Rave party - MV Day 4
Rave party - MV Day 4
📍 Beteta, Spain
🚲 Ride
🖋 Charles Aubert
⏱️ 9 min read

This article is part of the Montañas Vacías series. A story about three friends getting reunited for a bikepacking trip over the summer. Read the previous one here: https://quaero.world/rides/montanas-vacias-day-3/

Suddenly, loud music starts playing and flashlights wake me up! My heart raced as I emerged from my sleep. Blinded by the light, I distinguish a tipsy group of teenagers curious about our camp. They exchanged a few words, laughed and resumed their walk. Although we had tried to find a quiet spot, we were apparently sleeping next to the path leading to a rave party happening barely a hundred meters away from our camp. I had fell asleep counting stars in what I thought was our best sleeping spot yet. Now, I couldn’t count the number of people passing by my sleeping bag. While the partiers were singing at the top of their lungs, I was watching shooting stars, unable to get any sleep.

Around 6am, the sun was on the horizon and the music stopped. I completely closed my sleeping bag and managed to rest for an hour. It felt surreal, we were surrounded by ruins, the landscape resembled Tatooine (from Star Wars), yet dozens of people were walking back to the village from a rave party. While Antoine and I had had the worst night of the trip, Mathis hadn’t been disturb once. We slowly “woke up” and packed our camp. We were also heading back to the village, but for breakfast.

When we arrived at the restaurant / hotel / bar, the place was packed with the party goers. It was barely 8am and inside the establishment, sat old papis each sipping on-the-rocks whiskeys. The barman took our order, but was running out of bread due to a “very high demand” and we were only able to get 2 toasts each. Normally, it would have been sufficient but we knew we’d need more to reach the next village. Mathis settled for a mr freeze while I enjoyed energy bars and fruits I had bought the day before.

Antoine who had wished for a night at the hotel, had gotten no sleep and was tired like never before. We hadn’t started the day but we already knew we would not make it far, so we decided to change our plans. The map indicated a beautiful lake and camping spot 35km away. We would have to only ride until 2pm, a good compromise. With our destination set, we grabbed our bikes and left Zaorejas, a village and night we would never forget.

Luckily, the day started out easy on quiet gravel roads in the middle of a seemingly endless pine forest, reminding me of Swedish roads. The only difference was an impressive number of fire watch towers scattered around the high altitude plateau. At this point, the air was so dry that I couldn’t create condensation to clean my glasses. Although dense, the vegetation was dry too and we were very aware that a single spark could light a raging fire.

A few turns later, the route borrowed a very large stretch of paved road. It seemed odd to have such an infrastructure in the middle of the Spanish lapland where traffic wasn’t part of the vocabulary. It stretched as far as the eyes could see. With no cars in sight, we took the opportunity to capture this perspective by “posing” in the middle of it. After this impromptu photo shoot, we headed for the next stop on the map: Peñalén, a small village in the middle of an old quarry.

We hadn’t seen a road in such good conditions since we had left Teruel. There was only one possible way to enjoy and it was to ride as fast as we could. Fueled by the pure bliss of speed, we even overtook locals out on a road ride. With our bandanas, bags, flip flops and dusty bikes, our looks certainly attracted the attention when we arrived in Peñalén. Since we had barely gotten any sleep, the sight of a barrel with stools meant we could stop for a bit, grab a few beers and enjoy life. A good hour later, the sun hadn’t yet reached its zenith so we got back on our bikes to cover the day's remaining kilometers.

However, we also needed to stock up on water. Antoine went to the fountain on the main square but the water looked dubious. He asked a nearby grandma and she told him there was a tap with fresh water just a few meters away, on the bar’s terrace. Antoine came back and told us the water was great. Mathis went up the terrace to fill up his bottles too, but on that terrace stood another fountain. Once I got to it, Mathis noticed my hesitation and said: “The water tastes really bad, but I just drank a liter of it”. All of the locals were staring at him confidently filling up his bottles. That's when I realized it was decorative and the water was running in a closed loop. In fact, all sorts of litter laid at the bottom of the fountain. Mathis had become the victim of a big misunderstanding: the tap was hidden behind a bush.

