Thursday dawned with the new activity of “Nordic Walking” for the morning warmup. Nordic walking is a fancy way of saying you’re going to walk while using two walking sticks to exercise your upper body -sort of like the way you’d do with cross-country skiing. As we drove to the edge of Antequera, Antonio commented that it was good he had his headlight because he’d be lighting up the path for both of us. I said, “Oh, I have a headlight with me -it’s at the hotel, though. You should have told me to bring it this morning.” He said… Oh I forgot to tell you. It worked out. Even though we walked on a narrow, rock-strewn trail by the light of the stars and Antonio’s headlight, I didn’t fall on my face. It wasn’t bad really and I was pretty surprised to see several local people emerge from the gloom on their way back from an early morning walk without lights at all. Made me feel like a beginner.
As promised (or threatened depending on who’s telling the story), Thursday was the day Antonio decided I’d be doing a 26 mile bike ride. David showed up to lead the way. He told me our route would be a mix of paved/unpaved surfaces. We started out following the packed gravel road that was installed for the trucks involved in building the new train tracks to use as they worked the construction site. We even rode on parts of the actual surface being prepared for the laying of the tracks -but I think we weren’t out of line doing that because it looked like traffic was directed along that small section of it.
Needless to say, the scenery was pretty much construction vehicles and the usual flotsam and jetsam associated with a major project like this. Eventually we popped out of the construction and rode along a country lane for a few miles and arrived at a small town called Bobadilla.
In past visits, one of the regular rides was to Bobadilla and back (maybe 16 miles?) -and I remember thinking that seemed like a long ride back then. Little did I know! This time we got to Bobadilla and kept going. From that point on, we just sort of zig zagged along country lanes until we circled back to Bobadilla from a different direction. Then it was time for a break at the Bar Maravillas – (Bar of Wonders?) It was a tiny place on the edge of town.
When we started riding again, we were on our way back toward Antequera but this time David avoided the construction area and stayed on the road -or some version of a road. There was a bit of a headwind and it was also slightly uphill, which made me slow down a bit. Speaking of hills – there weren’t many today except some larger overpasses and I have to say I’m showing a bit of improvement in my hill climbing abilities. “A bit” is the operative concept. David is a marvel on the bike. He just seems to ride the same pace up or down and I don’t know if I ever saw him take a pedaling break unless we were slowing down for a reason.
We continued to zig-zag through the countryside until we circled back to the hotel. The final tally – 26.25 miles. Just over two hours of actual riding time and an average speed of about 12.5 miles per hour, which I think is pretty good since we were off-road (which is slower going) for about 1/3 of the route.
Back to the gym after lunch for another treadmill workout – 53 minutes doing intervals with running and walking. After a short break, Leah breezed in with her cheery “let’s go” attitude and treated me to a Body Pump workout. Basically a lot of the afternoon gym sessions are like a sampling of all the classes you’d find offered at a membership gym. It was my first and LAST Body Pump experience. To be fair – it’s not overly difficult and there were some exercises that I felt could be useful for some of my activities…but I just felt “blah” about it overall. I told Leah that one of my first thoughts as we got going was that I was glad that my departure is next Thursday because that means I won’t have to do another body pump class! She laughed.
The afternoon ended with a bit of pampering. I signed up for a massage and it was really nice. Anisa is the massage therapist and she found places that hurt that I wasn’t even aware of. I walked out feeling really relaxed and I think I’ll have a good night’s sleep tonight for sure.
At dinner that night, two ladies walked into the restaurant just after I sat down. They said hello to me and I said hi back. They were shown to a nearby table and then they stopped and looked at me and said – “Are you alone?” Yep, all week! They looked at each other and then asked me if I wanted to join them – I said no because my meal is pre-ordered and they’d still be looking at the menu when I got served. Although, I’m sure Lorenzo (working the dining room at the time) would have made it work out. We chit-chatted across the aisle for a bit though. They were two very nice English ladies named Carol and Ann who were using Antequera as a base to do day tours to the other nearby cities.
