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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Iberian Peninsular - Santander to Viveiro

The bike at Cabo Roja Portugal
 The story of the first stage of the Iberian Peninsular coastal ride. Sailing from Plymouth to arrive at Santander and then to travel the northern coast to A Coruña before turning south to head to Portugal.

Travelling through Santiago de Compastella, Vigo, Porto, Lisboa, Sines, Sagres before breaking down and pushing the bike 20 kms to Lagos where I parked the bike to return home for my sons wedding and return a week later to resume the ride

I arrived at Torquay from Leo another red supporter who lives in Bournemouth. The bike had been left at Garys for a couple of days and after a sandwich I set off in the dark for Dartmouth and an overnight stop.
Before I left I tried to tax the bike but couldn't due to DVLA not recognising the registration or the document number. I knew I would get stopped by the police for no tax but had no option but to continue. The bike was already playing up and it seemed to take forever to get the short distance to the small ferry across into Dartmouth. I was in Dartmouth last year on another ride and knew there was a good shelter there with 24 hour toilets and free showers. 4 pints of Guinness in the pub that is the location for the filming of the Onedin Line and I settled down in my 5 star shelter, only to be woken at 1 am by the police.
Are you not bothering about Road Tax they asked. Amazingly they believed my story even though they found the bike registered to me on their computer. They were so nice they even suggested I slept in the shower area as it was a cold night.
Up early to a blue sky, but yet again I broke down after fuelling up. The problems with a two stroke, with the oil in the petrol, is it seems to sink to the bottom of the tank and straight to the carb. I stripped the carb down and was off and even made it to Plymouth for 11 am for a 4.30 sailing.
It wasn´t long before I was joined by the big boys on their 1000 cc bikes. All of whom seemed quite happy talking to themselves and left me alone.

Leaving Plymouth on a beautiful day for a gentle cruise to Santander

The ferry to Santander was fantastic but sleeping rough was more comfortable than the cabin I had to have and was 50 quid cheaper. However the Bay of Biscay was astonishingly flat and a full moon out made it feel like I was on a fortnights cruise.

There was entertainment too from an Elvis tribute singer and I have to say he sounded pretty authentic , but physically only his waistline was a likeness.

There are only so many times you can walk around the deck of the ferry and I was trying to avoid spending any reserve cash on food as I was expecting to break down often on the route.

It was particurlarly agony the next morning watching everyone tuck into their full English but I soon spotted a few hash browns left overs which I sidled up to and devoured with gusto in case the people came back to the table.

Land was soon in sight and time was spent smoking the Gaulloise that I
bought at the bar and trading them for roll ups off other passengers.

Approaching Santander with the Picos de Europa just visible

It was exciting seeing Spain and knowing the ride was about to begin in earnest. I spent lots of time talking to other people who were making a dash across Spain to their holiday homes or people returning to their native home such as the lad from Lisbon who was returning to his fathers after living in Birmingham for a time.
There were other bikers too just off for a lst ride of the year around the North of Spain.
It took an eternity to arrive at Santander harbour and after returning to the bike we were the last to disembark due to being in the bowels of the boat.
But at last I had got the Derbi back on home land for a great adventure and was so excited at what may be laying in wait for us.
I eventually left the ferry at 13.30 and after stopping for tobacco in Santander and the inevitable plug failures and replacing I was underway.

The day was sunny and warm and it took a while to get out of Santander and onto the coast road. I mentioned the problems of finding the lanes rather than the motorways and today was no different. But i succeeded in the end and finished on a traffic free route along the coast towards Llanes

I was hoping to make Llanes but eventually settled for San Vincente D L Barquera, a small fishing port with a spectacular backdrop of the Picos de Europa.

My first consideration before anything else is to find an area where I can sleep for the night. Tonight was not going to be an exception no matter how spectacular the scenery in the background appeared.


