. Long story short, he ended up guiding us through Gandia towards Valencia. At one point we had to stop because Casey’s derailer seemed to be acting up. The gentleman pulled out some rubber gloves and offered to fix it. With great success, he took off his gloves and stuffed them into Casey’s handle bar bag as a gift! He even lead us to a neighboring city more towards the coast in hopes of finding us a better maps. Enrique, you will forever be in our hearts. Even though you only guided us about 8 kilometers, you helped us tremendously simply out of kindness We’d thank you 100 times over, if we could.
After riding about 60 kilometers, we took a break on a beach and swam in the Mediterranean for the first time. It was so refreshing after a hot day of biking. At times like those, we realize how fortunate we are to be able to go on an adventure like this one, and it makes the salty water of the Mediterranean that much sweeter. About 3 hours later, we finally found a place to camp in a forest across from a golf course near El Saler and slept very soundly. Another thing that is noteworthy about Friday night, is that we met some 1%-ers. For those of you that don’t know who these people are, they are the 1% of motorcyclists in the world who are part of Hell’s Angels. Now THAT is something you don’t see every day. Anyway, we thought that was pretty cool.
The next day we biked about 15 kilometers and found ourselves staring the Valencian skyline down, right between its eyes. All I could think of was, ‘alright Valencia, round two. Show us what you REALLY got!’. After we biked towards the center of the city we saw the most beautiful architecture. A Valencian man by the name of Santiago Calatrava designed the building of Arts and Sciences along with the Oceanographic museum right at the East end of the city. I thought that was super cool because this man also designed the Milwaukee Art Museum and it reminded me of home. As we biked through the huge Valencian park (once a river that has now dried up) we decided that we needed to stay the night, the city seemed way too interesting to blow through in a couple hours. We found our way to the tourist office to find a hostel. We got directions and found ourselves in the middle of Old Valencia. We walked into our hostel and fell in love. Its called the Hilux Hostel and it seriously has to be the coolest one in all of Valencia, if not all of Spain. The reason I say this isn’t because of the beautiful and unique rooms, its not because its clean, its not even because of the free wifi (although all these things help). Its because of the great people we met. Saturday was the first night we stayed and it just so happened to be Mojito night! The Argentinian manager invited us to partake when we arrived so we said, ‘why not?’. Mojitos were served in the kitchen and there we met Julia, the two Argentinians named Diego and a student from Holland named Freeg. Julia works at the reception desk so she couldn’t stay too long but we did end up talking with Freeg for several hours and decided at around 12 midnight that we needed to hit the bars. The three of us had a great time dancing and experiencing the Valencian night life. We decided that we must stay another night so we could really experience a Valencian weekend.
The next day we headed out and Casey bought a new Nikon D60 camera. What a great idea, we really would like to have some great pictures from our trip. We intended to go to the Bioparc that day but opted not too. A bit too expensive and we thought it would be better to walk around and play with the new Camera. It was a delightful day.
The next day, we packed up, said our goodbyes to the lovely Hilux staff and headed out on our bicycles. We thought the best thing to do was head east toward the beach and find a good road to take up the coast. On our way there, we saw our first organic grocery store. I nearly squealed with delight! There we picked up some breakfast and some more soap. We also got a discount because we came on our bikes, how wonderful is that? It is so refreshing to see people who share a “greener” mindset. When we left, a woman on her bicycle asked us in English where we were headed. When we explained, she beamed with support and encouragement. SHe offered to lead us toward the coast and direct us north. We biked for a while with her and found out a bit about her life story. Her name is Natalia from Holland and she had been living in Spain for the past 11 years or so. This woman’s energy and personality is so warm, loving and free spirited. Her outlook on life is so fresh and inspiring. You know; a lot of times when we tell people what we are doing and how far we are traveling, we are told we are absolutely crazy for going on such a long adventure. Not Natalia, she was so excited for us and was genuinely happy for the two of us. She lives her life in the “now” and really gets it. It was a pleasure to meet her. She gave us her information and I think we’ll send her a card at Christmas time. (Author’s Side Note: I also fell off my bike 3 times within an hour and a half….HA! I guess 2 days off the bike really jaded my cycling skills? Its okay, no harm done!)
