Jerry’s Tour of the Pyrenées, Cantabria and Asturias – Monday July 25th

Rucandio — Puerto de Alisas — Fuente de las Varas — Puerto Hoyomenor — Alto de la Jaya — Mioño — Bilbao — Balcón de Bizkaia — Munitibar (172,5 km, 3353m, 15-24°C)

Puerto de Alisas

After breakfast at the nice family in Rucandio, I begun a not too spectacular cycling day. I could understand if you only skim through most of it. Though, I do have some funny comments on the end. It was gloomy weather and the roads were drying up slowly from the previous day’s rain.

Puerto de Alisas (674) was the highest climb for the day and the first one. It is again a perfect road over this pass and it is almost as if the road were built with cyclists in mind. This actually was manifested by a monument over cyclists up the road not far from the top (see the photo). I am not sure if it was commemorating some special race, cyclist or other event though. At the top I met some other cyclists (which surprised me a bit as I thought I was up here early in the morning, but I am not really a very early type of cyclist and thus should not be surprised).

Puerto de Campo El Hayal

Then it was down to Arredondo (161) (water here) with the other cyclists, but they continued south over Puerto del Asón (682), while I went east and then back north over Cruz Uzano (360) and despite its low height it appeared to me that I had to climb for quite some time. Next came a nice lonely valley with only a tiny village or two. Then it was rather instantly up again to the Fuente de las Varas (450) three-sided pass. Here it was quite nice and the road I took down over a ridge further away was very small and fun. The road surface was not quite as fun, but even here I met one or two serious looking cyclists.

Down at the plains around Llueva (84), I turned east again from San Pantaleón de Aras to Bueras (the Michelin map is not easy to understand when coming down here). From Bueras (and here I went on vague memories from information at I turned south and was surprised by the stiff climb ahead up another nice and perfect road. I was even more surprised seeing the pass sign as I had expected something else written on it. I think I may have thought to take another route, but anyway this pass has two names – Puerto de Campo El Hayal/Portillo de Bueras (435).

Alto de la Jaya

The road down from the pass was just newly surfaced, but they had not fixed everything yet. Down at Ampuero (30) I simply crossed the main road down the valley and started out on the next climb up Puerto Hoyomenor (362). That was not a wise decision as this road was just made unsurfaced in order to lay a new surface and it was in fact a very bad gravel road for almost all the way and there were no signs at the pass height and the views were not attractive.

This made me loose my hitherto good spirit during the day, but I knew things would change and so they did. From La Magdalena (30) over yet another pass called Puerto de la Granja/Alto de la Jaya (395) I had a good and steep climb. The way down this pass toward the coast was a very nicely hairpinned road that looked like an impressive climb from that north-east side.

Balcón de Bizkaia

Down at Sámano I could not see the coast for all the buildings. I found a petrol station and washed my bicycle again, which even made me happy. Then it was a bit up and down along the coast, while I was trying not to use the brakes until the bicycle had dried up (tip!). Then I got good views out over the sea and stupidly enough I decided to stay by a roadside restaurant with a good view of the ocean not far after Mioño that was a schoolbook example of a place fooling tourists, me included. Do not visit that place! – I was back in very bad temper after paying for an uneatable fish and coke 13 euros – I really should have left without paying anything! In this case that would not only be correct, but the only moral thing to do! (They were extremely unfriendly as well and more sloppy than anyone working with McDonalds anywhere. Enough said! ;-))

It was a somewhat boring ride past and through Bilbao, but it went as smoothly as it possibly could and it took a ”mere” two hours from to pass by it all. I stayed on the N634 throughout, which was a bit heavily trafficked around Bilbao, but not terribly.

Finally getting out of the Bilbao suburbs, I took off north over the minor Alto Autzagana (230) pass from Amorebieta. Just down the north side of the pass I took the first road going east, which was a very pleasant side road. It goes takes you over an unnamed (I believe) pass at Urrutxua, which is also a crossroads. Go straight ahead and you will climb up the Balcón de Bizkaia (426), where the last photo for the day was taken. A very wooden area with a sparse traffic. Down at Munitibar-Arbatzegi Gerrikaitz (188), I decided (as planned) to stop for the night.

I had hoped it to be not too small for accommodations, but it turned out to be a very small village (and tourism in the outskirts of Bilbao is not a common thing). I went down to the main plaza and asked if anyone spoke english. A young woman did and she told me that I could go over another small pass and then up another road to the monastery of Ziortza, but as I asked about other alternatives she told me about a casa rural (country living accommodation) nearby, but she thought it would be more expensive. I asked if the casa rural was any good as I feared it was living with cattle and cold water only, but she claimed it was good and the price she suggested hinted at that it would be not as bad. She even called and asked in advance as it was apparently a bit popular.

The casa rural was only 2 km from the village centre and was extremely good in all ways. I was staying at a Sheraton hotel later in the year and that was not half as good as this and this was at less than 40 euro! (Of course it might be totally unfair even comparing boring big hotels made for conference/business people and a charming homely living like this.)

The girl even suggested I could get good food at the bar in the village (the less obvious one of the two, as this was not as busy). This is a very Basque part of Basque! I suggested to the woman that it was nice here in the northern part of … errr, Basque and she wished me a pleasant stay in the Basque country! ;-) There were a big painting on a house wall just nearby depicting how the spanish and french supposedly suppress the Basque people.

Whatever could be said of the Basque people here, they were very very nice and friendly. I went down to the bar and they served me some big soup with meat, potatoes and vegetables in it (I said I was hungry and did not care too much what they served as it would be fine anyway …). It was very very good and I had three big bowls of this soup and ate up all the bread put on the table. I got some beers and then was served fish. Thereafter they told me they were closing down, but gave me some ice-cream. It was great! I then went out the back door and walked over to the more busy bar and had another beer and ice-cream and sat down to write my postcards bought in Cangas de Onis two days before. On the way out I bought some cookies to have before going to sleep. (They had a small shop that the bartender showed me as I wanted something more than they had in the bar and thus got the cookies and a banana.) It was totally dark on the concrete road to the casa rural and when I arrived there the front door was locked, but thankfully some french (or German) tourists was up on the veranda in the hammocks and heard me coming.

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