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France, Spain, Andorra and Portugal – June 2011

For some bizzare reason, I wrote this in the third person, oops, lesson learned.

On his newish 60 plate BMW 1200GS Adventure motobike, Tommy is soley departing the UK on the 8th June to travel and explore 4000 miles of  France, Spain, Andorra and Portugal for three weeks on his 2011 roadtrip. He hopes to return three weeks later on the 28th June.

He is hoping to meet lots of friends along the way and will no doubt have some amazing adventures and will be writing a journal as a reminder to himself of the adventure and any incidents (because his memory is crap) but will depend on his access to the internet.

Tommy hopes not to bore anyone but is willing to share this experience with anyone interested, watch out for updates and safe riding to all them adventure bikers and not so adventurous bikers out there.

 

1st Day, Wednesdy 8th June. Hampton, England – Couhe, France. 542 miles.

 

Woke at 0400, loaded his already heavily ladened BMW with his remaining items and kissed his darling wife farewell whilst she still slept.

Thomas immediately encountered problems and had to manually open the usually automatic exit gate from the under ground car park. He suspected the motor had burned out.

Hampton was grim and he prayed for a rain free ride along the boring, direct motorway to Portsmouth. On arrival at the port, Thomas befriended a fellow biker, who, unbeknowing to them both would meet up later in the day.

The wind was strong and a rough ferry crossing to Cherbourg was anticipated. Surely enough, the fast ferry rolled and dipped across the waves. Once the ferry left the bay, it seemed to reduce knotts. Thomas noticed lots of pale faces as no one dared to leave there seats in fear of falling. The shuddering duty free shop should of been off limits due to the crashing of boxes and smashing of glass.

1130 French time, the ferry docked in the Military port of Cherbourg. Thomas departed a bit worse for wear and programmed his Tom Tom to take the most direct route but avoiding tolls and motorways to Couhe near Poiters. he found the long. straight dual carriageways a bore and soon took to the back lanes after approx. 200 miles.

On his first fuel stop, hunger set in as required a much needed energy boost and opted for cakes and coffee. A familiar face then entered the service station, it was the bloke he met on board the ferry. they continued their journey together until evenyually veering off in different directions.

After the 542 miles, Thomas was glad to locate his first campsite with no problems. The site was not fully open but had a beautiful setting with a slow flowing river running through the middle.

Whilst pitching his riverside tent, a Northampton biking group arrived and piched opposite. They shared routes, reputable campsites and good roads along the way. After whispering amongst themselves, the bikers then asked ‘Are you that Gas Emergency Biker off TV?’ Thomas proudly announced he was then found the conversation became distant. was it really that bad he thought to himself.

Later that evening the bikers invited Thomas to join them for a beer, he politely declined as he had to locate some food as the campsite restaurant was closed. it was a long day and Thomas was asleep bt 2130.

 

2nd Day, Thursday 9th June 2011. Couhe, France – Andorra. 426 miles.

 

Knowing he had another long day ahead, Thomas woke at 0500, packed quietly whilst the Northampton biking group snored heavily after there few beers the night before. Also, Thomas had to be down in Estepona, Spain by Saturday afternoon, otherwise he would have had the Mother in law to answer to! Unfortunately, he was unable to exit the campsite gate as it was locked (he dosnt have much luck with gates). He kindly asked the receptionist to open them but she refused and bluntly advised him there must be quiet on the campsite until 0800 and thats when the gates will be open. Bearing in mind the campsite is located next to a main road couldnt quiet understand but turned off his engine anyway and waited patiently.

It was a cool, cloudy morning so he took advantage of the wait and dried his condensated tent out.

Once on the road he grinned and a shudder of excitement run through himat the the thought of riding over the Pyrenees into a different country. Then all of a sudden he felt a knock to his foot, stopped the bike and checked his load. Something was missing, and there it was, his water bottle came skating down the road and overtook him.

Approaching Bordeaux, he drove through a place he is familiar with ´Saint FOY´ (i always new i was a Saint).

The country lanes were narrow and hilly, then out of know where a hare appeared and began to race the GS. Thomas accelerated until they were neck and neck then had to back off as he approached the bend. The hare won!

