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Craig's Musings

Benidorm 24 Day 13

Well, what can I say about today’s cycle ride / mountain hike?

Last night in Pamplona was lovely – 20 degrees and sunny. I got a few strange looks as I walked the 3 mile round trip to the old town wearing shorts and flip flops before heading back to the hotel. I was hot, they were wrapped up in thick coats. A quick stop at the supermercado to get supplies was also in order. May 1st is Labour Day in Spain, a public holiday. And, when the close stuff, they really close stuff. I didn’t want to be caught out again like Sundays in France, so stocked up on extra water to take, and food.

Of course, when I woke up, the temperature was around 7 degrees and raining. Such fun!

I also woke up with a cloud over me. I’m not entirely sure why, but I felt really down. I’d have to cycle it out and just crack on, and I had a little pep talk from Lorraine – the best cheerleader a man could wish for.

I left the warm foyer of the hotel – Terence had been treated to a lovely empty meeting room – and headed out, expecting to be soaked through before the end of the street.

As I headed out of the city, I saw more Camino walkers, one of whom I’m sure was catching me up going up a particularly steep hill. We would part ways today as they headed west and I east.

The rain was lifting and so was my mood as I headed for the first and largest climb of the day, which was in two parts. I completed the first one with a bit of a struggle, until I got to the village of Arlegui. The road was shut.

Google – and I am really learning not to trusts it’s cycling directions – sent me up into the village and up a very steep path. In hindsight, many hours later at a computer and relaxed, it turns out there is a road, just back from where I turned west up the Everest-like hill, which went east and around. A proper road as well – one with a number and everything.

round route

But no,  Google thought this way would be better. The steep path split off into a track, which in turn turned into a stony climb, which had me slipping and puffing, as I leant down to push Terence up the 20% gradient. It seemed it would never end as I started thinking how this could be the start of a horror movie with me being the main star / victim. A movie where the stranger from out of town walks unknowningly into the misty hill where danger awaits. 

Told you it was a long walk.

Eventually, the path on the map said to turn left or go straight ahead. There was not a straight ahead, just a left and right, so I tuned left and made my way up through the thinnest of cuttings, feeling sharpness scratch my left as I went, with Terence protecting me from the right like the bloody trooper he is.

Eventually, I saw a stoney pathway, wide enough for a vehicle. I nearly cried. To be fair, I’d been weeping most of the morning so this was nothing new.

The rough path slowly led me down the hill the other side, as I felt more like a mountain biker than a tourer, trying to dodge rocks and clusters of stones.

Eventually, after a harrowing hour and a half, I made it down the other side onto a road. I got off Terence and kissed the tarmac. Never would I moan about a boring old road hill again.

Five minutes later, I was moaning about the latest hill.

But after that, I had a long section of downhill and a tailwind and I was averaging around 32km/hr for over half an hour. The southward drag turned east as I cycled through empty towns until I hit Olite. I could see something special from the distance, which turned out to be the Royal Palace of Olite. It was bustling with visitors and despite being a small town, it was the most life I’d seen all day. I would have loved to have stopped, taken a look around, and grabbed a coffee, but all I cared about at this stage was getting to my destination.

That destination, which had been chosen last night solely for the fact that it had a hotel and not many places around here did, was Sadaba. It was also around half way to Zaragoza, which is the direction I am heading.

The Hospedería Sádaba is a small hostelry. The code to my room had been emailed so I walked into the bar and had a stilted conversation about why I was there. We worked it out in the end and Terence was parked in a huge lock up with some circus equipment.

The town itself is very cute, but also quiet, with a castle that dates back to either 1100’s or 1300’s. They’re not quite sure.

Pictures on the wall of the hostelry show days gone by. It looked like a fun community to be a part of.

hostelry pics

But, like many of the towns I cycled through today, it looks a little deserted. Some houses stand as empty shells. There is no hustle or bustle.  It lookes like a lot of people have moved on from this rural life.

Or, perhaps, one by one the residents went for a walk up the road and got lost up a hill in a forest.

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