Picos July 2018
We met on a very bright and sunny Sunday lunchtime ready for our adventure to begin. After we had all introduced ourselves we kitted up and did the “hurry up and wait routing” that I am sure every rider going through any port would understand. It’s the necessary process of getting dressed up in all your bike gear, to remove the gloves 2 or 3 times and then fumble for passports and crossing references. Then once through the check in it was time to que waiting to board. It got hot! Not only was is showing 25 degrees on the bike dash, but I’m sure the ferry gets warmer and warmer while your all corralled into a tight space they call the lower deck and the bike is locked down…
We all got on the ferry safe and sound and headed to our rooms, showered and then met in the bar on the top of the boat. It was a brilliant time to get to know each other and there were a lot of laughs as the drinks flowed and we were treated to a rendition of various songs and then a clown show from the boats entertainment team!
Day 2 Santander to Llanes
The first night on the Spain tours are fab, as you get to the ferry in good time in the afternoon, have chance to meet everyone and relax with them and then even have a lay in in the morning, which Mandy and Gary were especially pleased about. So was I to be honest, as I don’t generally get lay ins so it was heaven.
After a morning briefing everyone was set for the day ahead. We got our bikes and headed through passport control. I haven’t seen quite as many bikes leaving the port at once in a long time but as with the Spanish it was fluid and efficient. We then navigated our way out of Santander where my Sat Nav decided to turn itself off and it was back to local knowledge. All was well when we got to the first stop, where I was able to get it up and running again.. I love those pesky tech gremlins that get you when you least expect it!
Everyone arrived together and we all enjoyed a coffee and a sandwich. Little did they all know that the roads were about to get…… well….. brilliant!
We headed off to the national park towards our hotel and went past various wildlife, including a young horse that jumped out in front of us. At coffee there were so many smiles from everyone that if it was dark I’m sure the glow from peoples teeth would have lit the road! It’s only going to get better says I, and the smiles got bigger!
Finally arriving at our hotel in Llanes, we all settled into our rooms and had a great evening in the bar and over dinner reminiscing about the day so far and looking forward to the days ahead.
Llanes to Tineio
Today started really hot, with everyone leaving the hotel at around 9am to get some great riding in. We headed up through the local national park amongst some really nice bends with breath-taking views. A few people remarked that it was great to go up the road (as they had taken a 50km detour the day before and had come down that same road, so for some there was double the enjoyment!
After coffee it was time set off towards our lunch stop in Las Regueras which is nestled in the countryside just outside of Oviedo. You wouldn’t believe that a bustling town could be so close to the quietest places you could imagine! The Spanish are really good at hiding their treasures, but we found them indeed.
The restaurant did not disappoint and provided some delicious sandwiches and coffee, all for such a good price too. All of about 3Euros! We had spent much of the day heading towards grey clouds with a little mist on the high ground but we had managed to miss all of the rain and just see evidence of the heavy downpours that had happened before we arrived. Let’s hope that this luck continues into the trip!
After a relaxing lunch and hearing tales of the mornings riding, aided by the lovely Sat Nav’s (all doing slightly different things of course), well it is par for course. It is always funny how you can have 2 identical devices with exactly the same settings, set up in the same way and with the same route, to only show slight variances on the trips! Weird…. But the main thing is that they work!
We then left our lunch retreat and headed through some more glorious countryside, through some fog and into Tineo. Today, although the same length as most days, saw us all arrive at the hotel at around 4pm (some earlier) which meant that a nice shower and a stroll around the village was in order.
Then to the bar and dinner to have our obligatory laughter and chats about the stunning roads that just get better and better. So many people saying that the roads are amazing, and as a guide I smile to myself while saying to them, there’s more of those roads and better to come….. can’t wait till they ride them!
Tineo to Santiago de Compostela
Today we left our hotel in Tineo in lovely sunshine despite the weather apps on our phones that call themselves accurate saying that we were in for a lot of rain! It was sunny and even at 9 am it was heating up. We gathered our bikes from the secure parking and collected our things from the hotel.
