To Monfragüe - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

April 21, 2024

To Monfragüe

To Torreón el Rubio

Before moving on, I want to hang on to this photo Susan took of Rachael when we arrived in Merida five days ago.  It took a few days to arrive in the mail, so we’ll include it now.

In happier days, when she still had two functioning brakes on her bike.
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Rich FrasierA beautiful shot! That really captures Rachael for me.
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4 weeks ago
Patrick O'HaraLooking good!
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3 weeks ago

Our plan for today was to leave around ten for the short, fairly easy ride to our next hotel, a few miles this side of Monfragüe National Park.  This ride and the one on the following day to Plasencia were originally planned to be shared with Suzanne and Janos, before first his bike broke down and then Suzanne contracted a horrible illness of some kind that has waylaid her ever since Merida - something I’m comfortable mentioning now that she’s finally getting her health back and caught up enough to tell her own story.

Suzanne and Janos arrived in Trujillo yesterday not long before we did and are also staying at the parador but we didn’t see them at all because of Suzanne’s condition.  And they won’t be traveling even by car today either, so we’re not likely to see them again before they return to Germany.   We stopped by their room this morning to check in, offer our condolences again and say goodbye for now, but what Suzanne most wanted to talk about was Rachael’s brakes.

Our plan for getting her brake repaired was to have her bike the next two days to Plasencia with one brake, something obviously undesirable but seemed reasonable given the relatively easy terrain.  Suzanne was insistent though that this was a terrible idea, and she and Janos offered up a better one: Janos would drive her.  And after a fair amount of discussion and us returning to our own room to consider it further, we took them up on the offer.

So I’m biking on my own today, getting a late start and not leaving until close to eleven.  Rachael and Janos will leave around noon when she has to check out of the room, and she and I will meet up at our next hotel in time for lunch.

It’s a fine morning for a ride and the countryside is gorgeous, so it’s a shame that I’m the only one riding today.  It doesn’t take me many miles though to realize that Suzanne was right.  There’s more contour to the land than I’d expected and it would have been a tense ride for both with probably some downhill walking.  We both feel very appreciative, and fortunate to count them as part of our family.

The land north of Trujillo continues to be characterized by granite outcrops for the first several miles.
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A small pond or reservoir along the way. When I have time and am not holding anyone up I stop at nearly all spots like this to see if anyone’s floating or wading in it.
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A last look back. And it probably really is the last look this time - after three visits, it’s pretty unlikely we’ll be here again.
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Some cows and rocks.
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After a few miles though I’m beyond the granite and biking through another vast dehesa that carries me the rest of the way.  Not long afterwards I see a familiar blue car in the mirror with bikes hanging off the back and then Rachael and Janos zip past, Rachael with her window down and the phone camera aimed my way.  I’m still about ten miles from the hotel, but should make it comfortably in time for lunch.

Another grey shrike! I don’t know why it always pleases me to see these, but it’s obviously worth a stop.
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Dehesas are always interesting to bike through. Here a shrike, there some pigs, and with luck maybe another fox will turn up.
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Karen PoretSimply gorgeous!
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Karen PoretIsn’t that amazing though? And did you notice that treadmill on top of the building? What a great place for your morning workout!
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4 weeks ago
This looks like one of those extended family homes. The kids grow up, start their own family. Time to gather some rocks and add on another wing.
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Dropping toward the Almonte River, at one of the spots that makes me grateful Rachael’s hitched a ride with Janos today.
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The Almonte River, dropping toward its convergence with the Tagus/Tejo north of Cáceres.
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This crossing is marked on the map as a birdwatching spot, but I’m not seeing it today.
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Climbing away from the river though I get a nice griffon sighting, one of many I anticipate when I reach Monfragüe.
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The rod cut exposes the slate bed we’re passing through here, one of the characteristic formations of the complex geology surrounding Monfragüe.
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I’m just coming to the top of the short climb away from the river when I see Janos coming back my way.  He pulls off at the top top for what I assume is a last-minute chat, but it’s not that.  He’s busily setting up his drone so he can get a video of me weaving my slow way down the road.  Might as well include it, since he went to all that effort.

