A Motorcycling Tour in Spain and Portugal, April 2014

Spain and Portugal by FJR1300AS, 2014

Document start date 23th April 2014    Last updated 2nd February 2021


Day 1 (13 April 2014): Derby to Plymouth

Bike all prepared yesterday, fuelled up, tyres checked. Even checked water and oil levels, naturally perfectly ok.

Set off at about 8:20. Weather bright and sunny, temperature varied between 9C and 13C. Traffic mostly light.

I had intended to go over Dartmoor after Exeter, but in the end stuck to the main road. So, motorway or dual carriageway for virtually the whole trip. Cruise control was well used.

Tomtom says today's trip was 248 miles, averaging 64mph. Stopped at Sainsbury's in Plymouth for petrol, a quick sum says we averaged about 54mpg (UK, or 44.9mpg US).

Met up with R & J as arranged at the ferry terminal. I'd promised to lubricate R's rear brake pedal, he'd noticed it binding a week or so before and had freed it with WD40, but he is the first to admit that that is about the limit of his mechanical abilities. J supplied me with some surgical gloves (why does she carry a box of them around with her?), so I could keep my hands clean.

Removed the pinch bolt and the pedal, poured a little oil on the shaft whilst moving it in and out of its bearing, pushed the lever onto its spline to rotate the shaft too and fro. It freed up nicely, the oil ran through. Then lever back on, pinch bolt put in and tightened. That'll do it for a week or so until it can be done properly.

Man fishing
(Click on any image for larger view,
click on that for the original)
Strange wall on the shore, originally
a backdrop to an early firing range

Eventually boarded the ferry, put right to the front, so will be the last out. Such is life. As usual, I have a tiny cabin deep on the bowels, but it's clean and has a shower, which I make use of. Then I wander up to the cabin that R & J have, much superior, with a lounge area and a balcony, where I find them enjoying some wine, watching as we sail out of Plymouth.

Tomtom's summary of the day

Restaurant booked for a meal at 7:30 this evening. Food on this (French) ferry is normally very good, and we weren't disappointed.

Another biker, dining on his own, joined us, chatted about bikes, touring, life, the universe...

Afterwards, a quick drink at the bar, then bed.

Day 1: 250 miles, averaged 64mph - (mileages are approximate)
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Day 2 (14 Apr 2014): Santander to Cadavedo

Breakfast in R & J's cabin, croissants, orange juice, tea.

The ferry docked about 12:00 local time. It took a while before we could get off, several lorries had to move out before we could. One of them was leaking something fishy smelling and very slippery over the deck. I chose to turn the bike round by hand, nearly dropped it, caught it with my knee under the front faring. A couple of guys helped get it upright again, no harm done, just slightly embarrassed .

Finally got out and through immigration some time after one o'clock, but no problem. A quick stop to get gloves properly on after playing passports, then through the mêlée of Santander traffic. Later R said his Garmin wouldn't co-operate in getting out of Santanderhe way he wanted. The weather was pleasantly sunny, temperature 20 or 21, but in traffic it felt much warmer, particularly as I was still dressed for a more English climate. Got a bit better when we got onto a little bit of main road, and better still as we found some of the more interesting roads.

Interesting bridge
Misty view

Stopped once at the top of a mountain, there was a cafe there, so we had a coffee. The view was pretty good, but spoiled by haze.

Wound our way down, and joined the motorway for the last 70k. R's Garmin kept trying to turn off the motorway, in the end he ignored it, taking guidance from my Tomtom.

Finally went up some tracks to find the hotel. It looked like a converted farm, very quiet, rooms very nice. Very glad to get a shower.

Had to wait a bit before dinner, being Spain, they started serving at 8:30, but it was delicious, well worth waiting for.


Day 2: 201 miles
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Day 3 (15 April 2014): Cadavedo to Ortigueira

Pretty view
with anglers
Found an unusable car park
A lighthouse

Today was about wandering along a mostly coastal route, but full of twists and turns, rising to well over 3000 feet and down to sea level several times. Once again, astonishing views of beeches, mountains, valleys, villages on hillsides, endless.