You have to agree though that this is one great bedroom location. I woke here with two dogs barking at me, from a distance I add, but they were harmless and were just doing their territorial exploration for the day.

The only disadvantage to this location was that the bar was too far away and so too the toilets that I needed.

A view of the Picos de Europa from the bridge by the quay

This view I photographed the evening before and is so beautiful. It was not the original destination or route for my second days ride but as Llanes proved difficult to reach with the motorway signs I decided to venture into the mountains.

It turned out to be a masterstoke of a decision as the gorges were so deep and eerie in the morning mist that lingered in the shade of the mountains.

Breathtaking and deserted for the most part.

What a great day. Sunshine and 22 degrees, but I was changing plugs too often for my liking.
I had to skip Llanes because the signs were too vague to find the old road. It was the best thing I could have done, as I finished up on the N311 riding through the top half of the Picos de Europa.
The scenery is quite dramatic and stunning. Anyone who likes motorbikes should come here for a ride.
It is a cross between Switzerland, Wales and Spain and bathed in sunshine made it an absolute great diversion, although this morning down some of the deeper gorges, it was freezing fog that cliung to the mountain sides.
I eventually emerged in Gijon and found it too busy to be bothered stopping even the though the bike wanted too.
I did stop briefly to get two tins of Sardines as I hadn´t eaten since the ferry.
The back road to Aviles was easy but again I wasn´t too keen on Aviles so continued on to Soto de Bargo.
The back road came to an abrupt end only 1 km away.
The guy in the cafe told me it was because the road had subsided down into the valley but I would be ok if I squeezed theough the barrier. Keep to the left and I thought he said then keep right at the cross roads.
It was pitch black and having negotiated the 2 yards of remaining road on the left side I headed off pretty quickly. My headlight unfortunately was pointing upwards and I decided in time to push it down to see where I was going. A good move because the cross roads was in fact a whole section of road that was 10 feet lower than it should have been. I stopped in time and found the only passable bit which was on the right of the road. Must learn more Spanish.
The strangest thing then occurred.
The bike stalled and I was off the bike trying to restart it when two wild boar emerged out of the darkness and passed by me only two meters away. It was really scary and I couldn't get back on the bike quick enough.
.I arrived in Soto de Bargo and could quite easily have missed it as it was so small. There was only one bar and that was pretty crowded as Real were playing and was on the TV. I was tired but managed to see out the evening if only for the free tapas that was being shoved under my nose every five minutes. Just across the road was the only accomodation suitable for me. A bus shelter whos back was facing the cold wind of that night. I slept well even though the bench was barely eighteen inches wide. The beauty of finding a shelter near the bar you drink in is that it is generally open the following morning for coffee.
I left after coffee and struggled the bike out of the village/town.
After only a couple of miles it stopped and I struggled to get it going again. It was running so bad I decided to drop down to a picturesque harbour called Cudillero. A bad mistake as it was nestled quite deep in the headland and if I couldn't get the bike running properly there was no way out except up a 1 in 7 hill to the top of the headland.
I reset the timing hoping that was the problem and though it didn't cure the problem it did give me a momentum to climb back to the main road. Then it ran out of fuel, but fortunately only 1 mile away from a service station.
I fuelled up and bought two more spark plugs which seemed to improve the running so off I went, looking for a beach to take a bath in.

I found one just a short distance away and was deserted, so in I
went naked for a good scrub.

The sand on these beaches is very fine and almost like a dust and it was quite strange walking on as your feet tend to sink in a couple of inches.
This beach was Riego Arriba near San Pedro..
The road leading down to it is in a deep valley underneath the motorway.
The motorway or autovia runs across the headlands and is supported on stilts as it spans the valleys

The flyover at San Pedro
It really is a stunning piece of engineering but one can't help wondering if it had been better to tunnel and leave short stretches exposed in the ravines.

