Me Jeanette Mark and Julie.
Sitting on the dock of the bay…..the breezy dock in Bilbao, Spain in the early evening of 7th July to be exact waiting for the return ferry to England. Jeanette myself Mark and Julie pose for the end of tour photo, taken by a fellow adventurer from Birmingham.
This is always a period of mixed emotions, it’s both the saddest and happiest part of the adventure, Saddest because it’s the end of the journey and happiest because highlights of road trips are remembered and recounted to fellow adventurers, often in graphic and emotive detail. For us in particular our trike and motorbike had taken us on a 2500 mile road trip through Spain.
Bikers chatted as we waited for the ferry and described their best ever biking roads, describing the twists and turns using body swerves and hands and arms to illustrate…”Me and my mates were leaning over THAT far, the bloody bends just kept coming it was fantastic simply the best…honest! An old weathered bespectacled guy told me he had done 1500 miles and it was brilliant! The race replica types described their antics like fighter pilots describe aerial combat. Some of us had come this way before and nodded as visited places were mentioned again by the new adventurers, some bikers had stickers on their luggage panniers and screens of places visited in the past. One chap had “The Stelvio” and “The Gross” stuck on his screen, places Julie and I had been to both mountains often. We engaged in stories of twisty roads and fantastic scenery and snow in May THIS bloody high! Often ending each others sentences and nodding in mutual agreement of how brilliant it was.
In front of ours sat two bikes from the I.O.M One in the splendid Valentino Rossi colours and his Yamaha world-beating Moto GP days. Suddenly behind us pulled up loudly a chugging black and dusty farm impliment….sorry I mean a Harley..sorry guys! The girl slithered off the back and threw down several shoulder knapsacks, removed her helmet and peeled off her jacket, there stood in skimpy denim shorts shiny black fashion boots, nice knees and flimsy, loose..very loose shirt, bleached tousled pigtail hair and the biggest smile this side of Luton, she skipped across to us…”Hi guys, I’m Wendy from Luton, what a fakin great time we’ve haad, fakin mental or wot, we’ve been to Barcelona to a dance festival a guess wot? Eee’s only just passed is test, This is the first time we’ve been on olidays on it innit? Fakin well proud of im I am, but my arse is so fakin sore, fakin fakin fakin and on she went!
Can you spot Wendy’s black shiny ankle boots?
Bless, she was lovely! She did made me smile a lot. I remember how excited I was after completing my first trip abroad and I felt quite jealous of how she felt right now. I said hello to her man and congratulated him on his first road trip.
Several of us sat around on the floor including the 60-year-old and his wife from the I.O.M and recounted yet more “bike stuff” I told of my encounter with the gun-toting, camera pointing jack booted Government Comanchero’s and their insistence that I purchase 50 metres of their splendid road to Avila at a bargain price of 150 Euro’s…more of that fakin story later!
We were all strangers an hour ago now on the Bilbao waterfront we all became biker buddies. It’s the same at every ferry port after every adventure! Let me stop a minute and recall our particular adventure, it started one Friday morning 16 nights earlier in a wet soggy Doncaster in South Yorkshire…………
Doncaster to Bilbao.
Friday morning came quickly after our RTA several week earlier, a little too quickly for me if truth be known, I hadn’t recovered fully and the day was here, do I grit my teeth and go or shy off and regret the impending adventure? It was a no brainer really! With bottles of painkillers for the pair of us, several elasticized support bandages and my trusty blue strapon we stepped out into the rain and started up our replacement red Honda Goldwing 1800cc….MISTRESS MABLE II. I had been out on the new bike several times but it was Julie’s first ride since the smash so I’m thinking her teeth were gritted tighter than mine to begin with!
We met Mark and Jeanette at a service station thirty minutes later on the M1, from here the five wheeled adventure to Spain began in earnest.
The ride down to Portsmouth was uneventful boring and wet for the most part, the usual route was taken, M1 to Northants then onto the A43 onto the A40 just five miles or so to Oxford and onto the A34 south joining the M3 for a couple of miles then onto the M27 for the last fifteen miles or so straight into the ferry terminal at Portsmouth. Bish bosh bash just like that!
A very uncool looking trio of adventurers adorned in wet gear, Jeanette took the photo with tesco bags still strapped to her feet, REALLY uncool but very dry!
Brittany Ferries soon had us loaded and strapped down with their heavy-duty straps and cushions, just why they had to strap down the trike I didn’t understand, after all it had THREE wheels so wouldn’t fall over, it was left in gear and had the hand brake on, in that respect it sat on the ferry exactly the same way as the hundred or so cars and they hadn’t been secured as such. I don’t think they quite understand what a trike is yet, but at least they have altered the price and a trike is now costed as a motorbike, that’s a step in the right direction.
We left the crew to strap them down and head towards our bunks, SEVEN flights up! The rooms were clean tidy and roomy enough for us, we shed bike clothes and changed into comfy bar attire then sauntered off towards the bar, its funny how I can ALWAYS find the bar, finding anything else always seems a bit more difficult.
We began to move shortly after 17.00hrs, I went outside to look around and stood at the rails as we began to slowly pass by elements of the Royal Navy as they sat quietly tied alongside the queyside, some were being having work done, others just seemed to be parked up for the evening. I took a few photographs. We passed the grandest ship of all, HMS Victory when a student chelped up “OOH look it’s a pirate boat!” I looked round to see him pointing it out to his equally stupid girlfriend, I cringed to hear her reply. We all have the right to an opinion and all that but that was too much for me so I walked out of earshot stopping to look at another piece of history further along, I wondered how the idiot would be describing HMS Warrior to his friend. We cleared the port area passing the three forts leaving them behind as the I.O.W slid past us to our right soon we were in open waters with nothing much of interest to see the breeze was getting up and now it was blowing cold it was about 21.00 hrs when I rejoined Julie inside. Mark and Jeanette had now joined us for dinner, we had a quiet couple of hours drinking and chatting, thinking about what lay ahead of us before retiring to bed, finally in dry weather……
Remember to double left click on the photo’s to ENLARGE them!
After breakfast we found a sheltered area at the stern and settled into some comfy chairs to enjoy the sunshine and blue sky, this was all so very nice. It was a much smaller ferry than usual and thought it odd why they had put a smaller vessel on such a crossing. The answer was this smaller sized vessel had been granted permission to pass much closer to Brest in France, sailing between some of the smaller French Islands in fact. Great for something to see and brilliant because it had cut eleven hours off the sailing time.
Lunch crept up on us and we retired to the salad bar on deck 10, I stood looking over the rails with Mark when we saw the first of dozens of dolphin heading towards us from both sides. I have seen a few dolphin before on previous trips but not this many, unfortunately I had the small camera, the big one was in the bike which was sat in the deep depths of the ship seven flights below and out-of-bounds whilst at sea. I did the best with what I had whilst being amazed, we don’t usually see this kind of thing in South Yorkshire!
We saw them on the port side and again on the starboard side. I went to find Julie somewhere at the stern, she and Jeanette where watching the big blue fish dance on the waves created by the ferry, astern we saw dolphin jumping out of the water and spinning before falling back into the water, apparently they come to the ships and play on the bow wave as well as the turbulent stern waves, it was great to view it from high up on deck 10. The rest of the day was an anti climax to be honest, it just got hotter!
Finally at 17.00 hrs on the same day we docked in Bilbao, the ferry emptied its guts onto the queyside which this year was miles from the usual dock, in fact we were right at the very western end of the huge port. We met on solid concrete after the customs office and switched the Garmin on. I took the lead and followed Garmin until she tried to send us down the “No Entry” back into the dock area, I quickly switched lanes but saw Mark and Jeanette carry straight on. Oh BOLLIX! I shouted, we had split up already! We had to take a route into the old part and try again from there but the roads were tiny and twisted so much that Garmin couldn’t get orientated the tiny busy roads were not ideal to pull over, we were in Bilbao but not in the right area so I opted to follow the signs out of town and start again, we went to the motorway slowly rolling over the old cobbled streets and dodged through the busy people! We hugged behind the hot stinking buses out of the old town. Once out and onto open roads we rode past old Bilbao centre and on the motorway, it was then when I turned Garmin back on (it’s not wise to leave Garmin on when your going “wrong” as it just gets annoying and doesn’t help at all) ..yes it was getting right on my tits! Julie pointed out an exit we should take, this brought us back towards the city on an old road just two miles away, I turned Garmin back on, it got to grips with our position and brought us directly to the hotel. Mark and Jeanette had approached from a different heading had just booked in. It was bloody hot even at this late stage in the day and was just a little peeved at our poor start!
We had an hour in the room showering and relaxing before meeting up in the foyer, we found a good bar nearby..is there such a thing as a bad bar? It was a Covent Garden themed bar but had loads of Tappas on the bar, these are small salty meaty type bar snacks peculiar to Spain and much better than crisps and nuts, for just a few euro’s you can soon fill the hole in your belly.
During the regeneration of Bilbao in the 1990’s this fantastic looking museum was built, designed by Californian born Frank Gehry, its made from titanium slates, glass walls and limestone. It wasnt open but didn’t matter because the outside was so very interesting and it was after 21.00hrs!
Our mad evening had cooled down as we strolled around the area and marvelled at the museum and the few odd statues around the place, this spider was huge it was made out of metal and smooth to the touch, not at all like a real one, not good to see if you are a tad spooked by ordinary sized critters!
Bilbao to Huesca…..225 miles
We woke refreshed, my ankle had been painful during the walkabout last night and I now knew my limitations and so increased the horse tablets! Today was better, it would surely get better with time, at least today I wouldn’t be putting much weight on it because today was a transit day, these are days when we transit from one hotel to the next.
Getting out of Bilbao was a good deal painless that getting in! We went straight onto the motorway, it was the easiest route south and we needed to top up with fuel, it was Sunday and getting fuel in the city was going to be hit and miss, Mark needed fuel more often than me, they ride a 1500cc trike as opposed to our 1800cc motorbike so we looked for fuel around the 130 mile mark especially in rural areas. I suggested that the fuel stations on the motorway would be open whatever the day and there is one about every 25 miles. It was a great morning, at 08.00 hrs it was already 25 degrees with a complimentary sky of clear blue, proper biking weather! After breakfast of bread jam and cold meats orange tea and coffee we loaded up and pulled out of the underground garage of the hotel and hit the road, it was really bright and I squinted for the first 100 yrds lucky for me it was a one way street! unfortunately I don’t get on with sunglasses, I prefer to use the helmet peak but just for now it was well bright and so squint I did.
The autovia (motorway) at Bilbao through the Picos Mountains towards Pamplona is the E-70, to the left and right the mountains jutted upwards with a tinge of purple in the strong morning haze, the first garage was about five miles down the road we pulled over and topped the tanks then set of for a leisurely transit to Huesca over there in the distant foothills of The Pyrenees.
