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Home Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018

Campsite Conundrum

By Sharon Parker

Spain day 1 23rd May

After breakfast we just hang around before the announcement is made that we must vacate our cabin. You are asked to leave the cabins half an hour before docking. From the numerous announcements asking certain people to go back to rooms I guess it is a chance for cabins to be checked and for crew to reunite us with all the stuff us common folk leave behind.

When we are allowed on deck 6 to our bikes I begin to get the flutters again. My bike is at the very front of the other motorbikes. I did not want to be at the front. As I struggle to refit my cabin bag into my pannier I can feel the inpatient eyes of other motorcyclists boring into me. Ever helpful Ren suggests I push the bike forward out of the way. Great, the bikers are happy to rush past me as the frenzied escape off the boat begins. However I am now blocking the cars instead so I get a whole new array of dirty looks.

What the actual hell, chill out people! What is with this mad rush? The ferry is safely in harbour. There has been no announcement that the ferry is about to sink to the bottom of the sea in the next 30 seconds. I feed off the general atmosphere, the need for mass exodus, a super quick exit, and therefore as I try to rush I inevitably fumble with my luggage to ensure I stress everyone and myself to max. Jeez please let me be at the back on the way home.

I remember to change my bike's display from mph to kph and off the ferry we finally go at around 2:30pm. The ramp is as easy down as it was up so at least no drama there. We want out of Bilbao as soon as possible, we want to find our bearings and get used to being on the right side of the road in quieter surroundings. However getting out is easier said than done. 

I feel sorry for Ren as he carefully tries to navigate us safely out of town. It seems some of the other bikers have decided to follow us too in the vain hope we know where we are going. Poor Ren he not only has me to lead but a little convoy now.  If it was me leading at this point I think I would just stop and have a weep. However Ren carries on doggedly and eventually we escape the port area. The others bikers carry on straight as we turn off for Zierbena. In Zierbena we stop to collect ourselves, peel off some layers, drink some water and consult maps. 

Ren is pulling a really horrible and sad face in a car park near Bilbao
Poor Ren it's so hard being the leader of the pack
Sharon stands by her motorcycle posing in the Spanish sun looking relaxed
Me I'm far more relaxed than I thought I would be. But I just have to follow the leader. 

The plan is to head inland and go to Burgos. We decided on Burgos while reading Duncan Gough's book Sketches Of Spain whilst on board the ferry. We met the lovely Duncan at the Manchester Bike Show earlier this year on the Chunky Tread Adventure Club Stand. He has travelled extensively around Spain for many years so we duly purchased his guide for our then upcoming trip.

Having been quite tense around the port area I now begin to relax and find as I did in the Netherlands that riding on the right feels very natural to me. We reach Muskiz, our next planned destination, so far so good. Then on to Onton where we catch the twisty CA-523 and CA-250. 

Okkkkaaayyy this is errrr interesting, this is way more twisty than I expected and way steeper. Holy cow what's that ahead? Damn it the sharp blind bend reveals a sharper incline than my gear is set up for, please don't stall Envy, come on girl pull, pull. Phew well done little Kwaker, I will try to get you in the right gear next time.  

I begin to wonder why the hell I brought my own bike. This is scary, this is pushing all my skills to the max. I should have gone pillion, I am crazy thinking I could do this. I am going to hold Ren up loads. I am going to fall off, wreck my bike and ruin the holiday. Sob, sob. But wait hang on am I not actually doing this? Slowly, very slowly it is beginning to feel fun. I can do this I think, maybe, perhaps. The road is great it's just taking me a while to adjust to bend after bend after bend.

It then appears we have taken a wrong turn. Somehow we are back on the coast. The campsite we pull into near Oriñón is closed but the bar is open so we drink coke while Ren tries to collect himself.
I can see his frustration at getting lost. I suppose I should lead after all I have the satnav wired up on my bike. But I'm a wimp so instead I offer curious solutions for Ren to have the satnav, none of which works. We decide to change plans and head for Potes instead. Another recommendation by another friend.  

Ren ponders something on his bike with the Spanish hills behind him at the campsite
Ren has all the responsibility while I have the satnav... Dooh

We head onto the motorway. The speeds are 120km (around 75mph) on the motorways for the most part. The Kawasaki Z250SL handles these speeds just fine. There is not much traffic so the A8 flows easily. Pic 3 Ren has all the responsibility while I have the satnav... Dooh

The fuel stop takes us by surprise as there is a smiling attendant who fills up for us. Wow that takes me back, I last saw someone filling up for you when I was as a small child sitting in the back seat of the car.

We then find ourselves on the N621.  I do not often bother to remember the names of roads. The fact I remember this one should therefore be significant not only to me but to you also dear reader if you too intend to ride in this area of Spain. 

