Portugal and Spain Oct 2015
Oct 8th Thursday
Have been really running to get what I want done before leaving. I fail on some but a couple I can finish on the way or later. Head off on the packed motorbike to Fakenham to meet Jo. We are both two people with too much to do. We should have caught up months ago. We spend nearly two hours catching up and then we both split…she to shop and me on my way to Sam and family in Hampshire. Arrive in time to see Heidi and Sienna to bed. Nice meal.
Oct 9th Friday
With Ems and family till I leave about 3pm to head to Portsmouth. Clive has been doing his own thing! Did not want to see Sam and co yesterday so was hopefully coming by to pick me up on his way to Portsmouth. It seems he is delayed so I pick the shortest country route and wander my way to Portsmouth. Clive gets there early and is waiting when I arrive. Straight on board and we settle down to relax as we steam to Santander.
Oct 10th Saturday
Ferry got in at 5.30pm and we had at least 2 hours to travel up into the Picos. This was not our original intention but we could find nowhere else to stay apart from an airbnb near Potes. In the event they were full but passed us on to another spot nearby. Rushing off to eat as it was 8pm when we were arrived and organised we were amazed to find that restaurants only open at 8.30pm. We had forgotten! We came across the same opening hours in Argentina. In Portugal it is the opposite. …almost shut by 9pm!
Oct 11th Sunday
Still dark at 8pm. Breakfast at 9am. Off at 10am. Everything later….. Clive leads with some town in his Garmin. It becomes evident that the Garmin and/or Clive have gone wrong. We end up heading up into the Picos again and smallish roads. Very scenic but weather not that great with drizzle. We spend a fair amount of time doing a bit of a loop but lovely scenery and villages AND a very good lunch spot at about 3pm. (Lunch later too!).
Make it to Ponferrado. Spend hours looking for hotel as many full, it drizzles, Clive determined to hate searching, or hotels too expensive. Settle for an expensive option as running out of time. Cannot work out why Oct 11th should mean full hotels in this town. It does have a Templar castle but it is not tourist season surely?
Oct 12th Monday
Now know that Oct 12th is Hispanic Day, hence today is a holiday and the whole weekend has been a holiday for the Spaniards. This place Ponferrado reminds me of a welsh mining place. It was famous for coal and slate mining but of course the coal mining has all gone bar the ruined mine heads etc and the black hillsides. Slate mining continues. Ponferrado had to reinvent itself.
Weather still not great but we hardly get rained on in spite of black clouds. Enjoy some great roads and natural scenery as we head West and South. Cross border near Chaves and end up in Guarda for the night. 220 miles of great roads and many bends. Hotel on edge of town. .Hotel Lusitania!
We had a quick look of historical Guarda before heading off south and westwards to Clive’s place near Penela. Uneventful ride with good scenery and main roads. Weather cool in the morning but became pleasant.
Last few days trying to wind down! Still too much activity from Uk! Sun nice but pool cold. Walked up one hill and will do another before too long. Several things here for Clive to see to and he soon has me at work. I am happy enough as I love mending things!. With pleasant weather its nice to be outside fixing things. Next it is cutting back a fig tree…
October 17th Saturday
Today I am going to be setting off to Malaga where I am going to have 3 days with Trailblazers while Clive stays in Portugal seeing to things. We wake up to a very windy day with showers. I manage a climb/walk while Clive shops. Strawberry tree has its fruits and flowers, the hillside is covered in wild thyme ,marjoram and purple crocuses. Confusingly orchids seem to be coming up…in the UK that would be in May/June. Its really windy on the top…Head back. …its taken about 40 mins… with black clouds coming up. I run down the hill to Clive’s place as the rain starts.
Leave about 2pm for Badajoz. Take straight line route. Fantastic second half on N2 and then onwards on straight empty roads. Hotel in old centre of Badajoz. Take walk down to the river and old ( now pedestrian ) bridge. Eating is so late..after 8.30pm! No rugby on portugese telly.
Oct 18th Sunday
Pouring with rain. Still really quite dark at 9am . Straight road and empty. Rain stops but then all day its on and off. Traffic minimal so get along well via Cordoba to Malaga. Take a shortcut above Malaga and get first dry road and bends of the day. Trailblazers are in a small village above Archez. …called… Canillas di Albeida. Find hotel, find Trailblazers.
Oct 19th Monday
Spanish time so breakfast at 9am and start at 10am. Only we didn’t as the Trailblazer garage was burgled in the night, the thieves stealing 3 bikes. They seem to have plenty more but they stole the boss’s.. ! So while Graham dealt with police we..being a young Swiss/Phillipino and me, were told no biking today and so we wandered off to the next village on foot. There we whiled away cafe time,looking at retired Brits and other leisured people. Walking back I was fascinated by all the fruit trees including some lovely unripe avocadoes dangling ,over ripe pomegranates, figs and olives. Great views too of white houses dotting the hillsides.
