European Trip 2013 - Spain, Portugal and the Pyrenees

For some more photographs of my trip so far click on the following link:'13%20Europe%20Trip

Day 1 - 21st May 2013

Start Location - Bournemouth, UK
End Location - Pont Aven Ferry to Santander
Distance (Day/Total) - 54 Miles / 54 Miles


Had the ferry ticket booked for 17:15 and had to be there for half four so this should have been a lazy day but with no attempt having been made to trial load the bike it didn't go according to plan.

However, Portsmouth was swiftly reached and I was ushered more or less straight on to the ferry and was ensconced in a comfy chair with an hour to go before departure.

I got chatting to a young couple, who were on a three week trip across Europe to Italy. They had an Africa Twin and a WR426 Yamaha and we chatted bikes for a bit. Had a beer whilst I read and listened to my Spanish course but really couldn't concentrate so after checking out the cabaret I slunk off to my reclining seat!!

Day 2 - 22nd May 2013

End Location - Hotel Alemar, Somo, Spain

Distance (Day/Total) - 10 Miles / 64 Miles

Woke at half four with a cricked neck so I decided to get up for a walk and reached the deck just as the sun was about to rise so I stopped and watched it, taking a few pics. Then I retired to the bar area and slouched out on a long couch which as a great improvement from my recliner. Note to self - if I come this way again then either book cabin or sleep in bar initially!

Sunrise from the Pont-Aven

Woke again at half seven and stumbled off to get breakfast which was a novel kind of Full English but tasty. Stomach rebelled about half way through and I nearly left the rest but sensibly persevered. Felt much better afterwards and returned to my recliner where I slept until eleven!!

As I did my sixteenth lap of the outside promenades I stopped next to a young couple with a child. The Woman asked where I was from and after letting on that I was from Bournemouth her eyes brightened and she asked if I worked at ABL!! Obviously I was somewhat astonished but when she said her name was Sarah I thought I had it! I asked if she did collet prepping but she said Jetting so I wonder if I have the right woman. Anyway, I chatted to her and her partner (another biker) for a while until it started to rain and we went our separate ways.

As I walked round the ship I looked over the side and spotted three stripey Dolphins playing in the wash alongside the ship but they soon dived under the boat. I went back around and accosted the Wildlife Officer who, showing why they employ her, reckoned that they were most likely striped dolphins based on my description. We chatted for some time and she said that there was a possibility of seeing Sperm Whales later in the Bay of Biscay.

Eventually we docked in Santander and as soon as the car decks were open I hastened down to my bike to find hundreds of motorbikes ready to go. After clearing passport control I passed all of the other bikes that had stopped to group up and was out in the traffic of Santander. A short stretch of dual carriageway and I was turning off for Somo where I had booked a hotel for the night. 

Day 3 - 23rd May 2013

End Location - Refugio at Fuente De, Spain

Distance (Day/Total) - 110 miles / 174 miles

The town of Potes in the Picos de Europa
Woke at half eight, showered and then headed down for a long relaxed breakfast just as the heavens opened, fortunately only whilst I was eating!

I stopped just down the road and set the satnav for the first interesting place on the route and set off in very grey but not particularly cold weather, although the wind was blowing a hoolie. First stop on the map was Santillana del Mar which I wrongly assumed was by the sea(?) but which turned out to be a very popular historical village. 

Evening at Fuente de

Back to the bike and I was on the road to Comillas, which wasn't shown as a tourist destination but has a nice beach and harbour and it transpires, Gaudi's first building 'the Capriccio' which was expensive for the thirty five minutes it took to look round but was pretty bizarre and probably worthwhile. 

I was soon in the desfiladero la Hermida which was a quite awesome gorge with just the road and a river running through it. Had the strange sensation of going downhill whilst the river was running the opposite direction to me!! The very occasional ray of sunshine that had been breaking through for the last half an hour finally kicked in earnest and after a couple of detours to climb up a valley to the village of Queso (or maybe that was my imagination).