It is a bit damp and overcast. I have my waterproofs on just in case. The sun is not shining and the skies are not blue. None of this matters because the hills are lush green and I am riding an amazing twisty road through an awesome gorge. Sheer rock to the left of me, nothing to the right and here I am stuck in the middle of it all. I forget to be scared as excitement and joy become my primary emotions. 

I feel incredibly privileged to be riding this road. My eyes dart from the view and back to the road. The view demands your attention but so does the narrow road with its twists and turns. The is no room for fear here just room for a smile on my face so big it fills the gorge. 

Our flow from bend to bend is suddenly interrupted by traffic stopped dead ahead. I am quite happy to stop awhile, I can take a moment to fully savour my surroundings in greater detail. 

A truck blocks the road to Potes but the scenery is stunning with steep rocks and hillsides
There appears to be traffic blocking our way 
The 2 motorcycles with the steep rocky expanse of the mountains rising up behind

Not a bad place to be detained, to stretch ones legs and admire ones surroundings.

I get off my bike and stretch my legs. However time too stretches on and we begin to wonder what is going on. Eventually Ren manages with his Spanglese to decipher from the Spanish workmen that this is no delay. The road is in fact closed. It will not be opening again tonight. No we cannot get to the campsite we were heading to. 

Ahhh this is not good news. But all is OK because there is apparently another campsite all the way back from where hence we have just travelled. Which means we have no choice but to turn around and ride this road all over again. Hee, hee, nice one there can always be unearthed a positive even from roadworks. OK maybe not on the M62 at home but right here right now I am happy to do a repeat of this road. 

The campsite is found, hooray. The campsite is closed booo. But it is ok, the ever helpful Spanish can point us to another one down this road or that. Hmmm this repeat of finding a campsite to be met with closed gates or informed that no they are not open until next week wears very thin after the third time. Although seemingly friendly I begin to wonder if this is some kind of Spanish sport - sending  tired tourists to as many closed campsites as possible, with a point for each one scored. 

It is now getting late, we are running out of light and options. Ren is getting fraught while I am staying upbeat, I am still on a high from my ride. OK time for a rethink. There is a hotel next door to the the latest campsite, it is expensive but if all else fails there it is as an option.  We have just passed a small town to get here so we shall see if they have a cheaper hotel. 

La Franca does have a hotel. At 40 euros it becomes our much needed home for the night. Ren copes admirably with the language. He has been teaching himself Spanish before the trip and thank goodness he has because I am completely lost. I understand nothing. Through his endeavours to learn the language he secures us not only the room for the night but also the use of the owners garage as a snug place for the motorbikes to stay for the night, fantastic! 

A modern looking Spanish house has a garage underneath it as Ren walks inside
Inside is a large garage with a caravan, several motorcycles and a lot of space
Wow what a fabulous bonus

What a hell of a first day. It did not go as planned but all is well that ends well as after dining on pizza in the hotel's restaurant we retire to our very clean and comfortable room. 

The bathroom of the hotel has smart marble effect tiles and a big mirror
There's shutters on the window, a double bed and pleasant surroundings in the room
At last a place to lay our weary heads 

