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Old 03-19-2011, 05:44 PM   #1
vander OP
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Wink Across Spain and Portugal.

Hello everybody.

This is my first ride report on advrider. Everyday I enter this section and enjoy the beautyful pictures and interesting explanations, so I thought it was time I give something back and share with you one of my trips.
(I hope I don't make too many agressions to the english language).
I will try to make this worth to watch so I will combine my own pictures and video with other stuff I think can bring you the feeling of the places and why not, ideas for a trip.

This was done and very much enjoyed last summer.

I was at home in Barcelona and realized that I had a free week starting the day after, so I made some calls, loaded my trusty CB500 and marked some points on a map with the advices a friend at gave me.

I have been several times in Lisboa before, all of them to enjoy the nice winds and nice everything else in that area. I enjoyed every second in Portugal in those visits and have since then dreamt of returning on a motorbike, so when I was told of that free week I smiled and said to myself "Let's go to Cape Roca!!".

vander screwed with this post 03-19-2011 at 06:00 PM
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Old 03-19-2011, 05:46 PM   #2
vander OP
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The Trans-ibérica:

I started early morning, right before the rush hour and as it was going to be a long day went fot the motorway. I really don't like them, we are lucky enough to have dozens of options to get nearly anywhere on biker-friendly roads here, but the urge to leave my most familiar views behind made me choose for that.

I leave the AP7 after millenial Tarragona, former capital of the roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis, and hit the first interesting road, the N420, that in 800kms takes you from the roman Tarraco to the muslim Cordoba. That's not my route though.

The first landscape to enjoy here is the Priorat and Montsant area, home of excellent wines and a bunch of the best roads you can dream. It's not by sheer chance that the world rally championship helds a round here every year.

I descend from the Priorat to cross the second longest river of the Iberian Peninsula, the Ebro. This river is born in the Picos de Europa, close to the Bay of Biscay and gets bigger and bigger with the water from the south side from the Pyrenees until it reaches the Mediterranean, producing the second biggest Delta in this sea.

But if we speak about milestones, the center of the world is certainly one of them. I am obviously speaking of the Greenwich Meridian.

I pass very close to Alcañiz, just weeks before the motogp race. The track is finished months ago, but big effort was put to improve approach roads and they sure did.

The Landscape here changes. Less green and more brown. This is at the edge of the Monegros desert.

I cross several small towns, where the mudejar-style churches and old houses share the same brown color. It's something characteristic here. One of that towns is Calanda, very famous thanks to his drum instrumments played in the Holly Week (Semana Santa).
Next to the road I keep seeing trails and add this place to my "must do" list on the Ténéré.

The road is fast and straight, it was rebuilt some years ago. Some parts of the old road can still be ridden, and are refreshing after going straigt for too much time. That's the case of the "Puerto de las Traviesas", literally "Pass of the mischievous". The surface is smooth and the grip perfect. The only souls I can see here are some goats chewing grass as they follow my progress.

Nice and surprisingly green views as I ride over the windy Paso de Sant Just. There are coal mines in this area. Windfarms are replacing the coal to produce energy. The closed mines (some are still in use) can be visited.

At the other side of the pass I see the whole plain of Teruel, home of the Baja Spain rally.

All the time since Alcañiz I have seen remains of what should have been a railroad. Stations, bridges, tunnels... all was built and finished, but no train ever travelled this route. That's the case in lots and lots of places in Spain. This ghost lines now make up fast gravel roads.
This fake train is the only one this place has ever seen.

After filling both the gas tank and the icetea tank I make the last kms on the plain. The map tells me I have some nice twisty roads ahead, but the stifling heat and therefore the mist, hide the Sierra de Albarracín and the Montes Universales. I am completelly alone on the road and enjoy the silence of this place, with my bike resting, ready to take me anywhere I tell her to.

I finally made into the Sierra, arriving to the impressive Albarracín, a Spanish National Monument. This is one of many pretty and well preserved medieval towns in Spain, surrounded by the huge walls of the fortress, built by the muslims more than 1000 years ago. In muslim times, Spain was organized in small Kingdoms and this was home to one of them.

I have done enough kms for the moment and both my stomach and butt call for a reward, so I end up stopping somewhere to eat a sandwich. I am lucky enough to find shade, silence and a stream. Pretty zen...

After a short siesta I restart and keep crossing the Sierra.
The map was true and the roads are amazing, allways left to right to left to right... for kms.

As I told you before I hadn't really planned my way, so it was a bit of a surprise to find I was in front of the source of the Tajo river, the longest of the Peninsula and finally flowing to the Atlantic in Lisboa. I could cross the Tajo here just with my feet, comparatevely to the enormous iron bridge needed to do the same in Lisboa.

Close after I leave the Aragón community to enter Castilla la Mancha, home to somebody you have probably heard of: The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha.

Right at "the border" the tarmack disapears in a forest of spruces and I test if there's some scrambler heritage inside my CB.

