5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

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pistonbroke
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5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by pistonbroke » Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:58 pm

I first met Ernesto on the Turin Nice Rally last year, he came screaming past me on the descent of the Colombardo shouting something in Spanish. I chased him for a bit then he left me on the Finestre, beating me to the Refugio Assietta by about half an hour. We spent the next 2 days riding together and he told me about the project he had for a 700km bikepacking route in his home province of Teruel. Fast forward to June this year when we joined him and a group of 40 on a 2 day ride using some of the trails he told me about, this has just been published on Bikepacking.com https://bikepacking.com/routes/rodeno-algarbe-loop/and his big route had a very slick looking website https://montanasvacias.com/
I posted on here that I fancied riding the full route in September before the weather broke and 4 others stuck their hands up. The logistics were pretty straightforward, Chicken Legs, Ianpv and Hux flying Stanstead to Castellon on the once a week Ryanair service and Chew arriving earlier the same day to my local airport of Reus. So 5 of us arrived at Ernesto's house in Teruel at midnight on Saturday and by 10.00am Sunday we were ready for the off from the Plaza Torrico. Ernesto had agreed to accompany us for the first day having left his van at the proposed bivvy spot the day before.
The first section was mainly uphill to a viewpoint at 1,500m and on to the stunning village of Albarracin with it's gravity defying fortifications.
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The village fiesta was in full swing and our post lunch exploration involved us emerging from an alleyway and riding right into the middle of a bull ring.
We carried on climbing through pine forests and open hillsides to the village of Bronchales and the highest campsite in Spain at 1,750m. Unfortunately the camp bar was closed so Ernesto offered to ride down the bloody big hill we had just come up to find pizza and sandwiches for our next day breakfast. He returned in his van and we ate then retired to bed having wished him farewell.
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Unfortunately we weren't the only hungry residents of the campsite that night as we were visited in the early hours by a fox that made off with a couple of sandwiches and Ian's drybag. I was disturbed at about 5am to see it looking into my bivvy bag about a foot away!
Monday dawned grey and by the time we got to the village of Griegos, it was raining. We found a cafe and had a round of Barter specials, omlette baguettes. We had to crack on and managed to dodge the rain on our way to the source of one of Iberia's longest rivers, the Tajo or Tagus which flows to the Atlantic at Lisbon. The statues adorning the source gave the place a surreal feel.
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The route followed the infant river then climbed into the hills where the rain returned. We headed for Checa but it was closed so decided to crack on to Peralejos de las Truchas where a well stocked shop was found and as the weather was looking grim, we asked if there was a nearby hostal. Good job as the campsite I had spotted on the map was abandoned. We struck lucky as the village had a little b&b with a massive family room which we all fitted in. They also fed us and a bargain meal was enjoyed.
Day 3 was much brighter and we followed a glorious 40km trail along the Tajo.
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We climbed out of the river valley and found a lunch stop in Zaorejas which is the Northern tip of the route. There then followed a lovely section through a lightly wooded forest.
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Part 2 to follow
Last edited by pistonbroke on Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Charliecres
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones Part 1

Post by Charliecres » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:58 am

Wow! Looks spectacular

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composite
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones Part 1

Post by composite » Fri Dec 06, 2019 8:51 am

That looks like great riding. :grin:

I have on my ride list for 2020 "something in Spain" as it would work out well with my girlfriend's sister living there. She visits her while I'll go ride my bike. This certainly looks like something that would fit the bill!

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sean_iow
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by sean_iow » Fri Dec 06, 2019 9:52 am

Looks amazing. As I sit in the office looking out of the window at the rain (and it seems to still be dark at 08:50am?) and with the prospect of months of riding in the cold, wet and mud, reading this is just the tonic to keep my spirits up :-bd
Adventure without risk is Disneyland - Bikemonger

pistonbroke
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by pistonbroke » Fri Dec 06, 2019 10:17 am

To continue.
It began to sink in that we were in a very beautiful place that was almost devoid of people. The area has taken on the nickname of Laponia España or Spanish Lapland due to having a similar population density of under 1 person per square km. We passed through villages with no shops, cafes, nothing. Depopulation is a real problem here with young people being lured to the cities for job opportunities.
We eventually came across the refugio of Valsalobre which was very well appointed and used mainly by cavers. Clearly the builders had misunderstood the concept of long drop toilets.
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We descended for miles to the village of Beteta where the route guide promised resupply. We found a fiesta well underway with pretty well all the villagers in a state of happy drunkenness. This meant the shops were closed but we found a bar and sat surveying the scene. The bar made us sandwiches to go and a couple of pretty girls forced free cans of beer on us for our onward journey. We also topped up our water supply at this interesting font.
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As we climbed back into the mountains, we heard distant thunder and we upped the pace to try to outrun the brewing storm. We were aiming for a refugio deep in the woods and got there just as it got dark and the rain hit. Chew was about 10 minutes later coming in and got wet but we started a fire and were soon cosy despite the wind rattling the roof tiles.
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The following morning was sunny and we got going early.
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There then followed a succession of cafe-less villages and we were getting increasingly hungry. We found a place after about 30km but the only food was crisps and nuts. It was a further 30km until we found a proper cafe in Zafrillas. We staggered in and ordered 5 portions of their all-day breakfast together with a couple of portions of patatas bravas to be going on with.
Famine to feast in about 15 minutes.
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It took about an hour to move after this and we finally wobbled off into a beautiful canyon section.
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We rode across a high plateau for miles then descended to the village of El Cuervo where the weather began to close in again.
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The local bar pointed us towards a bunk house that charged us €12 for bed and breakfast so another dry night was had.
Part 3 to follow
Last edited by pistonbroke on Fri Dec 06, 2019 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

pistonbroke
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by pistonbroke » Fri Dec 06, 2019 12:38 pm

All downhill from here, not!

