The campsite at Navarrete, near Logrono was a pleasant and quiet place but unbeknown to us was popular with wine drinkers as it is at the centre of the Rioja wine producing region and is surrounded by 'bodegas' which are the wine producing factories. One English couple near us, told us of a particular one that was famous for its design. Apparently with a wave like titanium roof designed by a Brit. After getting the washing done we decided to pay it a visit but unfortunately it was by booking only and they were full up for the day. Sounds familiar doesn't it. Anyway we took some pics of it and in protest did not buy any of their wine.
|The bodega with the titanium roof|
|Another Bodega we found on the way|
We rode back to Navarrete and found a nice little bar and watched the hoards of little tractors pulling trailers full of next years wine stock.
|If you look closely, he is driving 'hands free' for our pleasure|
It was then back to the campsite where we found that a very pleasant Dutch couple had moved in beside us and were besotted with Leon and the fact that he traveled with us without running off. Another early night and up to bed.
Wednesday 3rd Oct
A shorter day today, only 130 miles or so, so we took it steady.
We stopped at a large lay-by for spot of lunch and hawk-eye Karen spotted some large soaring birds.
|Our lunch stop. Hawk-eye in the foreground, security detail in the passenger footwell.|
We ummed and ahhed about what they were initially thinking they were eagles but they were far too big for that. We eventually agreed they were Griffon Vultures. They were massive with a wingspan of about 2.7m.
|A cropped photo of the Griffon Vulture. It gives no perspective of it's huge size.|
We arrived in Suances, a suburb of Santander at about 4pm. We found our annexe hotel, the hotel Roiz. It was only about 50m up the hill from the nasty evil one that would not take Leon. It was run by a father and son who spoke English as good as we spoke Spanish but they were both such characters that each encounter left us all laughing. The father would greet us with "Comment allee vous" which is French for 'how are you'. The son had a pet dog like a large Yorkshire terrier and a pet parrot that would allow the dog to lick it. They were bonkers. The dog spent most of its time chasing Leon about and Leon reciprocated by beating the dog up.
We settled in to a room that would have accommodated a foot ball team in luxury (exaggeration alert). It had 4 beds, 14 chairs of various descriptions, a bath (something to keep Karen happy) and a funny extra toilet for cleaning your feet. It was only spoiled by the fact that we could not open the door more than half way due to the floor tiles being laid at a slope. This was OK until we tried to carry our bags into the room!
|The Hotel Roiz. We were in another building out the back.|
|The inside was absolutely massive.|
One other small problem was, that despite the room being booked, it had not been paid for Doh! They took my passport and told me I would get it back when they were paid.
We waited for the boat from Portsmouth to deliver its live cargo of what later turned out to be psychotic bikers. They turned up at about 7:30pm and we went to greet them. There were 8 in all, in our group. Jon Elvidge (who had told us about the trip), his local mate from Ware, Steve, (who turned out to be one of the nicest blokes you could meet and we hope to see him again when in the UK) Graham, a Police driving school teacher, Gordon, an ex racer (more on him later), another Steve, a youngster (compared to us) called Colin and two brothers Craig and Dean.
After a quick reception it was down in the basement of the main hotel for grub. I managed to find the organizers representative and when I informed him of the non payment problem I was met with blank looks. It was all sorted in the end which was good as I was ready to eat somebody.
Thursday 4th Oct
This is where the fun begins (ish). I set off with all the other bikers at 9am expecting a nice ride through the scenic mountains, stopping every now and then to take pictures. What actually happened was more akin to racing the TT circuit at the Isle of Man. Gordon, (the ex racer,) set the pace at the front and I had to ride well out of my comfort zone to keep up. He was psychotic. The last time I had ridden like this I was about 20. For the first 4 hours I was absolutely crapping myself. Only then did I relax somewhat when I appreciated how good Wallace was when shod with off road knobbly tyres when everyone else had sports bikes (except Jon) and sticky tyres.
|The evil Gorgon (left). Only joking. He is another of the worlds gentlemen. He has a passion for biking that I can only admire. He is so good that I never want to ride like him ;-). Jon having just removed his thumb from somewhere is on the right.|
In the afternoon my confidence had increased and I started to enjoy the roller coaster that the others called a ride.
In fairness, it was actually very exiting. I had never seen mountain roads so twisty and smooth.
