Day 74 – Santander

Early in 2013 I decided to see my UK family, and also decided to see them every two years. My parents are now too elderly to make the trip to Oz, and my siblings don’t seem to want to make the trip more than once – they’ve all been to Australia, and have decided that it’s too hot, too far, etc….

So in 2013 I planned a visit; my partner, Rosalie has been to the UK with me, and our daughter Emily,  twice and didn’t really want to come again, so I soloed it; and rather than fly directly to Heathrow, I thought I’d see parts of Europe I’d never visited while I was a local: I’m a mountain bike cyclist, so I caught a plane to Budapest, and cycled to the UK. That trip is documented in ozblokeoneabike

That was a great trip; it gave me enough of a taste to do something similar in 2015 – though this time I started in Munich, with a couple of mates – Mariette O’Connell and her partner Ian Gay;  they left me in Budapest, where I hung a right and travelled ( again by bike) to Zagreb, then Rijeka, up and across Italy, through France to Carcassonne, then North to Dieppe. I then caught a ferry to Newhaven, and spent a few weeks with my family. This trip is documented in ozblokeonabikeagain

So; 2017, and it was time to visit famiy again.

I’m a reader, and  lot of what I like is detective fiction (not exclusively – I’m a big fan of Robert Jordan and that genre); I’m a big fan of Peter Robinson who writes novels based an a dour Yorkshire detective,  Alan Banks. We share more than a first name; we both like the North Yorkshire moors, single malts and Theakston’s Old Peculiar; we also share similar tastes in music. In one of his novels, he’s in a bar  where someone he knows is singing – he asks her to sing Finisterre; a song by June Tabor, which gives Santander a good plug.

This gave me a (very) romantic mental image of Santander and Northern Spain; Finisterre is, literally, “end of the world”… and the initial seeds that led to this trip,

I’d not seen Greece, or Albania, or Monte Negro, and I’d missed Dubrovnik and Split (Croatia) in 2015 – so I loosely planned this trip, starting in Athens, then heading up the coast to Split; ferry to Italy, cycle across, then a ferry from Genoa to Barcelona (I’d cycled most of the stretch between last time), Then Spain. and Portugal, to Santander – then a ferry to the UK, and a few weeks with my family.

I realised, once I neared Valencia, that the Southern Spanish coast was not for me; all beer and skittles, calamari and two veg, resorts, etc; about as foreign to an Aussie bloke as Pitt Street. Not my scene. Also that I didn’t have the time to “do” Portugal – So I cut North; and here I am. Santander.

A great city. In the late 50’s and 60’s it was the playground of the rich, the famous, and the royals; Queen Liz and Phil the Greek partied here heaps, before they were forced to keep a lower profile. It didn’t work for the Greek or Spanish royals – they’re long gone. Dunno how Liz and her mob of parasites survived, but they did.

So – my romantic vision of a small fishing port – gone. What we have is a vibrant place, strung along the coast.  As special as Cannes, or Nice, or Monaco – somehow the Spanish civil war relegated it to second rate…The old town was burnt to buggery in 1941 – as Santander was rebuilt, they pedestrianised most of the water’s edge. Makes a great place to promenade. Which they do. In droves. Babes in tiny bikinis, skateboarding; old fat blokes, strutting along, lots of 6 pack heroes, shirtless, trying to get noticed. All human life is here.

There’s way too much traffic – but that’s the times we live in; everyone has a car, and won’t walk. Time we stopped pandering to this ridiculous world view, surely.

I caught the tourist bus, which takes you around the beaches; not much to see in Santander itself.

Off the bus, and into the “new” old town. lunch at 3:00pm – Gamberies, bacalao and cake. I had a side dish of sardines – as you would…

I’d walked into town, mainly to find the ferry entrance – lucky I did, as it’s not straightforward. After lunch, I made my way back to the hotel – on the steep uphill stretches the town provides escalators 🙂

It’s now 7:00 pm. I’ll finish this, watch some junk online, then crash; no rush tomorrow, as the ferry does nt leave until 3:15. Bt this is my last post. Thanks for reading. I’ve had a ball cycling.

See you down the road.

Day 73 – Treto to Santander

I’m sitting on my hotel verandah, looking over the gardens to the hills behind Santander; glass of red in my hand, relaxed. Not sure how I feel; a little elated that I’ve managed this ride? Not really. A little sad? Nope. No real feelings at all – just glad to have made my hotel, and can enjoy a glass of Rioja.