The lanes were emptyand Thomas hadnt seen any cars for miles, so he stopped for a pee at the side of the road. He was wearing his high visibility vest. ´Oh no´ he said to himself as a car stopped. The lady asked if any help was needed as they are miles from anywhere. With his back turned Thomas embarrassingly replied ´Non, merci´whilst peeing down himself hurringly putting his tackle away. It later came to him that the French only wear high visibility jackets when they have broken down and roadside assitance is required.

Further down the road, the oncoming cars began to flash their headlights. He thought the Police were ahead and slowed down. To his surprise, on exiting the bend. a car was stuck, nose down in a ditch. Thomas immediately pulled over to help but didnt expect to find anyone still inside, but there was, an elderly lady sat frozen in the passenger seat whilst her husband called the emrgency services. Another car pulled up behind to help and then another. Coincidentally, all involved and helped were English. So thats where all the kind hearted people from England have gone to, he thought to himself. The rescue services arrived and as the expats could speak fluent French, Thomas left the scene.

After approx. two hundred miles that day, Thomas was exhausted and was tempted to head for the motorway but percivered and stuck to the lanes.

Approaching the base of the Pyrenees, the lanes became twistier and steeper, so opend the throttle and leant into each bend with his rear luggage almost touching the tarmac. After a couple of hairy moments almost straying into the roadside coming out of the hairpins, Thomas backed off and enjoyed the scenery.

On his way to Andorra over the mountains, Thomas climbed to 2300 mtrs in altitude and could hear the differnce in the bikes engine due to the thiness of the air. Although Thomas was travelling way within the spped limit the oncoming bikes signalled with their arms for him to slow down. Coming over the brow of a steep mountain, Thomas was met head on by a herd of cattle with bells around their neck on the road and distantly thanked the warning bikers. Thomas has dealt with the hazard well and wished his IAM examiner (tosser) was there to see him overtake them trotting cows!

On his decent, he could see a very remote Police road block ahead. the officer flagged Thomas down. Unsure which country he was in, Thomas was unsure whether to wave Hola or Bonjour as he passed. The Catalunean Police officers stood in his way so Thomas produced his documents, requested a group photo and was on his way.

Nearing his planned destination that day and after passing a short line of traffic, Thomas was waved through by the border official and entered into Andorra. With Andorra being tax free, he refuelled and stocked up with cigarettes.

Andorra was a mystical city, but actually its own country. He thought the city was amazing built in a valley between huge mountains and cliff faces. Thomas wondered if the sun ever shon here. He struggled to park due to the heavy traffic and was not used to such madness of a city after the country lanes and programmed his sat nav to get him out of there the fastest route. it was now getting late as he continued his itinerary over into Spain, where he luckily found a mountain view, but expensive campsite.

 

3rd Day, Friday 10th June 2011. Andorra – Alicante, Spain. 376 miles.

 

Compared to yesterday, this was a pretty uneventful day with the route taking Thomas out of the stormy mountains to skirt Barcalona then along the coast to just North of sunny Benidorm.

Thomas had set his sat nav to minor roads as he always did and often the tarmac would turn to cobbles, dirt tracks or even Donkey paths. On this occasion he wished he hadnt. Along the way the tarmac once again turned to a stoney, dusty track surrounded by farmers fields, mostly growing oranges. The track became narrower and bumpier until Thomas and his bike who he had now named ‘Nomads bro’, found themselves deep in an orange grove with no way through. As the track was narrow with over hanging orange trees he found it a struggle to turn the heavily ladened bike around. In the 30′ heat and with beeds of sweat running down his nose he eventually succeeded and escaped.

After redirecting himself and Nomad they both arrived safely at the coastal campsite.

As always, Thomas drove around the site and inspected the shower facilities, grounds and where best to pitch. The surface of the pitches was gravel. After the long, hard ride, Thomas was not looking forward to sleeping on the hard ground. He inquired at reception for alternative accommodation. The owner also being a GS rider very knidly offered him a sea view, 2 bedroomed appartement with a 50% discount for being a fellow rider. ‘Result’ he thought and paid willingly upfront in preperation for tomorrows early start.

That night, Thomas enjoyed Spanish tapas in the very modern campsite wine bar whilst looking out to sea.

 

4th Day, Saturday 11th June 2011. North of Alicante, Spain – Estepona, Spain. 476 miles.

