I’ve ridden a fair selection of terrible roads in Spain. But I think this one comes out as the worst road in Spain. The kind of road so horrible, you can’t even escape it.
The Worst Road in Spain
It swings up and down, in and out. The bike bumps and rumbles over boulders. And I dodge the potholes, as we roll along the side of an eternal motorway. Every service drain, every service tunnel, every underpass is visited by this road—as though needlessly—before swinging back up and around the next obstacle, the back of the next service station. There are no nice views, no cafés, no shops. Only farmland. There is no alternative. And it’s too late to turn back.
I think I’ve found the worst road in Spain.
Finally. Tired and after hours of pedalling, somewhere to stop: a motorway restaurant. A brief oasis in this desert of painful, needless, man-made hills and boredom. I head inside but nobody wants to talk to the foreigner with red face, tired eyes and wobbly legs. Panting and slowly sipping a tasteless coffee, I order another, to delay the inevitable. And then it’s back. Back to the road.
The wind has picked up and it’s howling into my face and whistling against something unknown on my bike. Every turn of the pedals here is worth ten thousand elsewhere. And all the while the cars effortlessly fly past on the perfectly smooth, perfectly flat and largely empty motorway, whittling away at whatever motivation left. What I would give for some tarmac. I try not to look.
Time for food. I move to the side, climbing out of the right tyre track that has been my humble home for hours—a mostly pointless act, as I haven’t passed nor been passed by a car yet. I could easily eat my lunch in the middle of the road.
So I do. Sitting on a mound of dried dirt and weeds, I bite into my bread to the sound of traffic. The putrid, inescapable smell of fertilizer permeates the air, polluting every mouthful, only adding to the pervasive taste of diesel. There’s nothing natural about this place but the grey clouds above my head.
Back to cycling. I can’t relax: I need to avoid those rocks. But now…Oh, a person! As he gets closer I smile and nod—the only other person I’ve seen! We can finally talk of this place and our shared misery! But he just stares at me blankly me with a dreary face. There is no room for happiness here, he says. His face burns into my mind…forever staring at me for hours to come. If only he had smiled back. I sleep not long after.
Why is this happening to me? Why is this road even here? Nothing interesting has happened. Was it that tractor? Was it the herd of sheep that stared at me as blankly as the man? Another roadside stop: a line of seven men sit at a dingy bar, drinking beer at 1p.m. I almost make it eight, but I wouldn’t understand them, and they wouldn’t understand. I ask to charge my phone, but I’m flatly refused.
And the road worsens. Hardened tread imprinted in the ground by tractors consumes what little speed I have left making it bumpy and jerky to ride. With the bags the bike is difficult to control. It’s painfully slow: six kilometres per hour. And I still have over 100 kilometres to go. The cars, ever-present, flutter past with infinite ease.
A village! My saviour! Have I ever been so happy to see some drab cluster of buildings? I buy a bottle of energy drink for my body and a bar of chocolate for my mind.
And then it’s back. Back to the road.
I feel that if I had known what I was getting myself into, I wouldn’t have found it so difficult. This was a hard ride. Not because it was physically difficult, but because it was unpleasant in so many other ways. The surface, the non-existent views, the smell, the lack of everything. Perhaps it was the perfect road right next to me that I wasn’t allowed to touch.
There isn’t much advice I can give you here apart from:
1. Don’t rely solely on google maps to plan a route.
2. Never give up.
And so that you may never take it, here it is, stretching more than 150km between Puerto Lumbreras and Guadix: