Dangerousroads.org lists the road to Cain as one of the most dangerous roads in Spain. A quick check of a map showed we were within 300 miles of this deadly road so we quickly decided to route south through the Parque Nacional de Los Picos de Europa and take the long way around to meet our friend Emily in Donosta San Sebastian on the northern coast.
As a “dangerous road” I wouldn’t really say it was too life threatening but it was a beautiful road through a narrow canyon.
It’s hard for Deby to keep her eyes on the road when riding past shear rock walls.
I suppose this road would be dangerous if we were in a big RV or we met an oncoming truck but fortunately the traffic was light and we could enjoy the tight turns and spectacular sights.
At the end of the road is the small town of Cain de Valdeon that caters to tourists hiking to view some famous waterfalls in the area. While it is always tempting to park the bikes and stomp off on a 10 km hike, the thought of doing it in heavy riding boots and stiff armor plated pants is not too appealing. It was nice to stop in the town for lunch and watch the other more ambitious tourists.
All too soon we realized if we were going to arrive in San Sebastian before dark we had to get some kilometers behind us in a hurry. All through “The Picos” the roads and scenery were stunning.
We rode through dozens of small towns like the one in the next picture where the main highway through town was almost like riding on a sidewalk.
We continued our loop through the Picos and decided to ride north to the ultra modern but ultra boring toll road to San Sebastian where we arrived in time to check in and run out to take a few evening photos with my iPhone. Now, I don’t claim to be a great photographer but I do like how these pictures turned out. Of course, with a city as beautiful as San Sebastian how could I go wrong.
We were especially excited because this is where we planned to meet our long time friend from Seattle, Emily. Emily lives in a small village in France and was eager to show us around one of her favorite places in Europe.
I think Deby was glad for some female companionship….
We booked an AirBnb right in the heart of town that was in a modern apartment building. We reached the underground parking lot by riding our motorcycles down a short hallway into an elevator!
It would be tight for anything but a small car, it was even a little tight for two fully loaded motorcycles.
It was great hanging out with Emily, she knew where all the really good tapa bars were and we spent two days exploring and eating.
The next day was my birthday so I declared we take a day off of riding and explore the city.
One other nice thing about having someone with us is that we have someone to take a rare picture of us together.
Off to Dragonstone
I’m sorry to admit I don’t watch Game of Thrones so excuse me if I get some of this wrong. Evidently there is a famous castle in season 7 called Dragonstone and we came to find out it was only 76 miles west of San Sebastian. I looked up a picture online of the famous Dragonstone castle and this is what I found.
Well, that’s not something you see everyday so we decided to have a late departure from San Sebastian and arrive in time to hike the long winding stairway to the famous castle. I learned that the castle is actually in a place called, Gaztelugatxeko Doniene in Basque; San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in Spanish. Yikes, I can’t pronounce that in either language. If you are interested in reading more about the actual place click HERE for the Wikipedia page.
So, umm, ok… spoiler alert.. the castle isn’t real and we didn’t see any dragons flying anywhere. But… the walkway IS real so we stopped and made the pilgrimage up the long flight of stairs.
You can see in this picture a slightly more humble church sits atop the stone island. We rambled up the stairs with the other tourists and many pilgrims who were fans of the TV show.
I love this next picture of the two young women each trying to get the best selfie… um, hey – wouldn’t it be easier to just ask your friend to take your picture??
We checked into the Hotel Arimune which was the only hotel nearby and had time for a walk on the small beach along the rocky shores of the northern coast. The hotel seemed overpriced and the rooms very basic but we slept well after a long day of walking.
Back to the Picos
It was Thursday September 12 and we had until Monday the 16 to get back to Lisbon and meet our group for the tour of Portugal. We had tried to explore the northern coast of Spain between San Sebastian and Bilbao but the roads were crowded and slow. There was a cold breeze kicking in off the coast bringing damp fog that chilled our bones. It didn’t take long for us to decide to ride southwest back into the mountains and do some more exploring. We let Google Maps pick a route through the Monumento Natural de Ojo Guarena and around the south end of Parque natural de Fuentes Carrionas y Fuente. I changed the settings in Google to “avoid highways” and off we went.
