A Motorcycling Tour in Spain, March/April 2015

Spain by FJR1300AS

Document start date 13th April 2015    Last updated 17 Apr 2015 16:00

Contents

Day 0, 29th March: Derby to Plymouth Ferry

Set off at 8:30. It started out raining and a bit windy, a little later it dried, but got very windy. Finally it decided to be very wet and very windy. Fairly unpleasant.

One event of note. On a three-lane motorway, we were travelling at 70mph in the nearside lane. A car came down the offside lane going significantly faster, maybe 90. Passing under a bridge, he hit some standing water in the outside of his lane. The car proceeded to pirouette and swing across all three lanes of the motorway twice, ending up stopped with his nose pointing in to the central barrier. I began to slow as soon as I saw him start his dance, son following me hadn't seen him, and went by me, as did a couple of cars. I was expecting someone to run into the stationary car broadside, but finally they all noticed and slowed.

As obviously no one was hurt and he could still drive his car, I kept going. We had a ferry to catch, and no idea if we might get more hold-ups.

This was one of the less pleasant motorcycling days.

Arrived at the ferry port, in time for a coffee in the waiting area, then found that the ferry was running late because of the weather. Finally boarded. Ate in the better restaurant. Because this is a French-owned ferry, the meal was very good, though I suspect Son would have preferred faster food.

The crossing to Santander, Spain, was pretty rough. We were told there were six metre (20-foot) swells, and I have to believe this, the ferry was moving much more than I've known it in the past. Quite a bit of glass and crockery got broken in the restaurant. Sleep wasn't easy, being alternately rolled towards the cabin wall or onto the edge of the bunk.

248 miles.


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Day 1, 30th March: Santander to Salamanca

Finally we docked at Santander, got off the ferry around mid-day. The rain stopped as we rode off. Past experience suggested we would be hot getting off the ferry into Santander, but when we left Santander it would rapidly cool. Experience was wrong. It warmed more and more, until we were all removing layers. I saw 29C (84F), previously we'd never seen more than about 4C (39F) here at this time of year.

Today was all about miles, almost all motorways. Not the best way to see Spain, but a good way to get to where we wanted to be.

View from hotel over Salamanca
(Click on any image for larger view,
click on that for the original)

Finally arrived at our hotel, the Parador in Salamanca.

Had a recommendation for a place to eat in the city from the hotel reception, walked about a mile down across the valley and up the other side, and had a good meal. A taxi back (J's feet were blistered - nothing to do with biking), then a night-cap and bed.

235 miles, moving average 71mph


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Day 2, 31st March: Salamanca to Zahara de la Sierra

Overslept, my excuse was to blame my phone and time zones and the change to daylight saving. My fault really. But no big deal.

Today was also to cover more miles. Started out at 13C (53F). Perfect. But as the day wore on, the temperature climbed. That wasn't surprising, it was bright sunshine with a just few wisps of cloud for the whole day. Other years at this time it's been cold, raining, snow around, so we're all geared up for cold and rain. The temperature climbed, my gauge got up to 38C (93F) in Seville. We'd all taken layers off and linings out, but it was still hot, particularly as in the city, every hundred yards or so there were traffic lights, seemingly always at red.

When we got out of the city, the temperature dropped to a more reasonable 33C (85F). Still much hotter than I'm used to, but with a bit of air flow through my vents, relatively pleasant.

Mostly motorway, but some diversion through the odd pass. And, for the first time in Spain at this time of year, no snow.

Coffee stop rough car park
Nice warning sign

Stopped for coffee as we entered the Sierra de Gredos national park. A rough car park, but a nice road "warning" sign.

Lots of police motorcyclists around on the main roads, they seemed to be more interested in commercial vehicles than us. Just as well, in some stretches we were being somewhat generous with the speed limits (the FJR seems to start humming to itself at 90, just coming into its natural cruising speed. Errm, I must be talking about kph not mph. Yes, that must be it).


Every time we stopped, Son was asking where the snow was. Obviously wants to break his ribs or leg again. But all we saw was the odd sign.

One sign of snow
Unfinished bridge
View

Every time we stopped, Son was asking where the snow was. Obviously wants to break his ribs or leg again. But all we saw was the odd sign.