I pushed on to Potes which is not marked as a tourist destination but was simply lovely. I was very tempted to stay but thought that I would push on to Fuente De where there was a simply awesome cirque. Checked out the campsite sign just a little higher up the road which turned out to be a beautiful empty place that was open but they also had a mountain Refugio that I could stay in for €11 rather than €14 to camp. The deal was done!

Day 4  - 24th May 2013

End Location - Hostal Tiera de La Reine, Boca de Huergano, Spain

Distance (Day/Total) - 96 miles / 270 miles

Come the morning it was absolutely gorgeous outside - crystal clear blue skies- so I was up and packed quicker than a quick thing and off to the telepherique!
View from the top at Fuente de, Picos de Europa
Once the cable car started to leave the ground I had a few moments of nerves but soon overcame them and was at the top in no time at all. There was a good amount of snow at the top and the path was about 50/50 snow and dirt but I was determined to see how far I could get. I rounded the corner and was up to the point where the trails split and there was a sign saying that there was an avalanche risk on trail 24 before the Chalet Real. I had photographed the map so I checked it and  sure enough that was my route.  I climbed up until I could see the situation and there had been a big avalanche right across the path in three places so I turned back and walked out along the edge of the cirque instead.

Back on the bike I cruised back down to Potes  where I stopped for some provisions and then I headed for Santa Maria de Valdeon. The road was not as dramatic as the one to Fuente De but my god was it a challenging run. It just seemed to climb forever and then took a rough detour to the Mirador de Llesba which was looking right across the valley to the cirque at Fuente De - awesome.

The town of Riano was by the side of a lake with jagged peaks in the background and it was simply stunning. I just wanted to stop and drink it in but fuel was the urgency so I asked a mad Spanish lady who jabbered directions and shortly found the garage and filled up. Went out of town across the bridge just to see and saw a sign claiming that Riano had a campsite so I spun round and went back to investigate. It did! A closed one. I then tried the Hostal Riano - also closed and then asked a pair of large Spanish ladies and they directed me back the way I had come so I went.
KTM by the edge of the Embalse de Riano

I didn't see a campsite but did see a Hostal I had noticed when I passed earlier so decided to check it out. €25 later plus €4 for breakfast I had a super room so I unpacked the holdall and then went back to check out Santa Marina de Valdeon in the evening light.

The initial section was very rough and a little dull after today's awesome sights but once I crested the pass it became simply breathtaking. Snow capped peaks, awesome aerial perspective and the best roads I have ridden for yonks. The town didn't look that interesting so I rode on further just for the heck and then blasted back having  whale of a time, giving the KTM some beans.

Day 5  - 25th May 2013

End Location - Hotel Camino Real, Arcahueja (Leon), Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 186 miles / 456 miles

Falls and Chapel at Covadonga
Woke way early and lay in bed reading for an hour before breakfast then dozed off and finally left the hotel at about ten. The apparently clear weather had really come in and after stopping again for fuel in Riano I had to layer up and put the heated grips on.

The road was quite impressive through to Oseja de Osambre but the grey weather and chilly conditions  meant that I didn't fancy stopping so I pushed on until I came to another gorge - Desfiladero de los Bellos, which was probably more impressive than the Hermida one although the conditions were initially very grim. 

Apart from a stop to eat a couple of sandwiches to settle my stomach I pushed right on to Covadonga where I walked up to the Basilica. After a quick exploration of the sights (statue of Pelayo - visigoth hero, traditional local band and wedding plus grotto and waterfall) it was back on the bike and a run up to the lakes.

I decided to head straight for Leon as the satnav flies so I refilled with fuel and was back through the gorge in gorgeous weather!!

Loads of bikers on the road down to the dam on the Embalse de Riano and later the cops were pulling over all of the bikers going the other way so I putted through innocently and headed off. The terrain then became very dull and flat although there were still high ridges either side of the valley and found a motorway that that the satnav wasn't aware of but I just  followed the old road into Leon, luckily as it happens.
Final View of the Picos!

