Leaving Suances behind me , my legs were burning after the first few kilometers navigating my way around the coastal hills of Northern Spain. It was day# 2 of my Santander to Malaga cycle, and the day had started off in thick fog hindering my views across the northern Spanish coast.
This particular day would be the toughest day in the saddle, 160km of cycling with 4000 meters of climbing. Heading towards Santillana Del Mar, I made good progress and rolled into this beautiful medieval town around 9:30am. Santillana del Mar is a postcard perfect village with its cobbled stoned streets and houses with flower filled wooden balconies. (https://www.outdoorfitnesssligo.com/destinations-further-afield-travel-blog/santillana-del-mar-cantabria ).
After having cycled through the quiet streets, and believe me, these streets get very busy during high season, I carried on towards Valle along the CA-180 making brilliant progress.
After a lunch in Valle, I knew that from here onwards it would turn into a constant climbing. As it was already 12pm, I decided to push on and follow the CA 182 which meandered through forest and mountain meadows providing me with the most spectacular views across the Cantabrian Mountains. Descending back into the valleys was quick and painless, but also too short to fully recover from the long climbs.
Reaching the town of La Lastra, i knew it would be a long day in the saddle . But the scenery made up for the pedal pushing, breathtaking views being presented around every corner.
My favourite road of the day was the road from La Lastra to La Laguna which follows the canyon of the Rio Nansa, winding itself up the mountains through multiple hairpin bends with protective netting above the road to protect the traffic beneath from falling rocks. Traffic on this road is scarce, the odd cyclists or car making their way up this steep road towards the imposing dam of embalse de la Cohilla.
Reaching Mirador de Piedrasluengas which is located at 1355m height was a milestone, but with another 50km ahead of me and already being 7:30pm, i knew it would be another couple of hours before I would reach my destination of Alba de los de Cardanos which is located deep in natural park of Fuentes Carrionas and Fuente Cobre-Montana.
By the time I rolled into the busy town of Cervera de Pisuerga at 9pm, i had to make a decision... look for new accommodation in this busy town or head deep into the natural park knowing that I would have to climb across the highest mountain pass of the day.
As this trip was supposed to be an adventure where I would push myself harder than I had ever done before, I made the decision to carry on. While climbing out of the village into this beautiful national park, I wasn't sure I had made the right decision.
By the time I reached Embalse de Cervera-Ruesga, nighttime had arrived. But my stubbornness is my strength, having really never thrown in the towel before, I carried along in darkness. And it was dark, this natural park has only a few villages, so no light pollution at all. The stars high in the night sky, the noise of my tyres on the rough surface was the only sound which broke the silence on this June night.
Climbing higher and higher into the mountains, I finally reached La Varga which with its 1413m was the highest point of the day. While descending towards the village of Triollo , my only regret was that I couldn't admire the scenery due to it being pitch dark. Descending at high speed in the dark is fun, but my fun got interrupted abruptly by a herd of deer who had decided to have a gathering in the middle of the road. It is at such moments that the technological advancements in bike engineering come into play, squeezing my brakes hard, the bike came to an almost immediate stop thanks to the hydraulic disc brakes saving me from a painful collision with a bunch of full grown deer.
After this lucky escape, I finally reached my destination at 11:30 that night where I was welcomed by my host who explained to me that I was the only guest. After having been told to place my bike in his private garage, I took the most refreshing and well deserved shower ever. Hungry and thirsty, I made my way downstairs to the bar where I enjoyed a well deserved drink and a tapa. It was her that I explained to some of the locals in the little Spanish I have that i was lucky missing the deer when they showed me some pictures of wolves and bears and told me I was lucky not having met any of these friendly animals instead. Soon afterwards, I said my goodbyes and went for a well deserved rest to my room.
It was Saturday 16th June, and I was on my way to Dublin airport. I had excitedly counted down the days to this particular day, the day where i would commence my 9 day cycle through Spain which would see me cycle from Santander to Malaga.
Waiting for my flight to Santander, i was hoping that my bike would arrive in Santander in one piece.
I had paid Ryanair an additional €60 each way to transport my bike, a bike which I had wrapped in bubble wrap and then placed in a bike bag.
We boarded the flight early and took off on time. After a great chat with Pedro, a teacher from Cantabria who had just spent the last 10 days in Dublin with a group of students, we started making our decent into Santander.
Flying above the coast in our approach to Santander, you can't but admire the beautiful landscape. The green fields, the fabulous beaches and in the distance the Asturian mountains which would be my playground during day 2 of my cycle.
Upon touchdown, I was welcomed by the sun and temperatures of around 20 degrees. The small airport of Santander (Seve Ballesteros airport) is easy to navigate and it didn't take long before i was reunited with my bike.
Where the bike bag is large, it wasn't large enough to take the entire bike. So the next hour was used to put the bike back together and getting everything ready for my adventure. And I must say I was delighted to find my bike in 1 piece.
Rolling out of the airport at 5pm, I knew that the cycle on day 1 was the easiest one in the saddle. With a total distance of 36 kilometers to the coastal town of Suances, I would take the smaller countryside roads to reach my destination.
As Seve Ballesteros airport is in a quieter area of Santander, navigating my way towards Suances was never a big issue, but what became apparent was that the countryside in Asturias isn't flat at all. Climbing up the first hill leaving the airport behind me, it gave me an immediate impression of what to expect on this adventure.
Navigating my way around another turn, I was greeted by the clanging of bells. Cows in Asturias have bells around their necks, and it is their movement which filled the green pastures along my route with a continuous clanging noise. But cycling through the Asturian Countryside is fun, especially mixing tarmac with gravel, and the time in thwe saddle passed quickly.
The last 5 kilometers of the day was a cycle along a designated cycle path along the river Saja, a brilliant location for birdwatching.
Rolling into Suances, it becomes apparent how popular this town is with Spanish tourists. Navigating the busy streets, I found my hotel for the night just outside the town. Hotel Albatros is located up a hill overlooking Suances and 2 beautiful beaches.
Upon check in, I was told I could place my bike behind the counter for the night, an offer which I gladly accepted.
Walking from the hotel direction town is beautiful. After a short stroll, i decided to eat in one of the local restaurants where I enjoyed Scorpion Fish pate, steak and a chocolate mousse, all washed down with a bottle of white wine.
The entire meal and the bottle of wine came to €12 , not bad for a great meal.
After the meal, it was an uphill stroll back to the hotel where i turned in for an early night with in mind all the cycling which had to be done on day 2.
Push yourself out of your comfort zone
Learn a new life skill
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