Vuelta a Espana
Santander to Tenerife, mostly following the Via de la Plata. This is the longest of the pilgrim routes in Spain, it runs from Seville in Andalucia, running northwards through the provinces of Extremadura and Castilla y Leon to Salamanca and Zamora, although me being an awkward sod did it the 'wrong' way - north to south. A three week ride to Cadiz then a week off in Teneriffe. Fly back home.
The start of my big adventure - biked to Leicester. Train to Birmingham, then long train ride to Plymouth. Stayed at Chester House B&B which I have no hesitation recommending to the touring cyclist.
The ferry not leaving until 15.30 so had a pleasant day around the city of Plymouth, took a nice long ride around the harbour. Nice straight-forward boarding. Most of the dozen or so cyclists all compared notes in the car deck, no one was going my way most seemed to be doing east/west. Cabin extremely small, goodness knows what it would have been like with two.
Weather noticeably hot and sunny. From various blogs I had read best advice is to get a FEVE train out of town but when I went to the station they were on strike! So it was, that I got on my trusty steed and battled with the traffic and very quickly found that the blogs are right. It was a nightmare and I was hopelessly lost in the outskirts of Santander and its industrial suburbs. I could see the road signs for the general direction I was heading for but they all lead to the motorway. At about 8pm finally got to Santillana del Mar.
a whole day behind schedule, on my first day! Campsite was one on the commercial faceless sort but I had the place to myself. A big mistake to go to on-site restaurant and have the most expensive item on the menu (fish paella - 11 euros). It was microwaved to concrete hardness. What’s more - it was starting to rain. In the distance I could see the cloud covered mountain that was to be conquered over the next two days.
A lovely day for a ride, firstly pleasantly warm, did not get lost and very scenic. Rode along the coast and after turning inland at Unquira followed a nice quiet road into the mountains. Road was consistently uphill but nothing too steep.
Deep sided gorges 300 meters either side following the river. Wasn’t till I neared Potes that I saw that the mist covered mountains was rubbish. They were on fire, big style! Helicopters carrying canvas bags of water were coming and going up the valley just above my head at times.
Suddenly you leave the mountains behind and you suddenly arrive on a flat plain
Potes is the main village in the area and I arrived there at the worse time - that is 3pm ‘cause that means I had really no choice but to carry on. This is where I should have stayed the previous night. The map indicated that villages were now fairly sparse up ahead. So ensuring I had enough supplies and off I went. I had only gone about 10 kms and it became significantly steeper - a lot steeper. The village I was aiming for was La Vega and when I got there the campsite was closed, as was the hostel and the local inn was full. So no choice but to carry on. Was by now walking with the bike as the road was now switch-backing and at about 1 in 4 gradient and oh, is was misty and drizzling. After the next village appeared totally shut, I resigned myself to the fact tonight was a wild-camping night. Duly found a spot in the trees about 10 metres from the road. This road already had very few cars on it and by now was deserted. So it was some hot food and a welcome bed about 9pm.
The Picos de Europa
They form part of the Cordillera Cantabrica, a long chain of mountains running between the Pyrenees to the east and Galicia to the west. They take their name from being the first land seen by sailors returning from the Americas - the "peaks of Europe" - announcing that they were almost home. Most of the range lies within the Picos de Europa National Park (Spain's oldest national park) which straddles the boundaries of the three autonomous regions of Asturias, Cantabria, and Castilla y León.