Maseta Central Plateau
Stage 9: Alcuéscar -> Fuentes de Cantos 114 km
Fortunately, bar/cafe opened at 6:00 so a couple of ‘cafe con leche’s’ able to be thrown back; still got away ~45 min before sunrise on a dead quiet road. Gentle downhill for the first while so very good time in first 20 km or so. Gorgeous sunrise, very red, over our left shoulder, lovely morning.
Then diverted from N-630 onto gravel/dirt paths, variant on the Ruta de la Plata. Morning still fresh... so it felt right. In places challenging tracks for me at least, but overall very special; remote-feeling country for next hour plus. However, really slow going!
Finally reached the old town of Mérida via a reservoir and impressive Roman-built dam. But it’s a 3:30 ride time and only ~40 km accomplished when we sit down for late breakfast of tostados and coffee.
Los Milagros aqueduct amazing to see as we depart Mérida; then follow shaded cycle path along scenic river for a bit before suddenly throwing us out onto increasingly sketchy roads and neighbourhoods. Now nasty gravel, no, cobble-sized stones... burnt out vehicles, no one about, decidedly unfriendly guard dogs... about 10 km later re-find some tarmac, and again swing southward.
Day gets warmer ...
Several coke stops later roll into Fuentes de Cantos, and after restorative fluid intake find the apartment pre-booked by David. I keep asking: Euro 50 ?!
Swimming pool, gardens, fountain, separate bedrooms, kitchen?! Euro 50 ?!
Some time in the bracing pool, recover from the heat, too short of a rest before venturing out for dinner. Find a place, El Gato, up on the main road: surprisingly nice. Great waiter who comp’d us a glass of acorn liquor at meal end.
Back to apartment and sleep. Euro 50 ?!