We left the autovia at Pamplona turning onto a great A road, it was here that Mistress Garmin began to go off the rails….to be honest she stayed off the rails for a good deal of the adventure! They have built miles and miles of new roads so quickly and have replaced some wonderful old twisty roads with equally wonderful English motorway standard A roads. I guess the old roads where no match for Spain’s development. Garmin kept showing me off route by about 100 metres and constantly reminded us…”Off route re-calculating…off route recalculating…off route recalculating!” She is so damn rude too, interrupting Julie and I. Fer fks sake shut up bitch! I mumbled back every time.
Eventually the penny dropped when I spotted a lovely squiggly road away to the right, when the road came closer and was covered by this new road I realised that that little road and this big new one was the same. I always try to use Mistress Garmin as an aide and not one to trust implicitly. The amount of times she has instructed us to go off-road in the past whilst hilarious shows the silly cow that she knows fk all about cruising on a £25,000 Honda Goldwing motorbike!! I put my foot down and turned her off deciding to follow the road signs instead She is only required for the exact location of our hotels to be honest.
Spain may be in trouble with its financial situation at the moment but its road-work network is something to be envied. Spain is very rural especially in the interior so the roads are essential, these guys are replacing old roads that are far superior to Englands new ones! It make me so ashamed! I have ridden over here lots of times over the years and have been to many areas, the roads everywhere every time have been brilliant. Even the little yellow roads that on the map usually mean care has to be taken are in great shape, we rode on one such road now, it was the A-132, we had ridden around the edge of a huge lake blue and turquoise in colour. The land began to level out now after a couple of hours of being flanked by mountains. Vast corn fields took their place punctuated now and again by a low hill with villages firmly planted on them.
It was getting hot now as dinnertime approached, the temp on the bike stated 35 degrees, Mark had his jacket off already and was tanning on the move, Julie and I kept our jackets on for the moment with zips and flaps open, the heat was so much that riding with the visor up was uncomfortable, its like somebody holding a hairdryer in you face so don’t be too puzzled at the next photo!
The bikes hadn’t ridden in such heat before and seemed to be running ok, we hadn’t really pushed it, the speed for the day was around 60 mph the carbs and injection system seemed to be coping with the oven of Spain just fine, on saying that I wouldn’t like to have been sitting in standing traffic on tick-over.
I was loving it being back in Spain, I really love this kind of countryside, vast open and uncluttered. Above us the clear blue sky just oozed warmth, it really did feel just lovely. We saw plenty of birds above, of the kind I tend to stand a “gawp” at back home, we saw both Red and Black Kite, these guys stand out mainly because of their huge forked tail and slim streamlined bodies, Vultures, Eagles and Buzzard added to the show. Lower down we saw the trusty Kestral. I looked up often on this first real day in country and marvelled at them as they rose higher and higher in the midday heat. Again I was torn between camera or bike, I wanted to stop so many times! One day I shall have no particular place to be and have both camera and BIG zoom lens and will stop whenever I see them!
The kind of roads in such countryside as shown above draw me to Spain, I find them as intoxicating as the high mountain passes in Austria, both so very different but both so alluring to me.
The open plains closed again as we rode towards a massive gorge, the road cut a twisting route along the edge of the rock face, following the tracks of the river, we slowed down to 40 mph and enjoyed the shadows cast down by the high mountains, we came around one sweeping bend to La Puerta Pirineo. Thankfully a laybye was available for us to pull over.
La Puerta Del Pirineo
What a fantastic sight it was before us. The cliché’s flowed but I won’t repeat them here! It was all so very beautiful but this particular piece of rock stood out (And smacked one in the eye with its magnificence)
We were now firmly in the magical region of Aragon. It was a good time to take a team photo………………………………and some tomfoolery !!
Stomach in and chest all the way out!
In the shadows we fooled around and cooled down somewhat, the temperature dropped a little, it was 13.00hrs, we had bags of time and just an hour or so to go before we entered the town of Huesca and our second hotel.
We set of again for the final leg to the hotel, whilst stood the temp on the bike said 48 degrees, it was a good indication of how hot the engines were. The next leg was long and straight fo about thirty minutes, it was long and hot, we pulled our visors down as protection against the hot air that blasted us.
Julie and I take the lead in Aragon. Jeanette took this photo through the windscreen of their trike. Its one of Spain’s new roads. The N240…it’s dual carriageway to us but to them it’s just an A road. Viva Espania is what I say!
Finally Huesca firmed up through the distant haze. I switched Garmin back on and she thought about it for a minute before speaking, we were on the outskirts of the town now, Mistress Garmin began to zero in on the hotel, the trick is to slow right down in towns, slow down even more than you would normally do and listen to her directions, ignore her attempts to pronounce the street names, she takes too damn long and would be in the next county before you figured what she just said, no, it’s easier to listen out for left and rights and have your partner keep and eye out for the hotel name which Julie did, at the last mini roundabout we saw the huge grey hotel in front of us.
To be fair there are plenty of sign posts directing you to the hotels, it’s just first day syndrome when nothing makes sence!, we parked up directly outside the glass foyer and booked in, the car park was underground just round the side. We had landed at 14.00hrs, after unloading the gear taking a shower and laying down for twenty minutes we felt a beer was appropriate and went down to the bar, in fact we found our table with the first four of twenty-four beers outside in the midday sun. Mark had nipped to the pool and took his chillax time in the cool water.
Mark proves that boiled eggs really do float!
We celebrated our arrival in fine style all afternoon and into the evening, we sampled Tapa’s at tea time and a small dinner somewhere around 22.00hrs, I say “somewhere” because I was suitably lubricated, in fact, the best memory was of Jeanette with her back to the hotel sliding down the glass frontage, I grabbed her and propped her back up, Mark grabbed a huge plastic palm and shaded us with it, dragging some garden umbrellas over too, we looked like we were hunkered down in a make shift bunker It was 22.00hrs and it was still bloody hot, it so drove us to drink! Eventually we went inside to join some of the locals and carried on drinking a little bit more. We turned in at xx O’clock, I remembering herding Julie up to the correct floor and onto the right landing, her sence of direction blitzed by the afternoon booze……all £65 of it!!
Exploring Aragon….miles and miles of it!
It wasn’t an early rise for breakfast which was good in the circumstances! All the same we were at the garage fuelled up and rolling 10.00hrs. Julie and I had been around these parts in 2007 and wanted to show Mark and Jeanette the huge damn and the great road up to Broto, after lunch there we would go to the Spain-France border for a cuppa exactly where we were last year with the APPY WANDERERS. The run back to Huesca from there is such a scenic run with dramatic moments as it cuts through several low clusters of mountains.
We had ridden for about an hour before we stopped on the narrow bridge in front of the dam and the first stop of the day I promptly got told off by an irate old Spaniard coming by in his old banger, we had stopped for a look and to take a few pictures. I waved him by with a smile, we had our minute to look before moving, it was a quiet road so bugger him I thought, even though he was right, the bridge was narrow and had unbroken white lines which meant no stopping. We had circumvented the town of Barbastro and now rode north on a wonderful road with great long sweeping bends, I remembered it well from the last time. The road ran along the edge of a long twisty lake which was the reason for the dam. We rode about 25 miles on the smoothest tarmac of the day so far, speed wasn’t the essence of the day because we had all day to do it and it had some superb views, we pulled over at a picnic spot to take it all in, the water was a warm turquoise and the sky was a matching soft blue.
It was in fact two long lakes that had been utilized for the dams the first was Embalse de Grado, the northerly dam being the Embalse de Mediano. Our progress was stunted now by a huge chugging old truck with a shed load of red bricks on board behind it sat three or four cars, we picked our spot and passed them all with ease. Mark gunned the trike to follow us through, the road was wide, the bends very long…at least they were long from a motorbikes prospective! Soon we were at the head of the northerly dam. We rode through the small busy town and waived at the half dozen Germans sat with their BMW bikes at one of the café.
I saw that I’d noted on my old map that this road is “shyte for 15 miles”. We rode quickly up to the gorge and the squiggly section in question. The pot holes and ruts had been filled in so it wasn’t so shyte after all, Ive now crossed it out! We remembered how it narrowed and twisted the old black wing made mincemeat of it except for the bloody potholes, but now they were gone and now on the new red wing we and were getting a bit of a wiggle on! Mark kept on the throttle and was only yards behind me as we rode for fun. There is a ghost village just up ahead but the turn off was upon us too soon plus a bleeding campervan was parked in our way! It’s a ghost village because years ago the government moved everyone out with the intention of flooding the place to make ANOTHER dam, however they changed their minds and didn’t flood it, the village folk were not allowed back nor did they get compensated, there was an uproar about it at the time. This story I got from the folk behind the bar up in Broto from when we stayed in 2007, I think the village was called Garganta which is also Spanish for Throat or Gully, so very appropriate for the road we were negotiating right at this very minute! I’m happy to say that my observations are well out of date because now the road is exciting if not a little heart-stopping! The craggy rock just out a little uncomfortably close now and again. An old white truck tooted me as I swept round a corner onto a tiny old stone bridge I thought ….”If you thought I was close pal wait till Mark and Jeanette comes barrelling round the corner on the trike you’re gonna get the shock of your life!
We settled behind an old German camper-van, the corners were too sharp and no straight bits to whip round the damn thing. Bloody camper-vans should only be allowed out at night, there are impossible to get around at times and think they are the only people on the road sometimes, I can’t believe how inconsiderate they are sometimes, it’s almost like “big willie” syndrome! There was 15 lovely but slow miles left to Broto and we now ran between two tree filled ravines that only opened out when we hit the village, we parked near the hotel of 2007 and took a stroll up the high street. We took the little path to the rock formation caves and waterfall, we had discovered it during our last visit, my foot was throbbing hot so I slipped off my left boot and submerged it in the ice cold river.
Oh bliss! That felt like heaven I sat there for a while as Mark and Jeanette had a good look round and took photos. One can get a snapshot of the violence Mother Nature produced millions of years ago when forging planet Earth into shape.
Plenty of us have seen the earth’s strata and how it slopes and sometimes curves but have you seen if folded over? Or bend back ninety odd degrees? This is quite gobsmacking!
The others spent an hour looking around and staring up at the caves and waterfalls that cascaded down keeping us cool for the first time today. I soaked my foot in the ice cold water again before walking back to Broto for lunch.
We decided to ride up to the border from here. The familiar road shimmied up the side of the wooded mountain before snaking its way along the top and down again to a major road. It was nice to be on it again. We really got moving along this road having a lot of fun we were too! The downward run was harder for Mark as he pushed and pulled the handlebars of the trike urging the trike round the bends and not through them! He found working the throttle difficult whilst doing this at the same time especially when going downhill, meanwhile we on the bike let gravity do all the work and gently swayed from left to right as bend after bend came and went, applying the rear brake occasionally to stand the bike up and slow down when the bend ahead cut in tight and the rocks came a little too close!
