Monday, 6 September 2010

Stage 3 - Burgohondo

I started the day apprehensively. My legs were tired - I was getting cramp when trying to stretch the muscles - and I was still a bit saddle sore. Before I set off I went to the greengrocers and bought some more bananas and loads of water. The start of the ride was great, with a few miles of downhill, so at least I got some payback for yesterday's efforts, but I knew it wouldn't last for long and so I made the most of it.

I took the Pedro Bernardo turning off the main road and made the climb up to the village. The climb was very steep in places, but I knew I had all day, and I soon hit a comfortable (albeit slow) rhythm. The village was quite big, considering how high up it was, and I found the Plaza de Toros, which doubled up as a car park. I had a bocadillo de lomo (bacon roll to you and me) for lunch at a bar, and I continued on may way once I was fed and watered.

There was a sharp climb to the top of the first peak - Collado de la Sollano - but I continued going along at my comfortable rhythm, and just kept pedalling away and enjoying the scenery which I have to say was great. The big difference between cycling and driving (apart from the effort involved) is that you get to see much much more, and it's so easy to stop and enjoy the view, and check out anything which looks interesting. There were now hardly any cars on the road, so it felt like I had the place to myself. Whilst the temperature had been hot earlier on, it did get a bit cooler the higher I climbed. There wasn't much wildlife to see, other than small lizards sunning themselves on the rocks, and some quite large birds hovering high up in the sky. I did see a couple of small snakes squashed on the road - roadkill with a difference!

I made it to the Collado de la Sollano, stopped and took a couple of photos, then enjoyed the short, steep descent before beginning the main climb to the top of Puerto de Serranillos at 1575m. This climb went all the way along one side of a valley, and went back along the other side, then doubled back on itself to the peak, and I could see exactly what I had coming up. With about three miles (or half an hour) to go, I was running very low on water, and so had to ration myself. It was so tempting just to finish the lot off.

Reaching the top was a fantastic feeling, as I'd made it without any real difficulty and no mechanical problems. I'd been so worried about my chain snapping again half way up the mountain, in the middle of nowhere and with nobody about. I spent a while enjoying the view, and took some photos, before beginning the descent.

The descent was steep, but didn't have many long straights to build up any speed. There was a fair bit of loose gravel about as well, and not many barriers to prevent a steep drop into the pine forest below, so I had to be sensible and watch my speed most of the time. I mentioned yesterday how heavy my bike is, and I really noticed that on the descents today, and even on the fast descents the bike is a lot slower than it normally is. The fastest I have been on my mountain bike at home is 39.5 mph, which I have tried to beat so many times but just haven't been able to. There was one longish straight near the bottom of the descent, but I only managed to hit 39mph. I'm sure I'd have been in the 40s without the extra weight.

I stopped at the next village, Serranillos, and asked for directions to the shops. I had to go back and take a turning off the main road to take a tiny road, almost a path, into the village. I didn't manage to find the shop but there were two bars in what looked like the main square, so I stopped there.

One thing I love about the Spanish is that they are so loud when they congregate together in a bar. I stopped at a bench between the two bars, and the noise of chattering and arguing was so loud. I could hear a TV on in the background, but there can't have been anyone watching it. I went inside one of the bars and it was about two-thirds full, about 20 people I guess, with a game of what looked like dominos going on. I went up to the bar and asked for some bottles of water. The guy said they had some small bottles, and so I ordered six - two to drink there and then, and two for each of the water bottles on the bike. I was royally ripped off as he wanted 6€ or £5 for them, but I was so desperate that I paid. It wasn't until I got outside that I noticed that they were 330ml bottles and not 500ml, so that was a right con. I won't be going back there in a hurry. But then I'm such an obvious gringo and the guy knew that anyway!

I continued the descent into Burgohondo and found the hostal. Before going in, I wanted to adjust the handlebar height slightly. To do that, I had to remove the bracket for the bar bag, which I did. I fixed the height of the handlebars, but then had a problem putting the bracket back on. It has this cable mechanism which goes under the stem to support it. Unfortunately the cable had unravelled and I couldn't slide this through the hole in the bracket. I lost my rag in the end and gave up, but this now meant that my bar bag would be dropping down for the rest of the trip. Not a big deal, but it's a bit of a pain in the bum. I shall be writing to the Big White Chief at Topeak when I get home.

My room was functional but compact, and had the smallest bathroom I think I've ever been in. So far, each of the hostals has had a 1 metre/3 foot bath, which is really just a glorified shower tray. However, in this bathroom, there was next to no gap between the bath, the loo and the sink. I had a shower and washed my kit. I'm really glad I brought some string and a few pegs with me, as I nearly didn't bother and they have come in so useful so far. I strung up a line outside the window and pegged my gear up to dry overnight.

I'd been in the saddle for over five and a half hours and could tell. It felt like I'd trapped a nerve under my left buttock as I had a bit of a pain there and some numbness in my left leg. And I had become very saddle sore on the right side, so I put on plenty of aloe vera gel. When I looked inside my shorts, I could see what the problem was. The stitching which holds the padding in had come undone, and there seemed to be two types of thread, with one thicker than the other, and it was this thicker nylon-like thread which had come undone and was causing me grief. I trimmed this back, and will try and get some new shorts tomorrow in Ávila, as there aren't any bike shops in Burgohondo.

I went over to the supermarket to buy some water, cereal bars and bananas, before going for a wander. There's not much to see or do in Burgohondo, though there seemed to be quite a community spirit with families sitting outside their homes chatting with neighbours and enjoying the sunset. I found the Plaza de Toros and that was all there seemed to be, so I returned to the hostal and had dinner in the restaurant.

I was the only one in there at first so I watched a bit of the news on TV and read a book. They were still doing the menu del día, so I had a salad starter, a nice steak and an ice cream for dessert, washed down with a couple of glasses of tinto, reflecting on what a great day I'd had.

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