Malaga to Santiago –
Back in 2013 I cycled around Spain’s spectacular mountain ranges and coastal trails, covering 2,800km, mostly off-road, on a mountain bike pulling a trailer with my kit inside. I started in Malaga in spring, and I worked my way north east through the Sierras de Tejeda and Nevada, turning north at a little used pass at Laroles. From there I cycled to the remote Sierras de Carzorla and Segura – a lovely area of limestone ridges and valleys. Then I headed north to the Pyrenees, picking up a well established biking trail west to the Atlantic. Finally I headed to Santiago de Compostela using the northern pilgrim route along the beautiful coastline.
Much of my route was through very remote areas with no sign-posting and little information on what route to take. So all along the way a satmap and small laptop were crucial to me, allowing me to both plan draft routes and record actual routes. Sometimes I could find an existing route and use parts of it. For example transandalus.com and transpirinaica.com offer satnav files for southern Spain and the Pyrenees. I could download their files, cut out the part I needed and load it up into the Active 10 the night before each day’s ride. So good wifi and a .gpx editor are also crucial, but connectivity in Spain is so good this was rarely an issue.
Where I could not find any existing information on a route I’d just make one up on everytrail.com each evening and put that in my Active 10. Then the next day I’d follow the draft route; but the great thing about an Active 10 is that I could simultaneously record my actual route, so if my draft didn’t work out any detours I made would be recorded. Also the large map on the screen really helped in deciding on a detour as I could scan the area around me for alternatives.
If you want to find out more you can read the blog at www.my-epic-journey.com, where you’ll also find advice on equipment (including the Satmap Active 10) and .gpx software: View it in “Book Format” and look for Chapter “Planning/What worked well”. Knowing a bit about satnav files is very important for two reasons. Sometimes you can only get files in proprietary format (e.g. Google’s .KMZ) and sometimes files have corrupt elements. I found knowing how to open them up and either change the format or spot and correct errors was crucial.
After finishing the ride I was struck how hard it had been to find routes over such long distances, and have now set up a new portal to collect together some really epic off-road routes around Europe. See www.totalterrain.eu. If anyone out there has some good routes mapped out, please get in touch.