Cordoba to Chinchilla de Montearagon; Crossing into Castilla-La Mancha


Published: November 15th 2023

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El CarpioEl CarpioEl Carpio

Day one out of Cordoba was deliberately light on the pedalling front, to limit what could have been an 80km day, had we gone further east. We’d managed to fall asleep the night before despite our near neighbour in the apartment block singing his heart out to the transistor radio. A knock on his door after midnight stopped it (we’ve been told there are strict noise rules in such blocks in Spain).

Misty and cool 5C at 8am was the weather pattern that followed us from Córdoba, to El Carpio and beyond. The 31km followed a good ten kilometres of cycle path, with an industrial N-road section after, and then a chance to peel off onto slightly quieter parallel (to the autovía) camino rurales.

Coming into El Carpio before 2:30 was an outright record. We discovered the Hotel Macami easily, and once calling the number on the door (when the reception wasn’t attended), we were swiftly checked in and the bikes stored in a garage beside. Except, the room was not what we’d ordered. I’d had a brief exchange with the hotel by message app (thinking they were giving us an upgrade to a better

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equipped hotel room), but it seemed a mix up with another patron who’d called them led to what I’d call (I.e. no washing machine or kitchen), a downgrade. Hombre responded to my disappointment by finding that apartment after all (the hotel was Quiet, capital Q). And, to continue the run of lucky 16s on our travels for some years now, it was apartment 16.

Small Spanish towns in late afternoon are always interesting for street life and seeing the comings going’s at the plaza, including the ubiquitous cats. A great tower loomed on the horizon on our approach, which once we’d stood beside it, we learned it was a Mudejar style tower of about 700 years old (Tower de Garci Mendez).

Heading off again on the next one nighter, we did a fast flat section to Pedro Abad. A large group of road cyclists were having their coffees in the village, and gave us spontaneous shouts of encouragement as we passed, all laden with bags of course. Cycling camaraderie is something I’ll miss when we go home.

The hill to Villa del Rio deserved the encouraging exclamations. A steady 7km rise

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took us to a junction that then swept left again off the main road to a massive valley of, you guessed it, olives. Its endless, and at this time of the year, harvesting is in full motion. We stopped briefly to see a tiled roofed church in Villa Del Rio, to then tackle another short ascent up to the Embalse (and Presa, dam) de Las Yeguas. No breeze at all, and with lots of concrete, being by the dam, it was a hot lunch spot.

A good bit of down and flat, with two Roman bridges thrown in (one via Marmolejo, and one on our approach to the destination), led us to Andujar.

Fortunately our host had waited for us at the suggested time, as the peluquería wasn’t open as scheduled, to collect the key!

Andujar has a lot of history with underground tunnels connecting the palace and other buildings with other Roman features of the area. We chanced on the Palacio de los niños de Don Gome after closing time, and a kindly man approached us while P2 took photos inviting us to come into the internal courtyard if we’d like. We’ve

El Carpio on way to Villa del RioEl Carpio on way to Villa del RioEl Carpio on way to Villa del Rio

learned to never say no to a private archeological museum viewing, or private viewing of anything (this type of invite, to showcase what an area has, has happened a few times so far on this trip). He even put the lights back on for the external exhibits, the remainder upstairs and subterranean exhibit to be left for opening time the next day.

Depending, of course, on when we wanted do the 50km to Linares. Hills in the afternoon are not the easiest.

Our cosy stay was only with one bike that night. P2 had been having disconcerting front brake noises since Cordoba, and with my investigative wiggling of the calipers, I’d made the noise worse, apparently. Another ‘K..’ bike store, ‘Kanina’ this time, happened to be barely a 200m walk from our apartment. The oftentimes disadvantage of mid afternoon shop closures in Spain was this time an advantage, putting the bike in at 7pm for a 10.30 pick up the next day. I would not get a 10€ fix for this in NZD either!

We returned to the museum after check out, enjoying seeing the archeological pieces and fragments from Castulo,

Message - Villa del RioMessage - Villa del RioMessage – Villa del Rio

an ancient Roman city near Linares that is a site of ongoing exploration, and seeing part of the underground tunnel at the palace.

Sprinkled with a little rain, we ticked off a few towns on the way to Linares, some noted for the hill before them (Casalilla). Lunch time was hectic in Mengibar, motor scooters and students spilling out everywhere, followed by the big calm. The old 2:30 ‘siesta’. Unusually, this cracker and cheese spot had a nearby toilet, with soap and hand basin. Never mind that it was a mens (good siesta timing).