Very common in Spain at the moment, we often passed quite large projects that seem to be simply abandoned, such as this bridge.

Something to do with Spain's current economic problems.

And some nice views.


Finally arrived at our hotel where we are staying for three nights. We've stayed here before, liked the place, the people, the food and the area for riding.

Looking out of the ...
... hotel window

We were not disappointed with the food. Went went to bed early, we were all a bit tired. That heat seems to get to you.


Tomtom's statistics for today

369 miles. Average speed only 58. Tomtom's recorded maximum speed 91 (??? That must be wrong, the maximum speed limit in Spain is 130 kph or 80mph).


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Day 3, 1st April: Zahara de la Sierra loop

Didn't sleep at all last night, don't know why.

Late breakfast, we were only doing a short loop today, no need to start early. Except for the heat. For someone only used to UK weather, 29C (84F) to 33C (91F) is hot. Not so bad when riding along, but stuck in any sort of traffic, it was very uncomfortable.

Vultures rising in thermal

Saw a lot of vultures, they were using thermals and wind off the side of a mountain to climb rapidly, higher and higher. Groups of them were following one after another, perhaps three or five in each group, vanishing into the clear blue sky.

I found it very difficult to photograph. Even with my camera's eye-level viewfinder, the sun was so bright I couldn't see what I was shooting.


A basking lizard ...
... on the rocks

The odd basking wildlife, undisturbed by the shadows of its audience.


View
Vulture rising in thermal

We continued along winding roads, the bends unpredictable other than by glancing at my Tomtom's screen, but with just sufficient traffic that caution prevailed. In any case there was enough dust on the roads that cornering required caution.

And I managed a slightly better shot of a vulture.


View over valley
Village under the mountain

Fairly typical of views over a valley, with a village perched beneath the mountains.

Went past the hotel to fill with petrol, stopped on the way back to the hotel at a cafe where I had ice cream and a bottle of water. R went off to try to buy a razor. Without his lead I managed to set off in the wrong direction, back towards the petrol station instead of to the hotel, but sorted it out in the end. Must be getting tired.

Once again, a very tasty meal, a little wine, and bed.


178 miles.

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Day 4, 2nd April: Zahara de la Sierra loop

This time the temperature was just about perfect, 18C (64F) when we set off, never more than 25C (77F). Only felt uncomfortable when we got stuck in traffic, this near Tarifa, the most southerly point of all Europe. And a bit of a dump.

The route was a big loop, the return part over really great motorcycling roads, twists and turns, up and down. The only downside was the roads were very narrow and mostly completely blind corners, so a great deal of care was needed. Overtaking generally required the cooperation of the vehicle being overtaken. Most were pretty good, one or two were a pain. But it all makes it interesting.

At one point, about mid-day, looking up there must have been thirty or so buzzards circling up in a thermal, quite a sight (of course there was nowhere to stop for a photo, always a problem).

In front of hotel
In front of hotel
In front of hotel

More views from in front of the hotel.

A good meal in the evening (the hotel does have an excellent chef), then bed.


Today's route:

Click here for large map

226 miles.

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Day 5, 3rd April (Good Friday): Zahara de la Sierra to Baeza

Started quite cool, 11C (52F). Put a layer on under my jacket, but mid morning it was hotter, 25C (77F). Layer off again.

Our route was through mountainous roads, never-ending twists and turns, up and down. The roads were fairly narrow, barely enough room for two cars to pass, and often with a drop immediately at the edge of the Tarmac.

Overtaking could be difficult, restricted vision of the road ahead and the narrowness of the carriageway. Usually it required the co-operation of the car you were overtaking. Most were considerate, but one we came across appeared to be trying to work his sunroof, with both hands. On my turn, I dropped two gears, waited until he veered to the right, then got by as quickly as I could. Which was pretty quick.


Statues at mirador
Their view

We find a mirador (view point), it has a man and a boy looking out.


With interloper ...
... looking back

Son, of course, has to go up and join them.


Reached the outskirts of Baezra. A combination of roadworks and R's Garmin made finding the hotel tricky, eventually I got fed up with doing U-turns, took the lead, and let Tomtom find the way through the maze of narrow one-way streets to the hotel. Once there, we were directed to their underground car-park.