The town was pretty huge - a city really with a population of 337000 according to Wikipedia!! I rode in and followed the satnav to the sights but it was a huge pedestrian district so I rode around asking people for nearly two hours and having no luck with their suggestions until I finally I retraced my steps and found the Camino Real Hotel that I had seen on the way in. Very nice, 3* and only €45 including breakfast. 

Day 6  - 26th May 2013

End Location - Camping La Bierzo, Villamartin, Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 178 miles / 634 miles

Sunday morning - Leon Cathedral
Headed up into Leon and parked up. It was practically deserted but obviously my arrival at 11am coincided with the rest of Leon arriving too. From practically deserted to busy-busy in about quarter of an hour. Found the Cathedral easily as it was next to where I parked but decided to save that for later and set out to see what Leon had to offer. Quite a lot as it happens. I spent a very rewarding couple of hours just strolling the shady alleys and photographing everything in sight.

The CL623 out of Leon very soon became a winding rollercoaster of a thing  and then dropped into the Rio Luna valley where I came to the Embalse de Luna. The dam was pretty spectacular and at some point there had been some crazy Escher-esque stairways climbing up here but they had fallen into decay although there was still one on the other side zigzagging down the whole height of the (fairly significant) dam. 

Monastery at Cacobelos
From Villablino onwards it bore a remarkable similarity to Wales - to a casual glance it could have been Blaenau Ffestiniog!! Apart from more pavement cafes and much better looking women! I guess it is the dark stone houses and general mining area grime  but it wasn't photogenic enough to stop as I was on a roll.

I eventually pulled up beside a cafe in Toreno and wandered in. The woman behind the bar didn't speak any English but had the presence of mind to ask if I spoke French!!  Bingo. I had a glass of lemon Fanta and a Jamon y Queso Bocadillo and very good it was too. A grand total of €5.10!

At Cacobelos I checked out a rather fancy looking semi ruined Monastery where the ground was literally covered with a white fluffy layer of  seeds which was a bit weird!

Back to the campsite hunt and I struck lucky! I set up the tent in no time at all and inflated my new mat which seemed very flimsy, and so it proved to be as It had lost most of its air within a couple of hours. Expensive piece of shit! If I can find the hole I will apply the puncture outfit! I think I was just too heavy for it really - goddamned lard arse!

Another good day today.

Day 7  - 27th May 2013

End Location - Camping Cancelas, Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 183 miles / 817miles

Awoke at about nine and when I looked outside it was pretty grey and grim. Set off and tried to head down the scenic route along the Sil valley but to no avail - the satnav put me back on the main road - the N120. Broke the journey at a Castle that was built by the Knights of St John of Malta which was made out of slate, reinforcing the Welsh theme from yesterday.

Ruins of the castle of the knights of St John of Malta
I decided it was time to eat and bizarrely the next village was called Casa Nova - to my shite Spanish that translated as 'House don't go'! so I elected to take that as karma calling and didn't. This approach was justified when the next village was called Paramio - 'For Me'! - so I pulled over at the first cafe and had some food. These little stops have been one of the subtle pleasures of the trip so far, particularly for someone who had struggled to engage with the Spanish last time round.

Grey Weather in Santiago
I fairly easily found a campsite in Santiago but left my annotated map on the counter which was then picked up by a Spanish Couple who came in after me and wouldn't return it to me. Shitheads.

I rode into town and checked it out, although the weather was grim and grey. Had a look round the Cathedral but left a they were starting the Mass.

Right outside it was just starting to rain so as I put the SLR away and descended the steps I tripped and almost went arse over tit but saved it and the camera, although I did sprain my ankle slightly.

 I found the cathedral plaza again and watched  a very officious looking cop tutting and circling two bicycles locked together opposite the cathedral, and then to top it all off another cop arrived in a car!! They take illegal bicycle parking seriously here!

Back to the campsite in deteriorating conditions and shortly the heavens opened properly and I am now sitting here in the bar writing this, drinking beer and hoping it eases off enough to get back to the tent shortly!!

