This tandem tour was a last minute venture undertaken to get out of decorating the hall of our bungalow, which we intended to do during September and after running our Cycling New Forest Autumn events. When it came to it, making a last minute decision to go cycling instead somehow just seemed a more attractive alternative. So Sheila set to sorting out transport, accommodation and a late booking for a CTC holiday, staying in Cocentaina in the Sierra Mariola; and cycling deep into the Sierra Aitana through remote hilly landscapes unchanged for centuries.
Wednesday - Lymington to Portsmouth by car
No problems - Managed to pack all of the pieces of “Gertie Greenspeed” our recumbent tandem trike into the car without forgetting pedals or other loose bits of kit and arrived at the ferry port with lots of time to spare.
Wednesday / Thursday - Portsmouth to Bilbao by boat
This was our first crossing of the Bay of Biscay and we were blessed with a calm, glassy sea. The 'posh' on board restaurant seemed to be the only hot food option on board, with a system of table pre-booking designed to maximise queueing. We discovered later that it was possible to buy pre-prepared food in the ship's shop and then DIY microwave it in various microwave ovens scattered around the ship. Overall the journey went well, but it confirmed our long felt belief that sea cruising is most certainly not even on the bottom of our holiday wish list.
Thursday / Friday / Saturday - Bilbao to Cocentaina by car
From Bilbao we made a false start by getting onto the wrong motorway lane on the run out of Bilbao, which whisked us into the mountains and a brand new and very long tunnel, for which we had to pay a toll at the exit; and following which it was quite some distance to the first motorway junction where we could escape and make a circular journey back to the ferry port for a second attempt. All went well this time as we headed out into the countryside and drove over the Sierra de Cebollera, stopping for the night at the tiny Posada de Urreci, a rural inn in a mountain village, Aldeanueva de Cameros. The village has four permanent residents during the week (three being the couple running their inn and their small son), but the population apparently “swells” at weekends. Cars have to be left at the entrance to the village, whose narrow cobbled pathways wind up and down between well-restored stone houses, some beside a tumbling stream with an ancient arched footbridge. A spectacular thunderstorm added to the atmosphere. Supper was a slightly sparse affair though.
ALDEANUEVA de CAMEROS Then we had an interesting day’s drive right across central Spain, to Almansa, our Spanish twin town, for an overnight visit. Fantastic empty roads much of the time, and wide open spaces. Staying at the modern Hotel Blu was a real contrast to the night before. Set in a plain, Almansa has a Moorish castle perched high on a hill dominating the town. We walked round the main sights, and were disappointed that the Tourist Office woman spoke no English and seemed not to know anything about Lymington, their twin town.
Arriving late morning at Cocentaina in Alicante province (1,410 ft) we met our holiday leaders Peter and Marjorie and some of the group of eight taking part in the CTC fixed centre cycling holiday in El Comtat, (an area in the mountains about 30 km inland from Benidorm) that we were joining. Others were yet to arrive.