Spain: Picos and Portugal Alison and Martin trip report

Spain: Picos and Portugal Alison and Martin trip report

So there we were, all booked up for our second tour with Magellan. Hardly surprising after the amazing experience we enjoyed last year on the tour of Italy, and we were not alone in this repeat venture as nine of our fellow riders from the Italy tour were all booked up too. We were so excited to share the Spain adventure with familiar faces and to meet people new to the experience.

New for this year were the “Magellan Ride the World” T-shirts, a brilliant idea! When ours arrived I was like a kid at Christmas, I ripped open the packaging, threw it on and posed for a photo for Facebook and Instagram…………..only then did I read the accompanying letter suggesting wear it and share it for social media, ha-ha done that already!

Thanks to level of professionalism and expertise from Magellan we were so confident in the preparation of this tour and of what to expect on our travels. Our information pack arrived, routes uploaded onto our satnav and packing done (we are now experts on minimal packing and how best to pack it) we eagerly awaited the start date of our tour.

The Meet

We met up with the “original cast” from last year at a hotel car park in Plymouth, it was so good to see them again and some had new bikes to add more thrill to their tour. Greetings complete we set off for the Ferry Terminal entrance to meet up with everyone. Introductions and briefing done we embarked the ferry with ease and soon we were relaxing at the bar. We all wore our Magellan T’s which were a great help by way of names and they attracted some attention from fellow ferry passengers. The itinerary listed on the back proved a hot topic for discussion as did the origins of Magellan. A passenger at the bar insisted on letting me know all about Magellan the Portuguese explorer – fascinating I mean really how would I have known that!! After a great evening of reminiscing and getting to know the new faces oh and cruise entertainment ………….who remembers the juggler, really……….we all retired in anticipation of day one of the ride ahead.

Santander to Panes

Briefing finished and with 114 miles to cover that afternoon we left the ferry and headed for Llanes for our evening stay. Leaving the ferry port was not a problem and our route was fairly low in traffic once we were away from Santander. The route is part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela pilgrims’ route, Europe’s most popular pilgrimage route. We would pass many of these walkers on our journey.

Our onward route was just perfect, no traffic only people and good tarmac. Some lovely long undulating straights and great downhill sweeps. The scenery was stunning, moody green mountains, everywhere green against the silvery blue of sky. We found our first great café/restaurant and grabbed a seat outside. We enjoyed an interesting grilled ham sandwich with a fried egg, cheese and tuna; it was very tasty albeit a little messy.

Continuing our journey we rode through the Asturian capital Oviedo and enjoyed the sights and simple charms of the city. We sampled an hour or so of the Picos when the road of trees parallel to us suddenly opened up to reveal a wall of mountains right above us, beautiful mountains, dramatically steep and craggy – the Dolomites of Spain!

 

Panes to Tineo

We covered 130 magnificent miles from unspoiled coastline with stretches of sand that were almost completely deserted, beautiful beaches completely free of people to emerald rolling hills and countryside. Cars were few and far between and as we were in rural Spain we shared the roads with many straying horses, cattle, sheep and sheep dogs! We had a very interesting short cut as we followed the lead bike, up and up, higher and higher we climbed into tighter narrower lanes that weaved their way through clusters of overhanging tumbling stone houses. Dogs barked and their owners stood motionless, mouths agape at three monstrous GS1200s meandering through the small quiet hamlet. Sat navs rerouted and we began the staggering descent. An incredibly steep gravel track with ludicrous bends, oh it was hilarious – all part of the adventure!

 

Tineo to Santiago de Compostela

Inclement weather that morning, a thick wet mist but with such striking surroundings it only enhanced the vibrancy of the green pastures. We followed a valley of pine and chestnut trees with a few gentle hairpin bends to keep us on our toes when a colossal and very earthen looking dam came into view. We stopped to capture some great aerial photo shots with the drone. Lots more quiet twisty roads, fast sweepers into the sunshine and with the heat of the sun came alive the scents of the pine and eucalyptus.