Back to the Posada and reading ! All a bit of a shame but if I want to relax then I have got it.! Listen to two poor caged birds tweeting away and the church bell that tolls every quarter but not at night mercifully.
Oct 20/21st Tues/Wed
We get out trail riding. I am kitted out in “armour, knee pads and shirt”. Luckily have my own boots as they have none small enough. Trousers were okay. My gloves. They do get ladies but they must be bigger than me! The bike is tall! The best is at the limit of my tiptoes. Fine going along but difficult when trying to stop or put a foot out on tight corners like the men…it doesn’t work! Bikes also needed bump starting some of the time as they had tiny batteries. Obviously need to stay upright and keep going. Second day I dropped it setting off down the hill to bump start it and then later dropped it riding into the edge of the track. It was quite hairy riding on tracks with straight drops down the hillside…it held one back from practising cornering techniques!! Views were lovely and villages sweet. Weather held and was perfect. We were joined on day 2 by a Norwegian who was far more experienced than Manuel or I. It would have been good if Graham had given us a few tips!
Got my bike to the hotel on Wed night down the narrow streets so I could go off early.
Oct 22nd Thurs
Set off in the dark at 7.30am. Head wrong way on the twisty turny small roads out of the village. Sort myself out and it took a while in the dark down the mountains to the coast road and then off back across Spain to Lisbon to see Katia our Portugese plum picker of several years. Long day and 400 odd miles but in good sunny weather. Cold in the morning..sometimes down to 8c …but gradually rose to mid 20s. Stay in old centre in the hotel where Katia is currently working…”Palacio Vila Flor”
Oct 23rd Friday
Late start and head back to Penela and Clive. Nightmare getting out of old Lisbon. My gps was getting it wrong and tramlines did not help biking! But found motorway in the end and boring ride to Penela. Clive pleased to see me. He has a very noisy mini digger at work eliminating some steps which means digging down into the bedrock.. rat ta tat, rat ta tat etc. Lorry load after little lorry load of rock carted away. We go out to a good restaurant… so cheap.
Oct 24th Sat.
Mini digger digging in to the rock all day. The man works from 9.30am till about 7pm. It pours with rain all day but on he goes. We look forward to watching the rugby ( Aus-Nzl) but some way in there is a power cut! Back on for a bit and then off.
Oct 26th Monday
Nice day yesterday. More little jobs and today we tried to buy some fresh pressed olive oil but after much hanging around at the cooperative we were told to come back tomorrow. The in take pit did not work that quickly so through put is quite slow. Customers arrive in their little tractor and trailers, empty their olives into the intake pit and then wait for their olive oil to come out the other end. Most keep their produce ie the oil, so hence none for us. There was a lorry load sitting there and that we are told is going to be for sale. We shall see at 11am tomorrow. Looking at what was waiting to be pressed and the speed of it all I think they will be working all night! Had some quite impressive machinery there and large electrical generator for the electrical masher etc.
Oct 27th Tuesday
A day of rain and sun. Jobs have run out but make 2 trips to olive cooperative. Come back again!! We do, and third time lucky our 6l plastic water bottle is filled with warm dark olive oil. My initial tasting is that it is truly virgin.!! Now to decant and spread between us in our different bike panniers. More ex water bottles will be involved.
Oct 29th Thursday
I set off from Clive’s house before he did heading for Salamanca in Spain. I went via any road not a motorway and Clive went by motorway. We met at the border and continued together. My roads had been very scenic and involved heading south to Castelo Branco and then northwards to the border near Guarda. Nice roads near the border…very nice.
Rain continued to threaten but we made it to our modern hotel south of the old town which was down the hill. First call was into an enormous Carrefour supermarket to get some milk for our tea. It was so big it took 15 mins to locate the 2 aisles of UHT milk! Clive was waiting outside.
I rather dragged Clive ìnto/down the hill to the old town to eat. It was very nice. I have not seen the Plaza Major for years. Clive found huffing and puffing back up the hill too much for him so we got a taxi.
Today began with Clive realising at breakfast that he had probably swallowed his crowned tooth. It has been loose so it was on the cards. Why we went back into the Carrefour I do not know. This time they wanted us to put our helmets in a locker before we could begin. Clive found what he wanted and I got some teabags. Why did we not do this the night before? …because we did not know we needed them then!!!
