Saturday, July 23rd
Blog-log: 6077.7 kilometres from ‘Go’ (420.7 ridden today)
Location: Camping Entrerobles, Valdeavellano, Soria
Soria is Spain’s least populated province with a population density of just 9 persons per square kilometre. The dominant landscape feature is the Sierra de la Demanda to the north of the capital, Soria itself, and over the border into La Rioja. Originating over 500 million years ago the sierra contains some of the oldest rocks in the Iberian Peninsular, all that time for erosion results in a characteristic rounded shapes to the mountain summits – which average over 2,000 metres (the highest is San Lorenzo at 2,270m). The region is rich in dense forests, ranging from pines on the higher ground to deciduous trees such as birch, beech and poplar in the sheltered valleys.
As usual I headed for the nature reserves, both to aid navigation, they’re well signposted, and as they would probably include the most picturesque landscapes. In fact the entire sierra is a Reserva Natural but there are special zones within that. My first goal was the Laguna Negra de Urbión. This is a glacial lake surrounded by dense pine forest that lies under the shadow of the mountain of the same name. The road through Vinuesa didn’t disappoint and I easily found the tarmac lane leading into the Reserva, despite the season there wasn’t much traffic and the dense forest was certainly something – lovely and cool apart from anything else! But when I got near to the Laguna I found a huge car park stuffed with tourist vehicles – there was even a car park attendant who explained that the Laguna was two kilometres further on, i.e. much too far to walk with all my clobber. So I headed back down another road to the Reserve’s visitor centre, noting along the way that several trails had neither barriers nor prohibition signs – a good omen. The visitor centre is near Vinuesa and was staffed by a young KTM rider – in his civilian clothes I should add – who told me that there are no restrictions to off road riding at all in the entire Sierra. Furthermore, he showed me a trail to the summit of mount Urbión itself – adding the caveat that the last part of the trail was extreme riding – I should think so too!
For the rest of the day I had devised an anti-clockwise route going deep into the Sierra de la Demanda. It never ceases to amaze me how deserted Spanish roads can be – in plain high season once I had ridden away from Reserve and its attractions I had the roads pretty much entirely to myself – but that wasn’t too surprising really as after I’d reached the Puerto de Santa Inés, which has a new road leading to its even more new ski station, the carriageway deteriorates badly – somewhat typical of Castilla y León I was beginning to think! – and stayed like that for the whole route.
– apart from the road over the Puerto de Montenegro, which is fantastic!
Over into La Rioja the roads got a bit better but not much. I also stupidly ignored a filling station and had to ride right out of the Sierra, all the way to Salas de los Infantes, which in spite of appearances on Michelin is actually on the N224. But all was not in vain as I discovered that the CL117, which is apparently a minor road, is a gem – lovely scenery, fast corners and a good alternative to the N234 to Soria city.
Furthermore, I also go to go back high into the Sierra to Niela in search of yet more glacial lake – La Laguna Negra de Niela – which I again could ride to in the high season. So instead I took a wonderful back lane deep into the forest to re-emerge onto the LR-113 at the border between La Rioja and Burgos. From here I retraced my steps back to Villavelayo, which looks a good place to stay, and then back to Niela by the back road, climbing up the valley of the Niela river and passing through yet another gorgeous – Oh, no, not another gorgeous ravine! – on the way.