Turning right at the bottom we sped off towards France and the Pyrenees. The road seemed as wide as Heathrow airport now we opened the throttles wide and charged along in the upwards elevation. Another long squiggley lake passed by on our right with yet another dam at its head, we pulled over again for a re-hydration stop. We would do this often here in Spain, I thought it a good idea after seeing friends collapse en-route to The Faro Rally, saying they felt right one minute then falling off their bikes at the campsite in the next minute it looked funny as they flopped over but was a lesson learned, I didn’t fancy fainting on the Goldwin!
We climbed more rapidly now and it turned a little cooler, perhaps back down to thirty degrees. We stopped at the top, at the border at Del Portals. We had all been here less than twelve months ago with the APPY WANDERERS. We bought drinks and cake sitting and eating as the coaches began to leave, taking their cargo back into France, the old folk had loaded up with Garlic and drinks. I have never seen so much garlic for sale.
We posed for photographs with the great back drop before turning the bikes to head to Huesca just sixty miles or so down this one road, the E-7.
Sat Nav was only used for the first hour today, until I turned it off when it took us up a very decayed “iffy”looking road, the trike negotiated it really easy but I took one look at the adverse camber, the edge and the blind entry into the village square between two crumbling orange walls, the road was seemed only a goats width and was covered in loose stones and rabbit shit! We were climbing so much I was leaning forward over the tank! I got really concerned and decided to retreat. “Right Julie.. Fook this for a lark, hop off a minute I’m turning us round” I performed a very careful U-turn on the hill-side and on the poxy gravillons. “You fookin Sat Nav bastrd bitch” I muttered through gritted teeth Mark rode past disappearing round the corner between the yellow walls, Julie hopped back on and we rode back down the hill followed by Mark and Jeanette. To be fair I had picked the route, it was a yellow route and edged with green which denotes fantastic scenery. I think perhaps on this occasion is should have been a white road and was not Goldwing friendly. Planning a route on yellow roads is usually OK. I refrain from using white roads if I can because for a Honda Goldwing it can be disastrous and not normally advisable. It’s an adventure after all and not a suicide mission!
All that was forgotten for now though as we rode south on the N330 the old road was being replaced AGAIN. It’s a pity they can’t sell the original roads that they are replacing we in England would benefit that’s for sure. We saw small groups of mountain ahead, the new road cut a path up and over, snaking around the severest of the mounds. It was late afternoon and the temperature was back to 36 degrees. The road was now of motorway standard and was the start of the improved E-7 to Zaragoza and onto Valencia on the west coast a day’s ride away. The girls had two way radios between us in case of emergencies or if we got split up but had to turn them off because all we could hear was the Spanish truckers and they were coming through at 10/10 strength blowing our little ears off! We got back to our hotel in Huesca that evening after a thrilling 230 miles or thereabouts
We loved our day playing in the Pyrenees foothills and the blast up to the border. We were back at our table outside the hotel after parking the bikes back in the car park beneath the hotel. The Hotel was quite new, nice and airy, with its private car park and swimming pool, it was very much the nicest hotel I’d stayed in for a while and typical of the high standard set by Brittany Ferries.
It was later when we settled at our table outside in the still warm sunshine, it was hard to believe it was 21.00hrs, to me it was late to start eating, but to the Spanish it was still quite early and they were only just venturing out, I’m not talking just about the younger folk but families with kids and older folk, in fact 22.00hrs seemed to be the norm. Only mad dogs and Englishmen venture into the midday sunshine as we so proved over and over again on holiday. We looked the typical tourists too with comfy tops and shorts of ill matching colours. OK I admit I’m probably describing myself now. I just don’t think about style I just want to be comfy, but I do draw the line at Union Jack shorts, vest and long ankle socks with pink crocks!
We talked about the day, about the trike and how it handled in the mountains especially at pace. I learned more about riding a two wheeled motorbike in companion with a three wheeled trike at speed they really are two different beasts and have different demands, both have strengths and weaknesses. Spain would be Mark and Jeanette’s proving ground for their trike, boundaries would be tested and stretched they would both come on leaps and bounds in the following days and amass great experiences.
Dinner was a variation of Tapas… Tapas are a wide variety of appetizers, or snacks, in Spanish cuisine. They may be cold (such as mixed olives and cheese) or warm (such as chorizos which are battered, fried baby squid). In select bars in Spain, tapas have evolved into an entire, and sometimes sophisticated, cuisine. In Spain, patrons of tapas can order many different tapas and combine them to make a full meal. The meats are often cured ham and take some getting used to as they are quite strong, personally I thought it was all very tasty and much better than peanuts and crisps!
Bed beckoned us before midnight, to be fair it had been a brilliant day and one of many to come on our adventure, knowing where we are going is one thing but knowing what we are going to experience is another thing and quite frankly is what get my juices flowing. At breakfast time when looking at the map with the sun shining outside and being in a different country with the whole day ahead of us to explore is a great feeling. “Let’s try THIS road today and see where it takes us” is something Julie sometimes says, Who knows what we will see? For sure we won’t know unless we go take a look!
Up and out on the open road by 09.30hrs today and eager to discover another part of Aragon, preferably with mountains again!
We had collected a couple of litres of water at our first fuel stop. Water was nearly as important as fuel, it’s just so hot that it would be foolish and dangerous not to take any, at almost every stop we drank water even just a couple of sips. Today I promised myself to keep my eyes off the magnificent birds up there in the hot skies and on the road ahead. Already we had seen both Red and Black Kite, buzzard and eagle, they have several type of eagle and buzzard over here every day now we saw them, especially after midday when the thermals were at their hottest. Today we picked part of a motorbike route chosen by a couple of French guys and published on their blog, Id noted it a couple of weeks ago back home and thought it would be good especially as the little yellow road wiggled into the mountains up to the Spain French border again.
We took the red road towards the city of Pamplona to head back down the craggy gorge and looked at Los Mallos at Los Puerta Del Pirineo again. We cleared the gorge slowly along narrow twisty roads. Looking up high to the left and right I saw several pair of buzzard low down trying to get a lift up high on the thermals but it before noon still so only about 28 degrees. I know I promised not to keep looking up but they are such a sight to see. Once clear of the gorge we dropped down to the huge wheat fields again of several days ago when we first came down this way. I saw a couple of kite cruising very low over the cornfield and thought it unusual and then I saw a combined harvester chugging along cutting the crop, a huge kite was searching the ground just in front of it, twisting and turning trying to keep aloft as it tried to keep pace. It was looking for prey that hopefully the harvester had startled, this was probably a classic case of man and beast working together a bit like back home when the little robin lingers around when I’m digging in the garden. We were soon at the junction we wanted the one that forked off to the right and head off up towards the Pyrenees , a garage we also there so we pulled over to top up, drink water and have a chat with two guys from Switzerland on their Yamaha race replica motorbikes.
They had just come from where we were heading and although we didn’t speak the same we understood that the road ahead of us was a real treat!
Saying goodbye to the Swiss pair we head up the little road, the border was about 65 miles distant, it was on this road that we first saw the first signs of financial trouble that Spain was going through. Huge concrete pillars stood in the fields going from one hill on our left to the next hill on our right about a mile away, the road that sits on the pillars hadn’t been built yet and there was no sign of any impending construction, no vehicles, no material or anything. There was nothing but a long row of sunken concrete pillars. It looked slightly weird but understandable in these times, I thought we may have seen more of the same but we didn’t, I’d like to have heard the sat nav cope with THAT!
We slowed as we entered another gorge, the road narrowed and twisted, the bare grey rock punched up from the soil, I spotted a big black and white eagle above us, it was so low and was going the same way, stupidly I shouted! It ignored us and carried on turning presently to nip over a nearby hill. I’ve looked it up since coming home to see that it was either a Booted Eagle or a Bonelli’s Eagle and had a distinctive white underside with black trailing edges to its wings.
After an hours or so riding we were at the base of the first hill that soon turned into a mountain and Hey Presto! We were in the Pyrenees again. The road became narrow and started to zig zag upwards, We found it easy to negotiate after cruising the mountain passes in The Alps, these were not very technical but much fun all the same, this was an old pass and not used as much as it used to be, I think it probably gets most traffic in the ski-ing season. It turned out to be an old pass from before the war I had seen a memorial at the top later remembering the people who had died evading the Germans in occupied France In 1940.
We stopped a couple of times on the way up to take in the sights below, the scene below on the valley floor was of a long lumpy green carpet dotted with dark green blobs of trees and tan coloured squares, our road could be seen twisting its way up the middle of the valley, then turning sharply left and right as it starts to zigzag up the mountain to where we were stood. It’s not advisable to look back down when riding up on the narrow road because the bike tends to tip towards where one is looking! However somebody must have been doing so because we saw the remains of a caravan halfway down the mountain when we got near the top!
……Remember to double click on photo to enlarge and see remains of caravan, thought it might have been a motorhome……
We also passed a couple of cars that were parked up, the drivers waived as we passed, I thought nothing more of them until we entered a long tunnel. Mark was leading at this point when suddenly from behind we heard a huge beautiful roar as the very same vehicles slipped into my slipstream and gunned their engines! “Bloody hell, what the fook are they?” I shouted. Once out of the tunnel I pulled across the road to indicate they could pass but they stayed behind this meant only one thing….Playtime!
Mark noticed this too and pushed harder. I was having a spot of déjà vous, a couple of years ago with Barry in the Italian Alps we had a similar play with a local Italian and his little Morgan sports car. Now we were sprinting uphill so Mark had a chance get a crack on I kept glancing in the mirror to see them whip round the bends in time with me, they gripped the road very well and sounded great, I was laughing away at this fun, all too soon we reached the top and we pulled over into car park, the cars roared past us waiving and tooting then we saw they were all English too! They were specialised kit cars that much I could tell but Mark had to educate me on what they were. I’ve just done some searching on the web and found this info and a photo…
Colin Chapman’s Lotus Cars launched the Series 1 Lotus Seven in 1957. The car was immediately embraced by enthusiasts as a low-cost, lightweight sports car and successful race car. Revised Series 2, Series 3 and Series 4 versions were subsequently launched in 1960, 1968 and 1970 respectively. The Lotus/Caterham 7is widely regarded by car enthusiasts and the media as one of the iconic sports cars of the 20th century. With 2007 marking the 50th year of continuous production, the Seven still enjoys strong support and success in clubman-style racing.
The three roaring beasts disappeared down the mountain into France. That was a few minutes of unexpected fun and worth the mild ticking off I got from Julie!
We gathered our breath at the top cleared our ringing ears and took photo’s especially at the distant clouds below us in France, it looked colder than it did here in Spain, we turned around and went back the way we came, we went back down in our own time looking stopping now and again to admire the magnificent views.
Once at the bottom we paused before pushing on to find a café in one of the villages along the way back down the valley. It was about 15.00hrs so not much was open, nothing ever is open in the countryside at this time of day, all the sensible locals are indoors and out of the blazing sun. Mad dogs and Englishmen spring to mind again!
We pulled over at a small garage and shared the patio with a group of German bikers eating crisps ice lollies and drinking coffee and water. The ride back was hot as the day topped out at 38 degrees. We rode quickly through the first gorge but saw no eagle on the return trip.
