Homeward bound...

Written by  Thursday, 26 June 2014 19:27
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Well now, where was I? Oh yes, we were relaxing in a rural courtyard hotel. Renovated stone buildings, swimming pool, quality restaurant, real beds and an ensuite. It was certainly a day of contrasts! We finished the day in a rural mountain campsite. Largely resembling a small meadow with leat and basic facilities.

The day's riding was amazing. We headed into Miranda do Douro, fuelled up and headed for the border (less than 4km as it turned out) through a stunning valley where you could see the road wind it's way up the other side. I nearly stopped to take a photo, not quite though.

Who knows the logic in that decision. Once we entered Spain we followed the river Douro, the roads were long and straight.. Definitely a hit of Roman road about them. There was very little other traffic and we made good progress. There were even birds of prey circling above us at times as we passed rural farmland. Guess there must have been plenty of field mice?

We also followed the Camino De Santiago for a long stretch, on the N630. It's a pilgrimage route ending at Santiago de Compostella, I think there are various starting points but famous routes through the mountains from the Pyrenees and across the north of Spain.

Those of you who have been with me from the start will hopefully remember the man and his donkey in France. I guess he would have walked this route, or a similar one. By my calculations he would have reached Santiago a couple of weeks ago. I wonder what happens then?

Do you turn around and walk your donkey home again? Do you send him home in a luxury horse box, or do you donate him to the local donkey sanctuary?!

We took a detour off the main road, looking for a little excitement, maybe a few bends, but even the back road was stubbornly straight. We stopped at a disused bus stop for lunch, in lieu of a better place. Not the best choice we've made. It was full of tiny flies. We headed on eagerly as soon as we were fed.

Between two and three pm we could see mountains rising majestically from the horizon. After a day of roman straight roads they were a welcome sight! The roads twisted up to give more amazing views (which we did stop to photograph, and met our first group of British bikers of the trip) We were slowed by local vehicles and campers. The road quality varied from newly laid tarmac, to melted tarmac that had slipped and was lumpy bumpy.

The road wound around and passed over the Embalse De Riano, a huge reservoir. Throughout the day the road signs remained reliable and consistent.

In our rural campsite we met a northern push bike rider who was doing 3 weeks in Spain alone on his bike. Brave man. He was off over the mountain we had just ridden, and I didn't envy him at all! The roads were second to fourth gear max, that was going to be gruelling work on a push bike.

We wandered through the village of La Vega and cooked our usual camp supper, longing for the previous nights gourmet cod and veal dinners. We were also plagued by flying insects again. Time to DEET up. Mother Nature chose tonight to rain on us.

A thunderstorm in a tent (well, on it really I guess, it was pretty waterproof!) and we were under a tree. I couldn't remember if that was good or bad. Sleep for me did not come easy. Zane on the other hand said, 'I slept really well, was there really thunder and lightning?'

We over slept the next morning, waking at 10:00. I wasn't worried as we had less than 200km to Bilbao. Our bike friend had left when we rose.

The roads should have been lovely, but they seemed to take an age. What should have been a couple of hours took until 6pm. We thought we'd be there shortly after lunch. When we arrived at the port there was nowhere to buy tickets until 7:30am when the ferry terminal opened for check in.

Instead we made our way to Carrefour and Decathlon. We searched for food for the ferry. A 24hr crossing requires plenty of nibbles! And waterproofs for Zane, a little late perhaps? They weren't long enough anyway.

On returning to the port there were lots of HGV's and their drivers by the terminal going about the business of dinner, and generally settling down for the night. We parked up and set up a little den to cook dinner in. I had been worried we wouldn't be allowed back in, or that port security might move us on, but quickly relaxed, realising we were just part of port life. We even had wifi as we were tucked in by the terminal building.

After dinner we set up the sleeping mat and bags between the bikes, and settled down for the night. It really was solid ground tonight, so the tent was definitely not an option. It stayed dry, and still, the perfect night for camping directly under the stars. More mosquitoes, more DEET.

This morning we bought our tickets on line, and checked in, after our usual breakfast of porridge. We met a biker, minus his broken down Harley, who bought me a coffee. Streams of bikes left the ferry when it arrived.

We were given pannier stickers by one group who stopped to say hi to the Harley rider, and I chatted to the chairman of a Serv group from 'up north' somewhere. (I can't remember where clearly, but as he got the name wrong first time I don't feel too bad!)

Most of the bikes returning on our ferry have been to watch the bike racing near Barcalona (1.5hrs away) or touring Spain. I am quite proud of our journey. I will perhaps blog some of our learned wisdom in the next few days, for humour value and anyone planning a similar trip (including our next adventure!) and we're not home yet.

The ferry lands in Portsmouth, not Plymouth. First stop tomorrow morning is a bacon sarnie!