Sevilla to Villafranca de los Barros
Sevilla to Venta del Alto 55km
We knew that this would be a slow day for progress, so kept it short. Even so, it was 5pm before we arrived at the Hotel Las Cumbres.
The evening before we had met another biker called Alena, from Norway, and we stayed up late into the night chatting. She was running a lightweight bikepacking rig, and although her kit was impressively light, we were a bit horrified by how frugal her setup was. She was equally horrified by the amount of weight we were carrying. Of course, we were both right, she was running a bit light, and we were definitely running a bit heavy.
We breakfasted together, and subsequently, we were later starting than we’d have liked.
We cruised into Sevilla, and determined not to rush through, but to enjoy the ride through the city; we dawdled a wee bit, and enjoyed the excellent network of cycle paths.
Eventually, we were spat out of the city into a place we hadn’t planned to be. It took us a few more kilometres to get a fix, and get on to the Ruta del Plata (Eurovelo 1), the Camino that would be our home for the next few hundred kilometres.
We arrived at the Hotel Las Cumbres and sat down in a beautiful courtyard for a well-earned cold beer.
Las Cumbres was a little more than our budget in the end, as we enjoyed a little more of the excellent food and drink than normal. It isn’t expensive, but Las Cumbres for me was an experience to be savoured, and counting pennies would have been missing the point.
Firstly, it is a really beautiful building, with great spacious rooms. There were thousands of birds wheeling around us in the courtyard, and inside, the furniture and art, gave the place a really nice and interesting vibe. It wasn't the work of an interior designer; it was like the house of an old aunty, who has collected lots of interesting things over a lifetime and put them just exactly where she felt like putting them.
I had to work a little to create a tasty vegetarian option, but Annette had some spectacular looking meat. We both had great meals, and we enjoyed a very reasonable house wine, bottled for the HLC. The service was really friendly, and I had no regrets at the bill.
Las Cumbres was somewhere I would like to revisit, but probably wouldn't, just in case it wasn't as much fun the second time around.
Venta del Alto to Monesterio 60 km
We set off from Las Cumbres convinced we had a soft day of only 60km in front of us. We were wrong. It was a day short on distance, but long on quality. From the hotel, we were immersed in stunning early morning mountain scenery. Unfortunately the light didn't work for photographs. Still we were rewarded with steep climbs and remarkable views.
The fact that we spent what seemed like hours travelling at little more than walking pace, just meant that we spent more time enjoying our surroundings. It was painfully slow as we slogged our heavy loads up long, sometimes steep hills. We occasionally felt a wee bit jealous as roadies on carbon bikes flew past us on the climbs. They looked like they were having a great time.
The Ruta del Plata, really got going today. We travelled on great roads with very little traffic. We were overtaken by only thirteen cars in the whole day…I was counting!
We saw many interesting birds, such as kites, and vultures, and enjoyed watching boars happily rooting around the oak trees for acorns.
There were lots of picnic areas too; it is a really cycle friendly route. Unfortunately I am still getting over the KLM bike abuse issues as I found two more problems on my bike. I fiddled with Allen keys all day to try to get functioning gear changes, but had to wait until I got to our hotel before I could strip the bike down in the car park. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!
We chose the Moya hotel in Monesterio, and have had a good experience. It is cheap, but none the worse for that. We had an excellent meal, with friendly service, and the rooms are as good as anywhere. Thumbs up to the Moya!
In summary, a short, but long day, that was a showstopper in places. One of our best day’s riding of the trip, and we worked hard for it. Great fun!
* As it happens, there is a bike shop opposite the hotel, not 50m away. Handy if you need it.
Monesterio to Villafranca de los Barros 59 km
Something we are taking time getting used to in Spain, is that everybody stays up late and no-one gets out of bed in the morning. We find this frustrating; in Africa we would have usually 40-50km under our belt by the time we are just starting in Spain.
Our internal clocks are still working on Africa time, and we are often in bed before the cafes open again for dinner. It is not easy to get into a routine at all.
This morning we were wandering around a deserted hotel trying to get the bikes out and get going, but to little avail. Eventually, we got away at 9.30 into a grey, dreich, and moody morning.
We cycled through rolling countryside past almost endless vineyards to an improvised picnic spot in a local park.
As we are discovering, there is no such thing as a free lunch on this trip, and just when the weather improved, and things seemed to be looking good, a fairly strong wind appeared just in time for us to set off after our picnic. We bent into it and slogged away northwards, slowly but steadily. Given the choice, we would rather have hills than wind, but the net effect is the same…slow going.
The views were nice, but uninspiring, nevertheless, a good road surface at least saw us gradually getting close to our target for the day. We arrived at the Hotel Diana in Villafranca de los Barros by mid afternoon, just before the rain started. We stowed the bikes in the hotel disco suite (which was weird!), and sat down to the most substantial meal we could manage to order. There were no vegetarian dishes on the menu, and some discussion was required to obtain a meal that worked. When it arrived it was really nice.
The Diana is a fantastic hotel and a steal at the price. Food was good and very reasonable, and it had all you would expect of a hotel at three times the price.
We have decided to revise our tactics for the Ruta de la Plata, which is a great set of suggestions, but it takes a route based on interesting things and tourist attractions; some of the days are just too short, and others don't fit daylight hours this time of year.
We will go over the immediate plan and make some amendments. The weather forecast tomorrow is for strong winds and a cold start.
Fingers crossed…after all weather forecasts can be wrong!