Heading out of Tineo we were treated to mile after mile of unadulterated corners, each one better than the last which meandered up the mountain side and followed the route of the Pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela. As we climbed higher and higher we got nearer and nearer to the looming clouds at the top, which looked as though they would engulf us in their wake. Once in the clouds my heart sank a little as the views would be severely obstructed but my wishing for good weather must have paid off as no sooner as we were in the clouds, they made way on the crest of the mountain to reveal the most beautiful scenic views you could imagine.
As we headed down the twisty bends it was fun to see everyone at one point or another, stopping to take in the sights and record them in video and pictures. Some riders had open faced helmets and I could plainly see the smiles that went from ear to ear, although I swear that I could see the smiles on everyone’s faces beaming through their full face helmets!
With plenty of twisty bends both up and down the mountain we headed to our coffee stop. Once moving again the terrain changed from smaller twisty bends to long sweeping, open bends that made you smile inside and out as we travelled along them.
Dinner today was near Touro and did not disappoint, with a large 3 course meal on offer for a small 10 Euros. A selection of food was available and left everyone full and wanting a siesta!
It was then off to our coffee stop, about an hour away where the warm sunshine that had followed us all day turned up a notch to provide us with 26 ½ degree heat to ride in. This was glorious as we travelled into the national park. After a huge cold drink to rehydrate, we then made our 45 minute journey to the bustling city of Santiago de Compostella. Luckily our route took us through the quite meandering roads before popping out in the south of the city with very minimal negotiation with the busy traffic to get to our hotel. By this time the temperature had got to 27 degrees, and although when riding it was pleasant, as soon as we stopped we could not get our riding jackets of quick enough. But what a way to travel! Not only were we on our beloved bikes but we were also travelling in sunshine! Something many of us from the UK yearn for but seldom see, yet it is the norm in this part of the world.
Our group is exceptional and fun was had throughout the day, but arriving at the hotel and parking the bikes in our allotted secure underground spaces, John and Dave appeared, having changed clothes, with arm fulls of cleaning products! They then set to work washing and polishing their Kawasaki sports bikes ready for the next day! Now that’s dedication and love as we found out a few minutes later, as John remarked at how he had proposed to his bike as in his words ‘she just sits there and waits for me, looks amazing, takes me to heaven and back and never complains!’. He certainly has found the right bike for him. With the bikes shining, although they forgot to clean the other 10 bikes that were next to theirs. You could almost hear their disappointment as they settled in for a well-deserved nights rest.
The beauty of staying in a bustling city is that whatever food you want, it is available somewhere and in abundance. As we all headed out on foot, some found a lovely restaurant where we could have the obligatory steaks, while others headed for the amore traditional tapas bar to sample the local alcohol and nibbles.
As with any city there is always something going on and tonight was no exception as in the square by the cathedral, there was a concert that entertained the crowds well into the night. Thankfully this entertainment was far enough away from the hotel that those that were off to bed were able to get a good nights kip, dreaming of the roads that had been ridden and imagining what the roads ahead would have in store.
Day 5 – Santiago Day
The rideout that we have planned for today is spectacular and takes in the west side of spain all the way to the coast and back. Not only are there long open sweeping bends, but there are more of those spectacular (yes you guessed it) views.
Some chose to take the rideout and some chose to relax and explore the city and see the amazingly beautiful architecture of the cathedral and surrounding buildings.
Day 6 – Santiago to Vizela
Today saw a cloudy start to the day with a temperature that, at times, felt a little chilly! Good job we all had our bike clothing on. The Sat Nav’s although programmed with the same routes, be them ITN or GPX files, TomTom or Garmin, seemed to have a mind of their own today, with many adventures had along the way.
We headed out of Santiago and before long we were cruising along some sublime open curved roads heading up and over mountains, bound for our coffee stop where we again the local shop keepers welcomed us with smiles.