A further 20km of flat and gradual up got us to Linares. With a massive Mercadona sign greeting us, just like arriving in many other Spanish towns, I guessed we’d not navigated to Linares like planned. It was THE town of Mercadona.

And turns out our local market was a close one at that, just a 300m walk from our unit, on one of the more mixed residential-industrial sides of town. Motorcycles, like in Mengibar, were everywhere here, as were traffic lights. This was a city, and we were staying beside a motorbike mechanic. Well, if we’d

Embalse, on way to AndujarEmbalse, on way to AndujarEmbalse, on way to Andujar

need maxi tyre pumping done ….

Linares was a relaxing (as in, no panniers) two nighter. I ventured out in the morning seeking a meandering ride. Castulo is out on the road to Torreblascopedro (mouthful of a name), although the view from the recommended mirador was about 20 metres in front of you, with very heavy mist. I continued to the Puente de Obispo, an old Roman bridge, in sight of the hills of the Sierra Magina. From river level, there’s always a climb, and a decent hill followed to Begijar, Lupion and eventually back to Linares, all with amazing views to reward the hill work.

We took to the streets that afternoon, ending in cute little cakes from a pastelería. Although the city was not on our most wanted to visit list, we found diverse and thought provoking street art, nice buildings, and friendly locals, striking up conversation about the affordable price of old town real estate and renovations, or just happy to promote their town. Authentic food was on the list too, ordering some Andujar area specialities from our hosts restaurant (Pondos) as home delivered takeaways. 40€ certainly went far!

Andujar 'palace cat'Andujar 'palace cat'Andujar ‘palace cat’

Nevertheless, Linares as a city seems also to suffer from vacant commercial and office spaces, with many high street shops or venues empty. Apart from the motorcycle sounds, it was quite subdued. And I didn’t, unusually for Spain, spot any cycle lanes.

P2 had been ‘focusing’ on this next leg for some time, being the hills and duration. Just under 75km, with gradual (and the odd steep) rises and short falls, the goal was to bring us to the next higher altitude place, the middle of nowhere (near Camporredondo). The A312 road was the kindest way to get over the multiple hill ranges one could potentially cross on their way east. Seeing as it was my plan to visit Cordoba, and force the journey this way, we’ve coped with this day using lots of encouragement, and rest stops. Once far enough east to know that downhills and flats are near is mentally affirming, according to P2. I just love getting to a hilltop, however long it takes!

Rain made an appearance without being forecast, so we started on wet roads on a busy Saturday morning, at times a little dodgy (with everyone stepping

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out). The grind began about 20km in, through Arquillos, where some idiot pulled a right turn in front of me in the centre of town, and if he’d bothered to stop and have me check their license, learned some choice English words at the same time. ‘Put it behind you, we’ve got hills to do’; some sage advice from P2.

We pushed on until most of the hills were done, bar Castello, a grand hilltop town with tumbleweeds blowing through, and one very curious local staring us down whilst having a cigarette in the town square. I guess we do look like mobile snails! Off he went, a scent of passive smoke lingering behind.

Arriving at La Teja was glorious, in that we had a bucket and hose! The mud we’d accumulated was downright ridiculous, with every nook and cranny of our steeds crammed thickly with the by-product of Farmer Juan, and his tractors, recent harvesting activity. We could have well ditched our offline navigation mapping entirely, and come to La Teja solely by red muddy road markings.

Not a soul was at La Teja, aside from our lovely host. And,


once offering to add to the heavy burden of carried groceries I’d brought (nothing opens of use on Sundays, in the rural areas especially) by buying them that night on our behalf, we settled in to literally our own finca.

Dry weather blessed us for the day after, and the steeply rising hilltop town of Chiclana de Seguro was a possibility for a ride. We’d spotted it from the A road as we coasted 10km down from Sorihuela. Examining the terrain I decided it was doable, and with ‘seguro’ in the name, almost 1000m of elevation was definitely safe from harm, and a really comfortable climb despite its imposing height. What a view, again, and thinking all the while how well MY bike ran, I discovered on return it was in fact P2s. That’s how similar we are (well, in stature, anyway….)

Beas de Segura, a lower lying town, was a short 8km from La Teja and typically quiet on a Sunday afternoon. Various old buildings or bridges (from the 1500s onwards) in the area form part of network of Teresian cities, marking the national route in the ‘footsteps of Teresa’. Autumn colours had

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begun to reveal themselves too, the town square surrounded by yellow.

