After refusing the kind offer of a lift from Acácio to take us out of the mountains, our first night after a long weekend of civilisation found us in a disused shepherd’s hut, straw included.
We had found a patch of land to the side of a reservoir that we thought would make a good home for the night, but as it was close to a small village we decided to have a chat with the old guys in the local bar to say hello and check that it was ok with them to pitch our tent there. A bit of discussion and a few minutes later, with our camping spot was upgraded to an offer to stay in the shepherd’s hut in the field instead. Our tent could stay rolled up for one night more.
We wheeled our bikes and ourselves inside and made our bed in amongst the straw, avoiding the spider’s webs and with Pedro reminding me several times not to bump my head through the thatched roof. Our sleep wasn’t as restful as we expected, both of us waking up with the feeling of crawling bugs – I blame the spider’s webs. Nevertheless, we planned to go back to the old guys of the night before to buy a café con leche, and to say thank you.
Alas, the bar showed no signs of being open. We would have to cycle on sleepily and wake ourselves up in the nearest water fountain.
Our tour of reservoirs was to continue, each one taunting us with its clear blue waters. The contrast with the mountains behind was certainly dramatic, but it did make us wonder what the landscape looked like before the dams were built, and how many people had to move from their homes to relocate before the valley was flooded.
Pondering this, we pedalled onwards – today we had a little bit of a mission. Tanya (Tarn, Twiya, De Souza, friends since secondary school) and Andy (Pandy?) had made last minute holiday plans, and were going to be taking a road trip across Northern Spain. Much texting and coordinating suggested today was going to be the day – they were heading from San Sebastian to Picos and us a much shorter distance, in the opposite direction. Perfect.
After getting distracted by the source of the river Ebro and a little lost in a supermarket in Reinosa, we knew that we were already going to be late for our lunch date. Live location sharing switched on, we pedalled as fast as our legs would carry us along the 16km to La Poblacion, whilst Tanya and Andy enjoyed a beer and had fun trying to translate the menu, wondering if there was in fact anything suitable for a vegetarian coeliac.
As the waiters tried to move them to a smaller table yet again, we exchanged sweaty hugs (us, not them) and, feeling a little underdressed for the occasion, completed their table of four.
We found the only two vegetarian options on the menu (salad and grilled veggies), supplemented with a generous portion of potato, and shared tips on Picos, their holiday plans and tales of our trip so far.
Before we knew it, lunch was over and Tanya and Andy had to continue on their way. Tanya kindly left us with two chupa chups, and some soap stolen from their last hotel stop (need a shower, us??!). The sun was still a bit too hot and us a bit too full of veggies, so we pedalled for 5 minutes before finding refuge under the shade of some trees, where we could hang our hammock and quietly digest whilst waiting for the sun to get a little lower in the sky.
Finally ready to move, we made our way towards Vega de Pas. Naturally, as with most of our map pin points, this involved going up a hill to go down one. As we climbed we were slowly surrounded by a cloud, and we took it in turns disappearing from sight as we pedalled around one another. I’m sure the view on a clear day would have been stunning, but visibility was minimal – the clunk of bells that we had assumed was coming from the necks of a herd of cows, turned out unexpectedly to be coming from a field of horses.
Despite missing out on the vista, the mist* did provide its own charm as it clung to the trees we cycled through. As we descended, we were eventually low enough to enjoy the sights of the lush green valley below, even if the peaks were still hidden from view. The microclimate we had cycled into suggested the valley was so green for a reason.
We went to sleep hoping that the weather would have lifted by the morning and that we would be treated to views we had seen on google photos, but it was not to be. We left in a damp heat – not the most refreshing of mornings to be pedalling back up the height we had freewheeled down the night before. Below the cloud we could see the lonely houses scattered across the sheep filled valley. The rolling green hills reminded Pedro of the Açores and me of Wales, although it was distinctly more humid than any day I’ve ever spent there.
Looking ahead the road seemed flat, but the feeling in our legs and our progress suggested otherwise. After a few more bends in the road, we could see the road snaking below us zigzagging back to where we had started from in the morning, confirming that our eyes had indeed been deceiving us and we were most definitely peddling upwards. After a quick delicious swim in a conveniently placed waterfall, we were soon enveloped in a thick fog* again unable to see the steep edged sides of the roads that we had seen coming on our way up. Plans to stop and eat lunch at the top were soon discarded in favor of descending enough to at least be able to see one other.
After a brief stand-off with an intimidating herd of cows, in which they had us surrounded on the road leaving us to wonder if we would need to make a fort with our bikes to defend our selves, we spied our lunch spot : a picnic site by a river. After eating most of our meals on the floor, a picnic bench ends up feeling positively sophisticated. It was still foggy, less so than before, but describing the day as cloudy would have been an understatement.
Nevertheless as I sat putting on my coat and wondering if I should be changing into a pair of trousers, we saw not one but two sun umbrellas on the other side of the river. Below these lay a couple and a family in their swimwear soaking up the nonexistent rays. Were we missing something? Should we have been lathering on the factor 50? They probably thought we were an equally bizarre sight, sat there all wrapped up eating chickpeas from the jar and munching through tomatoes like apples, but a passing car that stopped, rolled their windows down, did a double take at the “sun”bathers before laughing and driving onwards, suggested that weren’t the odd ones. This time.
*fog/mist I can never remember the difference…