Ruta del Norte – Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country, Spain
I found this blog sitting in my unpublished drafts so thought I would put it up. This was at the end of a tour we did in the Spring of 2019, before Covid!!, cycling up the Ruta de la Plata from Sevilla. This bit is from La Polar de Lena near Gijon to Bilbao.
It was nice to get glimpses of the sea from time to time. As cider is so important in Asturias I expected to see lots of apple orchards. We passed one or two fairly small ones, but the trees were overgrown and hadn’t been pruned for a long time. Every bar in the area seems to be a Sidreria though and the locals consume large quantities of cider, even at lunchtime. Hope they aren’t driving.
Our plan to start early the next day was thwarted by the fact that we couldn’t get breakfast until 8.30. With over 90 km to do and my knees still a bit sore from the hills the other day. The road we were on was very quiet and for the first 60 km in the morning it rolls with gentle gradients.
About midday we left Asturias and entered Cantabria. There is quite a noticeable difference between the towns and villages here on the coast, which are all occupied and well maintained, and those in Extremadura and Castilla y León which are dilapidated and often deserted with all the inhabitants over 80.
I knew that our last day was going to be tough as it was a long old haul into Bilbao but I hadn’t reckoned on the number and sheer height of the hills, the really strong headwind or, towards the end, the volume of traffic. At the end we found something I didn’t think existed, the perfect cycle path. We were on it for about 18 km going into Bilbao. It was a wide two lane cycle way, with directional lines, with a separate marked, wide area for pedestrians. And signs to say pedestrians would be prosecuted if their dogs were not kept on a lead. The really good surface made it suitable for roadies and we had flyovers, bridges and embankments to save us going up and down, bike roundabouts and junctions. I have never seen anything like it.
Unfortunately the motorway also follows the coast and was never far away. The motorway stayed fairly flat while our road dropped down far below it or climbed high above it. And in fact some of the motorway bridges where quite dramatic in their own way.
Then an incredible thing happened. I am sure I heard drums roll and distant laughter in the heavens; the wind changed and we had a tail wind for the first time on this trip.
Unfortunately after 18 km of the cycle way we had to do a bit on the road as we couldn’t find the joining path and somehow we ended up on an inner city dual carriageway that dropped down in to a short tunnel. Terrifying is putting it mildly, we just had to keep peddling as fast as we could, there was no shoulder and we didn’t even have our back lights on. I could hear a roar, like a train, coming up behind me and I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road to glance in my mirror but thankfully the truck was in another lane as it hammered passed.
We had a relaxed morning rearranging the panniers so the right things would go in the aircraft hold and we wouldn’t end up carrying any tools in our hand luggage by mistake.
All went on without a hitch and our bikes and bags were almost the first off in Bristol. And amazingly it was also sunny in England!