Going to any length to avoid duff campsites

From Cabuerniga to Arbon at EveryTrail

I headed off late morning after the age that it takes to pack everything up and move everything that got damp in the night into the shifting sunshine to dry off, and after 15 miles of small roads was spewed out onto the motorway A8 heading west. It was great to be riding at speed even though it could be thought of as a boring road.
North coast Spain
I’d got a campsite from Alan Rogers guide that seemed to promise something special, close to the coast, and small it said. I ended up needing to stop for petrol at a ghastly service station with no shade so made a quick snack of it by the bike, my carton of milk bought from the campsite, still drinkable, and some nice fresh bread, followed by chocolate just starting to melt on my fingers. About an hour later I arrived at the suburb where the campsite should be. There was something odd in the guidebook, it seemed the site had two different names and true enough at a small junction in the town there were two sites. I headed to where the GPS wanted me to go but found a rather nasty ASCI approved (i.e. full of Dutch in motorhomes) place with a grand entrance so turned around feeling smug heading for the other site. When I got there, it looked worse. The woman in the glass reception booth told me to park the bike and follow her but by the time I had, she was nowhere to be seen. I walked down to where a few tents were but the place was like a cross between a loud public swimming pool, a busy bar and a caravan site. This was no good, so in the car park I leafed through the guidebook (which I am beginning not to trust so much) and tried a few different ways to tell the GPS where I thought looked safe to go to, about 35 or so miles further west. I jumped on and enjoyed zooming off. But with so much road building here the GPS was hopelessly confused and took me on some lovely twisty roads believing that I was actually a couple of hundred feet above on the new motorway whose great concrete stilts I rode under, from one side to the other. As ever the route to a campsite gets more and more remote and you need trust to believe that it really knows where it is going. Close to where it should be I slowed down looking out for signs and noticed a queue of traffic just behind me. I darted off to the side of the road to let them pass and lurched to an undignified halt. Round the next few bends was the entrance, down a rocky track that Bertha laughs at.

So I am here. In some ways little different to the others – but subtly nicer – and I feel comfortable which is the point. The owner chain smokes roll ups and has Diablo tattooed on his forearm for a start, and explained (something) about the beer I just bought. I found a shady corner just flat enough to stand Bertha and I camped under orange trees. I just ate one that I saw fall to earth. They smell beautiful and fresh.

The guide book says they have a great restarant here. I’m enjoying a cool beer as I write this but I’m not sure I’m up for sitting alone to eat surrounded by the happy families here. I think I will stay a couple of nights all being well and perhaps Sunday will have emptied out. Tomorrow is 1st September and perhaps everywhere will be quieter from now. I want to get to the West coast.

Ride over to Fuente De via Potes

Today was a tiring ride of about 120 miles and riding for three hours of twisty hairpins over the mountain on the way there and less tight but busy roads on the way back. There’s a scary cable car at Fuente De which appears to take people into the sky and leave them there. Potes looked lovely. Its medieval apparently but it was heaving with not a spot to part Bertha so I kept on the move.

Tomorrow I leave here and head over West towards Galicia, aiming for a campsite near Cudillero, near the coast. It is mysterious to find: the GPS coordinates in the guidebook lead to France, my GPS doesn’t put the postcode and the address together and the road directions are ambiguous. Still, I feel like moving on.

Here’s the route I took today, there and back combined.

To Fuente De via Potes at EveryTrail

First proper day in Spain

From campsite up to the El Sopleo caves at EveryTrail

So, my philosophy is to take it easy. My last visit to Spain on the bike was the cause of some anxiety and a baptism of fire of tight steep hairpins. I went out, after mid day looking for medieval Potes but the road I was looking for wasn’t there. Kindly at breakfast two teachers from Portugal gave me some in depth – cave-orientated advice about what to see around here. Luckily the El Sopleo (it means breath or breeze I think) caves were part of their recommended itinerary so I made a sharp right and then a further right up a steeper road (there were cows with horns wandering on it on the way back). Some tightish hairpins today but only one gave some anxiety . There is a stunning view from the site and you can pay €12 for a guided tour of the caves which you start in a rattly old mine train something like the Waterloo and City line used to be – but open carriages. Once inside the show starts. A light show and loud synthesised atmospheric music, reminding me of Almodovar. At this point I remembered that I’d left my expensive movie camera on my bike. Annoying but I am burdened with too many gadgets anyway. The cave was cavishly amazing. At the final  part they played opera, loud and beautiful. Some families started to hug eachother and kiss. The guide said, I think, ‘Music and lights stimulate the frontal cortex’. Then we rattled back up the train back into the daylight. Photography was banned which was a relief. We have to concentrate and rely on memory. A potato salad and Fanta celebrated the safety of my camera.

Tomorrow I will try to find Potes. This holiday is going to be measured though the Portuguese did tell me Galicia is beautiful, though it rains there.

