Lisbon⏐Nordkapp >> Cycling in Spain

ROUTE:

  • Monsanto – Valverde del fresno
  • Valverde del fresno – Ciudad Rodrigo
  • Ciudad rodrigo – Salamanca
  • Salamanca – Tordesillas
  • Tordesillas – Valladolid – Palencia
  • Palencia – Estepar
  • Estepar – Burgos
  • Burgos – Santo Domingo de la Calcada
  • Santo Domingo de la Calcada – Viana
  • Viana – Los Arcos – Pamplona
  • Pamplona – Lakabe

If Portugal last just few cycling days, Spain took quite some time to be crossed.

Valverde del Fresno was already in Spain and when I left the only motel open that day I knew I had to climb up to the mountains. And so I did.

Portugal was tough with all the up and down and I was prepared to face the challenge in front of me. It was not the first, but for sure it was the first long long long one.

I woke up very early after having slept 10 hours in a row leaving the sleeping village behind me. It took me quite some time to get to the peak but when I got there I knew there was just one possibility: going down.

IMG_20160504_102658 copy

Like in Portugal here we have not many cycle paths. Actually almost none.

But if you choose to ride on small roads there is not much traffic apart when we get close to a city.

That downhill was epic, comparable just to Norway maybe, but just if we do not consider the holes on the Spanish street.

I was driving round about 50km/h and I was so happy that the only thing I could think of was about having an amazing dinner as reward. I needed to spend less money as possible so normally for lunch I always had sandwiches or rice and beans, or eggs, chocolate and similar. Even dinner was not really abundant but hey, I made it and it was the right thing to eat a proper good meal.

I reached Ciudad Rodrigo, a sad, yellow-earth and fortress like city right after  being welcomed by a small village for lunch. Yeah, they literally invited me to eat with the entire community who was meeting up. We had bits and pieces of everything and lot of Jamon Serrano. It was a great surprise I won´t forget.

The first city I really enjoyed in Spain despite the rain was Salamanca where I spent a couple of days visiting the old city and chilling whenever the weather gave me a break. Also here hostels were quite cheap and funny. The city is very fascinating with its colors and architecture.

When I left it was a cloudy and grey day but luckily it did not rain too much.

The suburban area in this region was really sad but at the same time interesting, full of abandoned warehouses and discos.

I reached Tordesillas, a small town where I slept in a camping close to the river which did not look so reassuring because of the heavy rain of the previews days.

Anyway, after a discussion with the receptionist we had a deal regarding the payment. They wanted me to pay 20 euro for sleeping in my tent one night. You guys are crazy. I have seen these prices just in the northern countries. But for camping grounds with kitchen and even shared living room. I am a sort of pilgrim, please just show a bit of sympathy!

She did.

I put on my tent and went visiting the city center full of beautiful graffiti, and then to my beloved supermarket.

It could have been a nice and cozy evening spent in my tent if when I came back I did not find a flat tire. Come on. It can not be true. A flat tire on a camping ground???

I know it was some cats fault, they were hanging around playing with whatever they could find. You guys just do not know where I come from, right? (Vicenza, famous for eating cats. That is what people say at least)

no you don´t, otherwise I am sure you would have had a bit more respect.

Anyway, bad luck was just about to come. I was prepared to face some tech issues, also in Portugal I had a problem with the low rider but two Chinese shop assistants of the only open store in Nisa helped me to fix it. God bless Chinese “malls” on Saturday.

And just because I needed more bad luck, at 8PM in the evening I realized I lost my multi tool. Yes, the only thing that could save a cyclist in the middle of nowhere like having a Mac Gyver.

Thank god, a British (we are going to miss you guys), probably retired cyclist borrowed me his kit before going to bed at 9PM. It took me two hours to fix my tire and I was not really happy about the result actually.

Already 10PM and I was hungry, really hungry. And what do I do? I go to the camping restaurant. I mean, who is such a fool to do that? I was.

I have eaten awful frozen croquette for 8 euro. Insane. Do not do that. Never.

But bad luck was not over. Nope.

I woke up early to have breakfast and avoid folding my tent under heavy rain which gave me company few hours later. I also wanted to talk to some locals concerning route directions, therefore I got inside the first bakery and bar to have a coffee.

I was the only woman showing up since ages I suppose because an well dressed old man did not care about it and kept leafing through a porn magazine in front of me. Lots of white boobs and other stuff you can imagine.

Anyway, the bar tender without a finger told me not to take the caminhos, and obviously I did not listen to him. I took the fastest google map route and I found myself in the middle of a muddy path with some stomach problems.

I called this day the “day of the mistakes”:

  • always trust the bar tender without a finger on routes direction
  • never eat hallucinogenic donuts for breakfast

After Palencia I finally entered the privileged world of the Camino de Santiago. Even if I was not really aware about that at the beginning, it did not take too long to get clear.

The landscape between Palencia and Burgos was still very wild and lonely, I liked it very much, also thank to few hours of sun. Just when I reached Castrojeriz where It would have been better to stop and rest I experienced an incredible strong face wind. And when I say strong, I mean it. I should have listened to the current and go back to the beautiful village I visited when I was fifteen doing the Camino de Santiago.  It was a great experience of sharing, walking, feeling and connecting to nature.

I was so stubborn, I just wanted to reach Burgos as soon as possible because of my “timeline” (imagine my face when mocking myself) and well Francesca, what do you expect then if you are not able to listen to the environment?

I got lost.

I like getting lost if that day I was not driving back from where I came, climbing up on a mountain finding just one motel for truck drivers (yes the motto is right, good food) where I slept for 12 hours in a row because of fever.

Pew Pew 100%

When I arrived in Burgos I got sick, unexpected cold and strong wind did not really help so I decided to mount the tent, have a shower and sleep again. When in doubt have a nap. Seriously.

Even if the city is old and fascinating I felt the need of visiting less big and known cities. I feel more comfortable there. They are not too complicated to reach and leave and they are more quite. Silence is something I now appreciate much more than before (and it is a loner like me who says that).

For example I loved Santo domingo de la Calzada, a small village up on the mountains that was celebrating its patron day exactly when I arrived. A beautiful coincidence I soon got used to. I slept at the Albergue dos Peregrinos and met other pilgrims who made me drink wine for the first time after weeks. Good food, company and a lot of fun.

The village celebrated all night long but we could not of course as the hostel closed at 23. Nevertheless we were pilgrims!

I have to admit it but the villages like Santo Domingo de la Calcada, Viana and Los Arcos made me feel home. I loved them. I was the only one cycling in the opposite direction, I say opposite because the few cyclists I met were going south, pointing Santiago de Compostela of course but hey, I have always been an outsider. Some people even asked me if I got lost. It is funny, but if you choose a different direction from the majority of people it is easy to be considered as someone who lost his track (or mind). I am just taking a different direction people, what is wrong about it?

And this is happening not just on a real road. You know what I mean.

Cycling in Spain was different from what I expected but it was beautiful to discover this country from a different perspective and I loved it.

My last stops in Spain were Pamplona and Lakabe.

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