CYCLING TOUR

SWEDEN-GIBRALTAR 1996

My name is Erik Wennerholm. I live in Enebyberg, 10 km north of Stockholm, Sweden. I am 20 years old and in to sports and touring cycling. In 1994 I went with bike from The North Cape to Smygehuk (southest point of Sweden), 3200 km. That trip took 30 days and I lived in a tent and sleeping-bag.

During my year in the army, 95-96, I planned my Swe-Gib-tour on free weekends. This time I would use hotels and Youth Hostels to stay overnight. I bought maps, scale of 1:300 000, and made out my most likely way. I put plastic around them so they would resist rain.

Because this was my holiday I calculated to travel 120 km a day. I estimated the distance to Gibraltar to maximum 4004 km. Therefore I had quite many days on my orange Crescent Trekking 2301 STX RC ahead of me when I started the tour, 28 of May. From Stockholm I took the train to Gothenburg, from G:s railwaystation I started, at 11:50, cycle to the harbor. I reached the ferry (just in time) that would take me to Fredrikshavn.


DENMARK

28/5-30/5

367,0km

Fredrikshavn-Randers-Silkeborg-Vejle-Åbenro-Flensburg(D)

The weather was great, not a cloud in the sky, when I travelled south. Unfortunately the good weather did not keep up. The second day it rained constantly and as a bonus it was contrary wind. I did not have Gore-Tex rain-clothes, so it was very nice arriving at Vejle Youth Hostel. I had company there with Svein. It was really inspiring meeting him and I promised to get in touch with him after the trip. It is Svein I have to thank for the information about Eurobike and for putting this document out on the Internet.

A little bit dark...

It was very easy to cycle in Danmark, no problem finding the right way, nice people, quite a lot of cycle roads. Unfortunally I was not so lucky with the weather the third day, my last in Denmark, either. It rained cats and dogs. I passed the border to Germany on road 170(Dk)/200(D). Then the rain stopped.


GERMANY

30/5-6/6

918,3km

Flensburg-Husum-Glückstadt-Nienburg-Paderborn-Neuwied-Trier-Thionville(F)

In Germany the weather improved. The landscape was in the beginning flat and open. When the wind was in my back it was very good. After 500 km in Germany the landscape became steeper. At this time I also got some physical problems. My heel-sinews swelled to their double size. I was in great pain. It was very difficult for me to walk in stairs. In a uphill slope before Meschede I had to stop several times because of the pain. Arriving at Meschede I decided to take an early brake. I could simply not carry on. In the local sports-shop I bought bandage-protection, like Vulkan, and in the pharmacy I bought Tiger-balm to take the pain out. I checked in at the Youth Hostel. The only free room was on the attic, I had to take it despite my problem with climbing stairs. I felt like an old man when I fought myself up. Another move I made was lowering the saddle. I belive my heels had been to tense, therefore the problems. After these changes the pain disappered and the swelling went down, after 10 days I was fully recovered. Despite my problems I did not alter my plans, I went on as usual.

The German people are very nice. They are intrested and really wants to help you. There is only one problem. Several times I found it quite hard finding my way out of larger towns. The signs were not good and when I asked people, they pointed in different directions. Maybe it was because of difficulties understanding each other, who knows.

The parts I found most beautiful in Germany were Trier-Konz-Saarburg. There were cycle road almost all the way, very near the river Saar and great plantations on the hills.

The border between Germany and France I did not notice. All of a sudden the traffic signs read French. This happened on road 419(D)/153(F). I had to stop and take a good look for the nation painted mark. A friendly german cyclist took a picture of me when I crossed the border Germany/France. [bild: pic2.jpg]


FRANCE

6/6-14/6

1242,99km

Thionville-Metz-Tonnerre-Decize-Montlucon-Ussel-Tulle-Albi-Castres-Carcassonne-Quillan-Perpignan-Figueres(E)

Entering France I realized a smaller problem: I do not speak a word french. However I managed to find my way to Auberge de Jeunesse, Youth Hostel, in Thionville. At this stage of the tour the temperature were around 30 degrees Celsius. I drank as much liquid I could. Evian water and Coca-Cola preferable.

In the beginning the landscape was flat but the further I went, more and more hills came in my way. There were no problems with traffic in France. The cars took it very carefully while passing me. I managed the language problem with pointing, said some English words, even tried some Swedish but with little success. It was very fun with all the French racing cyclists. There were a lot of them. Of course I always waved a small ”Hello” to them.

In Carcassonne I had my third visit at McDonald´s, first in France, during the tour. After that I cycled through the most beautiful parts of the tour. Carcassonne-Quillan-Perpignan. Road 118 to Axat, then 117 the last way to Perpignan. The stream Aude at one side and on the other mountains. West of Alet-les-Bains, 18 km north of Quillan, when I was going to switch maps, I got a flat tire. I was not very surprised. After more than 2000 km on the road and quite a lot glass pieces on the way in both Germany and France I guess I had to live with it. I made a mistake however. Instead of taking my new inner tube I tried to repair the old one. When I was filling the newly repaired tube with air and I was ready to continue the air went out faster then ever. This time I took my new tube, I am a quick learner. That was much better. Stupidity try to repair. I reached the Youth Hostel of Axat later that day. There I chaired room with French mountain-bikers. The next morning I continued towards Spain. I was alone on the road, great white mountains besides me and the wind in my back while the morningsun warmed me up, I can hardly think cycling can get any better than this.

