I'm all packed up and ready to leave on Friday. Albania, Kosovo and Turkey here I come!
This week I took my bike in for a service. I knew that there were certain things that needed replacing: The seat was falling apart, the handlebar grips were held together with masking tape and I suspected that I needed a new chain. When I went back to the shop to pick the bike up, the shop assistant chuckled and told me that, for only €30 more, she could have sold me a brand new bike. How I laughed! As it turned out, the cassette needed replacing, along with the only half-working gear levers that had fallen apart last year and one of those big cog things that I really should know the name of was badly worn. Still, it could have been worse. I think.
Anyway, now I'm sorted, if over €200 closer to starvation. I will set off, for one day only, with Boz, the friend who accompanied me into Nerja on the final morning of 2011's ride and who was then partially responsible for my not having any memories of the following twenty-four hours. Unfortunately Boz has recently suffered a strange medical complaint that involved his nose bleeding profusely and then never actually stopping. Apparently he lost a bucketload of blood, had to go to hospital, have horrible plastic pipes inserted up his nose and then had the whole lot held in place using a comedy, snout-like bandage. The last time I saw him, despite the bandage, the bleeding hadn't entirely stopped. He looked like a badly beaten Porky Pig. So it remains to be seen whether Boz can actually come along on Day One or, more precisely, Day One-Six-Two. I hope he can. He could carry some of my stuff.
Last year's ride began with a flat but still knackering leg into Blackburn. Admittedly, it didn't help that I was as fat as Jabba the Pizza Hut. This year, although I'm in better shape, the first day is going to be even tougher. Although Friday will only see me do around seventy kilometres to Alhama de Granada, I have to climb from sea level to about one thousand metres up and over the Zafarraya Pass with thirty kilos of luggage on the bike. This is after doing no cycling whatsoever for the last six months. I can think of better ways to start a twelve thousand kilometre trip, but if I want to head straight for Madrid via Toledo - and I do - then there aren't really any other options. Pain it is then. At least I have the consolation that Boz will have to suffer along with me. Especially if I can secretly strap all my gear to his bike when he's not looking. I just hope it doesn't make his nose explode again. I'd hate to have that on my conscience. Or on my sponsor's nice, white cycling top.
I'm looking forward to the ride but I'll be sad to leave Nerja behind, even if only temporarily. I've made loads of new friends, had a few walks in the mountains, been introduced to the joys of padel (a walled tennis-like game), been swimming in the sea, done countless tapas runs and managed almost no studying whatsoever. So thanks to everyone in Nerja and to one very special person in Competa for making these last two months so utterly fantastic.
Now it's time to say goodbye to Nerja and to hit the road, and the books, again. I'll be back again in November. Until then there's the small matter of twenty countries to cycle through. I wonder if I can convince Boz and his over-burdened bike to follow me all the way there...