A Travellerspoint blog

day 43 San Sebastian

"The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea." Isak Dinesen


distance: 97km
Total ascent: 789m
Hours in the saddle: 4 hrs
Terrain: undulating

It seems an age since I have sat down to write this with a beer in hand, not sure why that is but its nice to have the extra help with the writing again.

So today..what happened today..it is terrible, I really do struggle to remember what happens even in the same day let alone previous days. It's one of the main reasons for writing this, while not being all that happens it does give me something to latch on to.

So today..ok so yeah, I had changed to route for today last minute to make the day basically a drop down off the sierra and then along the coast. Nice and simple..a little civilised potter along down the mountains and along the coast, ice cream stop, up the hill overlooking San Sebastian, then home...easy! Of course it is never that straightforward.

The nice descent off the mountain? Well it was, but this being Spain of course it had to put in some 8% climbs along the way. There was a huge number of cyclists out again (a lot of time triallers strangely) and again mostly going the other way. But I did get overtaken and that gave me some pacing to up the ante. It is always good to have someone ahead to pace you. Then I caught a club run, and overtook them. I don't think that went down too well, and we played cat and mouse the whole way down out of the mountains. Really good fun, though I did realise I was pushing it a bit rather than pottering along, so about 5 k from the sea I let them disappear in the distance. The road down had followed the Rio Deba, and just to be nice and consistant it ended in the town Deba. Lovely town and I was glad I had slowed to enjoy it.

The civilised meander along the coast? Well, the good intentions lasted until I left Deba, and then a climb started, and there was a guy just ahead of me so.....In my defence, there is only one thing better than 'pacing' someone downhill/on the straights, and that is to 'pace' someone up a hill. A little bit daft again perhaps as I had no idea about this climb..no idea how long it lasted nor the gradient of it. But it was fun, and that as they say is all that matters. This time what woke me from the chase was that I realised that I had no idea where I was, and it was probably a good idea to find out. Luckily this coincided with the top of the hill, so all good to slow and going the right way too..bonus!

An ice cream stop at Gretaria? Nope, sped past it..neither the beach or any ice cream shops were on the road so nope. Also caught the guy I had been chasing up the hill and overtook. He sat on my wheel as I sped on a awesome road hugging the coast and zipping through holes in the cliffs. I tried to stop at Zaurutz, even went to the beach and got off the bike. Bit no ice cream shop!!! well they had packaged ones but that was no good. So back on the bike again.

Climb the Igledo to look down at the city? I came the closest to this one..got to the lovely Orio, had a nice chap let me draft him for a while til I turned off for the Igledo. Up I went for a km or so..then the damn road was closed! Round a round about back down again. Not sure what I was more annoyed about..that the road was shut or that I had needlessly lost a good wheel to follow. So back on slightly uncharted territory on a valley road to the city. Little bit knackered from all the 'pacing' and no stopping by this point but carried on. All going well until I somehow found myself on a motorway! Eek! Desperately tried to get off it, and after a few km I did..so don't want to do that again! So by now I am tired, hot and a little bit rattled, not the greatest state to be in for city riding. But in theory I just need to head for the beach or the cathedral and all is well. Bout half hour later it was. And I was sat on the promenade over looking the beach with an ice cream, and all was right with the world again.

So San Sebastian.. reserving my opinion of it for the moment. It seems really fab place..nice beaches, awesome aquarium (with sharks, rays and turtles. So cool. That was first on my list of places to go) and another mount -Mount Urgull - that was open that you can walk up to the castle and have an amazing view across the city. Loved that walk, very rustic with random black cats in random spots and paths that hithered and dithered along. At one point walking up a path, I realised I had company. I looked down and there was a little bird walking along beside me, snail in mouth. I think he realised I was there at the same time and we both kinda looked at each other and he, I kid you not, shrugged (as much as birds can) as did I and we both carried on. And no I had not been on the beer by then, only two ice creams for lunch and maybe a lot of sun. What is keeping my judgement about San Sebastian is that it is hugely busy, massively so. But it is Sunday and the Spanish are usually out in force on Sundays, plus also I think there was a footie match..a lot of blue and white shirts on show. So we will see what it is like tomorrow.

Posted by louisebenn 10:45 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

day 42 Onati

"You never have the wind with you -- either it is against you or you're having a good day." ~ Daniel Behrman


distance: 113km
Total ascent: 1151m
Hours in the saddle: 4hrs 55min
Terrain: half mountain and undulating
(Half mountain being new definition of climbs about 500m ascent, full mountain aprox 1000 and up).

...and today it was against me. Headwind the whole way, except the last 7km. But knowing it was going to be that way meant I wasn't too worried..a pootle along would be fine as it wasn't too long a day distance wise.