Day 8  - 28th May 2013

End Location - Camping Cancelas, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Distance (Day/Total) - 152 miles / 969miles

The Cathedral Front Face, Santiago de Compostela
Went down into the town to the place I had scoped out yesterday and bashed one of the panniers against a car getting in. Typically the car was occupied and a big bald guy got out scowled at me then got back in.

Wandered around in very changeable conditions making the most of the bright spells. Found a very photogenic beggar so I photographed her and then gave her €0.85! Hardly Naomi Campbell rates!

In the cathedral as they were holding Pilgrims mass; I liked the swinging of the huge censer. They had it almost touching the ceiling of the nave!! It had to be ten metres up at least!

When I returned to the bike, mercifully untroubled by the cops, I realised that I had left the  top box lid resting down but neither locked nor closed, with the satnav inside. Luckily nothing had been touched so that was luck. Maybe the buffeting from the wind yesterday had addled my brains!

Finisterre - the End of the World!
Finally off to Finisterre and after only about ten minutes the rain came down seriously, but then the road started steaming and it was pretty much plain riding all the way. Literally as I stopped at Cabo de Finisterre the weather kicked in again with rain coming in almost horizontally; thankfully only briefly.

I wandered down to where there was evidence of pilgrims burning their boots at the end of the trek. One very keen soul had even burnt their tent, as the fibreglass pole ends complete with ferrules were still visible in the ashes.

Back on the bike I followed the flowing but not especially picturesque coast road back to Muros and then back to Santiago. After my trip to Wales yesterday the landscape was like the west coast of Scotland initially, before changing into Norway!!

Day 9  - 29th May 2013

End Location - Hotel Do Elevador, Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal
Distance (Day/Total) - 101 miles / 1068miles
Bom Jesus when I arrived!
Anyway, no sooner had I packed up the tent than the rain started but despite the receptionist offering me a three night rate if I stayed one night longer I was keen to be off. Stupid bastard.

I hadn't gone very far when I had a very near miss with a white van at a roundabout. I was coming straight through and this twat, talking on his phone was just rolling forward like he expected me to stop. He did and beeped his horn at me but it was way too close for comfort. I may have been right and he definitely was a total twat but that is no excuse to risk life and limb.
The Sun shines on Bom Jesus
As I got closer to Braga the worse and wetter it became until I was forced to ride with the visor up as I just could not keep it fog free and  clear of rain. The satnav managed to get me to my chosen destination of Bom Jesus Du Monte but as it was on a hill I had entered the cloud and was just drenched. I saw the Hotel do Elevador (4*) and decided to stop and live it up for the night. I had foolishly assumed that Bom Jesus was a village but in fact it turned out to be an exceptionally beautiful Baroque Church and park with a massive run of stairways leading up from below. 
Anyway, after a couple of hours of tinkering and charging stuff up it had eased off to go for a walk. The place was superb and after several squally showers the sun actually came out lending a beautiful golden glow to everything. It has a very Italianate feel to it and I like it very much. I will have a final look around tomorrow to ensure that I haven't missed anything before I set off eastwards! Finally.
I am feeling that it is even tougher here in Portugal as I don't speak any Portuguese and there is a big part of me that longs to be back i Spain where I can make myself understood. Doesn't that sound familiar?
Oh, and broke the 1000 mile barrier today. One 8th of the predicted journey!

