The end and the beginning; Girona (Catalunya) to Burgos

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April 6th 2019
Published: April 6th 2019
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It was time to move on.

But we’d missed a few visits near Girona we’d not known until now. Trust me to find some shortcuts or backroads just as we leave.

The Poblat Iberic of Kerunta in Sant Julia de Ramis is a smaller version of Ullastret, an Iberic settlement right beside the Sant Metges church. That little chapel on the cliff overlooking the river Ter had always caught our eye, riding in on the Celrà to Campdora C road. P2 had suspected something else was there but this was a late (and freely accessible) discovery worth riding steeply uphill for.

Communities province-wide built themselves on hilltops and hillocks, and from Kerunta, all directions were visible; to the coast, the mountain, and lower Girona valley. Without the wind, and a good five to ten degrees warmer, we had it, like many midweek visits, quiet and alone.

Packing is something we’re recently well trained in but never enjoy; however, the day before going properly on-the-road had to be sacrificed. I’d ticked off two decent bike rides myself, west to Hostoles, and east as far as Sant Mori since the weekend,
and so together we spent a good chunk of Tuesday sorting out seven weeks worth of stuff. Just when buying snow shoes and stick blenders seemed like a good idea, we eventually found space but it was tight. Travel does repeatedly teach you what’s of value; bike pants and torn shirt, be gone!

We did break the day at La Fabrica, clearly serving up mostly Westerners with a cycling habit some healthy and hearty food, then went on to a prearranged visit to the anticipated Casa Masó.

Our lady guide took us (for three euros each) on what became a private tour of Masos former residence, only a few doors from our home at number 23.

Of the era of design known as Noucentisme (new 20th century), the full story was laid out, from birth to death, and including the majority of his masterpieces of local architecture in between.

Right down to rounded bathroom wall tiling, religious themed bedroom furniture for a sibling, and a secret library held in a wall near his brothers law office, he was a busy man. Not everyone’s cup of tea like any new design ideas, but in retrospect it was probably pretty edgy design for the early 1900s. A good ally of the Art Deco movement perhaps.

Then the drought broke.

Building up to rain in the evening, this was the second wet spell in seven weeks. We watched the weather closely like obsessed outdoor enthusiasts and a massive dump of rain and snow was happening near the French Pyrenees.

The next morning dawned cloudy but fortunately dry, with varied forecasts for the day. Off I set for a last hurrah, to Madremanya, over the hill. Met at the summit by dense fog, it suddenly turned to heavy icy rain, and hence, that dreaded cantilever brake anxiety on the downhill. Slowly I got all of the 10km down over, to meet my usual route back. The bigger risk was the increasing centre-line cutting cars and red light runners, or, people stepping from the kerb without looking.

By and large this area has been cycling safe, but these recent incidents and general increase in people since February reinforced that principle of ‘safety first’, and, accidents do happen anywhere.

We left
and it felt odd to now be traveling with our kit in tow.

In under 40 minutes we were in Barcelona, to transfer to the next high speed AVE. At 300kph it definitely minimises the 700-800km journey.

Security checkpoints are standard on all trips we’ve taken on RENFE trains, and fortunately, stick blenders/ a kitchen blade in my carry on, or water bottles, aren’t confiscated.

The scenery slipped away.

By 5pm we were old hands at trying to reach either Sol or Plaza España metro stations from Atocha RENFE, but this time, we had to operate the auto ticket dispenser ourselves. Ten trips gets you a small discount, and unsure of how much we’d really need and P2 way over there, I got four.

The zone system and time frames were lost on me. That’s when I asked for help and after a brief chat to the few available staff, all became clear - all zones were covered, except the airport.

Clear, I thought.

We went on to construct our following day in Madrid before heading off for good northward. P2
wanted to return to the Sorolla Museum, then we’d agreed to check out the Traje museum, with cloth through the Middle ages to current day on show. In between, we had a check out arrangement with Del Río, and tight early afternoon time to collect bags, at señors suggestion.

The network of metro trains, line closures, and exits that never quite exited the station building made for a frustrating experience. And when two ticket gates with several remaining tickets left worth of charge on my metro card rejected us, it also was costly to leave.

