This was the third of the three predicted cold wet days and we had to put plastic bags over our socks in an effort to keep out the worst of the cold wetness. We needed an early start so couldn’t afford the luxury of waiting for the rain to stop and hit the A339 road to Cabra, quite a hilly road but we made good time. Here we were aiming for the via verde, the disused trackbed of the railway that once transported olives for processing and which now serves as a walking and cycle track. We saw the line as soon as we turned off the main road but encountered difficulty in finding an access point, eventually someone directed us to the road to the hospital which we ascended then had to drag our bikes up steps to the trail.
The rain had stopped by now, it wasn’t quite so cold and the deserted trail was an easy ride. At Cabra station we photographed the diesel shunter and steam locomotive on static display. The trains have long gone but the station serves as a cafe so we called in for a coffee. We left the old line a few miles further on at Doña Mencia and had a spot of trouble locating the C327 road to Baena. We stopped to consult the map and I discovered I’d suffered the first puncture of the holiday. I soon fixed it but was anxious that I’d not found the source in the tyre, anyway it held up so was soon confident it would give me no further bother. Then a few kilometres down the road the flatness returned, this time I spotted a tiny fragment of grit embedded in the tyre which must have just pushed down sufficiently at one point to pierce the inner tube. These two punctures lost us valuable time on the longest day of the trip.
Once we were underway again, we enjoyed the lovely quiet back road and then took to the main road again, though there was hardly any traffic. A few kilometres along this and we were once more on a minor road, though the number A309 implies a more important artery. A sign announced that money was being invested in repairing and upgrading this old route from Castro to Cordoba and for a while the surface was excellent and there was virtually no traffic. After the turning for Santa Cruz the bumps and potholes appeared and the road number changed. There was now no traffic whatsoever, we saw no people, no villages, no junctions, no signs and we were beginning to worry that the road would peter out into nothingness. After a long time we saw a man working in a field by the side of the road, and he assured us that the road did indeed go to Cordoba.
The terrain was flat but not boring, we’d have made good time were it not for the poor surface but the clouds were gradually lifting and we were closing in on our objective, the city of Cordoba. About 8km from the city was a sign declaring no access to Cordoba and directing the non-existant traffic onto the busy main road into the city which we could now see to our right. We gambled that we’d still be able to get through, and soon had to navigate a section where one side of the road had slipped away. The surface was even bumpier now, and after a particularly severe jolt a grinding noise was heard from the rear of my bike. This turned out to be from my pannier rack bolts working loose from 40 km of poor surface. Christine saved the day by suggesting I use the bolts from my back light, these had the same thread and enabled me to continue the remaining few kilometres into the city. The road entered the city fairly centrally so we had little street riding to do through the fading light.
Booking accommodation in advance paid off, we were able to locate the Albergue Inturjoven quickly, arriving around 21:30. After a quick shower we walked round the corner to finish off the day with a pizza.