At the second gorge an hour or so away we rode carefully along the old narrow metal bridge and stopped for a break. Sensibly we parking in the shade of the grey rocks, Julie strolled around the pointed rock just across the road, it was immense and looked like a spears head sticking upwards. The rest of us walked down to the waters edge. Julie called us over she had found something. The dam had an over flow built into the huge spear like rock.
One didn’t really notice it at first until one walked around to the back of it. A loud roar pulled us to the edge from where we saw the overflow coming through the rock into the river which then followed the road through the gorge. All around the overflow, green grass grew and thick moss clung to the old building, presumed to be the old pumping house below.
Once rested we set off again, we weaved our way through the gorge for the last time, the last 25 miles back to Huesca was hot…very hot in fact Jeanette burnt one of her feet and rode back siting on her foot to keep it out of the sun! She got creamed up and joined us for dinner and more drinks before an early bed we had to pack our bags, tommorow we were moving to another hotel again. This time to Teruel about 220 miles to the south.
PART 4 …..The Parador at TERUEL…214 miles.
With breakfast eaten and bags packed away in the bikes, we returned the room keys, paid for the garage rent and hit the road in the hot morning sun. Today was a transit day, a 200 mile run south to Teruel and the Parador our next hotel.
We soon picked up the E-7 motorway; Jeanette was at the helm of the trike this morning. We set a steady 70mph on the empty road, there was no point in going any faster our rooms probably wouldn’t be available so early in the day. The sky was bleached blue the land flat and open and had a nice golden tinge to it. We rode about two hours on a very quiet E-7 and saw not much! Spain is deceptively large and empty, especially in the inner regions. The city of Zaragoza lay ahead in the haze we were taken around it. The road number changed now to the A-23. In Europe most motorways have two numbers, one being the European designation (E-7) and the country number (A-27)…but not in England Scotland Wales of N. I don’t think we are ready to be considered Europeans in every way, personally I’d like to stay as English as possible in every way!
We pulled over for petrol after around 140 miles at a little garage just of our road; it seems the Spanish way is to put in a little junction near an already established garage in a nearby village. We didn’t see a single service station all day on the motorway to Teruel. We fuelled up and pulled into some shade for a water intake and watched the locals come and go with tractor and pick-ups. Mark got into a conversation with an Englishman and his wife. They had moved over here years ago lock stock and barrel and were driving back to England to visit friends and family. He said it’s really hot further south. Here it was about midday and already 36-38 degrees. Feeling fit again we set off from the pot holed run down garage.
Even the map was devoid of anything interesting and remained mainly white. After another hour I signalled to turn off, I saw the red hording of a small clutch of buildings, one was a garage the other looked like somewhere to get something to eat and drink. They were on the old road that lay just half a mile to our right, it looked in decent condition but again they had laid another new motorway!
The garage was open but the other was not, a Spanish trucker offered us water from his cab. I pointed at ours in the top box smiled and thanked him in Spanish, he started a conversation, he was telling us of a place that was open a further ten miles up the road that much I understood. I took a few photographs and of the original road, it looked like it should have been on an album cover of an Eagles LP. After a break in the shade we pushed on for the last hours run to Teruel. I switched on the Sat-Nav as we exited the motorway at Teruel, she soon picked up the scent and took us strait to the hotel. It was on the outskirts of historic Teruel.
The Parador is a perfect expression of the mixture of cultures and styles of this interesting and monumental city, home to some of the most representative buildings of the Mudejar style. The Parador of Teruel is a mansion inspired by this style, combines a plethora of styles and lines in its construction. Marbles, tiling, arches and arabesque details form part of delightful, spacious rooms in pastel tones. There is also a large garden with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and suites appropriate for holding conventions, meetings and social events. It was built in the 1950’s during Spain’s turbulent times.
Now I sound a bit gushy about the place but I really loved the look and feel of the place. Now here is the down side. The old dour reception staff would have been better employed at an approved institution, the foyer had a smell of toilet it emanated from two toilets at the bottom of the grand stairway. The reception staff probably sat in it for so long that they had gotten used to it. I wasn’t going to mention it as they looked completely uninterested. The bar staff on the other hand were young lads and good at their job thankfully…or that really would have really spoilt it! Dinner was great but the old crinkly staff where pretty shyte to be honest and we avoided eye contact with the old bats! The food was different and very special to the region and went down well. It was a disappointment because we have stayed at a couple of Spanish Parador hotel in the past and the standard was high. I wrote to Brittany Ferries to put them in the picture, they replied that they had already decided not to use them in future, a shame really because the building is really beautiful.
Remember to doubl left click on these small photos, this will bring them up LARGE .
Another English couple arrived shortly after us on a BMW motorbike; they had come up from the south after buying a cave home….Google it. You know it makes sense! They were making their way back into France where his girlfriends mother lived, to leave the bike there, fly back to England then return to Saudi to carry on with his contract work, he said he had a year left to do then he would retire, their intention was to move into their cave house on the south coast of Spain.
The rain lasted about an hour but boy did it rain! The ground was dry again within the next hour this went some way to explained the greenery and the dusty sand of the region. We settled in one of the two huge sitting rooms after dinner for the evening on the huge sofa’s wooden panels and old pictures made for a tranquil after dinner sit around. Mark decided to go off to the shops and buy some snacks for the next days’ ride in the nearby National Parc.
After a good breakfast from the self service tables, this is common at breakfast there is a huge selection of meats cheese and fruits and cakes, we could go up to the tables as often as we wanted. We had been told of some places to visit by the English BMW folk from yesterday. Actually we were saying “cheerio” to them this morning as they carried on with their journey back to France. Mark had done some planning for today ride and we tucked in behind him and Jeanette. We head into the National Reserve de Montes Universales and hour away to the west, on yet another hot day in being. We head for Albaraticn along some yellow minor roads; we saw viewpoints marked on the map and knew we were onto a winner!
The varied kind of pine trees was quite “gob-smacking” especially as huge red boulders sat in clusters in between the trees, this went on for miles, occasionally we passed through a village or two that seemed abandoned, the red brown and oranges of the buildings were often in stark contrast to the pine trees and shrubs. We approached the town of Albaraticn with its walled fort on the hill side above it, whilst they settled into a café I doubled back to a shop and picked up more water for us. A local confirmed to Mark where the nearest garage was, armed with that knowledge we opted to do a nice big circle through the parc before topping the tanks off. We head back to Teruel along a long long long open road we passed mile after mile of wheat fields, a hot wind got up and blasted our bodies, in most fields an old harvester was at work with tractor and trailer following. Mark hit the brakes as one such implement and its bloody tractor and trailer decided now to cross from one field to the next about fifty yards in front of us. We laughed later at how “Sod Law” applied itself on this empty fifteen miles of road!
We decided to have lunch in Teruel and so followed our nose up the ramparts following the signs for CENRTO to park amongst the bollards of the open eatery. The pizza and bacon was interesting if not a tad salty but quite filling, then the damn winds arrived, they had followed us and blew hoardings and signs across the walkways and threatened to clear the tables! The winds seemed to blow in every five minutes or so to create havoc.
We had a short ride through the old city but found it difficult to negotiate, the narrow brick roads steps to houses, meandering locals and parked up vehicles told me to return to the hotel before something inevitable happened. The trike had the advantage on this topsy turvy terrain for sure!
We got settled at the hotel for the evening and made ready for the next day’s transit day up to Toledo. Mark was soon feeling a bit hungry and decided to take a ride to the nearest shops. Unfortunately a police car followed him back to the hotel. Mark had all the documents at the ready for the boys in blue (blue because these guys were town police)
There seemed to be a problem with the documents and him riding a trike in Spain on a GB car license. Mark had his old paper license which didn’t make it abundantly clear to the police that he DID in fact have B1 status which said he could ride the trike. He didn’t have the new plastic ID license which would have cleared things up probably. The end result was that they decided to have Mark for not having his helmet strap clipped in. This resulted in a 100 Euro on the spot fine. I have decided to include this incident in some detail to hopefully warn future trike riders to make sure they get their documents correct and up to date. IF in doubt ring the DVLA direct and don’t rely on a “Joe Bloggs” official article on the internet.
I felt sorry for Mark but on the other hand I kinda think it’s good that the police are enforcing the law and wish our lot were more robust. No doubt having guns gets one’s attention and demands respect for the uniform and their word. All the same Mark had a worrying few hours as he read and read again his paperwork.
Policía Municipal also known as Policía Local or Guardia Urbana in some cities are the police force in every town and city of 5,000 or more people.
The morning was a quiet affair Mark was still miffed at yesterdays encounter with the police. We packed the bikes a bit more muted than usual and bid a hearty“FOOK OFF” to Teruel and the officers of the fookin law!
North to TOLEDO…232 miles…Another hot transit day.
The morning was hot and the sky clear as we left Teruel, it had been a short visit to a most unusual, but a little disappointing of the hotels sampled on our adventure so far. Today we picked a route north that ran close to Cuenca and so might be dropping in to have a quick look at the “Hanging houses of Cuenca” I have included a short extract from the web and a photo to explain quickly.
The Casas Colgadas (translated as Hanging Houses), also known as Casas Voladas, Casas del Rey and, erroneously, Casas Colgantes, is a complex of civil houses located in Cuenca, Spain. In the past this kind of houses was frequent in the eastern border of the antique city, located near the ravine of the river Huesca Today, however, there are only a few of them remaining. Of all of these structures, the most well-known is a group of three with wooden balconies.
Its origin remains uncertain. There is proof of their existence from the 15th century Throughout their history they have been refurbished several times. The most recent took place during the 1920’s
They have been used as individual homes, council houses, and currently the host to a meson, a type of restaurant, and the Museo de Arte Abstractor Espanola (Spanish Abstract Art Museum), in Cuenca.
Julie checks out the front seat and handlebars.
We had cleaned off the bugs and had a quick check round the bikes, nothing seemed amiss, some gaffa tape was used to hold a couple of add on bits that had come unstuck due to the heat. No doublt Lynn and John are laughing at this, as they had the pi88 took out of them for their liberal use of gaffa tape when their old trike fell to bits on previous European ventures!
It took minutes to clear the town and ride down into the long ravine, for the next hour the road twisted left and right as it followed the riverbed, I would have liked to have gone a bit faster but the run in with the police had left its mark. Soon the road opened up and the countryside turned flat and wide and signs for Cuenca were showing now. Julie and I had stayed near here in 2007 during our last visit to Spain; we were to be in for a shock as to how big the city had grown. I turned off the N420 to head into the city again we followed the signs for Centro. It certainly had grown, bundles of flats had sprung up miles out of town and small industry and grown, I hoped this hadn’t spoilt Cuenca. Garmin was off as we neared the old part, we followed the Centro signs, we were guided down towards the river, I remembered this part vaguely so kept on towards the bottom of the ravine I looked out for signs of the spectacular buildings; we were soon riding alongside the river when we saw them up high in the rocks. Not a suitable place was found on this little twisting road to stop and take photograph, it looked like we would have had to negotiate the old part of the city and look down at them, I didn’t fancy doing that, I wasn’t certain it would give us the best view besides and we were on loaded bikes, I knew how tiny the little streets where! Besides we still a way to go so we found a place to turn around and so came back along the quiet road at a snail’s pace in order that all four of us could look up and marvel at them. We back tracked towards the centre of the city, I looked out for the road to Madrid which came up presently and so swung left away from the centre. I still think we had the better view of the hanging buildings from the ravine and not from the top.
