…or, How to be lost all day and still get home.
Daniel and Andrea, Jim and I (Gwen was still working!) set off fairly early on our first bike tour of Romanesque churches. After the easy flat to Gavà, we started up the long (9 km) hill to Bergues. A few stops along the way were necessary to hydrate, and cool down. Sporty Spanish biker types passed us in both directions, but we were pretty proud of ourselves in any case to make it up to the top.
At Bergues, there was a bit of route finding. Our first attempt ended up on quite an “interesting” route. The best thing we could say about it was that it was shady! Daniel ran on ahead and said it was as you see for as far as he was willing to go, so we turned back into Bergues.
We asked a local man how to get to our next destination, Vallirana. The route involved a climb to a hilltop, and then turning onto a walking trail which was also used by bikers, motorized and not. Andrea decided to give it a miss and to take the long downhill return to Gava and the campground. Daniel, Jim and Ellen kept going up a steep road with switchbacks, in the heat, passing cactuses and bamboo. Upon turning off onto the walking trail, we were soon initiated into the very useful Catalan trail-blazing system: Parallel lines of white and red or white and yellow indicate you’re on the right path, crossed lines (X) mean “don’t go this way.” Below is a picture of roughest part of the trail.
We duly arrived in Vallirana, and promptly got lost. We eventually asked a local for directions to Cervelló. Jim had developed a flat which was leaking pretty fast, so we stopped at a gas station. Daniel found the thorn which had penetrated the tire, and he fixed the flat quite quickly. Ellen was famished, so we had a snack and Ellen bought some more crackers with sunflower seeds in the gas station.
We started on our way and found a sign to a Romanesque church. It was up a hill (so what else is new) and was quite lovely, made of rosy sandstone and built into the edge of the hill. There was a staircase down the hill cut into the rock.
A surprise was a sign directing us up a path to the castle. We climbed up for a few minutes and reached the first explanatory sign, telling us about granaries and fortifications. We climbed still further and encountered more signs.
Eventually at the top we were standing by the kitchen and oven, looking at the tower which flew the Catalan flag. The view over the valley was spectacular!
We had planned a route through the suburbs of Cervelló, which we hoped would link to a road back to Bergues. The grades on the city streets are not as friendly as the ones on the highway. Up and down, up and down we went, encountering dead end after dead end, walking our bikes when the grade was too steep….were those 33% or did it just seem that way because we were hot and tired? We eventually admitted defeat and took a route marked “Exit to Barcelona”. All was well until we got onto a busy route that funnelled into a scary underpass with virtually no shoulder for bikes. Ellen thought she saw a way over the road, but it turned out to be a dead end. As we backtracked toward the underpass, we saw a couple of cyclists turn off the highway and take a gravel road. We followed them and ended up on a gravel road parallel to the Autovia (motorway–no bikes allowed!) Eventually the road petered out to a narrow path, but we could see a train in the distance. It was about 7:30 by this time and we were tired and pretty hungry. We were trying to determine what route would be best, when we saw a man parked in a truck nearby–were these angels sent to help us? This was not the first or the last time a fortuitous helper turned up in the middle of nowhere. He directed us to the correct path (the one we weren’t going to take) and we were soon on a lovely biking path through an agricultural area (goats!) towards the train station. A little dipsy-doodling got us to the train station, and we were soon on our way to Gavà. We arrived at our campsite at 9:20 pm, almost exactly 12 hours after we’d left. Andrea, bless her, had dinner ready for us, and after dinner we collapsed. By consensus the next day would be a “down day”. (Gwen was still working!)