[ blog » 2023 » 09_South-West ]d26: Africa ( by Philipp Gesang, location: Ceuta-Algeciras ferry)


Leaving the EU and the European continent in one day but not at the same time? Nothing easier than that in Andalucía. A major goal of this trip was to visit the UK for the first time since 2019 which I did by rolling into Gibraltar in the most dramatic fashion possible: over an airport runway that was constructed on the isthmus. That bizarre entry felt only appropriate for this geographical anomaly, relic from the Peace of Utrecht, that early success of the British at sabotaging tighter integration of Europe by preventing Spain and France from forming a union of their own.

Traffic on the Rock is confusing, an irregular web of one-way roads and narrow alleys many of which are off limits to non-residents. The plan was to cycle up to the summit of the Rock from the north and then back down on its southern ridge; however after I had climbed to about half its altitude on an almost 20 % gradient I hit a barrier where a guy in a booth wanted to charge me 18 GBP to continue. That’s not how it works, on a climb one pays in effort, not in cash! So I scratched that plan and rolled to the southernmost point down near the coast.

Reaching the tip of the peninsula felt invigorating. I just sat there for a while watching dozens of gigantic container ships head for the Strait of Gibraltar with a view of Africa as the backdrop. Quite disappointingly I didn’t spot any monkeys.


Speaking of Africa, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to finally visit that continent even though I didn’t leave Spain for it. Technically I set foot – and not to mention tire – on the African continent and that’s what counts, right?

The ferry connection connects Ceuta with Algeciras. Merely getting to the latter which is just next door from Gibraltar was not straightforward at all as it involves a ridiculous detour through the hills surrounding the bay; another case of severe neglect of infrastructure following the construction of a freeway. Anyways, my route today intersected with the Eurovelo 8 for a few kilometers; I didn’t spot any bike tourists but as yesterday the roadies were out in large numbers.

In Algeciras I had a great kebab (4 EUR, for reference) before boarding the ferry for the 4 pm sailing. Unlike Norway where ferries are part of the public road network and free for cyclists (and pedestrians, of course) to use, these Spanish boats are operated by private companies so on top of the cost – 54 EUR both ways – the boarding process isn’t nearly as streamlined. I did arrive in Africa eventually though.

Ceuta is above all a military outpost, a fortified town. A large part of it is occupied (pun semi intended) by barracks and training grounds. Outside the settled area on the coast, gun fire could be heard ringing up from the valleys. Armed troops in IFVs patrol the EU border with Marocco which is marked by a heavy duty fence and barbed wire. Its location is quite nice though and in terms of vegetation and terrain not unlike Andalucía.

The route along the border that I had planned was unfortunately closed for civilians so I turned around and took the nearest alternative road into the hills instead. That road led up to the Monte del Renegado which offers a faboulous panorama of the town of Ceuta, and I was not the only cyclist to visit it today. Out there in the wilderness near the Moroccan border the GPS can get lost too and for a while the Garmin had switched to the UTC+01 timezone; quite confusing when you’re trying to estimate how much time is left until the departure of the return ferry.

Back in Europe I embarked on an impromptu tour of the gigantic port of Algeciras on account of a wrong turn after which I found myself on the lane to the north exit, not the south one close to both the ferry terminal and the hotel. Quite spectacular the sight of arrays of cranes towering over vast, colorful stacks of intermodal containers, brightly lit by gazillions of lights. That was a lucky accident thanks to which I got to experience this fascinating town at night with locals crowding the kebab restaurants and Arabic seemingly being the lingua franca at the waterfront.

119 km of riding (ferry trips already excluded) with a surprising 1240 m of altitude gain.

gps tracks

[view GPS data in mapbox]


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