TWO CONTINENTS RIDE
THE PILLARS OF HERCULES
Ride the best single track on the coasts of Europe and Africa in one eventful weekend
While looking for new places to ride and in the never ending quest for fresh singletrack this weekend of transcontinental riding is a unique experience for the intrepid mountain biker.
Arrive Malaga airport and transfer to Tarifa, a coastal town steeped in history and the most southerly point in Europe famous for its expansive beaches and buzzing nightlife, build bikes and prepare for next day’s ride. Spend the night in Tarifa.
At first light we ride out of Tarifa heading for the mountain nearby known as “Sierra de la Luna” or Moon Mountain. Climbing up passed wind farms on the mountains lower ridges we see vultures circle high above in their dozens. A forest track takes us up towards the peak and on arrival at the top (837m) we can see over to Morocco and the most northerly peak of the Riff Mountains, “Jebel Musa” This is tomorrows ride but for now we concentrate on getting back to the coast.
The descent takes us through breathtaking cork oak forests on very narrow single track with rock gardens, switchbacks and drops where a slack geometry and full travel is applied. The mountain is humid so there is lush vegetation all round. Following a river the trail clings to the side of the valley and with North Africa visible across the Straits of Gibraltar we stay off the brakes while rushing towards the Med in anticipation. Our arrival back in Tarifa greets us with a hot shower, more revelling and a good night’s sleep.
An early start with breakfast in Tarifa followed by a 25 minute transfer to the port of Algeciras. Today we cross the straits of Gibraltar at the point where the Atlantic meets the Med, Europe meets Africa, Christianity meets Islam and El Levante wind from the east meets El Poniente wind from the west. This crossing has been made by countless peoples over the centuries but still the difference between the two continents remains stark. Hercules is said to have smashed a through a mountain here to create safe passage for ships through the Straits of Gibraltar and the mythical Pillars of Hercules. Tangier Med ferry port comes into view and after only 35 minutes at sea we’re about to start the African leg of our journey.
The beach at Beliunech is our starting point for the assent of Jebel Musa. Mount Moses in English is stunning rock rising directly out of the ocean to reach 852m; we start our climb in this idyllic fishing village, the kind you don’t get on the European side with the whole village busy fixing nets or preparing boats. The climb is steep and rocky nearly all the way up but effort is rewarded by the unfolding views along the coast and across to Spain. One narrow ribbon of single-track is all that remains of the old track it will take a very good rider to stay in the pedals all the way. At the pass a strong wind is guaranteed so we start our final descent on exposed, narrow and very rocky single-track, it’s bike handling at its most involving with switchback corners, rock step ups and drop offs all within a few meters of trail. The trail turns back on itself and we now ride perfect coastal single-track with more views of Europe and meetings with the local shepherds and their flocks. We round the headland and roll back into town with the sun setting.
Tonight we spend in the cosmopolitan Spanish enclave of Ceuta situated 2kms from Jebel Musa. Ceuta is a low tax zone and we explore the melting pot of European and African culture it offers.
Today we breakfast in Ceuta then hop on the ferry back to Algeciras followed by a transfer to Malaga and your flight home.
No-where else in the world will you experience such a unique weekend on a mountain bike. This is a tough ride to complete but taken over a long weekend we have more time to enjoy the unique aspects of this part of the world.
For very strong riders the Two Continents can be ridden in one day, this is an epic, a truly Herculean effort and not to be taken lightly.