Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018
By Ren Withnell
We survive the night in the caravan without issue or harm. In fact once I managed to get over my overzealous imagination I slept well enough. Now we pack up once again. This time we know what to expect as we're going to Camping La Viorna in Potes where we were last week, it's a settling thought.
Come on madam - wakey wakey!! Not a chance.
How odd. We've come all this way to explore, to see something different from home, to be wild and adventurous (relatively). And here I am looking forward to being somewhere I know what to expect. Static and dynamic qualities (thank you Mr Pirsig).
We need things new and fresh in our lives to keep them interesting and engaging. We also need predictable, regular, everyday things to ground us and to reassure us that the night will become day and we will wake once again. Some people like a lot of static qualities, others just need to know there'll be some air to breathe and the rest can be completely random. We are all unique yet the same.
Me? I'm probably average. I like my little adventures and I'm also very much a creature of habit. I'm average at many things you know, in fact there is only one thing I excel at and that, dear reader, is being average. If only there was a championship for being average.
If only I could get paid for being so...so....so ordinary.
I digress. We scuttle off the campsite and back onto the CL626 heading east. This road could could run us straight onto the N621 which taken northbound would run us straight into Potes. However despite how good the N621 is it appears the LE331 and LE333 are even more wiggly and wobbly than the N621. It's time to get a wiggle on.
It's patently obvious why I like the idea of returning to Potes as this road writhes it's way up, down, through, over and under these mountains. I'm in the joyous dilemma of needing to slow down to admire the mountains and to press on and make the most of another electrifying corner.
There's another lake (or reservoir) bringing the elements or earth, sky, water and tarmac together once again. Fabulous. Excellent. Brilliant. I spot another damn which means this is a reservoir, Embalse Del Porma. I pull in to have a look. In the sun a couple of tiny lizards are basking. Sun, yes sun! There are still clouds above but they're patchy.
Water, mountains and roads. It's a hard hard life.
The road continues to be a delight. The scenery too. It is a joy, and also somewhat distressing.
If you were to take the time to look back through the travel stories (they go back 14 years) you might notice that in the early days I used to get rather homesick. I'm not a natural traveller and being on the road was perhaps a little too dynamic for this little homeboy. Being abroad and away from the safety net of my native country was the hardest part.
The Netherlands saw me a little more relaxed and at ease with being abroad. It took a day or two on this trip yet despite a couple of hard days I've been much more at ease with the whole concept of travelling. There's no magic or revelation, I am simply gaining experience and with that comes a little measure of confidence. I am not a natural traveller, I have to grow into it.
In such pleasant surroundings it is an easy place to grow into.
I have been sufficiently harmonious to enjoy Northern Spain. There has been much to enjoy. There remains another few hours of these roads and mountains and lakes before we reach Potes. After Potes there'll be a few more kilometres of "good stuff" before we're on the motorway then in the city of Santander. Then a ferry and Britain and reality will once again come crashing in all around me.
I don't want to go home.
We turn off the LE331 onto the LE333. The road softens for a while then as we start to climb it requires our attention. I feel the altitude, it feels the same as the Alto Cruz in Sierra De La Demanda did. The road appears on the maps to be a fairly major route however the surface suggests otherwise. It's broken and potholed, gravelly in patches, more akin to a farmtrack.
We climb. My bike being quasi (pretend) off road capable is acceptable on this rough surface, I'm watching Sharon though. Her Kwakker is basically a naked sportsbike so it's not ideally setup for this surface. She's fine. I've taken her down enough narrow lanes and questionable surfaces, she knows the score.
With popping ears we crest the lane from between trees and rocky outcrops. Oh wow! I had not expected to be crossing another pass but the brown sign informs me we're at 1,625 metres altitude. No wonder my ears were popping. There's an area to park although it's rather off road, I watch Sharon again but she's cool.
Puerto De Las Senales at 1625 metres apparently.
Ha! Yeah we must be back in the Picos area, a British bike arrives. This couple, 2 up on a Tenere 1200 are hoteling around the area. They've been before, they know what it's all about. I'm warmed to hear despite being here several times previously they still love the place and they're still finding new routes to explore. I've barely touched the surface.There's a handful of peaks and valleys, then I walk a little and the view once hidden behind an outcrop fills my eyes. Having seen some impressive sights I guess I've lost the surprise of the scenery now, oddly though this allows me to enjoy it. I'm relaxing, it's an odd sensation for me.
I'm chilled and I'm just breathing it all in.
Riaño. We stopped here for petrol at the start of the trip, this time we pass through. As I look to my right I see a smart, pretty town. The water of the reservoir, the mountains and the road we're on all bring to mind the road from Fort William to Mallaig where it runs by the side of Loch Eil after Corpach. It's not the same, but, well, it feels the same. I should have stopped to look around Riaño, dammit. I guess it's a fine excuse to come back one day.
What's this?! So far we've enjoyed ideal riding weather, dry but with some cloud to stop the sun from scorching the earth and from making us sweat. There is a big grey mass festering ahead and the air is cooling. Rain. I pull in and we don our waterproofs. As we rise into the hills the rain arrives, more mizzle and drizzle rather than the downpour the clouds suggested.
What little rain their was passes as we pass the deer statue. I gingerly attack the grippy though wet tarmac and then as the road eases towards Potes I ease off the throttle and the skies clear. Damn it's going to be as miserable as hell when we get back to Blighty's busy, built up and boring byways.
In spite of my ego's desire to be the wild explorer of new places my brain is mightily pleased to know where I'm going. It's so much easier the second time around.
After pitching, for the first time in 4 nights, we are pondering what to do for tea. We've been very good. We've cooked or bought affordable meals from the shops and not gone crazy in the cafes. We add up our notes and change. Yeah, we're good on the budget. We walk to the bar restaurant on site.
Camping La Viorna, the mist is trying to hide the peaks of The Picos.
The food is affordable, similar to what we'd expect to pay back home so we walk in. The youngish chap manning the room is bright, perky, attentive and friendly. I'm sure Spain has its fair share of grumpy and witless people but we seem to be doing very well in avoiding them on this trip at least.
I'm happy to report the food is of a good standard and I'm feeling full. While I have no objection to our self catering ways and we've eaten well (too well) it is good to be seated at a real table, eating off real plates and in a solid building. This is most civilised, we engage with a couple of Brits travelling in a campervan as another shower passes over then reveals the stupendous mountains once more.
Sharon and I walk around the site, looking out to our surroundings and in to the campervans. We pretend we're wealthy. We'd have one about that size, that one over there, big enough to be comfortable yet not that massive one, that's just ridiculous. We'd have a trailer with bikes on. 125s? 250s? Hmmmm, there's pros and cons. We are dreaming of course but if you don't have a dream?
Bedtime I think.
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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.
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Travel StoriesNorthern Spain 2018