The Sierra has a different name here. Now it's called the Serranía de Cuenca. Cuenca is a magic place. I don't have time to stop now but I recommend you to do so, should you ever find you in this region. Just type "casas colgantes de cuenca" or "ciudad encantada" on Skynet... ups! sorry.. I meant Google.

I reach Cuenca and the heat there is simply unbearable. I stop for gas and drink straight forward a liter of isotonic drink. In the next hours I needed a liter every 100kms or so. Crazy.

After Cuenca the secondary roads are all straight. The land here is flat flat and flat. So it desn't make any sense to loose time on national roads so I take a motorway again (this time a free one). At 120km/h the radiator can hardly cool the bike. When I reduce speed to take a second motorway the fan begins to work, frenetically. This Honda has no cooling problems so it gives me an idea how hot it can be here.

At the time I reach Toledo (not the Ohio one!) the temperature has start to racionalize a little bit, so it makes sense to stop and enjoy the sights. It looks like a very nice city. I will visit it someday (preferably not in summer). On the picture you can see the Alcazar at the top.
The Alcazar of Toledo is a fortress, built by the romans in the third century and modified by Charles first of Spain in the 16th. It was crushed during the Spanish Civil War. It must be very nice and his walls have seen a lot of spanish history. Toledo is an UNESCO World Heritage City.

After heading to the west for the whole day I gain a little bit of south now and so it is that I realize how many hours I have been on the road allready. My shade tells me I have to hurry up if I want to reach Badajoz today.

I could have taken a more direct route but I wanted to see, even if it was on a rush, how the National Park of Cabañeros look like. I cross the Montes de Toledo and the national hunting reserve of Quintos de Mora.

I can't describe in words how beautyfull I found that was. I expected something nice, but not that much.

The sun was hidding after 22CET and I had still 400kms to Badajoz. I called my friends there and told them I was late, really late.

My bike has a very good range of more than 450kms so being in Europe I don't care very much if there will be a gas station sooner or later because I am certain I will reach it. What I didn't beared in mind is that in this region gas stations close during the night, even on the main roads. That is something didn't happens in Catalonia so I wasn't expecting to end up with just only drops of the precious arab juice inside the tank and not knowing where I was or if I would reach a town.
I eventually did and after 970kms and 16 hours had to call it a day. I rented a room and went to sleep.


vander screwed with this post 03-24-2011 at 12:45 PM
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Old 03-19-2011, 05:47 PM   #3
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Day two.

I woke up with the unasked help of some trucks making too much noise outside and went for the last kms.
Right next to my cheap hotel was a now open gas station so I filled and realized that only 0,3 ltrs were still inside, what means I made it to the hostel with a margin of less than 10 kms of range :/

From here on I just wanted to reach Badajoz soon enough to make some repairs to my clutch. This was also one of the reasons of this trip:

The Honda CB500 is a tank. It can run forever with no mercy, but has a small but annoying problem: Some designer in Japan or builder in Italy made a small misscalculation (this might be a Honda, but is a two cylinder italian bike! hehehe).
The springs of the clutch plate have a not ideal constistency and they reduce their lenght with the time and use. This produces an annoying metalic sound because when the bike is in neutral the springs move inside. When riding or when pulling the clutch lever the sound disappears. I think this problem exists on more Honda models, not just this italian built.

To repair this I had two options: Spend 400€ on an original Honda clutch plate (they don't sell the springs separatelly...) or use that 400€ to cross Spain and let a friend with the same bike and problem show me how he repaired it. Easy choice!

On this last stretch I saw some interesting names along the way:

This region of Spain is called Extremadura. It's a vast and low populated part of the country. Many of the spanish "conquistadores" of the XV and XVI centurys came from here. They emigrated massively to the "New World" in search of fortune and fame after the fall of the Kingdom of Granada in 1492. Some of the most important conquerors grew up in this planes. Names like Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro or Pedro de Valdivia, that named the nowadays Chile as "New Extremadura".

But the most important contribution of this region to the world is the "jamón de bellota" (acorn ham). One of the finest delicatessen ever. The best iberian pig breeds grazing free in fields of holm oaks (the so called "dehesa extremeña") and eating acorns. Just typing this makes me salivate...

In Badajoz I met my friends and we went to wrench on the bike. The problema was easy to solve. New, purpose built springs were installed and new oil filled the veins of my Honda.

And of course, we couldn't resist to repeat the cliché... one spaniard working, four watching :)

The afternoon was proper spent with friends, a beer and "claras", a lot of jamón de bellota and other succulent tapas, just waiting the horrific heat to calm down.

Hours run fast when you are with nice people and like a second later it was time again to go sleep and prepare for the next day.
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Old 03-19-2011, 05:49 PM   #4
vander OP
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DAY 3.

The day started and I was eager to mount my saddle and head to Portugal. Yes, in just hours I was going to ride on a new country.