We made our rendezvous for bags, but could we actually locate a bakery in this Mediterranean bread-loving part of the world? Not even in several blocks of the Gran Via, to satisfy preferences. It sucked up a lot of time where once we had pot loads, that the 45 minutes we then had to reach Charmartin seemed like de ja vous.

Standing in line at a slow Día mini-supermarket checkout, trying to get non E number ham to complement the one last loaf of grainy bread we got at a bakery, especially after pulling our luggage around Plaza de España using, was trying.

In 8 minutes to spare, we made it to platform 18 at Charmartin via the metro, and some running. This was not the plan!

Hours later we stepped off at Burgos into a cold evening. Intent on meeting our host Laura at 7, we toyed with the idea of taxis being a 5km trip into town. Yet by magic, a bus arrived minutes later, taking us to the old town. An uphill haul of luggage, up a steep Calle San Miguel, by now a much later than 7, and we’re thankfully there. The 10/10 accommodation and a very friendly welcome definitely hit the spot.

Three nights here was designed to settle us in after 7 weeks staying put, and see the historic pilgrim town. However, with cool and wet weather looming it looked like we might be in for our first bad spell on wheels.

Deciding on seeing the famous Burgos cathedral before the possible weekend crowds arrived, we arranged an online purchase for entry at 9.30 the following day. ‘Skip the line’ wasn’t necessary though, as fortunately only one
fast moving German tour group was passing through. It was as quiet as it could be, and if you found the exterior impressive, the interior will blow your mind.

Apparently Camino pilgrims and Catholics world over come here ready to be amazed. It delivers on elaborate interior decoration, sculptured ceilings and pillars, medieval era wall paintings and detail detail detail in everything.

Exceptionally, the search for the essential tourist attraction feature of baños was not easy; after several hours I had to leave, and continue the labyrinthine path out, forgoing my information-heavy audio guide. At three hours, we’d completed and taken an enormous quantity of photos with much to contemplate

The weather began to close in. It was time for indoor activity and that meant a little grocery shopping, a swim at San Amaro for me, and P2 going on the search for riverside bird life he’d got the lowdown from his bird loving kin (our host!) on. When we regrouped later, the mission was to see the Castle.

Near our apartment we can see the walls of this old fortress that began life in a basic form in 884AD and has evolved much since as the town of Burgos has endured a lot of history.

Remains from 4000 years old have also since been discovered here, with the Castle being much younger, and ongoing archeological exploration, here and nearby, appear underway. An old 63 metre deep pozo (well) is well protected on the site, and something of a significant water source of the time. Basically you’re looking into a black hole!

The helpful folks at Velobur (after much emailing from NZ) had set aside two bikes, and we had a date to meet them before their late closing at 8.30. When presented with a fat tyre beast I’m sure my second hand Cannondale shed tears back in Girona. ‘What have you done, you’re not a mountain biker’?!

Nonetheless, we had limited help from NZ by email to get touring bikes, and this shop does know it’s stuff. Panniers, repair kit, helmet and sizing was all sorted, so off we rolled to our temporary home with these hefty chunks in tow.

Test riding it had to be done in my world, and with the weather mostly
grey but looking fickle (Accuweather 2C, ‘feels like minus seven’ at 9am), I channeled any crazy cycling folks I knew to get out amongst it. Some prompt seat height changes was all I needed, and to get used to moving painfully slower than on Marathon Plus slicks.

The circuit planned took me out to the west of Burgos with 40-50-60km options. It started well, on well formed cycle paths and passing a few limping pilgrims aside the Camino of the N120 road. Before hitting the 40km mark I’d seen several eco farms of wind turbines and the moorlands that I recognised as signature of Castile y León. Then the wet end was not simply wet, and ten kilometres from home, a downhill and flat area ahead of me, I got rained, blown, hailed, snowed, sleeted and frozen on. The fingers ached and I anticipated hot water.

I trucked on, thinking of P2s sage advice of when the going gets tough; ‘what would Shingo Saito our Hokkaido snow cycling friend do?’. Ride in the snow, all rugged up of course! Accompanied by the next piece of advice, ‘according to Billy Connelly there’s only the wrong
clothing, not bad weather’.

Right, so I’m banking on us being stronger together for the next three days of cycling eastwards, just nudging zero temperatures and snow this evening.

Let’s go rough, I’m game if you are.

Additional photos below
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