Spain: Criss-crossing the Cordillera Cantábrica, Prt 1

Route: San Martin de Losa – Hierro – Medina de Pomar – Espinosa de los Monteros – Reinosa – Cervera de Pisuerga – Guardo – Boñar

It was sweltering hot the day I left my campsite next to the potato field. Via San Martin de Losa I rode, all via super quiet country roads and tracks, to Quincoces de Yuso. There’s a bakery and a small fruteria where you can buy all the necessary, provided you are willing to wait long, very long. Service is super slow and, untypical, and in both shops, very unfriendly.

Next up was the ‘Ermita de San Pantaleon de Losa’, a small church built on a high rock. I left my bike at a house with some friendly locals and hiked to the top. The Ermita itself was closed, but the views definitely worth the climb.

Route Cordillera Cantabrica 1
First part of my route through the Cordillera Cantabrica.
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The ermita is on top of this hill.
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Ermita de San Pantaleon de Losa

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View from the Ermita

Following provincial road BU-550 along the Rio Jerea, I come at a fork. Right will bring me directly to Medina de Pomar, but I drew my route to the left, via the small settlement of Hierro. Nothing to see there, only the fact that I think it is a nice stretch, with a climb over a completely deserted, small, worn asphalt road. Which option to chose ?

It is so hot, and the direct road to the right would be easier. The junction is a good point with river access if you’d like a swim in the river and think it over, but some local youth was already in there.

I went left, the harder, but probably much nicer option. Good choice. The scenery, with high rocks coming out of nowhere is really beautiful.

Just before the start of the climb, I take a left turn and ride in the hamlet of Quintana-Entrepenas. I need shelter from the heat and sun and it is provided here with a fountain with drinking water, and a deserted building giving shade. The faintest of internet signals even allows me to catch up on some news on the phone. Close to 7 pm, when the temperatures dropped a bit, I start the climb. It’s nothing huge, going from 590 meter to something like 850 meter, but there are steep parts of +10%.

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I find a good camping spot just under the collection of houses which is ‘Hierro’. Shade, now in the evening and also in the morning, and a small breeze. Just too many flies and I have to wait till after the sunset before I can prepare diner (flies go to sleep).

Next morning, riding through Hierro, I see that probably only one of the ramshackle houses is still inhabited. The church has partly collapsed. The road turns to gravel. Again, I have splendid vistas to the surrounding valley and mountains. The top of the ‘pass’ is about hundred meters above Hierro. A splendid downhill on good gravel follows. Still vultures everywhere I look up in the sky. Also a young deer on the track. And a fox.

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From Villavedeo I found a gravel track all the way to Medina de Pomar. Excellent, excellent riding.

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Medina de Pomar is an ancient town, with some interesting historical buildings, an ‘alcazar, old church, etc…. good for a couple of hours. The guy who founded Ascuncion in Paraguy is from this town (but born in Espinosa de los Monteros). He was only a couple of years older then I am now, when he died. Damn, I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me if I still want to found a capital within a few years….

What have I done, after all, in my life ?

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Alcazar de los Velasco at Medina de Pomar
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Medina de Pomar
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Medina de Pomar
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Gate to the old town, Medina de Pomar
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Statue of Juan de Salazar y Espinosa, founder of Asunción, capital of Paraguay

I leave the small town in the afternoon. It’s burning hot. Luckily, villages are at short distances from each other and I always find a bench somewhere in the shade. Often a water fountain to refresh myself as well.

But the inevitable happens after a couple of days off sweltering heat; a thunderstorm. I dive into a side track and find a good place in a field to pitch the tent. Temperatures drop immediately with ten degrees and I have a much better sleep as the night before.

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Still seeing the yellow Camino de Santiago arrows from time to time.

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Up to Espinosa de Los Monteros, a friendly little town. I lose an hour by queueing for the little supermarket and for the panaderia. Now I have a few kilometer on the provincial road BU—526 in front of me, but it’s mostly downhill.

