Wow it’s getting hot! I’m pretty used to it being warm, but the last few days have seen temperatures ramp up a notch as I cycle through central Spain. The hot weather is accompanied by an unforgiving sun, and a wind that rises in the afternoon and dries your mouth out, leaving you feeling dehydrated if you don’t drink constantly; I’m carrying a lot of water. The only solution is to start early and finish before it get’s too hot; I’m aiming to finish riding by 15.00 at the latest, getting up at 06.00 to ensure and early start. The Spanish lifestyle is dictated by these conditions, with stuff happening in the morning, then not a lot going on between 13.00 and the evening, whereupon everywhere comes alive again; kids and adults will all be up late taking advantage of the cooler temperatures. Even the Spanish are saying the current weather is exceptional though, with it due to go on for another couple of weeks!
Here are my routes and stats for the last couple of days:
- 12 July: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/831238316 & a little extra to the campsite – https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/831238398
- 13 July: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/832299993
–> 12 July – to Plasencia, a great day’s riding
I did some fast pedalling today, covering 137km in about 7 hours, including an ascent up to 1,202 metres, following by a lovely descent that resulted in my quickest 40km on Smaug. In total I climbed about 1,200 metres, but descended about 1,600 metres, so the Mediterranean must only be around the corner, surely!?
It doesn’t get light until about 06.30 at the moment, and I struggled to wake up this morning, which might have been due to the cheap yet entirely satisfactory Rose wine I had the previous evening. I still managed to get going by 07.30, pedalling away from Salamanca and joining the N630 again.
The N630 runs alongside the autovia (motorway), but is much quieter, as all the traffic is on the bigger road. At times I didn’t see another vehicle for over an hour, so it’s a bit like cycling down a really wide cycle path. I did see lots of cows and bulls, and was somewhat alarmed when at one point a large number of the latter ran into the road being herded by a farmer to another field. They ran straight towards me as I pedalled straight towards them, wondering what to do. I was just about to turn around, or get off by bike and hop over the wall, when another farmer arrived with a big stick and turned them into the other field, accompanied by lots of shouting. He smiled at me and said something in Spanish. I nodded back and said thank you, relieved to have not had re-enact the Pamplona bull run with little in the way of escape options. I don’t think turning around and pedalling off would have worked as they were running pretty fast.
Early on I passed another cycle tourer, Pedro, who was mending a puncture by the side of the road. I stopped to chat for a few minutes and to see if he needed a hand, which he didn’t. Pedro has done a lot of touring and is also on his way to Tarifa. He did some of the Camino de Frances on foot earlier this year, but it hurt his knees and shins, so he’s back on the bike now; a wise decision, much more efficient form of travel. Pedro usually aims to ride 100km a day, but was stopping earlier today due to the heat; it’s entirely possible I’ll bump into him again further down the road to the coast.
I cycled onwards as mountains loomed in the distance, which was slightly worrying. I kept hoping the road would turn slightly West, to take me through a shallower section, but the big climbs grew inexorably closer until I was pedalling upwards for quite some time.
It being Sunday there were a lot of road cyclists out and about, mostly overtaking me or zooming downhill in the opposite direction. They all said hello, wished me ‘Buen Camino’, or said something else in Spanish; the same phrase each time but not sure what it means. There was also quite a lot of ‘allez allez’, sometimes from people just by the side of the road, which spurred me on to the top of the climb. I eventually made it, after a series of switch-backs and with no pushing involved despite the soaring temperatures, passing over the Puerto de Vallejera at 1,202 metres.
After that I got to go downhill for a while, towards the large town of Bejar. The scenery on the other side of the mountains was less arid, with lots more trees providing some shade, and with it more birds singing away, or in the case of the kites and buzzards lazily soaring about using the thermals. There are some different bird species down here which I’m going to have to look up; some of the bird calls sounded pretty unusual, almost something I’d expect to hear in the tropics.
I really enjoyed the descent down to Bejar, and beyond to Banos de Montemayor, however the road started to get busier, which I thought a little odd, until I found the source of the plume of black smoke I’d seen from further up the mountain. There was a lorry fire on the motorway which meant a lot of traffic was being diverted on to the N630. Many people had also stopped to watch the fire, which crammed the road up even more. To be fair I stopped too and watched for a bit, as a fire engine arrived and started to put it out, with clouds of steam rising off the burning wreck; I hope the driver got out alright, and that the lorry wasn’t full of pigs, as I’d seen several that were today, although not on fire when they passed me. I don’t think the lorry was a pig transporter, as I couldn’t smell any bacon, mostly just burning rubber and tarmac, which had no doubt melted due to the heat.
On the way down to Banos de Montemayor, which was a really enjoyable descent, I passed lots of houses with swimming pools, and 3 expensive looking cars, the drivers of which were enjoying the bendy mountain roads; there was a Ferrari and two American muscle cars – Fords but I didn’t catch the make. The all made an impressive noise as they tore up the road, and the drivers waved to me; still prefer my bike though. Maybe this area is where some of the Spanish rich live?