And no, the fact that I’m weaving all over the road doesn’t mean I’m under the influence - or not in that sense anyway.  I’ve got one eye on the road, another off to the side watching for birds, nd a third one checking out the sky for that drone.

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Not long after, the phone rings.  It’s Rachael, hoping I’ll arrive soon because it’s time for lunch and she’s claimed a spot for us.  I’m just at a mile away, so it’s not long until I pull off the road onto our hotel’s slatestone driveway and bike up to her where she’s watching for me from the entrance.

Just in time for lunch!
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Back in Trujillo, loading up Rachael’s bike.
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To Monfragüe and back

It’s around three when we’re done with lunch and get checked into the room.  Nightfall isn’t until around nine now, so there’s plenty of time left for Rachael to take a hike and for me to bike down to the park for a first look.  It’s only just over five miles to Salto del Gitano, the famous rock formation at a bend where the Tagus River (the Tejo, in Portugal) cuts its way through one of the long, arched quartzite ridges that characterize the park.  It’s an almost guaranteed spot to see a large number of Griffon vultures, one of the largest birds of prey in Europe.  

Rachael leaves at around four, with a fourteen mile out and back to the Salto del Gitano mapped out for herself.  She’s not sure she’ll get that far though, depending on time and conditions.  I set off maybe a half hour later, thinking there’s a chance we’ll meet up at the rock once we both get there.  I won’t need nearly as much time, but I anticipate hanging out there  for quite awhile, staring at griffons and hoping something else unusual drifts by. 

Dropping toward Monfragüe National Park, which begins at that long, traverse quartzite ridge. Our road passes through the dark green gap near the center, cut by the Tagus River.
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We’re still in dehesa land.
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The timing of this tour is working out well for us, just as I’d been hoping. Were following the season north, and could be in wildflowers all the way to the northern coast.
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There’s something brewing looking back toward Trujillo, but hopefully it won’t make its way here.
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When I get to Salto del Gitano it’s as I expected.  It’s a congested spot, the sky filled with soaring griffons and the path along the rim lined with folks staring up at them or aiming their humongous camera lenses at the cliffs on the other side of the river hoping for an unusual sighting.

It’s thrilling to see them aloft and settling onto crags across the river, and it’s really wonderful when one swoops in and lands on a rock right below us, but I’m nearly as excited by the other sightings: a couple of black storks in the shadows on the opposite bank, a booted eagle that glides by low above the water, and a huge cinereous vulture high above flying separately from the griffons.

I spend a long time there, staring alternately at the sky and the cliffs across the river. Vultures frequently soar across the face of the cliffs or come in for a landing, and often I first spot them from their dark shadows crossing the rocks beneath them.

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Griffons are easy to identify from a distance, with those broad wings and that bald, whitish head. There are more than 80 nesting pairs living on this rock, along with a couple nesting pairs of the endangered black stork.
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#217: Booted Eagle
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Such luck that this one bird alit just below us and stayed here for a moment.
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#218: Black stork
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#219: Cinereous vulture
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But no Rachael.  I got a call awhile back to let me know that her route turned impassible not long after she entered the park so she was turning back.

Rachael’s hike

It was too bad that Rachael had to turn back early from her hike, but it was still a fine outing - and a much more colorful one than our afternoon hike we took here four years ago.  It was autumn then and everything was dry and brown.  We really are here at the best time.

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Andrea BrownMaybe I've missed a closeup of those purple fellas but I'm sure curious about what they are.
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4 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Andrea BrownI don’t know that I’ve taken a close-up, but I’m pretty sure it’s some form of bugloss.
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4 weeks ago
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Looking down at the bridge cross the Vid Arroyo. Her route takes her down and across that before climbing back up the quartzite ridge bordering Monfrague.
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Today's ride: 40 miles (64 km)
Total: 1,086 miles (1,748 km)

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