My GPS file utilty tells me I’ve cycled 3,715 km; I’m adding an arbitrary 85 km to that, to cover all the cycling I’ve done without the Garmin, while I’ve been in various towns and cities, and also to cover the countless times my Garmin has paused, because I’m off he bike, pushing it up hill. I ‘ve set it to stop once my speed drops below 3 kmph. Like today: I pushed it for nearly 40 minutes up a grade that I couldn’t be bothered trying to cycle; it was too steep initially, then I just decided to push for a while longer once it levelled slightly. So I’m claiming 3,800 km. I’ll not include the short ride from here to the ferry, which is about 5 km.

I was up early, thinking I’d get to Santander by midday, and check out the ferry setup. I’d mapped the route using maps.me, which said it was 43 km; and the first sign I saw said it was 41. It was more than 60…  I succeeded in getting way lost – twice 🙂

Showered, packed, downstairs for breakfast – two croissants, OJ, coffee, and a chocolate pastry – about the size of a generous sausage roll. Yum. Out the door, turn onto the N-634, and pedalled off in the light rain, and the early morning gloom; it was after 8:00am, but  much darker than usual; grey skies, low cloud. I had my lights on.

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“C” roads are marked with a yellow outline around the number. “N” roads have a red outline, while Autovias and such, where cyclists, carts, pedestrians and mopeds are banned, have a Blue outline; usually they are A-nnn, or E-nnn, or sometimes S-nnn; I’ve never bothered to work them out, as I’m not allowed to use them

So when I arrive at a roundabout, I’ll see town names on each exit (like above), with the different routes to get there; Blue, Yellow, and Red – at the next roundabout there might be blue as the first exit, for say, Santander, and the next exit will have a red sign, and the same destination. Easy – you follow your colour code to get where you want to be. You’ll often see all three colours at the same exit; that just means that further along the routes will split.

And that worked fine, and has worked fine, all through Spain.   I  pedalled along in the damp, up hill and down dale – some surprising little climbs – following the red signs for Santander and the N-634, through Cicero, and Sombrilla, and Gama, and… – the system stopped working at Solares. There was a roundabout, which had a Blue sign for Santander at the first exit, and there was a red sign for the N-634 straight ahead. I went straight ahead. Wrong. After about 5 km I began to think something was wrong, so I stopped at a petrol station, pulled out the tablet with Maps.me on, and checked.  Sure enough, the Blue motorway sign in Solares was the one I should have taken. I  can’t see my tablet in daylight – I need to get into a dark area, hence the stop at the petrol station – I bought an OJ, and went into the loo to check my maps)

Back, took the turn, and followed the signs to Heras – all in yellow; no red, no mention of the N-635 or N-634 until I entered San Salvador. All the towns between San Salvador and Santander are basically one long ribbon development; several roundabouts later, totally lost, I flagged down a cyclist who told me to follow him; we backtracked a few Km, and he left me at a roundabout, saying “Go straight”. Thanks, random guy. I’d still be wandering the suburbs without his help.

If I’d been allowed on the motorways, no worries; they were signposted to buggery and back. The assumption is that if you’re not on the motorway, then you know where you’re going. Not true, guys – lift your game. I got to the docks around 2:00pm, pulled into a bar, and used their wifi to work out where I was, and how to get to my hotel.  As I got here, the rain stopped…..

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Booked in, showered, walked down the street, grabbed a vegie burger and chips, then back here, to sit on the verandah, and chill; The big ride is done. Athens, to Santander. I’m quite pleased.

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Tomorrow is Sunday; Breakfast is from 8:00am, and I’ll then walk down to the docks to check out the ferry process, assuming I can on a Sunday; then I’ll walk the old town – I’m about 300 metres above it up the hill, , and about a km West of it – around 4 km to the ferry on foot, down steep streets and stairs, and about the same back. Should be fun.

See you down the road.

 

Day 67 – Lekunberri

I know – another rest day 🙂  Though I did get  Trek out today for a short ride.

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The hotel Ayestaran has a pretty fine restaurant. I had mushroom risotto as an entree, Hake in an amazing sauce for a main, and a piece of pie and ice cream for dessert. I swear I’m gaining weight, not losing it. I slept well. The Spanish late dining style meant it was after 11:00 pm when I got to bed, and I woke at 7:30.

Breakfast was the same old, though this time I also got a freshly fried egg – very welcome. That, along with a bowl of cornflakes, a strawberry yoghurt and OJ was enough – dinner wasn’t that long ago.