I also passed a few Pilgrims walking the other way, all looking a bit tired and hot. Whilst I was really enjoying the ride I wouldn’t have wanted to cycle up that mountain from the other direction, let alone walk it.
The last 30km to Plasencia were pretty taxing. I stopped at a garage to refuel on a bottle of chocolate milk and some fruit, then pressed on, completing a last climb over a particularly hot pass into the city. When the wind drops, and with the sun beating down, the temperature really rockets and I felt it as I pedalled down to the old Roman viaduct; dunking my head in the fountain really helped though.
After a pause, drenching by buff in the fountain, and downing another litre of water, I pedalled the last 3km to the campsite East of Plasencia; La Chopera, which I’d found using the ACSI app. The campsite is right next to the river which flows through Plasencia, and perhaps explained why La Chopera was much cooler; the receptionist explained it has its own microclimate, at least I think that’s what she said, and not ‘you smell’ or something similar (I probably did smell though).
The campsite was very crowded but I found a shady spot, just, and a nearby family lent me their hammer to aid with tent peg insertion into the rock hard ground. They were really nice, also supplying some ice-cold water, complete with ice cubes. With a mixture of bad Spanish, pantomiming and English I explained what I was doing, at which point they supplied more ice-cold water and I think suggested I see a psychiatrist.
After a bit of a siesta I washed the day’s dust and sweat out of my cycling gear, then visited the campsite bar for a cerveza or two whilst I used their excellent wifi to update my blog, as well as try to work out my route for the next few days; there’s a bit of a long stretch between Merida and Seville without very much, but I can always wild camp for an evening.
Post a walk along the river to stretch my weary legs, I had dinner at the campsite restaurant; a simple affair of pork, egg and chips, which just hit the spot. I hadn’t passed any open supermarkets today anyway, so was a little limited on options, it being Sunday. Whilst eating I got to listen to some classic 80’s and 90’s music, including ‘Don’t worry be happy’ and ‘It’s my Life’ by Dr Alban; awesome stuff that put a smile on my face and brought back some memories from holidays long past.
I retired to my tent relatively early, with the intention of rising early to avoid the heat again; we’ll see how that works out. Tomorrow it’s on to Caceres.
P.S. Ants are amazing creatures, watched some for ages today.
–> 13 July – to Caceres
A moderate 94km covered today, moderate in comparison to yesterday’s 137km anyway. After yesterday’s fun today was a bit on the boring side, and very hot and dry.
It was quite hard getting up for starters, especially after a restless night due to a very noisy campsite; it’s so hot during the day I think people are saving all their energy for the night-time. After a bit of confusion packing up my panniers as the sun rose, I managed to get everything in the right place, and was still on the road by 07.30. I pedalled back past Plasencia on a cycle path next to the river watching as the sun started to bathe buildings in the city in light; was going to be another hot one!
I rejoined the N630 and headed South once again, coming down out of the mountains and into what could instead be described as hilly terrain; lots of ups and downs anyway. The descent was lovely, as was the ride alongside the lakes fed by the Rio Tajo, where I watched a herd of cows walking along the edge of the lake, mooing quite a lot, and spotted several old ruins. The N630 diverted away from the motorway for quite a long stretch, and had a bit more traffic as a result, but was still nice to cycle on despite the hills, heat and dry wind.
The colours on the lake were stunning compared to the arid landscape surrounding it, and I saw several large splashes from fish as a cycled along; or perhaps it was Spain’s own version of Nessy. There were also two large railway bridges under construction, which looked a bit out-of-place in the otherwise remote and fairly inhospitable landscape; I think it’s part of a new high-speed railway link.
After passing more fields full of cows and bulls, but thankfully none on the road, I made it to Caceres by about 13.00, and had to cycle past the campsite to go into the city to get some cash. I successfully accomplished this, and a visit to Lidyl for some supplies, but nearly came flying off my bike a one point due to a hidden curb; luckily no-one saw so dignity intact this time.
I’d have liked a look around Caceres as there are lots interesting parts to it, many Roman, but it was just too hot and I was feeling a little light-headed as a result. Besides, I’ve seen a lot of old Spanish towns and cities recently and there’s only so much you can take in; will instead spend some time in Merida tomorrow. I headed back North a few kilometres to the campsite, and checked-in, happy to be out of the sun for a few hours, and to drink lots of water.
Caceres camping is expensive at €21, very expensive comparatively, but does have nice shaded pitches, and an ensuite bathroom with toilet and shower, and two sinks, one of which I used to keep my Sangria chilled. The campsite wifi is also pretty good, and each camping plot has a plug socket on the outside of the toilet block which was very handy. I had a fairly productive afternoon after a siesta, taking my pedals off and cleaning and greasing them, which seems to have stopped the annoying click on the right hand side; big relief as very irritating; thanks for the tip Phil.
I think I really needed a ‘time-out’ for the afternoon, out of the sun and not pedalling, and felt very relaxed and fully fit by the evening. I’ve also been in touch with a few of my Marseille friends and have plans to meet up with at least some of them in August; very exciting after 20 odd years!
Tomorrow it’s on to Merida, a short leg, then probably a place called Monesteria, before Seville on Thursday; getting close to Tarifa now.
Over and out.