Cycling in Switzerland is pure bliss. Not only is the scenery stunning, but there is a network of bike routes that cover the entire country, enabling cyclists to get just about anywhere so while we're gawking at the landscapes around us we don't have to worry about being clobbered by a speeding vehicle. We have spent nearly all of our time in Switzerland following various bike routes. It's a bit of a hodge-podge system of interconnected bike paths, back roads and gravel trails that zig-zag through quiet country farmland, forests, parking lots, construction zones, along levees and even across an occasional runway. There is usually very little traffic but when the route spits you out onto a major road, there are always bike lanes. What an excellent way to get people to use bikes as a primary source of travel. Although it's never the most direct route to where we're going, it's effective, highly used and even though we're mostly on paths that don't exist on our map, it's impossible to get lost. There are infinite routes, each of them numbered and at nearly every intersection there's a little red bicycle sign pointing us in the right direction. It's quite nice not having to pull out our computer map every time we get to a big city to figure out how to navigate our way through or around; in Switzerland all we do is search for the signs and easily pass on through. Even our dreaded trip into the capital city of Bern to get more pages put into Mike's passport at the Embassy turned out to be painless and the bike routes made the city seem tiny.

Switzerland has always been a place I've wanted to visit. The pictures always make it look so magical and pristine. And it is. When the air is not hazy the lower mountains are a magnificent emerald green and the higher mountains are blinding white as they tower above. Down in the narrow valleys there are swift, wide rivers and clear, deep lakes with vineyards and pastureland beginning at the banks and extending high up onto the steep mountainsides, nearly to the top. The pastures are filled with vibrant yellow flowers surrounding the occasional little wood cabins with red roofs and grazing cows with loud, enormous bells dangling from their necks. The mountains in Switzerland are alive with the music of ringing cow bells and even though we can't always see the cows, we can always hear them. The sound of cow bells will forever remind me of this place.
Vineyards in the Rhone River valley

The landscapes here are always beautiful but the most spectacular views we've had came after two grueling climbs. The first was a 22-mile ascent on a dead-end road to the town of Zermatt to see the famous Matterhorn. The night we arrived was overcast and offered pathetic views of the mountain. We found a place to camp on a rocky hill high above the city and hoped for good weather the next day. We awoke early the next morning to clear, blue skies and the Matterhorn glowing bright orange in the early light against the not yet sun-touched mountains that surrounded it. Suddenly the climb that whipped us the day before was amply justified.
The Matterhorn at sunrise. 

The Matterhorn

The second was on a 10-mile climb to 71,000 foot Grimselpass. Half way through the ascent we rounded a corner and passed through a tunnel and had to stop in disbelief at what we saw. The mountain towered above us with switchback after switchback creeping to the top letting us see every inch of the test that lay ahead. Though challenging, we spent the entire climb looking around in awe of the views, forgetting about our tired muscles and agreeing that this climb equaled, or maybe even surpassed, the long-favored Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier National Park in pure breathtaking beauty. Once at the top we were able to look down at the road we had just climbed with a sense of accomplishment, out at the amazing 360-degree view around us and once again all of our hard work seemed worth the efforts.
Mike heading towards the switchbacks up to Grimselpass.

Looking back at the road up to Grimselpass. 

At the top.

The one major downside to Switzerland is that it's extremely expensive. Everything costs about double what it would be back home. For instance, we stopped at a McDonald's to fill up water bottles and found that a Big Mac costs $11, and that's for the sandwich only. Meat in general is outrageously expensive with a pound of ground beef costing $9 minimum. We have reached the point where we're both in desperate need of some new essentials, like helmets which are being held together with duct tape and zip ties, bike shoes that have gaping holes leaving toes completely exposed, cycling shorts that are embarrassingly see through and sunglasses that are being held together with crazy glue. Just for giggles we sometimes stop in a bike shop to check out the prices and have yet to find any one of those items costing less than $150. It's a good thing Switzerland is such a small country. Although we've meandered our way through quite a bit of it, we also know that we could be in a different country within two days from any point; if we had to spend several months cycling here we'd certainly break our bank.

