Back to Gastes

After two lovely days at Soustons Plage we are ready to move on again.

Two hours drive through lovely villages and not a motorway in sight today we pull in to one of our favourite Aires at Gastes. The village is really tiny. A corner shop that sells everything from tourist beach items to fruit, veg and vino. Next door is now a new restaurant / bar that it still work in progress in places as benches and tables still being constructed. And finally a small fire station.

The Aire is €8.00 per night, toilets, washing up and laundry sink, empty and filling facilities, but no electricity. It is a bollard system in the middle of the entrance which when we arrived was down and a big notice over the pay station. Each evening someone comes and cleans all the facilities and they have also built a fenced in designated refuse area since our last visit.

We are soon parked up and off to the beach. The lake the Aire is next to is large and very shallow for miles out. I swam out about half a mile one morning and was still only hip deep.

We spent the next two days just relaxing again. Watching the sea planes practicing their take off and landing and the sun set over the little marina.

Thursday night was an early dinner and time to dress up in something a bit smarter than shorts and t-shirt as we were off to watch England play on the enourmas screen up at the bar / restaurant. Although England lost 1-0 to Belgium, both teams progress to the next round, so our Belgium neighbours on the Aire were happy and even gave us some Belgium beer to sample. Very nice it was to.

On the morning of our departure just as we are sorting out breakfast there is a knock on our door. The warden has come to collect his money. We nearly had a free stay although we are happy to pay if it means they go on providing a great Aire.

So we set of at about 10.30 for the short 2 hour drive to our next destination up the coast, Hourtin Plage.

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Oh I do like to be beside the seaside……. Soustons Plage

After a peaceful night with just the odd clank from a mast or two we had breakfast this morning before setting off at a much more reasonable time at 10 am. Opting to use the toll roads we are soon passing through the boarder into France and just under two hours to our next stop. A total of €25.47 spent on tolls, a couple of times the Caxton card wouldn’t work interestingly this was always at the manned booths, and our second fillup of fuel.

As soon as we came off the motorway the scenery changed to one we remember so much of this area, large areas of tall thin pine trees and sand. Souston Plage is a popular place for the French activities week, morning and lunch time we would see large groups of children being dropped off by bus and would watch them walk past either on their way to surf school or learning to sail.

The aire is popular and we manage to get one of the last four spaces available. Luckly under the trees to help keep Bella and us cool.

There are two beaches, one we overlook which is a sheltered inlet with a small island in the middle. You can hire all sorts of water sports equipment from small catamarans, kayaks, wind surfing boards and stand up paddle boards. Behind us and over the sand dune is a large beach with constant rolling waves ideal for surfing.

We spent the next couple of days enjoying both. But my favourite was an hour on the stand up paddle board. My feet ended up with pins and needles as I daren’t move them in case I fell off. It has been on my to do list and absolutely loved it. I can proudly say that we both stood up after just a few minutes and neither fell off.

Andy had a ride out both nights, the first time to Hossegor and the second time further up the coast past Messenger. It is a bit awkward getting the bike on and off as the ground is rarely flat but lovely for Andy to enjoy the faster roads and forest tracks.

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Moving North to Santander

It has been lovely spending time in the Pico, but all good things must come to an end and we need to start thinking about heading back into France as it is now the end of our first week.

Amazingly, as I gingerly climbed down the ladder from our bed, the body felt ok. Just one blister a bit sore but legs not too stiff. It is only then that I realise it is 7:30 am and the sun hasn’t even made it over the mountains yet. Mr Holmes! we are on holiday, but I do understand his reasons for being up, it is better to get some miles covered, stop for breakfast on the way to break up the journey and still arrive before lunch with the rest of the day to relax.

So, without even a cup of coffee, as I would just take too long enjoying it, we are off. The road out of the village climbs and climbs and once again we are almost up to the snow line. Finally we drop down on to the N-621 which twists and turns around the southern part of the Picos.

