We stopped in a town with storks nesting on the church, and I bought a huge jar of olives for €2.50. When we moved on, it was along a road carved through vivid red earth, with a white half-moon hanging above a wind farm and a line of lorries carrying tracked vehicles waiting to enter a military base.
High peaks showed pale in the distance. Were these, finally, the Picos we had come so far to see?
Just before lunch we stopped for petrol, and I discovered my favourite thing about Spain: when you enter your PIN in a card reader, it reports 'NUMERO SECRETO CORRECTO'.
After sandwiches in a baking hot town, we entered the mountains proper. We passed through villages, each with a set of traffic lights outside to ensure you slowed properly. One set of these seemed to have been placed purely to showcase the view of a lake over to the left, and at another a large green lizard scurried across the road ahead of me. Then we left habitation behind, and there was only the narrow, twisting road and the rocks.
We pulled in to a layby to take in one of the most incredible views I have ever seen. I have no adequate words. Please enjoy:
We had been promised a surprise in the afternoon, if we didn't mind a slight diversion. I was delighted to learn that the surprise was the Fuente Dé cable car - I love a cable car - which took us to a spot from which we could admire Alpine choughs above and the tiny dots of our bikes in the car park below.
There wasn't room for our entire party in one car, and Jen and I ended up sharing the next one with a group of tiny, elderly Spanish women on their pilgrimage.
("You must feel really tall!" said Jen. "You should move to Spain!")
Back at the bikes, one of the group asked me if I had any biscuits left, as her diabetic husband had just tested his insulin and found it low. So my BNs averted a potential medical emergency!
The last part of the journey took us up high, into the heart of the Picos de Europa National Park. Signs of civilisation were far between and I spent a good half hour with no other riders in sight. I felt sure that the ride had been far longer than the distance and timing we'd been told before we set off, and was panicking slightly about missed turnings and vanishing into the dusk with no phone signal, when a petrol station came into view and with it a marker. A minute later, I was joining the other bikes in the hotel courtyard.
The hotel featured views over the lake - actually a reservoir with a flooded village beneath it - and a gorgeous Chow, whom I greeted in the correct manner i.e. "HELLO ANGEL PIE!!"
We were given a wonderful meal, after which I stayed up until 1am drinking and talking about aeroplanes.
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