A Travellerspoint blog

United Kingdom

D-day -2


last day in the office today and only 2 days to go until the off....passing time til my leaving drinks at lunchtime with strange thoughts going through my head. Prime example of one is "whhhyy?!"

I have asked myself that many times..it's usually followed by "what the heck are you doing?!". After a moment of panic - as really what sane person leaves work and goes off on a bike for 6 months especially in this employment clime?? but I always find myself with a huge grin on my face and i realise that for whatever reason it is what i want to be doing, insane as it is.
To be honest I don't really know the answer to the why- there are probably many reasons all playing their part. The biggest is perhaps getting itchy feet..I had been getting them for a while but had been ignoring it. Where I am now is the longest i have been in one place. I remember a while back realising that i had lived in as many houses as I have had years alive. So actually it is more the surprise that I have stayed here so long. Apparently my mum has always been waiting for me to drop the bombshell that I am off again (I am not sure she has forgiven me for that moment a few years back when I announced that I was moving to Greece 2 days later- oop soory mum!)
Perhaps why is not the right question - perhaps it should be intead "why not?". I am lucky enough to be in a position that i can just disappear for a few months - and particularly lucky that my work allowed me to take the 6 months break especially in this day and age where redundancies are thick and fast coming.
But such is life, sometimes just a change is needed, a proper break from the old routine, giving in to the calling of the mountains and all of that.
sorry for waxing lyrical there but I'd imagine it is not going to be the last of such moments on these pages.

So why cycle Spain? why not do it the easier, more relaxed way like by car or train or just say hit the beach for 6 months? Now those of you htat know me know i don't tend to do things the easy way..now where would be the fun in that?? There is just something about cycling that allows you to see a place very differently and it also allows you to experience things (internal and external) differently too

when i run I think - it's a great time to put things in the place and work through anything thats been on my mind.
When i cycle I also think but, maybe due to the length of time in the saddle, the thinking is not always that logical - my mind goes off to all kinds of weird and wonderous places. For example while on a long climb in Dartmoor I planned to the minute detail what i would do if i were attacked by the dartmoor beast as is like to happen (the plan was to whack it with my spare inner tube). I also have a tendancy to sing - in my head and unfortuantely out loud (forgetting of course that sound travels). One reoccuring song is Love Shack or rather just the one line "15 miles to the loove shack" which of course is changed to whatever town am heading for at that time.."25 miles to Creeediton..." and so the countdown goes for those 25 miles..With cycling then i think you learn alot about yourself as ther eis a lot of time to ponder on it!

Then there are also the situations that you find yourself in on a bike that you just wouldn't get/see by any other means - having a mexican stand off with a huge ass cow/horse in the road;cycling through villages where there are men dressed ass chickens crossing the road (most of my stories come from Dartmoor - am sure that is just a coincidence and not a recflection on the type of people that live there at all);Being forced to sprint up a mountain after a couple of wild sheepdogs decided I looked very tasty; to kids whose reactions vary from cheers and claps to stone throwing.

While in Morocco a few years back on a cycling tour, we were headed down from a mountain top on a road that meandered through a crevanous valley. Being in pretty much the middle of nowwhere there road was deserted but as it was icey we were taking it all pretty easy, speedwise. That was until we came across a man and his donkey (and sheep too but we will get to the sheep later). Now this donkey - maybe not surprisingly - saw us coming and freaked out, rearing up and throwing the man from his back. The guy however got his foot caught in the stirrup and so was dragged along by the now frantic donkey. The guys at the front of my group had dumped their bikes and were trying to calm it down. But before they could it headed towards the drop to the ravine. The old man seeing this managed to grab onto the reins and tried to pull him away, succeeding only in dragging himself under the donkey as it started to slip down the sides, it desperately stomped the gound with its front hoof to gain some purchase but succeeding only in hitting the man in the head. Then started the battle of man vs gravity. the old man was trying to keep the donkey, and his wordly possessions that were attached to it, up, but gravity had other plans. In a moment that i will forever see in slowmo - the donkey suddenly raised its front legs again but this time overbalanced and somersaulted backwards down the 30ft drop down the ravine to the riverbed.
it was like time stood still for a moment - the old man was in tears, the sheep that the old man had been carrying was cowering against the valley wall, peeing with fear, a forgotton shoe left in the middle of the road. We all rushed to the road edge, all fearing the sight that we would find. But nothing could be seen.
A couple of guys found a path further down the road that would take them down to the river bed and so they went to see if they could recover any of the old mans belongings.Five mins past...then suddenly the donkey came out from the undergrowth and up the path! Completely unharmed. Even the second sheep that had been strapped into one of the saddle bags looked unharmed is not a little baffled by the whole situation (but that might just be the way that sheep look generally). It was the most surreal moment. The old man found his shoe, put the sheep back in their place, got back on the donkey and headed back up the road as if nothing had happened..the rest of us were left in complete shock and forever wary of going near donkeys for the rest of the trip.

The moral of that random tale is that with cycling you really do not know what is round the next corner...and its that unknown outside and in which add an extra dimension to a trip of this kind. (Plus of course i love cycling up hage mountains -a dn it could just simply be an excuse to do a lot of that!!)

Posted by louisebenn 03:57 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

6 weeks to go

wow ok so blogging..hmm this is something new..i probably should apologise in advance for any nonsensical or completely random crap that i might spout on here -in my defence i am going to blame in advance the heat, the stupid amount of milage along and the meters up on the bike. That is unless, of course, I jack the whole cycling plan in and spend the next 6 months on the beach - in which case blame the cocktails!

So where am I now..well am home in Exeter with six weeks to go...after 5 months of planning it feels a little bit like limbo time - the calm before the storm. My numerous lists on lists on lists have been reduced to just the one. Bike is set up, test run for packing done, test run on the bike with weighted panniers done, cat sorted, house on the market, car sold, routes mapped....just this pesky thing called work to get through each day, and the last few bits that i can't do until near the date. It all feels quite strange especially as i know in a couple of weeks it will all turn into a bit of a stress and panic fest when i find lost lists or remember something that i really out to have done 4 months ago..but anyway, am enjoying the quiet while i can and so here i am writing this..

I have to say whats amazed me most about planning this trip is the number of people I have met who have given me help and great advice along the way - not just from people and places you'd expect - like the guys at my local bike shops - but also where you least expect it - from my car dealership, my estate agent even my opticians! The support I have recieved goes a long way to restoring ones faith in humanity and I hope to take that with me.

In terms of cycling - one thing has come up a lot - that cycling in Spain is not for the lighthearted nor for those that don't like hills. In fact i don't think that Spain has one ounce of flat surface on it - especially not on my routes. But then again I have purposely (masochisticly?) headed for all the big climbs as they are what put a smile on my face and are the challenges that i love about cycling.

Someone told me recently that cycling in Spain is like cycling on Dartmoor - so out I went at the weekend with weighted panniers (literally they have dumbells in them) and headed up to those hill to get an idea of what i have let myself in for. 40miles and 3500ft later test run was done. Climbs were all good - oh don't get me wrong, they were hardwork as you can certainly feel those extra kilos on the back -but even a couple of 16% 'ers didn't cause too much leg ache. What did suprise me was the fun of descending with extra weight - why had no one told me about this perk??? got to love gravity! I had to refrain from sticking my arms and legs out and shouting "wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" all the way down. I'm not a big descender but, man, i think thats gonna change now!

So what can you expect from this blog - to be honest not sure! It's not going to be all about the cycling but hopefully more about the observations you can make by seeing a country by bike and the random crap that can occur on trips like these...and so the count down continues

Posted by louisebenn 04:18 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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