A Travellerspoint blog

Cuenca day 2

Lazy day

sunny

So a pretty lazy day today but sometimes that just has to be done. In hindsight as always when I stay 2 days I should really spread out the lazy..relaxing after the ride and then sightsee the next day but it never seems to work that way. For one its good for my legs to keep moving after cycling, and for two..I really do have an ocd fixation on having to know where the local supermarket is (and yogurt shop). So that probably accounts for why I was so tired last night...hard days cycling then straight out and about getting to know where I was. I did go out this morning, up to the mirador at the top of the town then back down to the new town to the supermarket before heading back to the posada.

Cuenca and it's sierra are quite renowned in Spain..Cuenca old town is a world heritage sight due to it's medieval stone buildings perched on and in the rocks surrounding it. The whole town up on a hill between the deep gorges of the Rio Jucar and Huecar. And it is from these cliffs that the houses hang and are incorporated into. It is quite awe inspiring and beautiful but a little strange as no one really lives here..it is like a life size museum so there are bits that are quite empty. All the inhabitants live in the new town down below..which has some pretty parks at the base of the hill but aside from that there is nothing to write home about.

The rock base is limestone so the gorge in Cuenca and even more so up in the sierra have been carved into some fantastical shapes by natural erosion. The contrast between the pale yellow bare rock and the carpet of green pines is also quite something.

I do get some quilty feeling about lazy inside for most of the day but actually I really need the time out.. of the sun of nothing else!. When cycling I get 5/6 hours non stop of hot sun so I feel I kinda have done that and my body probably needs some time to recoop from it. And as well as sleeping I have done a lot of planning for the last few weeks. It suddenly seems quite a short time away, less than I thought, (only 2 1/2 weeks left on mainland spain!!) and there are various bits and pieces that I need to start organising now for later on. My poor head is so full of logistics now, sometimes this tour feels like a job in itself! I have mixed feelings about it ending and so really trying to only focus fully on the next week which again is going to be a toughie but will be going to some hopefully quite amazing places to make it worthwhile.

Posted by louisebenn 10:11 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Cuenca

sunny

Distance: 111.5km
Total ascent: 1140m
Hours in the saddle: 5hrs

Am feeling pretty pooped tonight so apologies if this is short and/or makes no sense. I think it will be an early night tonight if I don't pass out at my dinner table. I actually had a relatively good nights sleep last night and a siesta too but sometimes catching up on sleep is worse than when you get no sleep. Or maybe I need to drink more water which is just as likely.

So longish day today so headed off early..too early for breakfast at Albarracin and with the lack of shops there I had to get a little creative. Well food was fine..bread and cheese but how to get my caffeine fix? I was a little stumped on that one and it was the most important thing..the thought of having a full sugar coke..bleurg!! But then chance would have it the shop has little sachets of coffee..I had no kettle but a 'frappe' would work! Perhaps not the best tasting but beggars can't be choosers.

So now I have sachets of coffee as a new items in my bags. This joins several other now essential additions that I have added on this 2nd half..my cofidis vuelta cap, a purple spork, and nail clippers. Not sure how I survived all this time without them! But then this second half i have abandoned any attempts at going fast with the heat, wind and tiredness..the mission being just to get there. Instead of chasing people up climbs it is more now the challenge to keep the carbon warriors from overtaking me for as long as possible. So i can 'splurge' out and carry this extra weight.

Make do breakie done I headed out. It soon became apparent why nothing started til 9 in Albarracin as the sun did not manage to come up over and into the sierra until way past 8. It made for a very cool start to the day but the perk was that i had the roads pretty much to myself. In fact I did for most of the day anyway. I saw more wildlife..from two dogs, to a cat with the hugest rat in its mouth and three deer..than cars and people. Oh there were lots of sheep too and some goats. One massive herd of sheep I saw..had just the one goat. I got to think that's kinda got to give the goat a complex and indeed it was a bit of an outcast of the group..shunned to the side poor thing. And another example of how in the middle of nowhere was that when some motorbikes passed the other way...try waved. And that rarely if ever happens. Biker to biker sure, cyclist to cyclist..its the rules! But rarely crossing over. Cars well cars just don't wave at anyone.