Polishing off another Tempranillo over the two nights, and various food items, packing with less weight was easier. We’d have to be rationing some things in days ahead though, as mid afternoon closures of panaderias, fruterías and supermarkets have meant we’ve had to well plan our food and accommodation ‘stepping stones’, at this point, mostly rural.

Warm and dry was a surprise for the weather on leaving La Teja. Forecast as 20C and light airs meant for perfect riding. From the steep hills behind Beas de Segura and descending down to Arroyo de Ojanco, the visibility was for miles.

A gradual rise was the general terrain and we used a combination of Bach roads and the main N road to get to Puente de Genave. Known for the sculptures on and around the bridge, the autumn colours here were shining bright, and continued so as we gained altitude. This was one of those days we also had to get food early on in the piece, from the Suma, and once the panniers were even more tightly packed, on we went.

Street Art - LinaresStreet Art - LinaresStreet Art – Linares

The road markers for entering Castilla La Mancha soon appeared, with imposing rocky outcrops to our north, and several tourist sign reminders of being in Don Quixote country. The terrain rolled up and down, gently, meaning hills were not really hills (unless you’re carrying a load!). Lunch was by an ermita whilst staring at the autumn colours, and with 30km left for the day, we eventually made a total elevation gain of 600m from La Teja, to being at 1000m above sea level at El Horcajo.

So, the heating was ON in this lodging, despite the warm day. We had a few quirks, with broken washing machines in the adjacent apartment and the common area, and lack of kitchen lighting aside from a permanently on vent light. But, food we had. The local fuente had crystal clear potable spring water which we’d learned from a friendly local tip off on arrival. And, my pannier gets lighter again. In time for, I was told, a gradual downhill.

Yellow and orange describes best the colours of El Horcajo in November. The locals pronounce it with a hard ‘k’ we found, and it’s one

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of the higher altitude rural tourist stays we have been to. At 6C and fine the next morning, autumn colours were in full glow. I did a quick ride out to Alcaraz, which we’d appreciated from a distance (some villages are best seen from distance, we often tell ourselves, when there’s no time, or we’re tired..) the day before. A particularly narrow street by the cathedral and adjacent tower in the main plaza was really impressive, and like a lot of towns, hill locations are ‘safer’ from harm. I got part way up a yellow filled valley to Vianos, before turning back. I love autumn.

A hill of about 2km was the start of our 73km, atop which we began to see more and more wind turbines. One motorcyclist gave us a hefty wave on passing near the hill top at just over 1050m above sea level, and literally we had the descending and winding road down (for a good 30km) to ourselves. After a side visit to Ermita de Villalgordo, the traffic began to mount around El Jardín, me finding another excuse to support the local (cheese) economy for P2, before a short lunch stop that

Wall mural - Musician, Andres SegoviaWall mural - Musician, Andres SegoviaWall mural – Musician, Andres Segovia

inevitably included cheese. Outside a closed piscina municipal of Balazote in the leafy car park (I’ve not seen an open pool since arriving in October).

The scenery changed so much in that day. Dry fields from the harvest, now being groomed for winter or replanted, preceded rocky outcrops, and followed by vast plains as we did the last and fast 28km to Albacete. Our host had a slight hick up in meeting us, being stuck in an elevator (what a day!), so we need not have executed plan B which would be sleep on the street, according to P2. Bright side thinking. There’s always a reason for someone’s lateness!

Albacete has an agricultural and industrial history, which shows in the amount of industry as you enter town and leave it, as we did the next day. However, the feature that stood out was a highly frescoed cathedral, and the architecture of the cutlery (or more correct, knife) museum in a dark pastel green. There’s even a statue of a knife maker near cathedral square.

Los llanos is another reference for Albacete, as it’s flat and dry. On leaving, we’d noticed a

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cycle path in the north east direction with a slight and very gradual rise looking over the plains, deviating from the 30km to Chinchilla plan. I’d seen no less than 50 cyclists within an hour in this repurposed old road, and we discovered it went all the way to Valdeganga. Sealed and safe.

16km of riding two abreast later (when can you not shout to your fellow rider, but riding like this!), we turned off down a long quiet stretch to La Felipa, lunched in quietsville again, and did the last 15km gradual ascent to Chinchilla. The sting is always the rise to these hill top towns (the final 2km), but incredible views always reward it. Nested on rock, the town has a well preserved castle, some lovely whitewashed looking buildings, and beautiful town square and city walls. Life bustled at 5.30pm in the plaza, light falling and the street lights flicking on at 6pm. Christmas street decorations have been hung as in many other towns we’ve been recently, and not yet switched on. I’m sure that time will soon come. It’s November 15th already.


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