Want to see your story here? If you can get your words and pictures into an email then contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Building Up To España In the prologue to their journey Ren can't help but feel that the forthcoming journey might be a costly disaster. Forever the optimist.
Getting Ready For Spain Sharon is determined to be ready, organised and prepared for her forthcoming trip to Spain. However life is even more determined to ruin her plans.
Bodging Daaan Saaaf Ren bears witness to an impossible event. Then there's some last minute bodging to be done.
Motorway Miles And Muses Sharon's derriere proves more than tough enough for the big ride across England. Can she manage to lose them emotional luggage while securing her physical luggage though?
To The Ferry What are the chances of Sharon getting out of bed very early twice in the same week. Well she'd better had otherwise the Muppet's will miss the ferry.
Ocean Blue Sharon's more excited than nervous but this is the first time the Kwakker has been aboard ship. That's if customs let her on board.
Lost Off The Ferry The great adventurer and motorcyclist Ren is proving that he is in fact a useless idiot. He can't ride and he can't find a campsite that is open. Oh what will become of the BAT muppets?
Campsite Conundrum Sharon is having way too much fun while Ren is trying to find a place to sleep. Well someone has to be happy when Ren's such a grump.
Discovering The Picos After a troublesome first day in Spain hopefully Sharon and Ren's luck will improve. Thing is they have a 187km detour to reach their destination. There have been worse detours though.
Heaven's Mirror Putting fear and doubt to bed for a while Sharon enjoys the wondrous ecstasy of nature and the joy of riding a motorcycle through it. Oh and a lot of sharp corners too.
Rain In The Picos Will the rain bring doom and gloom to the already grumpy Ren? Luckily there's enough scenery and interesting things to keep him going.
The Sound Of Silence In spite of a dire weather forecast Sharon's day in Spain is filled with the beauty of nature, fond memories and the creation of great new memories.
Riding to Burgos Is motorcycle touring a non stop stream of excitement, beauty, wonder and exploration? Erm, nope. It's a rather ordinary day on the road to Burgos.
Tin Tin It's both a good and bad day for Sharon as she travels from the delights of the mountains to the grim reality of the city and the rain. At least her hair is looking good.
Higher Than I've Ever Been In spite of the weather forecasts. In spite of no longer being in The Picos. In spite of Ren being a pessimist. In spite of all this it seems Northern Spain has more delights in store.
Magical Kingdom Sharon's having another amazing day riding around Northern Spain. She's on a high, metaphorically and literally.
Boots And Burgos Ren is suffering a footwear malfunction and it's time to go and do that city thing. Can Burgos convert Sharon and Ren into city lovers?
Burgos Bimble Sharon explores the city of Burgos, Spain. Architecture, stone masonry, pilgrims and tempting food. But can a city really endear itself to this country girl?
Lost In Luxury How to turn a fortuitous and splendid day into a nightmare. Just follow Ren and he'll sort the rest out. Still, it could be worse.
Dam Lost Fearing the weather Sharon is braced for a drenching. Thing is the weather isn't really the problem.
Gritty Northern El Bierzo There's time to explore a different part of Northern Spain today. It might not have the beauty of The Picos De Europa it is however a fascinating area.
Blink Of An Eye Sharon has an interesting day poking around north west Spain. There's a something of a shock in store for the evening.
Back To Beauty, Dodgy Caravan It's time for the dynamic muppets to saunter their way back towards the ferry and Ren is in reflective mood. Wonderful scenery, weird accommodation.
The Good, The Bad And The Musty It's a day of confusing emotions for Sharon, but life is for living. Will this evening's accommodation be as luxurious as the previous evening's?
Beautiful Potes While going to a now familiar town is hardly intrepid at least it means Ren is calm, chilled out and not lost. For once.
Head In The Clouds Sharon is calmed by the wonders of Northern Spain's wondrous scenery as she returns to the comforts of Potes.
Sun, Sand, Sea And Santander The weather has improved now it's time for the dynamic muppets to head back to the ferry. Ren is intrigued by stories or walking across Northern Spain, will we see "Walks And Travels" or W.A.T.?
Splish Splash Santander The beauty and grandeur of the The Picos means Sharon does not want to leave, ever. It's back to the city, ready to sail home. Fear not, there's still pleasures to be found.
The Ferry Home It's the dynamic muppet's last day in Spain so it's time to catch the ferry. A mixture of sadness and relief for Ren, but what about the other riders in the queue?
Final Thoughts On Spain Ren crosses the T's and dots the I's on the Spanish trip.

Reader's Comments

Ian Soady said :-
An interesting start - looking forward to the further adventures. I too get very nervous if the shadows are lengthening and I am still on the road. Mind you, if you'd gone to France almost all the camp sites are open from early May onwards......

I agree entirely about the mad rush to be off the ferry (although if as we have done several times you get the afternoon crossing to Ouistreham then have to set up the caravan / tent in the dark it is nice to be first in the queue).

What really enrages me is those clowns who actually start their engines long before they're called to leave and fill the vehicle deck with noxious fumes. When we used the Santander ferry a couple of years ago we were next to a VW camper which had been "artistically" distressed and slammed so it had a ride height of about 2". How it got over the ramps I don't know.

But anyway, the hipster driving it started up before the ramps were even down. If he's spent half as much on the engine as he had on the paint job it would not have been so bad but the clouds of smoke were blinding. I gently remonstrated with him but all I got was a stream of effing and blinding so withdrew as a bout of fisticuffs didn't strike me as a good start to the trip......
22/06/2018 10:29:31 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
All you can do is smugly think of the pennies you'll be saving by not starting your engine until it's actually time to drive off the ferry. I suspect being an old V-Dub with a failing engine the driver's primary concern is whether or not the damn thing will start!

Good lord man you're obsessed with France!
23/06/2018 08:09:55 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Obsessed? No, just know a good thing when I see (taste) it......

I wouldn't have minded the VW so much if it was obviously driven by a cash-strapped youth (or even pensioner). But the awful paint job had clearly had a lot of money / time / effort spent on it and the lurid tattoos on one of the driver's arms would have paid for an engine overhaul. Priorities, eh?

23/06/2018 09:23:40 UTC
Sharon said :-
I too can be rather err too honest for my own good and often speak my mind.
Like you I try to be the voice of reason only to find that reason hurled back at me unwanted and with an accompanying tirade. However I am trying to learn to choose my fights more carefully these days. Keeping my mouth shut does not come naturally to me but I know it is good for keeping the peace.
I have enough stress with things I can't control at the moment so if I can control my mouth I can hopefully reduce any added dramas.
I hope it will make me serene this sitting quietly while all around me is madness. But then again if I could just suggest, just lend my opinion, offer an alternative view...Haa easier said than done this keeping a lid on it eh.

26/06/2018 10:34:06 UTC

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