The weather is perfect. The 7pm sun on the roof tiles and bricks where I am sitting now are so warming. There are tourists – all Spanish – but nowhere is crowded and no one drove behind me today making me think I should ride faster than I want to. On my return I realised I’d lost one of my Zig bottles from the back of the bike (the one with vodka in it). I was fond of it.

At Camping Cabuerniga

I made it here. We all got off the ferry safely, and one or two conversations about whether F800 BMWs are more easy to ride than 1200GSs, I was through customs (bikers had their own policeman to wonder around us checking passports). Then it was 33 miles and just under an hour’s ride to the campsite, with the usual doubt that it really knew where I wanted to go as it started to get gloomy. I arrived about 8 in time to buy provisions and something to drink and cooked using my new space-saving cooking pots as it got dark. The site is lovely, quiet, rural with its own donkey and goats, whose bells you can hear ringing. It is set in a steep valley and the style of the buildings is rustic. Its crucially not crowded and there are only one or two motorhomes, the rest of the inhabitants in tents, albeit ones you can stand up in. There’s a little café here, a bar, open to 11pm and a small shop. I intend to stay here until I feel like moving on and take a ride around here to see how intimidating the roads are climbing up through the mountains. It rained briefly just after I got into bed but the sun is up now and its already feeling warm, due to my choice of place to camp, I think my tent will dry off last.

Santander to Cabuerniga at EveryTrail

A day on the ferry

Day 2
Breakfast on board is acceptable, strong coffee, pain au chocolat, fruit juice and healthy cereal all for £6. Eating on DFDS to Holland or Esbjerg is to be avoided, either because it is poor quality or is very expensive. I spent the morning sitting up on the sunny side of the deck reading, at a measured pace so as not to run out of it, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. With such a large number of cabins and cars that drove on, I wonder where all the people are.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner has set me back £30 in total.
My campsite for tonight is about 30 miles southwest from the port so should be easy to get to, with hopefully a bar still open for a beer and some provisions.

Day 1 Home to Portsmouth and on the ship

After an hour contacting the electricity board (its new incarnation) and ordering sinks, I squeezed my bags into Bertha’s panniers, filled up the oil and the vodka bottles strapped on the back and prepared to set sail. Unfortunately an earlier event with my GPS meant that it had forgotten its relationship with my earphones so I had to unmount and retreat indoors to the instructions and start afresh and fiddle about as I rode out of Cambridge before I could hear any directions.
Its 133 miles from home to the Brittany Ferries terminal in Portsmouth. There was little traffic on the road from Cambridge to the A1 but the M25 was queuing for much of the time I was on it, thankfully turning off for the A3, leaving another jam behind, to find my Little Chef I remember from my last trip, now renovated with smart red upholstery but still serving tea and scones for less than £5. Another stop for petrol and by the time I arrived at the terminal I was just waved through and up onto the boat without even a chance to stop and remove my super efficient earplugs so had no idea what anyone was telling me. Luckily everyone is well trained in exaggerated arm movements and I squeezed up about an inch behind another BMW or similar adventure bike with ABR magazine stickers and hard core luggage. Up on deck, a gnarled and bearded Spanish biker attempted to engage me in banter as we gazed down on the last cars and trucks driving on below. I realised – we both realised – that there is a great gulf between Spanish and English. I think he asked me some questions about my trip but I gazed at him completely uncomprehending. In the end I understood something, that its two hours ride from Santander, where we arrive, and his home town on the coast. He gave me a sticker of his motorcycle club.
I retreated to sundeck 6, the deck where the dog owners have to stow their annoying dogs and have them ticked off by a Frenchman with a clipboard. ‘Name?, you mean our name or the dogs’?’ Eventually we left 25 minutes late and I watched beautiful old Portsmouth pass by in the late afternoon sun as we sailed out into the sea, the green and bizarre Isle of Wight out on the right hand side (is that port or starboard?) as we sailed further out. One day perhaps we will all wake up and the Isle of Wight will have disappeared in the night. There will just be one of those slight inclines of the head, as if to say ‘well, that’s just one of those things’.
Finally I got into my cabin (the delay was to get the slow moving cleaners off the boat). This is one of the smaller cabins I’ve had, on the inside, so no view of the sea passing. Now I just need to wait till the children have all gone to bed and make my way up to find something to eat.
I ventured out to chose paella and a small bottle of white wine followed by another glass of wine and a couple of cigarettes on the cooling breezy deck in the dark, while the first live act in the bar started, a young woman in a black dress and too much make up sang to a recorded synthesised track, and small children ran in circles and screamed up above. Others watched English football on screens. Now I’m back in my cabin with Seven Pillars of Wisdom discussing the Arab encampment by night above Wejh. ‘Life in Wejh was interesting’, the chapter starts.
Getting the bikes off the boat will be interesting. There’s a mass of them and most of us will have to push our bikes backwards to drive them up the ramp into Santander.

Heading for Brittany Ferries Portsmouth