Room 101 and the Guardia

I woke up this morning and saw blue skies. I thought a trip on the cable car in the Picos and then head to Astorga the long way around would be great. As I was leaving I noticed my room was 101 (see George Orwell for explanation). No tea at breakfast was surely the worst it could get?

I am not superstition really, however seeing only one magpie makes me search for another, pronto.

Checking the bike over and I notice the chain had a bit of slack so spanners out to adjust that. I also notice the loobman had deposited a bit of oil on my left side chicken strips (edges of tyres that only get warn at full lean). Not a good start but nothing I could do besides go careful until I could remedy it.

The road to Fuente de, where the cable car is, was beautiful. Conscious of oil on my tyre I ride relatively cautiously.

I arrive at the car park and go about locking my bike. I look around. Stunning. This cable car will be great.

My phone goes. Spanish number. I bet I’ve left something at the hotel, charger, jumper, crash helmet. I answer. “Mr B, this is Brittany ferries, have you checked your passport?”. I know I have it and it is well in date; I applied for a visa to China only last month (another story). I check. It is not mine! It belongs to a Mr P!

“A Mr P has your passport, there was mixup at the port and wants permission for me to give him your number”. Errr Yes of course. “Like you, he is heading south … ” Errr … “I am in the North”. “Maybe you can post them?” Unlikely as I am moving around.

A few minutes of a complete melt down and informing my loved ones that I was in a mess, I lose it momentarily. My words, out loud, in a tourist filled car park will not be repeated here. My mum might read this and I would lose any inheritance on that collection of words alone (not as though I want any inheritance, just don’t want to upset my Mum).

My phone goes. It’s Mrs P. “We are close to Madrid, I believe you are heading south too … “. I explain. They had no maps. As the crow flies, to meet them half way would be a long day for me. I am in a mountain range. Give me 10 minutes. I call back. What about meeting in Leon in about 3 hours? Deal.

I head off. Back through Potes and on to the N-621 towards Leon. Sweet Mother of Mary what an incredible road. Over 2000m above sea level in places. Turn after turn. Meandering up snow capped mountains. Fantastic. (Albeit with a oily tyre). Unfortunately no time for photographs. Google will confirm the views.

60 minutes in and it is hard work. It is relentless. On a rare straight stretch I see my fuel guage. Shit. “I will be ok”, I keep repeating to myself. Running dry up here could be a disaster.

On the descent the roads go from the complexion of Liz Taylor to Richard Burton. A time to save fuel.

As I come in to Riano I see signs for fuel. The petrol station, on the opposite side of the road, has a no entry sign on the nearest entrance. The furthest one I didn’t really check. Left turn. Horns from behind me. I pull up and a Guardia who was in the station strolls over with a swagger like he is Dirty Harry. “Engine off!!”. I oblige.

Apparently the other entrance had a no entry sign too and I crossed a solid white line to get there. I should have ridden past and come back in the opposite direction, turning at say a roundabout. So, no entry signs and solid white lines mean the same in Spain as they do in Blighty. Who knew?

He threatens giving me a ticket. I apologize profusely, biting my tongue, trying not to say it was you bloody idiots that swapped my passport otherwise I wouldn’t be here. I half expected him to ask for it to be honest. That could have got interesting. Thankfully my recently discovered zen-like calmness from the mountain air persuade me to keep my usually big mouth shut.

I fill up and head off. The lake at Riano was like glass. Mountain on top of its mirror image. A photo would not have captured that moment in time; I was in a rush so will never find out.

Along the route I see lots of Camino de Santiago symbols. I feel a sense of peace and calm. The ley lines maybe? [The lines that the camino routes all follow, and the same such lines where the likes of Stone Henge and Glastonbury also reside]

The last hour is straight 90kph roads with numerous 50kph sections. I adhere. No more Guardia today.

I figure the road from the south is where Mr and Mrs P will be traveling on. I find it. I pull up. I have a text. ‘We are on a McDonald’s & Lidl carpark on the le 11’ it reads . A quick Google and I find I am 400m away. Good guess work.

We exchange passports. Curse the officials and exchange pleasantries. Crazy thing is they live about 10 miles from me in UK.

I am exhausted. I think I cannot cope with anything else. Astorga is 30mins away. I get there without issue. The hotel is bang in the middle, in a beautiful square. Swanky and with an underground car park so little worry of security.

Hotel to the right (Astur Plaza)

Like most Spanish towns it is closed and like a ghost town mid afternoon. I take a walk through the mostly deserted streets to find the Palace of Gaudì Astorga.

Just like his famous Barcelona example it is clad with scaffolding

It sits right against La Catedral de Santa María de Astorga which by any standards is fabulous. Dare I say it, better than Notre Damm (joking!)

I wait for cafes/restaurants to open. 7pm and I am waiting for chips with egg and vegetable lasagna. I explain the “vegetariano” thing. Fried potatoe cubes with fried egg arrive, with lots of Serrano ham on top … To be fair their culture is one where they kill bulls for entertainment. Eating a bit of sliced pig would not touch the sides for them. Just a cultural difference, the differences that make traveling brilliant if not sometimes shocking. I brush the ham aside and dig in. I have no issue. I won’t starve.

A trip to the super market to buy washing up liquid and a tooth brush. I will scrub that tyre and wash it down when a I see a garage (do they have jet washers in Spain? )

Thankfully my current room is 106. So, besides the forecast rain, hopefully there will be no drama.

As I often say to my beautiful children. As long as you have a credit card and your passport you can manage without anything else …

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