At this, one of our favourite café’s before our crossing to the Portuguese border as they do the most amazing cakes and massive sandwiches. We got 6 cakes, 2 coffee’s, 1 tea and 1 huge sandwich for the grand sum of 9.80 euros. Amazing value.
Once armed with our sandwiches we headed along the curvy route towards the now disused border into Portugal. On route we stopped for a leg stretch and everyone was gathered around chatting when I felt an extreme pain to my left shoulder, I ripped my jacket off to find a bee! He had stung me… I have to say that this was a near death experience and I was a split second from summonsing an ambulance, but thought, I ought to soldier on… hahhahha. The group were really sympathetic and said that they had all considered who should hold me down and then take my belongings……. Oh how we laughed!!
At the border a café was available for coffee and ice creams with complimented the sandwiches well. The sun then came out and it went to a really warm 23 degrees with the sunshine beating down on us as we sat there. We marvelled at how Gary, or should I say Senouro Gazzo is a great hit with all the locals and we remarked at how he is the local of the group!
It was then time to ride the 20 minutes through the national park towards our next coffee stop by the lake. As we got closer and started to descend the mountain, through the hairpins the temperature rocketed to what could only be described as the heat you would get from an erupting volcano! We did get to the bottom of the mountain though!
After a short break in the shade we then made our way to the hotel in Vizela all arriving safely and in 29.5 degree heat!!
Day 7 – Vizela to Cavilha
A great start to the day with temperatures already into the mid 20’s, we all headed off in search of a new adventure. This is one of my favourite days riding from this trip as the scenery takes it ‘up a notch’ with valleys, hills, curves, scenery, warmth and incredible photo opportunities.
We headed out of Vizela, and visited some interesting small cobbled streets and headed out onto the open road. A few minutes later, Garry & Mandy’s bike, a trustee BMW K1200 decided that it didn’t like the heat so much and cut out. After leaving it to cool down we were on the road to only have to stop a few minutes later when the bike finally said enough was enough!
While stopped on a busy (ish) road, we looked at the bike and had an idea that it was the spark enhancer that this model had fitted with the heat not being extracted from the (technical part) and it was making the bike cut out. Well, at the side of the road sometimes it is impossible to fix an issue, so out with the AA gold card to summons assistance.
While Garry was on the phone to the AA explaining where we were and what had happened we had some strange looks and even a couple of horn tooted at us as I’m sure the perception by the car drivers was that we had just stopped!
A period of waiting then ensued with us rolling around the floor laughing at various jokes that Garry was relaying.
And as if by magic, and a show of true human spirit a black florists van stopped. Inside were 2 ladies and they spoke perfect English and asked if we were ok. We explained that we had called for recovery and with that they offered to bring us some water (as it was baking hot!). Within a few minutes they had arrived on foot with bottles of water and even a box of biscuits. They remained with us and just as well they did as the recovery truck arrived some time later and they were the most amazing knightesses in shining armour, as they proceeded to translate with the driver and the company to help us find a local dealer to fix the bike.
It was truly a blessing to have met Bia and her friends who were the most amazing help. As with any recovery service, they purport to take care of everything, and I’m sure they do in some circumstances, but in reality there is a lot of worrying that takes place if you are stranded in an unfamiliar place and don’t know what should or will happen next, but with Bia’s help things were sorted quite quickly.
We loaded the broken bike onto the recovery truck and waved the bike, Gary and Mandy farewell. The plan was to go to Porto to the BMW dealer and get it fixed or hire a bike to continue the journey until it was fixed. Plan went according to plan (ish) and after a long day of uncertainty, they were on a bike! Unfortunately not theirs but as theirs was being fixed they hired another one. Safely on the new bike (BMW 700GS) they made their way to join the group who by this time were tucking into their meal at the hotel. Everyone cheered when they arrived back with the group, as they were very much missed throughout the day.
