Avila is served by 3 main trunk roads. One of them, the N403, could take me back to my home village and destination. Whilst discussing my route with the night doorman at the hotel, I got a buzz of excitement from the fact that he recognisedd the name of my village. “Ah, Bargas”, he said, “you should take the N403, it is the best road to get there, it is wide and good, smooth tarmac.”
I decided against his advice. I was going to try my luck on the small, winding mountain road, and trust that I would not be fighting for road space with trucks and speeding cars.
After an anxious first hour or so, getting lost around the modern suburban ring road, and then competing for road space with quarry trucks that led me through a quarry, the Quiet Mountain Road turned into the quiet moutnain road I had expected. It rose consistently, but managebly. I could feel my legs taking the strian quite happily. Finally I felt able to enjoy the climb. My body respnded to the challenge, my legs were spinning happily, either pushing through the hill on the shallower sections or happily winching my up the steeper sections in a granny gear. The weight of my panniers felt stabilising rather than anchoring.
Clearly my fitness had improved over the last week and half, since struggling over the rolling hills of Galicia.
I passed over the first significant puerto around 10:30 and was able to drop down into the high tree-less moorland of the Community of Madrid, thorugh isolated hilltop villages, I took on bananas in the village shop and a coffee in the bar before heading on to Cebreros and a disappointingly uninspiring lunch in San Martin de Valdeiglesias.
I had assumed that my route would be all downhill after the puertos of the morning, but once I dropped down to 700m the countryside kept rolling up and down. This made for a more tiring afternoon than anticipated, but nonetheless I was now within sight of the finish line.
The campsites I had identified were about 10-15 km out of my way, I would need to cycle 2 sides of a triangle to get to them, so I had called ahead to the campsite and confirmed that they were open and and had availability. I could probably have found a hostal or B&B in Maqueda or Almorox, but having carried the 1-2kg of camping gear with me for 700km, I was keen to justify it.
Once I had pitched my tent in the allotted parcela, I was reminded of the disappointment of many Spanish campsites.
My pitch was under a canopy, more or less like a shaded car parking space in a long line facing other similar pitches. Dotted along the row of pitches were caravans that seemed semi-static. Most seemed not to have moved in years. They had several square meters of green plastic grass laid out, a prefrab shed or two containing a kitchen with gas cooker, fridge-freezer, washing machine, as well as a TV & hifi system. These campsites are not for touring, nor camping, but are generally treated as the weekend and summer retreats of the flat-dwelling folk of Madrid’s satellite towns. A place where the extended family can get together around a barbecue, enjoy an afternoon of whiskey and coke cubatas while their kids burn off their energy in the campsite pool, kicking balls around. Or in the case of my temporary neighbours, by racing mini motorbikes between the canopies.
Luckily my stay coincided with a Madrid-Barça clasico, so I was able to enjoy the match in the campsite bar with a few beers, and thanks to the Madrid victory, I could slip away to my tent with enough alcohol in my system to get off to sleep, leaving my roudier neighours celebrating their superiority in the bar, rather than their caravans.