Friday, July 1st
Blog-log: Kilometres from ‘Go’: 1456.2 (229.7 ridden today).
Location: camping Ciudada de Albarracín, Albarracín.
This was the first of my ‘Discovery Days’ – based comfortably at the camping and feeling well rested all I had to do today was ride. I didn’t plan any big mileage, that’s not really the point, rather to explore the area, enjoy its natural beauty – and ride some of the best roads in Spain – that is to say, The World. In summary, a fantastic day!
As it happens I stayed out much longer than I anticipated and didn’t do as many K’s as I had planned. This was partly because I kept stopping for photographs, on the spot plan changing, etc. – and a quick bathe in a sylvan stream . . .
The Serrania de Cuenca is to the west of Albarracín, adjacent to the sierra of the same name, which I planned to ‘do’ the following day. But in fact the two are quite distinct, a phenomenon that often occurs at the frontier between the autonomous regions, in this case Aragon and Castilla la Mancha, as I suppose that when they were created during Spain’s long reconquista (722-1492) they were natural zones for economic activity dependent on the climate, natural resources, etc. The reconquista is esential in understanding spain’s history and, as a result, its political and cultural geography: when the Moors, who had invaded from Morocco and occupied virtually the whole peninsular, were driven back little by little by a series of alliances between what were originally independent principalities – ‘Spain’ only really came into existence with the ascendancy of Carlos the First, who’s grandparents, the so-called ‘Catholic Kings’ Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile, united the country with their marriage. They must have been quite a couple, Fergy and Isa, as not only did they expel the dreaded Moors with the fall of Granada in 1492, but in the same year they also sponsored Columbus’s jaunt to that little colonial place on the far side of the pond (just my little joke!).
Back to the ride (“About time too!” – I hear you cry!). I knew of quite a few of the tourist sites in advance and decided to follow them in a round trip going clockwise, starting with the Nacimiento de el RioTajo, meaning literally the birth (place) of that majestic river. Then to the Ciudad encantada (the ‘Enchanted’ City), the Puerto del Diablo (The Devil’s Gateway – a great place for Iron Maiden fans I would imagine!), the Hoz de Beteta (in Spanish hoz, is a simile for cañon, canyon in English, although I’m not quite sure if it is exact – all of the hoz’s I know seem to be wider than they are tall, no less beautiful for that in many cases I should add. Note that the words desfilladero and, in Catalonia and Valencia and the Balearics ravines are usually called congosts)- oh, and you also have garganta, which normally means ‘throat’ – and whike I’m at it there is a conca, which usually refers to an eye socket but in geography it’s a depression in the landscape, usually large as in the Ebro Basin – the Conca de Ebro in Spain.) And finally (phew!) the Nacimiento de el Rio Cuervo.
The advantage of doing this was that these are all very well signposted so I didn’t have to keep stopping to check the map – one problem here is that the signposts on the ground are often to places other than those that appear more logical on the map (I’ve written about this elsewhere on the blog – check it out here for more) and it’s not only infuriating to keep having to dig the map out of the tank bag – I normally make a list of villages and maybe some sketches as maps have a habit of going over the page in mid-voyage! – doubly so for me as it can also mean rooting out either my reading glasses or, better really, the magnifying glass. This wouldn’t be so bad if it also didn’t mean an instant brew up – being wrapped even in warm weather riding gear in temperatures of well above 35º and sitting on top of a hot bike is no fun, so I also pack a pair of trunks and a camping towel just in case!
The disadvantage, of course, is that you run the risk of getting caught up all the other grockles in their hideous coaches, mobile homes, Goldwings (sorry, I really am sorry!), and so on. Worse, perhaps, is the risk of running across one’s fellow countrymen, with few exceptions boors hideous. Luckily for me I look Dutch and ride a Spanish registered bike, so I easily blend into the background, unless I order a cup of tea – ha ha!
But this is inland Spain, the only tourist are likely to be weekend Sunday Drivers, Domingueros, so going on the Friday was all part of the plan – I imagine that the proximity to Madrid is a serious factor here, Spanish Domingueros are bad enough, but Madrileño Sunday drivers make the human frame quake in fear! As it happened I had the entire day more or less to myself – with the exception of the roads to and around the Cuida Encantada, which is only a few kilometres away from the city of Cuenca, I came across no more than a dozen or so other vehicles during the entire day, something pretty much I take to be a law of nature here after living here for so long!
The undoubted high spot of a very good day was finding the Puerto de El Cubillo road, which instantly got elevated to an ‘Ace Ride’ possibly the Acest of Ace Rides! On my out of date Michelin map of Catalonia/Aragon this road was massively dotted in red, which means bad news – possibly the end of my planned ride – but on the ground it’s virtually brand new. In fact on the western side, which is in Castilla la Mancha, it is brand new, I could almost smell the paint of the road markings!
As I said above, the ride took much longer than I anticipated as the return leg from the Ciudad Encatada (which is a tourist trap if ever there was one) is a really small country lane that passes though the pristine forests called Las Majada.s In fact I had had more than an overdose of pristine and spectacular landscapes all day, which I hope to have captured at least a glimpse on the videos. So a revision of the route got me home at a reasonable time to freshen up and begin to explore the city (sic – it’s tiny!) of Albarracín during the cool of the evening – and to cook my first meal with the mighty Trangia stove! In fact I’m going to go through the Hoz de Beteta on my way to Madrid on Sunday, so I’ve resolved a little dilemma of doing the same route twice – or three times in fact as I’ve nominated today, Saturday July 2nd, as a rest day!
But the big deal on the day was that my revised route took me back over the Puerto de el Cubillo – ahhh!