After two consecutive 100-mile days, I woke with fatigue in my legs. This was mainly down to enduring consecutive nights of poor sleep. I awoke having wrestled my way through the night; my sunburn waking me up regularly. I was sleep-walking and talking too. I remember waking the Aussie lady in the bottom bunk below me if she could pass me my stuff back. I had been dreaming that things were falling off my bed in to her bag. I’m a terrible sleeper!
Carcaboso to Arco de Caparra
The trails during this section were so special, winding through enchanted woodland while the sun broke through the gaps in the trees, passing through old farms with dry stone walls, and through fields of goats; their bells chiming as I passed. It was heaven.
Though much of the trail was singletrack, it was hard and well-beaten, enabling me to find a bit of speed despite the long overhanging grass.
Arco de Caparra was magnificent. It was during my arrival I saw my first other cyclist! …There really are such a low number of bikers on the Via de la Plata!
Arco de Caparra to Banos de Montemayor
Writing this fills me with such nostalgia. The day was warm and the landscapes gradually turned from flat plains opening up to wonderful mountains in the distance. This section was particularly slow and relaxed, constantly passing through gates and negotiating ways around flooded areas (Arroyos).
I stopped in Aldeanueva del Camino for a good helping of fruit, but this did little to satisfy a huge appetite.
I struggled with fatigue as I cycled up the gradual climb to Banos de Montemayor. My legs needed the rest so I stopped again just one hour after my last break at a restaurant for pizza and a few café solos whilst staring at the hill I was about to climb.
Banos de Montemayor to Fuenterroble de Salvatierra
The rocky section that the Via de la Plata follows out of Banos de Monemayor is not possible for bikes, both in terms of terrain and the gradient, so I took the winding road snaking up to the Alto. The route that followed was a mix of trails and very quiet roads. I passed a peloton of retired Swiss. They had a Sherpa van transporting their stuff from point to point, and I couldn’t help feel that they were missing out.
During this time, I was experiencing all sorts of problems with the cassette, preventing me from changing gear. The flat sections were manageable but there were several climbs that forced me off the bike to lift the chain
Fuenterroble de Salvatierra to Mozarbez (Salamanca)
Mozarbez isn’t part of the Via de la Plata, but after leaving Fuenterroble de Salvatierra I don’t know what happened. Some of the trails consisted of ridiculously long grass and it was painfully slow-going as I trail-blazed through. Half of the time I had no idea if I was still going in the right direction. The scenery was stunning and for the last two hours of the day I found myself on the road trying to reach Salamanca.
My rear hub was sticking and I didn’t feel confident that the bike was in the best shape to complete the full journey. I wanted to reach a city and find somewhere, anywhere, where I would be guaranteed a bed, with a hosepipe and a yard for me to get the bike clean and inspect it.
Then, as Salamanca came in to view, I passed a hotel. Hotels were certainly NOT part of my plan. I wanted to keep things cheap and I wanted to experience albergues and hostels. But I was tired and this hotel had a garden that looked like paradise. Not only that but the hotel seemed abandoned and empty.
It felt like cheating, but that hotel, despite my bike being in such bad shape, really boosted my morale. I cleaned the bike as best I could, I took a deep bath, and washed my clothes, then I enjoyed a huge steak and a beer – and this meal cost almost as much as my night’s stay! Ouch!
Then I enjoyed the comfort of a double bed (as best I could, with the sunburn!)