Distance: 80 miles
Total Distance: 464 miles
Breakfast didn’t appear until 9am so it was a late start. I spent the morning riding leisurely through a narrow, winding gorge, the cliff faces to either side pockmarked with caves. The old empty villages were full of ancient stone buildings and windmills stood out on the surrounding hills. Although the day was warm, the heat was nowhere near as oppressive as I’d become used to.
After several miles my private stretch of road reached a roundabout, which swept me up in a current of roaring traffic and things suddenly became a lot less enjoyable. I found myself cycling alongside lorries and trucks and inhaling exhaust fumes. It was a horrible few miles riding along this incredibly busy road. Although there was enough space at the side of the road to avoid being hit it was stressful and loud and I was constantly breathing in dust and dirt.
Mercifully I eventually left this road behind and continued meandering through more lovely villages, all of which had no facilities whatsoever but inexplicably all seemed to have their own castles. I stopped and had a relaxing lunch in the shadow of a small church.
Stomach filled, I pressed on and headed north. More and more windmills loomed in the distance, and this is where the day got difficult. Up to now it had been mildly windy – a nice cool breeze breaking through the heat – but as I headed off the main road onto a smaller track, things escalated. From breeze to gust to gale to what felt like the end of the world, I experienced the entire Beaufort scale within minutes. The wind became so strong it was actually quicker to push my bike.
Persevering, I stayed on the saddle for as long as I could, wobbling along at a snail’s pace down this bumpy track through fields and up and over hills, but finally I gave in and was grateful for the relief that pushing gave me. I can’t emphasise strongly enough just how bad the wind was. I kept expecting to stop once I was over the next hill but it got worse and worse.
After cresting a woody rise, I descended a rocky track and rejoined the road which took me all the way to the town of Ágreda. The wind was so bad that for the first time on this trip I was actually cold enough to jacket up. Ágreda was the last town of the day. I had completed my minimum of 75 miles so just needed to find a place to camp. I only had an hour or so of light so, after comfort-eating some chocolate on a bench, I headed out of town in search of my bed for the night.
The wind was still ridiculous but was now slightly more bearable. But unfortunately this wasn’t the end of my challenges. The road I had joined was a lot busier than I’d expected. I kept being recklessly passed by speeding traffic and was beeped at by several lorry drivers. It was perilous and stressful and I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I finally found a suitable campsite just off the road. I say suitable campsite, it was a small verge strewn with rubbish and just metres away from the traffic and exhaust fumes of the road. Yet it was shielded from the road by bushes and was flat enough to comfortably lay down my sleeping pad for an inevitably noisy and sleepless night.
My planned route had me following this road for the next 50 miles but since dying is not high on my agenda for this trip, I decided then and there to try to plot an off-road detour for tomorrow which would be longer and slower, but with a greater chance of me arriving at my destination in one piece.
Although Spain has been beautiful, I absolutely cannot wait to get to France with its higher standards for infrastructure and much more camping-friendly terrain. Just over 100 miles to the border!