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Old 07-22-2012, 10:22 AM   #1
markie_wales OP
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Nov 2005
Location: Hampshire, UK
Oddometer: 940
KTM 950 SE and BMW 800GS do Spain off road

Doing Spain, A.K.A. “I think it was that one back there” A.K.A. ITIWTOBT

As is the way in Chateaux Wales, I get to go and play motorbikes once a year with my mate. This year we had some tracks[1], Road Books and trails we have found on maps etc I’ll be honest and admit part of this write up it to capture my memories, so if it drags on a bit, tough, just skip to the photos.

We took the ferry down to Bilbao which got us in on the Saturday afternoon about 6:00ish by the time we got off the boat. One of the trails we had starts within the Bilbao area, so we had a cunning plan to start on that do some trails that afternoon and duck off the trail once we were near Miranda de Ebro.

Well our plan started well…… my mate filled up with petrol about a mile from the start of the trail, and off we headed into the hills/mountains. I had tracks displayed on the zumo 660 rather than having a route to follow, so unless I was keeping a good eye on the z660 it was easy to miss a turn, or when off road, “guess” the track went one way, when in fact it didn’t. I won’t go into to details on how many times this happened, but it was a lot. As we were riding up the tarmac to the first trail, there was an M3 BMW towing an MX bike on a trailer, so we thought ”this looks promising!”, he let us past, and we ITIWTOBT – doh! Turn round and catch him up again. We were now on a very easy trail but there was no where for him to let us past so we stuck behind for a mile or two until he gets to his hotel on the track! Once we were past the tails were great, tree lined, easy riding (for the most part) and very pretty.

One of the times we ITIWTOBT my mate dropped his bike turning round on some grass. After I helped him pick it up, I went back to my bike and a bloke appeared from no where and tried to help my mate who hadn’t got it turned round quite right. I could read his mind going “please bugger off and leave me alone, do you know how embarrassed I am I dropped it?” – I was pi**ing myself in my helmet. The trail we missed was very steep off the small lane we were on. I went up first and did the first section OK, but after a right hand turn ended up going into a rain run-off/gully on the left of the track and dropped my bike at 0 – 5 mph. One drop each with 5 mins of each other, on day 1 – this was not boding well, but was a blip only.

After an hour or so the trail came down to a motorway with a small gravel service road. “OK let’s follow that as the track does that way”. Well very soon it pretty much ended and we had to push through some small scrub to follow the trail and it got narrower and narrower. The trail was always there but clearly not used much. Not unsurprisingly fallen trees don’t get cleared! The picture does not really show it, but the vegetation in front of the tree covers up a “dip” that would put the log at chest height, so we had to wriggle round on the right hand side.

The trials did not get any wider/easier, and it started to rain, time was ticking on and it wasn’t getting any lighter, so once we hit tarmac we decided to skip onto the motorway we’d come across earlier, water proofs on, and blat down to Miranda de Ebro. Odd town, we came in from the North and I was not that impressed. The view out of the Hotel window didn’t improve things. We wandered into where we thought the centre of town was, and fair play, it turned into a great place. Loads of bars, café’s restaurants etc I wish I could remember where we ate (a bar) as they did burgers, in S, M, L Xl, and XXL sizes. Trust me you don’t need anything bigger than an “L” :)

Next day, hangover free, we brought the bikes round to the front of the hotel to pack up. I left all my stuff on the bike and popped over the road to a petrol station to pick up some water for the day for my mate and I, and off we set, the trail being only a couple of miles from the hotel. These were much easier trails, more arid, wider and the scenery was great. As the day wore on the trail changed from wide open (what I expect) US Prairies to be like to steep semi-mountainous climbs and drops. The pictures below are typical of what went on for miles and miles, so different to the shorter lanes we get in the south of England. There were not that many water crossings this trip either.

