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Craig's Musings

Benidorm 24 Day 17

So yesterday, I bumped into two older guys trekking like me, on electric bikes. We chatted for a bit and it turned out they were staying in my hotel, although I didn’t see them in the evening.

The village ot Sástago was very quiet and it looked like my hostel / bar was the centre of the action. After all, this was Saturday night. There were at least ten people there, including two young children waddling around, one playing with a packet of cigarettes his nan had given him to chew on.

But they had food. A two-course meal, plus a glass of wine or large bottle of water for €12.50. I am surprised that only me and a french couple were there. That said, I’ve never been served up so few chips for a meal. I nearly asked for a discount bit I was too full up on on bean and chorizo stew starter that could have fed four people with some left over.

I retired early and slept like a log, ready for my last serious day of prolonged climbing.

I had been told the bar was shut in the morning so was surprised when the manager was there and he made me a coffee as I packed my bike up in the foyer.

My two cycling buddies came down fully kitted up, and admired Terence close up. Who could blame them. One of the guys, José, could speak quite English and asked me my destination. He went off chattering away in Spanish with his friend and starte dplaying with his phone.

“You must go here”, he pointed at his screen. It was and old railway track that had been converted into a smooth Via Verde – The Camino Natural Vía Verde de la Val de Zafán. 

I wasn’t going to ignore that so hastily sat down and replanned my day. I’d lose money on the booking I’d made but found a hotel not far from the start of the Via Verde, booked a room and set up a new route. Same sort of distance, same sort of climbing. I was in.

He told me about his cycling adventures and that he’d cycled America then gave me a card with his personal details on, including his Blog, which I plan to checkout.

I eventually left and headed up the first hill of the day. I was feeling good that I had changed things last minute. I’m never usually that spontaneous.

The first climb gave me a great view back over the river and the village. The next few miles were hard ups and downs but also lovely. I was having a great day.

It soon got harder as I was taken down another track. Terence was awesome. The constant bumping, stones and rough riding, coupled with the incline, made it a slog. And it was long, around 13km.

Back on concrete and my speed very slow for the day, I hit the tarmac and did my best. The heat was not helping, and my worry about food and drink, it being Sunday.

I hit the town of Alcañiz, which was bustling with tourists. The bars were all busy and I only had 20km to go, so I cracked on. After all, my hotel had a restaurant. I did ride up to the castle in the middle of the town and on top of a very steep hill, however. It’s a hotel now by all acocunts.

Then I shot down the hill and out of the town. Of course, this final bit was all uphill apart from the last 4km. The added problem was that I was once again on a road that turned into a track. A constant 2 and 3% climb for what seemed like an age. The heat was scorching still and my food and water supplies depleting.

I trundled on, now listening to Podcasts to distract me until I eventually hit tarmac again, with 8 or so kilometres to go. Then the hill got steeper and I was having to stop regularly. Feeling tired, my legs had nothing as up and up we went, eventually landing on my old friend the N-232 for a few hundred metres before finally drifting down the last hill into the town.

I completely missed the hotel at first, so had to cycle a few hundred metres back up the hill. At last. I was so tired.

I walked in to the bar and a group were just finishing off their dinner. We had fun and games trying to check in, because their card machine wouldn’t connect. It went on for about ten minutes as they tried my phone, then my two cards. The guy kept mentioning a storm, his wife was blaming my cards.

Just getting to the verge of them saying, sorry we can’t help you then, you’re screwed, I checked my wallet and realised I had enough cash. I’d rather not use it but I’d be left with enough for tomorrow as I searched for a shop that was open.

“A que hora por comida”, I tried. Nothing.

What time do you finish food?”

“Ah, kitchen finished. They go, we close.”

I eyed up the stale cakes and ice cream cabinet. With hindsight I should have ransacked the place, but I asked if there was food in the village. “Of yes, in the village,” came the reply.

Two hours later, washed and rested, I discovered he had lied. A lovely little village with small lanes and nooks and crannies, but not one bar or restaurant. I’m just hoping that the shop I saw was really a shop for the morning.

So, I am sitting in my bedroom eating the last of the biscuits and pain au chocolats I’d bought while camping, my backup plan.

At least tomorrow, I am hoping for a much easier day and potentially, my first sighting of the Med!

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