The twisting road soon behaved and stretched long wide and straight as it turned into another Autovia. We left Aragon now and entered Castilla Leon and it was getting hotter dryer and a tad oppressive. To the left and right we passed miles and miles of yellow and golden cornfields. Dotted infrequently were yellow grain hoppers and huge trucks sat at the base waiting to fill up with grain and take it to another destination.
We looked for a rest stop and opted for a sprawling town called Ocana. The first stop was a garage, a dapper looking chap came over announcing in English that he owned a Harley, well someone has to! He was really friendly and was good enough to tell us a better route to Toledo after leaving here; he knew it well because he actually lived in Toledo. I invited him to a drink and the tapas bar bolted onto the side of the garage but he declined as he had some errands to do and the wife was in the car waiting patiently to get going! “Ok Ola amigo” We shouted as they departed. Inside the dark bar we tucked into a kind of fish dish which I was convinced was chicken! The break was needed, it was so hot and the light wind was pretty blistering. We took on more bottles of Aqua then donned our lids and stepped out into the hot sol. The pavement cracked here and there….NO it didn’t I’m just making it up; it may do in August though!
We followed the new directions towards the N400 on the old road to Toledo, I had switched Garmin on to help us find the N400, pretty pointless though as the N400 switched from old to new road, the new road was dual carriageway status, it switched constantly as we were directed off the new road again and again onto mini roundabouts, red bollards, tape and hand painted roads signs added to confuse poor old Garmin we just followed the child like signage, at one point we saw a huge events tent on the new road, perhaps they were having an opening ceremony? Sometimes the new road did look complete; in fact we could ride on it now and again. Before we were slowed by the dummy in the oil drum with a waving red flag, occasionally a couple of construction workers stood at the junctions with red flags to make sure nobody went up the slip roads.
At one huge roundabout bedecked flowers and a little shrubbery a car had gone straight across and mounted the centre piece. Would you believe I never actually saw it even though I went all the way around the roundabout. I did see the policeman, his bike and some mangled bits of metal on the road, the recovery vehicle and Mario running across the road quickly pulling on his Day-Glo jacket. If I had looked left to the middle of the roundabout I would have seen the bent car, but I didn’t!
I did see the huge prison away to our left a few minutes later, it looked new and was surrounded by a high wall topped with wire and a couple of towers at each corner, there were a couple of long house blocks of about four story high. I bet it was hotter than hell in there especially on the fours landing. There wasn’t another building for miles around it really looked to be in the middle of no-were.
Toledo was about another thirty minutes away we could see the edge of town now as life began to emerge, I turned Garmin on and typed in the hotel, after a minute it had the hotel in its sights and directed us around the new city, the old city stood high on the hill just to the left. We came to the inner ring road and turned left to circle it, riding alongside the river at the base of the old city. It looked magnificent, all shades of brown and gold. It was too, very VERY old! Our hotel was on the opposite hillside. The Garmin directed us up the hillside and directly to it without any problems. The small road took us around the back and into the huge car park. The hotel was another huge and splendid looking one.
Hotel Kris Domenico Toledo
We checked in, sampled the room, showered and stood on our balcony and sampled the fantastic view across the hill side to the old city.
Looking past Toledo and the gorge with a 200m camera lens. from our balcony…honest!
The hotel Domenico was of the Hotel Kris Domenico chain and just wonderful even though they didnt have underground parking, I felt it secure enough with their cameras and such, I would recomend this place. Oh and now I felt the urge for a beer so dressed and head for the hotel bar downstairs with Julie Mark and Jeanette, we chatted about a fairly straight forward transit, with no problems or drama’s. Not very good to write about though!
Tommorow we would have a walk around the old town and a day off the bikes, but for now we explored the menu and kept the guys behind the bar busy! Until tommorow then…
Exploring the old city of TOLEDO..
Julie and I have visited Toledo before several times but only as an overnight stop-over going to Portugal and the famous multi day FARO bike festival one year in 1999 and again in 2007 riding south to Jerez on a three week tour so we planned to visit again only this time we would be staying in the area a few days. It’s a fascinating city, very old and rich in history and mixed in culture. Old Toledo sits on a hill and is surrounded on three sides by the Tagus River.
Having been populated since the Bronze Age Toledo grew in importance during Roman times being a main commercial and administrative centre in the Roman province. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Toledo served as the capital city of Visigothic Spain until the Moors conquered Iberia in the 8th century. Toledo served as the capital city of the region and the city flourished. However, the important regional courts in Toledo moved, first to Valladolid and then to Madrid thus letting the city’s importance dwindle until the late 20th century, because of its rich heritage Toledo is one of Spain’s foremost cities, receiving thousands of visitors yearly. Toledo’s Alcazar (Arabicized Latin word for palace-castle) became renowned in the 19th and 20th centuries as a military school. The metal-working industry has historically been Toledo’s economic base, with a great tradition in the manufacture of swords and knives and a significant production of razor blades! The manufacture of swords in the city of Toledo goes back to Roman times, but it was under Moorish rule that Toledo and its guild of sword makers played a key role. Between the 15th and 17th centuries the Toledo sword-making industry enjoyed a great boom, to the point where its products came to be regarded as the best in Europe swords and daggers were made by individual craftsmen, although the sword-makers guild oversaw their quality. In the late 17th and early 18th century production began to decline, prompting the creation of the Royal Arms Factory in 1761 by order of the king. The Royal Factory brought together all the sword-makers guilds of the city and it was located in the former mint. In 1777, recognizing the need to expand the space, Carlos III commissioned to construct a new building on the outskirts of the city. This was the beginning of several phases of expansion. Its importance was such that it eventually developed into a city within the city of Toledo. This goes a long way in explaining the plethora of shops selling swords and daggers!
Eeny meeni miny mo..stick a pig in a poke!!
Nice dress in the background, go ahead pick an accesory darling!!
In the 20th century, the production of knives and swords for the army was reduced to cavalry weapons only, and after the civil war to the supply of swords to the officers and NCOs of the various military units. Following the closure of the factory in the 1980s, the building was renovated to house the campus of the Technological University of Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo
We took the bikes on a tour around the old city to park up outside the Jewish part under the huge walls. We exchanged bike boots for comfy trainers, my ankle still hurt but I was making better progress on this second week. Mark and Jeanette went in one direction as Julie and I went in another, hopefully we would meet up in a couple of hours and not have a repeat of Julies Mont Michel drama back in September!
We took a ride on a tourist train for 5 Euros each. We set off out of the huge square rumbling over the flagstones onto the cobbled road. The carriages we were sat in were pretty small and basic so the minute we took to the cobbles the rattle grew louder and began to shake us about. Julie on the train…before it set off!
Everyone thought it funny at first as bellies bums and tits jiggled vigorously! But the funny exercise soon wore thin and got uncomfortable, I was thinking about getting off on the next slow corner, thankfully we turned onto tarmac and it turned pleasant again. The train took us all the way around the city on the ring road, stopping at a vantage point to take photographs. Julie was listening to the on board history lesson through a little ear piece, I on the other hand had my head stuck out of the carriage taking photo’s most of which were pretty blurred unfortunately, the ride was smoother but it still rattled and shook us about! Next photo shows me happy to be off that damn train!!…Note the Alcazar on my left shoulder…
One funny story from the history lesson told of the man responsible for building one of the bridges. He sat at the table one night and confided in his wife that he thought he had got his calculations wrong and feared the bridge would collapse on completion. He feared he would be put to the sword for his error. So during the night “wifey” sneaked out unseen to the nearly completed bridge and set fire to it burning it to the ground thus saving the reputation and life of her husband. Needless to say the second and much stronger bridge did the job!
The mini train ride ended back in the square after another bone rattling run over the cobbles. I was really glad to get of the bloody thing! We began to explore the little streets; it was busy with tourists but not too bad. Window shopping got interesting as we saw dozens of swords and knives on display in several shops! We heard lots of Americans amongst the tourists. Mark stood with some young guns outside a shoe shop (Jeanette was buying everything inside) as they talked about buying a couple of swords to take back to America, he pointed out the problems they might encounter at the airport… Doh!
We had bought a plate a couple of years ago, a craftsman cuts a picture on the metal plate (ours has a scene of Toledo) with a very fine tool, once the picture has been etched into the plate he goes over it again, tapping the finest of gold thread into the chiseled grooves with a tiny pointed hammer. With that done the plate is then fired in a kiln, that’s where the transformation takes place. The dull plate had turned jet black and the thin faint gold thread now shines as only gold can. We had it posted home from the shop because we were on the motorbike and had no place for it, that was about four years ago.
The Alcazar firmly on top in Toledo, see the River Tagus in the gorge.
We walked around the Alcazar and its surrounding squares, people were sat around taking refreshments, soaking up the sunshine and looking up at the fantastic old buildings, they said it was a city of mixed cultures back then, looking around at the tourists it looked the same, Japanese ladies in beautiful dresses were posing for each other, Americans by the score could be heard, the loud ones in particular. Various skin colours where in abundance too, “Fifty Shades of Black” even!!
In the afternoon we were ready to say goodbye to the narrow Toledo streets but not before a visit inside a shop selling local biscuits made with local almonds, Julie filled her boots for herself and her pal Rosh who was back home horse sitting. I spotted some Limonchello and smiled. We walked back to the bike I was calculating how many pair of sock and knickers we might have to ditch to get my Limonchillo back home! Due to some fine womanly packing skills by Julie we brought everything back home, Jeanette did well too she managed to bring home fifteen pairs of shoes a new bra and some more face creams…Oh yes and Marks new tatty denim jacket with glued up collar. Their bread-van certainly lived up the nickname of bread van!….We were home just four weeks when the Limonchello bottle was empty….BoooH!
It had been a great afternoon, we rode back to the hotel following the Tagus river, the sun was hot again the sky blue from wall to wall, a couple of hours by the hotel pool sounded a good idea. The shopping was taken back to our rooms we stripped of to settle around the pool with a dozen or so other hotel guests. Julie and Jeanette scrutinized all and sundry, tight bums, plastic boobs, bulging budgie smugglers and swiftly despatched all with witty comments. Jeanette was impressive she was as quiet as an assassin’s blade, nobody outside our circle could hear. I dare not strut over to the loo! Jeanette became famous last year inventing the “Normandy Stare” which she used in riposte to my catty comments. It was all quite harmless and funny Mark was chuckling away in between dribbling as the sun lulled him off to “Never Never Land” Now and again he awake murmuring “I can hear you” It was a dangerous place to be and I still didn’t go to the loo! I’d like to see them in a nudist colony; it would be a verbal massacre!…..For the record I didnt take the young ladies photo nor did i get her number!