It was a great route though, roads were good and the scenery fantastic. Even the road that I had been worried about ended up being super smooth and wide. There had been good signs, literally, from early on as the direction I was headed was signposted for Cuenca from 103km to go. The descent from that road was hair raising..10% for 5km. But after that it was all smooth sailing through the sierra de cuenca. Until the last 10kms when I did one of my random detours onto a smaller road which would lead me to the side of Cuenca that I needed to go to. What hadden't really clicked was that that meant I would have to go up. And after 100k's and the temperature being late 30's, that up felt worse than the Tourmalet. Seeing the road I had been on down below smoothly and flatly following the river made me utter some select swearwords under my breath. But the views of Cuenca were awesome from the height and also back down the valley.

So into Cuenca and finding my home for the night which takes the form of a converted monestry/choir boy college (apparently the reason for the choir boy college was really just so that they could make sure all the boys got to Mass on time). So my room (the cheapest) is actually an ex-priest cell. Its quite bizarre and quirky. But really nice place..am sitting eating my rice pudding on the terrace watching the sun go down on the hills...there are certainly worse ways to end a day!

I am here for another night so I think I will write about Cuenca and the surrounds tomorrow as I am running out of steam.

Posted by louisebenn 11:38 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Albarracin

sunny

No cycling stats today tho I did go for a ride..it just wasn't a long enough to warrant writing it all down.

Coming out of Teruel I dropped down a little into the orange/pink and yellow plains that I had seen yesterday. Now these really were plains..flat as a pancake plains, the road reaching out into the distance past the coloured fields. Then turning to the left starting a gradual climb through gorge which had bare yellow rocks one side and trees and the stream below the other. The rocks were cool..literally as they blocked the sun keeping it at a very nippy 18°. They also seemed to be peppered with holes which I soon worked out was where people were/had been living in them.

The wiggly road continued gradually up until turning one corner revealed a huge section of castle wall on the coming hill. This was the start of Albarracin. Originally I was just going to fly through Albarracin and continue on to Cuenca but I happened upon a picture of the town and was blown away by it, so changing my plans to make sure that I had time to stop and explore. It's not all about the cycling you know ;).

I am not sure where or how to start describing Albarracin as no matter what I say I will not be able to do it justice. It is a timeless place that seems to sit outside all the worldly goings on..even those in the new town just below. The old town is set up on a rocky outcrop setting it above the valley floor. To one side you have the fortress walls perched on and up the hill. Then you have to maze of a town itself with small paths between the stone buildings that are as rickety and quirky as they are cool. The cathedral stands out of this with its tower with striking tiles or blue, green white and yellow. And then up beyond this is the castle itself. The whole town of course with and orange hue.

The first thing I did after dropping my stuff off was to of course go up the hill following the muralles (fortress walls) to see the fantastic views back down across the town and over the valley. The Spanish seem to have very little concept of health and safety..at least not compared to our ocd standards..and here as I have seen elsewhere, you could climb the stairs up the walls and go along the walkway. A walkway a good couple of metres high with no banister or railings or anything from stopping you dropping off. Not sure what that says about the Spanish or about me that I wouldn't go anywhere near it.

The rest of the day was spent exploring the town, sleeping and watching two GC guys lose their Vuelta. And eating. Lots. It's been quite difficult to eat enough recently as the heat just takes away your appetite and when you can eat the last thing you want is carbs. Here it is cooler in the buildings at least so hopefully I can restock for tomorrows big ride.

Posted by louisebenn 10:21 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Teruel

sunny

distance: 58km
Time in the saddle: 2hrs 54
Total ascent: 968m
Terrain: undulating

I have to say the hotel I was at last night was one of the best I have stayed at so far..clean, nice bar , good restaurant, nice breakie, oh so comfy bed etc etc etc but most of all the people there we're absolutely lovely. The girl who checked me in was so helpful and chatted away to me in Spanish at breakneck speed..I did say my Spanish wasn't great but she still wanted to chat away to me. As you can imagine I was a little broken after the ride so when she too the bike off me and put it away, then helped carry my bags upstairs..even offering to open my chocolate milk for me! I really was close to giving her a hug. It would have been a sweaty smelly hug so I refrained. I didn't see her again but the main guy at the hotel took over and he was continually making sure I was ok and had everything I needed. It's the personal touch and that's something that has been noticibly missing this side of the tour as it was a big part of the experience on the way up. Perhaps it is the time of year, perhaps the number of tourists, or the weather..who knows but it sure makes a difference.

