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TUESDAY 3rd JULY 2007

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In the morning, we set about cooking the rations that Henry and Bill had bought in France. A dozen sausages, pork belly, beans, eggs……

Did the pre-flight checks. We were now getting into the habit of getting the tents packed away before the sun makes it much above the horizon. To do any work in under this sun was murderous.

We set off across the Spanish Plains in the direction of Castella-y-Leon, Salamanca and on towards Caceres. We stopped in a Spanish Truck stop for lunch. Now that was an experience. A combination of our lack of Spanish and the waitress's lack of English (and patience) led to a lot of guessing and pointing. We ended up going for a plate of Pollo on the basis that if it was chicken then it would be edible. Jackpot. Leg of chicken (or something that once had feathers) boiled then grilled with garlic and served with a small salad and hunks of bread. We couldn't get over the amount of beer, and harder drinks, that the Spanish lorry drivers were knocking back. We made a mental note to give them more room when they passed us at 70+ mph.

EL TRUCKO STOPPO

We got lost several times. We stopped at a garage in one town and Henry asked for directions for a supermarket. Henry came back and decided that the directions that he'd been given were no good so we set off the opposite way. We inevitably got lost and I took the lead trying to get us back on track. We went with the traffic flow around the town and 10 minutes later arrived at the garage again! We decided to abandon plans for the supermarket and I switched on the Sat Nav. We entered the destination town and set off. Another 10 minutes and another circuitous route of the town and, yes you guessed it, back to the garage! Third time lucky and we made it out of town. It was no coincidence that my Ipod was playing Hotel California.

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave. Cue Guitar Solo.

South of Caceres we needed to head west overland and head for a camp site that Henry had found in his Boy's Own book of places to camp. The problem was that it didn't have an address that the Sat Nav could understand. We pulled over onto the side of the road and started doing our ritual map spinning, to see which way up looked the most inviting. Enter the Spanish version of white van man (Hombre blanca vano?) He spoke no English. You'd think that they'd make the effort! After a lot of preamble, we managed to tell him where we wanted to go. He gestured for us to follow him and off he went. This went on for about 5 miles when he stopped at a junction. I gathered that this was where our paths parted.

I've never understood why some people, even though they know you don't speak a word of their language, proceed to give you extensive directions in their language! We might as well have started a card school. Eventually he stopped jabbering and waving his arms around and looked at me for some form of acknowledgement.

Si seňor, muchas gracias (I told you I was fluent). I hit the electric boot button and left him in the dust. Hasta la vista baby

We stopped a little way down the road and put the village name near to the camp site into the Sat Nav and tried to follow that. Up one mountain, down another, along a valley and up another mountain….. it went on and on.

Between the Sat Nav and me, we ended up in a very quaint cobbled village.

QUAINT VILLAGE

We rounded a corner and came upon the village church where half a dozen women were sat on a stone bench outside the church, passing the time, like you do. We stopped the bikes and Bill decided to go for directions. He approached end of the rank of old girls and bowed low .

Bounas tardes, seňoras. They all giggled with his attempt at their tongue. He sat on the end of the row and tried to make his acquaintance with the old girl next to him. He took her arm and tried the thread it though his.

That's when it happened..

She upped with her walking stick and started to rain blows down on Bill as if he was the Worcester rapist! Bill made a fast exit, wishing that he'd kept his helmet on.

Despite this debacle, Henry managed to get directions and we mounted up and made a swift exit from the village before any of the men woke up. We got ourselves back onto the main road and the Sat Nav regained its marbles and soon we were back on the road to Miranda De Castena and a camp site.

We went on and on, through very mountainous but barren land with no sign of civilisation. It was getting late in the day. Soon the sun would be going down behind some of the peaks. Things were getting so bad that both Henry and I had started to eye up the hilly countryside for a flattish bit that we could pitch our tents on.

Then we saw it. A sign for a camp site.

We followed the signs and, a mile or two out of the hill top village we ended up at a pair of locked gates. The view beyond them was bleak! The pedestrian gate on the side was open and so, in I went.

KOMMONDANT'S OFFICE


Si the proprietor said, they were open and he went for the key to the gates. A worrying sign. Things went downhill from there. The proprietor's boyfriend (seemed like a nice boy!) showed us all to our pitch, once we had passed Passport Control and Immigration. When he had decided on which pitch we could have (there was only two other parties on the entire site!) he came out with pages of typed rules for the site. Perhaps it was because we were on bikes or the fact that Henry and I hadn't shaved since England?

I stopped paying any attention and he equally ignored me sensing that my attitude (me, attitude? as if!) wasn't doing much for the situation.

He did however seemed to have taken rather a shine to Henry and insisted on showing him the toilet block. I offered Henry the frying pan to take with him but he assured me he would be OK. He returned 10 minutes later and didn't seem to be walking any differently. He had had to have a demonstration on everything from how to turn on the shower to which sink to use for sock washing and which sink for co** washing. Oh, and to top it all, the bar didn't for another two hours! That didn't fit in with our early to bed, early to rise routine. Neither did the fact that the gates would not be unlocked until 9 a.m.! Thank God it was only to be one night!

I looked around for the watchtowers and guard-dog patrols. If this was Stalag 31 then there must be an escape committee?

