Summer Swelter

Parador Plasencia
The bar in Parador

It was a pleasure to stay in such an impressive building as was the Parador in Plasencia. Built in the 15th Century, the former Gothic style Convent of Santo Domingo retained all of its splendour. The breakfast was pretty damn good too and since it cost a fair penny I didn’t think they would mind me loading up a napkin full of little pastries to stock up for today’s ride. As the bus to Caceres wasn’t until after eleven we had a relaxing morning and breakfasted and checked out together.

The roads were busy at 10.30 and I was aware there were a few big bad junctions ahead where I needed to take some extra caution. I did try the evening before to find an easier route out of town but it was TFH (too hard). The road I wanted to get on and stay on was the N-630 but my caution getting onto this road led me to fully circle the roundabout, stop on the roundabout, check and eventually exit. It shows as a thick red circle on the Strava record.  At a roundabout further down this road, my fear of taking the slip road onto the autovista made an even thicker red circle on the Strava record and added about a half mile onto my journey. The final roundabout I had to encompass included two on ramps and two off ramps onto the Autovista. I carefully read the signpost as I approached, I carefully checked Garmin as I encircled. Then I carelessly took the on ramp to the autovista. I needed to travel along the slip road about a hundred yards to be sure. This guilty red line can be seen on the GPS record too. Bloody Garmin tells me I’m ‘off course’ and gives a crazy alert when I go round a roundabout on the outside edge and then lets me go a hundred yards onto a motorway before it say ‘ oh hey, by the way your taking the wrong road’. It’s only a hundred yards and the hard shoulder is quite wide (ha, the hard shoulder – you might think I would have noticed that on the way down) so I cheekily cycled back and found the correct turn off.

The N630 runs alongside the A-66 (the autovista) so the sounds that morning were a little different. I could hear no cow bells or bird sounds from the bushes. If there were lizards shuffling around at the road verge I was unaware. And I wasn’t going to startle any wildlife near the road with the sounds from the bike.

I felt good this morning, possibly because the air was already hot, possibly as I was clear of the town and on a downhill section. I felt I had my cycle legs on. There was a wind blowing across me, sometimes slightly in my favour sometimes against me.

On the climb up to Grimaldo I came across another cyclist, an older gentleman pushing his bike. I got talking to him, of sorts. When I showed my concern as to why he was off the bike he pointed to his legs. I noted they were sunburned a bit and tried to figure out in my head why you would stop cycling because your legs were sunburned. I mean how bad do they have to be to stop cycling… aren’t they just going to get more burned if he’s walking? Shouldn’t he just ride to the next town, find a bar have a drink and then worry about his sunburn? These crazy thoughts of mine passed through my tiny brain in seconds. It seemed he was giving his legs a rest; we were on a hill after all. He was from Iceland and he understood ‘Escocia’ and ‘Scotland’, his Spanish and his English were better than my Icelandic. He’d obviously been to Aberdeen, on a plane by the looks of the motions he was making with his arms. We chatted for a little longer, I got that he was ‘doing’ the Camino de Santiago and circling round back up to Avila. I didn’t know the Camino came this way but then remembered seeing the signs along the road. I wished him well and got on my way.

I was familiar a bit with Grimaldo it was a lunch stop last time but I wasn’t stopping there today. I stopped in Canaveral, near the spot where Aldo was stopped in his tracks by his support guys (halfway up the climb). I bought water, filled up the bottles and ate two of the stolen pastries from this morning. When I reached the huge lake at the bottom I counted six miles. Seven hundred feet in six miles is no problem to the super fit, super slim, hill climbing Aldo of today but for the two guys back then this was a toughie. What I didn’t realise was that they had a twenty mile descent to this point all the way from Caceres.

The lake was a beautiful still expanse of blue. There was the occasional car parked on the far bank, the occupants had spilled out onto the grassy area near the waters edge. Further along there were cattle in and around the waters edge where the grassy areas merged with the lake.

As I started to cycle away from the lake I came across walkers, ‘doing the Camino’ I guess. Some guys were obviously walking on their ownsome, others in groups, though it was difficult to tell as the groups were pretty strung out, maybe due to the heat. Also met a cowboy, we talked but he didn’t like what I told him. It was nueve kilometres to Canaveral, I didn’t tell him four miles of it was up a big feckin hill.

Cowboy doing the Camino

It was getting hot and my feet were boiling and I began to question why. I thought to myself I have thin summer cycling socks and I need to put on overshoes to keep my feet dry when I used these shoes in the winter. Not only that I needed to tape up all the air vents to keep out the water. Feck the tape, I’m an idiot! I’m cycling around Spain, it’s bloody hot and I have taped up the air vents in my shoes.

The climb to Caceres was energy sapping, it wasn’t steep but it was long and it was windy and Garmin reported the temperature as 34 degrees. The wind was a blessing and a curse; if it wasn’t blowing at me I would be frying though it would have been good if it was blowing at me from a different direction. I never fully appreciated how the heat would drain me, it was knackering. I eventually made it to a little cafe in a small town 5 miles from the outskirts of Caceres, I bought an ice cream and filled a water bottle. I text Cheryl and told her five miles and a bit, I’ll be there in about 20 minutes. An hour later I meet her in the little square down from the hotel. I throw water over my head and down my gullet, I feel better again.

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