 

The next morning, with the sun rising and the temperature alreadty 26′, Thomas woke at 0545, with the town still partying, he  packed, thanked the security guard for looking over Nomad and departed for Estepona near Marbella.

Yet again the sat nav directed them both along disused looking dusty tracks where the wild dogs chased and snapped at his heels making him almost dump the bike whilst trying to avoid them, then got lost. The route took Thomas down the East coast of Spain then cut across through and over the Sierra Nevada mountains using an awsome twisty biking road where he flipped the bike from side around the corners.

Eventually, Thomas arrived Estepona with some long, fun detours along the way and had decided that the Spanish transport ministers had definately run out of money after the huge injection of cash from Europe. There were huge unfinished bridges towering the countryside and miles of unfinished main roads leading no where. Even the Tom Tom was showing the roads as complete often leading Thomas away from his destination. After his final detour of the day back into the mountains, Thomas arrived at the luxury 1,000,000 Euro, hillside private villa, where his wife and inlaws awaited.

The journey through France, Andorra and East coast of Spain had been tough although only took him 4 days whilst avoiding the motorways and using mostly country lanes. He was looking forward to a week off riding and spending some relaxing time by the private pool with his wife and family. The inlaws were obviously concerned for Thomas’ safety whilst adventure riding down to see them and wonders if he had taken the aeroplane then maybe the atmosphere would of been more welcoming, although suspects their journey was also a stressful adventure.

 

5th – 11th Day, Sunday 12th June – Saturday 18th June 2011. Estepona, Spain. 0 miles!

 

For the next week, Thomas enjoyed some relaxing time around the amazing villa with his wife and inlaws.

Within that week they consumed huge amounts of food purchased from the local supermarket, ate, swam, sun bathed and sun bathed some moor.

Other than relaxing, Thomas visited an amazing safari park situated over serveral mountain sides, visited the local market where he bought his Panama hat, which really didnt suit him and definately made him stand out from the locals.

They all found the holiday very relaxing but sometimes challenging in close quaters.

The luxury villa was peaceful and isolated away from bustling nightlife of Marbella, which all prefered. It had been built high up on the hillside overlooking the Medeteranian sea, Gibralter and Morocco. Quite often in the morning a heavy sea mist would suddenly engulf the hillside, reminding Thomas of the film, ‘The Fog’. This was usually followed by a hot, gentler blowing Saharan wind from Africa increasing the temperature to no more than 34′.

Thomas could hear Morocco calling him as he looked across the sea with excitement but then thought best left for another adventure and didnt think the in laws would approve.

Towards the end of the week, Thomas became restless and couldnt wait to hit the road again knowing his 2011 road trip was about to restart. After some basic checks and attention to Nomad in preperation for Portugal and Spain’s mountainous regions, Thomas and the family sat down for a beautiful last evening meal together as the sun went down.A great holiday enjoyed by all, of which many memories will be remembered including the closeness towards the end and his father in law breaking the sunbed and looking like a roasted pepper after his feble attemp of a quick squirt and rub of sun cream.

 

11th Day, Saturday 18th June 2011, Estepona, Spain – Albefeira, Portugal. 325 miles.

 

For some reason, Thomas hasn’t entered a log for the next two days and can only put this down to possibly not wanting to remember his visit to the highly populated tourist area of Albufeira in Portugals Algarve. Thomas felt he had cheated himself by choosing to hire an expensive lodge for the next two nights instead of the usual cost of a tent pitch, although he did downsize from a luxury five bedroom villa! Thomas felt alone that day knowing he was going to be without his gorgeous wife for the next ten days. The lanes from Estepona to Albufeira were deserted and again took Thomas and Nomad through miles and miles of farmed areas, growing neatly lined vines and olive tress. Thomas crossed the border into Portugal and Spain twice that day whilst hardly realising he had entered a different country apart from noticing the all too often deep potholed roads of Portugal, usually with a heavy thud of the front wheel. It was hot that day with temperatures rising to 40’C. Thomas had lost some of his riding muscles throughout the relaxing week off the bike in Estepona and found the riding exhausting. On arrival at the roadside campsite of Albufeira on the edge of its old town, Thomas really didn’t have the energy to pitch his tent and lazily opted for a lodge.

