Frigiliana and cycling

Frigiliana is apparently Axarquia’s “prettiest village“. I probably should have worked out that what this would translate to was “bigger than a village and catering for tourists“. We arrived on market day and the town was bustling with sunburnt Brits and hundreds of cars along the main road. Our rented apartment was nice but the swimming pool was empty of water. Our first lunch was average and the waiter spoke to me in English despite me speaking to him in Spanish, and when I told him I spoke Spanish, replied dismissively “you understand this?” before reverting to English. One of my biggest bug-bears is people who always talk to you in English despite your attempts to speak in their home language. I think it’s rude.

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In the evening, however, we stumbled upon a craft beer bar in a converted garage, run by a Madrileño who had moved to the south several years previously, brewed his own beer (a very tasty American pale ale) and set up shop. It’s the kind of place where everyone mixes in together, chats to strangers, barriers broken by a mutual enjoyment of beer (or not in my case, the first night I enjoyed a lovely glass of cold fresh lemonade!)

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We then found a busy bar for dinner. Had we looked at the menu we would not have chosen to eat here, as most of the dishes were “international” – hamburgers, pasta. But there was the “tapas plate” to share so we went for that and were ridiculously happy. La Fuente’s main dish is the tapas plate. The others are on the menu to keep the tourists happy but the tapas plate changes regularly and is what they love to cook. Delicate mussels, spicy chickpeas, couscous bursting with flavour, patatas bravas topped with fresh tomatoes, intensely garlicky alioli… We ate it all up and were content. We went back on our last evening in Frigiliana and the tapas plate was similar but different – moist, spicy chicken wings instead of lemon chicken, chickpeas with chorizo instead of spice, a salad of cucumber and orange. I couldn’t recommend it more.

We finished just in time to see the start of Thursday’s Semana Santa procession. Kids and adults dressed in long purple or black costumes, with long trains behind them and masks covering their faces entirely with only small eye-slits so they could see. All carrying candles including some of the tiniest children – I was a little afraid a few were going to set themselves on fire!

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A huge float with a gigantic statue of Jesus carrying the cross, followed by the twelve disciples, each of the men wearing a mask of their disciple’s face. Then the huge float of Mary, followed by yet more tiny children carrying candles. It progressed SO slowly. We were there for almost an hour watching it slowly pass by before home to bed.

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And after the food and the culture, the cycling. Frigiliana is set in the hills of the Sierra Nevada, about 7km upwards from the coast. Meaning any cycle is going to involve hills. We set out upwards from the town, immediately hitting some pretty steep gradients as the road climbed out of the buildings. So steep that when we stopped so James could straighten his handlebars, I really struggled to get going again. It too a few attempts of pushing myself off but eventually I made it and wobbled my way up the hill. After an endless few minutes the road starts to wind itself around the hillside in a series of switchbacks and the gradient lessens. The views here are incredible – the hillside, the white buildings of Frigiliana, the blue sea sparkling.

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The road eventually flattens off as it travels along the ridge of the hill. It’s at this point that the surface quality deteriorated markedly. Fine for going uphill but I did not enjoy the downhill – brakes on to their max, bike and body shaking so much it was giving me a headache! This went on for a while, then we went past a herd of goats grazing by the roadside and then the Tarmac was back for a fantastic final descent into Torrox.

From Torrox we climbed up the road towards Competa. This is a magnificent climb. Competa is 15 km away (we weren’t going that far) and the climb is constant although the gradient varies around a series of switchbacks. It’s tiring, but at a conversational pace, is never challenging.

We were heading up the road to find the house that James’ parents were in the process of buying. The turn-off was about 5km up the road from Torrox, and then we were on a horrendously steep dirt track. So steep and the road surface so rough that we ended up pushing our bikes quite a way! Around 3km later we made it to the house, in the middle of nowhere, pool and terrace overlooking the hillside. We picked an orange from the tree and sucked on the segments greedily as we enjoyed the view.

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Once back on the main road we absolutely soared downhill. This particular road was in perfect condition with wide, sweeping curves. I was really picking up my courage for cornering- something I don’t get any chance to experience in London. We went back down through Torrox, a sleepy town on Good Friday that we didn’t see much of due to going through it at speed! Then it was back onto busier roads to get down to the coast and along the coast road from Torrox Costa to Nerja. Wide, flat roads with good quality Tarmac and a nice-sized hard shoulder, but quite a few cars going relatively fast. From Nerja back to Frigiliana was a nice climb up the hill again and then finally home! Only 45km but with over a km of climbing I was tired!

Here’s the https://www.strava.com/activities/278595226/embed/588448c8efd9aa90725cc91782273098e2253599” target=”_blank”>strava page of the route (with downloadable gpx file for those with strava premium)

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Dinner was at “The Garden” – ignore the English name, the views were wonderful and the tapas was posh but delicious.

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One final point – James needed to get his bike serviced so we found a bike shop in Nerja. Nerja is a horrible town, summed up by a shop selling “I heart” t-shirts in a range that included “porn”, “boobs”, “blow jobs” and “orgies” among others! But X Bikes, along the main road running from Nerja towards Maro did a great job on James’ bike, cleaning it, replacing a cable and the bottom bracket for a total of €60 (only €15 for the labour).

All in all, a hilly place to cycle with beautiful views.

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Our next cycle was to be in the El Chorro region of Andalucia….

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