The rest of the group however, had one of the best days on the tour so far, with countless twisty bends through the Douro Valley and then through the vineyard regions they arrived at the climb to the Sierra de Estrella. Tails of how amazing the roads were circulated the dinner table and you could hear the laughter and joy resounding through the restaurant. John even remarked that I kept these roads a secret! Even thought I had said that the roads were amazing, seeing and riding truly is believing and I don’t believe that many words can properly describe the riding pleasure that these roads on this day give you. Its all about the experience and everyone had the most colossal smiles throughout the whole evening. The only down side is that the fresh mountain air, concentration and then a fabulous medieval themed buffet meal only means one thing……. We all needed some sleep!
Day 9 Cavilha to Zamora
Today was another incredible sunny day that saw us head down the mountain from our amazing hotel that we had called home for 2 nights, and the through the Sierra de la Culebra hunting reserve.
If you ever get chance to ride in this amazing country, you should head here, as the national park is something incredible! You can see lots of different animals but above that you get to really see what rural Portugal is like. An amazing expance of jaw dropping scenery and the tiniest streets you’ve seen, and then at certain places, where you least expect it, there is a small hamlet where the local residents are able to sit around and enjoy each others company.
They always wave to us and it’s a true joy to visit the area!
We headed to Zamora, a beautiful busling place with so much Spanish culture!
Once at the hotel it was time to freshen up and then head into town for an evening meal at Casa Bernardo. A favourite of ours and the staff are so nice, and not to mention that the food is sublime! All happy bunnies after a great days riding and a nice meal!
Day 10 Zamora to Congas De Onis
Today some would argue is one of the best days riding on the trip! The Pico Mountains! So after riding so many amazing roads throughout the tour it is a real treat to be able to visit Riańo and see the beautiful lakes and then play in the Picos for a few hours!
I never get tired of riding these roads as there is always something different to be seen and of course more photos to be taken.
The smiles on everyones faces were amazing! Hearing the tales of their experiences of the roads so far and then the stunning Riańo almost gives you a lump in your throat as I really do get a massive buzz out of bringing people to this amazing country and especially to this part. Views forever, roads that have curve after curve as well as (on the whole) great weather and of course, hardly any traffic! A true bonus to bikers!
It was a sad day in one way though today, as Gary and Amanda, after their breakdown and needing to return the hire bike to Porto in Portugal, they weren’t with us, so our group had 2 less funny, chirpy people with us. Forever friends though we made sure that we had a few drinks in the bar later that evening to toast the fact of our fortune of having them with us for the majority of the trip!
Day 11 to Santader
So today was a good but sad day, as it always is on a tour as it signifies that the tour is nearly at an end and the experiences, fun and frolics we have all shared would be drawing to a close. But not until we had ridden some more totally amazing roads to get to the ferry port. Today we had 2 routes, 1 long and 1 short.
The long route taking advantage of the ‘golden triangle of goodness’ that is the Picos and the short route taking in some of the most amazing gorges and heads to the lake of Reinosa. Each with their own charm, where riding is sublime and scenery to gaze at for hours and hours.
Some took the long to enjoy the last few hours in the Picos and then navigate around the famous ‘Pots and Pans’ road as they were working on widening it, while others took the short route to sample a great meal at a fabulous restaurant on the side of the lake.
Today is all about enjoying the roads, scenery and taking your time as the ferry doesn’t leave until late in the evening so it provides a real feeling of adventure, knowing that you have to be somewhere at a certain time, but don’t have to rush!
After dinner at the lake we headed off on yet more……. Yes you guessed it….. amazing twisty roads to get to the ferry.
We all arrived in good time and enjoyed a coffee in the sunshine as a whole group where the natural discussion turns to the amazing time we have all had and that we can’t believe it’s time to go home already!
An amazing adventure and above all a group of people that I am proud to have been part of and of which we all call ourselves friends ☺
Until next time!