By mid afternoon we fancied some lunch and a petrol top up, we rode down some great tracks into Nájera and topped up with petrol in a place that had a restaurant behind. I ALWAYS keep my wallet in my jacket. Front pocket on the left. Always. After filling up I reached down and the zip was open and the pocket was empty. There are no words to describe what I felt. My mate bunged me 50 euro to pay for petrol and very calmly said ”let’s park up behind the petrol station and think this through”. So what do we do? Ride back on the trails we had ridden (70 miles??) and hope we get lucky? The only place I’d used it was in the petrol station that morning for water – do we ride back there? “Anywhere else it could be?” “No, I only ever keep it in this pocket”. As I patted my other pockets to show it, I found my trouser pocket unzipped as well. I must have had the wallet in there when I got water – and bugger me if my wallet wasn’t in there. From the depths of despair to my holiday being back on track within 5 mins! 50 euro back to my mate and off we set again!

Lots more off road that afternoon and we also came across this fortress on top of a rock – very cool!

That night we ended up in Arnedo and watch and the Euro 2012 final (Spain vs Italy) in a little bar. I was thinking of wearing and England t-shirt I had, as if Spain won, it’d be fun, but thought if they lost, I didn’t want to stand out, so bottled it and wore a non England one. I shouldn’t have worried, Beer and tapas all night, with 2 guys and 3 girls, the sound of fire crackers in the street when Spain scored, and the place erupting when the final whistle went at 4-0 to Spain. Hugs and kisses from the (now) drunk girls as we left, cars hooting horns, and flags waving – what a great place.

My some miracle, with no hangover the next day, we headed out on “more of the same” trails until we hit Tudela where we had a small lunch in one of the squares, I wouldn’t mention it but the “moving scenery” was rather pretty :). After Tudela the landscape changed into much more desert like conditions. We saw quite a few of these types of ancient dwellings in this area, but this is the only decent picture I got of them. Never bothered going up to look inside – probably should have done though. Oh and don’t try and turn round after a ITIWTOBT down the side of a vineyard / vine field as you’ll sink about 4 to 6 inches into the soil and it’s a bugger to get out in the heat.


North of Tudela we had a ~55 mile loop we had mapped out, but it soon became apparent it was motorway style dirt roads, and not really what we had come for. This picture was taken at the end of the week in the same area, but goes to show why we needed a change of plan.

Our change of plan meant we were going to cut through the loop and take a short cut to the other side of what (we assumed) was going to be the same sort of road the other side of the loop. We were half wrong but more of that later. So onto this quick, 5 or 6 miles cut through. And a great place to ride.

Easy right? Err no, not really. It started off easy enough with a few photo opportunity areas, but as we were climbing out of one valley we came across the wash out below. Very hard to capture it in pictures, but it ran completely across the trail, and the wash out you can see could virtually swallow a bike, and the gaps across were a few feet wide. OK, we’re cool, hard core Adventure types right? Well not really but there was a way to back track a little ride down the edge of the “pass”, and ride back up – without too much drama.

With a feeling of “Adventure Conquered” we managed about another ½ mile before coming to this. Again really hard to understand from a picture, but the gap extends all the way down to the dark area to the left of the bush, and even looking back down the valley there was no real way to cross. After looking at it, walking around, rubbing our chins, having a drink of water, we decided we were so far from anywhere it really wasn’t going to happen, and started back tracing to the main “motorway” trail.

Past some cracking scenery again, when my mate decided that the small puddle would be a giggle to ride through. I on the other hand was taking a wider route through this little bit of scrub land. Well the inevitable happened and after picking it up and having some water and a bit of a rest, I have to admit the bottom of the puddle was very slippery. He claims there were frogs in it and was trying to avoid them, and spent 10 mins trying to take pictures of them – even if this is true, buggered if I’m going to admit it!!

On a slightly more serious note, his should to a bit of a whack, so we bimbled back to the “motorway” track, and back to tarmac. At a petrol stop we decided it was better to give his shoulder a rest and headed on the road to Zaragoza for the night. If you’ve never stayed there, I thoroughly recommend it – lovely, friendly, small city with loads of great restaurants and bars. I won’t go into details, but an incident that night means my mate is probably banned for life from the city :) Mate, if you are reading this a few beers will seal my lips for life!!

