Cycling Europe 2019: Day 5, In The Bay Of Biscay

It’s 6.30am, or perhaps 5.30am as I seem to remember the woman on the public address system telling us we were sticking to UK time until we arrived in Santander. I’m going to mutiny and stick to continental time. At least it makes me feel better about having abandoned repeated attempts at elongated sleeping. I have slept as, only an hour or so ago, I was discussing the nefarious life story of Terry Waite. As far as I’m aware, Terry Waite does not have a nefarious life story. This means I must have been dreaming and thus, at some point, slept. In the confines of this ‘cabin de sièges’, surrounded by the snores and wheezing of many people who clearly have no issue sleeping, that is something to celebrate. It has been one of those nights when it isn’t a case of when to wake up but when to stop making the effort to get back to sleep. That I did around half an hour ago. Only having the carpet as a mattress clearly wasn’t helping…

Now showered, I’m waiting for the sun to rise and for the world around me to haul itself back into motion. It’s not a very busy ship, or at least didn’t seem that way last night. I suppose people may have opted to stay in their cabins – the ‘lucky’ majority who were willing to fork out for the pleasure – and avoid the on board entertainment. I only saw the children’s entertainer; a remarkably well synched dancing duo consisting of a young woman in dungarees and a permanent smile and a bear. Not a real one. That would have been fun however. A singer belting out Adele songs came next but by that time I was hiding on the balcony and she remained out of sight if not earshot. Such pervasive and unavoidable (it’s not a very big ship) entertainment would surely be more successful if it were delivered from the assumption that the default position of those in the surrounding area was not to be entertained rather than to be entertained. Turning the volume knob down to 5 would have been a start. By the time the promised magician was scheduled to appear, I had sloped off to my armchair and patch of carpet…

Despite all that I have written above (brace yourself), I do actually enjoy these kind of boat trips mainly because you are encouraged to do everything at half the speed you would normally. Ahead of me are 10 hours of doing not a great deal. This includes:

⁃ wandering

⁃ watching

⁃ reading

⁃ writing

⁃ snoozing

⁃ pondering &

⁃ procrastinating

In effect, it’s a list of all the activities you either spend much of your ordinary (non-ship) life putting to one side until later or feeling guilty about doing in the first place. On board the Pont Aven today I can even procrastinate about procrastination and not feel in the least bit bad about doing so…

Time has moved on. It’s now nearly midday continental time. There is a temptation to simply eat your way through 24 hours. My full English this morning (I never eat them in England, who does?) will keep me going until the campsite in Santander this evening. On the subject of which… I’ve been looking at the map and trying to plan the next few days. So far I have abandoned the idea of staying in Santander itself for two nights (re-reading the Lonely Planet Magazine article from earlier in the summer – ‘prettiness and Santander aren’t synonymous’ – has given me second thoughts) in preference for cracking on with some cycling. Come tomorrow morning (Thursday), I won’t have done much of that since Tuesday on the Isle of Wight. Here’s the short term plan:

Tonight – camp in Santander.

Thursday – cycle along the coast to San Vicente de la Barquera and camp (one of my fellow cycling ferry-goers has told me there is an excellent site at Pechón).

Friday – cycle south into the mountains to Potes and camp.

Saturday – cycle over the mountains via the Puerto de San Glorio then descend to the Embalse de Riaño and camp, perhaps at Riaño which has, according to that same cyclist, just been voted Spain’s prettiest village.

From there I could make a gradual return to the coast or stay in the mountains and continue to fathom my way towards Santiago. As they sin these parts, mañana.

In other news… the Spain / Portugal episode of The Cycle Europe Podcast is in production. I have interviewed the, err… chap from the whale conservation charity Orca who has been encouraging the passengers to help him look out for whales and dolphins. It might be that kind of podcast.

3pm update…

⁃ wandering – done. I even just discovered a new outside walkway on this ship; it was an exciting moment.

⁃ watching – ongoing. I’m still trying to work out if the chap a few metres to my right is one of Hale & Pace. The one with the moustache. I haven’t noticed anyone asking for his autograph.

⁃ reading – a bit. Sufficient to decide against staying too long in Santander. Other than that it has mainly been the myriad of signs in places like this. My favourite is one that states: “Mind your cigarettes. Teak cover. Fragile.” It sounds better – and makes more sense – in French: “Attention aux cigarettes. Pont en tech. Fragile.

⁃ writing – clearly…

⁃ snoozing – a bit, but I wake when a particular limb is going numb to the point of amputation. This doesn’t take long.

⁃ pondering – lots, mainly over maps.

⁃ procrastinating – I’m sure I’ll get around to it soon…

We should arrive within the next couple of hours. Straight to the campsite and get on with drying a very wet tent…

11pm update

Now on the campsite in Santander. Normal service is resumed…

Categories: Adventure, Cycling, Travel

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