We managed to get him to compromise and sell us some beer that we could take back to the tents and so we rustled up some supper (Fray Bentos Steak & Kidney puddings) and sat around the camp fire getting pissed. Bill serenaded us with his version of several songs sung in the fashion of a German Camp Guard. Sounds so lame now but when you outside of several bottles of beer and some wine, we were all in tears. Stupid hysterics, I suppose?

STATSISTICS - DAY 5;

300 miles Camping Noverette Miranda De Castena
1042 miles in total
Average 208 miles per day

WEDNESDAY 4th AUGUST 2007

We woke early again. Broke camp and got some coffee on the go. We were soon all packed up and waiting at the gates for the curfew to end. There was no breakfast to be had on site, The best bet was to go into the local town, Miranda Del Castinar, and find somewhere.

MIRANDA DEL CASTINAR


We rode into the town were a little early for the one and only local bar / cafe. We could have had a lie in! We parked the bikes up and sat in the shade., watching the world go by.



A-SITTIN' IN THE SHADE

And, before you ask, yes the sky was that colour. Then, as we sat and waited, along came an old fella with a pack mule. It was nice to see that someone was loaded up more that I was.


NICE ASS


The cafe opened and we went in for coffee and croisants for breakfast.



BREAKFAST IS SERVED


We had a long ride ahead of us and they wouldn't involve dual carriageways so, we knew we needed to get some miles in. Henry's Camping Bible didn't show any sites between here and Ayomonte so it was a choice of slog on or camp rough and as it was just possible to make Ayomonte on the Spainish / Portugese border before nightfall, we decided to go for it. This would mean that Henry would be in the arms of his belovėd before the day ended. We agreed a route and, after finding a petrol station (down one mountain and up another) we set off. We hadn't travelled more that 30 minutes when we reached the top of a mountain called Portillo. The scenery was breathtaking and it was a photo opportunity.

PORTILLO MOUNTAIN

Back on the bikes and down the other side of the mountain. The hair-pins were so sharp, I swear I could have high fived Henry or Bill as we passed each other.



ANOTHER HAIRPIN

We rode on and on with a break every now and then until lunch beckoned. We stopped in a village and relieved the local shop of some bread, cheese, ham and tomatoes, followed by melon. It tasted very good, I have to say.



LUNCH IN THE SHADE

On we went. As the land flattened out, the roads became better and better. The surface was like a Grand Prix circuit. And the bends, well the only way I can describe it is to say that UK bend design seems to be based on a French Curve. That is to say that you never know if the bend is going to tighten up on you or open out. These bends had been drawn with a compass. Once you had set yourself for the bend, you could push yourself all the way round on the throttle. Even with all the luggage on board, I was really enjoying myself. It went on for mile after mile. It was really enjoyable.

I was leading and I thought To hell with it, let's have a little fun so I began to open up a bit more and really enjoy the road. I needed to concentrate hard on the road ahead so didn't spend much time looking behind. I knew that I had stepped up the pace a good peg or two but, there were no junctions for anyone to get lost at so, onwards! When I came to an obvious resting place I could pull over and wait there for the others to catch up.

After about 10 minutes of this, I looked in my mirror and all I could see was Smokey Bill, right up my chuff!

How the mighty are fallen! Sorry Bill, I should have known better.

We stopped for fuel again and dipped the oil. Another pint or two for Bill. Then, on we went.

We were heading south towards the coast and the coastal Motorway that goes into Portugal. We could fork off right at some point and cut the corner. We found our turning and off we went.

That's when it really happened..

We had about 24 miles to go to Ayomonte. Henry overtook me and flagged me down. My luggage rack had broken and everything was about to fall off! We decided that the only thing to do at this stage was off load as much as we could onto the other bikes and secure the rest up on mine as best as we could and then limp the last 24 miles.

Both of my detachable side panniers went onto Henry's bike. My top-box and associated luggage went onto my back seat with the help of a ratchet strap (I was certainly glad I packed that!). My large bag that was on my back seat was moved to Bill's bike.

The light was fading as we set off. I was wedged between my tank bag and the top-box, like sitting between the two humps of a camel and perched on the unsprung point of my single saddle. I still don't know how I got on, Or off again for that matter. The fastest I felt comfortable doing was 40 m.p.h. We soon finished the cutting of the corner and had to join the Motorway for the last 20 miles. That was hairy. The orange sun was setting in front of us and little did we know that my bag that Bill was carrying had slipped down and was covering his back light. Anyone approaching this slow trio from behind would be blinded by the sun and could very easilly ended in disaster for us all.

But as we turned off the Motorway in Ayomonte, we saw Lesley and her friend Jan on the side of the road. They led the way to the apartment via a road with speed bumps every 50 yards. Ten minutes later we were all holding a beer as I stood waiting for the circulation to come back to my groin.

See what happens on the same day that I make fun of an overloaded donkey?
All in all, and interesting ride.

The ladies had laid on a lovely spread and lashings of beer and wine. We sat and told tales of the travels thus far, until the small hours.

No tents tonight! Bill and I rolled out our bed rolls in the lounge while Henry had a soft bed with Lesley.

STATSISTICS - DAY 6
;

350 miles Miranda De Castena - Ayomonte
1392 miles in total
Average 232 miles per day

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