We have continued to meet absolutely wonderful people, both strangers who want to know what we're doing as well as those who invite us into their homes. Thanks to Sandra and Andreas for letting us stay with you for a couple of days, sharing South America bike touring stories, pampering us with your hospitality and spoiling us with delicious home cooked meals where Mike enjoyed his chance to taste horse meat for the first time. Thanks to Emil and Eve for being so enthusiastic about our journey, sharing cycling adventure stories, helping plan our next routes and sending us on our way with a pound of Swiss chocolate. “Just as the French carry baguettes under their arms, we Swiss carry chocolate,” is what we were told. It's a lot of extra weight to carry but if there's one thing I'm more than willing to lug over these mountains, it's chocolate.
Swiss chocolate!

We got pretty excited this week when we came upon another bike tourist heading in our same direction. We had met a few in South America but it never worked out to really ride together, so this was the first time in nearly a year that we cycled with anyone else. We picked up Laurent, a 24-year old, chain smoking French guy who was on his 3rd week of a 3-month holiday. Unfortunately he spoke mostly French and only a little bit of English and Spanish so communication was sometimes difficult, but we make Spanglish our official language and got along just fine.

Our styles of bike touring were a little different; Mike and I making it up as we go, never knowing where we'll be sleeping at night, never paying for camping and being content without showering for days at a time. Laurent on the other hand, had a predetermined route, a plan knowing which campground he would sleep at every night and wanted a shower after every day of cycling. We informed him of our plan to have no plan and he opted to join us. I think he was having second thoughts less than an hour after we diverted him from his original route. Aside from one good descent, the entire day was uphill. We were slowly but surely cruising along as we've become accustomed to these long climbs, but poor Laurent was running out of steam.

Noticing his fatigue we stopped early to fill our water supply and buy dinner supplies and promised that we'd find camp shortly thereafter. It typically takes us less than a half hour to find camp once we start looking but of course this had to be the one time when things don't go as smoothly as usual. We climbed and climbed, but the road we were on was abundant with towns and farm houses, with one hopeful-looking lead after another ending up to being impossible places to camp without being seen. An hour after buying groceries we were still climbing and searching and Laurent had a look of pure hate and exhaustion on his face. We knew exactly how he was feeling; we felt the same way when we went hiking with Charles and George in Spain. We felt bad but there wasn't a whole lot we could do.

As we looked ahead, the prospects for camping didn't look promising for as far as we could see so I stopped at a farm house and inquired about camping. They offered no intentions of letting us pitch our tents in their back yard and told us there was a hotel in town or a campground 10 miles up the road. I could see Laurent's heart sink as we looked at yet another segment of climbing. I tried again with the next farmers we passed and bingo, we had a place to stay in the back corner of their field next to a pile of wood and junk.

Laurent collapsed on the ground, lit a cigarette, cracked open a beer and for the first time in several hours, smiled. He was forgetting how much he hated us, or perhaps hated himself for following these two fools from America. We showed him that for us a shower is a dunk in the river, cooked up a hearty pasta dinner and then he showed us the pictures he's taken of his trip. He made sure I noticed that there were zero pictures from that day and pointing a finger at me with a smile said, “and it's all because of you! You made me work so hard an ride so far that I had no time or energy to take pictures.” I think he was actually impressed at how far he'd gone over difficult terrain; much further than had he been alone. Mike then took a look at his bike which he had told us wasn't working well. It was an easy fix but was no wonder why climbing those hills were so difficult; he couldn't get into his small chain ring and was therefore having to work twice as hard to turn his crank, not to mention that he was cycling in skateboarding shoes.
Laurent and Mike at camp.