Finally get on our way. Great secondary roads,flat to start with but then more scenic and after 200 or so miles we are settled in Seguenza, northeast of Madrid. One town we went through, (had a cup of coffee and tea) amazed us as it had about 6 old churches and a huge castle. On the map it looked inconsequential. It was called Arevalo , north of Segovia. We have gone by quite a few old castles…many most impressive. This town has about 3 churches and a huge castle occupied by a Paradores hotel. We think we might have a drink there.
Oct 30th Friday
We did have a drink and it was most impressive in the castle. Drinks were cheap! I had scouted round town for a restaurant knowing that Clive would not want to go up and down hill. Luckily for him the best one was round the corner and we had a most interesting meal there..good cooking.
Tonight we are heading for a place we went to on our Round the World trip with Nick Sanders. We were there on Oct 28th 2002…virtually 13 years to the day. It is an hotel on a trout farm in the mountains. The scenery was great, flat to start with then rocky and finally the Maestrazgo region. Lovely red brick villages and in between the yellows of the autumn leaves falling off the trees accompanied by the smell of autumn. Yet more castles looking magnificent. The sun was shining and the 150 miles went easily by.
We arrived early. It is obvious that Clive will not walk anywhere that entails uphill which is everywhere.! We talk through various options of how to pass the next 2 relaxing days. I want to either walk or ride the bike to sightsee or there is a mineral museum or an activity centre with 4×4 s etc. Clive…?
Oct 31st Saturday
We have decided to go to Mirambel. Apparently a world heritage site because the villages medieval houses have all been restored. Weather okay and nice trip including sitting in the sun for lunch. Back to our trout farm where we actually get to see the trout in their tanks.
The hostal building is great with an amazing large room and ceiling. Apart from that it is pretty hopeless. The bedrooms and stay are value for money but food was bad, much from tins and they could not even cook trout….mine was overcooked. Ancient retainer who served in the dining room was probably there 13 years ago. Whilst we remembered parts of this place we could not remember the quality of the food then.; it could not have been worse. But when we came to paying they seem to have given us a bottle of wine and some coca colas and even breakfast. We think ancient retainer is just not doing his job properly! Nor was anyone checking…
Two nights was enough and we moved on to Beceite.
Nov 1st Sunday
Left trout spot and took quite a while on twisty roads to reach Beceite where I immediately set off to walk up the gorge on the Camino de Parrizal. In the event it was further than publicised and far more road. I could have ridden my motorcycle much of the way! By the time I got to the gorge I had wet feet and shoes as it had been raining steadily. I was dry but shoes inadequate. I decided to come back on more of a path which I had noticed on the way up. Well marked so no problem but up hill and down dale it went..on and on. It did take my mind off wet feet and it did eventually stop raining. Finally reach the road and text Clive to perhaps meet me on his bike and pick me up..I was tired! To my amazement he walked to meet me which did not help me but was definately good for him. It was probably 18 kms
This hotel has better food..it is an old paper mill. Forecast tomorrow. .rain!
Nov 2nd Monday
Yes, it poured and lashed with rain. Luckily we are into Spanish time. Eating late as restaurants do not start till 8.30pm which is so boring until you are into the spanish time. This means getting up late. 9.30am breakfast is pretty early for them. So this morning breakfast at 10am and off at 11am. We had watched the river become more and more as it came over some falls near the hotel. I don’t think the gorge would be looking as I saw it yesterday
Off we went fully waterproofed. Initially the rain eased but round Zarajevo it pelted and the water really got in to my clothing via my neck. Gloves getting wet too. We were on dual carriageway at this time and the surface water was not easy to see. At one moment my feet were knocked off my foot rests by water. Dangerous. Clive was having big problems seeing through his specs as they had steamed up and had raindrops on them, so he was looking through 2 sets of raindrops..visa and glasses. It was like a tropical storm. We at last found a cafe place where we dripped a huge puddle and recovered a bit.
Later it eased and we reached Corella. The weather/rain was main news on spanish tele that night! Our wet clothes were strewn round the room
November 3rd Tues
Clothes drier but gloves still pretty damp. Our hotel was modern and good. Bit like a private formula 1. Cafe/restaurant next door was friendly. It drizzled on and off and was cloudy and cold. Clive had gone for an hotel pretty near Santander more by mistake than on purpose. Nice road, the N611, parallel with the motorway. Our village, Helguera, was just off there. Earlier meal than usual which was good as fed up with the late supper hour.
November 4th Wed
Mooched off to the coast to sit around till ferry departure time. Found sun and sand at Pielagos near Boo de Pielagos. Off to ferry early and join other bikers in the bike queue. Home we go..