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Espinosa de Los Monteros

I arrived around 2pm in Cueva, the village just before ‘Ermita de San Bernabé’. It’s a famous thing, a church and some stuff in caves, but it is closed for siesta between 2 & 5 pm. I decide not to wait for it and resume cycling along small backroads until I rejoin the BU-526 in Entrambosrios to climb over the saddle. I’m now cruising down next to a spectacular rock face. It seems the top is just above me but little do I know the Sierra de Dulla is much higher than what I see now.

When I look back on my way out of Perosa de Valdeporres I can really appreciate how spectacular Mt. Dulla really is. It will remain in view for quite a while.

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Sierra de Dulla (1.143 m asl)

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The little tertiary road works it’s way up to Ahedo de las Pueblas. A very beautiful village. Must be a nice thing to live in these surroundings. I’m riding at the top of a hill. A barren place with a lot of semi-wild horses. It would be brilliant to camp here, but a very fierce wind starts to blow and I see dark grey clouds rolling in from the north.

Suddenly, I am already descending, the huge Embalse (reservoir) Del Ebro is in front of me a few hundred meters below. I find a very good spot to camp behind some trees, well sheltered for the violent winds. A big thunderstorm is rolling over.

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I ride south along the Embalse Del Ebro. After the village Arija I leave Castilla y Leon region and ride into Cantabria.

It’s a Sunday, and quite a bit of Spaniards have found there way to the lake for a refreshing swim. I keep my eyes open for a small, private beach. Once I think I found it and descend with my bike to the little tiny beach. Nobody here.

Ooh…. one guy is sitting there. Cross-legged. Talking to himself. Totally naked.

I go.

I find another spot allright later on to enjoy a swim in the lake.

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Railway bridge over one of the arms of the Embalse Del Ebro.

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Embalse Del Ebro
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Embalse Del Ebro
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This time, a road bridge over the Embalse Del Ebro
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Embalse Del Ebro
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Mornings start to be misty from time to time, and chilly.
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Small roads into Reinosa.

Reinosa, a bigger place at the western side of the lake is nothing special, but it has a big Mercadona supermarket on the outskirts and a Repsol gasstation where I can refill my fuel bottle for cooking. I use about one liter of fuel per month.

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About six kilometer west of Reinosa is the spring of the Ebro, the second longest river in Spain. The river Tajo is about 100 km longer but the Ebro is the longest running its entire course in mainland Spain (The Tajo goes on to Portugal). Instead of running its waters north for about 50 kilometer to the Atlantic Ocean, the Ebro choses another path, downhill, all the way to the Mediterranean, more than 900 kilometer away. The spring is at about 900 meters asl, so on average it’s losing one meter per kilometer. Although it will be much less in the last half of its trajectory I’m sure.

There is a hiking trail all along the river and I follow the first six kilometer upstream on the bike, from the city to the spring.

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The spring of Spains 2nd longest river, the Rio Ebro.
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This duck is swimming in the earliest, cristal clear water of the Ebro.

After Reinosa, I had two options in mind to continue my trip. The northern option through the ‘Picos de Europa’ or a southern one via the Montana Palentina. The first option for sure would be the more spectacular, and also much harder.

Possibly too hard with too much bike pushing over rocky hiking trails.

Consulting the weather forecast, the decision was made easily. Rain for the next eight days if I were to go north, only for two days if I go south.

South it will be.

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I make a small mistake pushing my bike up a dry, rocky, steep stream bed. I should have just followed the nice gravel track to Poblacion de Suso, and join the main road CA-280 there. Now I pushed my bike for 45 minutes over rocks, through thorny bushes. My legs are bleeding at a dozen places. If I don’t forget it, I’ll clean up my gps-track so if anybody downloads it, you go the better way.

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This is the good way to go, towards Poblacion de Suso. I accidentally went this way, than turned back, because I had the illusion the shorter way would be better….
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Better ?
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Defintely not better !

Very beautiful mountain scenery again. I see dark clouds rolling in again from the north over Reinosa, but if I hurry up, over an unnamed pas, 1.352 meter asl, I’m pretty sure these clouds will get stuck behind the mountain.

The mountain range that forms the border between Cantabria and Palencia province (back in Castilla y Leon) is 1900 meter high. On the downhill I reach my highest speed so far on this trip, 74,86 km/hr, the cyclometer says. That was with laundry flapping from my front and rear rack. It’s been years since I managed to go over 80 km/hr. Maybe later.

