Up on the coast at Laredo

Saturday 3rd September 

I’m writing this sitting on a rocky wall, dangling my boots over the beach just outside Rogaton Laredo campsite. I packed up at Leon this morning dismantling the one person town that I had built, my home from home, and was on the road by 11 heaving a sigh of relief as I rode off. There’s always something of a release to get out on the road. I didn’t surrender to the easy option of letting the gps take me all the way here on motorways but instead persuaded it to route me on some N roads, partly through the Picos to the coast. I’m so pleased. The route took me to a road where I looked down on the clouds around the mountains. I thought that Spain had saved me the most spectacular view till my last full day of riding. Eventually I had to join the motorway just down from the coast with the occasional view of the sea so I made quicker progress but it was a tiring last third of the ride. Once in Laredo the place felt so unfamiliar that I began to wonder if I had chosen the right town after all. I followed two huge caravans with F plates all the way here. I was determined to get in here first (in case they took the last spaces or more likely that they took up ages of time of the person running the site). They parked outside and I rode straight in. The lady in the desk said they could squeeze me it. This place is heaving with caravans and families older than in Rio Ulla. Someone had to move their car outside to free up a small space of grass that fits both my small tent and my motorcycle. It’s nice to need so little space.

Camping Playa del Regatón

Someone is riding along the beach on a horse. 

Beach by Camping Playa del Regatón

The campsite web presence is all about sustainability but to me it seem just like every other busy site crammed full of vacationers. The location is good though. It would be a pretty sad site to have nothing special about it. The have a cafe bar here that serves food from 6.30 so I will try it to avoid unpacking all my cooking equipment and to eat more of the unhealthy food I seem to be eating for some at least of this trip. I’m glad I had a good ride today as my sense of killing time for these last few days was starting to rise up. 

I am opposite a family who are constantly talking and disputing now doing some repairs with a power tool. I need to chill or to go for a walk. 

A couple of minutes walk, almost a turn around, and you are on this beach and all it’s beauty.

Beach by Camping Playa del Regatón
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an antidote to the super crowded campsite

Pizza and a beer in the site’s cafe was fine and seemed to cost 11 Euros. No regrets.

From Portugal up the coast to Galicia

Monday 29th August 

I’m up and dressed waiting for the sounds of breakfast being prepared so I can eat and start off and leave this oasis back into the real world of camping and cooking. Yesterday, searching on Google, I found what looks to be a good campsite about 3 or 4 hours north from here on the Galician coast called Rio Ulla – because it is sited next to that river. The temperature there is forecast for mid 20s so no heat the struggle with. And reviews are good. I’ve noticed that for probably most campsites reviews are very mixed. Unwelcoming owners and neglected facilities are common themes, and often written about so strongly that they definitely put me off. Let’s see if this one works out. And I mustn’t lose track of what day it is. When  I got out my itinerary the other day I was surprised to see that my boat for home leaves on Sunday and not Monday as I had for some reason in head. 

Later. I’m now at Rio Ulla. I rode for over four hours without a break to get here. I made a point of choosing not to ride on any motorways so definitely made the longer journey here, though much more interesting to ride through towns and see people sitting or walking around. Typically for me, I didn’t stop for lunch in case I missed that last camping space though as I can see there are at least two spaces next to me so I could have been more relaxed about the journey. Now that I’ve told the gps to avoid motorways it really does avoid them and took me through towns and around amazingly twisty and up and down country roads. There was some beautiful riding on tarmac in some places looking like it had just been laid. A very different pleasure and concept to dirt roads. But it is getting dark here quickly so I will write more later. 

This campsite is in a beautiful location and has a swimming pool which I visited to try my developing front crawl.

At Camping Rio Ulla, Galicia Swimming Pool
River Ulla

Spain is very family orientated and the campsite is packed with families and children, so you have to be happy to have a constant level of noise very close to you.

At Camping Rio Ulla, Galicia
I took this picture by accident

Now is a good moment to add some thoughts about the soft luggage that I am using for the first time, the Mosko Moto Reckless 80 setup. It involves heavy duty carriers for panniers and a roll top bag that sits on top of a rack. This set up cost me around €700. On the top it has two large flaps and straps and buckles that fold over and hold down a 22 litre tailbag and other bags that you can squeeze in and tighten down – like shopping. Without a system of pannier racks, the design trick is to keep the side bags from rubbing up against a hot exhaust and melting. The set up just about manages that though I checked a few times just in case. It features two tube like waterproof rolltop bags that slide into the side pockets and can then be strapped down. There are two smaller 4 litre similar bags, same shape but on a smaller scale that fit onto the back of each pouch. Coming from metal panniers and quite square shaped inners, the first thing to notice with this soft system is that the quite narrow cylindrical shape of the side bags means that a lot of the time you have to empty everything out to get to some item that has slipped to the bottom. They have transparent panels which are helpful to show you what’s inside but obviously don’t help with access. Secondly, when even just reasonably full these bags are difficult to push into the holster type structures that hold them. You have to do a lot of pushing and pulling or emptying a few things out first. You can see from the picture above that I resorted to leaving them on the bike to avoid having to do this. Because I was lucky enough to completely avoid any rain on this trip (this must be a first – it was a drought after all), I can’t say how waterproof the system is. I don’t doubt that it is. In future I will buy another tailbag, smaller than 22l to also stash under the top to use to put in shopping or the odd item that didn’t fit in the 22l bag that I used for camping equipment – tent, footprint, sleeping bag, Thermarest, inflatable pillow by Aluft and a Sea to Summit silk sleeping bag liner. My new Helinox camping chair had to be stashed outside this bag. It was a life-saver by the way, though one of the campsites had an old table and chair so I didn’t always use it.

