We woke to a damp cool Saturday morning at the Hotel las Grandes. Our room had a great view overlooking the dam and Embalse de Salime (Salime reservior), it was beautiful but I knew we would be in for a cool day of riding. We needed to be in Lisbon Portugal on Monday so we had a few more days to explore the area. The direct route to Lisbon would be 446 miles but that would be too easy so instead of heading south we went north back to the coast.
I notice now that I didn’t take any pictures during this whole day of riding. Our detour to the northern coast was a bust riding through cool cloudy weather over the mountains and dropping down to a even colder coast with a stiff wind off the ocean bringing in a bone chilling mist. Before long we turned south just to get away from the cold and back to the relative warmth of the mountains.
As is our norm, we stopped around three in the afternoon to find a place to stay for the night. We crossed the Rio Sil on N-20 and parked at a small picnic area under the bridge. I used my cell phone to find lodging and Deby climbed down to the shore of the river looking at rocks. It was soon apparent that we were far from any traditional hotel style lodging so Booking.com suggested a B and B farm stay that was less than an hour away. The button said “book now” so I hit yes and we had a reservation.
I programmed the location into my GPS and we followed some serious back roads to Hospedaje Ferrería Quintá which was at the end of a dirt track backing up to the mountains.
The internet, cell phones, technology… they are all great in the big cities but out here in the rural parts of Spain not everyone is constantly checking their computers and phones. Sure, we booked a room an hour ago but the woman who ran the Hospedaje had no idea we were coming. That is why we stood at the door knocking for a long time at what seemed like an abandoned house. We stood in our riding gear for what seemed like 10 minutes looking at each other wondering what to do when the door opened and a woman came out wrapped in a bath robe with a towel around her head, we had obviously just disturbed her shower.
In my typical fashion my first question was, “habla usted Inglés?” The answer was “no”, but with a friendly smile and almost laughing at the situation. OK, it was up to me and my best language skill to explain why two dirty motorcycle travelers had interrupted her shower. We learned her name was Carmen and she apologized that she had to go to church to celebrate one year anniversary of her mothers death and was running late. We were the only ones there. Could we wait? She would only be an hour or so. She pointed us to the pool and a refrigerator full of cold beer. Would that be ok? Ummm, sure! She finished getting dressed while we unloaded the bags off the bikes and enjoyed some cool drinks in the sun. Nice.
After almost two hours we heard the car bouncing up the dirt track and then another and another car. The after party was coming to the hospedaje! Awesome. Everyone was dressed up and we all hung around on the porch conversing in Spanish. Ha, not really sure what it was all about but we had fun.
Deby found a nice place on the upper deck to catch up on reading while I completed the check-in process which pretty much consisted of walking to the upper bedroom and opening the door to the small bedroom and locating the shared bathroom.
We were miles from any type of restaurant or store to buy food so we were glad when Carmen offered to make us dinner. We really felt bad that she had to go to her small kitchen and cook after her guests left, but she seemed truly glad to do it. We had a wonderful evening with a cozy chicken dinner, bottle of local wine and nice conversation. I was glad to practice my Spanish.
In the morning we visited her Pequeno Museo (small museum) where she explained the history of the property and how her family lived and ranched there for years. Here is a picture of Carmen demonstrating the loom in her museum.
After a hearty breakfast it was time to continue our journey to Lisbon to meet the tour group. We were getting apprehensive about having to ride with a group. How could a group ride stumble on a place as serene as Hospedaje Ferrería Quintá or someone as friendly and interesting as our host Carmen or being part of an impromptu post funeral anniversary party? I pondered these thoughts as I looked out our bedroom window at the local mountains.
We had one day left of riding on our own and it was fantastic! We rode south and crossed into Portugal at Montesinho Natural Park. The weather warmed up and the roads through the mountains were beautiful with plenty of twists and turns and almost no traffic on a Sunday. We were back in our riding element, enjoying the last day of riding freedom and well in tune with our brand new BMW motorcycles that effortlessly ate up the kilometers. Back into more small towns:
Seriously, this was the road the GPS said to take. Awesome!
I was a happy camper.
We stumbled into this remote valley Casal do Rei.
This is one of those place that is hard to explain, there is not much I could find on the internet and it seems to be way off the beaten tourist path. It’s a farming community perched on terraces on either side of a steep canyon. I was amazed and pictures don’t do it justice.
We were having fun but soon we had to secure lodging and this time we selected a big hotel in a big city, Hotel Lusitania in Guarda, Portugal. I’m not sure why but it was a small shock going from our previous two nights in remote country locations to a thoroughly modern big city hotel. Although, the endless hot water in the shower put me in a better mood.
Back to Lisbon
This was it, our final day on our own exploring Spain and a small part of Portugal. We were heading into the big city of Lisbon to meet our group and our friends Art and Carol for the “guided” part of our trip.
We decided to ride through the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela which was phenomenal. We were on some fantastic tight turning roads climbing up the mountains. In 40 miles we climbed over 4,000 feet on a road no wider that a bicycle path with switchbacks up the mountain. The road and views were fantastic. I only took a few pictures because I was trying to hang on!
The road went along the back side of this huge dam made out of blocks.
Eventually we were running out of daylight and rode west to Anca where we caught the super-modern super-highway south to Lisbon where we found our way through the maze of streets to our hotel.
So that wraps up the Spain part of our trip. I wouldn’t have guessed that Northern Spain was such a fantastic place to explore on motorcycles. It was so easy to navigate compared to our Latin American trips that we felt like we were “cheating”, it was so easy and fun. The people were friendly and the roads were in much better shape than many in the US. Except for the cities, the roads were not crowded and well marked. I hope we can get back there soon!
Next is our Portugal part of the trip riding with the tour group, MotoXplorers and our friends Art and Carol. Thanks for following!
Donn and Deby