Laurent rode with us for part of the second day into the tiny country of Liechtenstein which is 7 by 15 miles at its widest points. We had no reason to go there other than it would be fun to say we've been and there was not much interesting things to do or see, so we stopped for lunch and continued through and back into Switzerland. It was here that we intersected Laurent's originally planned route and he opted to get back on his track rather than ride on with us. I'm sure that in our day together we taught him a thing or two about long-term budget bike touring but I'm afraid that we may have scared him away from ever joining us in the future should our paths cross again.
Cari and Mike in Liechtenstein.



We loved France. There are many aspects that collectively make a place enjoyable for bike touring or not; the people, the scenery, the roads, the food, the weather, just to name a few. We had fairly decent weather and only had to endure a few miserably rainy days during our 2 week tour and aside from the fact that France is also a country who loves their always inconvenient siestas in the middle of every afternoon, we had no complaints.

It's always good to see other cyclists on the roads and though we only saw a couple of other touring cyclists, there was no doubt that France in big into cycling. Every day we passed dozens of riders which generally means that drivers are more aware of our presence, and that's always comforting. It makes for pleasant riding when vehicles actually slow down, move over and don't make you feel like you have no right being on the road.

France also was an extremely environmentally friendly country. The roads were void of broken glass bottles, there were recycling bins placed next to the garbage dumpsters in nearly every village and it was impossible to find plastic bags in the supermarkets; it was bring your own or go without. It was so nice being able to enjoy the natural beauty of the land without having to try and look past the ugly litter that can be seen in so many beautiful places. Instead we got to sit back and take in the fields of wheat waving in the wind, the cherry orchards with their branches dropping with sweet, red fruits, the endless vineyards, the river gorges and the towering mountains. The landscapes in France were diverse and beautiful and took our minds off the amount of effort required of us to pedal our way through the challenging terrain.

Of course I have to mention the food. Although we didn't indulge ourselves in their extensive wine selection, we did sample a fair share of their cheeses and being two people who love cheese, we were in high heaven. There were hundreds of varieties and we didn't find one that wasn't delicious. But the thing that sticks out most in my mind in relation to food is how much the French love their baguettes! We enjoy them too, to a certain extent, but can only eat so much of that hard, crusty bread before it tears apart the roofs of our mouths. We often ate our lunch in front of a bakery and during the hour that we sat there, literally every person that walked by and every car that drove past stopped and the customer came out with a baguette, or 2, under their arm. The French walk around with baguettes like Americans walk around with newspapers; it is quite a funny sight.
Cari with her baguette under arm.

I have to admit that I wasn't expecting to feel overwhelmingly welcome in France given the stereotypes of the French as being somewhat standoffish and though many of them know English, not wanting to speak it. I am happy to say that those stereotypes couldn't be further from the truth and for the first time since we left the U.S., we were showered with incredible hospitality. There were cyclists who passed us on the roads and people outside the supermarkets who offered to let us stay at their homes, shower, do laundry or whatever we needed. It was wonderful to once again have random strangers approach us, offer their assistance and even though it didn't always work because we either weren't going through their town or weren't ready to stop for the day, they still wanted to help so would give us contact info for their friends and family somewhere up the road. But every once in a while someone came along at just the right moment and we owe incredible amounts of thanks to many people in France.

To Brigitte and Jerome for letting us camp in your back yard, a delicious dinner and helping us map our route to the Alps. To Christophe and Sonia who happened to drive around a corner just as we stopped in a tiny village to knock on doors and ask for water. Before we knew it we had water, hot showers, dinner with their adorable family, maps galore pulled out to help us plan a spectacular, yet extremely challenging, route to Chamonix and we were sent on our way with beautiful gifts of wooden pens hand made by Christophe. To the family who was sitting on their front balcony having cocktails when we pulled up to ask for water. We were frantically searching for a place camp before the charcoal-gray curtain of rain and thunder and lightening that was chasing us up the valley engulfed us. Though none of them spoke a word of English and our 5 words of French weren't enough to legitimately ask if they knew a place nearby where we could camp, some tent and sleeping charades got our point across and without even a moment's thought we were showed to their side yard and invited to sleep inside their garden shed. Less than 10 minutes later the deluge struck and there was no way our increasingly worn out tent would have kept us dry in a storm like that. And finally to Johann and Emilie who pulled over while we were stopped and taking pictures on the side of the road. They had just returned a month ago from a year-long bike journey with their young son, Swan, and though they had only moved into their tiny house a couple of days before and didn't have enough space for us to sleep inside, we were invited to camp in their front yard. Again we had hot showers, a delicious home-cooked meal and wonderful new friends to spend the evening with. We are grateful to all of the people who showed us the real France.
Camping in front of Yohann and Emilie's little house.