Back to my room – the corridor floor is just on a slight slant – it’s an old building. Hemingway stayed here around the time I was born; he liked this area. There is a Hemingway trail, which I’ve been following by accident;  He fought at Belchite, in the civil war, and later spent time in Huesca, Yesa, Pamplona and here, in Lekunberri.

I got my bike gear on, and rode off to find the caves. And failed. My maps have road numbers, but every road I found had a name, not a number. It’s hilly as, and it wouldn’t take much to get hopelessly lost, so I just followed a couple of trails to a village I knew the name of, then dropped down onto a trail that took me back to Lekunberri. Really pretty country though.

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So – no caves. I decided to ride the first few Km of tomorrow’s trail, along the old railway line – there’s a dodgy bit at Uitza – back in the day, when the line became disused, someone bought the Uitza station building, and 500 metres of the track, so you have to detour along a road. Not too difficult, but forewarned is forearmed. I also found that the track, at least as far as Uitza, is slightly uphill. Coming back I didn’t need to pedal at all.

It’s Sunday, and a beautiful day, so the track was busy – lots of walkers, some with dogs, hundreds of mountain bikers, and even a few couples pushing prams. Great to see.

Back to Lekunberri, and on the main street there was a marching group of drummers, making a great sound. I stopped at the hotel, and put my bike away – it’s great to ride a naked bike; it’s like having a couple of free  gears – and the drummers also stopped. I chatted to a couple who spoke some English – they were off to the old town square, where there was a political rally about this part of Navarra becoming part of the Basque country. I followed along, had a beer, and bought a T-shirt.

Back to the hotel, for  late, and leisurely lunch. Same menu as at dinner last night, and the restaurant isn’t open for Sunday dinner. I ordered the same meal as last night, and it was just as good. I’ve resisted the need for a nanna nap, and am back in my room, writing this. I’ll watch some stuff online, and crash early – the trail for tomorrow is loose gravel and dirt, so it isn’t fast. It also only goes as far as Andoain, which leaves about 20 Km to San Sebastian.

I’ve checked hotel priced on the coast – they’re about 30% more than those up here in the hills. Such is life.

See you down the road.

 

 

 

Day 64 – Pamplona

16 June

No cycling today. Previous ferry trips have just been a case of rock up, get a ticket, and get on board – there’s always room for a bike. They’ve also allowed foot passengers, and provided aircraft-style seats for those who don’t want a cabin. The ferry service from Santander and Bilbo (both run by Brittany Ferries, the only company running ferries from these two ports) don’t allow foot passengers on some service to the UK, and insist on a cabin for all passengers too – which means that they fill fast; I booked my ferry yesterday, expecting to get one on the 20th of June – first available was the 26th.

So I’ve got lots of time up my sleeve – Pamplona to San Sabastian, then along the coast to Bilbao, and then Santander, is around 300 km.

I booked an extra day here in Pamplona, leaving on the 17th.

Up early, showered and ready to explore by 8:00 am. Breakfast in the hotel was a ridiculous 10 euro – as it has no restaurant, it’d be the usual croissant and coffee at best, and that’s available at any cafe for around 2 euro. Armed with my tourist map, camera and wallet, I set off. To the right of the hotel is a huge pedestrian mall, which runs the length of the town, down to the Plaza de Castillo, a massive square lined with cafes and bars. I had a glass of OJ, a coffee and croissant for 3 Euro.

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I threaded my way North through the narrow lanes of the old town to the river Arga, which throws a lazy horseshoe loop around the old town; it’s about a 20 metre drop from this side down to the river, and it’s a fortified wall all the way around to the right, passing behind the Bull Ring, to an old fortress. There’s a free pedestrian/bike lift there, which takes you down to the river’s edge; this strip is the “beach”, and has canoes for hire, a couple of pools for swimming, or, as lots of people were, you can swim in the river.

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Back up in the lift. Not much to see in the fortress; it’s just a stone blockhouse, no museum attached.

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Onto the Bull Ring.

I got my jubilados discount and walked in, down the wide path the bulls follow into the arena. Just before the arena, he main door shuts, and you turn to face it; white-painted walls and the door become a sound and light show, immersing you in the Running Of The Bulls. All that was missing was the smell of bullshit – it was quite a thrilling show. Well done, Pamplona 🙂

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The arena seats 19,000 people. When it was built, in 1924, Pamplona had a population of 30,000.  And bull fights sold out in minutes. Wow.