 

12th Day, Sunday 19th June 2011. Albufeira, Portugal. 0 miles.

 

Last night, Thomas ate a disappointing meal at the campsite then braved a short bus journey into Albufeira’s old town where he joined the Dutch and Brit tourists. The later it became the busier it got and of course the more drunk the tourists became. The old town was beautifully lit up at night as it sat by the deserted beach overlooking the tranquil sea. Thomas sat and watched with amusement at the bullying tactics of the PR’s employed by the bars and restaurants to drag people in from the street and then charge astronomical prices for poor quality food and drinks as in other tourist resorts such as Ibiza and Tennerife. He also noticed the rat catchers patrolling the streets. This was not what Thomas had come to experience and left to catch the last bus back to his lodge. The next day Thomas relaxed by the one of three campsite pools whilst watching a local wedding take place on the grounds. Later, Nomad was cleaned and inspected for any wear or damage in preparation for tomorrows ride. Due to the previous night disappointing meal, that evening for some reason, Thomas again ventured into the old town. Unknowingly he chose a Dutch restaurant to eat, where he was served a plate full of very dry strips of lamb. The lamb was so chewy, it was hardly digestible and he suspected this was last weeks left over’s. After complaining to the long legged, blue eyed, blonde Dutch waitresses he ended up walking off without paying, returned to the lodge and attempted to sleep early. During the night, Thomas woke several times sweating profusely and vaguely remembered the nightmare which had just woken him. Throughout the night, the nightmares became more frightening and his skin began to itch. Bedbugs! he suspected, but couldn’t figure out whether he had been bitten or had food poisoning. A terrible night’s sleep!!

 

13th Day. Monday 20th June 2011. Albufeira, Portugal – Guadalupe, Spain. 323 miles.

 

Thomas woke heavily hung-over due to bedbug, ant bites and food poisoning. Unbeknown to him today’s ride was going to be the toughest, although not the furthest, passing over Spains Sierra Nevada and Toledo mountains, consisting of a 323 mile ride to Spain’s Guadalupe. The temperature rose to 39’C and the surrounding fields were desert like. With his full protective bike kit on (helmet, gloves, long socks, off road enduro boots and a goretek armoured jacket and trousers) he found the riding exhausting whilst twisting around the farmers lanes for the entire journey. Thomas lifted his helmet lid for some cooler flowing air only to be blasted by a jet of hotter air comparing it to a hair dryer on its highest setting. Thomas closed the lid and decided the air was actually cooler inside his helmet. Even though Thomas’ suit vents were all in the open position, the inner layer was soaked with sweat finding it hard to constantly replenish is dehydrating body causing severe headaches (or was this due to the food poisoning and bite he had received). In the morning, before Thomas departed Albufeira, he had removed his bike cover and in astonishment, discovered a nest of tiny ants which had relocated their home onto his bike. The ants had were coming out of any possible part of the bike. He thought back to the night before where he had shovelled the gravel using his feet under the stand to make the bike more upright and prevent it toppling over because of it being top heavy and suspected he had disturbed their nest, hence the attack. Either that or the ants enjoyed eating the remains of the squashed bugs. The ants were washed off; however two hundred miles down the road, he stopped for water only to find the ants reappeared. He continued. The exhausting ride was rewarded with the final twenty miles of beautiful unspoilt scenery overlooking the lush green mountains of Guadalupe. He arrived at his almost vacant campsite. Thomas welcomed the peacefulness of the campsite and glad of the tree shading tent pitches. Exhausted from the days ride, Thomas strung up his hammock, stripped off and slept beneath the stars whilst listening to the unusual noises made by the frogs, crickets and birds, almost like being on a Carribean island. He hoped the Albufeiran hitch hiking ants had enjoyed the ride and were happy with their new home.

14th Day, Tuesday 21st June, 2011. Guadalupe, Spain – Castelo Branco, Portugal. 152.2 miles.