Day 10  - 30th May 2013
End Location - Hostal, Ricobayo, Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 280 miles / 1348miles
Had another look round Bom Jesus in the sun and then set off in passable weather. Standard of driving was much better today - I wonder if the grim weather makes everyone introspective; it certainly does with me. That might explain why no one seems to be able to see what the fuck is going on around them when it rains!!
First destination was Geres which was above a lovely lake in the Peneda-Geres National Park and turned out to be an old school spa town. Nice but I wouldn't go out of my way to visit. A bit late really!
Moorish Castle at Motalegre
From there it was onto the N103 which initially ran along the top of the hilltop ridge south of the lake. It was a bit blowy but my god that was one hell of a road. I stayed on it from Geres all the way to Braganca and it was one of the best roads that I have ever ridden. I was really getting in the groove, to the point that I didn't bother with most of the dozens of well signposted distractions along the way. I might check them out when I get home and doubtless there will be some awesome thing that I didn't stop for.
I did stop for the castle at Montalegre which was, I guess, Moorish. Awesomely deep square well with steps spiralling down the inside although you couldn't get in. All of the towers and doors were locked.
As I was so much in the flow I didn't really stop for anything else until it turned six and I pulled off to find a Hostal right in the middle of the village.
I went in but there was no-one about. I knocked, called, used the toilet, searched all the public rooms but to no avail. Eventually I asked a guy across the road, who told me to try the cafe opposite, and the bloke there hopped on his bike and went in search of the owner. Eventually the owner arrived, at the same time as his son who was minding the place but had nipped out to walk the dog.
Cathedral in evening light, Zamora
Once I had unloaded I set out to see the local sights. First stop was a mirador overlooking the embalse and the Ermita of Christo de San Esteban then on to San Pedro de la Nave, which was closed so I just took a few pics of the outside. However, just as I was leaving the caretaker appeared and opened up and I had a look round inside, taking a few photos of the fabulous carvings. It was only on the way out that I saw the big notice saying no photography! A bit embarrassing as the caretaker had been stood there all the time chatting to the other visitors!
It was a lovely evening so I looked at what else was in the area and the next closest was in Zamora- only 20km away! it was just after eight so I could be there for half past and have a quick look before zipping home.
As always it was lovely with a huge castle, city walls and a beautiful cathedral overlooking the new town. I parked up and walked up and after snapping the outside of the Cathedral was able to enter the castle. It had been decked out with loads of wooden and stone walkway to lead you round and show you the different aspects of the building, rather than just leaving it as a total ruin, or trying to restore it. It was rather nice and I was very glad I had come, especially on such a nice evening. 
It was a real struggle to tear myself away and I didn't get back to the bike until half past nine, with the sun just sinking onto the horizon.

Day 11  - 31st May 2013
End Location - Hotel Camino del Santiago, Ibeas de Juarros, Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 221 miles / 1569miles
Hitting the road and heading out of Zamora across open country I made numerous stops.
Castle at Ampudia
The first at San Pedro de Latarce was just a curtain wall and was closed  but the hilltop fortifications at Tordehumos looked far more impressive and was signposted so I followed up what can only be described as a farm track. Half a km later I got the KTM stuck in a rut and rolling it out backwards the rear wheel dropped off the side of the trail into the field.  I had to paddle the bike backwards fully into the field to get enough momentum to climb onto the rack which left me a bit shaken - it is a big overloaded beast for proper off-roading.
Back on the road again I was soon tempted by more Moorish castles at Monteleagre then Ampudia where I frightened a whole load of sheep in the opposite direction to that which the shepherd intended although he was amused by it. I had a good look round and then I was again on the move to Palencia.
Initially it boded well. The cathedral was close to where I entered the city and I spotted a likely cafe close to where I parked the bike but the cathedral was just closed for lunch, there were no other attractions that I could find close by and the cafe was a shithole with a surly red faced oaf behind the counter.  Anyway, the actual cathedral was magnificent; I particularly like the skeleton gargoyle.
Pilgrimage Church at Fromista
I was glad to be away though. This was the most disappointing city I have stopped in so far. Probably only because the bar has been set so high by the others!
Onwards up the motorway to Fromista which was clearly another major Camino stop and I checked out the town and then had the pilgrims special at one of the cafes - very nice too with Meatballs in spicy sauce and bean and chorizo stew. I couldn't finish the stew! These pilgrims must really need their sustenance!
Burgos itself looked very nice but the changeable weather made me just want to get on and once I had started off down my scenic detour on the BU820 the rain predictably started. I had passed a hotel a few miles back and was soon ensconced in the Hotel Camino del Santiago at €40 for room and breakfast. And I must say that this is one of the nicest (and most idiosyncratic!!) hotels that I have stayed at, certainly at this money.

