Today was the day that I was most scared of. From the map, it said 500 vertical meters of climbing, and we had been told by many people that it was very steep, very difficult and that there was no shade for the whole route which is 70km. On top of this I had suffered pretty bad fatigue yesterday and was in the hurt box with the climbs, so was anxious about today! Turns out it is my favourite stage we have done so far!
We started out from Font de La Figuera a little earlier than usual, just before first light to try and avoid some of the heat. Yes it was climbing straight from the start, and my legs were protesting, but the longer we went the easier it started to get and the views were just amazing! All the way to Almansa was beautiful little back roads through the hills, passing farms with old white washed houses. Vineyards with vines heavy with black grapes, and millions of rabbits jumping out in front of us! We stopped in Almansa for what I hope will become routine now....second breakfasts!! And of course a view of the impressive castle :)
The next part of the day was probably my favourite, but also the hardest. We were on dirt roads for a good 30km, some of which were rocky, VERY rocky, think Mount Buller fire road descents but with 20kg panniers on the back of your bike! I loved this section because it was so remote and the scenery was typical Spain. Just what you see on all the postcards.... Rocky outcrops, small white washed villages, green hills, vineyards, wild rosemary, and wind mills in the distance. It was so incredibly beautiful that I forgot about the pain and the heat. Ben and I have now perfected the woot woot train (ie. I can now draft!) and make use of it on any straight fire road sections to eat up the km. The last 10km of the day were a real slog. Constant uphill paved road in the searing heat. We had to stop under some acorn trees for some respite as we were both becoming a bit dizzy. Arriving in Higueruela was a treat though. A very cute town with lovely welcoming locals. I have become somewhat of a hit with the elderly men of Spain and they always seem to find me and bunker down for a good half hour chat. It's very funny, the things they want to talk to me about range from the gold fields of Victoria, to why the Camino is too long and I should just go to Madrid instead. They are so lovely and I am very happy that I know enough Spanish to have these interactions and bring a smile to their days. tomorrow is likely to be another big one! Here's to more amazing scenery, and hopefully not too hot! All the locals have started referring to me as the white girl and are constantly telling me I need to wear more sunscreen.