An educative journey to Spain and Portugal, partly offroad

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by FlameDance, Jan 22, 2012.

  1. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    Each spanish town has some days of festivities, in bigger towns it lasts for one or even two weeks: La Feria. It's always in the same week each year per town but each town has its own date. During La Feria everyone is partying, often very traditionally. In Almería, where I lived for many years, business almost comes to a halt. I guess you can party all year, following the Feria from town to town.

    Ten years ago I experienced it in Salamanca: Hot September days, lush evenings. As Salamanca imagines itself as one of the most intellectual towns the Feria is (apart from partying) a cultural event. Salamancas famous Plaza Mayor offered the main scenery: The town administration erected a huge stage with room enough for a whole orchestra and invited musicians of various different styles to play, at least one concert each evening for a period of two terrific weeks. To me the most memorable concert was a band that played a weird mixture of Flamenco, Jazzrock and Indian Music. Sadly I forgot its name. That concert wasn't to everyone liking, many people left the Plaza Mayor early, and indeed it required great openness to unusual music. Nonetheless nobody was unhappy, they would just came back tomorrow to listen to something that would pose as the spanish equivalent to french chancons.

    In May 2007 I learned that Salamanca has another festival with a very similar setup, the Fiesta de los Libros: The Book Festival. A big stage again, accompanied by a fair of roughly 20 bookshop stalls, where everyone would browse and buy any kind of printed things. The concerts offered a similar broad range of styles, and when on one evening they performed a concert unwelcome to my taste, there were enough alternatives in the surrounding bars and university buildings.

    So my second week was a pleasant mixture of learning and going to concerts.
    #41
  2. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    On my second weekend trip I went south. Ten years ago we had taken the bus, another student and I, heading south and then hiking into the mountains. Being filled to the top with culture due to the Feria de los Libros, feeling a bit weak due to a slight cold, I skipped my offroading plans and the festival in Portugal too (remember the pic of the rehearsing band)? Instead I went to see if I'd find the same places again and the same hotel.

    Salamanca is situated on a small hill in the middle of a vast plain. The region lives on agronomics (think jamon and Pata Negra), the city on the university and its students. The landscape is slightly rolling but you have absolutely no sense of climbing significantly, nonetheless after 70km you've reached 1200m above see level after starting next to Salamanca at 800m. As long as summer hasn't arrived yet it is relatively cold.

    My first impression of a charming village I found ten years ago was that it seemed to be at war. Usually protesters want to stop industry and instead preserve nature - here it was the opposite:

    [​IMG]

    Formerly the region thrived on creating clothing, a successful craftspeople economy, small factories too. However, as is the case with many low tech industries, they couldn't compete with asian concurrents and prices. From wealthy the region declined to poor within few decades. In creating a ski resort some of the people see an escape route from poverty, strongly opposing a nature park that was about to be established.

    Learning and doing some homework was on my agenda. You may remember I wrote about feeling uneasy with my accommodation in Salamanca. When I saw a sign pointing to a "Zona Recreativa" I checked it out ...

    [​IMG]

    ... and soon opened my open air bureau

    [​IMG]

    where I stayed for 6 hours, in the company of cows.

    [​IMG]

    Even here, roughly 200km southeast of the previous weekend, I found similar rocks as in Portugal:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Another highlight was this artistic junk yard:

    [​IMG]

    On the way back home a small but very straightroad - quite unusual in Europe:

    [​IMG]
    #42
  3. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    A couple of impressions from Salamanca. You may have seen Salamanca and its Plaza Mayor in the 2008 movie "Vantage Point" ("8 Blickwinkel" in german).

    During a concert ...

    [​IMG]

    and after the stage has been ripped apart:

    [​IMG]

    My bike in a bike parking lot next to Plaza Mayor:

    [​IMG]

    Early morning when I went down from my room to buy the latest issue of "El Pais" the newspaper kiosk owner warned me to park my bike somewhere else: Big commotion, President Zapatero would come to speak and the police would clear away all cars in my street to make room for the presidents caravan. Including my bike. Funny, many people aready knew me ... neighbours, shop keepers, the police too .. whenever I passed those motorbike policemen that had shown me the KTM dealer on my first day they waved at me. Did I mention I like Salamanca?

