I am still avoiding the coast, not recommended at all to cycle from Barcelona to Valencia. The road I take, a bit inland, is nicer after Vilafranca Del Penedès. Indeed, the quarries are replaced with vineyards and it’s much better. I see also a lot of road cyclists, a sign that I’m on pleasant roads.
It’s also pleasant to hear my clean bike. The Rohloff speedhub usually makes a small chain noise on speeds from 1 to 7, and less noise on speeds from 8 to 14. On a slick paved road, slightly downhill, with no cars and no wind, on speed 12 or 13, (and if the chain doesn’t touch the chainglider) I hear nothing but the little noise of the Rohloff sounding like a purr.
The Caga Tió is a tradition in Catalunya. Just like asking Santa for presents, the kids ask a Tió (a log), with a face painted on it, to caga (to poo) sweets while hitting on it. Weird tradition … But going in pair with the Caganer, this santon (figurine) doing poopoo next to Jesus in the Nativity scene.
I stop for lunch in Valls, with warm food. I’m not often hungry at the exact same time I cross a town, and also don’t want to stop at a table instead of cycling during the day. Indeed, the days are short, while from 5 pm I have 15 hours of night with nothing to do but eat, sleep and sort pictures. Not really balanced. So I end up most of the time eating bread and stuff I carry, or cookies and fruits.
After Alcover, I have to cross the small hills of Montsant/ Montanyes de Prades. That’s the price to pay to avoid being with the cars on the main roads by the coast.
Small hills I thought, until I start the ascent with a sign “winding roads for 25 km”. At the exception of a break to eat some smashed pruneaux d’Agen, recovered somehow in a pannier under me bike parts bag, I make the ascent on a steady pace, and reach an elevation of 1000 m with surprise. I didn’t think it would take me this high.
The mist is back in the game too, I have almost no visibility and it’s noticeably colder than before. I am close to reaching 100 km today, and I seldom did it before, as I was always before or in an ascent. Despite this one today, I can achieve the mark, so for the figure I’m not stopping even if it’s 5 pm past and getting darker.
And here, on deserted roads, in the middle of nothing (with the fog, it helps being lonely), there is a mountain refuge, open at 300 m from the road. Good luck! I head there, meet the cold tenant, it’s not free and the camping is even at 4.80€. It makes no sense as almost anywhere is campable on this mountain. So I keep cycling a bit more, after all I was not yet at 100 km.
But just a few minutes later, an abandoned house welcomes me to make a fire and get warmer. That makes me stop at 99.8 km for the day though.
The next day, I am waking up with 3°C on the thermometer. Yet I slept well and don’t really feel like getting up. If I’m so accustomed to the cold, how will I manage to sleep once in East Africa?
It is still this cold in Spain as I am 1000 m above sea level in the Muntanyes de Prades. The advantage of getting up here, I see it quasi instantly after packing and setting departure: I am riding a newly paved narrow road painting the contour of a long cliff. Adding to this the fact that I don’t see any car for my first 10 km, and the morning sunrise light, reflecting over the Mediterranean sea I can guess in the horizon, it makes it one rare morning I feel good to have gotten up!
I am quite close to the coast, yet above everything. Every time I take a “little road uphill” to avoid traffic, I end up way higher and sweatier than expected. That turns me unhappy, to struggle just parallel to the easy way. And once downhill, I change my mind and think it was the best choice. Every time.
Those hills did not escape to the rule. As a bonus, I get to visit an abandoned village, that I took for a bankrupted holiday center, and which is actually an old military camp, Les Castillejos. Later on I see a big quarry. And, reward of having slept high in the cold, I get it all downhill for the day.
Downhill … Or so I thought by mistake, because the hills are not letting me go easily. I have a couple of up-and-downs before hitting the flat again. The first pueblo I meet is Porrora, with more wine cellars than public spaces marked on the information board, and one shop. The breakfast I was longing for becomes a lunch. I also get to clean my pot I burnt the day before while trying to cook pasta in a soup (the saving water concept isn’t always useful), and I start again for the last hill.
All my surroundings are made of vineyards. It’s pleasant but repetitive. I’m slow and feel like accumulating kilometers on the counter faster, which I do from Falset: I take the national road with the trucks (I have no alternative that doesn’t double the distance). The straight road, the absence of sights, the vigilance I need to observe while the trucks are passing me, make me unconsciously speed to Mora on the Ebre river. From here, I just have to follow the river until Tortosa and the sea.
There are 2 roads, on both sides of the Ebre. I plan to zigzag, as there are bridges, to take the most quiet or most scenic segments. At the bridge I see on the map in Miravet, there is … no bridge. There is a motorless embarkation instead, that allow the crossing of the Ebre tied to a cable.
The people waiting here tell me the first crossing of the day is at 15:00, and I have 14:53 on my watch: I’ll wait and take the “boat”.
The rest of the road until Tortosa is hilly (as I took the truckless segment), and my legs want rest. I won’t do much longer. The area is well occupied by farmers though: it’s full of orange plantations, and it smells like if the road was perfumed. They are everywhere, until right along the road. I don’t even have to get off my bike to pick the fruits. It’s like a free supermarket, and I have different sizes at each fields. The trick is to peel an orange while cycling, but it works. I am catching up with my fruits intake, neglected since the beginning for cheese and saucisson.
Some orange fields look like soccer fields, with an attractive grass carpet between the line of trees. I feel like camping in one and waking up among oranges. I ask one farm old lady, who sends me instead further, and I end up closer to town, not among oranges, but not too bad either. The proximity with Tortosa city allows me to have dinner in a warm place with wifi before coming back to sleep.
It seems it rained while I was eating, but now the sky is cloudless. Cloudless but without many stars, as the light pollution from the 35 000 inhabitants city is significant. However, my first gazing up there won 3 shooting stars within 3 seconds. Good ratio. Another 3 later, and I go to bed, and finally understand why it feels different from before: it’s 10°C. It’s done, I’ve passed the huge gap of temperature (in the right direction) !