It was sunday and my collegues came with me for some K's.
Badajoz itself is a frontier city, but when riding a bike you never choose the direct route!

So we headed south first, crossing the beautyful Dehesa on a flat but sometimes twisty road with new black and smooth tarmack. The temperature was even perfect.

One of the towns we cross is Olivenza. It is in spanish territory but Portugal does not recognize spanish soverignty over it. Olivenza was in fact portuguese land for 500 years. The Guadiana river marks the current border.

Short after it's time for breakfast: Fruit juices, spanish styled coffees, "churros" and the very tasty hot bread with olive oil and salt. Simple is better.

My Honda also gets fed before we cross the border, as on this side of the Guadiana River gas prices are lower.

Soon after we are allready in our lusitan neighbours beautyful country.

Again, there is a phantastic "must see" on our route: the fortified village of Monsaraz (XIII century).
I was seing that unique castle above the sole hill in many kms radius and thinking how impressive the sight from it should be. And it was, not only what could be seen from that privileged lookout, but the village itself.

It is great when you are not on an overplanned journey because you encounter surprises like this. I had never heard of this place before.

The village is protected by the impessive black walls, with more walls inside protecting the castle. This peculiar matrioshka is completed by a bullring inside the castle. Amazing.

"Mesa da tortura" means torture table, if you hadn't guessed... ( again)

The graveyard of Monsaraz sure has nice views!

The town council:

My ride in Portugal had begun with a very high bar.

Not many k's after, we stop at Evora (now you know where the name of the Lotus comes from).
We are here to visit some unique place: the church of San Francisco.

Inside we find the "Capela dos Ossos", the Chapel of Bones.

"We bones, lying here bare, are awaiting yours". I believe this is the portuguese version of Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Every single corner is fully covered with bones; the ground, walls, pillars...

Apparently, the Chapel of Bones was the place where the franciscans meditated about human condition. The chapel was built in the XVI century and is full with the bones of some 5000 monks

what I don't know is who's the poor guy hanging up that nail...

In Portuguese:

Aonde vais, caminhante, acelerado?
Pára...não prosigas mais avante;
Negocio, não tens mais importante,
Do que este, á tua vista apresentado.
Recorda quantos desta vida tem passado,
Reflecte em que terás fim similhante,
Que para meditar causa he bastante
Terem todos mais nisto parado.
Pondera, que influido d'essa sorte,
Entre negociações do mundo tantas,
Tão pouco consideras na morte;
Porem, se os olhos aqui levantas,
Pára...porque em negocio deste porte,
Quanto mais tu parares, mais adiantas.

por Padre António da Ascenção

In English:

Where are you going in such a hurry traveler?
Stop … do not proceed;
You have no greater concern,
Than this one: that on which you focus your sight.
Recall how many have passed from this world,
Reflect on your similar end,
There is good reason to reflect
If only all did the same.
Ponder, you so influenced by fate,
Among all the many concerns of the world,
So little do you reflect on death;
If by chance you glance at this place,
Stop … for the sake of your journey,
The more you pause, the further on your journey you will be.

by Fr. António da Ascenção (translation by Rev. Carlos A. Martins, CC)

I sadly don't have enough time to visit the roman temple and the university of Evora. Must come again.
I thank my friends for their company, help and advices about the route and make my way.
My sailors blood is boiling, wanting to feel the Ocean as soon as possible. The boiling was not only caused by some kind of seamanship but mostly due to the heat.
Reach the coast was my only plan now, no more stops.

A very effective antitheft technique:

After a while I reached Setúbal.

Just after Setúbal I stopped to breath fresher and saltier air, with this beauyuful sights. From left to right, the estuary of the Sado River, the Tróia Peninsula and the Setúbal Bay. I could see the whirlpools on the water as the river and tide forces faced each other.

I didn't take a more direct route to Lisboa because I wanted to see this place and ride what on the map looked like a very twisty road on the Serra da Arrabida. It was, and as you have seen the views made worth the detour, but it was sunday and there were too many cars on the road.
I tacked north before reaching Cabo Espichel and went for the fastest possible way to Lisboa (*).

(*) "The fastest possible way" has a clause that allows me to ignore the sentence if I want and how could I not want to stop and take a look to Lisboa from a balcony at Almada! I could see the merchant ships, the Tejo River (Tajo in spanish), the Ponte 25 do Abril, the great Lisboa, mytologically founded by Ullisses after escaping from Troya and the Atlantic Ocean. I was very happy.

Don't know you, but with the time It has grown on me a list of dream places I wanted to ride. One of these is the route from the Ponte 25 de Abril to the Cabo da Roca. The Bridge 25 of April is a huge metallic structure, similar to the San Francisco bridge. It is 2km long (it doesn't seem so on the picture but it gives you also a clue about how big it is).

This was me riding one of my list's dreams.

Now I was in Lisboa, finally.