 

Thomas woke to the hollowing of the same owl he went to sleep to. The day ahead was a relatively easy 152.2 mile ride to Castelo Branco heading towards Northern Portugal with an estimated journey time of only four hours. The morning was a cool 24’, much lower than usual. Thomas put this down to the altitude. What few campers were on site still slept. Along the way, Thomas pulled over to re fuel, and then decided to leave his bike while he visited a local market near by the Portuguese border. Thomas was still on the hunt for a ‘snail bag’ for the Mrs. He had missed the opportunity to buy one in Estepona and the wife had made him regret his decision for the rest of the week so before they parted ways he promised he would search for another one on his return leg. There were no ‘snail bags’ for sale but Thomas is sure the locals took great amusement to his impression of a snail as he tried to describe what he was looking to buy. Nearing the border, Thomas and Nomad crossed one of many viaducts which stood on tall stilts above the damn and figured this is was the local power source. Once he crossed the unmanned border into Northern Portugal’s National Park, he also noticed field upon field of solar panels pointing towards the sun. The Spanish and Portuguese had obviously invested billions of Euro’s into renewable energy. Approaching midday, Thomas arrived at his national park campsite. It was empty, apart from a static caravan over in the corner and a camper van. In the campsite reception, Thomas requested two trees instead of a pitch. The receptionist looked backed at him puzzled. After he explained using sign language (as his Spanish still wasn’t good enough to interpret the replies) she agreed a reduced rate for the two trees. Whilst stringing up the hammock between the two trees, the owner of the static (Spanish he thinks) came over and advised him what area was best to remain in the shade and out of the midday 36’C sun. The old man invited Thomas down to the pool; he accepted and gathered the old man just wanted to escape the nagging wife. The campsite belonged to a chain of campsites but looked tired and dirty. The poolside was infested by large black nipping ants which came to investigate the Brit abroad. To the amusement of other bathers, every so often Thomas would leap from his sun bed and do a weird rave dance with his hands in the air as he tried to brush off the attackers then jump into the pool. Thomas had crossed the Spanish/Portuguese border for the third time and had given up altering his clocks and never new when to try and speak Spanish or Portuguese. Although he was on holiday and time didn’t really matter. To eat, he normally settled for gallons of coffee and water in the day then a large dinner in the evening as his body never seemed to know when to eat breakfast or lunch. That night as the moon shone through the tree tops, Thomas rocked himself to sleep using a guide line but then learned if he clenched the right buttock and then the left, he could swing the hammock using this method. Once the warm breeze picked up he had to do neither. The coffee definitely showed its strength when writing this log, or was it the loneliness?

 

15th Day, Wednesday 22nd June, 2011. Castelo Branco, Portugal – Braga, Portugal. 225 miles.

 

That morning, Thomas discovered that the hammock not only acted as a very comfortable bed but also a canopy, catching any falling insects and leaves from the trees above. Though Thomas was still glad it had kept him off the cold ground and away from the killer ants and he wondered what he may have eaten during the night. He didn’t particularly sleep well but persevered until the morning.
Thomas had now been on the road for several days since his week off in Estepona, and began to loose track of the days, time and more worryingly which town he last departed.
The route ahead, Thomas was familiar with as he had purposefully chosen the same roads and tracks as a previous tour of Europe back in 2009. He hoped it would be as breathtaking and beautiful as last time. Yet again, Northern Portugal’s National Park had become the highlight of his adventure.
Late morning, Thomas and Nomad climbed the narrow dusty tracks into Colvilha, which looked stunning and resembled a ski resort which was hard to imagine in the blistering heat. The road was baron and peaceful and it seemed he had the whole road to himself. At that point, Thomas thought it would be a good idea to record a video of his descent and was lucky enough to avoid the squealing wild bore which came trotting across the road.
On his arrival into the campsite, he noted how quite it is and the dramatic temperature drop. He was relieved to see some once familiar rear, yellow UK number plates and parked up for a chat. This time he wasn’t recognised. Once the tent was erected along with his extensive collection of camping gear, like the huge tarp and hammock again, he realised he had pitched along side some German Hippies who seemed friendly enough. The Germans hung out of their very worn tent with a crate of beers beside them. Thomas felt embarrassed about his expensive light weight set up in comparison to their well used holy tent and suspected they were hardened hippies. With the smell and the state of their clothes, they looked as if they had been travelling for some time, months, if not years. Thomas offered them tea to break the barrier and with a burp they refused and cracked open another beer. At least they’ll sleep well he thought.
Later that evening, Thomas joined the posh Cambridgeshire bikers for dinner and found it strange to be listening to English people again. He had so much to tell of his travels, he feared he talked them out of the restaurant.