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You can see the clouds rolling in over the hills already. They never managed to get over the pass from where the picture was taken.

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The town of Brañosera which I passed on the descent is considered to have the first town hall in Spain, granted in 824.

Today I also see the first storks of this trip.

After Barruelo de Santullan, I take the small PP-2125 road through the Montana Palentina. A signs tells me this is one of the few places in Europe where bears are still roaming around. Maybe I’m lucky to see one late evening or early morning when I’m camping ?

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After San Cebrian de Muda, I’m back on gravel. Or stones sometimes, but always well rideable. Very enjoyable route, with plenty of camping options. As those two days of bad weather are coming up, I ride into Cervera de Pisuerga, a little town I visited already in 2005, to buy provisions, then ride back into the hills to the same place above Rabanal de los Caballeros where I camped the night before, to sit out the rainy weather, read, rest and eat.

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@ Cervera de Pisuerga
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inside the church in Cervera de Pisuerga. Nowadays, almost all churches in Spain are locked. The few that are open often ask entrance fees…

In the afternoon an older gent suddenly arrives in the field near my camp. He was very friendly and came to repair the beehives a bit. He tried to warn me for something, but I couldn’t understand the words. He mimicked an animal, with wings it seems, and a horn.

I didn’t get it. A flying dinasour ?

The devil himself maybe ??

Next morning, when I was back on the track down to Cervera de Pisuerga… i realized it, when I saw the bear poo. That’s what he was trying to warn me for haha.

The road out of town is a bit too busy for my liking but soon I can turn on a smaller road towards Resoba.From this village, a stony track climbs into the mountains of Parque Natural de Fuentes Carrionas Y Fuente Cobre – Montaña Palentina. Often steep, sometimes a bit gentler.

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Steep down- and uphills.

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The ‘Valle de Pineda’

A steep downhill to the valley of the Rio Carrion follows and I find a very nice spot to pitch the tent next to it. From here, I follow the ‘Ruta Valle de Pineda’ towards Vidrieros. A shame they allow 4WD’s to use the track. There are a lot of hikers and mtb-ers. If I were to drive a 4WD, I would very uncomfortable riding my big, loud machine among these people. Why not go out yourself ??

In Vidrieros, I see on a sign it was actually forbidden to camp where I did (natural park). Sorry, but there were no signs the route I entered the park. I am riding next to one of the region’s highest peaks, ‘Curavacas’ (2.526 m)., which means ‘heal the cow’ (or ‘cow healer’ ??).

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Riding ‘Valle de Pineda’

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Pico ‘Curavacas’ , the cow healer at 2.526 m the highest mountain of Palencia province.

At Triollo, I arrive at the big Embalse de Camporredondo. I cycled along this reservoir in 2005, but that is such a long time ago, I remember nothing. And I’m riding in the other direction anyhow now. This road is super, super spectacular. I follow a little side road for a while, to have views towards another giant of the region, Peña Prieta (2.539 m). But, the most spectacular of all, I have all the time in sight. It’s Peña Espigüete (2.451 m).

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What a nice spot for a final resting place, isn’t it ? Eternally looking at the Embalse de Camporredondo.

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To the right, you can see the road that’s going along the lake.
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Peña Espigüete
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Peña Espigüete

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The Camporredono dam in the Rio Carrion.
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Embalse de Compuerto
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Compuerto dam.

After Camporredondo, they’ve built another dam for another reservoir in the Rio Carrion, called Embalse de Compuerto.

From here, I roll into the towns, Velilla del Rio Carrion and Guardo. both have the air of old easter European towns where the time have stood still. Nothing charming here.

I was heading from Guardo to Cistierna. Busy road CL-626 runs between this two places, so I decided to take a quieter option, going further south, more or less out of the mountains towards Calavares de Arriba and even a little detour further south to the town of Almanza, to visit the local bakery. Almanza claims to be on one of the Camino de Santiago routes, but the track I have from the Camino Olvidado runs further north. More small roads bring me into Cistierna. Here I am definitely sharing the track with the Santiago route again. A very pleasant road through Yugueros, and towards Barillos de las Arrimadas and eventually to Bonar a little town with again supermarket, etc..