Dinner with Yohann, Emilie, Swan, their brother-in-law and Mike.

Our final two days in France couldn't have been more spectacular. At last we had reached the Alps and the weather actually cooperated, enabling us to see the mighty Mont Blanc. Nothing we have ever seen can compare to the views of when you're standing down in the valley with Mt. Blanc and the Chamonix Needles towering above. It's as if these perfectly jagged, snow and glacier covered mountains jet out of the ground right in front of your foot and it feels like you're standing in the middle of a fairy tale painting. They are too big and beautiful to be real. I can't count the number of times one of us turned around, caught a glimpse of the mountains in the corner of our eye and did a double-take just to make sure we weren't seeing things. The scenery truly is that surreal and there couldn't have been a more perfect ending to an already amazing ride through southern France.
The view of Mont Blanc from Chamonix.



There's a tiny European country nestles between Spain and France that Mike and I didn't even know existed until we bought our map of Spain. Since we had never heard of it and noticed that it contained the highest pass in the Pyrenees, we decided that through Andorra would be our chosen path for crossing into France.

We were expecting a serene countryside dotted with ski resorts and little upscale mountain towns with their exposed wood, log cabin style buildings, cozy cafes and overpriced outdoor equipment shops, but that's not quite what we found. The first town we came to was Andorra la Vella, the main city in Andorra, and as soon as we arrived we were ready to get out. There was nothing cute or cozy about the place, rather, it was screaming with consumerism. It was bustling with traffic and people and there were thousands of stores crammed with electronics, shoes, fancy clothing and duty free alcohol and cigarettes. It felt a bit like we were in Times Square, minus the really tall buildings, so we bought ourselves some groceries and continued chugging away at the 20-mile climb to the pass.

Once we got past the first several towns, which were all more-or-less continuously strung together, the chaos died down though the traffic remained and the rain set in. Andorra is so small we could have made it through in one day, but rather than hoping to be seen through rain-streaked windshields on winding mountain roads, we decided to call it an early day in hope that the next would be better.
Mike in Andorra

Our final day to see the Pyrenees didn't turn out tot be sunny and clear, but at least it wasn't raining. We got some okay views of the mountains towards the middle of the climb and aside from the main city in Andorra I have a feeling this country is utterly spectacular, and it was a bummer not to get a nice day to see it. A dense, cold fog rolled in for the final 2 miles of the climb and just as we reached the pass, at 7,898 feet, the snow began to fall. We've been chasing summer for nearly a year now and this was the first time Old Man Winter actually caught us. Luckily there was a restaurant at the top of the mountain because it was too foggy and the road too slippery for us to safely descend so we went inside to warm up with a cup of hot tea, dry our wet clothes and wait for the weather to improve. An hour later the snow had stopped, I was no longer shivering and once again I could feel my fingers and toes; it was time for the big descent. We put on as many layers as we could possibly handle and still be able to ride; neoprene booties over our shoes, winter riding pants, thermal tops, a long-sleeved shirt, a vest, a down jacket, a rain jacket, cycling gloves, wool mittens and a hat. I felt like a giant marshmallow that had been puffed up in the microwave and though I looked ridiculous with every inch of my body covered except for my nose, I was pleasantly warm for the entire 30-mile, hour-long descent into France.
Cari on the climb.

 Cari in the fog...almost to the top.

At the highest pass in the Pyrenees (7,898 ft) in the fog and snow.