TO AVILA… A day of highs and lows!
Another hot day was on the cards as we ate breakfast in the hotel, a road trip to Avila had been decided on during dinner the night before. Julie and I remembered the huge stone wall that enclosed the old city when we passed it a couple of years ago on our way to Segovia. Tomorrow was going to be a two hundred mile round trip on hopefully wonderful empty roads into those distant purple looking mountains. Below is a borrowed photo of Avila, we arrived in somewhat of a heat haze so Im using this one for you.
The walled city 1131 meters (3665 feet) above sea level and is the highest provincial capital in Spain. It is built on the flat summit of a rocky hill, which rises abruptly in the midst of a veritable wilderness: a brown, arid, treeless table-land, strewn with immense grey boulders, and shut in by lofty mountains. This results in an extreme climate, with very hard and long winters, and short summers. As I said earlier the city is notable for having complete medieval city walls which were built in the Romanesque style. It is also one of the cities with the highest number of Romanesque churches, Gothic churches and catering establishments in relation to the number of its inhabitants.
It was in the high twenties as we left the hotel after breakfast, the road twisted down the hillside to the river then ran around Toledo. Looking up at the building across the river on the hillside was unavoidable so we played safe and rode slowly because whenever one looked for longer than a glance to the left or right the bike eventually follows. Don’t try it folks it just does, trust me!
After taking on fuel we followed the signs to Avila, I had asked the Garmin to keep an eye on the right road numbers too. We had consulted the map and it looked mainly straight forward and just a couple of roads also the map showed plenty of green line alongside the road which meant great scenery. We followed the signs around the city to the correct turnoff but then after just a few miles Mistress Garmin got her knickers in a twist because the boys had built yet another brilliant new road on the perfectly good old one. We saw the old road now and again both on the left and the right of our new road, at one point I saw it disappear into the new embankment! On temporary roundabouts it became a little confusing, the old road numbers had been replaced by a new one, a few miles further on we were herded onto another roundabout and the new number reverted back to the old one, it was only now and again we saw a sign that said Avila, it was a bit of a “pig in a poke” and a good job we had studied the map the night before!
The land became pretty scorched and golden brown in colour, the houses not so obvious, they just popped up now and again as little hamlets, some local bikers were on the road today too. We had stopped to take a few photographs of a ruined castle on a nearby hill. The speed was tempered mostly through the occasional built up area, but when it opened up then so did we, It was great fun again.
We soon came upon a local on his sports bike and latched on behind him as he had fun, he wasn’t going mad so keeping pace with him was not a problem, and I had no intention of racing him! Which was actually a good job, because just around the next bend we got pulled over by the Civil Guard. One of the officers said something to the Spanish lad in front then he came over to us and said, “Have you got one hundred and fifty Euros’?” I nodded. He pointed at Mark and said “You are ok senor” BLOODYFUKSHITBOLLOX!! I shouted inside to myself but outwardly kept cool and smiled, I even offered my hand which he took. It seems we had been photographed by a hidden cop car, who then radioed ahead to these characters they then pulled us over. I handed over the day’s spending money, my licence and my documents after some scrutiny I got a receipt from one of those hand held electrical machines things. He explained what the ticket said in his best broken English, I kept saying “Si, sir senor” in my best broken Spanish! I looked long at the 150 Euro bit. Once he thought I’d understood (I just knew I was 150 Euros lighter) He started pointing up ahead also made the motion of go slower. It so happened that there was ANOTHER speed trap and he had actually warned us. He then saluted me and waved us on. He was certainly not the Guardia civil I normally warn about and was glad of it. Again he made the motion of go slow in the next village. Maybe smiling, staying cool and shaking his hand worked for us? The other officer was talking on the radio to the hidden twat back up the road and stayed by the 4×4 having nothing to do with us, he now started pulling others over as we left. A car and another bike pulled in behind us. As we sat waiting for them going through our paper-work race bikes cruised past us constantly. The radio crackled reading out the reg plates of offenders. It’s normally us passing captured bikers; it seems the boot was on the other foot today. Sometimes it’s simply down to the roll of the dice. Today it was me, tomorrow it might be them.
We pulled out into the traffic and carried on, passing through the next village and the second trap with no concern, thank you Senor! Over the day we tried to analyse what, why and how I had been captured. What was evident was that we had been fined £117.00 for going 12mph over the speed limit and it wasn’t even a proper village, just a few houses along the road a café. The road had been going downhill too. I normally take it easy through villages’ especially in France and Spain and always roll the throttle off; it seems I should have applied some brake this time. Mark said later that he saw a speed camera. I recall seeing it too but was convinced I was slow. Today was actually Sunday hence more bikers on the road and were now riding on old B type roads The road further on proved to be a wicked road and just perfect for sports bikes. We had stumbled into a speed trap on a popular bikers road, and it was Sunday, that much we now realised, but where the hell had we been photographed? This was to remain unanswered until the evening when we chatted with the hotel manager over dinner.
Raul was a nice guy and came out of his way to chat to his hotel guests at dinner, on recounting the ambush; he explained the Gardia usually operated with a camera car. This is usually hidden from view and is often a civilian car. He had been caught out himself on previous occasions. Raul explained they had got very technical these days with collecting fines because people were giving false ID and address. So these days if a Spaniard is captured speeding and has no money on him then the fine can be taken directly from source or out of the wage packet. So I guess the odds were stacked against us today! These guys are the modern day Bandoleros…emulating the very people they were invented to combat in the first place. A bit harsh you might say but that’s how I felt today!
I find this a bit ironic because in 1884 the Guardia Civil came into being and was initially charged with putting an end to “brigandage” on the nation’s highways, particularly in the province of Andalucía, which had become notorious for numerous robberies and holdups of businessmen, peddlers, travelers, and even foreign tourists. Banditry in this region was so endemic that the Guardia found it difficult to completely eradicate. The favourite and original method of the Malagueño highwayman is to creep up quietly behind his victim, muffle his head and arms in a cloak, and then relieve him of his valuables. Should he resist, he is instantly disembowelled with the dexterous thrust of a knife. The Guardia are now charged with National Security, dealing with terrorism is one of their main tasks but now ETA and Spain seemed to be dealing with their differences. They do border stuff on land and sea using their own boats and planes. They are similar to the military with equipment, and are a stern lot and deffo not to be fucked with by the general public and THESE are the guys that now deal with traffic in the countryside for gods sake!…Oh yes I forgot to mention that only as far back as 1982 they stormed their government building in a coup d etat attempt. So you can see they are not just ordinary traffic cops.
Anyway bugger them it’s done with now so let’s on with the story! After an hour and thirty odd miles we began to climb through a hilly range which turned into a small mountain range. It looked quite bleak around these parts now, a bit like the countryside of Northumberland but brown orange and gold in colour. Once we had ridden over the last ridge we saw Avila in the distance sitting on a huge rocky outcrop. The great wall was plain to see even from up here. In twenty minutes we were at the base of the outcrop and entering the suburbs of the newer parts. We followed the road up the hillside steep and twisty the road became. Soon we came to the older part as tarmac turned to cobbles then the underground car park beckoned us at the very top. We parked up changed and emerged into the hot sunshine in the beautiful Plaza de Santa Teresa; we split from Mark and Jeanette to explore on our own. We walked along the front wall looking at the brickwork in amazement, they had built the wall using the rocky outcrop as part of the wall here and there and the bricks looked so big and heavy. We returned to the plaza and entered the walled city by the Gate Alcazar, we visited the huge Cathedral first and gazed again at the huge square stones that made up this huge building, the bricks this time were grey and cold as were many of the buildings within the city walls. Some were derelict and dark sometimes grubby looking. The little streets weaved in and out of each other. It was a little disappointing at first then you would find yourself in one of several beautiful plaza’s. It was like exploring historical film sets, all splendid and colourful at the front whilst dark shoddy and derelict behind, only it wasn’t a film set it was for real!
We bought tickets and climbed the mighty wall to explore along the top walking on the parapet we chose the section that had the best view, the land dropped away down the rocky outcrop to the new town then dropped away some more and ran a few miles away to the far mountain ridge climbing again before disappearing down the other side, not a house could be seen beyond the edge of the new town. It wasn’t exactly pretty to look at, just vast. It makes you realise just how undiscovered most of Spain is to the sun seeking masses who demanded their two weeks in the sun in a neat safe package with everything at hand. The Costa’s are most people’s only experience of Spain. They don’t know what they are missing!
We climbed above the Gate Alcazar and gazed down over the Plaza de Santa Teresa, it looked great the different textures and colours of the flagstones made a great pattern from up here. It was soon time for lunch and we found a piazza café and a nice “spag bol” down in the square. Mark and Jeanette joined us presently and we decided to set of back to Toledo and a couple of hours by the pool to wind up the day.
We slowly made our way down through the old then the new part of Avila onto the beautiful grey road again and climbed back up the distant ridge to our left and right we saw dozens of stork standing around in the corn fields, these guys were standing tall above the corn, they were white with black edged wings.
Soon we crossed the ridge line of small mountains and dropped down the other side, the roads were open and smooth so we opened the throttle a bit more. We were a little cagey when we saw signs of life, houses and double white lines, I didn’t fancy getting ambushed and robbed again by the stern looking Banderlero’s!! It took a while to comfortable with the pace going from a fluid 60 on nice roads than right down to less than 30 as a house or two came into view. For a while we tried sticking to the speed limits, breaking from 40 mph to below 30 mph where the signs dictated, this did nothing but spoil the ride. Julie kept reminding me of the speed, another 150 bleedin Euro’s I said to myself! Our slow law abiding pace did nothing but frustrate the cars behind us.
The Spaniards are not known for a calm temperament. Inevitably one youth in a shiny black tin box sped past me impatiently on a shallow bend just as another car sped down the hill towards him. He JUST made it and I flashed the lad who by now was just in front of me, I have to admit I was giggling at his fright Wow he must have really shit himself! Suddenly he slowed and wound his window down and slowed even more. His left arm came out of the window and waived it wildly urging me to do god only knows what. He slowed down some more and had a right fit glaring in the window and shouting. I wasn’t in the best of moods and was beginning to boil over at the silly twat in front “Come on then stop and have a go at me you fekkin Dago wop bstard, I’m just in the fookin mood for u…..etc etc etc! Fortunately for him he bottled out, inadvertently saving his scrawny Spanish ass…Perhaps he saw the size of Mongo on the trike just behind me. We stopped at the next village for fuel. We laughed at matey boys antics. We also decided enough was enough with this pace, we would return to our normal riding style and keep with the flow of the traffic, I would sooner pay another 150 euro’s rather than get smeared down the road by another impatient driver, we would however slow down more than usual at the villages.