 

16th Day, Thursday 23rd June, 2011. Braga, Portugal. 0 miles.

 

Today is Thomas’ well deserved day off and he woke to the sound the hippies cracking their breakfast beer at 0700.
As it was a Thursday and approaching the weekend, already the camp was getting busy with the constant sounds of people arriving and car doors slamming.
Thomas washed just in time to wave the bikers farewell and safe riding. On his days off, Thomas still felt the need to explore so set off by foot on a hike around the nearby lake.
There is always something to do whilst on the road he pondered whilst looking for the campsite, whether it be refuelling, packing, cleaning himself and the bike, maintaining Nomad, eating, sleeping and of course exploring and meeting the locals. It almost becomes a daily routine but in different parts of a country each day.
After the ball aching, arse numbing riding over the last few days, Thomas enjoyed his day off and stroll around the lake.
The campsite was situated high up in the National Park in a huge pine forest which seemed to stretch on for miles and miles. The restaurant was superb with excellent local produce and always served with a smile.
Unfortunately, the campsite now resembled a car park which had taken away its beautiful surroundings and Thomas felt tomorrow was the right time to move on (another beer cracked). He feared a sleepless night and struggled to keep warm on the damp forest floor.

 

17th Day, Friday 24th June, 2011. Braga, Portugal – Murus, Galacia, Spain. 150 miles.

 

Thomas was intrigued by today’s campsite choice on Spain’s North West coast ‘San Francisco’. He had never toured this area of Spain before and was excited.
As he quickly packed his full camping kit away, he heard a ‘Pardon’. It was one of the German hippies poking his head out from a hole in his tent with at least 40 empty beer cans by the entrance and apologised for the noise the night before. With delight from the hippy, Thomas tried to explain he hadn’t heard anything and that it wasn’t him who complained.
Thomas was now used to sharing his helmet with various creepy crawlies and though he tried his best to clean it had now come toi accept the fact that the Albufeiran ants were here to stay and will be keepi9ng him company all the way home.
Thomas only had 150 miles to cover today, most of which consisted of steep, cobbled donkey passes out of North Portugal and across the border to join Spain’s North West coast then onto the well known Galicia. Galicia is historic coastal town.
Thomas was slightly uneasy about the next destination as there was a government warning issued only a three weeks ago with regards to thieves targeting tourists and even an incident where a Brit had been shot by gangs.
Once Thomas hit Spain’s coast, Thomas turned off and headed inland for only a hundred yards and to his discovered the campsite located up on a small hill making it only a short walk to the white sandy beaches and turquoise Atlantic Ocean. After quietly pitching his tent he hiked through the historic narrow streets into Murus to stock up essentials, then back again. A long walk!
After hundreds of miles of inland riding and camping since Estepona, he found the sea irresistible and stripped off for a swim.
The water was calm and as warm as it looked, situated in its protecting bay and surrounded by mountains.
Thomas then headed back to the campsite to eat where he also got chatting to an Ausie couple who were touring Europe. The couple told Thomas that Australia had not suffered and depression what so ever as business is flowing across from theist very rich Chinese neighbours. The Ausie couple had given up there jobs to travel, knowing they would easily get employed when they return and still earn a good if not better salary.
Thomas wished them well for the remainder of their adventure.
Thomas was tucked up in his tent and just about to fall asleep when there was a sudden gust of Atlantic winds that lifted his tarp and broke its poles in half. Before Thomas had realised what had happened, his Portuguese neighbour had also come out to help and held the tarp tightly with both hands so it didn’t take off like a kite. He kindly flew it back to ground being careful not to take off with it.

 

18th Day, Saturday 25th June 2011. Murus, Galacia, Spain. 0 miles.

