A Travellerspoint blog

Morella

semi-overcast

distance: 100.46km
Time in the saddle: 5hrs 15
Total ascent: 1693m
Terrain: up up and more up

Lovely relaxing day in Peniscola yesterday aka doing sod all but boy do I need days like that especially after 6 days on the bike. Perhaps not the most exciting for my hosts so thank you to them for being so patient with a somewhat broken and pathetic me. Also for all the stories on the perks and, probably more, pitfulls on living in Spain and the shenanigans that the Spaniards get up to. Best of all last night I actually slept more than a couple of hours!! Woohooooooo! That's the first time in months. Bliss.

And I would need that sleep as today's route was just up and up continually. Ok there was a wee warmup along the flat coast but as soon as I turned inland it was pretty much all up for 80km or so. Ooof. Anyway I get ahead of myself..the start was great..a potter along the beach promenade back up to Benicarlo which is a very civilised way to start the day. Surprisingly busy for first thing on a Saturday but it wasn't too bad. Then the hideous N340 to Vinaros and then quickly turning off and heading towards the mountains. The first part was just a gradual up through field on field of orange and olive trees. Then past La Senia the terrain changed as the road started to follow the river back up through an impressive gorge (and some impressive gradients too) up to the Panto de Ulldecona ..a reservoir, though only half full was still impressive with the Muntanyes de Benifassà in the background and the gorge the otherside. Odd to see it looking so empty thought they still had paddle boats on it at the ready. The source river was completely dry too.

The restaurant there seemed to be the hive of the area..and also for cycling club runs too. But after leaving that behind..I also seemed to leave everything else behind too, there were no cyclists and very few cars on the road ahead. Probably with good reason being a long old slog on what was for the most part a really bad road...damn side roads. The weather was quite strange too..I was expecting it to be cooler as it always is going up into the mountains but it was humid so I was sweating but I was cold.. goosebump cold ..in 25°heat..madness! I think though that the strong gusty wind in these mountains is a cold one. Maybe base layer and arm warmers tomorrow.

Home for tonight is Morella...a beautiful town perched on a rise with a big old castle at the top and the castle wall encompassing the town and it's maze of streets. Obviously it is a fiesta day today, not really sure what for..there is lots of drumming and also random people wandering around in faux animal skins, feather headdresses, face paints with spear/sword things that would make a Klingon jealous. I made the mistake of walking near to one guy dressed up and I was nearly taken out by all his 'accessories' whenever he stopped or turned or anything. But I didn't y anything as he looked quite scary. Its all quite bizarre but it makes a change from the usual mediaeval fare.

My room has a fab view over the city wall out to the mountains. It also has the smallest telly known to man. Not that I usually notice the telly but the Vuelta was on so I was forced to squint away to see what was going on..though it was easy to see the echelons! I love echelons! Not sure why.. I guess it's nature way of getting involved in the race and breaking up the peloton. Well nature and sneaky tactics by the lead teams. Echelons is just a cool word too.

I had to spend more time than usual planning tomorrow..not only is it a long day on the road (and more up too) but it also crosses over the Vuelta route who are heading the otherway. So lots of time finding the road closure times and all that...luckily the Spanish aren't like the french with the 4 hour closure. Here it's only a couple of hours. So I have plenty of time to get to my hostal dump my stuff then head back up the road as far as I can to catch the parade and the race. Phew. Downside being is that they are closing Valdilinares all day so I can't ride it before they do. Maybe something for the day after ;)

Posted by louisebenn 11:36 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Peniscola

semi-overcast

So sleep and lay in obviously failed but the slow morning did at least work. Helped by the fact that it was beautifully cloudy and cool(er). I took a slow breakie and indulged in two coffees and then got my stuff together and headed out.

Thoughts for the route were to head back the C12 to Amposta and then along the coast. But again this nigging feeling made me think oh let's just go randomly go with the garmin..not checking where the garmin would actually take me...aside from up a 10%er when I turned off the main road to follow it. When I did find some common sense to check where it was going..to say I swore a little was any understatement as it seemed to want to take me the whole way round a sierra rather than nicely under it. Thank god for the Michelin map which told me just to follow the road I was on and all would be hunky dory. To be fair though it was a more interesting ride than along the coast which I had done mostly yesterday. And my road joined back to the coast a little further down anyway in Vinaros.

Unfortunately being on the coast meant being on the main road...a horrible road with lorry after lorry. But I wasn't on it for long turning off and finishing the ride on the beach promenade. And boy what a beach! About 8 kms worth of beautiful yellow sand and blue sees. Being so long while it was busy it didn't feel horrendously so.

And so I arrived along the beach to Peniscola and to my surprise its impressive castle. Which as my friendie later informed me is none other than the castle from the el cid movie! Funniest thing about it is that on closer inspection of the castle you see holes and wear on the walls..but apparently only some was authentic, the rest being actually from the filming of the movie. So there you go!