The last leg to Toledo was taken on the partially completed new road; it was now late afternoon and the roads where pretty empty, we could now see our destination in the distance across the Spanish plains. We approached the city and rode the long way round the ring-road taking in the sights of the old city again, we rode into the walled city as I took an left turn too early but now we knew exactly which cobbled road to take, oh yes, experts in Toledo we were now!
Thirty minutes later and we were in our spot by the hotel pool and relaxing. The days highlight was the 150 euro ambush…Avila the walled city, fantastic…and the cretin in the little black car…hilarious! That evening we had dinner on the terrace again, we were always first out there at about eight thirty, nobody else turned out until well after nine or ten as is the Spanish way. The view down the valley from our table was memorable, Old Toledo opened up below us and as darkness took centre stage the pinpricks of lights accompanied the ground lights that lit up the cathedral and the massive square slab sided alcazar, it looked like a fantasy town from Disney coupled with a rare coexistence of cultures it is no wonder then that it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986 for its extensive cultural and monumental heritage as one of the former capitals of the Spanish Empire and place of coexistence of Christian Muslim and Jewish cultures. True it’s had its times of Jewish persecution but now all seem to get on, all 82,450 of them!
We had planned a day off the bikes the next day, at least I had because the day after that we would be riding about 380 miles north to The Picos mountains for our last stop of the adventure, a day around the pool was in order. Mark and Jeanette would drop down into old Toledo and ransack the shoe shops before joining us again by the pool.
……..Going from golden plains to green mountains
We had our last meal at this great hotel and mulled over the long journey in the morning and getting by Madrid. Before I forget I want to show you a couple of photographs from Mark of the hotel dining area with old Toledo in the background, nice isnt it?
The Kris Domenico Hotel and the outdoor dining area
The girls living the high life in Toledo
It was time to move on again to our final hotel 380 miles up north in the Picos Mountains. We had packed and had breakfast and now Mark and Jeanette were just moving their trike from their parking spot to the open road as we slowly followed. Down we rode to the ring-road that followed the river around old Toledo, we looked up one last time then head towards Madrid, the capitol of Spain. The map showed several routes towards the Madrid ring road, we intended to follow none in particular and go around the one of the parameter roads to one of the northern exits; hopefully we would connect with the A6 to Segovia. Unfortunatly the roads around Madrid are not easy to negotiate and I have taken a wrong turning on every one of four visits to Spain and Portugal since 1997! Nothing indicated North South East or West, we didn’t see many signs pointing towards far off cities that could give us a clue, the road signs only indicated areas close around the Spanish capitol. The frantic morning Madrid traffic didn’t help either! The fumes dust and noise and the ever present 30 degrees of heat made it that bit more of a challenge. Eventually we found ourselves on the correct auotovia, unfortunately we were heading south on it towards Cordoba instead of north, this was rectified a couple of miles down the road and were now heading north on the same road towards Segovia. I flicked Garmin on for a minute to check our direction once clear of Madrid and its dozens of motorways, once we knew we were heading towards Segovia I flicked the bitch back off again! Once clear of Madrid we just had 340miles to go in a northerly direction heading through the cities of Segovia, Valladolid, Palencia before turning off into the Pico’s Mountains somewhere in the region of Reinosa town.
We stopped several times for fuel, drinks and a break from the hot driving conditions, it wasn’t a race we had all day and just wanted to get to our next hotel in one piece. At Madrid at one junction a truck driver couldn’t make his mind up what lane he wanted and kept changing lanes and braking which was a tad worrying. He was obviously looking for his appointed turn off and I didn’t want to be part of his impending accident, the result would have been a bit one sided to say the least so some distance was kept between him and us.
The vast open plain was various hues of golden brown, the temperature was quite hot already and was going to get hotter I think 35 to 40 degrees, as had been for the last week or so. It was 14.00hrs now as we pulled onto the motorway again after a fuel stop and dinner, in front of us the road forked, the right hander went north east in the direction of Burgos; we carried due north heading towards the hilly region of Cantabria. After another hour we left the autovia and rode west along a valley, the land was now light and dark brown in colour the distant hills took on a tinge of purple and we saw the colour green in abundance for the first time in weeks. We stopped again for a water break and to check the map against the Garmin. For the first time the sat nav seemed ok with the roads, they were old sturdy and with grey patches with faded white road markings, it felt extremely “grippy” and not silky smooth or light grey all over in colour like all the previous new roads. We turned into the mountains now from the valley.
The southern edge of the Picos Mountains.
We began to climb up into the greenery and slowed to a more suitable speed as the road began to follow the contours of the mountains. We didn’t make as much progress now as we spiralled up and down, left and right for endless miles.
We rounded one mountain top and pulled over at the beauty spot; a couple of English bikers were sat there admiring the view down the valley.
Mr Pony Tail was a Rolls Royce techi from Derby on a big Cagiva trailie bike with his pal on a sports bike. We all stood and stared at the magnificent view down the opposite valley; huge forests covered the line of hills from left to right. Our road was still long and twisty, we had about another forty miles still to do, this last leg was going to be the hardest, I think at best we managed a top speed of 40 MPH, it was a relentless spiral first going down left then upwards to the right, we corkscrewed like this for the next hour or more. My Pony Tail and friend caught up and kicked out their right leg in greeting and gave a “toot” as they went by, we would see them again in a few days on the homeward bound ferry.
The small town of Potes finally came into view as this was the nearest town to our hotel so we knew we were nearly there. An hour or more earlier we had seen the first of the clouds as we wound our way north- ish. Now the grey and white cloud were quite thick and chunky and I swear we were a bit closer to them too! We began to see more motorbikes now and more than one or two had English number plates. Sat Nav was on again as we entered Potes, through the other side we rode up the valley along a small smooth road that twisted along slowly going upwards towards the massive block of mountain ahead of us, one had to crane the old head back to see the sky, we had rocky mountain to the left right and to the front, and a thick covering of cloud was firmly slapped on top. It took about twenty minutes to reach the hotel; it was one of two at the end of the road along with the mountain cable car station. We had reached our hotel at last, “The Fuenta De” in about eight hours and approx 380 miles.
The hotel was very functional and was open all year round, so not much in the way of carpets and soft furnishings, more wood and tile, the staff didn’t do too much English except for one girl and she was a quad biker and only worked part time. The barrier with the “lingo” just wasn’t a problem as seemed to be in the Parador a week ago below Toledo, here the young staff were very helpful and were always there. The food was very tasty and plentiful…and different! It’s not a complaint it’s just an observation and one of the reason that we explore is to enjoy different things.
The day after was a quiet day for us and we just mooched around, Julie read a lot, I felt a bit off colour . I spent the morning looking at the maps and looking at the clouds wondering if and when it might break. The day started a bit damp and grey, the heavy cloud still sat above us, indeed it rained for a short time too though now and again it turned “wispy” and the top of the mountain could be seen showing us a tantalising glimpse of what was up there. The cable car station was just a two minute walk around the last corner. I looked up to see the cables angled upwards to disappear in the grey stuff, I wonder what it’s like at the top we kept wondering and looking up, the glimpse had got us interested! The weather reports were favourable over the next day or two so hopefully we might find a window and get ourselves up the cable car to the very top…but not today. In the afternoon we sat around on the porch area drinking tea coffee and eventually made it to the beer whilst occasionally glancing up at the clouds. After the showers it cleared a bit and we saw the occasional bird gliding along the rock looking for thermals on the face far up the mountain. Mark and Jeanette returned after spending a couple of hours down in the town. Good timing and 4 more beer please! The rest of the day and the evening perked up as did the weather, especially the next morning.
The grey blanket had gone! Replaced by thin white cloud and this was mostly broken and I could see the blue sky! I came back in from the balcony shaking Julie telling her the good news, the days plan had changed and we would go up the mountain straight after breakfast! But now Mark was feeling a bit under the weather and it was his turn to mooch around the hotel while whatever it was cleared up, we hadn’t eaten the same things but had snacked in the cable car terminus on savouries in the late afternoon of our arrival so this was the possible culprit. So it was Mark’s turn to be grounded, oh well that’s a shame but never mind, on with the adventure! Mark waved us off as we walked up the hill to the terminus just around the corner. Jeanette Julie and I got our tickets and stepped
Stood at over 5000 ft above sea level!
inside the cable car for its first journey of the day. It was extremely popular, several car and coach parks at the terminus and constant traffic observed yesterday proved this.
The Fuente de cable car climbed approx 2,200 feet up to the Aliva viewpoint, exactly were we now stood and was now approx 5,500 feet above sea level. We were at the top in about 5 minutes, the view was wonderful clear and quiet, this was after all the first car of the day. From yesterdays observations it is an extremely popular excursion the coach park was quite full by noon, hence we came up as soon as we could.
There were just a few white clouds but this didn’t detract from the view. It wasn’t just a ledge with a cable car engine at the top but a large café complex and a few shops, we could see now that It was the beginning of a new plateau, behind me was the edge, it dropped away vertically over 2000 feet we could see the tiny grey roofed hotel just to the left of the cable car terminus but it was impossible to pick out people we were too high up. So if poor old Mark was waving we never noticed! Just to the left of us we saw a notice board that outlined walks in blue yellow and green over a scale map of the area, most are circular and return back to the terminus, one of them though take you along the ridge line before dropping away down the mountain side to a distant hotel somewhere down the valley in Potes. The walk was about 5k distance, the others ranged from 3 to 12k. This explained why the cable car ticket man asked if I wanted a return or a single ticket??? I thought he was making a joke because I wasn’t from these parts! So sorry senor for thinking you a plonker!
Many people who come here are serious walkers and look the part, they leave their cars in the car park down below to go enjoy a full day up in the mountains…reached by cable car in just 5 minute! The rest of us are just curious folk and don’t look the part! Some wore plimsolls’ some just had flip flops and just hung around the café complex having a drink a quick “neb” at the surroundings and returned back down on the cable car. Jeanette Julie and I took a steady stroll wearing jeans trainers and a light fleece just so’s you know! Unfortunately I still had a painful left foot but was a hundred times better than two weeks earlier but I still couldn’t do too much. We walked steadily for about an hour, walking eventually to another other ledge where the trail split, one going down and away towards the distant hotel I presumed in Potes. The other cut into the nearby mountain side and wiggled away through the mountains, far off it looked like a thin light grey line with blobs of yellow red blue or black as groups of walkers make their way to the next plateau a couple of miles away, the path ran along what looked like grey shale.
There wasn’t much greenery were they were going just rock and more rock at the top sat a cap of snow even now in July. We rounded the clump of boulders to see a land rover in National Parc colours with a couple of rangers sat keeping watch over us tourists. The view here was spectacular as you can see from the photos. We saw some sheep AND cattle up here which made me wonder are we actually quite low or are these some kind of special beasts?