I didn't spend time there as I allready know the city and it was late. I still had to find a camping.

The Plaça do Comérçio:

The road follows the coastline along Belém, Carcavelos, Estoril and Cascais, on of the best sailing spots on the planet.
After Cascais, right at the "Boca do Inferno" (Hell's mouth) the lanscape is more or less virgin, as all this is a National Park.
All this coast is guarded by nice little fortresses that protected the entrance to Lisboa. Remember this was the capital to one of the greatest empires ever and first base port of the Age of Discoveries.

At last, I had in sight the goal of this journey, the Cabo da Roca, westernmost point of continental Europe.

Screaming of joy I entered Guincho and checked in the camping, which I can only recommend because it has all services, the people is calm and the price is fair.

I even managed to see Spain win the World Cup (I'm not big fan of football, but...).

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Old 03-19-2011, 05:51 PM   #5
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Day 4

When I woke up I still had not completelly decided what to do that day. Of course I had one compulsory thing I simply couldn't nor wanted to skip. That thing was the Cabo da Roca.

I had my breakfast (not that fast actually) under a pine and studied my map. It was then when I decided today's misdeed would be discover Sintra and the Sierra.

First of all I went to take another picture of my bike in front of the Praia do Guincho. I love this place.

In my previous visits to the area I never made it to the Serra, it was allways just the landscape that I saw, innland, mostly covered by low clouds that quickly evolved into strong gusts of wind down to the Estoril Coast.

After watching the Cape Roca from the beach it was time to step on it.
We exit Guincho and start to climb the Serra. The heart accelerates and the helmet is not big enough for such a big smile. Relax...
A couple corners after I reach the junction with this sign!

No words, just a happy motorcyclist.

This is the place where the European mainland stretches to his westernmost point. Some 8200kms straight to the east there's the easternmost point of Eurasia, the Dezhnev Cape or East Cape. If somebody has enough -a lot- of free time and a full enough pocket, it would make an incredible adventure to connect te three capes Roca--North--Dezhnev. Crazy ideas...

At Cape Roca I felt like a mountaineer planting their flag at the summit.




I don't know, but this cape and the Serra da Sintra could be the first speck of land on the horizon the old portuguese discoverers could see when they returned from long and difficult travels. Imagine how happy they should be after smelling the continent and see the first green summits.

Cape Roca

where land ends
and sea begins..."

(Camoes, portuguese poet)

westernmost point of continental Europe.

I convince myself to keep going. I could have stayed the whole morning just watching the horizon and dreaming, like I do most of the time.

Close to the previous junction is the small village of Azoia. I stop by a tiny shop and find what was searching, a replica of the nice lighthouse. Right at the Cape there's a souvenir shop where you can buy similar replicas four times more expensive than here. You're warned. The woman at the shop offers me plums of his own garden and I take a kg for 1€. It's a local variety and they are really tasty and refreshing, one of the best fruits I ever tasted. And cheap!

Next was to visit Sintra, a small town, UNESCO world heritage site. Two roads take me there, the big and twisty national road, with perfect smooth tarmac or the tiny, twistier, lonely and world famous local road.
I choosed the better one, the local that passes by the convent of Capuchos.

I said this narrow and long forgotten road is world famous and it really is. I could show you many pictures of it and you may not recognize it, but there is a corner that I am sure will clear up the thing for the rally fans.

This road saw, 25 years ago, the fury of the "Group B monsters" and the madness of the crowds. Blomqvist, Vatanen, Röhrl, Toivonen, Mouton, Ragnotti, Kankkunnen, Mikkola, Biasion and others + the Audi S1, Peugeot T16, Lancia 037, R5 Turbo, etc... all myticall names of rallying that once strugled to take that corner (on the pic you don't see the inclination and the hole at the inner side of the corner).

The Rally of portugal made the legend of the killer B's bigger and in fact marked the begining of the end for them with the 1986 tragedy.

That famous corner is at a junction. Turn right (down, like the rally cars) and you arrive to Sintra town after several switchbacks. Turn left (up) and soon you reach the top of the Serra da Sintra, where the Castelo dos Mouros stands (Castle of the Moors).
I turned left, but didn't entered the castle. It was a wrong decision, as it was very clear day and I suspect this place tends to be covered with clouds that get caught in the summit.
I choosed not to enter as there was a queue to pay the tickets. I regret not have been pacient enough, but youtube will help us know the place.

Roads here are one-direction. There is no space for two cars, so I cannot turn back as expected and enter Sintra from the other side.

The streets of Sintra are STEEP.

Main square, with the 8th century Castelo dos Mouros at the top.

Sintra is a major tourist attraction. I parked my bike and walked.
Lord Byron wrote: "I must just observe that the village of Cintra is the most beautiful in the world."
It really is pretty, with castles, countless palaces and astounding views + a perfect climate in sumer.