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Pitching the tent again in sunny, warm weather.
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But waking up to cloudy mornings.
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In the town of Almanza.

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The Iglesia parroquial Sta. Marina in Barillos de las Arrimadas, 12th century. It was possibly serving as the headquarters of the Military Orders of Santiago and Templars.
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But it was locked…

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Approaching Boñar.

Part 2 of my meanderings through the Cordillere Cantabrica to follow soon.

Spain: Navarra & Basque Country / Euskadi

Route: Etxalar – San Sebastian – Lekunberri – Vitoria-Gasteiz – Berberana

Waking up in spain the next morning, me, and the hill tops around me are bathing in a sea of clouds. What a sight. It is if I were a couple of thousand meter above sea level, while I’m standing at barely 400 meters asl. I take it very easy in the morning. The last days have been hectic enough, and I intend to take a hotel for one are two nights in Lesaka.

Route Basque Country
The Route I rode in this blog post.
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It’s good to be back in Spain, back in the country with the worlds best car drivers. Nowhere else on my travels I found the big majority of the drivers giving you so much space when they pass you, or just waiting patiently behind you when they can’t pass you safely. Often, I’m not even realizing a car is behind me because, contrary to other countries, they don’t speed into you, almost under your rear rack, braking at the last moment, revving the engine…. no, they come slowly, unnoticed. Spain is also one of the few places in Europe where you can spend winter comfortably AND it’s a country with an immense diversity of landscapes.  Downsides… yes, there are a few…. Spaniards are loud.  There are way too many dogs.  You seldom will have a night in your tent without hearing dogs barking, especially in the southern half of the country (but they are almost always behind a fence or on a chain, so not attacking you).  And Spanish kitchen is overrated. You can eat very good here, but the typical ‘menu del dia’ some people are so enthusiastic about is 99% of the times a disappointment. Meat, potatoes, no veggies.  
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Back in Spain, where you will always notice this semi-wild horses in the mountains.

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France is at the other side of the hills.
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Unzipping my tent in the morning, heating water for a coffee. Not a bad view at all.

The downhill over a good track into Etxalar is very steep. This is were the difference between v-brakes and good disc brakes show. I’m torturing my rims. Etxalar is a very neat little town. A tv crew was just making some shots, even of me enterig the village. Who knows I will appear on TVE 🙂
There was a sign outside the tourist info, about Carmen, and an opera, and a girl from this village. I don’t know anything about the famous opera, and I wonder whether it is about that one and whether the story starts here ??

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Lesaka, the next village is a bit bigger. but has a nice center also All the hotels are full. I should’ve stayed in Etxalar. Alas, no rest days for me. After my siesta I leave town and climb back in the hills. Back up to 400 meter. Down I go via the track under the power lines. 16 to 19% the cyclometer says. Ouch, my rims 😦
From the Presa (reservoir) San Anton, another climb follows. The sealed road NA4000 (‘NA standing for the region of Navarra) is very quiet, but nevertheless, I opt for the continuation of the climb for a goat track, again under the power lines. My progress is too slow for the cyclometer to measure any inclination, but it will be in the 16 – 19% range again (I’m pushing of course, not riding). Instantly my shirt is soaking wet again from the extreme effort. Shoulders, knees, everything hurts from pushing that heavy load up the steep track.
Pure joy 🙂

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In the distance you can see the steep track I came down, than passed the Pressa San Anton, and the steep uphill track again.

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Up at the Aritxulegi pass (500 meter), I am standing above the the tunnel of the NA4000. This is the border between Navarra and the Basque (Euskadi) regions. There is a side track where cars can come up to a picnic area. No good to camp here, so I go back down a bit to a place where I ‘m less likely to be disturbed, and better sheltered from the wind. The weather is changing.
At night, I hear fools, probably drunks, yelling and screaming at the picnic area, flashing strong lights and they are racing cars, braking through curves and the tunnel, wearing out their tires in one night. Good decision to come back to the place I am.

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On the via verde into San Sebastian.

