THIS was a holiday which separated the men from the boys.

Unfortunately, my fear of the dark meant I came across as one of the boys as I cycled very slowly through almost pitch black old railway tunnels.

Sad to say, the children looked on with a mixture of pity and embarrassment. 

We were on the Via Verde in the hills north of the Delta d’Ebre river delta, about two hours drive south of Barcelona. 

It is a cycle track which gets you out in the countryside, tracing the route of the disused train track from Horta de Sant Joan to Xerta.  

The journey is about 30 kilometres which you can do one of two ways – uphill or down. 

Thankfully, we chose the easy way, gliding downhill most of the way, passing through valleys and over rivers so we could admire the scenery. 

The hardy souls passing us the other way uphill were to be admired.

The beauty of the Via Verde is that you don’t have to take your own bikes – the rental companies provide them for you.  

You choose a  bike, then they take you by bus to the start of the route. By the time you have finished, you have ended up where you left your car. 

We set off from Xerta, a tiny village in the Parque Natural Del Ports, north of the Delta D’Ebre.  We chose the bikes which were a little like bone crunchers but they did the job.

Perhaps I should say some of us have driven from Barcelona but one of our party – we shall call him Superman –  had cycled all the 160 km to Xerta.  

Then we all got into two coaches and travelled to where we were to set off – with the bikes in a trailer on the back.  

The starting point of the route was  Horta de Sant Joan. 

The village is famous because Pablo Picasso spent some time there in his youth between 1897-1898.  He later returned to develop his Cubism style of art. 

You can see why because the square design of the houses resemble many of Picasso’s paintings and drawings from just before the First World War.   If you are an art lover, take time to visit the Picasso Centre.  

Gliding downhill as the green valleys and rivers passed by was a great way to see a part of Catalunya which most people rarely glimpse. 

The best way to really enjoy the route is to give yourself the whole day.  This way you can stop off and take a dip in one of the rivers or have a picnic. 

Ebro Delta By Graham Keeley

We spotted snakes in one of the pools which put us off swimming straight away. 

There is one tiny cafe on the route but otherwise it has been preserved so that it is not littered with people trying to flog you Coke or crisps. 

But back to those tunnels. During the route, you will pass through 30 tunnels. 

Most are dimly lit so the company we rented the bikes from makes sure you have extra lights so you don’t get lost in the gloom. 

For the faint-hearted among us – i.e. me – it was a case of creeping very slowly through the murky interior. 

Of course, the children zoomed through without a thought, yelling their heads off. 

But don’t be put off, this just makes the ride more fun and unusual. 

One tip might be to book somewhere to stay at the end of the route like Tortosa.  You will have tired legs. 

Once we had recovered the next day, we set out for another adventure: kayaking down the River Ebro. 

One of the biggest rivers in Spain, it was the site of a decisive battle in the Spanish Civil War. 

Today it is a magnet for tourists who want to go kayaking or fishing or just exploring along its banks. 

The kayaking company we opted for will guide you to the place you will finish the trip in, Benifallet so you can leave your cars there. They will take the drivers back to the starting point in a village called Miravet. 

As we had six young children with us, we asked for a guide to join us in case we needed some help, even though we had some experienced kayakers in our midst. 

Two hours on the water is about the limit if you have children but some people go for much longer.  

So, once we were in the kayaks, it was a pure pleasure to glide through the water and see the banks, and the wider countryside from such an unusual angle. 

The vultures circled above a tiny village we passed along the route and the fish came up to the surface to say hello now and then. 

The beauty of the Ebro was that there was enough of a current so it was not such hard work but no rapids to navigate so the inexperienced were not scared.

We were the only people kayaking along the river but at the height of summer about 100 people want to do the same route every day. 

Two hours on the water was about enough so then we returned to land in Benifallet, we were spoilt for choice for restaurants to enjoy a long lunch. 

For bicycle hire we used Bici Xerta Ferran  (+34 690 691 300) and for kayaking, Kanoa Benifallet (+34 619 334 384) or visit their website

READ MORE: Check out the Olive Press travel section for more adventures in Spain

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.