We rode from our hotel at Llanes towards tonight’s stop at Gijon. This was probably the most beautiful day in terms of scenery, passing along te coastline and some amazing beeches. Most of our track there was on wet sand (which is much easier to cycle on than dry).
Slightly off our route at one point, a small enclosure of sheep with a large dog guarding them - also inside the pen! Fr Michael judged that he was a friendly dog so we went and introduced ourselves, at which the dog seemed very happy (I bet no one would dare touch the sheep though!)
We also had to contend with electric fences, pushing the bikes through narrow gaps was a shocking experience as some found, compared to lifting them over. Our lunch break attracted the attention of some police officers who didn't appreciate our parking So we politely offered to move the van and all was well.
Suitably refuelled we made the remaining 28 miles in good time, stopping at Selorio just before arriving at Gijon, so that we could load the bikes into the van before arriving at this busy town. The other mis-hap of the day was a worrying noise from Mike Carney’s brakes. Whilst lacking the mechanical expertise of our missing Mick Claridge, I had luckily brought a can of brake-cleaner which solved the problem.
Wednesday 21st June Gijon to Tapia de Casariego
We started the day with a detour by van to the amazing cathedral and museum at Oviedo. This reputedly became the centre of Spanish Christianity after the first Persian invasion of Jerusalem. Many relics and treasures were rescued and brought to a cave near here, and later to the cathedral when it was constructed. The wealth and splendour of the place shows how closely church and state were tied at that time, as does the long list of nobility associated with church building.
Today was also intended to double as a rest-day, so we only rode 16 miles having spent a fair time at Oviedo. We managed to get split up at one point, the front rider having gone a bit too far to wait in shade, as the others flew by un-noticed. We all have working mobile phones this year, and as a result were quickly able to re-unite. The only mishaps were minor, firstly a young boy who thought it was a good idea to kick and follow a football across the road. Luckily no harm done.
Then towards the end of or ride we attracted police attention again, this time for overtaking slow lorries on a main road. After following us for a while to make his point, the officer carried on without further incident.
Meeting up with the van for the final stop was very easy now, as we had worked out how to share each others' positions thanks to Google and the lack of EU roaming charges. So we can now watch each others' movements, and decided it was well worth the breach of privacy.
A calm crossing with a relaxed meal meant that we had a great night’s sleep at Dieppe. The Mikes were too excited to wait for the 7am breakfast that we had arranged, and woke Malcolm up earlier so that we could get on the road. He was less excited and impressed, having just returned from Florida and been up late the previous night finalising the accommodation plans, but patiently went along with us.
Our stop for Friday night just inside Spain was the town of Oriatzun. We realised that it was very close to the lovely city of San Sebastian, and we were ahead of schedule having been lucky with the driving. So we decided to spend some time in San Sebastian and have our evening meal there. The parking is very well organised without the ugly multi-storey car parks we often see at home, by way of several underground car parks. Then we realised that our superb high van - great for storage and access to bikes, luggage, food etc - was a problem for height-restricted underground car parks! However another great thing about San Sebastian is that they have on-street parking slightly away from the busy central area, on the cliff tops overlooking the Bay of Biscay. We parked there and had a fairly long walk back into the city centre, giving our legs a well-needed stretch after sitting for nearly two days in the van.
We found the amazing “Bueno Pastor” church (meaning Good Shepherd, the patron of San Sebastian) and a nice outdoor restaurant nearby for a hearty meal to stock up on the carbs that we were going to need over the following days. Later on our way back to the van we were treated to a perfect sunset over the sea as we walked through the harbour, a great end to a tiring day.
Saturday 17th June
Last year, early in our Rome trip, as we passed through severely flooded areas of France and several late nights were spent re-working the route. Happily things have gone more smoothly, so we have some time to write the blog “as we go” rather than at the end.
Starting point: Markina
Our plan for the day was a short drive to the cycle-start, to allow for unavailability of hotels exactly on our route. We drove to Markina-Xemein for an intended easy first day, 'only' 38 miles but 1740 metres of climbing.
The start was by no means gentle, climbing 140 metres very steeply in the first half-mile! To put this into perspective imagine going up two of Chalfont Heights but in the same distance.
Then the climbs just kept getting harder until we reached the lovely alpine village of Elexalde, and made our way down hill to the lunch stop at Gernika.
View from the church at Elexalde
At this point we reaped the benefit of the walkie-talkies that Denese had kindly lent us, being able to contact Malcolm in the van without depending on mobile phone coverage. The only problem was that everyone wanted to be called Roger now, even more confusing than “3 Mikes”!
The afternoon presented us with some severe rocky and muddy trails that would confound most mountain-bikes, let alone our road/ gravel machines. We just about managed to avoid any falls, the sensible people pushing their bikes down the steep bumpy terrain but one of us relishing a bit of true off-roading which the arms and shoulders certainly noticed the following day!
Malcolm with our spacious and tidy van!
We cut our day short at the lovely Basque town of Larrabetzu - a great place to be on a Saturday evening as they were setting up live music in the main square. After Malcolm joined us with the van we stayed there for our evening meal too.
We had to start with two major setbacks, sadly leaving both Mick Claridge and Denese behind as their last minute medical checks meant they were not signed off for travel. Denese was prescribed a few weeks' quiet rest for her hand and Mick has an operation next week to repair his torn bicep tendon (neither of these injuries were due to cycling by the way!) Mick and Denese will be missed and we wish them a good and speedy recovery. The main worry is that Malcolm has started googling "massage for dummies" so who knows what will happen.
We made it to Newhaven in good time and had a very smooth crossing to Dieppe. Our hotel was on the outskirts just a short drive away from the port and well placed for our 9 hour drive all the way across France. Then we cross into Spain for our overnight stop at Oiartzun (San Sebastian) near to the start of our cycle route.
Fr Mike Spain, Mike
Burton, Mike Carney and Mick Claridge, who last year rode 1,200 miles
from Canterbury to Rome, will this year be cycling the Camino Way
(Camino del Norte) to Santiago de Compostela from June 15th
to June 28th, again in aid of The London and Slough Run.
progress through regular updates on this blog!