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The holding pens for the bulls have narrow fissures along all the walls, so small that I found it a tight squeeze to get in them – these are the places that the bull teasers hide when the bulls get cranky – and they rile them up a fair bit…..

Onto the Matador chapel, and the museum with the suits of lights, some ripped and badly blood stained (the bulls win, now and again), through the hospital, another sound and light show of a couple of bull fights, and out. The matadors certainly strut; they reminded me of exotic birds, prancing around, flashing their capes – but there’s lots of teasing, lots of stabbing that goes on first, lots of tiring and confusing the animals first. Gotta feel sorry for the bulls – not something that should be allowed any more. They still do have bull fights here, though many places have banned them.

More walking, more sight-seeing. I’m saving the old town and the Castillo for tomorrow, so I strolled the parks and the pedestrian areas. The Spanish are masters of casual water management; fountains everywhere, along with small water features and trickling runs of water everywhere. Given the Summer heat, and the general dryness (I’ve had 2 wet days in the past 64), they do their best to provide little oases. probably the Moorish influence helps too.

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I had a late lunch/early dinner around 4:00pm. No grog – I’m not really a beer drinker, and I had several with Roger yesterday, and I was just a touch seedy all day today…. 🙂

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An early night, and I’ll do more tomorrow.

See you down the road.

 

 

Day 62 – Puente De Sabiñanigo to Liedena

A cyclist got hit by a car and died this morning on the N-330a, one of the roads I rode yesterday… and this morning. I don’t know where exactly, as it was just a news flash on the TV in the bar here. Worrying. There wasn’t the usual wide verge today, but even so, I never felt hassled by traffic – whoever it was must have been really unlucky – especially as there are signs like this everywhere

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i stopped at the Hotel Mi Casa yesterday, and found out this morning that is is not quite in Sabinanigo proper. I don’t really care – I was so tired when i got there I was just happy to check in. My bike went in the store-room, and me to the bar for a refreshing ice-cold beer.

My room was fine, but nothing special. Dinner bed and breakfast cost me 65 Euro, which is reasonable. I had a thick vegetable soup as entree, cod, potatoes and beans for  a main, and flan with ice cream as dessert. I could have eaten it twice 🙂

A good nights sleep, up and ready for the road by 8:00 am – breakfast was the usual – cornflakes, croissant, cake, OJ and coffee. Five tables at breakfast; and five languages. Dutch, German, Spanish, French and English. It’s a small world.

I put the panniers on the bike, greased up with sunscreen, and started on the N-330a, which joined the N-330 at Los Allagares, and paralleled the A-23 motorway all the way to Jaca. I reached Jaca in just over an hour. Flat or slightly downhill all the way, the easiest cycling I’ve had in days.

After Jaca the road was renamed the N-240. It still paralleled  the A-23, and was still flat or downhill. This continued to Puenta La Reina de Jaca, where I crossed the river Aragon,

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and had to climb for a while, up to Berdun – another of those villages that clings to a hilltop.

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The N-240 is part of the Camino de Santiago, an 800+ Km walk. This is the official site – though the previous link gives a more realistic view, I reckon 🙂 As the first review says, for a lot of the time the pilgrims are sharing the verge – I passed several.

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A bloody long way to walk, and the accommodation is crappy/ I couldn’t imagine walking that far, mainly on roads, in the Spanish Summer. Yet thousands do….

The N-240 carried on, between the River Aragon valley and the A-23, until it becomes a very large lake – the Embalse de Yesa. The road then goes up and down a bit, as the old N-240 is at the bottom of the lake, and I had to push the Trek up one hill. As it’s a new road, I have no idea why they made it so up-and-down; probably to save money.  This abandoned village sits at the start of the lake –

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At the dam wall, some major upgrade is happening – lots of huge trucks, earth movers, graders and such.  I got to Yesa, my planned stop relaxed, not really tired, but hot and thirsty.  I grabbed a beer at the Hostal, and asked for a room – and was told no chance; all rooms for a 5 Km radius had been booked for weeks by the construction workers; the Hostal had even added a row of temporary rooms, portacabin  style, for the workers.

Never mind. The cold beer refreshed me, and I pushed on – Ten Km down the road I came to Liedena, which doesn’t have a hotel, but just past it is a large petrol station, and a huge Hostal/bar/cafe/restaurant, called Hotel Complejo Latorre. It must be mainly for the Winter snow traffic, I reckon – but it did have a room. I’ve booked in, and will get dinner and breakfast here too.

