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Spain - Day 17 : It's slow going

Before we left, Bram pumped some more air into his tires. I had also been feeling like cycling with deflated tires for a few days, but that was just because I was tired. Because the campsite wasn't on our planned route, we needed to deviate. The new route was more hilly. The first big city we would pass was Cuenca, 60 kilometers away.


After 10 kilometers, we passed a factory called 'venta de puertas'. Next to it was another one, 'Fabrice y venta des puertas'. And then another, and another, and another 50. We were in a tiny village that apparently made all doors in Spain. There was a pleasant smell of sawn wood. 


We left the village and cycled through a canyon with steep rock walls. The canyon was about 40 meters deep and a hundred meters wide. There ran a river with many plants next to it. It seemed like we were leaving the arid part of Spain. It was nearly noon and we hadn't been able to buy any food yet. We had nothing left and needed to find something quick because all stores would be closed between 12 and 5. In Tortola, we asked another two old men if there was a store. There was none. In the distance we saw some old people standing next to a bus. I thought it was some bus for retired people. Previously we had noticed that people took 'supermercado' very literally, so we asked if there was a 'panneria' a bakery. Then they said yes and pointed to the bus. We cycled there. It turned out to be a mobile bakery.


The people in Spain were all very friendly and helpful, maybe because they had enough free time. Yet again, we were allowed to order first. We ordered two baguettes. For a change, we also bought a bag of cakes, which were dry as usual. We ate on a nearby bench. The cakes were still warm and super nice. The bread was also freshly baked. Five minutes later the bus left, so we apparently had been lucky.

From Tortola, it took more than an hour of cycling to reach Cuenca. There was a supermarket that was open the entire day. They had 2L packages of yogurts. This time we didn't finish those in one sitting. Bram had bought an alcohol-free pina colada. He didn't finish everything, so he poured it with his other drinks. His water bottle now contained a mixture of water, a pina colada, and iced tea. Even Bram thought it tasted terrible.

After Cuenca we rode over boring roads through the mountains. We had already seen a large part of Spain and this landscape looked much like the rest. Since the olive trees the only part that stood out was the canyon from this morning. Now we passed farms and dried-out fields. We again had a headwind.

The GPS always showed the shortest route through cities. Sometimes that wasn't the easiest. In La Frontera, we needed to carry our bikes down 200 stair treads to reach a bridge. Because this was a touristy area, there was a bicycle path next to the road. This would turn out to be the only cycling path we would see during the entire vacation. Via the bicycle path we passed the second campsite. By then, we had only cycled 100 km, we usually had covered this distance around 3:30. We were going really slow today because we were tired, had a strong headwind, and it was mountainous.


After the campsite, the GPS showed we needed to take a smaller road. Because the GPS's route would end up on the big road again I just wanted to stay on the large road. Then we came to a sign saying there would be a tunnel where bikes were not allowed. We had no choice but to take the small road anyway. At first, it was just a gravel path, but then it started going uphill. It got so steep that we could barely cycle. The road turned into a kind of river bed that was impossible to cycle on. We needed to walk up. Bram really enjoyed it, but not really.

cycling vacation spain
cycling vacation spain

Bram was happy with the gravel road

On top, we discovered the road ended up before, rather than after, the tunnel. Now we still needed to cycle through it. The rest of the day we cycled through various canyons. It involved much climbing.

cycling in spain
cycling in spain

Our view for most of the day

An actual descent didn't come until the evening. It was five kilometers long and very steep, so we still didn't cover much ground. After the steep decline, we arrived at a fountain where we could get water from a mountain stream. It tasted better than most tap water. We got enough to make it through the rest of the day and tomorrow morning. Today we needed to camp by the side of the road again.

Center of spain
barren plain in spain

View from the fountain

Before we started the last section of the day, we ate again. We stopped on a deserted bridge and checked what we had left. We each still had some desserts from the 2 liters we had bought in Cuenca. Furthermore, we had two baguettes, of which we needed to save one for breakfast. We had some jam to put on the bread. While we were eating, a car suddenly came around a corner and drove on the bridge without slowing down. Only at the last moment, the driver noticed our bikes, which we had put nicely to the edge of the road. If there had been something in the middle of the road, the car would never have been able to stop in time. That happened twice more later on. It was already 8 o'clock, and the sun was setting. It was hard to find a camping spot in the canyon. Near the end of the day, we arrived at a few steep climbs with just as steep descents.

steep roads

It was pretty steep

We found a good place to sleep before it got dark. There was a small grassy field next to a side road. We were still in the canyon, which had caves in its walls. Near one of them was an old wall of loose rocks. Suddenly we heard the sound we had heard a few times before at night "hurrrrrrrrrrrrrr hurrrrrrrrr". Bram saw a deer standing near the cave. Maybe the sound wasn't coming from a pea cock and hog hybrid after all.

wild camping in spain

View of our campsite from the cave

Bram had walked around some more and taken pictures of unidentified droppings.



We had a look at the route for the following day. As we were still three days ahead of schedule, we decided to make a detour via Andorra. I didn't feel like cycling more than necessary because I was already super tired, but on the other hand, it would be nice to visit a new country. We weren't sure if we could cross the Pyrenees near Andorra, so we decided to look into that later. The next day we would pass through the city of Molina, which is also the title of a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Coincidentally I had that on my phone. We went to sleep after listening to the music. At night it was a bit cold.


The route of day 17

Distance cycled : 164.06 km.

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