In Perpignan I bought new tires. These were much thinner than I´ve had earlier on. Peugot 622-25. I took road 9 towards Le Perthus. I crossed the Pyrenees, they were surprisingly not tough at all.


SPAIN

14/6-22/6

1378,01km

Figueres-Girona-Granollers-Terrassa-Tarragona-Castello-Valencia-Canals-Villena-Murcia-Almeria-Malaga-La Linea

Reaching Spain and Figueres I decided to take a shorter day. Figueres is the home town of the great artist Salvador Dali. I made a visit to his museum. The next day I took road N11 to Girona, where I went further west to avoid Barcelona. I believe that is a to big city to cycle through. When I was finished that day I had succeeded. I was in Sant Salvador, on the Spanish east coast, and had successfully avoided the big city, 221,61 km I had to travel to reach that goal. I think it was worth it.

I now travelled on road 340 right by the coast with tourists everywhere. The 340 were often an Autovia, I believe it is a charge-free motorway. Very often dangerous for cyclists. I do not know however I was allowed going there, but because often there were no alternative roads so I did not have much choice. A thing that struck me were all the dead animals along the roads. The more south I came, the more dead animals were my general impression during my tour.

The largest city I passed was Valencia. I came in on a tricky Autovia and the following day I went out on an even more trickier Autopvia in the middle of the morning rush hour. In Valencia I bought new tires. I also had a major discussion with the Valencia post office that I will always remember. Old maps and a cooking gear were among the objects I would send home. Finally a English spoken post clerk helped me. I was very thankful and the confidence for Spain was quickly rewon.

In Xàtiva, south of Valencia, I again cycled on road 340 to Albaida, while there heading west on 320 to Ontinyent. The 37 km between Xàtiva and Albaida on 340 were great, no Autovia but a great meander road.

From Villena I would get the fastest way to Pinoso and hopefully a hotel. On the map I discovered a small yellow road that would make the distance 10 km shorter. Great idea I thought. It is not good to make a short cut in the middle of nowhere with a Snicker-bar and a Coke as only proviant. When I realized that it was to late to turn back. I was able to orientate myself with the motorway 8 km in the west, the mountain in front of me. A car came, I stopped it and the Spanish gentleman explained the right way. He was not so good with English so I had to show him which side was left and right. When that was sorted out he draw a map over the area which helped me. I was very thankful. I finally made it to Pinoso and found the only hotel in town. That day I had learned a good lesson about short cuts: Never again in that kind of lonely landscape and with that kind of ”food” with me.

Just 10-15 km south of Pinoso I had the speed experience of the trip. 74 km/h in a major slope. It was a great moment. My Crescent did not wobble at all. Reaching the end of the slope and a gas station, where I bought breakfast, I told the employee about the speed. He just shook his head and even more when I told him about my tour.

I reached the southcoast almost only by road 340. Between El Ejido and Torrox Costa I had my, without question, most windy day. Unfortunally the wind was against me. I had to pedal all the time no matter it was down- or upslope. This day (21/6) I did not travel as usual. Normally I looked at the distance and then decided how much further I would cycle, this day however, I only looked at the clock. At 18:00 I checked in on a hotel to get my deserved rest.

Cycling between Malaga and Marbella was like a big carneval gathering. All kind of people, vehicles, houses and stores. Totally exploited for the needs of tourists. The goal for my tour came closer and closer. 2 km from La Linea on the highest and final crest I saw The Rock of Gibraltar. It was wonderful. I checked in on a hotel in La Linea, I wanted to come out to the Rock fresh in the morning.


GIBRALTAR

23/6

10,23km

After passing the strict custom control I was in/on Gibraltar. I began taking the eastern road, this was all of a sudden a dead end. Had to turn back and take the western road. This was much better! I reached the lighthouse at 08:45. Just to make sure I asked a local fisherman and I also took a trip in the nearby jost to be 100% I really was at southest point of Gibraltar, Punta de Europa.

After 3916 km and 26 days I had finally made it! Happiness! The tour was now over.

The average distance per day became 150 km. Much greater than I ever could imagine. It was not so tough touring alone. I only wish I was much better working with my camera. Too few pictures were taken. Maybe I need a photographer with me next time I will be touring.

From Gibraltar I got to Malaga Airport and caught a plane to Stockholm.

While touring through large countries, Germany, France, Spain, I believe it is necessery to have one map over the whole country. I missed that in Germany but in Fracne and Spain I found small country maps. Then I could follow my tour on the national map and not stare blind at a 1:300 000 map. These issues I will consider on my next tour. Not decided destination but you will hear from me again.

Would you like to se some statistics ?

Please send comments and suggestions to my momentery e-mail:

e95_tro@e.kth.se

(this goes to my friend Tomas Robertsson)