Distance 50 miles (80 km)
Time spent in the saddle: 3 hours 30 mins
Elevation gained: 2,096 feet
Maximum Speed: 36.9 miles per hour
Average speed: 13.7 miles per hour
Total distance now covered: 727 miles (1170 km)
I had a bit of a lazy morning in the accommodation and didn't pack up and leave until 11am. Even then, I didn’t leave Morella straight away. I had seen a lovely walkway, along which people were promenading last night, and was intrigued as to where it might lead. However, hunger had got the better of me and I’d decided to head to a restaurant, and head to the walkway this morning, before leaving. It offered spectacular views across the hills and time to just sit, watch people go by, and soak up the warmth and sunshine. I had my bike with me and was pushing it along when I thought heard a woman’s voice calling “Keith? Keith?” I was so convinced that it was the name ‘Keith’ being shouted that I looked around, more to satisfy myself that I had mis-heard rather than anything else; after all, why would anybody be shouting my name in an ancient hill-top town in Spain? About 20 yards behind me was a relatively young woman and I look to her at her questioningly? “Keith?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “I am Estelle. You stayed at my property last night”. “Hello, nice to meet you. Your brother said you are in Senegal.” “I was,” explained Estelle, “but I arrived back in Spain 3 days ago and have been in Benicassim with friends since then. I have just arrived back in Morella.” We then got chatting about why Estelle was in Senegal and it transpired that she works with women, helping them to achieve independence and to fight for their rights – at work and in society in general. She saw the colours of the flag and flowers on my on my bike and said “suffragette”, beautifully, in her Spanish accent; more like “suf-ra-jit”. She said she only knew who I was because her brother, who let me into the property yesterday, had explained that I was doing a bike ride for my wife and that I had my bike decorated with flowers. I explained that we had chosen these colours for the charity – those of the suffragettes - because Julie was a feminist and she too in her lifetime, had supported many women in asserting their rights, especially during her time as a social worker. It was immediately clear that Estelle and Julie would have got along just fine; gender politics aside, Estelle’s accommodation had been stocked with ‘fair trade’ items such as coffee and tea, and ‘green’ and natural toiletries, and she was dressed in a t-shirt with a lace top over it (a trademark of Julie’s, especially when we were in warmer climates) and wore a pair of ‘dangly’ wooden ear-rings that Julie would have been very pleased to own. “How did Julie die?” Estelle asked me. “She had cancer,” I said, “for five years, and her strength and love shone even more during that time”. A tear began to roll down Estelle’s left cheek and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back; I began crying too and before I knew it, I was being hugged by a total stranger, in the middle of a street, high above the Spanish countryside. Estelle wished me well for the rest of my journey and for the rest of my life. I wished her well too and asked when she is returning to Senegal to continue her work. “The end of August,” she replied. “Well keep up the good work; good luck with it and in your future life,” I said. I guessed that I had been meant to meet Estelle for some reason; and that I could now say ‘Goodbye’ to Morella.
The road out of town was an almost vertical drop and I was hundreds of feet below Morella within minutes. And any fears that I had that my joints would not be up to today’s journey soon dissipated. The ride turned out to be very straightforward, and thankfully all along roads; the N-232 and the CV-10, if you are into detail. It was flat – at worst, ‘gently undulating’ - apart from a beautiful section that saw me descend a further few hundred feet in quick time. The scenery here was not too dissimilar to that in the Rio Bergantes valley yesterday; there just wasn’t as much of it and we returned to the usual brown and barren landscape after just a few miles. I left the main roads only once, to pass through the narrow streets of a small town called San Mateu and only made one substantial stop during the whole 50 mile journey – at a friendly roadside café, where I stuffed down a croissant and a coffee in no time at all.
Back on the road, I passed the town of Villanova D’alcolea, which looked lovely, sat as it was beyond the olive groves on my left. And by 4pm, I was in Cabanas and standing outside Casa Rural Rosa, my accommodation for the night (San Jose, 11, Cabanes, 12180, Spain). There wasn’t the usual note on the door about ‘opening times’ or ‘hours of reception’ but there were some contact details, including an email address. I duly sent an email asking the owner to ring me when she was ready to meet up, and headed to Bar l”Hostal, for another coffee. Less than 20 minutes later, a man who looked to be in his early 30s at most, walked over to my table. “You stay Casa Rosa tonight?” he asked. “Yes.” “I am Fran. It is my mum’s house. I let you in”.
After gathering my things, and reaching the accommodation – which, by the way, is another place that Julie would simply adore – I told Fran that I hadn’t expected him so soon after sending my email and asked how he knew which café bar I would be sitting at. “What email?” he asked. I explained about my arrival, seeing the email address, sending off my message, and then heading to Bar l”Hostal. “No. Me no email,” he explained, “I was going to bank and just saw you sitting there. You had to be Inglisman.”
I spent a lovely evening back at Bar l’Hostal, which is located in a small square, watching people come and go and others simply pass by. It wasn’t the busiest of evenings in the town but there was that constant buzz of energy that seems to permeate the evening after a hot and sunny day, especially on the continent. I decided to head to another bar, this time for a beer, before I came back to my room. And who should arrive there less than 10 minutes after me, but Fran, with a group of friends. We talked football for about half an hour – half of the friends are Barcelona fans and half support Real Madrid, so conversation was ‘passionate’ to say the least – had our photograph taken together, and then I headed back to Casa Rosa on my bike, under a beautiful sunset lit sky.
I was planning to head straight to bed but met another Casa Rosa guest when I went into the kitchen to get some water. Marina doesn’t live too far away, in Castelon, and is here for 6 days. She spent 2 with her husband but he has returned to work and she has stayed on for a bit of rest and relaxation. My bike and t-shirt led to the usual conversation about my bike ride, and about Julie, and Marina told me that she is a nurse in oncology; the second oncology nurse that I have met in two days, following my chat with Shaun and Maria in Morella last night. Marina explained that she is actually doing some studying while she is in Cabanes for the next few days as she is soon taking some exams - in what she simply referred to as ‘natural medicine and therapies’. I told her about Julie’s interest and belief in various forms of complementary and traditional medicine, how she had benefitted greatly from homeopathy while she had cancer (and especially, when she was trying to manage side-effects of her radiotherapy treatment), how she qualified as an aromatherpist, and how she was a Reiki master! “I am a Reiki master too,” said Marina, “Julie sounds like a wonderful person.” “She was,” I said, “she was the best. She was absolutely beautiful, inside and outside”. Marina responded by saying, “I think she still with you. I believe we have an energy and that Julie’s energy is still around you.” “That is something that Julie believed, Marina,” I replied. “And I so hope it is true”. “It is true,” she said, “I sure of it.”
Tomorrow, it will hopefully be anoter straightforward ride (and a much shorter one) in to Benicassim and finally, back to Julie’s beach, outside the Villa del Mar Restaurante-Lounge, on Paseo Pilar Coloma towards the north end of the town. The route is just 16 miles according to my bike’s sat nav. I always planned to leave just a short run in to Benicassim on arrival day because I wasn't sure what sort of an emotional state I'd be in. If you’ve been reading the bog for the past few days – and especially yesterday - then you'll know that I have done the right thing. I plan to have a relaxing morning in Cabanes - maybe grab some breakfast at a local café and have a wander round town taking some photos – and to head off at about 1pm. So barring anything extraordinarily untoward happening between now and tomorrow afternoon, it looks like I might just finish this ride, and be sitting on Julie’s beach (no doubt crying my eyes out) by about 3pm on Wednesday 13th July 2016 … day 497.