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.
Favoring a good night of sleep we had declined our invitation to an impromptu party the night before. Therefore, we were able to enjoy the coldest and last night of the trip on a mirador overlooking the river nearby. As usual, we hadn’t been too picky about our sleeping spot and early in the morning, a rather large dog, barking on a nearby property woke us up. For the first time, the temperature had dropped to 8ºC and we were thinking of wearing our puff jackets. We quickly packed our camp and said goodbye to our scary four-legged friend.
As planned a few days before, we would ride back to Teruel borrowing a 40km shortcut on main roads. With only a small ride ahead of us we decided to take it slow and enjoy our last breakfast of the trip. However, none of the restaurants were opened nor serving so we resorted to finding something to eat at a bakery. It wasn’t selling any bread though, so our breakfast would be comprised of pizza, biscuits and anything we could find.
We then grabbed a table at a bar and ordered coffees, beers, and a hot chocolate. Sitting behind us were a group of friends and a pastor, curious about our looks and bikes. From the beer to the funny discussion and ambiance, this last breakfast did not disappoint. Before leaving, we kindly ask the group if we could take a picture of them and they wish us good luck on our adventure.
Around 10am, we finally jumped on our bikes and started riding towards Teruel. Although we were diverging from the original route, the scenery was still beautiful. The road laid at the bottom of a canyon surrounded by orange rock formations, next to a tumultuous stream. A few kilometers in, we had managed to warm up a little and stopped at a gas station to remove our jackets.
At the same time, a burgundy van pulled into the station. It was the guy who had walked us to our sleeping camp the night before. Surprised to see him there, we explained why we hadn’t come to the party. We hadn’t had the time to talk too much with him, so we chatted about our adventure for a little while. Then, he tells us he has to go find his dad in the forest and disappears, running straight into a bush. Standing there, we were left wondering about what had had just happened. Ignoring the weirdness, we filled our bikes up and got back on the road.
Even though the road was in perfect condition we were feeling the toll from the previous days spent on the trails. Twenty kilometers later, we once again stop for a break on the side of the road. Walking up towards us on a small adjacent path is a couple of locals coming back from their vegetable garden with buckets full of cucumbers and peppers. We engage the conversation with them and the grandma immediately starts filling our pockets and bikepacking bags with small pickle like cucumbers. They encourage us to eat them on the go saying they’ll give us strength.
We were talking like good old friends.
We hadn’t seen vegetables in a week so the three of us immediately ate a bunch. They were so good, we couldn’t believe it. The grandpa told us to wait because he had to go fetch a spade but wanted to show us around his irrigation system. We waited a few minutes for him to come back while enjoying our cucumbers. He then dug a little trench to deviate water from the river into his garden. It was a very clever system that allowed him to have a lush garden in the middle of the desert. He then showed us all of his crops, what he had planned for the upcoming winter etc. Although we had never met him before, we were talking and sharing memories like good old friends.
We couldn’t have dreamed of a sweeter encounter for our last day on the Montañas Vacías route. After half an hour, Mathis took a beautiful portrait of our new favorite abuelo, who wished us the best before walking down to his house.
Little did we know that we were only ten kilometers away from Teruel. Soon after, we would start our ascent towards the city’s central square and fountain from which our trip had begun. With the end in sight, it was a bitter-sweet moment! That was it, our journey was coming to an end... The loop was complete and we celebrated with an ice-cold beer and sandwich. We rested for a good hour and half, chatted about the trip, all of the ups and downs we had experienced over the past week. However tough our adventure had been, we couldn’t stop talking about the wide range of scenery we had had the chance to contemplate each day and the numerous encounters with locals. We had seen Spain like never before!
Ahead of us laid a rather tough afternoon. In fact, we had to unpack our bags, dust off our bikes, and try to load the car before a 6 hours drive to Roses where would spend the rest of the week with friends. One bag at a time, we were realizing how much our gear had suffered from the dryness and immense amount of dust we had ridden through. Nonetheless, in under an hour, we had managed to rearrange everything, load the car, and were already on our way to the coast. After a long and tiring drive, we ate an indecent amount of pasta with pesto and went straight to bed.
While this marks the end of our journey on the trails of the Montañas Vacías, part of our agreement to shorten the route included a full day of riding in Girona. Come back next week to read about this coastal epilogue. As always, you can check the route and our activity on Strava using the link below.
Let me know in the comments if you want to see an article about our gear and how we tackled the logistics of such an adventure.