My Garmin claims I burned 2,800 calories today. I call BS. Yesterday, a much more physical and demanding ride, took about the same time, but was 55 Km as against today’s 87 Km. Yet yesterday it reckoned I burned 2100 calories. I know which one was harder – their calculation algorithm has too heavy a weighting for distance, and not enough for climbs. I’ve dropped them a note on this – who knows? they might give me a free bike computer….

It’s about 45 Km to Pamplona tomorrow. Should be an easy ride.

 

See you down the road.

 

Day 61 – Huesca to Sabinanigo

12th June.

Here’s a tip – Don’t try to cycle this route, as road works on the motorway around Puerto de Monrepos will prevent you from progressing. I was lucky; the road works were just beginning, and I managed to ride through. The Ayerbe road is the only route for cyclists now. Between Arguis and Puerto de Monrepos there is no road other than the motorway.

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Good Hotel, La Posada de la Luna. Great shower – it had about a dozen nozzles, a rainfall showerhead, and a hand spray. Almost needed a manual to use it. Up at 8:00, showered, ready for the road; breakfast was the usual bust – no cereal, bread, cheese and meat, and croissants and cake. I had two croissants and some cake, plus a banana, OJ and coffee. I was on the road North by 8:15.  This is the first  reference to Don Quixote I’ve seen, too.

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Another hot day ahead, with lots of climbing, so it could be a long one too.

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The N-330 runs North, alongside the new motorway, the A-23. The N-330 dances over, under and around the motorway, like an apprentice tailor sewing up their first seam. In a couple of places it actually becomes the motorway, but there was always a local road to take, renamed the N-330a, or N-330b.

This worked well, until  Arguis.

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At Arguis, the N-330 became the motorway, but there was an offshoot;  the C-136 according to milestones on the roadside,  or, on my tablet maps, and road signs, the N-330b.  It’s a steep climb that goes on forever, and it finishes up way above the motorway, which disappears into a tunnel. The N-330b does the same – into a long tunnel (so dark in the middle that I got off and pushed). The tunnel was named as the Tunele de Mon Repos. When I hit daylight at the end, there was a big sign saying the road ahead as closed, and a huge dirt mound blocking the way ahead. The first indication of a closed road – right at the end; not the beginning. D’oh. I could see the motorway again, way down in the valley below, but no other roads. I checked my tablet maps, and my choices were non-existent; I could only retrace my riding almost to Huesca again, then take the Ayerbe to Pamplona road. I’d done three hours by then, most of it uphill.
Then a mountain biker appeared from the tunnel. He told me that the road was closed because of a couple of collapsed bits, but that a bike could still, with a bit of effort, get through to Puerto de Monrepos – he was a local, and that was his route. So I followed. He disappeared very quickly, and I plodded along, staying away from the edge.
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After about 5 km it became a very broken path, with huge earth movers and the like, working on the next bit of motorway. I pushed through the works, and rejoined the N-330. Phew.
It was scarily busy, as the motorway had  ended, but the next section was under construction
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so the verge was sometimes blocked; lots of traffic, and a very steep descent, with a large drop into the gutter next to me. Here’s the view from the top of the descent; those are the Pyrenees in the distance.
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I crawled downhill for nearly 10 Km, being pushed about by the wind from passing trucks, and the occasional gust as I passed a cutting. At the bottom of the descent I took the road to Sabinanigo. One stop, as they were blowing up a cutting for yet more motorway. The N-330 road  is much more peaceful, as the Pamplona stretch of motorway is complete and only local traffic uses the Sabinanigo road, at least in Summer. It runs along the base of the Pyrenees, and Sabinanigo is one of many Jindabynes; ski resorts with lots of accommodation – not much of it open in the Summer though. Tomorrow might be a long day; Pamplona is 140 Km away, and hotels are thin on the ground – there’s one 20 Km away, and another 80 km away. That’s the one I’ll head for.
I was hoping to reach Jaca, because I could make a great pun about how hard it was to get there, but I’m done.
I’m in the Hotel Mi Casa, and it has a restaurant, so I’m here for dinner and breakfast tomorrow. My room has a great view –
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I’m weary – 5 and a half hours to make 55 Km. Some serious hills today. I’ll sleep well.
See you down the road.

Day 59 – Zaragoza

No cycling again – just playing tourist.