Posted by louisebenn 13:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Delta de l'Ebre

sunny

distance: 88km
Total ascent: 143m
Time in the saddle: 3hrs 41min
Terrain: flat as a pancake. Biggest 'climb' was over a bridge across the Ebro... And I did that twice as I missed climbing.

I am beginning to think that the powers that be are against me setting off early...it just doesn't seem to happen! If I got sleep and a lay in perhaps it wouldn't be so bad..actually that would be kinda great as my sleeping is pretty minimal at the most. But no..I get up early, eat breakie..and then something happens and leaving early is scrapped...today is was discoving one of the chain links on the bike was loose. So time lost fixing that..quite a random problem but hey ho sorted now. So finally set off towards the delta de l'ebre. As it was kinda a haywire day already I stuck with that and followed a random cycle path which seemed to be heading in the right direction. Turned out to be one of the many Via Verde routes that they have in the area. Started out well..nice small country lanes then moving to follow alongside one of the many canals..little bit rough in place but no biggie. Ha! Then the signpost got scarcer and the 'roads' got rougher until actually they were less than a gravel track. I felt very cyclecross at this point as I jumped off the bike and hooked it over my shoulder carrying it until the worst was over. All the two in and fro ing on the little lanes made me lose my sense of direction too..which is normally pretty good. So I thought sod it..find a big road and go on that..and luckily a big ole roundabout appeared. Several loops of said roundabout later and I headed off in the right direction.

Until that is another random urge told me to go off my nice road that would take me exactly where I wanted to go..and take a smaller road into the park. Sigh. So having no real idea where I was going aside from a rough direction, I carried on. Basically I was wanting to do the delta in a clockwise circle and the theory was to head to the northern coast first. In theory easy right? Just head to the sea..sure! Except the land was so flat you couldn't see the sea. Mr garmin had been playing silly buggers all morning, and though it was working now it couldn't distinguish between small paved roads and dirt track..so not helpful! I did find myself on a cool road that followed a canal heading in the right direction ..straight flat..no cars..nice! Its a bit surreal..it really is so flat, you can see the horizon only when a car goes along, then there are the many canals, a few random houses, in the centre there were sweetcorn fields, and then nearing the sea it turned into paddy fields (apparently the delta supplies the majority of the rice used in Catalonia), and birds. Now my twitching skills are not great (tho I did recognise a hooper bird in Mallorca) but there were herons and egrets and other sorts. Its not really the season for birds here..either at the start or end of season is best but there was enough to get an interest.

Finally my canal road ended and a few zigzags later I reached the northern delta...and to be honest it was a bit of a 'oh' moment as it was a bit.. well not worth the effort - I feel a bit bad about saying that but it really wasn't anything special at all. Deciding perhaps it was lack of water inhibiting my appreciation faculties I headed back towards the centre to Deltebre for refreshments. When I stopped I decided that all this meandering around with no plan really wasn't working especially not with all the bumpy roads which should be avoided on a roadie. So plan concocted I headed south across the Ebro and towards the SE of the delta on slightly bigger roads. Ah that was more like it. Wind was behind me too. Even the landscape change and was more like what I was expecting..reeds, lakes, wetlands..much more rustic than the farmed land the other side.

Then I hit a town and the road back to Amposta and onto Tortosa. Slightly bored of the flat by now I set the virtual partner and raced him back along the C12 home.

Afternoon crashed out in the cool watching the Vuelta go to Teba and Ronda..one of my favourite places :).

Tomorrow I am going to take the hint and not even bother to try and set off early. Here's hoping for some sleep!

Posted by louisebenn 11:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Tortosa

sunny 42 °C

distance: 97.3km
Total ascent: 1133m
Time in the saddle: 4hrs 22min
Terrain: I'm gonna go with undulating

After the meting session that was yesterday afternoon, I was a little bit concerned about today's ride as the forecast was for even hotter. Ideally an early start would be needed but my hostal didn't open until 8 so I would not be able to get to my bike before then. So that foiled that plan..I would just have to leave as early as I could.

After what seems like weeks of riding into the headwind my legs again took some time to warm up, not aided by the fact that yes again I was into the wind even first thing. (Wind goes to the sea first thing and then usually it comes from the south, or on from the sea near the coast) To take my mind off it I ditched the map so to speak and headed well where ever it took me..and that was following the signs for castles and embalses. Dilemma time when these two were off in different directions but as always water won. Lovely road that ran along side the lake shore in the cover of the pine trees. And then up up the valley toward the main road. Again an almost empty road, save for lots of cyclists, and never ending trees. I think this was a bit of a local hotspot and training climb as there were even some guys with a support vehicle going up any down (way faster than me obviously).

