I got a sandwich and coffee and took off in the morning to the visit the first +1000 metres passes west of the Pyrenées. First I climbed up the Alto de los Tornos (918) south of Lanestosa (280). The climb was easy and not very exciting. It was nicer on the climb than it was at the pass itself and thereafter. The first photo is taken after the pass toward some oddly repeating mountains in a chain to the south (it is not very clear in the photo I am afraid). This was the first visit to this high plateau that stretches for long southwards I suppose. (it seems like the land is always around 800 metres high up here). I was not sure of the height of the land south of the passes along the Cantabrian mountains as the maps give very few height figures (and then always of mountain tops or passes).
I had now left the Basque country behind and was going back and forth between Cantabria and Burgos as I zig-zagged my way west across the mountains. Basque is much more French inspired in ways than most other parts of northern Spain it seems, but I suppose there are distinctions between most areas inside Spain to a varying degree. It is very clear that the life is different on the south side of the Cantabrian mountains. On the northern side it is green and it seems more prosperous like in the rest of the middle of Europe, while on the south side the country is dry, barren and living conditions seem harder. Enough of self-evidencies for now!
I got to Espinosa, an interesting village perhaps typical of the countryside southwards, and bought some things in a grocery to eat and drink for lunch. – It was the simplicity of things and that it looked old-fashioned. North of Espinosa (740) the road splits up into three and I missed out on the first two +1000 metres passes here as I had planned to go over them on the way back home, but as that unfortunately did not happen it would had been more interesting (I believe) if I had gone directly to the first of them (Portillo de la Sia (1240)) from the north and then over both of Portillo de Lunada (1350) and Puerto de las Estacas de Trueba (1166). Now I only passed over the last of these. I first went a stretch behind a tractor out of Espinosa, which was good as there was a moderately strong headwind.
From Las Nieves to the top of the Puerto de las Estacas de Trueba it was quite nice and the whole pass is very lovely (I wonder if that was the case with other two also). From the pass you have a splendid view north as you can see in my third photo. I was a bit sad that I did not travel that north side up. The surface was now not as good here, but fair enough for an enjoyable ride down to Vega de Pas (360).
At Vega de Pas I went back down south via a small and nice road over a couple of passes, which are very confused between maps and signs. I would actually believe the signs to be the correct references here, and then there would be three passes after San Pedro: Puerto de la Matanela (905) (also called Puerto de la Magdalena); Alto de la Magdalena (1005) (also called Alto del Cabezón); Puerto Seguro (998) (also called Puerto de la Matanela). (I may have misremembered the signs … somehow I think Alto de la Magdalena was the last and the middle was Alto del Cabezón, but whatever I think they all are proper passes (and one is some metres off the road).)
Bad weather approached from the northwest and I had to think hard about whether I wished to go up the short distance to Puerto del Escudo (1011) and back again (only 2.5 km each way), but decided to take the chance as it looked like the weather would take a long time to crawl over the ridge to the south side that I was to follow. I made it without any rain coming over me, but it was very windy and a bit steep, so even though it appeared like a no effort pass, I actually had to spend some effort on this easy side anyway.
I cycled very quickly along the flat road by the big dam called Embalse del Ebro to Reinosa (926). I escaped bad weather but the weather was indeed very gloomy. I went around Reinosa for a while trying to find some place to buy something to eat and find a bicycle shop, but with no success. I did however find an open Internet place and sat down for half an hour. Then I (after taking the wrong road and coming back to the same place) went on to the nearby village of Matamorosa and there the first shop was a bicycle shop (someone badly described the way to it) and I got a new water bottle and new inner tube (that I had missed for some days now). There were also plenty of open shops here and it all took time before I eventually got out of this somewhat depressing place.
I guess it was around 6 pm before I left on a small road marked as paved on the Michelin map. Those funny map makers at Michelin had obviously not inspected this so called road that probably never had been paved, but maybe before the war or so … ;-). It was half-decently paved half the way and then a cyclable (with effort) tractor track. I had hoped the unpaved road days had been left behind. Soon I was on the nice CA280 road to Brañosera via Alto de Brañosera (1372). It could have been a nice to go up the one-way to Alto Campóo (west of Reinosa) also on a paved road that goes up to 2000 metres height and which might be the highest cyclable road in this part of Spain. (I also skipped Puerto de Palombera (1260) (northwest of Reinosa).) At Alto de Brañosera (southwest of Reinosa) there is a road going up high that should be steep according to the altimetrias.com site, but I went down south here.
Now the fine weather returned and it was a nice ride down this valley, where my last photo was taken. Down at the flat land it was hot, but the real heat had left as it was now getting late. I took the easiest shortcut over to the main road going west at Cillamayor (a very little village that looks charming with very tiny and very low houses in bright pastel colours) to Matamorisca. Then straight on to Cervera de Pisuerga where I took in at a good hotel for the night (I could probably have found a cheaper and good alternative). I went around the (to me) exotic town typical of this south side of Cantabria, I suspect, looking for somewhere to eat. Finding a bar and liquor is never a problem in Spain, nor is it finding a drugstore, but other than that they only have a church in each village. I ended up at the only restaurant I could find (well there was one just opposite, but I did not get any attention there so I walked over to the other). It looked a bit like a tourist trap, but it turned out that they served a very good Menu del Dia (meal of the day), which is usually a good choice to learn about some of the basic food one could expect in the area one visits. It is not like you could choose to have Indian or Chinese food anyway in this part of the universe. I later walked around a little more and went to bed.
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