We found ourselves on a dirt road that led through a twisty mountain road to this beautiful overlook. We stopped for a picnic lunch that consisted in a bag of trail mix and some water.
What happened next is the type of thing that only happens when we travel alone without a schedule…. We followed the dirt road off the small mountain to a village where we had a decent cell phone signal. It was getting to be late in the afternoon and we thought it would be a good idea to see what lodging was listed nearby on booking.com. I came across a place called Caseria La Inviesta situated at the end of a steep and really twisty mountain road at nearly 3000 feet above sea level.
We booked online and entered the coordinates into my GPS and off we went. Here is a screen shot of my GPS of the road up the mountain.
We arrived at a spectacular hotel with a giant dog guarding the driveway. The driveway was so steep and muddy we were concerned about getting the big BMW’s up to the top with our street tires.
We rode around the dog and walked around the stone building trying to find someone. The thing I learned about booking last minute online hotels is that the hotel owners are not checking their e-mails every few minutes and often they don’t know we are coming until we show up. That was the case here. It wasn’t long before our host found us wandering around and insisted we sit in the sun with a bottle of wine while he went to get a room ready. It seemed clear we would be the only guests this night.
The view and the wine was amazing and we both knew we found a special place well off the beaten path. Perfect…
For our courage making it up the dangerous mountain road we were awarded a certificate proclaiming us both “Mountain men”!
Off chasing waterfalls
The stone hotel seemed to lack central heat but the morning chill was easily kept at bay with us huddled under the thick stack of blankets. By 10:30 we were fed and caffeinated by our gracious host and we were braving the steep downhill roads on the mountain. Once again our host spoke very little English and I was forced to rely on my limited but improving Spanish skills.
It was amazing where Google Maps was taking us by telling it to “avoid highways”. Highways in this part of Spain are non-existent so I think it was trying to route us on even smaller roads than the normal small roads. Hmm, no complaint here.
From time to time we would stop to take a picture, drink some water and just enjoy the view. I was glancing at the maps on my phone and I saw I could push a button to select tourist sites in the area. Well, that could be interesting since we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere so I punched it in. Mr. Google didn’t hesitate and recommend we visit the Cascadas de Oneta. I knew Cascada meant waterfall and my suspicion was verified by the picture so I hit GO and Mr. Google dutifully took us down some dirt roads into the middle of even more nowhere. After getting lost a few times, riding through a farmers field, and discovering Google doesn’t know ALL the roads, we finally got close to the Cascada when the road ended.
Now, there was MAYBE a way I could have continued around/over the boulders that were placed to keep people from driving on the path beyond, but we decided the huge BMWs with street tires might not be up to the task. Um, not to mention us. It was hot in the sun so we left our jackets behind and starting hiking down the trail. The picture below is that Google said we would see.
We hiked, hiked and hiked and finally came to a view point of sorts… More of a big drip than a huge cascada.
Not sure what was up with that. Did we not go far enough? Was it a dry season? Were we in the wrong place? All of the above? We might never know…
Sure enough, it was getting late as we found our way back to the main highway and stopped when we had cell service to look for lodging. Our route was circling back the way we traveled a few days before and we would cross the Rio Navia where there was a cool looking dam with a ghost town perched above it on a steep hill. I remembered there was a hotel overlooking the dam so Google helped me locate Hotel Las Grandas, a proud two star hotel with a fantastic view.
We had time to hike to the abandoned ghost town before sunset and ignored the no trespassing signs since they were in Spanish and suddenly I couldn’t recognize any of those words.
Some of the buildings on the side of the hill.
This picture was actually the entrance to the small church.
We walked down this abandoned road around the fence and back to our barging two star hotel where we enjoyed an home cooked meal a few beers and a great nights sleep in a room overlooking the dam.
I maybe should have thought twice about exploring a ghost town on Friday the 13th but we ended up just fine…..
I’m going to stop here for now, we only had two more days of wandering on our own before we joined the structured tour group in Portugal. It was some of the best riding yet.
Thanks for following,
Donn and Deby