Day 5'S profile looked like something Shane McGowan's dentist would be used to seeing. We descended on the road to the village of Torrebaja where we found a bakery and stocked up for the 1,400m climb to the route high point of Javalambre. We also found a bar and were sat chatting about my Ti frame being replaced under warranty due to a crack 3 years ago. Ian had a cursory look at my bike and told me he thought it had cracked again. Further inspection showed a crack that had processed 3/4 of the way around the top tube just behind the steerer. We effected a temporary repair with a couple of zip ties and started the 30km climb to 2,018m. Clearly this pissed me off no end but I was determined to get to the refuge we had booked on the mountain.
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We finally reached the summit following a couple of punctures and overtaking a couple of French guys who were carrying all their worldly goods up the mountain.
Group photos were forthcoming
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We carefully descended 300m to the refuge Navarro where we were met by a grumpy guard who showed us to our quarters, despite the place being deserted, we were all crammed in one room and served a distinctly average meal of chicken nuggets, sausage and chips, one to avoid.
We discussed the state of my frame and could see the crack was getting worse so I decided that a tactical retreat to Teruel was called for.
The following day we descended into a temperature inversion.
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We rode together to Pueblo de Valverde where Chew and I picked up a disused railway line that took us straight back to Teruel while the others climbed to the ski station of Valdelinares.
The weather was closing in and turning the trails into the claggy mud that stops all forward motion. Chew and I got back late morning and Ernesto invited us to lunch with some friends of his partner Maria who were going on a weekend biking trip. It turned out that a group of 50 women were gathering for a bivvy trip, led by her and departing first thing Saturday morning.
The other 3 had a hard day of on-off road climbing, ending up at a campsite in Alcala de la Selva and spent a wet night under canvas. The campsite owner took pity on them and allowed them to use a cabin to get ready for the final leg back to Teruel. As the rain was still falling, a decision was made to ride down the road back to Teruel and we were reunited on Saturday lunchtime.
We quickly packed the bikes and set off for the airport, stopping en route for a very noisy menu del dia. The Stanstead 3 were dropped at Castellon while Chew stayed at my place as his flight was Sunday morning. Apart from my mechanical, we'd had a fabulous trip and big thanks go to Ernesto for designing the route and generously hosting us at his house.
I'm definitely planning a return visit as I've unfinished business with the final loop. I think either May or September are the best months to go, not too hot or cold. The route is gaining in profile with a couple of quite famous roadie pros just having ridden a big chunk of it in the snow. The sections along the rio Tajo are fantastic as is the Javalambre climb, there's a bit too much road on the Serrania de Cuenca and finding food can be a problem but all in all, I'd definitely recommend it.
I'm working on a "Spanish Divide" trip in the Spring that will include the source of the Tajo and the section along the river as well as the sources of the 2 other big rivers of Iberia, the Duero and Ebro. More details will follow soon.
Last edited by pistonbroke on Fri Dec 06, 2019 2:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Borderer
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by Borderer » Fri Dec 06, 2019 1:38 pm

Looks great that - makes me want to go back to Spain again. Thanks for posting.

Chew
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by Chew » Fri Dec 06, 2019 3:04 pm

Cheers Duncan for sorting everything out :-bd
One of the highlights of the year.

Highly recommended route for anyone who wants to get away somewhere different for a week

Landslide
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by Landslide » Fri Dec 06, 2019 7:15 pm

Looks and sounds fab. Is there a timetable anywhere of fiestas? I like the idea of turning up for parties and free beer...

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K1100T
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by K1100T » Sat Dec 07, 2019 12:35 am

pistonbroke wrote:
Thu Dec 05, 2019 7:58 pm
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Woozers, the colour of that water! I would love to go for a swim in there...
I like beer. 🍻

pistonbroke
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by pistonbroke » Wed Dec 11, 2019 9:49 am

That pool on the rio Tajo was crystal clear and the green colour is the reflection of the surrounding trees. The bridge led to a rare singletrack section that was just about ridable and popped out onto a forest road and a cafe that was closed. The "season" here is very short, basically July and August are the only months where tourist infrastructure can be guaranteed. I struggle to understand how these businesses can make a living, we often go to the seaside in May and September as the weather is perfect but everything is closed. Sad really but the financial crash is still being felt here. It sort of reinforces the level of research I do when planning my C2C trip as relying on the internet to indicate the prescence of a cafe or restaurant is tricky.

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In Reverse
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by In Reverse » Wed Dec 11, 2019 11:21 am

Good stuff Duncan, looks fantastic. Well done on dodging that special Spanish mud.

HUX
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by HUX » Wed Dec 11, 2019 10:23 pm

Nicely done Duncan. Cracking trip and highly recommended :-bd

ianpv
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by ianpv » Thu Dec 12, 2019 7:51 pm

It was a great trip - made all the smoother and better thanks to Duncan's organisation and Ernesto's route.

thanks!

Ian

pistonbroke
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Re: 5 Go Mad In Spain, aka Montañasvacias meets Bearbones

Post by pistonbroke » Thu Dec 12, 2019 11:40 pm

Thanks for the kind words guys, this has popped up on the MV facebook page
https://youtu.be/Qk3Cc_viDUY
Some familiar views and refugios. These 2 did about half the route in 6 days.

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