(Note: Want to see our exact route?? CLICK HERE for the route on Google Maps. Click boxes on the left of the map to select days. )
Sometimes the best plan is no plan…. We only had a rough idea where to ride in Spain with the exception that we wanted to visit Deby’s friend Emily in Monpazier, France, a small town a “short way” over the border. We had 10 days so how hard would it be to ride to France and be back to Lisbon in time for the guided tour? Right….
Breakfast was at the campground cafeteria, a very spartan arrangement that made me feel like I was back in grade school holding my tray and waiting for my allotted meal.
The good news was they had hot coffee and warm eggs so we were happy as we loaded the bikes that were nestled among the other campers.
One of the helpful guys at MotoXplorers jotted down a few not-to-miss places along our route. I tucked the scrap of paper in my jacket pocket and that became our plan. More or less.
The first place he recommended was Las Medulas, “A landscape Unique In All the World”, according the the website. Well, how could we miss that??
I was experimenting with navigation using Google Maps on my iPhone attached to my handlebars. I typed Las Medulas in the search bar and clicked on the option to “avoid freeways” and we were off. We were soon heading northeast towards the border with Spain and Parque Nacional Peneda Geres. We easily crossed the border and might have missed it except Google Maps unexpectedly announced, “welcome to Spain” in my Bluetooth connected helmet. Certainly a big difference from all the border crossings in Latin America. Our northeast track into the mountains had us climb to nearly 3,000 feet in a few places.
Mr. Google was doing a great job “avoiding freeways”. We were on some of the best back roads and were amazed at the number of small villages where the main road was more like a sidewalk.
By late afternoon we were close enough to get our first glimpse of the famous Medulas.
The first stop was a small visitors center where we learned how these formations were made by the Romans some two thousand years ago. They employed a technique called “wrecking of the mountains”. Wow! Really?
The following narrative is from Wikipedia, click here for link, it’s really interesting.
The spectacular landscape of Las Médulas resulted from the ruina montium (wrecking of the mountains), a Roman mining technique described by Pliny the Elder in 77 AD. The technique employed was a type of hydraulic mining which involved undermining a mountain with large quantities of water.
My short version is that they extracted the gold from the mountain by rerouting a river to fill underground caverns full enough that they would blow out the side of the sandstone mountain. They would then search the gravel for gold.
As interesting as this was, it was getting dark and we needed to think about a place to stay for the night. I was on my phone with my booking.com app which was struggling with poor reception. Deby to the rescue (as always). She looked up and said what about the hotel across the street? Duhh, I put the phone away and we didn’t even put on our helmets as we rode across the gravel road to unpaved parking lot.
Hotel Medulio was all of a two star hotel, and proud of it. Well, what did we care, it was probably a step up from the FEMA trailer of the night before. We negotiated a room rate for the night and lugged our gear up three flights of stairs. Our room was down the hall, to the right.
The colors were amazing!
Here is a picture I took of the Medulas.
It was hard to get a good view of the blown out mountain from anywhere on the road so I used my artistic and creative photographic technique to get the best picture I could….. by aiming my iPhone at the wall above the espresso machine!
We decided to skip the hotel restaurant and walk into the (very) small town to look for food. Deby loved the stone buildings that were everywhere.
These steps were about perfect in her book.
As we came to the edge of town we saw signs for a short hiking path and decided to explore a little.
The path went past these cool hollow tree stumps and ended at a cave! That was a find.
It was almost dark when we found our way back to the town and saw a sign for a hotel/restaurant that looked a lot nicer than old Hotel Medulio. We settled in for a traditional meal that was fantastic and a homemade bottle of wine.
We walked back in complete darkness stumbling on the cobblestone roadway towards the dim hotel lights. It was a good day.
Like I said we only sort of had a plan so sort of northeast we continued setting Google to avoid highways. Since there were not really any highways around it seemed like Mr. Google wanted to take us on even smaller back roads. Occasionally a message would pop up on the screen suggesting an alternative route that was even longer. I almost always selected YES. That is how we ended up on this route:
A 255 mile Sunday ride through some fantastic scenery and beautiful roads. The weather was about perfect and we had smiles around every turn. Around every corner we were either climbing up a mountain road or down the other side. At one point near Cangas del Narcea we topped 5,000 feet before dropping down to the thousand foot level for the night.
As is our typical fashion, it was getting towards the end of the day and I used my phone to look for a hotel. The magic app recommended Palacio de Cutre. Hey! That sounded like it was better than a FEMA trailer or a two star hallway. We were in. Funny thing… I had the address but Google Maps couldn’t find it so I was on my own lost in a nearby town asking for directions in my (a hmmm ) not best Spanish. Fortunately, before we left the U.S. my Spanish tutor had me practicing asking directions. Even better, we practiced listening to the response which is actually the most important part! (Thanks Mary! http://www.spanishbymary.com/)
We were stopped in a tiny tiny village looking lost when a guy in a beat up pickup truck stopped and asked if we were lost. In my best Spanish I summed up my problem. Well, actually I just showed him the name of the hotel on the phone. He gave me a big grin and gave my clear directions which I understood enough to get us there with no more problems.
The Palace of Cutre was a “boutique” hotel but really nice with not too many rooms. It was a palace in the past and had a cool history that I now forgot. Oh… yes, they have a restaurant but no, it wasn’t open on Sunday. We went to the outside patio to watch the sunset and tried to decide what to do about food. Maybe we should dig into the emergency energy bars we had packed? Was this an emergency?
We were sitting for a few minutes when the proprietor came over and recommended a bottle of wine. Umm, ok! Then he asked if we wanted some snacks with the wine. Umm ok! The next thing we knew we had a huge spread of food in front of us! Wine, water, bread, a selection of cheeses and meat along with two fresh salads. Snacks??? We felt like we hit the jackpot.
Another jaw dropping day of riding with a nice meal and warm bed at the Inn to end the day.
So, with that I’m going to stop here. There is more to come. In the next post we go to one of the most dangerous roads in Spain. At least according to dangerousroads.org……
Thanks for following,
Donn and Deby