Today is Easter Friday. The town is all geared up for religious parades. This gave us something to watch while we waited for the restaurant to open at 8:30 (this is real Spain, even 8:30 is considered early).


Parade
Parade
Parade
Parade

I am assured these guys (and dolls) are not Ku Klux Klan, nor are they from the Spanish Inquisition (unexpected or not).

I think they like doing these parades for their own sake, religion seems to be just an excuse.


Straight to bed after the meal, we are all tired.

Today's route:

Click here for large map

233 miles

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Day 6, 4th April: Baezra to Cuenca

More beautiful roads and scenery. R really knows how to pick a good route.


And some smaller wildlife.

Some small birds

Looking up to the footbridge
Looking up to the footbridge
Looking up to the footbridge

As we neared Cuenca, R and J went straight to our hotel, I led Son to see (and cross) a footbridge over a gorge, and some houses with balconies hanging over a drop of several hundred feet.


Houses at the top ...
... with overhanging balconies

As we neared Cuenca, R and J went straight to our hotel, I led Son to see (and cross) a footbridge over a gorge, and some houses with balconies hanging over a drop of several hundred feet.


Parador de Cuenca

The Parador de Cuenca, also on the edge (I've stayed here before, but not this trip).


Bikes parked ...
... down there

The bikes are parked on the low road behind the trees. The road to the left climbs up to the top of the gorge, it was grid-locked as we walked up and returned down it. (Unfortunately, my camera focused on the trees, not on the bikes; I was too anxious to get off the bridge to ensure a good picture!)


Worst view of the trip

The hotel we stayed at was poor. It was a new build on an industrial site, no proper restaurant, and not in walking distance of the town. This was due to the hotel we had originally booked cancelling our booking, we had to take what we could get.


Today's route:

Click here for large map

257 miles.

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Day 7, 5th April: Cuenca to Santo Domingo de La Calzada

Again, good weather, good roads, good scenery. Boring to describe, beautiful to ride.


Son is happy ...
... having found snow
Hornet beside the snow
All three bikes by the snow

We pass a ski resort, Son finds his snow.

Even here, the air temperature was never below about 13C (55F), mostly 18C (64F).


Today's route:

Click here for large map

264 miles


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Day 8, 6th April: Santo Domingo de La Calzada to Santander Ferry terminal

Since we had a ferry to catch, we didn't stop for many pictures. The sky was absolutely clear, it got quite warm, but while we kept moving it was great riding.

First thing in the morning, a little misty, later absolutely clear.


For once the ferry wasn't very busy, we had a very easy parking spot on the car deck instead of the usual poky position in front of trucks and beside the loading ramp - many a bike has been dropped getting out of there. This time it was easy.

134 miles.


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Day 9, 7th April: Portsmouth to Derby

Fort

As the ferry comes in to Portsmouth, we pass some of the history, forts that were built in the 1860s.


HMS Bristol, a training ship
HMS Illustrious,
a small aircraft carrier

Portsmouth is one of the Royal Navy's docks. The navy is much smaller than it used to be, but it still has some potent weaponry.


After disembarking the ferry, we pass through customs (the bikes are waved through past lines of cars and caravans, probably because it's difficult to hide an illegal immigrant in a bike), but at passport control we are required to remove helmets while they check the passports. The bad part of this is that we immediately come to some traffic lights that send us straight onto the motorway. There is nowhere to stop to stow passports securely and sort out helmets and gloves; if you stop in the restricted area you get shouted at. So, I get shouted at, but I am not setting out on a 100-odd mile first leg of motorways without being dressed properly.

The trip back home is uneventful, almost all motorway. The advantage of travelling by bike is shown when we came to the A446 between the M42 and the A38. This is single carriageway. A queue of cars and lorries, several miles long (we hit this area during the evening rush-hour). Son and I simply rode down the outside of the queue, legally I might add, even though much of it was over a hashed area between the opposing traffic lines.

Finally get home a little after 7 in the evening, greet my better half, she’s walking pretty well considering her hip was replaced only 4 weeks ago.

214 miles, averaging 59 mph.


Total trip mileage

Total mileage: 2413.9 (according to the bike's trip).


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Thanks

I have many people to thank.


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Links