    Well ... except my fellow students. They seemed to have decided that I am too old to be considered their fellow. I tried to talk a few into accompanying me on my next weekend trip, one girl even had bikers clothes and a helmet as her father had dropped her off during his motorbike holiday ... to no avail, nobody would come along. Their loss, I believe, not mine: The next weekend turned out to be a great trip.
    #43
  4. auguzt

    auguzt get on with it

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2010
    Oddometer:
    494
    Location:
    NW Italy, in the vineyard
    Thank you for sharing, that seems like a fantastic trip in the Iberian peninsula! Please go on with your RR! Now I am really curious about what happened next!:ear
    #44
  5. shimazaki

    shimazaki Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    Oddometer:
    60
    Location:
    Angola
    I'm in for this RR,

    beatiful pictures from Trás os Montes :thumb

    keep it coming
    #45
  6. Flachlandtiroler

    Flachlandtiroler sincere amateur

    Joined:
    May 5, 2009
    Oddometer:
    219
    Location:
    Cloggyland
    I like your writing style, great pics too!
    :lurk
    #46
  7. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    Sorry for not posting anything in over a month ... a very sad month mourning a close friend, prospective adventure rider companion - and hoped-to-be future girlfriend. As a sign of pulling my act together I'll continue posting my RR.

    Follow me to Portugal again. I had intended to visit Galicia (the northwestern region of spain) on my last weekend but while leaving Salamanca on friday afternoon, I changed my plans on the spot. Galicia I could still visit on the way home, but I wouldn't see Portugal again in a long time if I skipped going back now. Two weeks ago two british riders had given me instructions on finding a beautiful camping ground in the Serra da Estrela, a beautiful mountain range turned into a nature park. Using Google Earth I had established an idea of its exact location and created a map in my mind how to get there. Actually it turned out to be not overly complicated, the supposedly "offroad" part of the ride turned out to be perfectly smooth gravel of the best quality. My effort was rewarded by finding this beautiful and almost empty site where I stayed for two nights:

    [​IMG]

    Few people we were, only two couples and I. One of the couples were two german women in a motor home, accompanied by two huge black dogs. I chatted them up and we spent the evening together trading travel stories and dining.

    [​IMG]

    I spent a wonderful morning nearby, idyllic, isn't it?

    [​IMG]

    Early afternoon the place became crowded though: A huge flock of natives conquered the place and turned our idyllic, lonesome beauty into a grill party bustling with activity, completely oblivious to the idea they might disturb someones peace. All the nightly visitors fled soon, I left my tent behind and packed only some learning stuff.

    The whole area is packed with beauty, I discovered on my rounds over the mountaineous area. A waterfall had created a small pond, ...

    [​IMG]

    ... bushes of many kinds and colours were boasting, ...

    [​IMG]

    ... empty houses gave a somewhat forlorn, yet not entirely deserted impression.

    [​IMG]
    #47
  8. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    After two hours of cruising I decided it was time to look for a quiet and nice location void of people to continue learning. This way ...

    [​IMG]

    ... led to a deadend of similar beauty ...

    [​IMG]

    ... where I set up camp, picked up my books and started to continue on my spanish education. My learning vacation in Salamanca was closing in to its final stage: Only three days left before the exams before my departure. Ten years ago I had surprised myself and everyone in the classes, even the teachers, by scoring near perfect grades and I wasn't convinced at all I'd even come close to that this time.

    After maybe an hour two cars passed me, a 4x4 and a rattling old R4, going beyond the deadend. I looked at them nervously, having hoped for solitude and not being sure if I was even allowed to be here, in the middle of a nature parc. Behind some bushes they too set up camp and busied themselves building a makeshift table on the back of the 4x4. While reading on and memorizing intricacies of spanish grammar that even today I still haven't fully understood (which tempi can you combine under which circumstances in the same sentence?) I glanced over to them from time to time.

    They waved at me to join them after another hour. At first I ignored, then declined, wanting to grasp my especially tricky subject. However they insisted, waving again and again ... well, four of the five men, one of them seemed to have controversial ideas. Finally I got up and strolled over to the gang, curiously and, admittedly, a bit shyly. Turned out they were five men in their fifties having a feast, their "table" was loaded with delicacies created by their wives. I was handed a plastic chalice with sparkling wine which was replenished whenever I had taken a sip. Conversation was difficult, they only spoke portuguese which I can read a bit but spoken language seems incomprehensible to me. Lots of sign language, laughter, bits of other languages (spanish, english, french and german) happily mixed into communication scraps, they explained to me that today was a special holiday for men (or something), that all these bowls had to be eaten and that they invited/expected me to help draining them.

    [​IMG]

    Too bad I didn't shoot a picture of the feast. You have to go by my words: Bread as basis, various dried and roasted meats, sparkling wine, the most aromatic sheep cheese of my life, tasting strong and mild simultaneously, hardly describable, more sparkling wine, goat cheese, another cup of sparkling wine, marinated duck heads (appearing a bit weird to me but extremely tasty), vino tinto verde (young wine made from prematurely harvested grapes) and in between lots of that godly sheep cheese. Everything casera, home made, no, you cannot buy that quality.

