Thursday 22nd Oct Marlborough to Twyford UK
70.5 km completed
52kmph max speed
Today our world cycling tour began. The alarm was set (first time in about 2 months) and we were up by 0705hrs. The bike was packed in no time and Gav kindly cooked us a leaving breakfast of bacon, sausage, egg and toast.
Lovely! By 0830hrs Daz was chomping at the bit to be off, so we set off with Gav recording the historic moment for posterity! (Or just for something to laugh at later!!) It looked like rain, and we started with jackets on, but soon discarded them as the weather improved.
The going was pretty good with just a couple of hills where we needed to get off and push.
It’s when we need to push that we realise how heavy the bike is, no wonder our speed bleeds away so radically on the ascents. In St Mary Bourne we stopped for our half way break, lemon drizzle cake and coffee and a natter with the old ladies in the post office. So far so good – on schedule 34km in just over 2 hours. In Longparish we stopped to admire the river and whilst we left the bike unattended, the bike stand snapped – Disaster!
For the last hour or so we’ve been spitting distance from our home. We could be home in no time. Makes me want to cry. But of course even if I turn tail, we’d still have to evict our tenants and refurbish it. Daz says in a couple of weeks our tent will evoke the same feelings as our home in Andover! Yeah right – who’s he kidding!!! From Barton Stacy to Winchester the distance started to tell.
It’s only 8.5miles but it was tough riding and the hills, although not steep, were tough going. Finally we made it to Winchester and sought some sustenance. Unfortunately at this point we lost a catch from Daz’s helmet so as well as trying to buy a bike stand (failed), we also needed a new helmet. Whilst waiting for Daz in the bike shop I was accosted by several men, fortunately even the drunk one was more interested in the bike than me and I spent the time answering there questions, I can see this is going to be a recurring activity!
Having failed to find a bike stand we left Winchester and headed to Twyford, and our B&B.
Yes I know we should be camping but I need to break myself in gradually! We’re both pretty shattered. It’s been tough for Day 1 but we’re proud of our achievement. We think it should just get easier! After a nap and some admin (blog and warmshower emails) we’re off to the Phoenix for the fish and chip special and Jane joins us. A lovely evening!
Friday 23rd October. Twyford to Portsmouth ferry
42 km completed
47 kmph max speed
15 kmph average
This morning we’re both still tired. Daz feels like he’s been cycling all night. Breakfast is delivered to our room at 0730hrs and after a leisurely breakfast we pack and are on the road by 0850hrs. We take it steady, hoping our aching legs will find their rhythm. We stop at Bishop Waltham to admire the palace ruins
and then again at Wickham for a coffee. So far the cycling has been pleasant as we cycle through the countryside but from Wickham onwards it’s less sedate as we enter the city and the traffic builds. We stop on the cyclepath that runs along thewaters edge to watch a guy doing jumps on a pulley operated wakeboard, cool stuff!
We go into Portsmouth city centre in search of lunch and a bike shop. It’s disappointing on both counts I’m afraid. By 1330hrs we’re at the ferry terminal waiting to board!
One thing we noticed is that generally the people of Winchester were friendly, whereas the people in the environs of Portsmouth have shouted insults and jokes at us from the pavement and passing vans! Well done Winchester… an altogether friendlier place!
Having sat in the ferry terminal for over an hour, we were called forward. It was bizarre to go along the ferry lanes and up to the passport/ ticket kiosks on our bike.
We were called forward in front of loads of cars, with the motorcycles, and then they stopped us (not the motorcycles) right on the ferry threshold and made us wait while everybody else loaded.
We stood there for over an hour, getting colder and colder. Finally they let us on but then they didn’t know what to do with ‘our big bike’. They wanted us to get it into a small storage room but finally agreed to lash it to the wall!
We took our bags and went up the escalators and walked further and further to our room near the front. Our cabin has no windows, but we aren’t complaining, at least it’s not a tent yet!! Bed calls and we snooze for a while before exploring the ship. There’s a dog walking area and we take time to stroke some pooches that are sharing the crossing with us. Pizza for dinner then bed again, it’s been an easy day.
