Day 1 - Santander to Arenas de Igunas [photos now!] - Land of the Rabbits - CycleBlaze

July 20, 2023

Day 1 - Santander to Arenas de Igunas [photos now!]

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Well, I made it into Spain ok and am current writing this from inside my tent at 800m above the moutain town of Tudanca, as the rain gently patters down. 

I slept pretty well on the ferry, and the crossing was really good - almost flat, and so bright I may have got a little sunburn while sitting on deck. I forgot my sun-tan lotion so will need to buy some more.

In the morning I got chatting to Yvonne, the lady tourist who I'd met waiting for the ferry - she was keen to find an easy route out to Santander to the south, so when I let her know I had a GPX route on cycleways mapped out we agreed to cycle together.

I had a bit of a nightmare finding the bike on the car decks - I actually managed to get lost, and lost my bike clip - oh well. Once I'd found them, all four of us cycle tourists shot out the ferry. By the time the we were whistled at to return and wait at the end of the passport queue, two of us had already gone ahead - so after some guilty glances we followed them. 

Getting out of Santander was not as simple as I hoped - at one point we circumnavigated a huge industrial park. At one point Yvonne asked me to "stop!" and I had an object lesson in different braking responses - she went right into the back of me! She had a bit of a scraped elbow, but no damage done. I did fix her chain guard with a zip tie later!

We soon corrected our error and found the small cycle paths leading out of town. These took us, by stages, onto the Via Verde del Pas, which was traffic-free, direct and well graded. We ground out 40km on this, really flying along (my Garmin actually insists it is a "record", though I'm sceptical). 

Part of the Via Verde del Pas greenway
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Right at the end we had to cross an incredibly sketchy bridge, with gaps in between the wooden planks easily big enough to swallow a bike wheel. The dry river was 20m below.

Then there was the final challenge - the climb over the range of hills separating us from Arenas de Igunas, where Yvonne had also booked a room. This was quite a tough climb - 450m with a pretty insistent gradient of 7%. I amazed myself by taking the lead, and lost Yvonne for a little bit. After stopping to dunk my head in a village fountain she actually reeled me in, and we made the top together. We were both pretty worn out.

Still smiling [at this point]
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A sign of things to come
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Another sign of things to come
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Then a screaming descent down into the village, pausing only to avoid running over some tiny goats that were wandering all over the road. To my consternation, the door on the hotel was locked, and I had only a very confusing conversation in broken Spanish/English when I called up. Yvonne had problems too - accoring to Google maps her hotel was 7km away - back up the hill! Yvonne called my hotel number again and tried in French, and it became clear he was on his way to let me in. Google was wrong and her hotel was in the village - no problem.

After 15 minutes or so a tractor rolled past me, and the guy driving gave me a grin. It was the hotelier! He was incredibly jolly, and considering my lack of Spanish managed to communicate a surprising amount (including insisting on showing me the brochure with attractions around the town). The room was lovely, a really beautiful old stone building with a balcony.

A lovely place to stay really
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I showered and changed and hit the restaurant next door. At 8.30pm it was only just opening - got to love Spain - so wandered round for a bit and then took a table. Yvonne soon turned up and we had a great and meal (including, astonishingly, vegan lentil soup) while chatting about travel.

Today's ride: 66 km (41 miles)
Total: 166 km (103 miles)

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