Knowing it was a short day today ..just a wee potter 'down' the road to Teruel, a recovery ride if you will..I figured I could have a more relaxed morning, heading out whenever I was ready. Obviously I was still up at half 6 but I could take my time with the huge breakie they gave before leaving sometime before 9. It was a beautiful morning..not a cloud in the sky and the temperature a blissfully cool 17° (after yesterdays heat I am never going to complain about the cool again!)..getting up to about 23°, a hot 30° odd in the afternoon. The route I was following was not the direct one but continuing the reverse of the route that the pro's took yesterday (not on purpose..I planned these routes well before I knew the Vuelta was coming). Which was a lovely ride through pine forests undulating up through a valley, past numerous impressive castles until reaching some high rolling plains, over a Puerto and then 'down' to Teruel.

I had a bit of a preview of Teruel from the helicopter shots after the finish of the Vuelta. What was most distinctive was it was orange! Well, ok, terracotta is perhaps more the right word. After passing through mainly sandstone, yellow or white towns - depending on the soil - this was something new. And when looking down at Teruels valley you could see why as the soil was a mix of orange and pink hues. Even looking past the orange..which is slightly less intense in real life.. Teruel is quite distinctive. I had noticed that in the area there had been a trend for coloured tiles on the church roof or tower. Here this architectural style was much more developed and extensive covering most of the aspect of the city...mainly via the numerous towers, the cathedral, its churches and also stairways. The name for this is Mujedar..developed by the Moors who decided to stay in Spain and live alongside the Christians. The actual word means 'tamed' referencing back to this. It's based on using simple materials, bricks and tiles are most common, and 'reinterpreting western cultural styles through islamic influences'. All fancy words but the effect is quite stunning..the coloured shiney tiles against the orange bricks. Seems quite simple from a distance but close up you can see how complex the tile and brickwork really is. Quite beautiful.

Hmm what else..oh following on from my hate of bumpy roads I decided to do some extra homework for the route in a couple of days time. I am planning to cross from Albarracin to Cuenca across the mountains..there is only one road, all the others circumvent the Sierra...a big detour..and on the map it is down as well I forget the actual term but something along the lines of 'completely broken down and crap road, if you can even call it a road'. So not great. But I had a bright spark moment and went to Google earth and street view to check it out. And thankfully it looks relatively ok and not something to worry about. Of course I have no idea when those photos were taken and it could have all been washed away last winter..but keep positive eh!

I haven't done this in a while but injury/ailment update:
- a bit of repetitive strain cycling injury on both my middle fingers. In the day they are mostly ok..a little bit sore maybe, but some nights I wake up and the muscles have contracted and I have to use the other hand to straighten the finger out again and click it back into place. Bit weird but aside from some hand exercises and magic ibroprufen there is not a lot else I can do about it.
- claw cuts to my right leg when I was mauled trying to escape a wildcat while out one day.
No? ok so really they are from when my bike attacked me when we were at a standstill but the other makes a better and slightly more respectable story, no?!
- the curse of being a leftie means oil on my right leg and now I have started to react to the oil and have a rash there. That will have to stay too as now is not the time to train myself in unclipping to the right. It will just end in tears. And more injury updates for you..so yes even more tears.

All injuries showing what a lively and exciting life I lead on the road, gosh!! ;)

Posted by louisebenn 10:42 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Mora de Rubielos

A 6 col day

all seasons in one day

distance: 123km
Time in the saddle: 6hrs 22
Total ascent: 2134m
Terrain: up down up down up down etc etc

Well I don't really know where to start with today as it was quite an epic one..the longest with the most climbing that I have done this side of my tour. Add in some mixed weather..cool mist to baking sun to storms, and ever changing but always stunning scenery. To experiencing some of the local entertainment.

At that dear readers is my blog for the day..toodlepip!

Ah see now that's the effect of cycling in the hot sun for too long that is. Sigh. Or the effect of the two sips of beer I have just drunk. Or both...so apologies there is more to come..

I was a bit stuck this morning as my hostal breakie was not til half 8 and there was no place in town to buy anything else, and besides the reception didn't open til half 8 for checkout. So this added a bit more challenge to reaching Mora dR before they closed the roads. But that was the way it was and there was not much I could do about it aside from get myself out the door as soon as possible after that. It was a beautiful morning with an early mist. With the weather forecast similar to yesterday I decided to start the day with my baselayer to ward off the cool. And it was lovely for the first half hour descent which was made cooler by the wet mist still in the air. But as soon as the climbing started it had to come off. It was quite a confusing ride to this point..they kept changing the road numbers and the signposts were few and far between. But I got on the right road up only to find that again it was a bumpy one. I am I have to say officially fed up with bumpy roads and I will avoid them if possible from now on..they make your teeth rattle, make you go slower, and you are forced to look only at the tarmac in front rather than be distracted by the views. Owns such distraction I did see though was the village of Mirambel..a stunning walled village pretty much smack I'm the middle of nowhere.