Under very grey skies, with some rain, I ride down the hill and briefly hit the coast in San Sebastian, also called the world most gastronomic place. Not any city on this planet has more Michelin Stars per square kilometer then San Sebastian.. The city was Europe’s cultural capital in 2016 and has 186.000 inhabitants. People, people, nothing but people and cars, so after a stop of 30 seconds, I say goodby to the coast and head back inland. Inland, that’s the ‘Montes Vascos’, the Basque Mountains. They form the eastern section of the Cantabrian Mountain Range which I hope to cross east to west. The Basque coastal range forms the water divide of the Mediterranean and Atlantic basins. The Bay of Biscay causes great weather changes in this region. This is the ‘green Spain’.

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Beach in San Sebastian.

I could already ride the whole way into San Sebastian on bike paths, and leaving town, I prepared a route all along bike paths as well. Splendid.
In Urnieta, just out of town, I take my first hotel of the trip. It’s getting late, all mountains are covered in dreary, dark grey clouds, and I just feel liking having a good shower instead of keeping my eyes open for a camping spot.

Soon after leaving Urnieta, I can take the Plazaola-Leitzaran Greenway, starting in the Basque town of Andoain to Lekunberri in Navarra region. It’s 41 km long and there are no fewer than 32 tunnels to negotiate on the Basque part of the trail alone. Also multiple viaducts, some over a hundred meter in length. Slowly, slowly, like an old diesel engine, I climb from sea level to 660 meter asl at Uitzi, the highest point of the line.
The first half of the Greenway follows the Leitzaran River.

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On my second day on the via verde, I meet a Belgian couple with their son, riding the Vuelta de Vasco, the route I picked up after San Sebastian as well. This via verde is the easiest part of it. Some good climbing, on and off-road, is awaiting.
But first, I have to wait in Lekunberri for the end of the siesta and the (small) supermarket to reopen at 5 pm.

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This little cups on a string are still present along trails, to help hikers have a drink. I guess soon they will all disappear forever due to corona virus, and a permanent change in our habits (I never used them anyhow, but still, it was a friendly gesture).

Upon leaving Lekunberri, I meet another Belgian couple from Brussels, riding part of the trail on hired bikes. It’s amazing. Every other hiking or cycling tourist I meet along the way seems to be Belgian this year.
Out of Lekunberri, I have to climb to a hight of approx. 1.200 meter via a quiet paved road. But the weather is turning, and it is turning rapidly.
Violent head winds, darker and darker clouds. Soon I dive into a forest and prepare a spot to pitch the tent. The winds is still increasing and the trees are swaying violently, dropping branches, dead and living ones. A big one falls right next to my tent and I opt to break it down again and move asap. A broken tent means big troubles for me, and the tent is way too new to have it destroyed like that. And if it’s a big branch, maybe not only the tent will be destroyed…

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The field where I woke up, after replacing the tent from the forest in last nights storm.

I move to a field a bit further on. At night, I hear the relaxing sound of the tawny owl (bosuil). I think that must be the most successful owl in Europe, because I hear him often at night in various countries.

Next morning the sun is out again, and I am on my way before 9 am. Partly because of the heat (the sun was on the tent), but mostly because I was being attacked by hordes of aggressive horseflies.
First up the paved road to the Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar. Today, after about 1750 km, I climb for the first time on this trip above a height of 1.000 m.
The Santuario stands at about 1.220 m asl. There is a cafeteria where I eat and drink something. I also buy a big chunk of typical basque cheese from a vendor at the top.

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Monte Beriain (1.494 meter), seen from Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar.
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Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar, built at this spot to thank Saint Michael the Archangel.

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Then back down again to rejoin the Vuelta de Vasco for an off-road trip through Aralar Nature Park. It definitely is the highlight of my trip so far. An ‘adventurous’ gravel road, spectacular mountains, blue sky, temperature around 34 degrees C. Just perfect. I’m crossing the Basque/Navarra border a couple of times.

I make it a short day. From here the road descents into the valley of the Arakil River, and from the top of the Santuario earlier today, I could see that’s not a place I want to be stuck for the night. A highway passes thru, one village after the other. No, better quiet up the hill.
Well, quiet it never is over here. All the animals, cows, horses, sheep, goat have heavy bells around their neck, and they are all over the place. But that’s still better than traffic noise.