    On my way back to the camp site I encountered this split rock ... I wonder what power struck it to fall apart:

    [​IMG]

    Sunday started rainy. I stayed in my tent, learning. The rain increased to a rain storm until around noon it paused. I packed up, letting the tent stand until the very last moment - good move as just in that instant the rain continued. Books out again.
    The next pause I used to pack up quickly and left the area. Eastwards over the mountains, trying to evade the heaviest clouds ...

    [​IMG]

    ... until after a while the tank light forced me to leave the beautiful Serra da Estrela to look for an open gas station.

    After a long worrysome stretch of no village and then villages without fuel I was lucky to find one on the last drops. Soon I hightailed it back home to Salamanca, full throttle, until the rain storm hit me again. The drops fell so hard I felt them painfully through my leather gloves. In the evening the TV presented images of weather carnage.

    So this was my last weekend. Already on friday I had said farewell to the guest family, worn out by little sleep and disinterested miscommunication. Due to the weather I took a hotel and steeled myself for the final class days and exams.
    #48
  9. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    The last days in Salamanca were filled with course centric activities. Preparations for the exams, a word of advice with the teachers which my grammar teacher turned into a profitable you-still-have-to-understand-this lesson. Exams, written and oral. Another near perfect certificate of having understood something.

    One last night of sleep, I wanted to get up early morning and head towards Galicia. Rain instead, unrelenting, and Galicia is known for even more rain. My attempt to wait for the rain to cease worked out, reading a spanish book and listening to freshly bought spanish music it wasn't boring at all. But it had become late afternoon before I had stuffed now unneeded baggage (books, spanish material, clothes, climbing gear, computer games, e.g. Halflife2 in spanish, for practice) into a cardboard box, handed it over to the post office, bought some small presents and finally hit the road. Bored by the Autovia I opted for a gravel road next to it ... until this seemingly harmless puddle swashed right over the windshield into my lap. Brrrr.

    [​IMG]

    Wet and cold I followed the Autovia for a couple hundred km until darkness fell, temperatures dropping even more. Damn it, it's supposed to be hot and arid around here! Sheltered in my tent, I survived the night somehow.

    In the next morning a little sightseeing turned into a climbing expedition when I accidently dropped my bikes keys from a vantage point. No key, no riding home, so I had to reclaim it. Marking the spot by strategically placing the helmet on the wall, climbing down about 5m I soon found it, Lady Luck helped me again to recover from bad luck. She always does that to me.

    These guys know about bad luck too ... Boy, we're waiting for you!

    [​IMG]

    On small but well paved roads I follow a valley and then up into the mountains. On top of a pass I see two girls with bicycles packed for a journey - my respect to them! That must've been a tough ascend. Heading down the path into the next valley there's a beautiful barrier lake - but somethings feels wrong here, melancholic, sad even. As if too much has drowned in the lake. The villages next to it give an impression of neglect, farm animals all over the place, the streets littered with rocks, sheep, cows, hens, pigs, you name it.

    I attempted to cross the mountains on paths that weren't marked on my map ... with a sport enduro I might have been able to continue further upwards, not so riding a heavily packed travel enduro. The image looks easily ridable but a few meters further up the broad path turned into something that a goat might like.

    [​IMG]

    What would you say if you were headed here to have a big family reunion like those people I met in Portugal and found the place used otherwise? Well, at least the grill is not far from the meat.

    [​IMG]

    Thus came a long riding day to a peaceful end, time to sleep. Void of an open public camp site I grab the oportunity for camping out in the wilderness all by myself, tent and bike camouflaged among trees and bushes:

    [​IMG]
    #49
  10. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,296
    Location:
    Bilbao, close to the fu****ng Guggenheim
    :lurk
    #50
  11. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    Oddometer:
    399
    Location:
    Basel, Switzerland
    Enjoying this very much! You seem to be good at finding inspiringly beautiful and colourful spots. :norton
    #51
  12. Abraxas

    Abraxas The last one

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Oddometer:
    78
    Location:
    Spain
    Hey, great you have been discovering and enjoying our country.

    For anyone thinking on following his steps, you should know most of the trails he rode are forbidden for motorbikes. Saddly, off road riding (almost everything but tarmac) is out of law in most of Spain. Lucky you did not find any "SEPRONA" agent.