After a slightly groggy start the trail we were going to take was only about 10 miles form the hotel, but it was soon very apparent that we were in desert proper. Dust which had been less of an issue until today meant we needed to stay a reasonable distance apart and some times if I was following would just have to stop for a minute or two and start off again to give myself a chance to a) see the trail, b) breathe. Mind you, it was easy to see which fork the lead person was taking….. The landscape was very Luna albeit with irrigation meaning there was an amount of farming going on, it was also getting hot, and coming over a rise I saw a tree, the first for miles in the distance – perhaps a mile or two off, and said to my mate I’d stop there for arrest and some water. We’ll this scenery is very deceptive and by the time we got there, the shade wasn’t all it could be. That bush on the right is it – it really is not the place to get stuck.

At some point today (I really forget when/where) the trail became decidedly less well used and soon we were climbing a steep, rutted, stepped, rock strewn rise (is that enough Formula 1 excuses??) when again at lowish speed I dumped it on the climb. No damage to me or the bike, but annoying all the same. My mate didn’t even take a picture – sheesh, you just can’t trust anyone nowadays can you?

More miles of easier trails, getting stuck behind a tractor that was kicking up more dust than you would believe, and running parallel to a high speed rail track and it was time for lunch. Much water and café con leche later, we hit the trails again heading towards Huesca. I was getting lulled into the rhythm of the trail by now, the land was undulating, surface was variable but generally easy going, and the scenery was like the photo above. “hummm what’s that burnt tree branch doing half across the trail?”. Anyway it was at the top of a rise, so thought I’d better slow down. Just over the top there was a wash out big enough to take a small bike, and a very steep descent. Luckily I had stopped, as if the branch hadn’t been there I’d have either been in the wash out (and hurt) or hurtling down the descent where you needed to cross an easier bit of the washout or got into more trouble. As ever, the video doesn’t really show the size of the wash out or steepness of the drop. Thank you who ever you were you put the branch there – I owe you one.

Once we reached Huesca and filled up with petrol we decided we’d head to the Pyrenees south of Andorra where we had a couple of road book days to do.

Hitting the first part of the road book the next day took us over the Coll de Jovell (I think it was called) over some pretty rough tracks that got tiring pretty quickly, but the views and trail was fantastic.

The next section after lunch is now closed as it runs through one of the National Parks, so a back track and picked it up further along where it ran along side the NP. Again the riding was very rough so quite tiring, but fantastic views and it felt like we were miles from anywhere in the forest.

Mark trying for an arty shot at a picnic stop near the end of the trail.

Thursday opened to rain, with more forecast for the day, so a plan was quickly agreed to forget the trails and head back to Zaragoza, even though my mate is probably banned. The day went:

- Ride in torrential rain for 30 mins
- Sun comes out and temps sore – need to remove water proofs to avoid “boil in the bag”
- ride for 30 mins
- Torrential rain starts – don waterproofs
- repeat for one day

Zaragoza didn’t disappoint with our best and most expensive meal of the holiday of sea food starters (razor clams and the like) and a cracking steak for main, nice bottle of wine and as it’d been an easy (although wet) day on the bikes, we were in good form and not too knackered.

Waking up to a sunny day and clear skies we hit the trail before leaving Zaragoza – always odd to be riding off road behind industrial units! Lost of missed turns on the trail, and some of the rides up over the passes were hard work, with one particular descent being large loose rocks over 1 or 2 foot rock step drops. Not sure if I wanted the ABS on my mates GS or not!

Following the trail we missed the turn off (ITIWTOBT) as it really was not much of a trail but hay-ho what could possibly go wrong? It soon became clear that this “trail” was becoming more of a foot path. I leave my mirror / lever mounts slightly loose so if I hit anything or come off they spin rather than break, and quite a few times the path pushed through trees and my levers/mirrors were all over the place. My mate has his solid, and the inevitable happened and a tree branch had him off. It was too narrow / hot to bother with a picture initially, but I took this of the back of my bike, which was probably the widest / most open part of the 3 (?) mile trail. Not recommended!