 

Thomas enjoyed another day off in Galicia this time, starting with a coffee and a short stroll to the beach for the final burn. The beach was deserted and he wondered why. He got the sense and the smell that something unpleasant was lurking. It was then he noticed a sewage plant just over the wall and relocated to the next bay where bathers started to arrive.
Although the temperature rose to around 30’, the sun didn’t seem that strong to Thomas as the Atlantic breeze cooled him down. It was later when Thomas returned to the camp and looked in the mirror to find a glowing face peering back at him like a belicia beacon and sore to touch. He wasn’t looking forward to an uncomfortable nights sleep nor putting his helmet on the morning after. As the afternoon progressed, the camp site field became busier consisting of mostly the Qencho tents. Maybe some sort of exhibition, he thought. ‘No’ they were genuine campers. Thomas counted 23 Quencho tents in one field and his own Hilleberg which still seemed to be attracting the ants, flying ones that is. Thomas went to sleeping thinking it was the tents red colour that attracted them.
An early night that night in p[reparation for an early start heading into the Pico’s and then onto Santander on the Monday.

 

19th Day. Sunday 26th June, 2011. Murus, Galacia, Spain – Pico, Spain. 280 miles ?

 

The next morning, Thomas departed the San Francisco campsite and followed the prat nav, turning right out of the campsite heading up into the hills. Immediately the single track took him through a near by village where a line of bins blocked the way. Thomas stopped to see why and was then waved through by a couple of the locals. The lane was sprinkled in flower petals in preparation for a wedding that day, so Thomas tried carefully to avoid them but still scattered the petals.
The lane became steeper and steeper to the point; he had to turn back in fear of stalling the bike. Thomas found an alternative more gradual climb up into the hills again and the cobbled lane soon became a rocky donkey track which was just about capable on Nomad. The track took Thomas high above the morning mist all the way to the top of which made it a perfect last day’s ride in Spain. Totally overwhelmed and with tears welling, Thomas had to pull over to admire the magnificent view over the Pico’s, which stretched for miles with half the hillside in the hot, rising sun the rest in the shade of the surrounding hills. He was alone up there and that just about summed up the whole trip.
Later that day Thomas arrived at his campsite after an exhilarating ride around the Pico’s twisty roads, where there he used the busy but small swimming pool. Thomas befriended an older Scottish couple who invited him to join them for dinner at the campsite restaurant. Thomas found the local food fantastic and the best yet as it didn’t include chips!
Before bed, the couple made Thomas a good old cuppa of PG tips and in return he offered them some hot chocolate sachets his wife had packed for him. An exchange of gifts had become familiar amongst travellers.
During a sleepless, stormy night, it became cold and wet. Thomas peered out of the tent to watch the spectacular lightening crack above the mountain side. The stream Thomas had pitched next to now became a fast flowing river and as the water level increased, Thomas became worried it would flood during the night and had to constantly keep a check on it.

 

20th Day. Monday 27th June, 2011. Pico, Spain – Santander Port, Spain. 150 miles?

 

Luckily the river hadn’t flooded due to the storm during the night but Thomas was not happy to be packing his wet tent away.
Thomas took a lay in that morning, probably due to sun stroke but also was in no rush as he had plenty of time to reach the ferry port in Santander for his afternoon departure. Thomas was sad the trip was coming to an end but glad to be homeward bound to see his Mrs again and looking forward to sleep in his own, proper bed.
Eventually and within plenty of time, Thomas arrived at the busy port of Santander, where he estimated a further 100 bikes awaited to board. Amongst the bikers there were a large group of typically, very large, tattooed Harley riders of whom he’d expect to speak with a deep American accent but to his amusement they spoke in a very high pitched northern voice. Must be the steroids he thought to himself.
On board the ferry, Thomas waited for his cabin to be cleaned with some Yorkshire bikers who were admiring his Rally 3 suit. Thomas told them that it hadn’t been waterproof and gets very hot at times. With beads of sweat running down Thomas’ forehead, one of the bikers approached and quickly detached the jacket arms then went onto open all the suit vents, none of which Thomas new about and to the amusement of the awaiting passengers. Thomas was embarrassed but glad the incident had created some good camaraderie and friendships.
Whilst crossing the Bay of Bisscay, Thomas mingled with the Yorkshire bikers and dined with some older couples but avoided the high pitched speaking Harley bikers as they stood at the bar as if they owned the ship, followed by an evening of Bingo to which he lost. He found the onboard entertainment amusing and very cheesy, especially the magician who ended up with an eighty year old lady sat on top of him angrily demanding the return of her £10 note he accidentally ripped in two.