Onto the main road which climbed further and then descended down fast. I should say that since crash number 2 on Mallorca my descending skills have vanished and descendaphobia has taken over again to some extent...frustratingly...it should just be a matter of time to get it back but when descending on roads like today when you are buffeted by strong gusty winds ..oof. It doesn't help. Anyway after that I was feeling pretty exposed on the main road though literally it became a less so the lower I got. I was glad then when I reached Mora d'Ebre where I turned off.

Best of all here was that I rejoined my old friend the Rio Ebro. This is the third time I have crossed its path and it was just as impressive as before. After the last few days of crossing many dried out riverbeds, the Ebro was quite a sight..its wide and fast flowing water a complete contrast.

If I had thought that it was downhill following the river to the coast from here I was sorely mistaken. Insult to injury was that the temperature rocketed..my garmin reading about 42°! However there were two blessings, one was that the humidity dropped massively, and the second was that the wind from the sea was mainly a cool one (even if it was a headwind). It was still hard work. But again most of the route seemed to be cyclist friendly and I was even overtaken by the Russian UCI team Lokosphinx in their Russian and Ukraine colours, and their support car (I seriously need it get one of those..I still sometimes find myself tapping my helmet in a hope that a support van will come by and stop).

Finally made it to Tortosa, finding myself standing at reception a sweating melting mess. I made the mistake of asking questions about WiFi and breakfast then..a mistake as it went in one ear and straight out the other as there was nothing working in between. Anyway I finally got myself sorted and cleaned up and headed out to find a supermarket. Yup it was still absolutely scorchio and the streets were deserted. So taking the hint I dove into the Spar across the street and then went back into hiding in my air con room to eat and watch the Vuelta. Its really interesting watching the race as_its going by places and routes that I went on all those months ago. seems ages away but familiar all the same.

I did make it out for a wander about town later on when the temperature dropped to 30. The town has a nice feel to it but it is a bit chaotic and illogical. With other town..yes they have a maze of streets but after a wander they do make sense and you get the hang of them quite quickly. Not so here. Perhaps it is my heat befuddled mind but I couldn't get it. That's not necessarily a bad thing mind! Just makes things more difficult to find and all that. Tomorrow I will find the castle and explore more....

Posted by louisebenn 11:13 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Cambrils

semi-overcast

distance: 79.1km
Total ascent: 1000m
Time in the saddle: 3hrs 35min
Terrain: over a mountain and down to the sea

Well the Chinese went down very well..prawn curry, rice, spring rolls and prawn crackers...num!! First curry since I left home. It was however not the best cycling power food and in the morning my legs were feeling heavy and a bit lacking in energy. But it was worth it.

The ride today was again a goodie. I apologise for all the scenery gushing but really it is that continually amazing. After a relatively slow start while I was trying to get my legs going I turned off towards Poblet..which is the home to one of three of the major monestries in the area. Following my Michelin map at this point I forgot the crucial piece of information..that where the Michelin map shows a green 'pretty route' line..it actually in cyclist terms means a 'huge ass climb'..a 12%er later and I can say that my legs had woken up!

The whole valley..'vall del monastir de Poblet'..was stunning..on one side the tree covered mountains, the other never ending vines interspersed with lone monestries, castles and villas all softened by the morning haze that had not yet been broken by the sun. Add to the fact that it was a cool 20 degrees..bliss. You know you have been in the heat too long when you consider putting on your arm warmers in 20's. I refrained knowing that soon I would have to climb those big ole mountains to the side.

When I did turn off and up into the Muntanyes de Prades..wow. I know I have mentioned before about pristine areas but here it completely was. There was no sign of any human presence except the road and me. No houses. No pylons or utility posts. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. For the whole 20km climb it was me and the trees and the mountains and that was it. Oh and two jaybirds. Very surreal. Very amazing.

Over the top it levelled out for a while on a high plain and then descended down slowly. The terrain seemed dryer here, less trees, the mountains that little bit sharper. But you almost don't see all that as you whole view is dominated by this massive ridge - the Montsant- which towered up ahead, its striata layed bare and it seemingly continuing for miles.

After a quick stop at a petrol station for some liquids, it was back on the 'descent' down to the sea. Obviously this is Spain and there is no such thing as a descent without a climb in there somewhere so a nice 'little' climb was had before the sea came into sight. This side of the mountain I was able to take advantage of a couple of new roads. The second must have been only completed a few weeks ago as it was like a race track.. Lovely zoomy riding down to the sea on that!

Tonights home is Cambrils. I will be honest in that I haven't seen much of it. The initial thought was to come here and train to Tarragona and back to avoid the bad roads into the city. However the trains and the weather had other plans. While I could get to the city no problem, the only train with seats left back was late this evening. Add to that that just walking down the road to the station made me sweat like a pig..humidity is a bastard!..I made the decision to retreat to my hotel room and my air con, catching the Vuelta and watching them swelter in the heat instead.

I am beginning to think that the mountains are the best place to be this time of year...

Posted by louisebenn 10:26 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

(Entries 26 - 30 of 118) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 8 9 10 .. »