Found out today that the city was built by Romans,way back, and was named Caeseraugusta; it’s gradually been changed to Zaragoza. Ain’t language a wonderful thing?

Phew it’s hot. 35C today, and that’s as  cool as it gets for the next week. I hope it feels cooler on the road tomorrow – the city here is full of marble, which is a great heat reflector. In most of the old town today, water trucks were out and about, constantly soaking the marble in Plazas, trying to keep the temperature down. I think it just raised the humidity, making it feel even warmer.

Up at 7:30; the plaza de Seo, which my room faces, is a de facto skateboard park at night; full of young folk, using the ramps and steps to test/improve their skills. It was after 11:00 before they started to leave. Skateboards on marble make quite a noise – and that’s before you add in youthful exuberance, a fw teenage girls, and male testosterone. I still slept well.

I took my time over breakfast; big bowl of cornflakes, two croissants, coffee and OJ. Back to my room, showered, and headed out – down to the river, right, away from the basilica, then meandered up the side streets until I found the remains of the Roman theatre. It was only rediscovered in the mid 1970s, when they tried to dig foundations for a block of units, and found massive foundations of concrete and marble already there.

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It’s beautifully preserved, with a huge rain/sunshade built over it to prevent further deterioration. My jubilados card came into play: free entry instead of five Euro. I walked on, past one of the many city bike hire racks:

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and generally wandered around, popping into random churches, mosques and palaces. I drank two litres of water in three hours walking.

Back at the Plaza de Seo,I caught the tourist bus – Jubilados again – 5 Euro instead of ten. It took me West of the city to the 2008 Expo site, through the water park – think Commonwealth park, or Mote park lake, on steroids. There’s a large aquarium, designed around 5 river systems – the Murray-Darling is one of them. Most of the rest of the drive was fairly tedious – once outside the old town, it’s boulevards and high rise units – Napoleon smashed the suburbs in 1808, and it was again smashed during the Spanish civil war.

A late, and leisurely lunch at the hotel, followed by a nanna nap.

Up again at 6:00pm, and it was like walking into an oven as i stepped outside. Another litre of water,and a stroll around the main square again; stopped for an ice cream, people watched, then bought 2 litres of cold water for tomorrow, which I’ve put in the fridge in my room. The hotel charges 2 Euro for 500ml of cold water – I bought 2 litres for 1 Euro 20 cents.

It’s now 8:00pm. I’ll pack my bags tonight. I”ve got my route planned, and will hit the road after breakfast – it’s 80 plus km to Huesca, and I’d like to get a lot of it done before the temperature gets to 38C.

See you down the road.

Day 54 – Allepuz to Utrillas

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I timed yesterday’s stop just about right – an hour after I’d booked in, the heavens opened and the wind picked up to a serious blow – and the rain didn’t stop untill after I’d fallen asleep around 11:00pm.

The Hostal Venta Liara had a bar/dining room downstairs; I went down just after 8:00 pm, and was told dinner would be late – not served till after 9:00 pm. this was communicated by a mixture of mime and Spanglish; Muy tardes, senor…. So I had a glass of red; the bloke behind the bar poured the remnants of a bottle into a glass, then reached for an entirely different bottle to top the glass up. I managed to stop him  in time, and sat at a table with my half a glass. There were four blokes in working gear playing cards in one corner, several others around the bar, and two couples in their 50s chatting – I felt almost like a local, though I understood three fifths of bugger all, really.

Around 9:00pm the place started to fill up; a couple of young blokes, a group of family members – mum, dad, gran, several young children and two couples. As Allepuz has a population of about fifty, most of the town had to be here.

I’d had my glass refilled – both reds were quite drinkable – and at 9:30 I got my entree – I’d ordered by guesswork and mime from the woman running the place – vegetable soup – mainly barley, carrots and onion, followed by  poached fish with a vegetable medley, and a cherry cheesecake for dessert. The soup was homemade, and wonderful – the fish was well cooked, and the vegies tasty, and the cheesecake was a shop-bought thing – OK, but not special. I went upstairs around 10:15, and most of the other people hadn’t started to eat yet. The Spanish do like to chat.

My room was up in the attic – fell asleep to the sound of rain on the pantiles, and the wind howling around the roof. Well fed, warm and snuggly, I slept well.

It was cloudy and just drizzling gently when I woke; showered, packed, and went downstairs for breakfast. Some of the working men had stayed over, and were drinking expresso – I got a cafe Americano, which is like twice the volume, but half the strength.