Thankfully a while later I reached smooth tarmac and gave a huge sigh of relief. The road winded around until turning into a valley that presented a view ahead..mountains..but on one mountain ridge was a castle and town perched on the edge - Cantavieja. Absolutely stunning, although I soon realised that was where my road was heading UP to. Ooof it was a steep old bugger. But getting to the town wasn't even the Puerto of that mountain...so up some more. Its a little bit blurry from here for a bit..it was up to one Puerto which led up to another Puerto, then a quite steep descent down into the valley and to a town where I stopped for much needed water and fanta. Then straight up again to the next Puerto and down..it was bloody hot by this stage..garmin saying 37 and boy did it feel it. I stopped again for more fanta and water, pouring half of it straight over my head.

I had to leave my nice smooth road here..turning left onto a yellow road maked on the map that it was 'in need of work'. After the roads earlier though it wasn't so bad but I was feeling the heat and the previous climbs by this stage. I had also only eaten a banana and some biscuit thingies..not having the time to have a proper stop. But in theory this was the last leg and Mora was 'just' at the end of this road..36km and two Puertos away. One plus point was that they have been working on improving the road and the start of a smooth road came sooner than the map said. After the first Puerto I came to the base of the Valdilinares ..the summit finish for today's Vuelta and the start of the most amount of people I have seen on the Spanish roads yet. plus of course all the team coaches and Vuelta official cars. Just one more steep climb to go..it was,a little surreal riding on the Vuelta route..all the km flags were up and I kinda had a reverse countdown home. I also got a few cheers from the people scattered about. I did think about going up to the finish but all day I had been riding with the devil on my shoulder..one in the form of the blackest clouds you can imagine, grumbling all the way behind me. They seemed to have settled on the mountain so the threat of that plus I was feeling the heat and the ride hugely meant that getting home was the best plan.

Coming into the last 5km I realised I was past the road closure time but as no one had said anything I carried on..the police being much more relaxed here than with the Tour. Soon after a wave of police cars and bikes came whizzing past plus some other vans. They chucked something at me and I realised that I was riding into the floats! Always up for some freebies I pulled over and picked up a Cofidis cap and some olives and waited for more..no other goodies came but there was a lot of waving and horn honking as they went past. That cheered me up some and the ride was easier after that.

The Vuelta itself was not going through Mora instead turning just before the village, it was about half 3 when I reached this point and there were already quite a number of people by the road. Time to find the hotel, have a shower and some food then head back out. I ended up being back about 20 mins before they came by which was perfect. Cofidis cap in place I found a good spot on the corner where the riders would be coming directly at me. I did have a moment of doubt about that spot for a minute..its quite a sharp corner and if a eider misjudged it...ah sod it..it's a good view! As the helicopters came closer so did the thunder and lightning. And straight after the break had gone past the heavens opened with huge wet rain. Us hardy lot held our places till all the riders had passed and then we dashed home to get out of the rain and watch the finish on telly. Quite cool watching them go where I had just been.

After that it was time to crash out and eat all the stash of food I had with me. Switching channels I found some what can only be described as bull dancing..I saw there had been bull fighting on the other day..but this was say the non murdering kind of that. The guys (there was actually one girl too) had no cape or spears but they did the movements similar to a matador. I think they were marked on their movements with the bull and how close he came to gorging them. So for example a simple move would be to entice the bull by arms up feet together, sing to the bull then wiggle your hips. When he came charging you would turn and arch back over the him some even touching the bulls back. You can add things to it say by spinning on the spot as the bull charges. Or kneel and evade him from that position. Some guys were even diving over the bull...somersaulting even! I am not sure how they treat the bulls in these things but I couldn't help be impressed. They all seem to have respect for the bull kneeling before it at the end of each session, clapping it and even blowing it kisses. The bulls themselves were huge and mean buggers! Although some got confused when more than one man came out poor things.

Just going back the the terrain here or along the way its interesting to see that since Peniscola there has been a marked increase in dryness. Before while some grass was browning there was still more green and on the whole it was greener. But since each valley gets dryer, browner and barer. Its odd as actually I have seen more rain here. From watching the Vuelta in the south it is going to get dryer still..

Posted by louisebenn 12:31 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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