I was daydreaming, hypnotised by a long, easy ride across scorching central Spain, when the sudden WHACK! of a dragonfly hitting my visor pulled me back to the present. My view of the reddened landscape suddenly blurry and blood smeared, I pulled over to clean myself up.
We’d made a fairly slow start to the day. Despite wanting to hit high miles, we were still both exhausted from a weekend of partying and by the time we’d had a long breakfast and had a cat wash, an hour had passed. Then we had to work out how to use our new battery powered compressor to pump up our tires, since we’d beaten our foot-pump out of commission. Our new gauge was reading much higher than the old one, and not knowing which one to believe, we figured we’d ignore the problem for now and just crack on.
At the next town we found an open supermarket and pulled over to stock up. There was a strong bovine smell lingering in the air to remind us of the previous night’s festivities, and we hurried inside. We stocked up on the usual bread, wine and cheese, and then decided to just go mad and splash out on fish, chorizo and other luxuries, as well as some fresh garlic, peppers and potatoes that we used to make some kick-ass patatas bravas that night.
We also bought a massive five-litre bottle of water, since one of our expandable water bags had given up the day before. Whether through filling up and emptying on a regular basis, or through friction from lashing to the panniers everyday, the seam broke and started pissing water everywhere. Not ideal, especially since I’d just spent an hour filling it from a trickling well we’d come across in the mountains. Anyway, we strapped this huge bottle of water to the back of Maria’s bike and got on with repacking the panniers to fit the rest of our shopping spree in. Out of the corner of her eye, Maria spotted a small wisp of smoke rising from her bike. We frantically ran around the bike looking for the source, and eventually realised that the water bottle had focused the sun onto a spot on Seven’s vinyl seat, which promptly caught fire! A half hour later we had wrapped everything refractive in unused black bike leathers and were finally ready to meander on.
Back on our way to Pamplona we got into a rhythm of stopping every hour to rehydrate and wipe the bugs off our visors, which gave us the only break from a fairly monotonous road.
There was no motorway leading to Pamplona from this end, so we were sharing the road with some seriously big articulated trucks gunning across the north/south spine of Spain. It was fine, but made for some nerve wracking overtakes.
Eventually, about 30km south of Pamplona we started looking for camp. The first small road we investigated turned out to be not-all-that small. Even though it was unpaved and winding around hills and valleys, it seemed to be a through-road that connected a few farms together, so it looked to be well used, and on top of everything it didn’t really offer much in the way of cover for us to hide behind. In spite of that, Maria was keen to set up camp rather than wandering on any farther. I wasn’t so sure; our success so far on the trip had been down to the fact that we tried hard to stay out of everyone’s way when finding a place to camp, and I didn’t want our complacency to cause us any problems later in the night. I couldn’t come up with a better alternative though, so I bit the bullet, and we picked a spot that was at least slightly out of the way – an unused triangle of land between the field and the road.
After doing some washing,
cooking the aforementioned kick-ass dinner,
and fighting another a futile battle with the mozzies (literally this time – with a frying pan)
Mozzie Problem Solved! No more munching my face!
we eventually decided that anyone who would want to kick us out would have arrived by now, so we opened our wine, did the washing up,
and pitched the tent. As it happens, we did have a few visitors over the course of evening, but none of them had any problem with us, and the most we got was a slightly bemused smirk and a wave. Let’s hope our good luck holds out. I was planning to use these slightly less eventful diary days to write some general stuff about the perks of free camping and traveling overland by bike, but after 260 miles and a bottle of wine, I think I’ll leave it there…