Day 12  - 1st June 2013

End Location - Camping Lazarra, Estella, Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 151miles / 1720miles

Woke fairly late in the very pleasant surroundings of the Hotel Camino Del Santiago and was soon back on the road in blustery conditions. Being Saturday there were a fair few bikers on the road and even more cyclists on the route through the Sierra de la Demanda. Had a couple of occasions where deer ran across in front of me and in each case had the presence of mind to instantly slow on the basis that they normally are herd animals and where one goes others often follow.

Still Winter in the Sierra de la Demands
The other odd aspect of this was that spring still hadn't sprung here. The trees were as grey and bare as in midwinter. Very bizarre given it is the first of June today.

I had already done 40 miles since the last fuel stop when I set out and before I had gone half way around this loop I realised that I was going to be taking the tank very low if i didn't get fuel very soon.  I started taking it more and more gently, trying to coast where possible and when I did eventually find a fuel station it was closed!! The satnav destination was showing another 80 miles to go which would take me up to 150 miles which is further than I have ever run it before! Anyway, I eventually reached Najera and it only took 11.5 litres so I had plenty in reserve.

Pilgrims Bridge in Estella
ack on the bike and off to Viana which was nice enough but it did have a selection of stunning and shapely young and not so young women all dolled up to stroll the town on Saturday afternoon. I had a drink and watched some of the Moto GP practise qualifying sessions and then moved on.

 The weather was getting colder and blowier again so I stopped at Estella and had a look at a monastery before climbing the hill to the remains of a Castle. It was bloody hard work and I decided to climb down another route to the church below. Unfortunately the path was a seriously steep clamber and the steel ropes to assist had all  pulled loose so it was a challenge to say the least. Consequently when I found that the gate at the bottom was locked and I would have to return I was not best pleased. I elected to clamber over the wall and drop down about three metres into the road which was entertaining, and then went into the town proper.

So much time had elapsed since I arrived that I decided to stop here for the night and was rapidly set up in the Campino Lazzara which appears to be almost exclusively full of basque speaking folk. The tent was still dripping from the deluge in Santiago so it needed to dry out and luckily I had a nice burst of sunshine that did the job in no time.

Didn't hit Jaca today as I had intended but the Pyrenees are in sight and I saw vultures today over the town. I like vultures! Should be in Gavarnie by tomorrow.

Day 13  - 2nd June 2013
End Location - Hotel d'Ours, Arette, France
Distance (Day/Total) - 152miles / 1872miles

Gorge at the Hoz de Arbayun
After an unsettled night as some berk drove his car up and down the road by the campsite playing ethnically tinged euro-disco at full blast until at least 6 in the morning which didn't help my sleep. Woke at about nine and was on the road fairly swiftly but the weather that had looked beautifully clear was starting to cloud over.

The day was already windy but towards Lumbier it started to gust so hard it was like being shoulder charged by a rugby player. Unbelievable! Luckily once I was into the mountains proper the wind was less of a problem but it started to cloud over in earnest.

I had the last rays of sunshine at an impressive gorge called the Hoz de Arbayun which was quite impressive but fundamentally just a viewpoint. It wasn't possible to walk along the gorge as far as I could make out. Had a conversation with a bonkers German who was travelling Europe bird watching in his van, although he did give me some nice tips for the trip.

Conditions near the Col de la Pierre St Martin
I was heading next for the ruined munitions factory at Orbeitzeta but as I crested the ridge the rain started so I tried to beat it by retracing my steps. Then the rain came in with a vengeance and I suited up fully again before attempting the Col de la Pierre St Martin at 1760m. Initially it was okay but the cloud layer and the snowline pretty much coincided which was a little hairy as I had no idea how far I had come or had to go due to lack of visibility. Remembered to stop and take a few pics even so. Wasn't massively cold but I was concerned about ice so took it very gingerly. There were significant snow banks alongside the road for miles and I was glad when it started downhill, although it was still pretty grim. Saw two other bikers heading the other way so I wasn't the only mentalist.