After tasting some local specialities in a small patisserie I return to my bike and head back to the rally stage. Later I took a different road, with really bad tarmac but worth the effort to make it to the Pedras Irmas, a place in the deep forest with some strange round rocks all arround.

I was hungry and I headed to the Praia do Guincho to obey a personal ritual: eat a "cachorro" in the kiosk on the beach.
"Cachorro" in spanish means puppy...
I also took the map so I could begin to plan what my route would look like the next day.

After this I parked the bike in the camping, I had enough of it for today.

Swimsuit and straight to the beach.

Guincho is famous for the wind and the waves. Surfers, kiters and windsurfers pilgrimate here from around Europe.

Water here is bloody cold for what I'm used to, but after the first WTF moment it is also enjoyable. I think it wasn't as cold as I remembered from previous ocasions.

My relax day finished in my hammock under the pines, reading "Sinuhé, the Egyptian" and eating plums.

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Old 03-19-2011, 05:53 PM   #6
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It's 6AM and the rain falling over my tent wakes me up. Can it be possible??

Two hours after the rain has stopped but the sky is still gray and uninspiring. I pack everything and leave Guincho.

I'm riding the national road along the Cape Roca and Guincho, this time I only see the rain in my visor and fog all around me and the road.

I decide to buy a Portugal map. I had the Spain&Portugal map of Michelin but want a smaller scale map for Portugal. I take the ACP one, it seems good enough... but after using it I don't like it anymore. It's not practical. Good maps are practicall and even pretty, this is not.

After Sintra I get lost several times in different towns. I don't want to take any motorway but at the end I get fed up of the map, the indications and the detours and enter the highway.
I lost a lot of time riding north to Sintra, then to Mafra, just to after go south again to Loures and the outskirts of Lisboa.
It's better to take the motorway and simply go, at least, some 100km away from Lisboa before taking smaller roads.

The E80 takes me fast but uninteresting to that 100km radius.

I ride on it until a place called Entroncamento, where the landscape is green and the sky blue again. The roads start to be really enjoyable too, not giving me any rest from corner to corner. This road put me in good-mood-mode again.

Having a rest to drink and plan my next steps.

After some kms on the national road 110 I turn right to some twisty road the map is showing, short before Ansiao. The small road goes to Figueiró dos Vinhos and it is a blast! The road first goes down into a canyon and after climbs, surrounded by a deep forest at one side and the canyon at the other, corner after corner after corner. This is what a wanted!

At Figueiró dos Vinhos, a strange way to park a car (The grandmother is resting inside as the children have a bath on the river, under the bridge).

I fill my empty tank there to have enough juice for the next hours that on paper look like a lot of fun for a biker.

Before the Serra da Lousa the road crosses the village of Castanheira da Pera.

I cross the bridge and on my left I can see several yachts moored. There must be a big lake here" I think... but my map doesn't show anything ¿? I stop to have a look and look around. The lake is no more than 200m long. WTF?!?! Who would like to sail on a duck pond?? I can't understand.
At a closer look I realize the boats are surrounded by a submerged jetty ¿?

(After the trip I did some research and that boats are like a floating camping. They are not intended to be sailed, they are only floating caravans)

The road to the Serra da Lousa is narrow and with little maintenace, but the surface is good enough and the views worth the visit. I stop by a lonely viewpoint and eat the fuet (traditional catalan cured sausage) I took from home.

The Serra da Lousa north. That's where I'm going, to Lousa.

And Castanheira da Pera south, with their harbour...

Starting the descent to Lousa:

The road on the north face of the serra is smaller and twistier. A very, very nice road to be done with a bike. It resembles the N260 that crosses the spanish Pyrinees on the Broto-Biescas part, but narrower and with only 1 car in 20kms.

In Lousa, an unusual way to decorate a front yard... This should be warning enough for any burglar.

I don't have any pics for the next kms, I was too busy destroying the sides of my tyres in some of the best roads I have ridden. The longest straight being less than 50m and perfect bankings, for hours!
Lousá-Gois-Arganil... I enjoyed it like a pig in mud.
After, the national road with more traffic until I begin to see a big Serra on the horizon. I have no doubt this has to be the Serra da Estrela, what I've been looking for and the reason I choosed a northern route for today.

I put it in capital letters because it deserves it: SERRA DA ESTRELA.

It's a national park, very steep, climbing fast to the clouds from the very base.
On various maps I see there are several roads that traverse it and all are marked as panoramic route. That unanimity gives a clue that this should not be missed.

In Seia, where the road starts.

The road slopes steeply and the asphalt is way more than excellent. I would say the combination route + views + grip is above most of the Alps or Pyrinees famous passes.

We find several dams on the Serra, the bigest one having an anormous wall is at 1500m higth, right where the clouds are resting.

What is above the clouds...? The heaven, off course!!!

"Highway to Heaven" ?

At the highest point of the Serra da Estrela and highest point of mainland Portugal.