 

Santiago City Day

We decided to explore on foot the old quarter packed with dazzling examples of architecture from Baroque and Gothic influences. The Cathedral is a masterpiece with great treasures within. On our guided walking tour we learned about the ‘perceberes’ goose neck barnacles, a delicacy in this region and so expensive due to the danger involved in retrieving them from the rocks of a savage coastline. We sampled many free tapas with our drinks, tortillas and miniature servings of stew. We wandered through the central food market where the fish counter displayed the best of the Atlantic catch and the bakeries offered the Galician bread, being food lovers this market was a must see.

 

 

Santiago to Vizela

Back on the bike we made our way south, more stunning views and kilometers of fun on good surfaces through rural Spain heading up to the National Park on the border with Portugal. Some slightly hairy road surfaces enroute to the border crossing were mentioned in the briefing that morning……erm a slight understatement I thought as we were riding it and I tensed my posture to rigamortis level! However the views from here were undeniably spectacular and thereafter my complaints were halted as the vistas were so captivating.

 

 

Vizela to Covilla

We snaked along the river for miles crossing bridges from north to south and back again. We could see ahead of us the Douro Valley that could easily be called the enchanted valley, such was the beauty and magic that its landscapes offered. Along the way we admired breathtaking views over the river, the inclined rows of terraces built to expose the vines to the rays of the sun. We journeyed through such a diverse range of landscapes that day from flora and fauna, to oak woods, to a rocky scrubland resembling scenery from a Star Trek movie set. At the summit of the Serra da Estrela with an altitude of almost 2000 meters at its highest point we rode through a cloud of bugs that pelted us so hard they sounded like hailstones. It was comical to watch everyone on their bikes violently shaking limbs to hastily remove them!

 Serra da Estela Ride out day

We had half a day of rest and relaxation at the sister hotel’s spa which was most refreshing and enjoyable before we fired up the bike ready to explore Serra da Estrela, National Park and the highest mountains of Portugal. The only ski resort in Portugal is situated here near the highest point, the Torre. Dramatic crags and ravines made this area a stunning ride out, we were left wondering if the graceful mountain curves would ever end. Spectacular mountain landscapes with peaks that were hanging on to their last remnants of snow.

Covilha to Benevente

A long journey today of 215 miles again through a varied range of terrain in searing heat. More beautiful terraces of the port vineyards, rivers, reservoirs and their dams. We interrupted the ride with stops for cold drinks and refreshments. We picked up some fantastic roads just after the rural national park, long straight fast roads which took us to our hotel in good time. There was a lot to see and do in Zamora, the Cathedral of Zamora, from the 12th Century, was one of the most interesting sights of the city. We had a feast of food and fine wine that evening in Casa Bernando in the main plaza at extremely good value too.

Give me Zamora that!

 

Benevente to Llanes

More fantastic roads that morning, Spain’s equivalent to Route 66…..and it did not disappoint. Never ending long straights as far as the eye could see. We passed Lake Riano stopping for photographs, back into the Picos through Potes and Panes and then back to Llanes to relax and enjoy our last evening in Spain. We had a splendid three course evening meal which involved more pork; my we ate some pork on this tour! We retired for a restful night knowing the best was yet to come.

Llanes to Santander

We had decided to go for it and complete the optional ride out rather than take the steady leisurely journey direct to the port. The route we took climbed higher and higher above the gorge at the start of the Picos, to an incredible height with bends coiling tighter and tighter. It was early morning and extremely misty with low cloud. I was grateful for the poor visibility as I couldn’t see the drop! Back down into the Picos and its dizzying bends, the route was so winding we knew riding the circuit was going to take some time. Our satnav directed us off the main route (as they do) and we ended up once again climbing a highway to heaven to a small hamlet where at the top there was barely enough room to turn the bike around. The locals found the situation amusing.

Back to the splendid dramatic landscape with majestic peaks where birds of prey soared on the thermals. This had to be a motorcyclist’s vision of heaven! Onto Lake Riano where the water was so still and surreal it was like a mirror. This lake with its backdrop of mountains surrounding its shores had to be one of the most spectacular landscapes I’d ever photographed. Next the remarkable gorge, Desfiladero de la Hermida which we travelled through for over 20kms, steep slopes of limestone rising up to 600m dwarfed us. We passed through the charming town of Potes with its old bridges, twisted cobbled alleys and overhanging houses and after three hours of gratifying grandeur we dropped down onto the coast to make our way back to Santander.

Check out the video here:

2017-09-18T16:55:46+00:00

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