Once on the other side visibility returned but it was getting late so I elected to check book into a rather shabby hotel but at least it was dry and had working Wi-Fi.

Weather will be the deciding factor tomorrow. No point going to Gavarnie if I am not going to see anything.

Day 14  - 3rd June 2013
End Location - Camping Valle de la Tena, Sabinanigo, Spain
Distance (Day/Total) - 124miles / 1996miles

Woke to another grey day and wasn't feeling enthused. No point going all the way to Gavarnie if the weather is grey so I decided to go to the Gorges de Kakuetta. It wasn't far down the road and it felt comfortable to back in France as I slowly got my head round to Francais mode. It was well signposted and I was soon in purchasing a billet with no hesitation and full intelligibility!!

Falls in the Gorges de Kakuetta
The initial walk was strenuous and pointlessly steep down-up-down but then settled into a leisurely stroll by the river. After maybe 500m the only way onwards was a tunnel through the rock and on the other side it just got better and better. The gorge closed in and a mixture of precarious ledges and slippery wooden walkways raised above the river took me deeper and deeper in. There were small rapids, larger rapids, serious cataracts and then to top it all a huge fall of water just funnelling out of the gorge wall about thirty feet up. Phenomenal! Beyond that it got gnarlier and mossier and very middle-earthy. Finally at the top was a small grotto with stalactites and pools. I loved it, and it had to be said that a gorge walk with caves has to be one of the best choices I could have made on such a damp grey day.

I retraced my steps and encountered a middle aged couple from Hull that asked if I owned the motorbike and we had a short conversation about our respective holidays. They seemed very nice. Wife-swappers probably!

Pretty much as soon as I was back on the bike the sun started to burn through the cloud and riding became a real pleasure. Unfortunately the pass to Orbeitzeta was closed due to snow (and when I passed the sign for the Col I did yesterday it was insisting on snow chains!) so Canfranc it was. I was soon on the road and the sun was getting stronger and stronger.  I saw an awesome Castle cum Fort in one of the tighter sections but it was not accessible, most likely because of the really awkward entrance on a hairpin above a raging torrent. I was only able to stop by parking the bike on the narrow entrance bridge to get it off the road.

Abandoned International Railway Station at Canfranc in the High Pyrenees
Anyway, I pushed on with a quick stop at the abandoned station at Les Forges d'Abel and then was into the Somport tunnel. About 9km long it was very quiet and rather civilised and immediately on the other side was Canfranc Estacion which I rode through and easily found the enormous and impressive abandoned station. It had No Entry signs but I saw someone else wandering about way down the tracks I decided to follow suit. Hugely impressive and in a state of arrested decay, although it looked as though it had been recently re-roofed. There were a couple of guys working on it, but in a very insignificant way. It is hard to see why they thought this might be a good location for such a prestigious building but hey ho, I guess time has shown them up!

Finally on the run down to Jaca the KTM started to gripe at being shifted into top gear. It would not engage then kind of wind itself up and then clunk heavily in. It would then feel really sticky when you tried to shift down to 5th! I just don't want a jammed box or worse, an exploded one, so far from home.

I rode down into Sabinanigo and soon found my fave campsite from 2010. I booked in and the woman on the desk noted that I had been before. I soon found a pitch and then posted on three different bike forums to see if anyone else has had the same problem. Just hope I don't get too many trolls!

The weather should be good tomorrow so I either stay here another night and try for Gavarnie, or Ordesa, or just head east along the road to Andorra!!

I will see how it looks in the morning. Part of me wants to stay here another night but if there is no reason then why? Moving on. . .