After changing I followed the old road that snakes it's way under these flyovers and approached the point where not only was the ride in danger but so too my life.
No exaggeration, I cheated death by 4 inches.
I was doing the back road to Robideo.
It runs through all the valleys of this rugged coastline.
It is for most of the time empty as the motorway skips across all the tops on enormously high flyovers.
I was heading down into a hairpin at the at the back edge of a ravine which is basically a bridge with a crash barrier edging it.
The sign said I had the right of way so I took a good line onto the bridge which was quite narrow.
Hoping to keep my momentum for the uphill bit after the bridge, I was already for sweeping round the right hander when I saw an enormous dump wagon thundering into the bridge. He took the corner with about 6 inches between his back wheel and the barrier on my side leaving me to break as hard as I could to avoid going under his back wheel.The front wheel of the bike hit the wet leaves at the side and skidded.
I eventually stopped with my front wheel under the barrier only 4 inches from a 100 foot drop. If I hadnt of stopped I would have gone over the barrier following the bike as that went under the barrier.
Give the wagon driver his due he eventually stopped on the other side and checked that I had survived. Thumbs up to him and a wave back and off we both went. I wonder, if I had gone over the side, would he have reported it.
I think I would have just carried on, as I dont think I would have ever been found, for him to face the consequences.
Although that was a close call, the road was one of the best riding roads I have travelled on for a long time.
I followed this route until I eventually arrived in Ribadeo where I landed on a bar with an attached bedroom under the arches.

Across the river from Ribadeo

The morning I woke in Ribadeo was a good feeling evrything had been going well and now I just had to get to Viveiro and be back on schedule. I went for coffee and then headed down to an internet cafe.
I got back to the bike and set off. The grey skies had melted and a strong sun was already in a clear blue sky.
I only rode for 4 kms when the bike began to struggle. I pulled in and got it running but it was poor. I tried to keep it going for another 4 kms until it wouldn't ride no more.
I pushed it to a junction just south of Foz where I was directed to a bike repairers where I bought a new plug cap and a couple of new plugs. It was part breakers and part repairs and I made a half hearted enquiry as to a new engine, but alas he didn't have any.

The bike responded to the new input so off I raced to reached Viveiro.

I travelled over the headlands and eventually arrived at the top of a headland where they were clearing trees, I presumed for the Autovia extension. The one thing it did give me was an unobstructed view over the estuary at Viveiro.

Unfortunately stopping for a picture was a bad decision as the bike only travelled a few yards before cutting out. I was left on a main route with no engine and as my lights are direct, I was invisible in the rapidly fading light.

There was only one thing to do and let the engine turn over without firing till I reached the bottom of the headland.

I stopped where I could and changed the now fouled up plug so I could ride into the town. I mistook the lights to my right as those of Viveiro but they were in fact Casanova.
Now I spent three days there not knowing whether it was called Casanova or Cerillo as the buildings signs suggested.
I still don't know to this day, but I will continue to call it Cerillo.

I arrived in front of a small beach near the port and it was warm enough for people to be sitting out chatting. I got directions to a cash point which was not operational, so had to set off for Viveiro and return to the beach where I had spotted a five star sleeping place with a bar within 20 meters.
It was also a good place to anchor up and deal with the bike as there was good cover and there was rain expected over the weekend.
The building houses the Sociedad de Pescalos (society of fishermen) Some of who I got to know over the next few days.

They told me of their trawler trips to Outer Hebrides and West and North of Ireland.

They were really nice and friendly and came by often to see how I was getting on with the bike.

The following morning the weather turned, but with the bar just across the road there was always a warm place to sit and enjoy the football, even though it was La Liga.

The area I had inhabited was also the smoking and drinking area of the kids in the area and I soon got friendly with them. They were really nice and included visiting kids from A Coruña who were staying at their Grandparents. I also got friendly with a Spanish/French guy who had lived in Switzerland for some years. He was a character who nearly blew my eardrums out when he spoke and begged more than I did. The guy offered to let me stay at his but I preferred this bedroom by the beach.
to be continued

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