After deep breathing and enjoying the beautyful sound of silence I start my Honda again, I still have some kms to do today (but I want to camp here someday!).

On the way down, the road crosses Penhas da Saude, a village with incredible views to the east side. After it, the road descends vertiginouslly to Covilha (climb this on a bicycle must be criminal).

I had enough fun for today. My plan was to make it to Guarda, but I am tired and search a camping. I find one in Pero Viseu and for 6€ I have a home for tonight.
The ground is quite hard and I have work to plant the tent. Luckily enough, "Imperio", the nice dog of the camping is with me. Imperio is the biggest and kindest boxer I have ever met, and a good guardian too!

My supper: feijao com arroz, ribs, potatoes... enough for a whole regiment.

Good night.
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Old 03-19-2011, 05:56 PM   #7
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My new friend Imperio woke me up, snorting in my front yard. The light up in the sky was allready on and I was wasting time inside the sleeping bag. Imperio is the typical good natured dog that comes and pushes you, saying "hey you, why don't you scrap my head now?!!".

I packed and left Imperio behind, happily moving what was left of his tail.

The first kms went on a nice single lane road, with the Serra da Estrela on my left.
Some time after, the wind began to blow very hard and a horizon of very dark clouds approached fast from north to south. It looked worse on the west than the east side, so I stopped to watch my map and see what roads could take me east. The best option seemed to be the motorway. I didn't wanted to do all the "put-rain-gear" ritual, so the faster way east was also the best way for me at the moment. It was very cold also.

I reached the border and right there the dark sky that was covering me (I saw some raindrops in my visor) began to disappear.
The border post was a melancholic, gloomy place, with the once typical exchange banks closed long ago but still there, announcing the best deal.

After leaving the border town:

My map showed an interesting place name 25 km ahead: Ciudad Rodrigo. I had heard of it before, but knew not very much about it. The name remembered me to Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar "El Cid Campeador". "El Cid" is a very famous historic and legendary knight in spanish history and literature.
But the name has nothing to do with that legendary knight.

Ciudad Rodrigo has a perfectly preserved historical center and the ancient city walls are intact. This place has been continuosly inhabited at least since the Bronze Age, with older remains (tools) dating back to the Paleolithic (that's 2.5 million years!).

The city is like an open air history museum with the walls, palaces, the tower of homage, churches and the cathedral.
2010 was a nice time to visit the place as it was the 200 anniversary of the siege of the city by Napoleon during the Spanish Independence War (or Napoleonic Wars). May be they will celebrate again in 2012 as the city suffered the siege of Napoleon in 1810 and of the brits in 1812.
As a visit to Salamanca is mandatory if you visit Spain, why not come to Ciudad Rodrigo also? The two places are not far from each other.

I would need and want a whole day to discover this place and chill under the shade in a bar.
Instead I have to keep going.

Right from Ciudad Rodrigo starts the SA220 road. My Michelin map shows some interesting roads there.

I stop to take a picture of something probably worthless on the right side of the road and a group of very curious eyes stare at me on the left side, nervous.

And then something bizarre happens.

That plane is a C 101 trainning jet from the Spanish Air Force, probably from the Patrulla Aguila.

Some long and boring straights before the good stuff begins.

Approaching the good stuff.

That mountain is the Peña de Francia. Around of it everything is flat but the Peña climbs steep up to the sky. The place is not only special for that but because what's at the the very top of it. You will see.

Different kind of vegetation as the road starts to climb.

The plains around.

And this is what sits at the top of the 1725m high Peña de Francia: an old monastery.

This really is a magical place. It's unbelivable how the monks could live up here. It is so isolated, with such a difficult path to get there... imagine buiding it in the 16th century! The road is recent, the old path must be a nice walk (if going dawn) or a true penance (if going up).

"At the end of the road
Santo Domingo...
pray for us."

This is at the entrance. It is a solar clock, but it also looks like a way to capture rainwater.

Entering the Chappel of the White Virgin everybody can read this:

"Let nobody say, and be right, that everything was beautyful here until you came"

The chapel of "the White" dates from the century. It was built on top the cave where Simon Vela found the image of the virgin.
Some very narrow stairs go to the cave, with an old altar.

"This image was financed by Mr. Theo Villarroel"
"This altar was financed by Mr. Felix de Tapia, 1777"
"On the 18th of may of 1434 appeared
Our Holly Mother to the blessed Simon Vela and
revealed him how his holly image was
hidden in this same place
*** (old spanish I can't understand) was on the next day,
and more images were to be found"
"and a bell"

My favourite part is that of "and a bell" hahaha

Outside (St. James'Way)

Why is this place called Peña de Francia (Crag of France)?

The famous basque writer Miguel de Unamuno spent times up here and wrote about this place (Vander's bad translation)

"Live up there in the silence, and from the silence, we, those that in ordinary live in the racket and from the racket.
It seems that there we heard everything that the earth quiets, while us, his sons, shout to be confused and not hearing the voice of the divine silence.
Because the men shout to not hear themselves, to not hear the other men."

