A little travelled area in central Spain, with high elevation plateaus, remote refugios, crystal clear rivers and one of the lowest population densities in Europe. Described as having clean air, with little light or noise pollution; we wanted to explore it further.
We had both read about a little traveled area in central Spain to the east of Madrid, with high elevation plateaus, remote refugios and one of the lowest population densities in Europe. Described as having clean air, with little light or noise pollution; we wanted to explore it further. The Montanas Vacias is a web of routes following quiet paved, gravel & forest roads with some remote and rocky sections, curated by a local rider and enthusiast Ernesto Pastor. What we had perhaps not registered in our readings were the warnings about the route being isolated and in parts physically demanding & for experienced gravel & mountain bike riders!
We caught trains to Teruel (in itself somewhat challenging with bikes) and visited the enthusiastic, friendly and helpful (& only) Surya bike shop before setting off with some food, water, a paper map, the gpx files downloaded to Komoot and a “lets see how it goes'' plan for the next two weeks. Following the important principle of “leave everything as you found it, and if it's possible, better”, we mostly wild camped with occasional AirB&B, hostel & campsite nights. Our visits to small villages every 24-48 hours to find the local bar, restock on food, and recharge batteries gave us the chance to eat local home-cooked food and drink excellent coffee & hopefully contribute a little into the clearly precarious local economy. Long 2-3 hour meals taken at whatever time of day we found something open and serving, became the norm and we were treated everywhere with friendliness and kindness allowing us to plug in Marks e bike and both of our phones and navigation devices. We pitched our tents usually without flysheets just before dark and were up first thing ensuring our camping was minimalist (almost bivouacking) with hopefully little or no environmental impact. We slept well, occasionally woken by the bellows of rutting deer but that was just an opportunity to marvel at the number of stars that are always there but rarely seen due to light pollution. Clearly not all locals appreciated the noise of the deer and we were woken one morning by a hunter wandering through our camp with a rifle.
The gradients and loose & rocky surfaces were sometimes really challenging especially in the midday sun & Heather spent more time than she would have liked or is used to, pushing her bike.
This was by far the best 2 weeks of bike packing we had ever done and we were just so privileged to experience such a unique and unspoilt place. The solitude was breathtaking and the autumn colours, with clean air, clear skies and stars, & icy rivers amazing, as were the birds and wildlife.
Why have we put this trip on the website? Well that's a fair question and we were not sure if we should. However, we both struggle to maintain hope in the fight against the climate crisis and know that the best antidote involves cycling, interacting with the rest of nature and having random conversations with people we meet on the way telling them our story and handing out RFTL cards.