Not knowing exactly what to do, we thought it would be best for him to try to regurgitate the water he had just drank. What followed was a painful hour on the side of the road in 40ºC heat. As much as I was worried about Mathis, I was also recalling the argument we had the day before about the effectiveness of water filters. Maybe karma was at play here!

By the time Mathis was done saving his microbiota, the itinerant baker had just stopped at the entrance of the village. Mathis ran there and back and bought two kilos of madeleines. We rehydrated himself, ate five madeleines and we were back on the road. Lucky for us, the rest of the day was on paved roads and we easily made our way to Beteta: the last chance for resupply for the next hundreds kilometers. With only two kilometers left before our lakeside camping spot, we sat at a restaurant for a proper lunch.

Only one way to overcome this: sticking together

The waitress there couldn’t stop laughing for reasons that remain unknown to this day. She had to come and go three times before being able to hold a straight face and take our order. It didn't matter, we had managed to find pizzas! After the day’s events and accumulated fatigue, Antoine gave up and admitted he wouldn’t finish the trip. Followed a tumultuous discussion during which each of us argued about our expectations for this adventure. There was only one way to get through this: sticking together. After much debate and a lot of map scouting, we found a shortcut some 200km away that would take us back to Teruel. Remained two days of riding to reach the shortcut and half a day to get back to Teruel, a now non-negotiable compromise.

The journey had challenged us since the very beginning, and resting felt good. Now that all the tension about the rest of the trip was gone, we could fully enjoy the local culture and life. After almost four hours at the bar, I told Mathis and Antoine: “If you can get the waitress to fill your bidons with beer, the round is on me!”. Without hesitation, they both walked in the establishment. A minute later, Mathis whistled at me, our coolness had gotten us free chupitos (tiny shots)!

Our hunger was satisfied, our bidons were filled with beer and we slowly rode our bikes down the village towards the lake. On our way there, we asked a group of kids playing football and riding their bikes where we could find fresh water. They proceeded to show us around the village, asking all sorts of questions about our trip, where we were going etc.

We needed to accept our weaknesses and open ourselves

Standing there, chatting with all these kids, I realized the adventure was not about covering miles or physically and mentally fighting the elements. The true experience had laid before our eyes since the very beginning. We just needed to accept our weaknesses and open ourselves to an unknown version of Spain. We waived goodbye to our friends and headed for the lake.

Just like with the Tajo river, we couldn’t believe our eyes. A lake, in the middle of an arid mountain range. We left our bikes on the banks and immediately jumped in for a swim. The feeling of warm water wrapping around my skin made me forget about the harsh conditions we had endured so far. I closed my eyes for a minute, floating at the surface with the sunset gently warming me up. We couldn’t have dreamed of a better way to end the day.

Once the sun set, we setup camp deep in the bush on the only flat grounds we had found. We were the only ones around the lake or at least that’s what we thought. Emerges from the tall grass, another cyclist! He had seen our bikes on the banks, and thought he would look for us. He immediately spotted our french accents and happened to be speaking french as well. We had just made friends with Jose Alberto. A Spanish guy from Guadalajara, solo riding the Montañas Vacías route!

Jose Alberto didn’t have any food and water left, despite us offering him some, he took a quick swim and went back to the village to find supplies for the night and next hundred kilometers. We made diner with some of the food we had packed beforehand (semolina and dried raisins). A quick rainfall had us pack everything up around 10pm, but once it was over we watched the stars rise in the sky and slowly went to bed. Jose Alberto would join our camp later in the night.

Come back next week to read about how we lost track of Jose Alberto! As always, you can check the route and our activity on Strava using the link below.

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