Outside, we now find this tower erected to the joy of Our Lady of windows. I guess its some kind of air traffic beacon?

It was nice. Time to ride again. Heading: Bejar.

Luckily, the road not only looks promising on the map. In reality it's much better. A phantastic series of perfect smooth corners of constant radius, perfect new tarmack, zero traffic and nice landscape around. 50 amazing kms. I would say one of the top 3 roads of this trip.


The road is still really nice until El Barco de Avila, an old town where I suppose once was a boat to cross the river. If true, this had to be loooong ago, because the romans built a bridge that has been in use by cars until recent years.

After this I take a national road. 100kms nearly straight.

I could have taken another route, crossing the nice Sierra de Gredos but instead choosed to visit Avila. In this city I wanted to see one of the most famous postcard views of Spain: The 900 years old walls of Avila.

The fortified city of Avila is, like I previous said about Ciudad Rodrigo, like an open air museum. The amount of churches, palaces and historic buildings in it is unbelivable. And all preserved like new. But remember it is not a museum, there is people living there, in the same houses people lived hundreds ofyears ago.

The cathedral is a fortress itself.

The walls have appeared in many movies, characterized as Camelot, for example.

Avila is where an important historical personage lived his last years and died. It was the friar Tomás de Torquemada, the first great inquisitor of Castile. Quite a celebrity...

This friar was the confessor of Isabella I of Castile and was the one of the supporters of the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. This fanatic was responsible for so many deaths. On average during his time as general inquisitor, a person was burnt alive every 9 days under the accusation of acting against Catholic ortodoxy (Muslims and Jews had to convert to catholicism or leave Castile).
From wikipedia:

"So hated did he become that at one point Torquemada traveled with a bodyguard of 50 mounted guards and 250 armed men. After 15 years as Spain's Grand Inquisitor, he died in 1498 in Ávila. For his role in the Spanish Inquisition, Torquemada's name has become a byword for fanaticism in the service of the Catholic religion."

"In 1832, Torquemada's tomb was ransacked, his bones stolen and burnt to ashes."

There is phantastic novel by the brilliant genious castilian writer Miguel Delibes. "The heretic". It is one of my favourite books, I recommend you to read it, it's absorbing and easy to read.

Leaving the beautyful Avila behind:

I was at spain's central plateu, so I saw this riding on flat and straight roads and not after any kinf of twisty pass.

It is after some kms that I make it to a famous junction for spanish motorcyclists. The "Cruz Verde". Here is where many riders of the Madrid area meet every weekend. The roads around were at times like a track with open traffic, not very healthy (police now puts a lot of pressure in this area). It's so famous I simply wanted to see it, but I think it is that famous mostly because it's close to the city and not just because the road is any better than others around.

Next was to make a pitstop at El Escorial.
San Lorenzo de El Escorial is at the same time, a monastery, a school, a museum and the old residence of the Kings of Spain (not any more). It's simply ENORMOUS. In the XVI century considered as the 8th wonder of the world, thanks to its size, complexity and symbolic value.
The countless paintings, sculptures, 40.000 old books, pergamins, religious ornaments etc make of it a museum in itself.

The King Felipe II "The Prudent" ordered the building of this site. No wonder he wanted something that big, as he was:
King of Castile (and colonies in America), King of Leon, King of Aragon, King of Portugal (and colonies in America, Asia and Africa), King of the Two Sicilys, King of England, King of Naples, King of Ireland, King of the Netherlands etc etc etc ... This first global Empire was known as "the Empire on which the sun never sets".

The kings, queens and princes of Spain of the last several hundred years are all buried in the cript under the complex of El Escorial. I visited the place some years ago with the school.

Next I wanted to make another pitstop at "El Valle de los Caidos" (Valley of the Fallen), where the dictator Franco is buried. Allthough Franco claimed this place was to honour all the fallen in the Spanish Civil War of both sides (40.000 nationalists and republicans are buried there) the place has more of a nationalist atmosphere. War prisoners erected the place in what was like a Nazi concentration camp. It's and icon of Franco's dictatorship.

I couldn't visit it as it was closed. Government claims it's closed for preservation works, but others say it's a policy of harassment against the monument.

The entrance:

It was late and now I simply wanted to round Madrid as fast as possible and find a place to sleep in Guadalajara. I fealt weak and had pain in my neck so I ended up in the first hotel I found in the outskirts of Guadalajara. Too expensive for what it offered, but I was just exhausted. Went to sleep without even eat anything.

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Old 03-19-2011, 05:58 PM   #8
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Day 7

After a long night the pain in my neck was gone so I hit the road with renewed energy. I had filled my own tank and the Honda also got more juice. I was going to hit some very small roads and no gas stations should be expected for many kms.