 Sitting inside while the snow falls.

Mike all bundled up for the descent into France.

For the last 7 months we have been in Spanish-speaking countries and had come to the point where we had no problems communicating and no longer had to consciously think about how to say something. We were by no means even close to fluent but we were definitely comfortable. And then France hit us like a slap in the face. The first evening, we stopped at a bar to fill our water bottles for our night of camping, each of us holding 3 liter-sized jugs in our hands. We walked in and pleasantly said “bonjour” to the bartender and immediately afterward were tongue-tied. We realized at that moment as we were going “uhhhhh” with deer-in-the-headlights looks on our faces that we didn't know how to say a single word other than hello, yet and thank you in French. We should have, at the very least, learned “water” before we arrived as it's the thing we most frequently ask for.

Nearly a week has passed since we arrived in France and we've learned a few basic words but this is a difficult language. Unlike Spanish where the words sound exactly as they're written, to us, French words sound nothing like the way they look. We're having a difficult time transitioning languages and often find ourselves saying “hola” rather than “bonjour,” “si” rather than “oui” and “gracias” rather than “merci.” The Spanish words have been in our heads for so long that it feels natural to say these words any time we're in contact with people who don't speak English. We clearly have a lot of learning to do.

Fortunately, the French people have been wonderfully kind to us and in general, it has been a nice change from Spain. We've had more random strangers approach us wanting to know where we're from or what we're doing in one week in France than we had in our entire month in Spain. Even though we have no idea what they're saying and it feels like we're surrounded by a bunch of adults from the Charlie Brown cartoons, at least they're smiling, laughing at the fact that we just say “yes” to everything and if they know any words in English, usually make an attempt to talk to us. In Spain no one seemed even remotely interested in us. They just stared. Even when we acknowledged their staring with a smile, then a wave and then with a bug-eyed stare back, they didn't stop. It was the strangest, most uncomfortable, thing and we're happy that so far in France we have not been gawked at like we come from a different planet.

For now, we're just riding through the southwestern corner of France as we make our way towards the Alps, but we've seen some spectacular things already. We spent a couple of days in Carcassonne which contains Europe's largest intact remains of a medieval city. The walled city looks like a fairy-tale castle from afar and as you pass over the drawbridge your mind takes you to a magical world from long ago. Inside the walls is a fully-functioning, while extremely touristy city that was well worth the afternoon stroll.

At the entrance of the city. 

The church inside the walled city.

A 2-days ride through the grueling, yet beautiful, mountains of the Haut Languedoc and Grands Causses Parks and we arrived at the tallest bridge in the world, the Millau Viaduct. Constructed between 2001 and 2004, the bridge truly is an impressive structure with its deck suspended some 885.8 feet above the Tarn river and its 7 pylons extending another 239.5 feet above that. We had high hopes that bicycles would be allowed to ride across it, but alas, that was not the case so we had to settle with viewing it from down below and watching a video at the visitor's center instead.
The Millau Viaduct.

From Millau we headed to the spectacular scenery in the Gorges du Tarn and were greeted with warm, dry weather for the first time in several weeks. After a day of riding along the narrow, twisting road looking down over the sparkling, clear river, through tiny villages built right into the rocky walls of the gorge, we found a camp right on the river where we could swim, also known as bathe, and dry in the warm breeze before the sun set behind the cliffs. It's days like this that we live for, that make all of the bad weather and torturous riding days worthwhile. It's bike touring at its finest.
 Mike riding through the Gorges du Tarn.

Gorges du Tarn 

A village along the Gorges du Tarn. 

Gorges du Tarn



Catalunya is the northeastern province of Spain, which we knew nothing about prior to our arrival, but we knew immediately when we entered because suddenly neither of us could read the road signs or understand what anyone was saying. It was slightly alarming at the supermarket when I couldn't understand the cashier when she told us the total for our purchases; I thought I was losing my mind but was relieved when we learned the official language of this province was Catalan instead of Spanish. We probably would have cruised right through and still know nothing about Catalunya had we not found warm-showers hosts to stay with, but we got lucky and met Jordi and Gemma, and through them learned a great deal and saw a good portion of a spectacular region of the world.