Saturday 24 October. On the ferry and Santander.
Max speed 35kmph
We awake and trundle off to breakfast, a nice continental with extra lashings of hot tea.
Whilst sat there we chat with an older couple who are off to their static caravan in the south of Spain for 6 months to winter out, they have their dog and can’t wait to kick back in the warmth, lucky them!!
We catch up on our warmshowers and couchsurfing emails for accommodation on route but still no reply from hosts in Santander, so it looks like camping is on the cards, but unfortunately the WiFi is sketchy and we have trouble getting any details… me thinks Daz should have sorted this out already!!
We’re told we’re docking at 1630hrs and we go down to the bottom level with all the artics and wait and wait and wait. There’s a problem with one of the ramps and finally everyone is recalled to the public area whilst the ferry is moved. An hour has goes by and we’re still waiting.
They move the ferry and use the ramps at the rear. We’re on the bottom floor, at the rear behind all the artics. The lorry drivers are told to return to their trucks and we go down too, turn our bike around and stand by the ramps waiting for permission to leave. And we’re off, we’re the first off – hurrah!
The trucks start reversing out and we can see the other passengers from the other levels still watching from the viewing window. Customs is a quick view of passports and laugh at our bike then we are onto the streets… our mantra today is ‘cycle on the right!!’
We cycle through Santander and loads of people call out to us or wave or hoot their horns – they look friendly so fingers crossed they like the bike. We have to cycle up a huge hill to Virgen del Mar, a campsite, which is by the sea. We think we’re the only ones on site. It’s €16 for the night and we’ve set up in no time including the Helinox chairs. So Daz was right to bring all the camping gear – it gives us more flexibility with accommodation.
We go to the nearest, well only, restaurant sat looking out over the beach… we can just see the waves crashing in the dusk and it looks really nice.
Unfortunately they don’t speak any English and our Spanish is zero. So first there is the misunderstanding about the kitchen being open, it’s 10 to 8 and we think it is closed but they finally get it across that it opens at 8. Then we need to order drinks, and ‘blackcurrent and soda water’ doesn’t translate well, so we end up with ‘mineral con gas’ and a slice of lime. We order the food which is easy, point at the menu, but then when he asks us which desert we want (no menu this time) it all gets too hard so he very kindly brings us two samples to try… now we are full but feel we need to order some, so we order one to share… yummy.
Back at the campsite we’re no longer alone. There’s a landrover we saw getting on the ferry and a couple of motorhomes. We go to brush our teeth and on our way back meet Jayne from the landrover. OMG they’ve already done 6 years, 136000 miles and 6 continents. She’s pretty full on and has barely drawn breath – even Daz, ‘the talker’ has met his match.
Sunday 25 October. Santander campsite to Laredo but actually (Colindres) via Sontana.
Completed 49 km
Max speed 51.7 kmph
Total km 169.4km
We survived our first night under canvas which I can only describe as ‘clammy’. But we’ve both had a reasonable night despite the boy racer with his souped up exhaust who keeps racing up and down the coast road. Unfortunately, the bad news, it’s raining. Now rain definitely wasn’t in the plan. Bugger!! Fortunately we’re pitched right next to a large laundry room so I ferry the kit in and Daz packs it.
This is a full pack, we’ve used everything; chairs, sleeping bags and sleeping mats and still we’re ready in about an hour. We’re about to leave but the landrover crew want a photo and we exchange details.
Then we’re off. We’re heading back into Santander to get the ferry across to Somo.
The weather is pretty foul and as soon as we find a cafe (it’s more like a bar) we stop for brekkie, ham and cheese tortilla and lots of cafe con leche, and realise we’re an hour ahead of ourselves – the clocks went back last night.
From here we head back into the centre of Santander, where the roads are closed for a running event, and find the kiosk for the foot ferry.
We’re disappointed that it has no ramp and we quickly have to strip all the bags off and carry the bike on board and park it on the stairs.
On the other side we put all the bags back on and set off infront of a crowd of interested onlookers. The skies are clearing and the morning’s riding is good except for a massive hill. Even in the smallest cog we still need to get off and push. So far the drivers seem kind and everyone seems happy to see us on our tandem.
