I have a good friend living in Montalbán, which is a little village near Andorra, up in the mountains. I have been there a few times and it is spectacular. There is some place nearby with red sandstone cliffs, really high up, you can stand on the edge (with wire fence) and there is a drop of 500 metres I would guess. The people are like little dots below. I can't remember the name now ... I have also been in Teruel once and Zaragoza a few times. It's a lovely part of the world.
The weather picked up on last night state of affairs, drizzly therefore. Wet roads look wetter the further away you're from home, because you're unfamiliar with them and also because you usually are a bit overconfident near places well known to you… And don't try to deny that, people drive the stupidest ways possible in their own neighborhoods, it doesn't matter if we're talking about good or bad drivers, as a matter of fact, less experienced drivers tend to behave better in those situations. I might also be wrong, but that doesn't matter, what I want to tell you is, when it rains and you're touring, you're amazingly careful, and that's good, it helps you get to your destination safely!! (And that really matters!)
Leaving Valencia was simple, I was afraid of not being able to take the road I had planned, but it was dead easy. Now, there I was in the suburbs, the place didn't look like a city, but didn't look like a village either, just in-between… Traffic was a bit slow, kids being dropped by their parents, goods being delivered, busy intersections, and this guy who's writing this lines. The streets were to narrow to split lanes and I was paying attention to road signs and directions, I guess at that time I should've payed more attention to the car in front of me! Braked a bit to hard and felt the front wheel slipping, just in time to easy a bit on the brake lever and be back in control of the bike… Phew, that was close! One year before, I crashed just like that, it seems I've learned something from that painful experience! In a fraction of a second the trip could've been over, paying attention 99.9999% is far from being enough! Enough on the paternalist crap!
You can choose the road you drive on (most of the times), how you drive, but you can't choose the weather and that bastard took away some of the fun I could've had on that morning stage, still seeing nobody and being surrounded by mist while going up the mountain gives a mysterious ambiance. Fun when you look back, demanding while driving! This series of different experiences is what makes each and every trip so unique, I can't do anything but smile when I look back to/at(??) moments like that. The unexpected, the awkward situations, the improvised routes, ooohhhh… Sorry, I'm getting very emotional and excited, by now you've realized I don't dig those snapshot album millimetricly planned group trips!
Moving on, once you get to the plateau(plain on top of a hill/mountain) the wind starts blowing from everywhere, changing direction every second, dancing around and mocking those poor bikers, in this case, it was just me. I was about to enter the land of D. Quixote and, although I cannot put it into words, I felt funny, I felt empathy for the character, I was living my own adventure…
Straight stretches of road were expecting me until Toledo, every scenery has it's characteristics, just take what's there for you!
If you happen to have already visited a very touristic place during the low season, or you actually live in such a place, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's early March, Spring's still a few weeks away, and you walk into old city centre of Toledo, you've just crossed the walls and there's almost nobody. Clearly this streets are usually overcrowded, you can see that from all kinds of signs everywhere, but restaurants are empty, just like the souvenirs shop, even places frequented by locals look abandoned. There's this group of tourists, but they look dislocated, it doesn't fit. I walk around in this ghost town, narrow streets, imposing buildings, decrepit houses, nice squares, dead end alleys. Someone was playing with contrasts!
The last day had just arrived, at least half of me thought that way, the other half was still expectant. Ahead of me were almost 700km of road, I could split this into two stages or just do it in one stretch… The weather kind of decided it for me, taking away that burden of making such a tough choice. The sun was shinning, but the tarmac laid wet under the wheels, so going on a ride crossing "Montes de Toledo", a mountain range near…you guessed right, Toledo, was out of question. These are beautiful roads, very demanding physically and concentration wise, going for more than 100km in those conditions will give you chills of delight and tears of pleasure, if you can take your time and don't have anywhere else to go that day!! Also those weather prediction gnomes indicated unstable conditions for the day, still it was difficult to push away the guilt of choosing an alternative route, eased only by the fact that I would still cross one mountainous path that morning! Having that said, it was totally worth it! You must already be sick of these descriptions, so am I, just close your eyes and imagine. Do I have your permission to carry on? Just two notes on this route, I could smell olives the whole time and just before crossing valleys small fluffy white clouds would be levitating before you. Add to that passing by just two tiny villages, this was an awesomely peaceful part of my morning.
As the hours passed everything got flatter and straighter, that sums up just right the arrival to Cáceres by lunch time. Arriving somewhere to have lunch by midday was a novelty, with 300km already covered the final decision was made, I would spend the night at my place in Lisbon… Mixed feelings were flying inside me, the relief of arriving home and the grief of ending the trip, waking up the next day knowing you wouldn't go anywhere. It's so much easier to define emotions felt when leaving than those felt when arriving. And that was the state of affairs in my head while wandering around in Cáceres. Nice small city, by the way…
Off I was, heading to Badajoz, closer and closer to Portugal, the roads less and less interesting by the kilometer, the traffic, I wasn't used to it anymore! I'm not referring to stop&go traffic, but those queues formed by lots of vehicles cruising at totally different speeds, crazy overpasses, people throwing garbage out of the windows(yep, it happened!!) and rude drivers. It's just a shock after one week of sharing almost desert roads with courteous drivers. How come crossing a border make such a difference? More people in less space doesn't justify that alone, lack of common sense and respect does… Forget the no drinking ads, from now on don't be rude and drive! (end of rant)
It was now officially over, the sun shone behind a huge mass of clouds floating over Lisbon welcoming me home…