Apologies for the drop-off in posting frequency; I’ve been busy. The last few weeks have been a blast and while writing has been on my mind, I haven’t really had time to sit down and smash the keys (not a euph’).
After Madrid I knew I had a couple of weeks to head north west before a Workaway placement in the Pyrenees, but didn’t really have much of a plan. Unfortunately there was a distinct scarcity of campsites/hostels and hosts in any direction, so I ended up planning and re-planning routes as research eventually unearthed accommodation options. It all worked out great in the end though.
First, the destinations and places in-between were great. From Guadalajara I went through Tartanedo, then Catalayud which was remote but rewarded me with some of the best riding of the trip, around then there were some frustrating off-road detours but they took me through cherry, nectarine, peach and apple fields and I scrumped without fear of being caught (like anyone would care about a handful of cherries from a field of millions). Then on to Zaragoza and the Catalunyan/Pyrennean towns of Manresa, Vic and Olot. In between I took a few days in Barcelona, but didn’t bother taking any photos because if I want a picture of the Sagrada Familia, a bajillion other people will have taken a better one than I could and put it on the internet already.
Secondly, the hosts were great. Ranging from a lorry driver who spoke no English at all, to a piano engineer with immaculate British English, a millennial making his way in a rural village, beer-lovers, bike-cafe owners and just awesome people to chat with and comfortable places to stay. I’m not saying hosts to date have been poor, just that this was an exceptional run of people on the same level as me and who wanted to hang out.
Thirdly, there was some good boozing and conversation with fellow native-speakers of English. I met up with a former bike-polo acquaintance (and now friend) at his place in Barcelona and sat on his roof terrace for a few hours (buy his book here) then went out on the standard hostel pub-crawl where I managed to avoid the dumbasses and chat to the interesting people before getting too drunk to remember anything.
Fourthly, I drank delicious Spanish craft beer and ate Japanese food (not exactly easy to find in the boonies) until I felt physically ill, but which allowed me to skip dinner, so it was worth the discomfort, and it distracted me from my hangover so who is the winner really?
Fifthly, the weather was on my side. A decent amount of tailwinds, glorious sun and heat and no rain to speak of until a shower a few days ago.
Lastly, the rhythm and balance of all the above was just right, and everything I rave about when I tell people about cycle touring. Flat highways and mountain climbs, drunkenness and sobriety, solitude and company, comfort and challenge.
Inevitably, it started to rain a few days ago and the weather is looking dodgy for the next week or so, but I’m still smiling because I don’t have to ride anywhere for two weeks while I’m on this Workaway placement. I inevitably will (in fact, I already have) as I want to maintain and maybe even improve my fitness by doing some higher-intensity stuff and finally putting to use the 1200g of mountain bike tyres I’ve been schlepping around Iberia for the last few months.