We arrived to the tiny village of Bellestar, population 28, perched atop of a hill surrounded by grand vistas of mountains and green fields. We've ridden through many such villages on this trip, wondering what it would be like to live in a place like this, but usually just passed by the old stone buildings, down the abandoned streets and continued on to the next town of a decent size where we could get food or supplies, so when we discovered our hosts actually lived there, we were excited to discover what their lives were like.

We intended to stay with Jordi and Gemma for one night, or maybe two if the weather was crummy, but we generally never stay in one place longer than that because we either get bored or else feel like we're imposing on our hosts' lives and overstaying our welcome. That was far from the case here; we found ourselves in the home of people who absolutely love where they live, enjoy showing and teaching outsiders about Catalunya, understand what it's like to travel for extended periods of time and therefore know that sometimes all we want is a shower, laundry and a quiet place to relax. They went about their lives like normal and every day we were told of some outing or event that was to take place in the upcoming day or two and enthusiastically invited and encouraged to join them. There was never an end to their future adventures and they repeatedly told us that we could stay as long as we wanted. There's no doubt in my mind that if we had wanted or needed to stay for a month they would have happily let us move in for that long.
Jordi, Gemma, Mike and Cari

We arrived late on Wednesday evening, somewhat in the mood for a hot shower and early night to bed, but were instead invited to one of Jordi's friends' house to watch the Barcelona vs. Madrid soccer match. If there is one thing that Mike and I have learned from traveling, it is to never turn down the opportunity to hang out with locals. There is no better way to learn about, discover and actually experience life from a different place than to take part in the daily activities of the people who live there, away from other tourists. It's a rare occasion to run into complete strangers who are willing and enthusiastic to enable such an experience, so of course we said 'yes' to the soccer match, and thus began our 5-day stay in Bellestar.

Night one was the soccer match, which Barcelona (which is in Catalunya) won, and along with watching the match we also got our first of many political lessons for the week of the tensions that exist between Catalunya and the rest of Spain. We quickly learned to not call Catalonians “Spanish,” as many of them take it as an insult and wish for nothing more than their province to become independent from Spain. It was interesting to hear their viewpoints of political issues within their own country rather than having them ask about the US government, which is usually the case, and it was wonderful to see people so passionate about keeping their ancient cultures and language alive.

Thursday wasn't so exciting as it was rainy and we opted to stay at home and take care of tasks like laundry, bike maintenance and catching up on emails. Not very fun, but necessary every once in a while. That night we went to a BBQ with Jordi and a bunch of his friends from his cycling and skiing group. There we got a taste of some traditional Catalonian cuisine including tomato bread, which is bread rubbed with garlic and ripe tomato and drizzled with olive oil and Calcots (the 'c' is pronounced like an 's'), which are green onions cooked over a barbeque until the outsides are charred. They then wrap the bundle of onions in newspaper to steam them and when you're ready to eat, you peel the outside layer of the onion off, dip in a delicious tomato sauce and enjoy. We weren't overly impressed with the bread but the onions were absolutely wonderful.
The onions on the grill. 

Mike enjoying his Calcot.

Friday morning we went into the nearby town of La Seu d'Urgell with Jordi and walked around town while he went to work for a few hours. As most people know, we're not much into checking out cities, but Jordi and some of his friends kept telling us that we should go visit the Old Town and Olympic Park where the kayaking events were held for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. We were both thoroughly impressed and easily passed several hours watching several dozen athletes practicing for an upcoming competition in the man-made, yet surprisingly beautiful, river.
Kayakers practicing in Olympic Park.