At our lunch stop there’s the language struggle again but Daz ends up with a tasty pasta dish, and me, egg,chips and chorizo sausage. Happy days.
From here we head to Sontana. Daz is expecting castles, fortifications and all manner of wondrous things but there really isn’t much to see on the end of the ‘historic waterfront’ signposts.
We have a little mooch around and Daz is hoping for another ferry crossing. Daz be careful what you wish for! We find the ferry and again no ramp or gangplank and again we have to carry the bike aboard.
We have to be careful that we’re not lifting it by the steering handles or luggage rack, which are an easy grab but unlikely to take the strain. Away we go and it’s not a smooth crossing. And even worse, they’re going for a beach landing. There are no paths or hardstanding, just sea and sand.
Finally we have a gangplank lowered to the beach but the pitch is really steep and it’s narrower than our bike. I’m completely useless. Daz takes the bags to the beach and comes back for the bike. I’m convinced we won’t be able to hold the bike and it’ll fall into the sea. Fortunately the ferry man is far more capable and between him and Daz the bike is carried onto the beach. Thank you Mr ferryman. Now there’s just soft sand to contend with. Great fun.
Finally we get onto a beach walkway that wanders off through the dunes and make our way inland. We find ourselves in a large carpark where all the kitesurfers are congregating and steaming up and down the beach front. It must be a good spot because there are loads of kitesurfers; so many we can’t believe they manage to cross each other safely.
From here we have 3 campsites to checkout. We cycle to each only to discover that they are all closed. Someone suggests the Apollo campsite, which wasn’t on our list but after cycling a few miles we fail to find it. So we head for a hostal we saw en route. We’re now in Colindres, which at least seems open compared to Laredo, which seemed ‘closed for the winter’. The room is very comfortable and there’s a lovely hot shower.
It’s a picnic dinner and more admin. Emails to warm showers and couchsurfing and checking out camping sites we might use. Bad news – most of the sites are shut for winter.
Monday 26th October – Colindres to Bilbao
Completed 61 km
Max speed 52.9 kmph
Average 11.2 kmph
Total 230.4 km
Well if yesterday was a doddle (with the exception of the beach landing and the Brit offensive into Laredo), then today has been a fxxking nightmare. And trust me I have good reason to swear.
So because we’d arranged to stay with a warmshower host in Bilbao and they weren’t due home until 8pm, I declared a late start. What a mistake that was! So we got up at 9am, had a relaxed breakfast sending more warmshower requests and doing bits and bobs and didn’t pack up and get on the road until 1130hrs. Then we were faced with one massive hill after another and even pushing was seriously tough going. By 1330hrs, our lunch stop, we’d only done about 15km and we were shattered.
Fortunately the going did get easier but then we had a head wind and the early hills had taken their toll, so we seemed to be making poor progress. We heroically struggled on and then heard a pinging noise from the rear. Brilliant, a snapped spoke in the rear wheel!! So with one snapped spoke, all the others were loose, the wheel wasn’t running true so my back brake was jamming on. So truly shit. We struggled on for a couple of kms and then stopped in the next village. Fortunately the guy we asked sent us to a tool shop and whilst they couldn’t help, he told us where to find a bike shop, gave us the details and checked it would be open late. Daz released my brake, so whilst I couldn’t panic brake at least the rear wheel could spin freely. 5km down the road and we found our bike shop. What heroes they were. Life savers. In no time at all the guys had the wheel off and it was in the wheel jig and he was putting in a new spoke (fortunately Daz carries a dozen spares). The chap in the shop (Ciclos Hierro in Trapagaran) was a professional mechanic for the Tour de France in the 70’s and early 80’s. He had the wheel fixed and running true in about in 20 minutes, something that would’ve taken Daz hours, especially without a jig. I was so relieved. I was desperately worried that we’d ruin our wheel cycling on it once the spoke had snapped and the added wobble certainly didn’t improve the downhills.