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The weather will turn around completely the next days. Temperatures will drop by more than 10 degrees and there will be rain. Main thing is to get down to the village before 1 pm to buy provisions before siesta starts. After that, quite some climbing and no more chances to buy anything before the capital of the Basque region, Vitoria-Gasteiz.

But….. nothing worked out like that.
Opening the zipper of my tent in the morning, I saw a flat rear tire.
After breakfast, I took off the rear wheel. Going with my hand through the tire, I found two thorns inside. I mended the two holes in the tube. But then found another one.
And another one.
After using almost half my repair patches and half the tube of glue, I was good to go.
220 times pumping to bring the tire on pressure, loading all the luggage, including a soaking wet tent only to notice…. I had a flat tire in the back again….
Aaaghrrr !!
Off-loaded everything again.
Started to rain harder.
More wind.
I now put the spare tube I have inside, but that’s a tube with a small leak I can’t find.
220 times pumping to bring the tire on pressure.
It is completely hopeless I will make it in time to the shop before siesta.
The descent is much harder as expected. It’s basically through a dry river bed with big rocks. Unrideable.
I have to pump the rear tire a couple of times before I’m down in the valley.
It’s 2:05 pm.
The shop in Arbizu closed at 2 pm.

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Too stony for riding.

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I ride eleven km to Alsasua where I find a supermarket that’s open.
The bike shop is closed though.
Till Monday 10 am.
There’s a Chinese shop. They tend to sell everything, so… who knows, they have a tube ?
They do. 28 inch tubes, 27,5 inch tubes, oh…. and one more 26 inch tube.
I grab it, happy I am saved.
Outside, while cutting the package open, I’m thinking … “o-oh, I didn’t check whether the valve is presta and not schraeder”… Schraeder of course.
Aaaaaghr… won’t fit in my rims.

In the drizzle, I rode up the hill in search for a place to camp, with food for two days and nine liter of water. Found nothing suitable so it is back down and I ride to a small pine forest squeezed in between the busy highway and the provincial road I’m on.
Not the nicest place, but it will have to do for two nights until the bicycle shop is open.

Monday morning, 10:20 am I am standing at the bicycle shop. The paper with opening hours which was there on Saturday, is now replaced by another paper. It says the shop is closed until next Monday.
Can you believe that ??
Forty hours I am waiting in my tent, meters away from a busy highway, and now this ??

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This means I cannot ride through the Sierra Andia and miss out on the Parque Natural Ubasa y Andia. That’s a real pity. Luckily, I find a reasonably interesting, and quiet route all the way to Vitoria-Gasteiz (250.000 people), the capital of the Basque Country. The last stretch into town, I rejoin the ‘Vuelta de Vasco’. It’s a via verde (greenway) all the way into town.

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It is said Vitoria-Gasteiz has the second highest standard of living in Spain. Between 1950 & 2020, the population exploded with a factor five ! They’ve got a club playing in the Primera Division; Deportivo Alavés. The well know cyclist Mikel Landa was born here.

I check into a hotel and spend the afternoon strolling through town, buying two new tubes, a slime tube and a regular one, and have diner.

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Leaving town, still on the off-road ‘Vuelta de Vasco’, The route is initially nice. You pass a big shopping area a few kilometer out of town with a big Decathlon, a Carrefour supermarket and a Chinese shop for all your needs.
Now starts a really hard stretch, which I had to push the bike almost all the way. You reach three hill tops, and the last one is so steep I could hardly hold the bike and push it up. But your reward is expansive views over the country side, no people and multiple excellent wild camping options. Up on the ridge, or a bit down towards Jugo. I camped a few kilometer before Jugo, with only 2.2 liter of water in my bottles. I just wanted to stay here and enjoy the views to Olazar mountain from my tent.

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With empty bottles (but still enough water for two big cups of coffee in the morning), I rolled down to Jugo, filled up, and continued to Murgia, where you will find a small supermarket and bakery. I now left the ‘Vuelta de Vasco’. Initially I wanted to go all the way to Bilbao. It’s supposed to be a nice town, but in corona times, I prefer to skip towns if possible.

