Day 1 – 26th December – Barcelona to Almeria (825km)
6 o’clock in the morning. Pitch black sky over the city. A couple of drunken tourists walking down the street singing the kind of anthem that all drunken tourists sing abroad. A security guard deeply asleep in the warmth of his booth. Suddenly, a high-pitched siren echoes in the car park, and he opens his eyes with a jolt. Some kind of weird astronaut is ringing the bell, demanding that he opens the main door. He rubs his eyes and realises it is a weirdo all dressed up in motorbike gear. ‘For fuck’s sake’, he grumbles. ‘What is this guy doing here so early? It’s a holiday today, he should be in bed, still trying to digest all the food he ate for Christmas.’
Ten minutes later the bike was loaded and we were heading out of the city to meet the first of our travelling companions, Esteve, in Vallirana. To keep things interesting and cheap we combined national road and motorway for the first hours until we left Catalonia and met the two remaining members of our expedition in a service area in Benicarló, Gerard and Raluca.
With our group complete, all that was left to do for the remainder of the day was to cover the rest of the distance to Almeria, where we were going to spend the night before taking an early morning ferry to Melilla.
800 km of motorway were not going to be interesting, and even though we were lucky and the weather was good, it was still cold for most of the day. I had been thinking about replacing my rear tire for this trip, as it had almost 12,000km on it, but had decided against it in the end, not wanting to break a new tire in with so many kilometres of motorway on a loaded bike, so we taking it easy to save fuel and preserve the knobbly tires, which meant that the journey took longer than expected. We were planning on getting to the hotel by mid-afternoon, but sunset caught us still a long way from our destination, blinding us for about half an hour.
After what felt like ages riding in the dark, and with Gerard suffering from a bad cold combined with hay fever, we finally arrived in Almeria, located our hotel and had a warm shower. Gerard called it a day and went to bed without having dinner, hoping to feel well enough the following day to be able to continue the trip, and the rest of us went out to enjoy some beer and tapas.