Thursday, July 29, 2010

Spain: The top

Here is the latest installment on our Europe by Bike adventure. I am on a french keyboard, so apologies for the more frequent typos. We spent a few nights in Burgos, caught the town festival which was tasty, then made a very tough decision to go North. We had wanted to go West to Galacia, having even already got a map, but with only a few months left Germany wasn;t getting any closer.

The North of Castile y Leon was very pretty, and hilly. We were very happy with some well placed canyons and gorges which went through, rather than over, the hills.

Handy Gorge
We then crossed over into Cantabria, and we started really seeing the green of Spain. It was so so so much greener, heaps of trees, grass growing in the empty sections  rather than dust.

The hills of Cantabria

Luckily we had been on a massive plateu, so although it was pretty tough biking up to the passes, we had some nice downhills to the coast.

Bikes on a Boat in Santander

We spent a few nights in Santander, then to Laredo for a few nights and the WORLD CUP FINAL. We had wanted to be in a big city for the final, but I reckon we couldnt have handled much more than the big party Laredo threw. Good times all round. Everyone was super stoked.

CastroUrbaniles... pretty boats and a good Kebab

One of many crowded beaches along the coast

We then cruised along the coast, which wasnt nearly flat enough, to Bilbao. The Guggenheim Museum was very very very awesome. I have always been sceptical of contemporary art, but the stuff here was amazing, it messed with you senses and looked really cool. I cant possibly do it justice by telling you about it, either go to the Museum or ask me in person so I can use my arms while talking.

The Guggenheim
From Bilbao we snuck over to Barcelona to see a friend and check out the city. It was big, fun, tasty and international.
Sagra Familia catherdral in Barcelona
So back to the bikes in Bilbao; we cruised along the coast; spent some time in San Sabastion and Irun: then went inland to Navarra for about an hour before heading to France over the Pyranees.

The Basque Coast

Well; actually the foothills of the Pyranees; but I will claim it! So now we are in France. No more really good jamon, lomo and chorizo. No more Cruzcampo, Mahou or Estrella. I will miss tapas... Spain was, and is, freaking awesome, we loved it. But if you are going to bike there, be warned it is rather mountainous.

Mountain bike path in Navarra to avoid a motorway.
I will post on France in a while. Right now I am going to call Mum and Dad. They should be out of bed....

Friday, July 02, 2010

Spain: The bottom and the middle

 So we left the farm in Villanueva de San Juan just under a month ago. Since then we haven´t seen too many internet cafes so I have been slow in getting any photos up, but here they are, and there are heaps.

After the farm we road to Carmona, which is 20kms from Sevilla. We opted not to tackle the big city roads, and instead spent the night here then bussed in to town. We had no where to sleep until we found a super friendly shepard just outside town that was more than happy for us to camp with his sheep.

Our first night free camping near Carmona
 We spent a few night in Seville, had fun just hanging out and recovering after our first days ride. Staying in an 15th century convent which is now a very reasonably priced hotel in the historic centre and exploring the Alcazar and other interesting things.

Seville by night
From Seville/Carmona we continued through Andalusia towards Cordoba. We camped the night half way between at a campsite which was unfairly located atop a steep hill.

Our bikes between Seville and Cordoba

Yellow Flowers! and a castle. Near Almodovar del Rio
 We spent a few nights in Cordoba, got some bells for our bikes so we could communicate better on the road, and watched some more world cup games. After that we headed north into the mountains. We biked for a few days, sleeping in a random bar in the mountains, meeting some locals who gave us an awesome lunch of ham from his own farm, trying not to get too hot and struggling to find the All Whites on TV anywhere.

We then took a sneaky little bus for a few kms over the hardest part of the mountain... this is a holiday after all! We were then out of Andalusia and onto our second map: Castille - La Mancha, the home of Don Quijote, unending flat plains, windmills and castles. We plotted a route to Toledo over the flattest ground we could find and made really good time, the best day being 99kms!

Somewhere in Castille-La Mancha

Windmills in La Mancha... just like Don Quixote!

The beautiful sight of Toledo as we came over the last hill.
We reached Toledo a few days later and relaxed for a few days. The highlight being in an Irish pub full of Italians while the All Whites smashed them... a draw was as good as a win for NZ as far as everyone in that bar was concerned.

Madrid, so many people!
We then got on our bikes and headed towards Madrid.... about 20kms into the ride Stephs derailer snapped off! As good as our bike repair skills are this was way beyond just wiring something back together. So we jumped on a bus to Madrid, thankful to not have to navigate the freeways and streets of the massive city. We spent a few days appreciating the massive diverse city: Mexican food, modern art and NZ almost making to to the second round of the world cup.

From Madrid by train to Segovia, with its awesome Alcazar (Palace/Fortress) and Roman Aqueduct.

The very impressive Roman Aquaduct in Segovia

Pretty people in Segovia
From Segovia we rode towards Burgos, which is about 230kms. It took us three days, with one night camping in a small forest just outside for a small town, we were lucky to catch the owner (or some dude who we think was the owner..) and got permission, which is always nice. And a night in the park of another town after we met the Mayor in the bar and he said it was all good! This is all in Castille y Leon, our 4th province. It is so so so so green compared to everywhere else we have been, its really refreshing.

One of the many pretty, quiet and not too steep roads we travel on.

Free camping in a forest near San Miguel de Benuy
 So we got to Burgos two days ago after some really good riding through gorges, rolling hills, small towns and even the odd forest and park. And thats it. Currently we are back in Madrid for a few days to see a friend, before heading back to Burgos to get our bikes and head.... East, West or North... not sure which yet!

One last picture to show you how hard core we are.....

1000kms!!! and counting.