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The alternative I created was probably better than a visit to Bilbao.
Ok still some bike pushing on some stretches because it was so steep, but mostly excellent riding. The two big rewards of the day were ‘Salto del Nervion’, three hundred meter deep cliffs, and ‘Mirador Esquina Rubén’, both in the ‘Monumento Natural de Monte Santiago’. Lots and lots of Griffon Vultures (Vale Gier).

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Salto del Nervion
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Salto del Nervion

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View from Mirador Esquina Rubén.

Via quiet villages like Berberana and Villalbla de Losa, without any shops, but with water points, I finish the day next to a potato field, not picturesque but nicely sheltered from the sun.

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Next episode, I will continue my ride further west through the Cordillera Cantábrica.

Vuelta a Murcia

An off-road tour around Murcia Province

Leaving Playa Flamenca, I chose to follow the Canal de Riegos de Levante, as I cycled the coastal track already a week ago cycling down to Cartagena. A strong tail wind blows me in 3 hrs all the way back to the hills, west of Cartagena and a picturesque and quiet wild camping spot.

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Canal de Riegos de Levante

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Next day I ride through the (sometimes steep ) hills of the Sierra de la Muela down to the coast at Isla Plana. This is a piece of Spanish coast without roads or buildings, just a few hiking (or biking) trails.
After Puntas de Calnegre there’s a roller coaster dirt track along the coast. Sometimes too steep to cycle. I spot a completely deserted beach below. It’s quiet a task to get down the steep rock and through the bushes with the bike, but I ‘m rewarded with a private beach for the evening and some wonderful camping. Even near the end of the year, the water temperature is still fine enough for a quick wash and swim.

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Spot the tent 🙂

Continuing along the coast I pass Aguilas, a nice little town in the far south of Murcia province.
Right at the provincial border, I turn inland towards Lorca through a rambla and some orange orchards. Impossible to find a camping spot. I end up in Lorca and am forced to take a hotel for the night.

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The track became really narrow and steep. Well, just a hiking trail basically. Pretty hard to stop the bike from tumbling down.

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After Lorca, I mount into the hills towards the ‘Embalse de Puentes’.   Many trees are still standing in the artificial lake but none are surviving.
Through a very dry area, I reach Caravaca de la Cruz, a really neat town, also the end of the famous ‘Camino de la Vera Cruz’, which start in the north of Spain. There’s a beautiful sanctuary at the top of the hill.

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The least interesting part of the trip was the part between Cehegin and Calasparra. At the end of a long day, I pitched the tent at dusk in the Sierra del Puerto, just north of ‘Estacion de Calasparra’, at the border with Albacte.

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View from the tent in the morning.

Now a really fantastic day follows, all on very decent gravel roads. From the Sierra del Puerto I headed to the spectacular ‘Cabeza del Asno’ mountain.
I continued along the norhern part of the Sierra Larga towards the Sierra Santa Ana.

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Cycling in the ‘Sierra del Puerto’.

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‘Cabeza del Asno’

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Biking towards the ‘Sierra Larga’.

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The ‘Sierra Santa Ana’.

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In Jumilla, I could finally buy some food again. Following the small A15 road, meandering through vinyards, it was again just after dusk before I found a place to pitch the tent. Barking dogs keep annoying the wild camper in Spain. And I don’t seem to be alone, as I met an other couple on bikes that shared the same complaints.

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dscf0446A combination of minor roads and dirt tracks through the Sierra del Carche and the beautiful Sierra de la Pila, I ended up in Murcia. I only spend an hour in town to do buy some bread, cheese and fruit.

South of Murcia, I climbed towards the Santuario de la Fuensanta, then over the pass and back towards the coast at Playa Flamenca for a few weeks of rest.

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The famous statue outside Murcia
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Murcia Cathedral

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The rambla of the ‘Rio Seco’.  I passed here again a few weeks later after the heavy rains and the place was unrecognizable (not so ‘seco’ anymore & loads of fallen trees and rubbish).

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Vuelta a Murcia:
Distance: 556 km
Average km per cycling day: 79,42 km
Altimeter: 7.597 m

Nights slept inside: 1 (Lorca)
Nights slept outside: 5 (all wild camping)
Flat tires: 1

The Gps track can be downloaded from Wikiloc