That afternoon we went with Jordi and a couple of his friends for a bike ride in the mountains near Bellestar. The riding was spectacular on quiet, back roads that we never would have discovered on our own, through villages where people once lived but are so far out in the middle of nowhere that now only 1 or 2 people still remain. It was the first time in nearly a year that we had ridden our bikes without all of our panniers on them and despite the fact that all of our upper body strength that we had before leaving on this trip is completely gone, we were happy to discover how strong our legs felt (as they should). Riding up the mountain roads felt “easy” and we found ourselves cruising up hill at a pace that was faster than our overall average speed on our loaded bikes. It made me eagerly dream about someday getting back on my ultra-light road bike and how good it's going to feel, but don't get too excited Mom...it wasn't enough to bring me back home quite yet.

That night we went out for drinks and tapas with Gemma and met some of her friends. We were planning on leaving the next morning as the weather was expected to be good and both Gemma and Jordi were going to be busy all of Saturday, but over dinner we were invited by two of Gemma's friends, Carlos and George, to go hiking with them instead. The hike sounded enticing as it would take us right up to the base of the mountain that overlooks Bellestar and since we hadn't really gotten a great look at the Pyrenees and would be leaving town in the other direction, we decided to stay a little longer.

The day started out nicely with our fearless leader, Carlos, informing us that we were going on a short, 1 ½ – 2 hour hike. That sounded perfect to us who, of course, only brought a liter of water and were wearing running shoes instead of hiking boots. An hour into the hike, we arrived at a beautiful green meadow with the granite spires of Mt. Cadi towering above us. Although the weather never completely cleared for us to get a great view, it was satisfying enough. We sat in the meadow and enjoyed the lunches we brought along and afterward, rather than descending back to the parking lot, Carlos continued to lead us higher and higher on the mountain. When we inquired about his intended route, we were told in his broken English not to worry, the trail makes a loop, but as we watched the village where we started disappear farther below us with two large valleys in between, it became clear to us that any loop trail we'd be doing would take several days at least. After nearly 4 hours on the mountain and losing sight of the trail countless times, I was about to make up a story about being too tired just to force them to turn around rather than watching them adamantly search for some trail they had no idea whether or not even existed because no one had a map. Luckily, Carlos and George eventually gave up on finding the cairns marking the loop trail on their own accord and Mike and I were very pleased that we'd only have to hike another few hours rather than few days. By the end of the hike we were all ready to throw Carlos over a cliff, certain that he would never get us back to the car, but of course he did and a beer and monstrous plate of potato chips at the local pub made us all happy in the end.
Carlos, Mike, Cari and George at Mt. Cadi. 

Beer and chips after the hike.

We arrived home exhausted and ready to sleep but Mike stayed up late preparing two of Jordi and Gemma's mountain bikes for a TuPedala club ride that we were invited to join the next morning. Anyone who knows me, or has been following this blog since South America, knows of my dislike for mountain biking, but I was promised it wouldn't be hard core single track, we'd get to meet more people, see another region of Catalunya and the ride sounded interesting so we figured we might as well go for it and stay one more day. It turned out to be a spectacular day for a ride, which also ended up up being a tour of historical markers of the area as well. Roughly every hour we'd stop at another site to see an ancient burial ground, a tower build in the 8th century marking the boundary between what was Muslim and Christian territories, churches build in the 1600s and a monument marking the very center of Catalunya. It was nice having frequent stops which kept the group together, allowed us to talk with lots of new people and broke up the riding into short segments which is a good thing for someone with little confidence on a mountain bike. I don't know if I dare admit this, but I actually enjoyed myself of the ride and discovered that mountain biking might not be so bad when you have the right equipment.
Cari and Mike riding with the TuPedala Bike Club. 

Mike riding through a field. 

 8th century tower.

Group photo on top of the tower. 

Cari at one of the old churches.

After 5 days in Bellestar with Jordi and Gemma, it was finally time to continue on our way. We had such a wonderful time, met some of the nicest people and we would have liked to stay longer but I'm afraid if we did, we'd get too comfortable and never leave. We thank everyone we met during our stay for your hospitality, kindness and friendship, for including us in your lives, teaching us parts of your culture and showing us the beautiful area that you call home.