Breakfast was served to me; no juice, just three slices of hard bread, two pots of jam, and two slices of cake. Unimpressive, especially as dinner was such a pleasant affair. Paid the bill – 45 Euro. Dinner, bed and breakfast, plus a beer on arrival and two generous glasses of red. A bargain.

No chance of getting lost; the road towards Utrillas started about fifty metres South of the Hostal, and was clearly marked as the A-228. A cold start – I had my woolen gloves on, and the drizzle was chilly – it stopped after about an hour. The A-228 is bit narrow, and not in the best repair, but in 30 Km i saw less than a dozen vehicles, so no problems with traffic. The road was fairly level for 25 Km; ploughed fields, others planted with a grain crop, a couple of piggeries and chook farms. Lots of pilgrim paths crisscrossing the landscape – this hut is a resting spot for one of the walks.

hut1

Lots of abandoned farms and hamlets. I can’t blame them for leaving – I’d move if I lived here.

ruins1ruins2

The last five Km before meeting the N-420 were a steady climb; not as steep as those I’ve tackled in the past two days. The peak was at 1409 metres.

peak

Shortly after joining the N-420 I hit the edge of the High Sierra – the ridge was lined with wind turbines as far as the eye could see – there must have been at least a thousand, all turning away.

windtbn

Two quick, steep descents and into Utrillas. This area was a big coal mining community – all now closed. The Spanish have more sense than the Aussie government, though I wonder why ours is so keen to keep digging the stuff up. Blind Freddie can see renewables are the way to go. Remember this, and vote the buggers out next year.

So the town is dying, visibly. Lots of homes for sale, lots of badly maintained places, lots of ruins. The hotel/restaurant is on one side of the main street, and there is a small supermarket opposite. Not much else of note. I took a walk; there is a museum, but it was shut on Mondays. As was the church,  as was the mosque.

utrillas1

I’ve booked dinner, bed and breakfast – dinner at 9:00 again. That’s three nights in a row – maybe I’m acclimatising…. My room is clean, the shower is hot, and the wifi seems to be working OK now – it took me three trips to reception ( I’m on the second floor) to get it sorted out. It’s a two stage process; log on to the “principal” at reception, and then onto Villa “n” where n is your floor number once you are in your room. It’s about the weirdest setup I’ve come across yet, and no two hotels have had the same method. There’s got to be a business opening there, surely.

It’s lucky I decided to stop at the Hostal Venta Liara last night – this is the first hotel I’ve come across since there. I’ll report on dinner and breakfast in tomorrow’s post – I’m still 120 Km away from Zaragosa.

See you down the road/

Day 52 – Montanejos to Mora de Rubielos

Dinner at the Hotel Xaeun was OK – not a buffet, even though it’s a spa resort. A choice of three entrees,  three mains, and three desserts. I had spaghetti marinara – pretty sure it came out of a can and they added a handful of mussels – fish and sald – Emparador they called it; looked and tasted a bit like tuna – and rice pudding for dessert. Two glasses of house red, and in bed reading by 10:00 pm.

Up at 7:00, packed, went to the place they’d stored my bike, and tidied it up a bit – there is a full workshop there – bike stand, gentle pressure hose to wash your bike, a full set of basic tools, chain degreaser and lube, and as floor pump. Impressive, and a first on this trip.

Back to the hotel, washed my hands and took my luggage downstairs to check out after breakfast.

Which was utter chaos. A narrow hallway led to the breakfast room, and just inside the door was the buffet laid out – the queue went for miles. I sat and read for 30 minutes – there were two buses leaving at 9:00, and all the passengers were getting breakfast first. When I got in, there were still several people at the buffet – there was no cereal, just toast, jams, sliced cheese and meat, and yoghurt. There was one croissant left, which I snaffled. I looked at the coffee and juice machines – there was  queue of about 30 still there, so I ate a toasted cheese sandwich, a tub of yoghurt and my croissant, drinking the bottled water at the table. By the time I’d finished they had mostly gone, so I grabbed an OJ and a coffee, and made another toasted cheese sandwich. One observation – I was probably the youngest person there – spas are for old folk…..