After some pretty cold 20kms we reached Torija and its impressing tale's castle, built by the Mendoza family in the XV century. The castle had to be restored after the guerrilla of Juan Martín "El empecinado" blowed it upo during the Independence War. It was also base for the republican faction during the battle of Guadalajara of the Spanish Civil War in 1937.

After Torija, a long stretch of vast fields until Brihuega, where I saw several small and probably cheap hotels that would have been much better than the one I crashed at in Guadalajara.

In Brihuega,a nice and lonely road (well, all roads are lonely in this province) winded following the course of a small river, inside a canyon.

In the distance some sort of Simpsonian Springfield.

And funny names. A town called The Happy Trout.


More colors

On the way I cross the very small village of Saelices de la Sal, where I stop to visit the old saltwork.

This is the Alcarria region. The landscape is great and is full of lovely small roads. I saw two or three cars in the whole morning.

In a tiny village:

baaaaa baaaaaaaaaaa, say the sheeps

And I talk for a while with her boss.

And yet another well preserved castle in Corduente.

And yet more nice backroads. This is the national park of El Alto Tajo.

I exit the Alcarria region. Molina de Aragon marks a radical change in the landscape.
Molina de Aragón is pure history. It was part of the Caliphate of Cordoba (like Emirate of Cordoba) in moorish times and was home of one of the "taifa" kingdoms, rulled by a bereber tribe. The place was reconquered by christians in the year of 1129.
The walls are huge and impressive as they are the biggest structure by far in many, many kms. It must have been a very rich town in ancient times.

Saddly, the change in landscape meant that I had to deal with long boring straights now. I had entered the Aragón provinces.

The heat was horrendous, so I stopped under some shadow to rest, eat and enjoy some soft drinks.

More colors

I was now riding the same road I had taken the first day of this trip. Rememeber I took a detour on the old part of a road, not anynmore in use. I took that detour again. I passed in this week two times the road that doesn't exst anymore, that takes you nowhere and nobody uses anymore.

The same villages, roads and ladscapes, to finally made it home again:

On of the last stops this day was the "Mirador de la batalla del Ebro", the viewpoint of the Battle of the Ebro at "El Coll del Moro". This battle was the longest and bloodiest of the war. It was decisive and months after winning, the nationalist troops af Franco entered Barcelona.

Franco directed the battle from this same trench. All this valley is full of trenches, bunkers and human remains.

I had pain again and was very tired so didn't took more photos until Barcelona.

Here is my trusty steed in front of loved/hated Barcelona.

3300kms that took me to some very interesting places, to met great people and to relieve my wanderlust for some days.

Just hope you like this RR at least the half that I liked to ride it and to write it.

That's all, folks (for now).
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Old 03-19-2011, 06:52 PM   #9
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muchisimas gracias!
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Old 03-19-2011, 07:49 PM   #10
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Muchas gracias por su informe de viaje. Pase mucho tiempo en Espana en los ultimos 11 anos, sobre todo en el sur cerca de Sevillia y Cadiz. Tengo que decir Espana es mi pais favorito en todo el mundo. Que han pasado mas de dos anos desde la ultima vez en Espana, pero voy a volver algun dia.Quiero montar mi motocicleta y pasar tal vel un mes se (o mas!) Quiero volver a dar las gracias, y espero que entiendan mi mal espanol!

There are four things you can't recover: the stone..after the throw, the word..after it's said,
the occasion..after it's missed and the time ..after it's gone.
Been There, Done That, Took Pictures, Retired.
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Old 03-20-2011, 02:07 AM   #11
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Location: Liverpool, Crete and wherever the road goes...
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Amazing Report...

I really like your photos...and now I feel stupid that I have taken my portugese friend'a invitation to visit Portugal...

PS: Barcelona is a spectacular city and a place that I wouldn't mind to stay ...
even the worst day on a motorbike is better than any day at the office...

LE.M.A.N. - Ayios Nikolaos Crete Riders Club
If you are around, try to find them, they will help you...
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Old 03-20-2011, 02:59 AM   #12
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Great report, thanx!! Only one should´ve taken the Tenere for this ride!!!
Greetz, Hans.
XT rules! Make the world beautiful, get a tattoo!

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Old 03-20-2011, 03:01 AM   #13
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Very enjoyable Vander, thank you for sharing...

Brought back some nice memories of Portugal.
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Old 03-20-2011, 04:04 AM   #14
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thank you SO much for sharing your journey with us
just beautiful scenery
wish i could have been with you
'11 R1200 GS Adventure with a DMC M72DX Sidecar
'14 R1200 GS & '14 R nineT (march, 2014)
Live life like you mean it... but take your family and friends (and DOGS) along for the "ride"
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Old 03-20-2011, 07:15 AM   #15
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Outstanding ride, report and pics! Thanks for the detailed report and all those pics! That "torture table" video is pretty funny in a crazy way! What will they think of next?
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