We stopped for coffee at a cafe, while sipping it R noticed the tread patterns on our two front tyres were different. We then found that R's front tyre said BT023F, not BT023GT which was what he'd asked his garage to put on. "Thought it wasn't handling properly" he said.

Reached our hotel, greeted by a Señora who spoke very little English, but was very friendly, managed to convey that her man used to have a Kawasaki 650. Since we were very early arriving, she suggested a route to a couple of local view points that proved worth visiting. She wanted to come as well, but didn't have a helmet. One was at a lighthouse, the area reminded us of Scotland, rugged landscape, no trees, stubbly bushes. But no midges. At one point, we watched a couple of buzzards circling in an updraft, climbing higher and higher, then disappearing into the distance.

Returned to the hotel, showered, had a cool drink, discussed tomorrow's route, chilled out waiting for dinner at 9:00. They don't eat early in Spain. The meal was set and was "all right" rather than good, but filled the need.

Day 3: 228 miles
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(the day)
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(the evening)

Day 4 (16 April 2014): Ortigueira to Meano

Came the dawn ...
Afternoon sea view

Weather throughout the day was good, sunny, temperature ranging between about 17C and 23C.

We did something of a coastal run to start with, the road passing bays and beeches, sometimes we were at sea level, other times hundreds of feet above, looking from cliff tops or bridges over inlets.

Later we went inland, some of it was a bit of a drag, the road winding all the time, but with slow traffic that was mostly impossible to overtake.

We did a couple of stretches of motorway, more to release the tedium and make a bit of progress.

Eventually we went past our hotel, R's Garmin hadn't got it in the right place, so my Tomtom to the rescue, took us back and off to where the hotel was hiding. The car park was "interesting" to get to, a narrow track with a very tight hairpin. Not looking forward to getting the bike out.

Dinner tonight at 8:30. Later than I'm used to, but better than yesterday's 9:00pm dinner.

Day 4: 247 miles
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Day 5 (17 April 2014): Meano to Porto Antigo

Winding roads ...
... through the countryside
View from the hotel
View from my room

Spain to Portugal. A mixed day, started off reasonably with mountainous roads, but then we got caught up in heavy traffic on roads where overtaking was impossible. The weather didn't help, the temperature gradually rose from 14C up to 30C, and the slow pace we sometimes had meant keeping cool was impossible.

Added to that, R was (as usual) fighting his Garmin, so a bit of back-tracking, map reading and cussing occurred.

Some of the roads we encountered were paved with cobbles, the vibration added to our discomfort.

Finally made it to our hotel that's on a river, to find a dozen or so English canoeists practicing for the European games.

Day 5: 206 miles, but it seemed much more.
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Day 6 (18 April 2014): Porto Antigo to Serra da Estrela Natural Park and back

Above the cloud level
"Highest village in Portugal"
Some snow on the hills
Just enough for some skiing

Since we're staying at the same hotel tonight, we decided to do a loop, J decided to stay behind so we boys could play. We started off in a bit of a mist, temperature around 16C. We set out to go to a glacier. Well, what else do you do in Portugal?

Had some difficulty finding our way to start with, the area is just irregular mountains and valleys, and when odd roads are closed for resurfacing, it can make navigation interesting. Talking of road surfaces, many in small villages are cobbles, making for some uncomfortable riding. Surprisingly, the only things I noticed rattling were my teeth.

As we climbed, we entered cloud that was hovering, making for poor visibility. Eventually we broke through and could look down on the cloud, meanwhile we were in bright sunshine, the temperature rising to a very comfortable 20-21C.

The road climbed up to 1950 metres (6400 feet), there was some snow, enough that a ski lift was in operation and skiers were playing.

We returned back to the hotel, some of the roads very enjoyable, others not so. When there was traffic on some of the mountain roads, overtaking was sometimes difficult. Negotiating narrow, one-in-three hairpin bends bends on a cobbled surface was not really fun.

But, all told, an enjoyable day.

Day 6: 210 miles
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Day 7 (19 April 2014): Porto Antigo to Cristosende

Unfortunately, most of the day's weather was misty rain or rainy mist. R was, as usual, fighting his Garmin, it continued to frustrate him, to the point that he would occasionally put me into the lead. The weather spoilt what would have been a fantastic ride over some amazing roads, twists and turns like I've never seen before.

