Spain and Mistaken Identity
This morning we were leaving for Spain and wow what great roads. Deciding to take the mountain road south out from Lourdes and up over the Pyrenees (the D918 up to the Pic Du Midi d’Ossau at 2884 metres) the views simply got better and better.
As we steadily climbed higher through countless switchbacks we noticed enthusiastic Police waving us on eagerly, they obviously really like big bikes we thought naively.
As the mountain road got steeper and tighter we edged carefully by a number of cyclists involved in some type of ‘local event’. A few kilometres more and we’d passed another group of cyclists and yet more cops. Bloody hell we thought these amateurs are keen, not to mention incredibly fit. Still more roadside police waived us on and through, and yet they had now begun to stop other vehicles from continuing.
Finally near the summit we met up with the main pack of cyclists, 100 or so guys on really flash bikes. We were staggered how popular amateur cycling was in this region and admired their dedication. Wishing to show our appreciation we began to waive and cheer as we passed them, with most smiling and waiving back.
Right at the top of the mountain pass we decided to stop, as there seemed to be quite a large crowd waiting for the cyclist to come through…we enquired politely about the ‘local cycling event’. Our question was met with a brief pause and then a smile as we were gently informed that the athletes we had been waiving to were in fact all World class professionals and that we had somehow ridden right through the mountain stage of the ‘Tour de Spain’, one of the largest cycling events in the cycling calendar. The enthusiastic police who had been waiving us on had presumed that we were a TV bike filming the race. We thought that was kind’ a cool…☺
Lunch over we thought we’d press on, unfortunately a spanner was put in the works as the police by now had sussed that we weren’t TV, just lucky tourists, and stopped us from going the way we wanted, pointing for us to go the opposite way!
Ah well! Our new route was a beauty. What a great road, once again, and we ended riding up through tiny hamlets, all of which we said it would be great to live in! However, this road led us back to only 12k away from Lourdes the wrong side of the mountain range! So we had to set off again and time was getting late.
Eventually we crossed the Spanish border and within minutes the landscape changed to the dry and earth red tones we remembered from our last visits. We eventually stopped just to the west of the town Jaca.
The morning felt fresh, as rain overnight had brought cool air. Packing our camp gear away easily we were soon on the road and determined to be in Estella to meet a good friend, who by pure chance is on a walking holiday in the area.
Today was to be a short day as the miles ahead of us were few, with the N240 west providing us more opportunity to enjoy our bikes with long fast turns and sweeping bends. Passing the Embalse de Yesa lake by mid morning we made our way south of Pamplona on the smaller local roads and by 2pm we were in the tourist information shop in Estella. Anybody interested in this area, Estella is not the easiest place to find camping, or to navigate as the town is little more than one large one-way system with many of the main streets and squares now set aside as pedestrian only zones.
6:30pm rolled around quite quickly and we set off to make the short ride back into the town centre to meet Lynne at 7pm. 30 mins later we were still riding round now completely flummoxed as to how to meet her at the agreed point. Every alleyway or road was either a dead end or pedestrian area! After 40 mins we were both now getting a little frustrated. With a phone call to Lynne (thank God for mobiles!) Our frustration was quickly forgotten and replace with excitement as one of Lisa’s best friends walked into view. With a restaurant quickly chosen we all sat down to compare travelling stories, memories, and good wine and even better conversation. Outnumbered 2 to 1 I became the butt of more than just a couple of jokes but hell, but that’s half the fun of it! By midnight eyelids were feeling heavy and with hugs and kisses exchanged we all made our way to our beds. It had been great to see Lynne and Lisa had been so excited.
It was time to do some real riding – so a big push was on the cards with Segovia being the destination for this evening.
Our day started on the smaller back roads with more great scenery and fewer and fewer cars. The landscape opened up, the earth became redder and drier and rolling plains dotted with small white buildings covered the land for as far as the eye could see. As the land became flatter the heat increased hour upon hour, with the horizon being blurred by the constantly moving mirage of heat.
We were now riding in an area known as ‘the frying pan of Spain’! By lunch time the scenery had changed again with bare and barren land exchanged for row upon row of vines. We were in La Rioja - the land of wine. The C115 brought us easily into the town of Soria and filtering through the traffic we emerged on the other side of town on the N122. Petrol stops and food breaks came and went, as did El Burgo de Osma, Pardena and La Salceda. As the evening light drew in we rode the last few miles into Segovia. Riding almost due West, the setting sun provided a red illumination and silhouetted the famous Segovia viaduct.