We arrived at Madrid Airport on Saturday afternoon after a perfect morning, the sun came out and the road sloped downwards allowing us to cover around 80km before lunch. We spent all day duelling with articulated trucks and cars on the motorway. Which doesn´t make for comfortable cycling, but does make for good progress. We had passed severeal Guardia Civil patrols by 12.30 and just 10km from our destination we stopped for a breather, as much to savour the feeling of getting where we wanted to go faster than expected than for want of a rest, when a van with flashing lights approached. We reckoned the best bet was to ignore it and hop on the bikes, though a quick blast of the siren convinced us that that was perhaps not the best idea. The van stopped and out hopped a uniformed and frustrated guard, who in very uncivil terms told us to get off the motorway, now.
Ok fair enough we replied and pointed to the next slip road, hoping that might be enough to satisfy his authority, and we might sneak back on our way after he’d gone. No, that didn’t suffice, he insisted that we get off now… ie that we carry our bikes and trailers over the barrier up the bank and over the fence into the adjacent field!! I pointed out that that would be tresspasing, but this didn’t amuse. He then radioed his friends and as if to challenge us said that if they saw us on the motorway again we’d be booked and the bikes would be going in the back of the van. It wasn’t so much the booking that worried us, whats a fine made out to “Billy o Mates of Nowhere Grove, Sometown, County Wherever”, more the fact that we might be driven to the end of the motorway and be given no way to get to the airport by our chosen mode of transport- the bicycle.
So we were forced on a 40km detour as we traipsed through the land ajoining the motorway. Eventually we found a minor road and headed off in the rough direction of the airport. Luckily our instincts were correct. When we stopped for lunch and asked for directions we found we were on the right track and all that stood between us and our destination was a big hill, some lovely swithbacks on the other side and a 2.5km tunnel. Oooo… generally tunnels over a kilometre long are verboten for cycling. So close and yet so far. We decided to give it a go all the same and when we reached the tunnel there was no one around so we put the head down and made a break for it hoping to at least get half way so that it would be longer to turn back than continue. We needn’t have worried though, as we were untroubled by any more small minded, uniform wearing official and emerged back into daylight a few minutes later.
Once we arrived at the airport, we had fulfilled the requirements for a circumnavigation, and looking forward to a few days r&r before flying to Buenos Aires. As it was fast getting dark and virtually impossible to get to Madrid town centre without taking a motorway we decided to get the metro the 10km to our hostel. Which involved taking the bikes on several escalators which was fun if perhaps a little dangerous. I also pity the poor Madristas who had to stand next to the two cyclists wearing the same unwashed clothes every day since they lesft Bordeaux 2weeks ago.
You may be wondering why we are not heading to Lisbon as originally planned? In brief, we didn’t make the kind of mileage that we had hoped in France and Spain, and as aresult wouldn’t have made it to Lisbon for another week or two. Ordinarily we could have just changed the flights, but as Christmas approaches flights go up and we couldn’t afford to fly any closer to the 25th. So, as were were always going to be flying from Madrid anyway, and as the circumnavigation requirements stipulate a couple of thousand km less than we will be covering, we did the logical thing and changed the end of the European leg to Madrid rather than Lisbon.