Vamos!

The donkey that had carried me faithfully through my European travels was in need of some attention. Virtually the entire drive chain had to be replaced along with the bottom bracket which had some play in it, and new rubber for the wheels of course. Cycle touring takes it’s toll on components, and Chris at M’s Cycles in Shoreham obliged with his well equipped workshop. The bike returned champing at the bit. She doesn’t do small circles very well-there’s a lethargy in her stride, always reaching for the horizon.

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I had spent the Summer with half a mind towards the next adventure, never really thinking it would not be a reality. Rick and Louise’s One Stop Deli in Henfield provided the location for much daydreaming. They make excellent coffee, and there’s always a warm welcome,so if you’re passing, give it a try. Cyclists and other oddballs invited. Many plans were hatched here.

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Mid Biscay. I am waiting for visitors, and soon they come as they invariably do, sweeping in from astern. Gannets join our ship, riding the slipstream in an effortless mastery of the air. Only an occasional wing beat is needed
to keep them in formation, all the time their sharp eyes scanning the deeps for prey. When sighted, they keel over and dive seawards, at the last moment folding their wings to form the perfect streamlined hunting machine. Airborne to submarine in the blink of an eye. I never tire of watching.

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This expanse of water is a wildlife haven and an early morning circuit of the boatdeck proves the point. Seabirds of all varieties skim the waves, as a Skua goes hunting, those scavengers of the seas. Dolphins cross our bows, school by school, and it is very difficult not to smile, they just have that effect on you. A crewman on the bridge below waves me forward, indicating Whales to starboard, blow-holes revealing their position. I see two backs, which in my view is a sighting, although species identification is nigh on impossible to an untrained eye. Yet again I feel privileged to have witnessed this visual feast. We share this planet with some remarkable creatures.

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The ship arrives in Santander to a balmy evening, many degrees above the chill we left in Portsmouth. An auspicious start. Even the local bar/eatery was heaving with people-someone must have tipped them off. Tomorrow I head west to the Picos mountains, where the idle body will doubtless receive a true reckoning, but I knew that was coming.

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