Some of the local driving was very strange, some locals unable to drive at more than 17 mph, others unable to drive below 70.

During a "Garmin" moment, we went down into some sort of farmyard area. Unsure how to get out, the owners assured us - using a combination of Portuguese (their language that none of us spoke), Spanish (that they knew a very few words of, I knew none, R knew some), and mostly gesticulation that the earth track beyond did, indeed, meet up with a proper road.

This is the first time this trip that I had any "moments" on the bike. One was on a very slick piece of Tarmac, I'm pretty sure there was some oil on it, a nasty little back-end slip. Another time, both ends did a little shimmy, probably some sand or gravel in the road.

Each time the bike recovered very quickly, so no harm done. I've long since given up panicking about such things, which probably helps with the recovery.

Day 7: 241 miles, felt like 2410
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Day 8 (20 April 2014): Cristosende to Serrilla

Rock bank netted against falls
A ravine we crossed

Quite cold this morning, 9 to 11 C (48 - 52 F). Roads were some of the best we've been on this trip for winding round mountains and views, some of which were amazing. One in particular was of ranges of mountains, the nearer ones were in shade, but one huge one in the distance was lit up by the sun. Couldn't stop to get a picture, by the time we could, that moment of magic had passed.

You can just make out
the bikes at the far end
of the bridge
View from the bridge.
The road is visible on
the far bank.

In one place, the road ran alongside a river in a deep cutting in the rocks, crossing from one side to the other, cut out of the stone.

Saw a few large birds, buzzards, possibly an eagle (it looked too big to be anything else), storks, a kite.

A Roman bridge
View from Roman bridge
Our hotel

We arrived at our hotel fairly early, so after a quick visit to the bar, we went on a short walk to admire a Roman bridge that the owner told us was nearby. It certainly looked genuine.

An hour after we returned, the heavens opened. Didn't care.

Day 8: 205 miles
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Day 9 (21 April 2014): Serrilla to Santander


Last day in Spain. Set off reasonably early, our ferry leaves at 3:15 in the afternoon, we need to be there an hour before. Not knowing what traffic, roadworks, weather we might encounter, we chose a fairly straightforward route, but still one of interest.

The temperature as we left the hotel was 4C, the lowest encountered on this trip, I turned on my heated vest and grips. The temperature gradually climbed to 9C for much of the journey, cooler as we went higher, and warmed to 12C or so as we got nearer Santander.

Some of the roads were through mountains, and apart from one section that was misty, views were once again fantastic. There was some traffic in places that was tricky to get by, too many twists and turns with blind corners, and often when you could see, there would be traffic coming the other way. But, overall, a good ride.

Motorway for the last section into Santander, the timing of the "nicer" route was too unpredictable.

Reached the port in plenty of time, had a coffee while waiting to board.

Finally boarded, had a shower, and could relax on a boat that was moving more than I'd ever known on this route, pitching or rolling. Calmed down during the night.

Day 9: 142 miles
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Day 10 (22 April 2014): Portsmouth to Derby

H.M.S. Warrior
H.M.S. Victory
H.M.S. Dauntless
H.M.S. Kent

Coming into Portsmouth we saw several naval ships, ancient and modern.

Ferry docked on time, but, as usual, we had to wait for seemingly hours waiting to ride off the ferry, getting very hot in our kit. Finally rode off, then surprisingly quickly through passport control, stopped to ensure passport stashed safely and gloves on properly, and a final goodbye and thanks to R & J, then off into the Portsmouth traffic.

Stopped in a local supermarket to fill with petrol, then all motorways and dual carriageways home. Traffic moderate, rarely had to drop below the speed limit, made it home in good time.

Day 10: 188 miles, averaged 61mph
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Odometer trip mileage
Tomtom trip mileage
Fuel consumption: 54.9mpg (Imperial) or 45.7mpg(US)

Total: 2158 miles (according to the bike) or 2074 (according to Tomtom).



My thanks to R and J for inviting me, and, of course, to my wife.