When Alex, Graham and the girls stayed with us at Easter, they were lucky; their first week was the first for as long as we could remember that it didn’t rain. We had a lovely day at the seaside with Kieran and Artie, where we played on the beach, drank beer in a few bars and bought Izzy a skateboard; but it was a lot of driving, especially with a 3-year-old and Graham and Alex were tired, so we decided to do very little for the rest of their stay. So the girls did painting and baking, Izzy played on her skateboard and tried her hand at archery and we went for walks. By the time they left, I think they were well rested, having had a good break. Graham took some amazing photos, but they’re a bit big to load up here; I’ll post them next time Kieran’s over to help.
Now it was our turn; we set off for Jaca, in northern Spain for a few days, bikes fixed to the back of the camper.
The lady in the tourist information office didn’t think much of the cycle route Nick had chosen for us; we only went in to ask if there would be somewhere to eat en route, but we came out with a completely different route to try, one which visited some very pretty villages and was somewhat longer than the one Nick had planned. She said it would be 90km, but could be cut short at a couple of points; she didn’t mention the hills!
I have to say it was a spectacular route, climbing and descending through the foothills of the Pyrenees and we found a bar for lunch, where we ordered two platos combinados. We weren’t sure what we’d get, but eggs, croquettes and chips, washed down with beer, went down very well and the owner was very happy to let me practice my Spanish. The village of Hecho was certainly beautiful, with its ancient buildings overlooking the hillside, but we took the shortcut from there instead of continuing to Aiso, doing 96km instead of what would have been around 120km. As it was, we did 1239 metres of climbing, not a lot for Nick, but I had tired legs by the end; on the final climb into Jaca, on the main road, I had an impressive queue of cars behind me, unable to overtake on quite a narrow, but busy road. They must have been cursing me, by now riding at a snail’s pace!
I must confess to having been relieved to wake the next morning to grey skies and rain; a good excuse for a gentle day spent reading, playing guitar and knitting. Nick rode up el Puerto de Oroel, the nearby mountain pass, in the afternoon, but came back rather bedraggled.
We were heading home the following day, but the morning dawned clear and sunny with beautiful blue skies; we’d have a ride in the morning and go home later in the day. This was Nick’s original route, a circuit ending with the Puerto de Oroel. The climbs were steeper than our first ride, making it very hard work (well, for me, anyway) and there was very little by way of civilization, but Nick had spotted a likely looking village on the map where we hoped to eat and refill our water bottles, by now almost empty. We climbed up to the village; no restaurant; no bar, we couldn’t even find the cemetery where there might have been a tap. I knocked on doors, but there was not a soul in the entire place. We ate our emergency rations of peanuts and flapjack and set off again, finally finding a mountain stream halfway up the col. I’d worried about not being able to ride the col at the end of a very hard day, but in fact, it was the easiest gradient we encountered all day, having covered 76km and 1277m of climbing.
Arriving back in Jaca at 3.30, we found a lovely little restaurant for much needed lunch then packed up and headed home.