    By the way, have you got any of those tracks? :dood:d
    #52
  13. hookeniggy

    hookeniggy Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    532
    Location:
    Almeria - Bilbao
    Lovely report, but uh what do you mean, off road riding is not legal anymore in Spain?
    Are you serious?:ear
    #53
  14. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,296
    Location:
    Bilbao, close to the fu****ng Guggenheim
    well......... it depends
    some areas ain´t possible like Madrid

    depends on the enforcement of rural enviroment access law and as each province applies especially from June to October, but especially for enduro/cross bikes, and big groups
    I have crossed the peninsula several times in different seasons and have never had any problems, including the bivouac, especially in the provinces of Castilla, with lots of land and few people, but we use to be two or three bikes only
    #54
  15. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    Thanks for the praise! Yes, indeed I consider finding beautiful spots as one of my talents. :) It takes a while, you'd need patience if you'd travel with me but you'd be well rewarded.


    :eek1 I thought it depends on the province and if you're in a nature park and if the track is broad enough for a 4x4?
    I've looked up http://www.seprona.es only to find that my spanish is not sufficient to understand if they are in favour of our sport and style of traveling or on the contrary are our enemies. They seem to be a section of the Guardia Civil?

    Nope, sorry. I didn't have a GPS back then. You'd have to go by the sketchy descriptions written above.
    #55
  16. ata

    ata expat in the jungle

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,296
    Location:
    Bilbao, close to the fu****ng Guggenheim
    yes, they are a part of GC,translated as Nature Protection Service

    here's a law that regulates the movement of motor vehicles off the roads, is extensive and complicated as any law, difficult to explain and translate.

    But except for protected areas, the law provides for access on some terms that must be respected, small groups, limited speed and of course, absolute prohibition of leaving the tracks(single or double) and trails.

    In summer and part of spring and autumn, many areas under high risk to fire are supposed to be within protected areas.

    In short, if you drive in small groups with legal bike (lights, mirrors, insurance etc), never leave the track, you should not have any problems.

    if you have an accident in the middle of nowhere is the SEPRONA who's going to rescue you

    and also to avoid this type of offenses which occurred on in March:

    Seprona intercepts a illegal sporting event for off-road vehicles in Zaragoza Organized by a French company which involved 15 vehicles.
    The Seprona proceeded to request the necessary authorization to enter into this type of event, facilitating the organizer's application for authorization and motor vehicle circulation through mountains of public utility, response of the Government of Aragon, Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, map test schedule and list of participants.
    The officers looked at the roadmap of the test, noting that, besides being in a Special Protection, vehicles had also been circulated by a Special Protection Area for Birds and cattle trails classified as Cañada Real

    (Google translator, sorry, i´m in a hurry now:D)
    #56
  17. japslap

    japslap Japslap

    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    141
    Location:
    Not so Great Britain
    Its 4.30am here in the UK with thick fog outside,the ships in the Thames Estuary are sounding their foghorns,im filled with Flu sitting on my sofa reading your RR.Thanks fella for warming me up,your fantastic photos and interesting desciptions have taken me to those places with you,i hope that you continue and wondered if now in 2012 you still explore as you did back then...
    #57
  18. slowpoke69

    slowpoke69 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2010
    Oddometer:
    606
    Location:
    So. Jersey
    I, for one, am glad you decided to go on with your RR. You took some great pix, just made my bucket list longer!:D
    #58
  19. FlameDance

    FlameDance Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    103
    Location:
    Germany
    The journey ain't over yet nor is the travel report, even though I haven't written anything in months.

    Early morning I started. Back to the road through this small creek - earlier in the year it is probably much deeper:

    [​IMG]

    In the evening I intended to meet a fellow LC8 rider from the german LC8 forum and his girlfriend in a small village inn. I imaginged it to be near Sort, so I'd have plenty of time, I thought, and went exploring the beautiful Valle de Echo - this valley alone is worth a week of hiking and montainbiking, if you can give up the motorbike for a while. Sadly almost all the roads and paths are forbidden to us, so instead of exploring it was more like peeking into the valley for two hours.

    In Aragon I found this rustic sign, disallowing a lot - apparently they have problems with people littering their nature parks:
    [​IMG]

    Roads were still freshly built back in 2007. I wonder if Spain still has money to tarmac even remote areas?
    [​IMG]

    Traffic at building sites is managed manually:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Up in the valley there is a nice official camping site with a very nice view over the valley - but open only in July and August. (Nonetheless I have seen a few tents in May, so it is not really closed in the other months.) It should be a great base for excursions near and far.
    [​IMG]

    Even further up for the permitted gravel tracks you don't need a modern offroad bike. If you take it slowly, I learned from father and son that even two old 80ish ladies can make it comfortably:
    [​IMG]

    I had to turn around, everything upwards is illegal.
    [​IMG]

    Backing out of the valley I found some spectacular views, looking even better than on the way in:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #59
  20. SR1

    SR1 Back in S. Korea

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2006
    Oddometer:
    4,540
    Location:
    Seoul Survivor
    Great report, loving it!!! I can't wait to go back to Spain.
    #60