Friday was another hiking day. David told me that it was going to be a good walk: not too many hills and easy paths that would allow faster walking. I asked if it was going to be OK to wear shorts or did I need the usual full-body armor for a hike with him? He said shorts. I was a bit afraid to trust that advice, but I’m glad I did. It was a hot day. David drove us through town to the other side of the big hill where the church is and into the neighborhood behind it to a small park. As I looked around I was thinking: I don’t see any way to get anywhere from here without climbing a hill! Then David got two trekking poles out of the van and I was thinking – P.T. Barnum doesn’t have anything on David. I’m a sucker! Easy-ish day….riiiiiiight. In spite of the “Nordic walk” the other morning, I’ve always thought of two trekking poles as evidence that there is serious trekking ahead. Turns out we did climb, but only for a very short bit and most of the day David used the poles to do Nordic walking.
The hike was about 7 miles in all through rolling and, almost flat (for here) territory, but it felt like we walked a lot longer today -even though it was somewhat easier. We just followed a variety of access roads, farm roads, paths and actual roads in a big circle until we finally got back to the van.
At one point we joined the Camino Mozarabe de Santiago as it unfolded toward Antequera.
It was fun to follow the yellow arrows again for awhile, but having seen the view toward Malaga from the top of El Torcal in past visits, I’m not putting the Malaga to Santiago pilgrimage route on my “list of things to do”. Mike rejoices.
I was so ready to be done! In a previous post I used a picture of the Alcazaba from the road and I had taken that picture today because we actually walked along that same road for awhile. Believe me I’d been hoping I’d get a chance to get that picture this trip -but I never dreamed I’d have to walk there to get it! Keep in mind that we started our walk that morning on the complete other side of the hill that the fortress sits on. Are we there yet??
The afternoon gym session was another spin class and then another workout with the exercise balls. I guess Antonio needed to laugh some more. I feel really awkward and unbalanced using them (well -no one is surprised except me that I feel unbalanced, right?) and he says it doesn’t show. I had told him before the first class with them that I haven’t had any real exercise ball experience -he said he didn’t believe me because I was doing just fine.
We did an assessment of my progress. I was a bit surprised to see that not very much has changed yet. A bit less body fat a bit more muscle…but you’d think with all the working out that my pants would be falling off. Evidently I’m in no danger of that at the moment. Antequera rejoices.
When I went down for dinner, I saw Carol and Ann (the two English ladies) sitting at the bar. I stopped to ask them about their adventures that day because they went to Cordoba to see the Mesquita which is close to here and which I think is pretty amazing. In it’s day it was the biggest mosque in the world. When the Christians took Spain back they left the building intact, but went to the center of it and built an entire Catholic church altar. Carol and Ann enjoyed seeing it very much. As I finished the conversation and started to go to the dining room, they jumped up. I think they’d decided they were going to sit with me for dinner, which was very nice of them. There was a waiter working that I don’t see very much and sure enough -he brought me my dinner before they’d even read the menu. I decided I’d wait to eat until they had their food too. Just before I started to eat, Lorenzo breezed through the dining room, saw my plate untouched, wagged his finger at me and told me to eat before my dinner got cold.
What a fun dinner! Carol and Ann are old friends and Carol leaves her husband at home now and then to take fun trips with Ann. They were both extremely nice, very interesting and they certainly had wonderful senses of humor. It was a relief to just have a long conversation in English without stopping to fumble around for a word to complete my thought. (Not that that doesn’t happen to me when speaking in English too!) It was just one of those travel moments where planets aligned and I felt like we “clicked” and the conversation flowed. It’s not always that way. I’m sure they have no idea how grateful I am to them for taking pity on me for one night. When I do trips like this, I don’t really mind being alone if here and there I get a bit of social interaction. For this trip -that had been lacking a bit in the evenings until they showed up. On the way out of the restaurant I told them I was going to have my 3rd beer for the week. They stopped with me and we talked about their plans for the next day in Malaga. I was tickled because while we were sitting there, Lorenzo asked them if it was their last night and they said yes. He came back with Finca Eslava key chains to give them -and he made a face at me like…you don’t get one yet…and then gave me one anyway. They went to sort out their bill for dinner and I got up to leave. As I was leaving, I noticed the hotel owner sitting at the end of the bar. I said hello and kept going, but I heard him say something and I turned around to see if he’d been speaking to me. He had and he was asking me if I wanted – I’m not sure, a nightcap? In the spirit of international relations I said, “Por que, no?” (why not?) I told him I’d be right back and dashed off to the ladies room. When I got back, lo and behold there’s Carol and Ann sipping away -he’d offered it to them too. It was something tasty in a small shot glass. All I had to do was ask him how the new grand baby was and out came the phone with the pictures so Carol and Ann could see the baby too!