Lovely start to the day..smooth slight downhill for about 20km to Haro, then on to the sierra beyond. If I didn't know it was wine country before I certainly did now...field after field after field of vines. On climbing the new sierra it afforded a fantastic view back across the valley with its vineyards, and bumps with castles, and in the far distance San Lorenzo and its sisters, all softened in a slight haze. So up the half mountain climb, passing the first of many cyclists going the other way. Then a nice smooth descent down the other side and toward Vitoria-Gastiez with few bumps along the way. It was when I reached the city that I realised that actually the wind was stronger than I thought as I was quite worn already! Amplified by the fact that it was a nightmare to circumnavigate..signs disappeared half way round so it was all a bit of a guessing game. All led to grumpy me, and so executive decision to stop and get some sugar onboard at the next village.

The road out of Vitoria, surprised me..there were hundreds of cyclists! And I am not exaggerating here..there was a whole range from solo riders to small groups to speedy chain gangs. All obviously going the opposite direction to me..being the sensible direction as you had the wind with you. And they just kept coming. Just up ahead was the beautiful Embalse Ullíbarri-Gamboa, and this road made up one side of it. So either there was some sportive or something similar, or it is the locals tradition to have a Saturday morning spin around the lake. Either way once past it though they pretty much all disappeared. So back by myself I headed up an even mini'er Puerto, with another fantastic descent the other side and undulating all the way home to Onati.

Watching all the Spaniards this morning made me realise that I had my ideas all wrong..I shouldn't be wanting to be like them and need upteen layers on and a scarf across my face to be warm..I was actually the hard one here, and they were just Michelin men ;) I seriously don't know how they cycle in all that gear, it would be what I would wear (and more) if I was going into Dartmoor and it was zero degrees c or something. Not 20 plus! (Ok so the morning my garmin said 10 but it was in the shade..so more like 15). I think what sums up the difference best is watching the weather forecasts on the telly and the temperature charts. Both have red, yellow, green, blue to show the gradient between hot and cold. But for this time of year, the UK (well in the UK its very similar all year but..), would have red being oh 20/25 at Max maybe?, then blue being zero or thereabouts. In Spain however..red is 35ish, and blue 20!! No wonder there is such a different attitude to the temperature and the sun here! The sun is a funny one..at home..always curtains open to let the light and sun(cough!) in, and if the sun is out people will always gravitate to the side of the road where the sun is hitting. In Spain, it is the reverse, blinds and shades down all day regardless of where the sun is, and always walk in the shade. I can go with the latter but the former is quite difficult to get my head around..I don't like blocked out windows except at night..it just feels wrong, especially as it needs the lights on.

Also to note that I have hit Basque country..most obviously seen in that all the signs now are in Basque and then Spanish. It seems a hugely different language, with all the constinants it reminds me more of Polish. So not only do the roads have multiple names/numbers (the other day one stretch of road I was on had 4 numbers; numbers also change when crossing province, so if you weave a long a boarder, you can be switching road numbers every few hundred metres); now all the towns and cities have two names too. At least wprking all that out will keep me awake!

Posted by louisebenn 10:18 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

day 41 San Lorenzo (Sto Dom)

"Today is your day ! Your mountain is waiting. So... get on your way." — Dr. Seuss


distance: 61km
Total ascent: 936m
Hours in the saddle: 2hrs 35min
Terrain: one mountain

After a bad night (I thought I may have been coming down with a temperature as I was boiling, but it turned out they has just stuck the heating on full whack), and still feeling a bit dodgy in the morning I was all set for another rest day. However the inevitable happened...

When talking to the owners they kept asking if I was going out at all, perhaps on my bike? It turned out they very much wanted to get in and clean my room after me hogging it yesterday rather than any concern or anything. I replied umming and ahhing, saying maybe I would go to San Lorenzo on the bike, but that I was very tired and not particularly well. The response and the look on their face at the mention of me cycling up the mountain...sigh, here we go again. I really need to work on my hardarsed cyclist look. I tried to convince myself that it would be probably better to stay and rest and get well. But it was a lost cause. The gauntlet had been thrown and a mission to get up the mountain and back was set.

This time no prisoners, even the heavy bike lock was coming off. I set off for the mountain. There is about 15km of uphill rolling first, so the concession to myself was that if I truely felt awful then I could just spin to Ezcaray and back and be done. I did feel awful..those 15km were a battle keep down my breakfast. But I caught sight of my target snowy mountain and there was no real choice. I had done a gradient search for the climb and so I had it in my mind it would be a toughy, but actually it was a really good 15km climb. Though that could be the benefit of not having the panniers, or rather of having them for the last month and a half! Gradient hung about the 8% mark, maxing at 10%, and it was a nice wiggly road (technical term there) rather than constant hairpins. It's a strange day when you realise that anything around a 10%er doesn't phase you anymore and you barely notice it. Get me eh! Soon I will be a cycling diva..'no no I'm not getting out of bed for anything less than a 12%er!'

It was a bit of an anticlimax at the top..it looked like the road went up to the snowline, when actually it just looped around a ski lodge.. Valdezcaray..and the line I saw was the ski lift. There was a road going further on but it was a dirt track so no good for my roadie. So a few pictures of the view then back down I went...usual gravel, potholes and lots of cows on the road to keep an eye out for. If they got rid of those three or would be a perfect climb.

