Where am I going? Who knows.
Landing at Bilbao airport (the smoothest landing I’ve ever experienced – and on time), I think “what on earth am I doing here?”; Bilbao is surrounded by mountains – and I’m still recovering from a skiing back injury. Looking on the bright side, the weather is perfect and the scenery wonderful.
I could actually go anywhere but my minimal examination of terrain and interest had set my mind on a South Westerly exploration into the Montes de Cantabrica. The only problem is ….. Bilbao’s in the way. How to get through it? I know – Google maps, the cycling option and earphones. An hour later, still in the outskirts of the city (having had to retrace my steps …. back a steep hill, to avoid cycling through a busy, mile long dual-carriageway underpass) I’m starting to regret my decision. Half an hour later my spirits quickly rise when I finally make my escape up a beautiful valley.
Why do we make the choices we do? Are they really free choices at all? Are our lives simply predetermined to follow particular paths, come what may. In the days of the supremacy of Newtonian mechanics it seemed entirely plausible that the grinding predictability of cause and effect would doom us to lives with no scope for independent thought or decision-making. Thank God (I’ll come to him/her later!) for the discovery of quantum physics with its inherent uncertainty. But does this entirely save the day?
We all possess unique neurological imprints deeply embedded in our DNA. To what extent does this predetermine choices and decisions we are likely to make in particular situations? To give a specific example, nobody tries to “cure” autism – it is clearly a neurological condition through which autistic people experience the world in their own unique ways. We should make no judgements of better/worse – it is simply different. There is no doubt however, that choices and decisions are significantly channelled by these differences. We may feel that autism is a particular and perhaps extreme example. But I wonder whether it actually is. We may be unaware of the myriad subtle ways in which our own decision making is not as free as we might like to think. Enough, for the moment.
Continuing up the valley I discover a cycle path running parallel to a tumbling stream; what the hell – let’s go for it. Fantastic! I should say that I have seen many cyclists on the road; probably running into three figures; it seems that Spanish cyclists are well looked after. Along the lane I encounter a “snowstorm” of dandylion fluff; its piled up at the sides of the road
Onwards and upwards to Artziniega where I stop for a leisurely snack. No hotels here; I’m not sure I’ve seen any. A key choice of route to be made: continue south into the deep interior; or cut north-west to Balmaseda – which seems to provide more chance of finding accommodation. North west it is. (Was that actually a free choice?).
But hang on a minute – it’s uphill, steep and long. Reaching the top I enjoy a fantastic sinuous descent. Through a village then … uphill again! Finally I enjoy a long descent into the small town of Balmaseda; and yes, it has got a hotel, a converted convent.
And my room has a bath; what more could I want? A plug, perhaps.
I improvise with a glass and plastic bag. Bliss!
Distance travelled 37 miles
Elevation gain 3185 ft
Average speed 9.5 mph (not bad, everything considered.