Having had a look at the map last night, we knew that the only way past Cadiz from our campsite was on a motorway, so were doubly eager to get an daly start – to beat the traffic as well as the heat. Although we managed to get on the road by half six, it felt like a struggle this morning and were all a bit bleary-eyed as we peddled off into the dark.
The 20 mile stint on the motorway wasn’t too bad, and we had it cracked by the time the sun came up. For the first part of the day we traversed some extensive mud flats, making for easy progress if not enthralling views. Before long we were climbing again, up into the range of mountains fronting the coast and enjoying some pretty awesome views. Shortly after beginning the ascent, I crossed the 4000 mile mark – giving me a bit of a boost. As we were tackling some steep switchbacks up into ‘Vejer’ – a town on the crest of the mountain range – Lewy broke another two spokes. The bike was still ridable, and as we were so close to the finish we decided to go for it. The views from Vejer itself were great, but the descent on the way back down were hair-raising, especially considering the state of Lewy’s wheel. The gradients was so steep that holding the breaks as hard as possible didn’t do much to slow you down – a bit of a problem when tackling sharp hairpin turns!
We made it to the bottom safe and sound, but soon after that the wind started: it was one of toughest I’ve had this trip, rivalling Norway’s worst. The twisting nature of the toad meant that it was alternately a headwind or a side wind: one slowing us to a crawl, the other threatening to blow our bikes out from under us. We stopped after 10 miles of that treatment, completely shattered, and had some lunch: the forrest of wind turbines we could see from the café suggesting that this stretch is often windy.
It was with difficulty that we got back onto the bikes, and began to tackle the last miles into Tarifa. But I was staring to get pretty excited by this point – as the southern most point in Europe, Tarifa was the finish line for my European Epic and the culmination of a month and a half’s cycling.
The going got a bit easier when we reached the coast, and we made good time into Tarifa, checking into the campsite on route – I insisted on not unloading any gear, determined to carry it the whole way to the end. Punta de Tarifa – the finish line – is a spit of land jutting out from the town itself, and used to be used for training national service recruits and as an immigration office. Cycling along the spur felt like crossing the finish line, with the Mediterranean on one side, the Atlantic on the other and the sign marking Europe’s end dead ahead.
The finishing photos taken, we headed back into the main town for a celebratory drink. I think, as with America, it will take a while for this to sink in – these trips, by their nature, are such a singular focus for such a long period of time that it’s impossible to immediately accept their completion. After doing some shopping, and making some preparations for the getting the bikes back to the UK in an Internet cafe, we made our way back to the campsite. We were camping right on the beach and went for swim, enjoying some great waves, and watching some kite surfers on the beach. We had champagne with our supper, before collapsing into bed, exhausted.