I stayed up too late on Friday night and was really tired on Saturday morning. Thank goodness they get a bit of a later start on Saturdays. I had a new “keeper” today. Her name was Noemi and she was very nice.
We ended up riding toward a village called Cartaojal – about 21 miles round trip. The route was a mix of paved/unpaved surfaces again.
I wasn’t moving very fast today. Luckily the route really wasn’t too challenging and I enjoyed it.
Noemi obviously had been told that I’m not a big fan of hills. I think they make too much of it by trying to make my routes less hilly, if possible. Here, there’s no getting around hills if you want to ride a bike. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I don’t accept them as part of biking. So during the ride she was trying to point out that “this” was the last hill…etc…as if to reassure me. She and I had a conversation that went like this:
Noemi: The route today is slightly uphill toward Cartaojal with a couple of hills and then on the way back it is all downhill.
Me: OK, Sounds fine.
(We ride until we are almost to the village, and are passing through an olive grove. There is a noticeable hill.)
Noemi: This is the last hill.
Me: I’ll believe it when I see it.
(We top the hill -it wasn’t bad- but immediately after it there was another one)
Noemi: THAT is the last one, I promise!
(We have just climbed out of the olive grove using the farm track and are standing by the side of a paved road for a moment preparing to cross)
Noemi: You did it. It’s all downhill now on the way back.
Me: Good news.
Noemi: We are going into the village for a rest stop.
(She points across the street and there’s a short, steep hill to get up to the village. I guess that one was the last, last one.)
Me: Um…that’s a hill too!
(We then climb that hill and proceed to coast down a long, easy hill into the village proper and I’m thinking the whole way: Bet we have to go back this way. We go to a little village square and take a break. When we’re ready to head back to Antequera…)
Noemi: Well, now we have the easy part. All downhill.
Me: Except the hill to get back out of town.
(We leave town -uphill- and start retracing our route. It actually was mostly downhill but there were some overpasses to climb …nothing drastic, but anything “up” is a hill in my book. First overpass:)
Me: This is a hill.
Noemi: Well, a very small one. It is the only one you’ll have going this way.
(A few minutes later – another overpass to climb up and over)
Me: This is another hill.
Noemi: (Giggles) It’s the last one I swear!
I admit I had a bit of fun teasing her about the hills -because I thought she was taking it too seriously.
As we were almost done and very close to the hotel, we came upon a pretty horse drawn carriage that was obviously going to be used in a wedding that day.
When I got back to my room, there was a bulky envelope sitting on the desk. It was a note from Carol and Ann saying they enjoyed meeting me and inside the envelope was a box of authentic English tea! I thought that was just the perfect thing. It gave me a big smile.
After lunch I was supposed to go to the pool and have Noemi coach me about my swimming stroke. Unfortunately, I’ve banned myself from the pool. I was looking forward to the session too. Over the last few days I noticed a rash in the same area where the heart rate monitor goes and I thought I was having a reaction to wearing it somehow. I showed the rash to Mike on FaceTime and he immediately said – “That looks like Shingles.” “Nah,” I said, “I think it’s from the heart rate monitor strap.” “Shingles,” he said, “Do some Googling.” I did -and a lot of the signs for Shingles add up to what’s been going on with me -the “rib” pain, the numb area I have, the rash, fatigue… I’m going to see the doctor when I get back to have it confirmed, but in the meantime I do not want to take any chances -like getting into a public swimming pool. Shingles on their own aren’t communicable, but there is a time in the progress of the rash that it is possible to transmit Chicken Pox to someone who hasn’t had it yet. I feel like Typhoid Terry at the moment. (Note: Mike says he deserves credit for diagnosing Shingles before I even saw the rash, based on our conversation about my pain, but I didn’t take him seriously until I got the rash.)