I’m by the Portugal coast in the cool

Sunday 28th August 

I’m revelling in the benefit of the cool weather by the coast. I’m sitting on a bench by a beach in Avila which is some kilometres north of Porto and south of the river that forms the border between Portugal and Spain. I’m still staying at the answer to every hope that is Casa Do Bosque. This morning I was served a perfectly presented continental breakfast. Not too much of anything but what there was was fresh and freshly made, the freshly squeezed orange juice, the bread and coffee. And of course enough bread and sliced cheese to make into a delicious sandwich that I’ve just eaten here by the sea. Followed by some plums I bought a couple of days ago. The breeze here now is so cool and cooling. And gone is the fight against the heat. Everything is easier from packing my bags to making decisions. I’ve been surprised how my small additions of a helmet lock and a light weight disk lock really do make parking up and walking around so much easier. I walked up and down a familiar Portuguese type sea front promenade then got on the bike to take me five minutes south to a little sandy beach with a great view. In fact I’ve been here sitting in the same spot for an hour.

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I find it hard to tear myself away

Next stop Barcelos which I’ve been told is a town worth visiting and I’ve plotted a supermarket there to stock up for the next couple of days on the road. My decision for tomorrow is whether to try to get to a nice site Camping San Francisco in one day or split into two. Today is Sunday so I have one week left to make the most of. I have sent a message for advice from my Galician next door neighbour in London. 

Later: The food at my hotel I have to say is sublime. Though I preferred my first meal to the second which was fish. 

Thursday at the hotel Estalagem in Braganca Portugal  Thursday 25th August

Time to catch up. 

In Braganca hotel

The ride through the tunnels from Santander heading south was enjoyable and I remembered them from previous trips. The temperature varied. At some moments I thought about stopping to get something warmer on then later to take something off. But the trend was that it was getting hotter. I stopped once at a Repsol station not to get fuel but some water and peanuts which I started eating standing next to the bike, a pattern for my travels, then headed off. But it was getting hotter and eventually the wind changed from being a cooling breeze to feeling like sitting in front of an open oven door. I don’t know why but I kept on riding when I should have stopped to drink water.

Burgos Spain
Burgos Spain
KTM parked in secret in Burgos Spain

I remember I stopped in a stone walled car park in Burgos a beautiful university city on the Camino it seemed by the pilgrims that I saw walking by the road. But I didn’t stop for any length of time. It was too hot. I headed for campsite one, Camping Riberduero Spain, Castilla Y Leon, and got there just after two. I had to phone the manager when I arrived. She said go ahead and pitch and gave directions to vacant spaces. I was impressed by the professionalism.

Camping Riberduero Spain, Castilla Y Leon

It was hot and there were flies and I was exhausted by the heat. A shower helped but it wasn’t till about 6 when I climbed back into my bike gear to visit the local supermarket and came away with Dinner and a beer all wrapped up with a bag of ice that I started to relax. So I determined to do the next day differently. I slept ok though realised my tent was next to a light so it was never dark. Dogs barked in the night reminding me of other nights in Spain. Breakfast and it always takes so long to pack up and leave. 

A better experience. I knew those first couple of cooler hours would be the ones to enjoy. A spell on a motorway then a stop for orange juice then N122 all the way over the big bridge on the Douro marking the border between Spain and Portugal noting the temperature was over 30. 

I arrived in the town too early to check in so parked up and had something to eat from my supplies.

At Braganca Portugal
Parked and feeling optimistic

There is a loud music venue and a happy dog below as I write this at 9.45pm at night at Hotel Estalagem. 

Once at Braganca and rather hot with time to kill I found the start of the ACT here – which is why I came – and tried the first bit of gravel road. The bike was hot it’s fans racing. I was hot and flustered, in turn willing to try it and definitely not willing. But I will try it and be prepared to exit onto the roads around here if needed. The next hotel further south has check in from 3pm so there will be a couple of hot hours tomorrow. I must keep my personal cool and let that ever present anxiety fall away. That’s another story. 

Dinner here. High point a huge g and t in a huge ice-filled glass with condensation on the outside. Low point waiters asking continually if all was good. 

G&T so welcome at Hotel Estalagem
Look how big this drink is! It needed both hands to lift it.

The room here is old fashioned with large old fashioned furniture and bathroom and I had to move a very large wardrobe into the middle of the room to get to the electric sockets to get everything charged up. So un-21st century.

Charging behind the wardrobe at Hotel Estalagem
Behind the huge wardrobe in the middle of the room.
Hotel Estalagem
My usual mess

More weight-saving before setting off

I leave on Monday week for Spain and Portugal, into more heat and fire-warnings, hopefully easing by then.
I have new tyres, Heidenau K60 Sport, 50-50 road and off-road, courtesy of Two Tyres, not that far away over in Greenwich, who did a good job while my KTM dealer in Ipswich couldn’t look at my bike till mid-September.

A couple of impulsive buys on my last visit to the Adventure Bike Shop in Suffolk and I have saved some weight on this and future travels – just over 1kg on a lighter disk lock and compressor.