Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018
By Sharon Parker
Day 5 27th May
During the night while snuggled within my sleeping bag I discover to my horror we are not alone. I hear them creeping about and calling to one another. They are brazen, no attempts to whisper quietly. They are getting louder as they shout out to one another, " I am here, I am here." They move in closer, we are surrounded on all sides. The noise level makes my head buzz. I know to challenge them will be futile, we speak a different language, they will not understand me.
Even if they could they would point out quite rightly that this is their home not mine. I am the stranger travelling through, I do not dictate the rules here. I have no choice but to curse to myself and bury my head deep within the down of my bag in the hope the feathers can dull the din.
I have a restless night, the party making never abated until the sunrise. Only then did they finally cease their merriment. So much for a quiet night in the countryside. Damn those cicadas and other noisy creatures of the night.
Morning brings sunshine and a lovely hearty breakfast at on the onsite cafe revives me. With energy levels restored I am ready to ride.
I put on my new bike cargo pants seeing the sun is out.
Having consulted Duncan Gough's book "Sketches Of Spain" the other day our chosen destination is the Sierra De La Demanda mountain range. Not so well known as other mountain ranges we are hoping for quiet roads with plenty of twists and turns.
To our absolute delight we get what we wish for. The roads we ride are awesome and practically deserted.
They are super super twisty and surrounded by spectacular scenery.
The deserted roads, mountains and meadows make for a magical ride
As I ride I have conflicting emotions coursing through my veins. One second I am bloody petrified by a hairpin only to find the next one exhilarating. Just as I begin to relax I get taken by surprise by a tight blind bend. I am in the wrong gear, I drop it to first but the bike just stops. For a millisecond the world stops as I balance unmoving on my bike.
I am perched up a steep slope with a sheer drop to my side. My brain process the fact that I am not currently in a good position and this could soon become a disaster. Fortunately panic does not win the day, my calm mind figures out that I am not in fact in first gear as I thought but must have slipped into neutral. Keeping the bike balanced I hit first, twist the throttle and on we go.
Heading into the mountains
The ride is totally amazing with a constant change of scenery to almost overwhelm the senses. As the road straightens out I pass wide open meadows peppered with wild flowers dancing in the breeze. Then I am back into twists and turns weaving my way through dappled shaded forests with babbling streams coursing through the trees.
Did you ever have a pop up book as a child? Those books that as you open each page a magical scene unfolds and appears before your eyes. This is how this ride feels, every twist and bend is another turn of the page. Another delightful and engaging scene bursts to life in front of your eyes. Only this is so much better than the book because you are not just looking at the scene and imagining you are in it. You are in in, I am in it, I can see it, smell it, hear it and feel it. I am part of all there is, at one with nature I feel truly at home.
I am in a magical Kingdom, a fairytale land of my dreams.
As we climb higher my ears begin to pop and the mountains are now festooned with purple heather and what I believe is greenwood, a yellow flowered shrub similar to gorse or broom. It is so very pretty.
This road is the LR-415 and the incline becomes ever steeper, 14 % in places and the hairpins more frequent. I am still learning the art of mastering the hairpin bend. Sometimes I get it right and I sail around with ease. Then I mess the next one up, get into the wrong gear or wobble. But hey ho I am still upright so all is good.
As we climb ever higher we catch up with a couple of cars and the slowed down pace means another car now is behind me. I guess we are not alone then in discovering this amazing winding road across the mountains. We reach the summit and the narrow road is boarded by snow.
The snow extends onto the road just before the asphalt ends and it opens up to a broad expanse with plenty of room to park up. I eye up the snow nervously, there is a slushy tyre width gap at the edge of the snow. This in turn is boarded by a sheer drop. Talk about riding on a knife's edge. With a quick puff out of the cheeks and a slow breath and I plough on through.
The snow extends onto the road at the summit
Wahoo! I made it and with a beating joyfull heart I climb off the bike. I am standing on the the summit of Alto de la Cruz de la Demanda. This high mountain peak has an elevation of 1,855m (6,085ft) above the sea level and is located in the La Rioja region of northern Spain. So yes I am feeling high. I gaze down upon the twisty mountain road we have just travelled. I marvel at the fact that I am actually here, high enough to be looking down on mountains rather than looking up at them.
Are there words enough to describe all I survey? No the mountains do once again what that have continued to do thus far on this trip. They fill me with such awe they render me silent and breathless, not with altitude but with their outstanding and majestic magnificence. As I stand here on the wild edge of the world I survey my Kingdom.
Yes, my Kingdom because this moment is mine and within that everything belongs to me. Not mine in an ownership way, mine as in being one with all there is, being part and parcel of this exquisite landscape. I am an extension of all that surrounds me.
I will not describe in detail what I see I will simply give you the pictures to see for yourself. What you see depends on who you are.
What do you see?
The tarmac road ends at the summit. There is a rough track that leads further on but my sports bike was not designed for that level of off-roading and neither are my skills. For me and therefore Ren this is the end of the road and so we must retrace our steps. Not that this is a chore. To do it all again in reverse is a privilege and a delight.
We both smile at one another as we pull on our helmets. We don't need to express ourselves to one another in words it's in our eyes and it's reflected back to one another. We know we have shared something special that neither of us will forget. Dementia withstanding of course.
I can't even put into words how fantastic today has been. I never ever thought I, Sharon, would see the day when I could ride challenging roads like these on my own bike. I am buzzing fit to burst as we return to out tent.
The roads today were a biker's dream, winding up the mountains with their sharp bends and hairpin switchbacks. Boarded by steep drops and sheer rock faces they certainly get your heart pumping. If this route isn't on your bucket list then add it now.
BU 820 - fun sweeping bends
BU 813 - the twists really begin
BU 811 - super twisty with hairpins
LR 111 - super twisty with hairpins
LR 415 - some nice straights to get speed up and then super twisty switchbacks to the summit of Alto Cruz De La Demanda. Up to 14 % incline with some narrow sections
What's your favourite road(s)? We'd love to share your post about it here on Bikes And Travels. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
Rod said :-
Great pics Sheron.
I have made a note of the area, and hope I have enough biking years left to experience these scenes first hand.
28/7/2018 8:42:51 PM UTC
Henrik said :-
Great writing, and great pics, thanks for the good documentation as well, if spain some day we know at least one place to go :-) The mountain seems to be par with norwegian ones in hight over sea level, but impression of a mountain is another story, f.eks. if the mountain is placed on top of a already high platou it might apear less high, amd visa-versa if it is growing right out of the sea, like seen in the norwegian fjords.
Good to see your joy over this day, makes it easier to swollow all the rainy ones, and yes, it becomes a memory to return to
29/7/2018 1:37:03 PM UTC
Sharon said :-
I sure hope you get the opportunity to do this ride, let me know if you do.
Glad my enthusiasm for this place came across well ??
Thanks to you both for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated x
31/7/2018 7:27:42 AM UTC
Henrik said :-
Sure it came across well :-)
1/8/2018 6:18:10 AM UTC
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Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018