Silja Goes Cycling – Part 6

Silja has been on her first long bicycle journey from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, riding a Pelago Saimaa. This is the 6th part of her diary/notes.

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The hot days of bicycling approximately 100 km per day had left me exhausted, sunburnt and mentally tired. Luckily in Barcelona the owners of a creative clothing company Laser Barcelona, Justo and Raquel welcomed me with open arms. In my mind I always saw Barcelona as the ending point of my travels, and my body was ready to give up when I finally made it to the city. Still when Raquel told me about the upcoming Rapha Women’s 100 tour, I was eager to take the challenge.

Rapha Women’s 100 is an international cycling day for women all around the world, in order to celebrate womens cycling. There was to be an arranged tour leaving from Sitges and going around the wineregion of Penedes with a rise to a 1000 m high hill. We started the preparations for the tour day before by stripping my bike off its racks and fenders. We bought some raw energybars and bananas for the road, oiled the chains and pumped the wheels. My bike was lighter than ever, and I even had trouble steering it without the weight of my gear that i got used to.

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The day of the tour was hot as ever with the sun beaming from the clear sky. After some misfortune in the morning (Raquel popped her tire as soon as we left from the apartment) we got to Sitges and started the tour with a group of 20 women. Cycling had never felt so easy, and I didn’t struggle even in the steepest parts of the hill. I bicycled in a group for the first time ever and definitely felt the benefits – the ones in front of you take the wind and keep the pace. We finished the tour of 106 kilometres, with the total elevation of 1500 m in 5 hours! After that me and Raquel enjoyed the cooling waves of Mediterranean before heading back to Barcelona. This experience in specific was something I would have never even considered participating in, and now it felt like a piece of cake! It shows that something has definitely changed in my body and mind.

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After the Rapha tour I decided to stay and rest my legs in Barcelona for one more day and then head on towards Montpellier. My body decided otherwise, as on Monday evening I started having sudden stomachpain. Some kind of virus took over as I let my immune system stressed. Not being able to bicycle, I tried to make the most out of the time I had in Bcn. I helped around in Lasers store, got to know more of the city and really felt like home. Me, Justo and Raquel got to know each other better day after day, and leaving the city started feeling very distant.

Week of resting, eating microbiotic foods, and drinking plenty of fluids, and I was finally in the condition to continue, but my head was not in the game anymore. I had settled down in Barcelona, and lost the mindset and rhythm of cycling. I either felt like staying in the city for good as a new employee of Laser Barcelona, or just flying home. Continuing bicycling felt insurmountable. On the morning of departure, I felt unease and slowed down the leaving in all ways possible. I didn’t mind the heavy thunderstorm that hit the city just as I was about to take off, but was happy to wait it out. As the rain passed, it was time for me to go. With heavy heart and tears in my eyes I farewelled my dear friends and started making my way through the city.

I headed for the beach and bicycled east on the coast’s carlane. Every push felt hard and painful, strong headwind was pushing against me and I cried outloud of sadness of leaving. From the beginning until the end, the day was a struggle. Never had I felt so unmotivated, sad, exhausted and lonely. In the evening I put up my tent in a small forest and burst into bitter tears. I want to go home, I don’t belong here, I’m so lonely, I’m so tired, there’s no point anymore, why am I here!? Those were just some of the thoughts that went through my head that night. A long sobbing phonecall to mom, chocolate and warm sleeping bag made me feel a bit better and somewhere around 2 o’clock in the night I fell into a restless sleep.

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Everything is always better in the morning, and the next day was no exception. I woke up to the sound of eurasian jays playing nearby. Morning mist had condesed inside the tent and the air was for once refreshingly cool. In the newfound traquility I broke camp and set on towards Figueres. Cycling felt easy again, and I took a detour to visit the beautiful lake of Banyoles. In the evening I proposed a crazy idea to Justo and Raquel: would they care to join me for tomorrows ride from Figueres across the Pyrenees to Perpignan, France? And awesome people as they are – they said yes!

Next morning I headed to Figures train station where Justo and Raquel arrived with a train from Barcelona. We started our journey over the Pyrenees in good spirit, and even the extremely strong headwind didn’t put us down. Apparently the wind of Pyrenees, also known as Tramontana, is believed to make people crazy. E.g. Salvador Dali was said to be a little cuckoo just because of the wind.

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We made slow progress during the 30 km rise to the top of the mountain, but coming down the meandering mountainroad was superfast. On the France side we rewarded ourselves with a refreshing swim in a mountainriver and then glided our way to Perpignan. I stayed in the city for the night, as Justo and Raquel headed back to Figueres to catch the last train of the day. This time the farewell wasn’t sad or bitter, and I felt like I was now ready to move on, towards Montpellier and then home.

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Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5

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