Day 3: the road and nothing but the road!

Thursday June 30th

Blog-log: Kilometres from ‘Go’: 1,226.5 kms (452.1 ridden today).

Position: Camping Ciudad de Albarracín, Albarracín.

At last a day of free riding, free of commitments, free of traffic, free free free . . . If that sounds ecstatic that’s how I felt, it was great to be back ‘home’ in the city for just a little while, lots of kisses and cuddles from friends I met during a brief bar hop – a few more from the women would have been welcome but what the heck! I was tempted to take a day’s rest but no, the best way to recuperate is to do more of the same – homeopathy for bikers or what? – so after a bit of a lie in – until 07.00! – I started to pack the bike up again (I had to leave her on the street) and a quick coffee and pastry and I was on the road – after a few more very welcome kisses and cuddles – see below!

On to the route: the Sierra de Montsant lies just inland of the coast behind Tarragona and as the name implies is a rather spiritual place. In fact there are numerous medieval hermitages thereabouts (although that is true for almost all of Catalonia) there is something very very special about this region – not least the roads. I already have an ‘Ace Ride‘ there but in fact the whole area is fantastic for road riding – it’s a Parc Natural so off-road riding is out of the question – we can’t have it all now can we (more on this soon!). But for once the light was excellent for photography – I’m usually unlucky – and I took a lovely, if slightly wobbly, video to get the panorama.

 

Onwards the landscape changes drastically. It’s wheat/almond/sheep country around the village of La Granadella. Up here on the mountain ridges life is hard – bitterly cold in winter and throat wrenchingly hot in summer – but I was lucky, a cold front had moved in from the north overnight and I was actually cool in my summer riding suite – too cold later in the day as it turned out!

At La Granadella I made a stupid mistake, the first of two, in having too much confidence in knowing the route (see the map) this time it didn’t matter but the second error, at Vallderobres in the Mataranya region, cost me fifty kilometres and some time – but much worse I missed out in what looks like a nice route  – so that’s why I’m leaving the original although I didn’t actually ride it. Grrr!

Onward the Ebro at Flix – and another Ace Ride in the making! Absolutely incredible ride from Gandesa to Vallderobres – hence my distracted state of mind perhaps) – through, or rather by, the Els Ports Parc Natural. If the limestone features of the Sierra de Montsant are amazing – the Els Ports are surreal; my photo simply doesn’t do it justice – eat your heart out Yosemite – OK send me there to be convinced!

From the Mataranya I headed to one of my favourite places, the Maestrazgo. Words fail and I have to use comparatives; imagine the Yorkshire Dales (apologies to non-UK readers) – even down to he dry stone walls – but scaled up by a factor of about five, add Cotswold villages, and subtract the grockles – there’s no Emmerdale, Last of the Summer Wine . . .  stuff here! – and you have the Maestrazgo. It’s big, it’s limestone and it’s almost totally wild.  I took a route I found last year.  As my route would be very had for road bikes, so I’ve left the route that Google snapped to, with a ‘diversion’ for my route.

 

This time I did it east-west and found a peculiar phenomenon: having climbed up the Port de Morella you have feeling of going downhill, on average, but in fact all of the subsequent passes are higher, at almost exactly 100 metre intervals . 1300, 1400, 1500 and finally 1600 metres – wierd!

Just to add to the drama I chased thundery storms right over the sierra – for about 100 kilometres – or they seemed to chase me! The views are huge and I could see the thunderclouds forming and unforming at every turn – and at every turn they were right in front of me. So lots of downpours onto the Spanish Biker’s cuerpo – and thank heavens for heated handlebar grips – on June 30th – I ask you!

The aim over here is the township of Cantavieja, which strikes me as romantic as the names means, ‘(The) Old Song’. Quite what that song is or was I don’t know, but in my imagination the place is redolent with stories of love betrayed, unrequited or, if lucky, consummated – there are certainly lots of hotels that seem ideal for a flirtatious weekend! Much more important, at my age, is the road from there on to Teruel – yet another ‘Ace Ride’ in the making! I was thinking of superlatives until, today, Day 4, which as blown it all away. For that you’ll have to wait. For now all there is to add is that it was a good idea to head for the camping at Albarracín; a) I know it and knew the way, so no stress, and b) it’s great, camping, city and, above all, biking country!!!

On to a few snappies:

I never thought I'd ever say this but if I were twenty - whoops thirty! - years younger . . . Actually V ( I'd guess I'd better not give her full name) is quite an adventuress - enough to be the first girl to ride pillion with me in over thirty years!

Words an pictures fail to show the Els Ports mountains in their true drama - espacially at the peak of midday!

Stormy weather over Cantavieja - eat your heart out Malham Cove!

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