There was a huge thunderstorm going on when I woke, and heavy rain. I left around 9:30 am, when the rain had turned to light drizzle. It stopped on and off, and varied between no rain and torrents during the ride. Skin’s waterproof, and it wasn’t cold. A solid climb

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(I ended up over 1100 metres – started out at 470) – up to the dam at CV-20.

lake

It then levelled out a bit, with just gentle climbs up to Puebla de Arenoso,

puebla

where I hit a serious climb, up past Olba to Fuentes de Rubielos. Lots of ruins along the road – abandoned hamlets, slowly turning back into soil…

ruins

Got hit by a hail storm, too – and nowhere to shelter. It only lasted for 10 minutes, but it wasn’t nice.

From Fuentes de Rubielos I took the A-232 to Rubielos de Mora

mora

and from there the same road to Mora de Rubielos – dunno what all the Rubielos stuff is about, but it’s a bit confusing to have two towns with such similar names 12 Km apart.

More hail as I approached Mora de Rubielos; I stopped at the first hotel I found, a 4 star – they wanted 118 Euros for bed and breakfast, so I bummed a town map from them, and cycleda couple of hundred metres to the Hotel Jaime 1. Dinner, bed and breakfast for way less – the hassle is dinner doesn’t start till 9:00 pm.

Food has been a problem on these quiet byways; no petrol stations,  no bars. and only a few serious restaurants. The few hamlets I cycled through didn’t have shops, and the bigger towns I bypassed. I’ll have to grab a few extra bits at breakfast, and stash them away.

A hot shower and dry clothes – much better 🙂 I walked up to the castle – it has little tiled sections on the walk up showing the twelve stations of the cross, for some reason. The castle saw some heavy action in the Spanish civil war,  and also during the war of the two Peters – I don’t remember that one from history lessons.

It’s now 8:30 pm – I’ll finish this here and go down to the bar; a glass of red should set me up for dinner.

See you down the road.

Day 51 – Segorbe to Montanejos

Last night’s hotel restaurant was supposed to open at 8:00 pm for dinner – when I went down, I was told it wouldn’t open till 9:00pm. The Spanish like to eat late, that’s for sure. I was starving – hadn’t eaten since my very average breakfast in Segorbe, so went looking for somewhere to eat. Didn’t find much, so after a couple of blocks around town I found a supermarket, and bought a pre-packed tuna salad, a small baguette,  a couple of cheese slices from the deli, a sweet cake thing, with sliced pears on top, and a half bottle of Rioja. Not a hot meal, but nutritious enough.

I slept well; up at 7:00 am, showered, packed and down for breakfast. Sliced meats and cheeses, several sweet breads and cakes, OJ, coffee and cornflakes. I had a big bowl of cornflakes, half a cup of coffee – it was bitter and awful  – so a couple of cakes and glasses of OJ to wash it down. On the road by 8:00 am.

Downhill out of Segorbe, heading North on CV-213, then CV-212 to Jerica where I picked up the N-234; a steady climb all the way.

I stopped for a cold drink at El Cristo, then carried on – to find the N-234 just ceased; choices were the A-23; a motorway, so not allowed, and a small road , with no signage. I followed it for a while, and came to a junction – the road on the right was labelled CV-211, wih a sign saying Benafer; the road ahead wasn’t labelled, and was almost a track. So I went right, and finished up in Benafer, which is 1 Km North East of Jerica

jerica

– which I’d left about an hour or so before. It was a steep climb out too- all that height lost on the drop into Benafar. Bummer. At Benafar I came across the CV-195, which went North. North is good, so I followed it.

It climbed. and then climbed some more – I should have guessed that, as my map showed towns called Montan, and Montanejos….. The road crested at just over 900 metres,

peak

and then dropped through a valley to Montan, and I carried on to Montaejos, where I found the Hotel Spa Xauen, which had a room, so I booked in. The next town is 20 Km up the road, and it was after 2:00 pm – that’s the rule.Got a great view from my room –

htlvw

The river runs green, and is warm – there’s a hot spring a couple of Km up the road, and the Hotel has a feed of hot mineral water from it – using the spa starts at 15 Euro extra, so I didn’t bother; the river was warm and smelly enough – I only paddled.

I’m not fussed to be 40 Km East of where I expected to be; my schedule isn’t tight, and I’ve had a great detour and seen some beautiful country. My offline maps are not always the best guide, but I don’t have a GPS – half the fun of travelling as I am is getting misplaced – there’s no immediate rush, and everywhere I end up is new to me. It’s an adventure, people 🙂

mtn2

I’ll make my way back Westward tomorrow, and then continue North.

Dinner in the Hotel starts at 8:30. I hope the foods good 🙂

See you down the road.