Fantastic job – thanks guys, especially considering how little language we shared. And when we left the shop, suddenly there were a whole load of men watching and clapping us as we cycled off. So lovely.
From the bike shop it’s only a couple of kms to the Vizcaya Bridge, a transporter bridge that links the towns of Portugalete and Las Arenas in the Biscay province of Spain, crossing the mouth of the Nervion River, carrying cars, bikes and people.
And from the river only 3km more to our hosts. Our hosts are Rozio and Lander and 3 year old Haize.
They live on the 3rd floor and plan (a) is to carry the bike to that floor. No way am I doing that and we lock it up in the front courtyard. Personally after the day we’ve had, good luck to anyone who steals it, however it does mean Daz is up all night listening for thieves!! And what lovely hosts; hot shower, tasty dinner and suggestions for which route to take. They are both Basque speakers even though Rozio is originally from Uruguay where she says it is beautiful and flat!! They don’t own a TV and only allow Haize some cartoons on their phones occasionally, what a refreshing change. We had a lovely evening but soon had to take to our bed.
Tuesday 27th October – Bilbao to Mundaka
Completed 50.68 km
Max speed 50.5 kmph
Total 281.08 km
Lander is off to work and I can hear them pottering around but fall back asleep and we get up at 8ish and we’re out the door by 9am with a very excited Haize waving us off. He’s so sweet. I’ve slept well but Daz has spent all night dreaming that our bike has been dismantled screw by screw. He puts it back together but next time he checks on it, it’s in pieces again! It’s been raining most of the night and we think the rain isn’t due to stop until 10ish. We head for a cafe and breakfast and we’ll see if the weather improves. We end up sitting in the cafe until 1045hrs watching the torrential rain, which was supposed to stop at 10. We also watch the window cleaner who leans his wooden ladder against the huge shop windows and then leans away, balancing, when he wants to wash under the ladder.
We cycled from Bilbao to Gorliz where a man stopped to give us a map and then parked up so he could direct us to a cafe, because we needed shelter from the rain, which had just started to fall heavily.
After coffee and a couple of Bocatas (typical Spanish small bitings) the rain has stopped and we cycled on to Armintza where we stopped to look at the harbour and the sea beyond the harbour walls. When we got back to the bike it was surrounded by a group of men. Even though we don’t speak any Spanish and they don’t really speak any English, they still want to chat to us. The one guy who does speak a bit of English walks away in disgust when we tell him our plan to cycle the coast road, he thinks we are mad! It’s going to be tough then. And it is. We cycle on to Bakio and then on to Bermio. We walk and push the bike a good proportion of the route. The up hills seem relentless and certainly when we look down into Bakio we get an idea of the height we’ve gained. From the very top, which finished with a 1.5km 10% hill we could see down to the sea and the Gaztelugatxeko San Juan, a church on a rocky promontory, beautiful.
Once we have descended with full brakes on into Bermio it’s a short, fairly level, leg into Mundaka and our hostel for the night. The receptionist seems to think the place is full and puts us in a dorm with 10 bunk beds.
I’m not happy but after bleating a bit to Daz, accept the situation. But whilst I’m showering, Daz is on the prowl and discovers loads of empty rooms, including a 2-man room with ensuite. Well done Dazza – my hero. We move in in no time – result.
We take a walk around Mundaka and enjoy the full moon shining down over the bay, which is in full surge. The village is very quaint, with lots of small cobbled streets and small bars and restaurants. Beautiful.
Wednesday 28th October – Mundaka to Deba
Completed 58.23 km
Max speed 63.2 kmph
Total 339.31 km
We’ve both slept well but my legs are achy and tired. Daz, on the other hand, is full of beans. We cycle to a cafe where we can watch the surfers and have the usual tortilla (with egg, potato, ham and cheese), coffee and orange juice. This must be a surfing Mecca; there are around 50 surfers lying on their boards waiting for the perfect wave. Clearly the perfect wave never happens because most of them just stay lying in the water. When one does go we can’t believe he doesn’t plough into the crowds of people lying in the water. But there’s some impressive surfing going on for the few that seem happy to surf any wave.
