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The last city in Spain

This evening we arrived in the city of Ciudad Rodrigo, the last major town before entering Portugal. Psychologically this was probably my toughest day though not the most physically demanding. The evening that we arrived in Salamanca I wasn't feeling good, probably something I ate or drank (not alcohol :-) ) at lunch and by the time we settled in to the youth hostel after arriving in the rain, I was quite ill. So didn't go out to explore the tapas opportunities of this city and the next morning still feeling very fragile, I went for only a short explore to see the Plaza de Mayor, the cathedral and Roman bridge, before returning to my bed for most of the afternoon. Fortunately we had planned to have an extra day as the weather forecast was looking very wet in the afternoon.

Even by the evening I wasn't great and had a little supper, nothing too greasy! By the morning I was feeling a bit better but low energy and we had over 90kms to cover. The road was as previous days long long straights, rolling hills, but more up than down, or so it seemed and under a lowering sky, a headwind, enough to make cycling that bit tougher. The plains continued and we were still at over 800 metres. By the time we reached the halfway point the showers started catching us and we had to duck for shelter where we could find it qfrom the most formidable ones before donning wet wet weather gear for the final hour. 

This is Spain, mid May and the temperature was less than 12* C.  There has been snow in many parts of Spain over the past few days, I saw online that London was 23* C. Fortunately what ever afflicted me hadn't done for Ken so he was in better shape and set the pace, with consideration for my depleted state. We finally rolled into CR around 5:30pm in the rain. The forecast had promised a sunny evening. We found the campsite, looked at the sodden grass and the complete lack of any break in the rain and googled a cheap hostel. Warm and dry and indoors, not under damp tents. Luxury! A bar, a hot meal and comfy beds, a better end to the day.

The plains of Spain

The plain of north Spain is huge, but more surprisingly high at between 700 and 900 metres!
Wide open spaces, long long straight roads surrounded by fields of wheat and barley. Windmills dot the higher ridges. The local roads have almost no traffic on them and often feel like a bespoke cycle track.

Long empty roads
The view looks the same in both directions. If a car passes we can watch it disappear into the distance for many minutes......

Coming to a bend in the road raises some slight anticipation of what is coming next, but usually just another long straight stretch. The only pitfall to cycling in this wide open space is when there is a headwind, it makes for tough days. The views and the spaciousness are amazing, not like anything I've seen in the UK, not even east Anglia.

From Burgos we headed to Vallaholidad, not a town I'd heard of before, but where we very warmly welcomed by Jaun and his family whom we had contacted via the WarmShowers site and invited us to stay with them. We had a delightful stay, they showed us their city and a taste of Spanish culture and we ended up staying two nights which was very welcome break from the wheels, and a day of rain.
Jaun and family
Juan, Sylvia, Luis and Lara on the battlements of the castle in Penafiel where we also had a fantastic lunch.

Rested and well fed we headed on early the next day to Salamanca, 120 kms south. Anticipating showers we had sun for much of the way, and again the roads were largely empty and rolling. At the top of each rise we hope for a descent, only to find the plain continued and then rose again. We were cycling at over 800m. As we approached Salamanca we could see the darkest piles of clouds with drenching downpours scattered on the horizon. We'd avoided some by good fortune but in the end we had to seek shelter and don full waterproofs for our arrival into the city. We'd booked ahead a place in the youth hostel and welcomed a dry room and shower.

First night and days in Spain

So, our first night in Spain was wild camping in woods by a cold fresh running stream. We'd headed generally downhill towards Pamplona when both Ken and spotted a likely looking path at the edge of a field. This turned out to be a perfect spot. Ice cold plunge/wash, something to eat and we were sorted. On the other side of the stream in the woods, the Camino path where the walkers were making their way to the next village.

Planning the next day by the stream

We had the next morning in Pamplona, circling the city on our bikes, picking up a few items form the camping shops, trying the 'Menu del dia' before heading back on the road. It felt like a lovely old city full of character.

Climbing out of town in to the hills for our next destination we had a sense of the plains.

Estella, a small town picked on the map and part of the Camino de Santiago route was the destination for our second night. It was a hot afternoon with a couple of demanding hill climbs, going over the Pyrenees was obviously not the end of going up! It turned out to be a small old town, with narrow cobbled streets and the stream we had camped at previously was now a river (Arga). The campsite turned out to be some way out of town past an industrial site seemingly making industrial alcohol 24 hours a day. There weren't any Camino pilgrims willing to walk extra at the end of their long day.

Day two in Spain and we wary of the steep hills...... But to our delight we found long rolling empty roads (superseded by new motorways) going on for miles or kilometres, and we fairly flew along. Almost dedicated cycling roads as were passed by only a couple of cars all morning. By the afternoon there were a few more hills that we struggled up before arriving at our destination town of Lograno. Many Spanish towns and villages have a semi industrial wasteland of closed and derelict factories and warehouses evidence of the poor economic climate that is still current here. Some of the complexes are huge.

Day three and our destination is Burgos. We anticipated empty roads parallel to new motorways and for the morning we weren't disappointed, but after lunch the roads reverted to 'A' roads and we found ourselves beside thundering juggernauts as we headed west. Scary stuff. We also found ourselves another hill climb, this time higher in altitude though not in duration as our Pyrenees crossing.
On the hill to Burgos
In the distance rain showers and only a slight descent to the city which is about 950 metres above sea level, higher than Snowden. A wet arrival through another industrial derelict zone and a confusing perambulaition trying to find the Tourist Information office. Sign posting is often very hapahazard. We looked at hostels but ended up opting for another campsite on the edge of the city, well populated with Dutch couples in caravans and motor homes.
From here we turn more SW and head for Portugal, leaving the Camino and its host of steadfast walkers.