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day 27 Avila

..that's more like it!

sunny

Distance:94km
Total ascent: 2040m
Hours in the saddle: 5hrs 15min
Terrain: mountains!

The plan for the day was not for the feint hearted..not so much the length of it but getting to Avila required climbing over two sierras - the infamous Sierra de Grados (home of the snowy mountains I have been following) and the Sierra de la Paramera. Just to add to the party, the forecast was wind..a headwind at that. So knowing this I looked at a few other possible routes. In the end I took another one completely.

I actually had a pretty good nights sleep last might and I really didn't want to get up, but needs must. Opening the shutters, my heart dropped. It was windy, very windy. So not what I needed. But I got my bits together and headed out. I had no expectation of finding breakfast in La Adrada, it was still trying to wake from the party yesterday. So I went on to Piedralaves, the next town. Still no joy. My new route meant the climb started soon so I was really needing to have coffee before then. The next town, Casavieja, I had more success. I can't tell you how much more human I felt after a coffee and tostada. Bring on those climbs!

As I started up out of the town, the sun went in. I looked up to see what was going on, and there was the strangest cloud formation I have seen. The rest of the sky was blue and clear but over the sun there was a conical shaped cloud, kind of hanging downward. Like a upsidedown sea snail shell almost. And it wasn't moving. It covered the sun for a good half an hour or so..my mind, for want for a bit of distraction, started thinking of alien invasions...

Meanwhile back physically on planet earth, I was going up what was the most civilised climb ever. It was a lovely 5%, not too hard on the legs, but enough to keep you awake, and the road took you through pine forests. Perk of these trees were they they kept both the sun and wind off for the most part, but were spaced out enough to allow amazing views over the valley from whence I came. It was a perfect warm up for the day.

The first climb really started once I got to Mijares. Annoyingly, it upped actually in the town itself..something that's happened several times over the last few days. Which means you start to suffer in front of people who are just meandering about minding their own business with nothing else to do apart from to watch you suffer. I did get a cheer on up the mountain though which made me smile, it wasn't the last I got either. Past the town the trees disappeared and the gradient varied but averaged about 6/7%. It was here that I got overtaken by a carbon warrior. You would think from my past posts that the chase would be on but no..not on a climb like this. I knew it was a long climb, and the most important thing with longuns is not to blowup early on, get a good pace and keep it ..if your gonna race only do it near the top. So I let him go, keeping an eye on him to see where the road was going. The climb was in all just under 30km, the Puerto de Mijares is 1577m..the highest I've done yet with the panniers. It was a toughie especially with the wind near the end, which was brutal. Standing at the top looking at the view, and trying not to get blown away, was amazing. I have to say that then and during the first part of the decent the view was quite overwhelming.

Climbing mountains gives a huge sense of achievement, like nothing else I have done. It's literally hours of hard work, pain and sweat but there is nothing like that moment you get to the top. And then you are rewarded, usually, not just with a sense of achievement but also with the most fantastic vista and you instantly forget the pain and it all was brilliantly worth it. That's when you start planning the next climb.

But before the up there is the down. And by god it was cold. The north wind was cold and strong, and it was not long before I was shaking. Using the panorama as an excuse to stop, I managed to get everything feeing back to normal and carry on down. During this I passed so many cyclists and joggers too, far more than the cars which were few and far between. It was an amazing climb, a perfect cycling mountain.

Burgohondo was the designated pit stop for the day, and I had the hugest bocadillo ever. Filled with more carbs in the form of a tortilla. It shouldn't work, but I am quite taken by this combination.Half the bocadillo was saved for later. Then off for climb number two. It was a this point I realised that if I took a right, I could meet up with the main road, and coast it down the valley to the city. But where would be the fun in that eh?! So straight on toward the Puerto de Navalmoral it was. Now this was a sneaky climb..if kept giving false finishes. But finally making it up to the top- 1514m, the view back to de Gredos and the snowy mountains was fantastic. There was even a little church at the top..in case the climb and vista was enough to convert you. From here it was just 20km to Avila, down a very civilised gradual descent.

About half way down, I noticed a problem. I didn't know what to do. I desperately tried to think of some options, but failed! The fact was that my total ascent was at 1950m mark and it looked downhill all the way in. Maybe I could find some extra undulations somewhere? My legs were like..'seriously??!' But my head was aiming for that 2000 mark. 10km ..1950, 7km..1970, 4km...1973, under 1km and in the city limits..1973..arrrghhhhhhh! Thankfully though for my sanity, the city was on a mound, and my perhaps indirect route meant that 2000 was crossed. Phew! Job done.

Avila is quite a unique city. It's located on high high plains ( I realise I've said high plains before, but here is really high..about 1100m I think it is), and quite exposed to that north wind. But the city is protected by its old city walls that are pretty much perfectly intact. The walls are so integral to the city that even the cathedral itself is part of it, meaning that it is actually, I think, the only cathedral-castle in Spain. It also is the only cathedral to have ochre painted limestone pretty much through out. Its quite an effective and distinctive decoration. And because Avila it is on a bump on the plains, it has the most amazing views from it. After a little getting lost session, I found myself with a chocolate ice cream, wandering the paths just outside the city wall. From here you can see all the way back to the Sierra de la Paramera, and even to the Sierra de Gredos and the snowy mountains behind it.

Posted by louisebenn 12:48 Archived in Spain

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