So… again we were off, headed north towards what? We did not know. This is when things started to get a little hairy. Essentially, after Valencia, there are no more secondary roads that travel up the coast line so we were trying to find all these bass-akwards ways to take towards the next major city. We traveled about 56 kilometers that day and really didn’t make much headway. We decided to stop in a little town called Canet and call it a day. I think both Casey and I were a bit frusterated and tired of getting turned around. We decided to bike around town to find a good place to pitch our tent. Without much luck, we went to the grocery store for some dinner. This is where we met Santiago, his wife and their young daughter named Susana. Casey approached them outside of the grocery store and asked them for their opinion on the best route to go north with our bicycles. To our surprise, Santiago told us that the national highway is suitable for cyclists. We were shocked, we thought the national road was more like the equivilant of America’s interstate highways. Apparently not! With that weight lifted off our shoulders, we asked Santiago is he knew of a safe place for us to pitch our tents for the night. After some deliberation and discussion, Santiago and his wife invited us back to their appartment to spend the night! We were so relieved! Its interesting, the days where our traveling gets the most hectic are also the days when we meet the most generous and kind people. So, we followed Santiago’s car on our bikes to the neighboring town where their appartment is. We unloaded our stuff, locked up our bikes and took the elevator up to their flat. Santiago’s wife made up a bed and told us that we should shower so that all of us could eat dinner together. I cannot describe how greatful we felt at this moment. Casey and I showered and headed out of the apartment to find the family at a resturant down the street. We walked for a while and couldn’t find them. I think at this point we realised that we must have misheard them. Keep in mind, none of them spoke english so there was a serious language barrier. We headed back to the apartment and waited outside, hoping they’d come back and explain to us what they had really said. Not 5 minutes later, Santiago and his daughter came back and told us to get in the car. We did, totally unsure of where we were going. We arrived at another apartment and walked up the stairs. All the while Casey and I were exchanging confused looks. When we got upstairs we were in an even nicer house. All of a sudden it dawned on us that this was their primary home and that the one we were staying it was just their “beach house”. Anyway, we thought that was pretty funny. Even though there is a language barrier and we’d only known them for a short while, they totally opened their homes and hearts to us. That night we talked laughed and ate…I mean REALLY ATE! They fed us so much food, I felt like I was going to explode. After dinner, Santiago took us back to the “beach house” where were originally unloaded all of our bags. He said good night and left us in their second home, all to ourselves. We were so shocked and so happy. We still couldn’t believe how everything worked out so well and we really reflected on all the good people that are in this world.
The next morning Santiago and his wife came back over and made us some breakfast. They also gave us a peice of paper with their 2 addresses and their phone numbers. They told us to call them if we needed anything while we were still in Spain and that if we ever came back to Canet, we’d always have a place to stay. We told them how greatful we were and headed out, this was our first day that were were going to travel on the national highway. All in all, it was a great day of biking, we did about 80 kilometers…phew!! Right at the end, the road climbed up a mountain. Since it was a little over 80 degrees, it was quite the haul. The decent down was even more intense, if you can believe it. There was NO shoulder and it seemed like every semi-truck known to man was traveling that part of the road. It was quite a thrill. When we got down the hill we pulled off the road towards Torre del la Sal, the town we decided to stay in. We immediately biked to the beach and got into our swim suits. We played in the Sea for a bit and washed our hair. It felt so good to get out of the heat and back into the water! From there we went to the grocery store and joked about hanging out there until we met some other people who might take us in for the night. We did meet a man from the Netherlands who was camping near by and told us that we should come there for the night because it was a nice place. We decided to go there and that is where I am writing from right now.
Needless to say, the last few days have given us more than a great tan. Thanks to all those who we have met, we have broadened our horizons. For us, this trip is all about learning and immersing ourselves into new cultures. I can sit here now and honestly say that these experiences have gone far beyond my expectations and its all thanks to the amazing people who have opened their hearts to us. This post is for all of you, and all those who we will meet in the next 3+ months, and all those who we know back home. Thank you for your support, it means worlds to us.
Kristen and Casey.
1 January 1970