Day 15  - 4th June 2013
End Location - Hotel Alemar, Somo
Distance (Day/Total) - 262miles / 2258miles

Beautiful day when I awoke, and i had luckily pitched my tent in the shade of a small tree so I didn't get baked alive in my tent. Had been thinking about my options regarding the KTM and so my first chore was to check on the forums. I searched for related posts and came up with two with more or less identical symptoms. It seems that there is a drum that controls and limits the shift action and it has six metal pins that seemingly can work loose and migrate outwards until they fall out completely totalling your engine. Bad news if this is my problem. It is quite rare and time to supply the new part was long in both cases. Decided then. No point spending weeks in some foreign city waiting for parts to arrive. I am less than a day from the ferry and home where I potentially do the initial investigation myself and can explain it properly to a KTM mechanic.

Scenery at Artziniega
I look online and can get a ferry to Plymouth tomorrow so I had better get my skates on.

I was packed and ready to go in no time and set out in beautiful sunshine. The journey was pretty uneventful, although I always took any shift to or from 6th gear with a definite actions and more than a pinch of trepidation, with the shift working about 50% of the time!.

I found a really quite lovely mountainous area to the southeast of Santander and was making good progress so I stopped at some unmemorable town where I parked up next to the church and went for a wander in the late afternoon. When I got back on the bike the satnav just stayed blank when I started the bike. I tried pressing the button but to no avail. Dead it stayed.

Church and Plaza in Balmaseda
Unfortunately I was in the middle of an area of minor roads in a town that wasn't even marked on the Michelin road atlas. I rode on trying to keep the sun to my left so I was going north. I had to stop regularly to check the map and eventually ended up north of the Autovia to Santander so I decided to push right on to Somo and the Hotel Alamar where I had stayed on my first night. Had numerous idiotic drivers that got shouted at or tooted. Haven't had such shitty driving since the rainy day to Braga. The final straw was a car of young lads that waited until I was almost on them before crawling out, seemingly deliberately to block my lane. Arseholes. I would have liked nothing better than to stop and punch the driver square in the face through his window. Fucking retard!

I found Hotel Alemar fairly quickly and was soon booked in, after trying to explain to the Proprietor why I had come back when I was supposed to be on my way to Greece!!

Back in the UK the day after tomorrow and the trip comes to an end prematurely. A bit of a pattern there.

Day 16  - 5th June 2013
End Location - Pont Aven ferry, Bay of Biscay
Distance (Day/Total) - 29miles / 2287miles

Woke early but just lay in bed as there was absolutely no reason to get up until as late as possible. Had a very enthusiastic adios from the Patrons wife - what lovely hosts they have been! - and I was on the bike and heading into Santander. No problem finding the ferry terminal so I just carried on until I reached a park near the headland.

I took the SLR and offloaded my jacket and set off for a stroll along the coast. A lovely beach and gorgeous weather obviously lead to topless sunbathers so I strolled along trying not to look like a pervert!

Palacio de la Magdalena at Santander
I walked round the headland to find an ex-royal palace which explains the rather nice park. It was only early 20th century but impressive enough and with a lovely view of the rocky coast from the terrace at the front. Further round there was a balsa raft that had crossed the pacific from Ecuador to Australia a la Thor Heyerdahl and three 'galleons' that had sailed the navigable length of the Amazon in the 1970s. Very impressive. I particularly liked the map showing the routes that the rafts took and the least successful one that just got into a gyre just off the south American coast and went round in circles!

It was time to go check in at the ferry terminal and almost as soon as I had parked I had an Australian guy suggestion that should repair it there and then. I got the impression he was criticising me for not stripping it down 'in the field'. Unfortunately I didn't have a gasket set, a 32mm socket, a clutch locking tool, a torque wrench, catch trays for the oil and coolant, nor any of the required parts!! Twat.

Watching the port recede as the ferry embarked we had the most awesome sunset over the rocky coast of Northern Spain. It has been a great couple of weeks, and the change in my confidence over just that short time is immense. So good to get my head straight after the months of working off my notice. Get home, get the bike sorted ASAP and then Greece here we come!!


  1. hi you should have gone on a virago looks great so far hope you get on way again soon Paul French

  2. Hi there Paul. Just my luck. Oh well. Hopefully it will be fixed fairly shortly. I'll give you a shout and pop down for a coffee when it is done!!