Finally we get started, well it’s only 0935hrs, but it’s not good. I was expecting to follow the river inland and to have flat cycling but I can’t see the river and there’s plenty of hills instead and I’m finding Daz’s gear choices extremely tough going. After some bickering we finally settle down (it’s not Daz’s fault it’s hilly and it’s no worse than stuff we’ve already done) and grind ourway up the estuary to Gernika where we pull over at a bike shop looking for the ever elusive replacement to our bike stand… nearly but not quite yet!!
A long break coffee (i’m still feeling weak and I’m trying to delay the inevitable. Daz lets me get away with it, but it’s only delaying the pain) and then we’re off, up along the other side of the estuary we have just come down!! And then the climb of all climbs (so far this week, but I’m sure there’ll be more!) out over the huge hills towards Leikitio, where we are going to stop for lunch. We have to stop and push, up, up and up before finally we can get back on and carry on cycling still further up but not so steep. The road winds through and around the forested hills. It’s 19 degrees in the shade and hotter out in the sun.
Finally we reach the top, sort of, and the road then gently undulates for another 10 km or so before we can really enjoy the down hill back to the coast, and this time I must be feeling brave as I let Daz hurtle down the road, terror barely held back whilst Daz is grinning and turning around saying this must be the fastest we have been so far… “eyes front Broadhurst!!” think I’ve just wet myself in terror!
We arrive at our lunch spot of the day, Leikiteo and it’s another lovely little harbour town. There are huge mullet swimming about in the marina, and lots of cafe bars along the front. We park the bike which again draws lots of people’s attention, including lots of kids! We pick a bar and sit outside in the sun and Daz goes in to get food and drink. He comes out with lots of tapas which are all scrummy and some cokes to replenish our sugar levels. We enjoy the sun and the respite from the cycling for a while then we have a coffee to wake us up before we head out.
Whilst I visit the loos Daz gets chatting to a French couple who were admiring the bike and then we are off. As we leave the harbour a bunch of schoolgirls start clapping us then another bunch of boys start cheering and clapping and running beside us… we really do feel the love here so much more than in the UK, where the only reaction we had from kids was effing and blinding! Although I am tired the afternoon’s last leg along the coastline and is not too hilly and it’s nice and shady. I keep myself occupied, as I have been doing all week, by announcing the magic number – the magic number, and there are several each day, are key points en route. I know how far we’re going and there are milestones, well kilometre stones, but they seem to be numbered illogically.
For example we started in Mundaka and the first milestone was 10km and our lunch stop (35km) away, had the lucky number 45 – that’s the milestone I was expecting. These stones, in a perverse way, are my way of forgetting how far we need to go. Normally I pick a middle one as an achievement or where I think we will stop for lunch or refreshments. This afternoon I am slightly annoyed and express my shock to Daz when after one particular village the numbers change completely from the 57 I was expecting to 8! Way to spoil my count Spain! As we turn a corner to descend again into another coastal village we are surprised to see the French couple from earlier cheering us on and clapping. Thanks guys.
We have about 3km to go when Daz spots another cyclist coming towards us up the hill, this is not anything unusual as we have been passed lots of roadies in both directions and they all give a friendly wave, but then Daz says “it’s another tourer!” As we come past each other on the hill we wave and grin, then decide to stop, and as cars drive past we introduce ourselves. Rayan is a Tunisian and has cycled from Paris to the Atlantic coast and is now going all the way around Spain, Portugal, then along the Mediterranean coasts of Spain, France and Italy before crossing the Mediterranean to his home in Tunisia. His bike is super loaded with kit and there’s even a sombrero on the back. He has an infectious grin and after more pleasantries, swapping of blogs and information about the road ahead we part to go our separate ways. Safe travels Rayan.
We drop down the road a little ways more and finally arrive at our stop for the night, Deba, another small village on the coast and a night in a pension for us.
Well that’s our first week of cycling over, Spain has been lovely, both the country and the people, it’s been fun but hard, and the weather has been mostly kind. In a couple of days we should hit France and spend a few days relaxing in Biarritz before continuing. Catch you all again soon.