Saturday, May 10, 2014

Open, Sesame!

     We started our day off in Zaragoza with nips from Dream, Laura and Mikel´s cat. Our hosts are preparing for their own adventure: in autumn they want to catch a flight to take them and their Surlys (Surly is a legendary bike brand among cycling enthusiasts, famous for its steel frames) to be travel South America. 

     The couple assure us that there isn´t much to see in Zaragoza, but we are reluctant to believe them and in a while  we arrive in the Plaza del Pilar. More than a basilica, it looks like a circus. El Pilar is a great, grand, stunning building, but we hardly find the spirit of Pilarica to appreciate it. The temple is crowded with people enjoying the practice of  illegal photography and a long line of parents and young children waiting for their epic moment: when the tender infant has the opportunity to kiss the robe of the Virgin of Pilar, while dozens of grandmothers proudly contemplate the spectacle. The acolyte who guides them falls, the guard ends up turning a blind eye to illegal photographers, while the bombs that fell during the Civil War on the Pilar and didn’t explode wonder what they are doing hanging on the wall, condemned by the mistakes of others to watch the show until the devotion goes out of style. Shortly afterwards we enjoy Goya's prints, and I will smile looking at one entitled "The Power of the Tailor." 

     The next day we say goodbye to Laura and Mikel who guide us out of the city. We start off on the road with the intention of following the waters of the Gallego River. The day goes by quietly, it seems to be one of those days when you have the feeling that you have done quite a few kilometers but there is nothing to tell ... until we stop for lunch. Gabriel opens the saddlebag of food and ... surprise! We have learned a new lesson: do not save glass jars. The sesame oil is broken at the bottom and the saddlebag and all that was inside drips and reeks equally. A week later still smelling mostly of Chinese food and Gabriel´s pants have a new print. When we finish our lunch near the dam of Sotonera we think  the smell will give ourselves away. 

     Following the Gallego River is a delight, one of the best experiences we've had so far. The scenery is amazing, the river makes a canyon between striking rock formations and the color of the water looks like divine Photoshop. Thus we enter the Pyrenees, where the maxim is upheld that the number of curves and slopes is directly proportional to a beautiful perspective. In this case, perhaps too beautiful: we take the first slopes enthusiastically, but 70 miles later, there´s no more excitement left in our legs, and we begin to slack off. We call our would be  host at Hostal de Ipiés to say that the Pyrenees have won this battle and we will not be there for dinner. When we finally meet our host and his family, a hot chocolate awaits us, and we remember not so much the effort as the green of the forest and the charm of the semi-abandoned villages of the Aragonese Pyrenees. Raul takes us out of our reverie by telling his own cycling stories and introducing us to the world of amateur radio. As if the story of Raul was not sufficiently motivating (with almost 70 years he has just returned from cycling around half of South America just like a kid), he tells us that had the opportunity to cycle alongside Diego Ballesteros. 

    Diego became famous for cycling from Zarazoga to Beijing in less than 100 days, and he tells  this story now  from his wheelchair. Shortly after that feat, he was hit by a car while crossing the USA from coast to coast, and lost forever the hope of walking again and feeling anything from the chest down. However, he is still competing with a hand bike and is preparing for the Paralympics. Raul says that pedaling with Diego is a boost of energy. How much we complain about everything, how little we value what we have! 

     We made our way towards Jaca, where the little brother of Boreas reminds us that we are still in Aragon. Luckily my face was designed according to the strict laws of aerodynamics. After several miles with the wind against us, we decided to end the day and found a small cozy corner by the river. We are proud of our new home. But we have to say goodbye to Aragon to reenter Navarra. We leave behind Jaca and go towards the Yesa reservoir (about which much might be said, and nothing good: some projects of growth that shake the earth, allowing the expropriation and the abandonment of villages and last year were about to turn Sangüesa into the new Atlantis). We pass by Ruestawhere we end up with more questions than answers and have breakfast at Urriés, attracted by the idea of  hot coffee and toast. We feel very much at home, the company is so nice, we spent more than two hours there. The owners of the local bar, which has 25 rooms, are a young couple who fled the city to find happiness in a place where time has stopped. When we leave, we look back and feel like we see our future.We are still smiling when we get to the Sos del Rey Católico, and even when we visit Sangüesa, and still when we cross the gorge of Lumbier. 

 Up and down, the ups and downs of the road guide us in the transition of landscapes. Behind us, the surging wheat bathes the edge of the angry Pyrenees that show their teeth to heaven. We only hope that the fillings of the Yesa don´t  get worse.

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