The way back was quite funny. I had noticed my balance was a bit off during the descent but had put that down to lergy or cold or something. But it still carried on on the rolling road home. It took me a while but I realised that this was the first time I had been on a weight free (well panniers and lock free) bike since...well since el Torcal back in Andalucia..about a month and a half ago! And the difference in the balance of the bike and how you handle it is huge! I nearly went splat when I overbalanced getting out of the saddle and dancing on the pedals for the first time. I will have to remember that in the future. But racing along the road, even with a headwind, was fantastic fun, so much faster. Brilliant.

Back at the hotel, I tried to be uber cool about the climb..'yeah very nice, not that hard but pretty yadda yadda yadda'..their response..'well you should have kept going further to the next one'. Dammit! Lol. It is true obviously, though extra kms are not really a big thing for me and I was happy with my mountain climb. It was a nice bit of preparation before the Pyrenees.

Though feeling a little better, my stomach was still not great, so a pretty pathetic afternoon of supermarket shopping and crashing out on my bed followed. I am glad to have done the climb, to show myself that I can and that the lergy won't stop me in the next stage tomorrow, but I also realise rest is still needed especially as I am lucky that I can. It is actually the best time if ever I was going to get ill.

Posted by louisebenn 11:57 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

day 40 rest day

'The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time' Bertrand Russell


Today was a proper rest day, a proper Sunday of a day for me. I am not ashamed to say I have done absolutely sod all. And I feel no guilt for it.

Yesterday when I got here I was feeling sick, and that carried on throughout the evening. I carried on doing the normal sightseeing and that.... I got lost in the streets and went up the church tower. It is a sign though when you climb a tower and see stars and I don't mean the stars in the sky. A hasty retreat back to the haven of the hotel was made.

After a good nights sleep I went down to breakie, and spent a good hour enjoying my coffee and toast, reading the news online. Then back to bed to catch up on more online gossip and fix an upcoming days route that had been bugging me. At about 1 I managed to emerge from the hotel in search of food..there are a number of Michelin recommended places here so I went to find one...a late birthday treat. I didn't realise that it was time for the parade of dancing children, sombre adults and a saint. But this meant no one in the restaurants so good service for me! Few glasses of wine later and then back to bed and catching up with some friends online.

All in all a very tough day! Its a small town so I saw most of it wondering about yesterday. The only time I felt a little ping that perhaps I should do something when I saw a group of cyclists returning from a trip up the mountain. But even then thats something for tomorrow if I am better.

Back to learning Spanish using the local news channel for me now...

Posted by louisebenn 10:12 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

day 39 Santo Domingo de la Calzada

Wednesday pootle Dow the road


Distance: 101km
Total ascent: 1137m
Hours in the saddle: 5hrs
Terrain: undulating

I decided this morning that this would be an easy pottering day over to Santo Domingo, forecast was sun but with a nip in the air and also a strongish gusty wind that would be in my face all day. Strong headwind is not good at the best of times, but certainly not when you're in need of giving your head and legs a rest. If you want to be going fast it only makes things frustrating. So pootling along it was. And it worked out quite well, aside from the not getting round to stopping for a break thing, but never mind..it was a shortish day so I survived.

Anyway, the route took me through a vast array of terrain types...up out of the canyon, over moors, through windfarms, descending past a medieval castle to Poza de la Sal, then across the undulating plains towards the snowy mountains. A left turn onto the main road then due east with all the lorries to Santo.

Not only were there huge amounts of lorries, there were huge amounts of walkers/pilgrims too. The most I have seen so far on the Camino..before it was one maybe two along a whole stretch, here it was like a never ending slow stream of them coming by as the path meandered back and forth with the road. They entertained me with the brief glimpse into their world as they wondered slowly by..solo walkers striding past, young people headphones on lost to the world, groups chatting away continually, a couple stopping to decide to wait for someone or no, another couple stopping and agreeing on a bet of some sorts. They also had great hats.

Santo Domingo is very much about the pilgrims. It is very early on in the route in Spain..and you would get here just after crossing the Pyrenees. Its a small town, but it has a little cathedral, tower and monestry...and a snowy mountain in cycling distance. I am here for the religion of course ;). Oh and of course it is in La Rioja, and while there are no bodegas close by for a wine tour, I am sure I will be able to find somewhere good to sample the goods here. A little surprise also is that there is a five day fiesta going on at the moment, fair ground rides, stalls, music and the like. All very exciting, though I will be leaving them to the partying tonight as I get some much needed sleep.

In other news, my veggieness might be making a subconscious return..I seem to not be able to face fish and seafood anymore..for the last few days the smell just makes me want to hurl. Not sure why but that's fish off the menu for a while!

Oh also injury update, I have split my lip..don't ask, I have no idea how. Its not too bad but it keeps opening and bleeding so I look like I've been in a fight. Awesome stuff! No one will mess with me!

Posted by louisebenn 12:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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