Karen spent the day browsing the shops and climbing up and down the hill that the town was built on.
|It had to be in here somewhere... a rare stop (stress break for me)|
|Jon and I at a viewpoint. Note my dirt tyres and his road ones. This was the best excuse I could come up with.|
|Back: Gordon, me, Steve, Graham and john. Front: Dean (nearest), Colin, Craig and Steve2|
Friday 5th Oct
Another lunatic day. More of the same and by now I was keeping up with similar powered bikes. Graham and Gordon were on 157hp BMWs so they were in a different league but I was holding my own - just. The only problem I could not address was my 'Monkey butt'. The reddening of the lower regions that resembles a baboons rear aspect.
|The town square at our lunch break place. I have no idea where it was, I was more concerned with staying on my bike.|
|The view of a resevior during a fuel stop. Have you noticed these are the only times photos are taken ?|
Karen spent the day removing as many white bits as possible on the very pleasant beach.
Saturday 6th Oct
I took Karen out on the bike today. At last I was able to have a stress free ride. I tried to put into practice some of the tips the other more experienced riders had given me. Whilst I thought I was doing very well, Karen did not notice !
We stopped at a place called Fuente De and rode the cable car to the top of the mountain. The view was very impressive and more huge vultures were spotted, along with some Black Kites. Despite the temperature down below it was very windy and quite cold.
|It was blowing hoolie up here.|
|Despite my previous careers, I am s**t scared of heights. For me this was a long trip down.|
Once back on Wallace it was a quick 12km run to a lunch spot at a hotel called Hotel Del Oso, which means Hotel of the Bears. It was very pleasant and there were already a lot of bikers there. Bikers in Spain are treated with respect - its nice.
|Lunch at the Hotel Del Oso. Hotel of the bear.|
|The views were amazing. He had just driven up this valley.|
|One of our two traffic jams. The other was horses.|
We then drove the mountains for the rest of the day and by the time we got back to the Hotel my monkey butt (sore red bottom to those non bikers out there) was glowing nicely. It was then back into the bar with the others before a late return to bed.
Sunday 7th Oct
I hardly slept at all last night and woke up with flu like symptoms. I decide not to go out riding today and went back to bed once dosed up with tablets. I got up at about 1pm and we drove Gromit into Santander for some lunch. It took ages to find somewhere to park. Evidently, all the Spaniards, get into their Sunday best and go into town to the bars and restaurants. When we did eventually get parked we did the same. It was very pleasant and comfortable atmosphere. We then went back to the hotel and I went back to bed to try and sort myself out. Fortunately, I was not ill enough to stop us going to the bar with the guys again ;-)
Monday 8th Oct
All good things must come to an end and it was pack up time again. with Wallace on the trailer, all our bags backed in Gromit and all but one of our pairs of sunglasses (Doh!) removed from the hotel room we drove the 50m or so down to the main hotel to say our goodbyes to the guys and a big thank-you to Jon for inviting us along.
We then set off on our long trek to the Portuguese Algarve via the North coast of Spain. My flu thing was paying its toll and I only drove for about an hour when Karen took over to stop me driving Gromit into a motorway barrier. On Gordons recommendation we stopped in a lovely little town called Llanes. Again, it was not easy to park but this time it was our fault, we had Wallace on the trailer. The town was as Gordon had said, beautiful. We had lunch in a bar by the river/marina. It was very quaint and friendly as we have come to expect from this part of the world.
We were heading for a campsite on the coast near a place called Valdes. It reminded me of a brilliant 1971 Western film starring Burt Lancaster, "Valdez is Coming". Age is sometimes a useful thing. Anyway enough of the ramblings of a boring old fart..
We needed to get some bread for us and prawns for Leon (no, he is not spoiled). Finding anywhere that sells food, let alone a supermarket where we do not have to ask for each item in Spanish was proving a bit difficult. We ended up traveling a further 50km round trip for the privilege of buying food. Where do there people shop ?
Once we arrived at the camp site we were offered a pitch by the sea. It was magic and overlooked cliffs about 30m high. The next thing North was Ireland. We went to bed early (again ! - Karen wishes this man flu thing would pass quickly). Once in the roof tent we listened to the sound of waves crashing on the small beach below us.
Tuesday 9th Oct
Another admin/easy day. I was still feigning being ill and Karen was still feigning being sympathetic. We make a good couple. We got some washing done and generally had a chill out day. Hawk-eye Karen was at it again and spotted a Peregrin Falcon perched on the rocks only about 30m from Gromit. As is the norm in nature, 5 seconds before the photo could be taken, he flew off. It is truly a magnificent bird.
So, another early night and hopefully (for both of us !) I will be firing on all cylinders tomorrow.