Friday, July 30, 2010

Rail Trails in Spain - Girona to Sant Feliu

Here we are, on holiday in Spain (Catalunya), and we've got the opportunity to try out a Spanish rail-trail!
It appears that there is a network of rail-trails here, called Vias Verdes, and we decide to try one out to compare it to what BC's got to offer. The one we pick goes from Girona to the coast, about 40km to a town called Sant Feliu de Guixols. Click on the picture to enlarge and read a bit about its history. 
We rent bikes from a British/Dutch couple who've established a shop in Girona that caters to people just like us. The bikes are pretty decent! They come complete with panniers and built-in locks.
The kind folks at the shop provide us with detailed directions to get to the coast. There's a bus which will take us back to off we go! There's nothing to do, really, but follow the signs for the Via Verde:
How hard can this be?

The route leads through a number of towns, each with its own brick stationhouse. Most of them house tourist information offices, and most have functioning, clean washrooms and a drinking fountain. Which turns out to be a real plus, as we stick our heads under the cold water on more than one occassion!

The first few towns seem to be bedroom communities or heavily agricultural, and not so scenic. Then, the route takes us into the real countryside, and we're passing through farm fields. The corn is 2m high, I've never seen it like this here. It is hot hot hot and the cicadas buzz like a maracas band...
Here comes Alf around the corner!
The track seems well used, we see lots of lycra-clad Spanish mountain bikers out for their weekend tour. Some small stretches of the route go through towns (ie. on, or next to, a road), and some of the rural sections double as farm roads, so we do encounter some motorized traffic. But in general, the route is bike-only. The road surface is superb, hard-packed dirt.
Some parts remind us of the KVR, with cuts through high banks, and bridges...

We stop for a snack in Cassa de la Selva, and encounter a milk vending machine! At first we can't believe it, but then we witness it being used by the locals, so of course we have to try it too. We get a plastic cup of cold, fresh milk for 50 euro-cents. Maybe because all the grocery stores here offer is the UHT stuff??
At about 3 pm it gets too hot for us, and we stop at a local restaurant in Castell d'Aro for a late lunch, choosing whatever they have the for menu du jour. Andrew nearly falls asleep over his crema catalana...siesta time!
After a quick look around town (there's a nice old fort/church), we start biking again at about 4, we've not got far to go anymore.
We soon hit Sant Feliu, with its sandy (busy) beach and classic boulevard.
We head for the bus station, where after a heated exchange in broken Spanish with a reluctant bus driver (customer service has some way to go...), we can throw our bikes underneath in the luggage compartment and climb aboard for a 45-minute, air-conditioned ride back to Girona.
We return the bikes and enjoy a celebratory glass of limonata!