It didn’t strike me as grazing pasture.We came across some sheep off to the left, a dog was sleeping amongst them, the more we looked the more odd it seemed, as the bell ringing sheep moved along the dog awoke and stood up, he was HUGE, smooth haired, tan in colour with a black jaw and forehead, he didn’t wag his tail at us above on the trail, not a dog to pat on the head for sure. He was so huge he looked like a St Bernard on steroids. He was in fact a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, there are many breed of mountain livestock guardian dog and are still used in the mountainous regions of the world The Great Pyrenees is a very old breed that has been used for hundreds of years by shepherds, including those of the Basque people, who inhabit parts of the region in and around the Pyrenees Mountains of southern France and northern Spain. For sure not one to throw a stick for!
An American couple explained what he was, they knew because they were guests on a farm where they were breeding these guys, he said they were asked not to fraternize with the dogs, I presume this was so they didn’t become over friendly and distracted by rustlers? This seemed the case when two guys replenished the nearby cold store (a locked stone shed ) with drinks, He just looked at them as they walked past him, I saw just the one wag as the lead guy greeted it Im sure they just nodded to each other! The predators up in these mountains are eagles vultures fox wolf and bear. We didn’t explore much from the busy paths today. I’m not on nodding terms with any of them
An eerie looking photograph of an eagle in the Picos Mountains
We sat at the café drinking tea and taking in the vast horizon, we could see for miles as most of the cloud had gone for good by now. Below we saw the eagles rising on the thermals twisting and turning making their way up to us, away to the right we saw a pair higher still. We had for company from gang of shiny hungry black ravens and so friendly and noisy they were too! It was the middle of the afternoon before we returned to the hotel and drinks on the patio telling Mark what a great day we had, this didn’t make him too happy! We sat around on the patio and gazed up at where we had just been, 2,200 feet up there!
The next day we would explore on the bikes again, Mark’s bug had gone he was eating as normal again and enjoyed some local soup with bread The hotel dog decided today he was going to be Marks best pal! He was a lovely “fella” but strangely indifferent towards the hotel guests, he only had eyes for his master and we would often see them over the next few days walking down the road one behind the other.
The cloud wasn’t around on our day of exploration so with maps out we plotted our day in detail over breakfast. “ OK so we will nip over in the direction of that water, yes the road looks nice and twisty so it’s in the mountains and it’s got lots of green lines on it! Also there is a town marked Riano, it will have something there probably” So with the details sorted we climbed onto our wheels and rode down the mountain road to Potes, stopping to full with fuel before we turned south. A dozen or more bikers had the same idea they all had English number plates too, in fact we outnumbered the locals sometimes, I hardly noticed any other Europeans on two wheels, usually we are outnumbered by Germans on BWM’s
The road today was soon climbing up into the lush green mountains, the sky was blue the air was warm and the car was few in number, wonderful! A group of English bikers on varied bikes had stopped for a smoke break, we rode by waving, further on we stopped and they passed us, we saw each other several times today without actually stopping to chat, both groups absorbed so much in the art of biking. We rode up and over the various ridge lines on well maintained mountain roads taking in the wonderful views, stopping was a bit difficult with the trike in tow so we stopped where and when we could and caught up with each other down in the valley.
Riano was at the end of the long stretch of water and appeared closed! We cruised up and down, saw the few houses and bus terminus and well, not much else to be honest so we left. The same groups of bikers came towards us, we nodded at each other, “Your going to be disappointed guys, there’s bugger all here” I said to myself. We rode for a while to a village with a couple of truck stops, coffee’s and tappas were ordered and we sat in the sunshine eating, we exchanged simple greetings with a Spanish family whose kids jabbered loudly behind us.
This region was the Nacional Riano, was extremely rural and devoid of pretty much everything associated with “urban living” It was a good idea to have your tanks topped up around these parts I thought. Now and again we saw small holdings, a clutch of run-down buildings and some farming was dotted infrequently along the slow sometimes dry river .The road so quiet too, which was handy because every now and again we had to brake and dodge overhanging rocks on twisting corners, sometimes small boulders had fallen to smash into smaller jagged pieces on the road, these had to be avoided too, so it wasn’t quite the lazy amble through quiet rural areas.
The scourge of the short legged attack dog followed me through European villages over the years on our travels, due in part probably to us having fox tails attached to the bike and always the last bike through in my position as “Back Door man” on APPY WANDERER tours. We have been chased as far away as bloody Bulgaria and closer to home, even to bloody farm dog next door had a go once! Several times in our Yorkshire Dales I have been chased too! I was a butcher boy in my youth and used to deliver meat to people houses on Saturday mornings and often attracted the unwanted attention hungry village dogs. I had to arm myself with oversized pit boots making peddling very tough. I was bitten just once and that was by a not too placid Labrador would you believe? So yes folks I have been at war with the little bastards for years! So what happened next was a bit confusing.
We were cruising round some particular tight corners and doing a shimy now and again to dodge the occasional chunks on the road. It wasn’t really a tourist route so the road wasn’t protected by metal netting. Mark and Jeanette were far behind, she was in the front seat now for the first time in days and was taking it easy to begin with, they would catch up at the top, no worries it was just the one road back up to the summit so not important to keep in view…more important to enjoy the views.
A small village came into view I saw villagers gathered round the back of a white truck, as we got closer we saw it was actually a travelling butchers van complete with counter, scales and cash till. Suddenly a bloody short legged dog came galloping down the road straight for me. Oh not no again fer fks sake! I thumbed the horn grabbed a handful of brake and swerved to the left to bring the dog onto my right boot, I drew it back but the dog ran by making a bee line for the butchers van, he took no notice of us, he wasn’t barking or snarling he was just away for his free dinner from the travelling butcher, I was just in his way…and there was me about to “hoof” the poor bugger into Christendom!
On top of the world again! At the top of the range we pulled over at a flat viewing spot with monument in metal to the local beasti. It was a nice view over the hills and welcomed after the hour riding up the mountain sides.
There wasn’t many places to stop around these parts we just grabbed few seconds by stopping in middle of the road to take a photograph Let me explain, though the roads were brilliant to ride on the edges didn’t have much in the way of curb edge stones nor was there a pedestrian path and was sometimes rough and unfinished along the very edges and was cambered (sloped) making it unsafe to park the bike to look or take a picture or just gaze at the view, often we slowed right down to look or as I’ve just said we stopped and planted the bikes in the middle of the road. This was when the only car for miles turned up! Have you ever noticed that or is it just me?
We changed passengers now for the downward run back down the mountains towards Potes. Jeanette climbed up on me as Julie jumped on behind Mark. I waved Mark on because I wanted to watch them have a play. Our bikes and riding style differed greatly, I cruised gently but fairly fast using some clutch some rear brake just before tipping into the corner at the last minute, the rear brake was used to sit the bike up as the corner tightened, the only time I applied the front brake was if it got REALLY tight and I was heading into oblivion or the jagged rock face! It’s always exciting in the mountains! Out in front Mark was pushing and pulling on the bars as he went left and right down the hillside. Julie added a new dimension now and leaned far out to the left and right as the corners came up, Mark joined in too and faster they went, It looked hard work! We on the other hand just tipped left and right dabbing the brake here and there literally free falling down the mountainside. I had no idea of the views whilst in this mode, I stared at the middle distance of the road and the opening corners constantly reading the road and the angles, riding by touch and feel, It’s proper biking and proper brilliant.
The small town of Potes.
Potes came along soon so we reluctantly witched off the adrenalin taps, switched mode and slowed down and looked out for deaf pedestrians and bloody blind drivers! We stopped and had a wonder around the old town, it’s a nice place to be in and popular with walkers and explorers both on foot and motorbike. On reflection I think we would have preferred to have stayed here and not the hotel 15 miles away at the end of the valley with nothing but the hotel and the cable car terminal. We had tea coffee and cakes under the old stone arches it was quieter by late afternoon unlike earlier in the day when we passed it was bustling with people. The shops were still open and we looked at the local produce and t shirts. I eyed up the unusual drinks and the fancy shaped bottles, but I was still in the front seat and our journey hadn’t stopped yet. I wasn’t without because I had my Limonchello stashed in the bags! The local cured meats smelt lovely but turned Marks stomach, Julie wasn’t too keen either, that left Jeanette and me to tuck in whenever we could. Which we did at the local pastry shop, I admit the cakes where rather nice, the meats would wait until another time.
That evening we had our last meal at the hotel and began to think about the ride back to the ferry port. A few days earlier Mr Pony tail had told if we liked twisty roads so much he knew of a good road towards the northern coast-road, from there Bilbao and the ferry was under a hundred miles away and the ferry wasn’t leaving until the early evening. Therefore an early kick off in the morning wasn’t needed.
After breakfast we fiddled about shoving the bags into the bikes and said goodbye to the girls in the hotel, the big dog just looked on from his position lain across the hotel entrance like a big white furry rug! We got sorted got on the bikes and set off down the road for the last time. I looked in the mirror and saw both Jeanette and Mark leaning hard to the left and right as they followed us down the mountain road, their learning curve with the trike continued and they were having fun judging by their smiles!
We turned out of Potes to head north after fuelling up. We were soon on another incredible road only this time it wasn’t high up in the mountains it was deep down in a gorge! This was N621 Potes to Llanes road, it was the most narrow smooth twisting road that I had been on so far, it ran through the Desfiladero de la Hermida and was stunning! Let me tell you though it was very busy and there was absolutely no place to stop, we would have got punted into the river below had we tried, you just have to take my word for it folks! The roads were so narrow that on the corners I was keeping more to the middle of the road because the overhanging rock looked like it would scrape along our helmets if if we got to close! After about 20 miles we came out of the gorge and ran onto the main autovia that ran along the length of the northern coast, we had plenty of time so we called in at Santander for a couple of hours. I have entered Spain at Santander several times in the past and was happy to note that the ferry terminal had changed a lot since the last time we had been here, it used to empty itself of cargo on the promenade and we had to drive straight out onto the busy roundabout, I have seen some drama’s in the morning rush-hour on the very spot we now rode past! Now It seems to have moved into a new port area and is probably a lot safer for the traffic now. We found a spot on the promenade and parked both bikes. Mark and Jeanette went posing along the front in the hot midday sunshine in search for food, Julie and I sat at an ice cream café and watched the world go by..and kept an eye on the bikes! It was a couple of hours later that we set off for Bilbao about 60 miles further up the coast.
We arrived at the port at Bilbao with hours to spare, soon other adventurers arrived, we parked in our own motorbike lane away from the cars trucks and caravans and containers. The stories came out in excited chatter, we all shared a great passion for motorbikes and had all just completed a journey. We had all introduced ourselves by the time the ferry arrived and become great friends for the duration. We saw My Pony Tail and friend join the end of the line as we started to board, sometime during the next day we caught up with them as Wimbledon had everyone else’s attention in the lounge bar.
If a picture could paint a thousand words this would say it all really!
So that’s that for this great adventure, Next year I be retired from the zoo and will be doing a bit more of this adventure lark me thinks!
THE END………at least until the next time!