My mate pulled ahead of me a bit on this trail as there were rocky sections/steps and we needed to give each other space, but right at the end of the trail he dropped it again, trying to climb out of the (what I shall now call) path onto the main trail. The picture does not show the steepness of the exit, but it basically goes up to the left behind that bush, and those rocks were a real pain. My legs are somewhat longer than his so rode both bikes out. Not an easy path by any means, but a giggle in hindsight I suppose. Big rest and lots of water afterwards on the main trail!

After this we were pretty much done in for the day, and really wanted a hotel, a shower and a beer. Thing was the main trail went on for ages, and got hard work with a “wash board” surface which got rid of all those pesky loose teeth and fillings. Checking the track I think it was about 22 miles before we finally hit tarmac. To be fair the trail climbed up onto a ridge with some wind turbines over looking a beautiful valley, and any other time would have been great.

Waking up in Tudela, this was the last day of the trip before hitting the Bilbao ferry that night. We were not that far from the “motorway” loop (as we thought) and decided a nice easy ride round the whole loop on an easy trail was the way to go on our last day. Best laid plans eh? We needed to run the loop in reverse and the moment we turned off the tarmac realised that this 55 mile loop was NOT motorway all the way round. A few pictures from this loop.

How the hell did they build that up there???

Amazing scenery, and rock formations.

We also came across the other end of the short cut / cut through and tried the route from the other side. We rode into a canyon that looked like the Indians were going to attack the cowboys – amazing landscape. Before we got to the other side of the major wash out that turned us back, my mate dropped it again riding up to a smaller wash out. At this point we decided that as it was the last day, we shouldn’t be taking on anything too dodgy in case we broke a bike or a person, and went back to the main trail via Cowboy Canyon, which was back to motorway standards. Not before the camera came out again.

After a while we ended up riding along (what I believe was) an irrigation channel. Fast riding but the surface was rough and hard which shook the hell out of my mate who was carrying a few aches by now.

A stop for a coffee early afternoon and we decided the trail riding was over. We had a good few hours to get back to the ferry so took the back roads to the Marqués de Riscal vine yard in Elciego which has a fantastic looking hotel attached (think Guggenheim museum in Bilbao), and picked up a few bottles. Just north of there, the road goes up over a high ridge and great roads down the other side. After a while we just hit the auto route back to Bilbao. We were done in after a week of riding the trails all day, every day.

Ferry back is long and boring but seeing Andy Murray in the final passed some time. Getting off the ferry the checker board type surface was wet just as I changed up a gear, and the back stepped out a looooong way. Luckily I was standing up and caught it, but that would not have been a good end to the trip - and the embarrassment of dumping it on the ferry would have meant I’d have had to have become a hermit! The M27 / M3 home were much calmer, time to listen to some music and look forward to getting home.

Mileage – 1327
SE drops - 2
800GS drops – 5 (I think)
Frogs killed / injured - 0
Missed trail turnings – countless
Damaged people / bikes – 0
Giggles - countless



[1] Some from Ata on Advrider’s wikiloc page
- "Dad, when I grow up I want to ride motorbikes like you do." -------- "Son, you can't do both."
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Old 07-31-2012, 12:18 PM   #2
Big Daddy D
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nice one! Thanks for the story and many pictures.
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Old 08-01-2012, 01:19 AM   #3
markie_wales OP
Studly Adventurer
Joined: Nov 2005
Location: Hampshire, UK
Oddometer: 940
Originally Posted by Big Daddy D View Post
nice one! Thanks for the story and many pictures.
Thanks Big D - it's amazing to see some of the scenery we went through on main land western Europe!


- "Dad, when I grow up I want to ride motorbikes like you do." -------- "Son, you can't do both."
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Old 08-01-2012, 05:40 AM   #4
CA Stu
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Nice report
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