By lunch time we are parked under some trees overlooking the marina at Santander with Seve Ballesteros Airport along side, a couple of other motorhomers and loads of people with deck chairs, umbrellas and windbrakes. So far two planes, an Easy jet and Ryan air have taken off. Having spent about two hours here sunbathing, something doesn’t feel right. I don’t remember any mention of an airport when reading the Aires book. Consulting the book again and we are not in the right place. We should be much further round the marina. Chairs, table etc all back in. Finally we find the right place and park up next to a lovely very big English reg expensive motor home.

After diner we have a walk round the marina before retiring early to bed. Another travel day tomorrow aiming to cross the border and make it to one of our favourite areas on the French coast.

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It was a good idea at the time.

Whilst still in the midst of the cold and very wet winter that we seemed to experience this year, Spain was mentioned as our possible holiday destination in Bella. So the research started and once I had finally discovered that we could get an over-night boat from Roscoff to Spain it was much more appealing. The reason we chose the Pico mountains can only be blamed on several other people’s blogs who had written so much about their beauty and the fabulous walks and the fact that it was good motorcycling country. During my research I came across the Cares Gorge walk which links two villages Cain and Poncebos. Everything I read about it was how stunning its scenery is and they had walked it in 6 hours.

Now in my mind I had it that we would walk one way have a nice lunch in the village and then complete the return leg – simples.

First things first, we needed to get to the start which for us was in the village of Cain 9 kilometres away. Now we had the motorbike so no problem. Then we realised that not only will we need to change out of bike gear and somehow lock it on the bike with our hemets but we also needed to find somewhere flat to unload the bike off the trailer. This meant moving the van to the middle of the entrance of the aire and blocking it for about 20 minutes. Before we implemented this plan Andy paid a visit to the tourist office and enquired about other options. Taxi €30.00 each way, or we could drive the motor home, it is narrow in places but ‘doable’.

So plan B it was, motor home with bike on the back going to Cain.

Yes dear reader(s) as you can see it was narrow and that was not the worst. I couldn’t take pictures of the worst section as I was too busy checking we didn’t catch the roof on the rocks as we take the bend completely on the wrong side of the road just praying we wouldn’t meet anyone as there was just no way we could pass each other and the passing places were very very few and far between. Added into this mess we had now got in to was inclines of 20%. Now going, they were down hill and only had to stop once to let the brakes cool down, but now I am worried how we will get back up them. All sorts of things are going through my mind, need to get rid of the water we are carrying, unload the bike , no idea how, and even remove the gas cylinders.

We eventually see somewhere to pull over, and we discuss parking up and taking the bike the rest of the way. But the car park is in the middle of no where so we decide to press on. We round one bend and the village of Cain appears. That would have been embarrassing.

There are various small cafe’s, hostels and a couple of restaurants. The rest of the available space is car parks. Anyone who has a field provides secure parking for €5.00 for the day. The one we choose looks the easiest to get into, although we still had to pull in the wing mirrors.

And finally we set off walking at 10.20. Small back pack each containing 1 litre of water each, Sun hats, sun cream and the all important purse for the lunch in Poncebos.

The first 3 or 4 kilometres are beautiful over fast flowing water, through tunnels and alongside waterfalls. We start in long trousers as it is still cool but soon the bottoms of the legs are removed (unzipped rather than we cut them off) as it starts to heat up. We pass loads of people who have set out from Poncebos and people in running gear with water packs on their backs jog pass us. We overtake some groups who are of all ages, many a lot older than us. After about 6k the gorge opens up and is much more of a barren feeling as we start our climb.

The last section of the 12k is downhill and steep. Now this is where we should of turned round but we had set ourselves the challenge and we weren’t going to give up. Plus I still wanted my lunch in Poncebos. We made it and yes I did have my lunch, but only the Apple each and Baby bell cheese we had carried as a snack. There was nothing, just a few bins and rows and rows of cars. Not even anywhere to buy some more water or any form of transport back the 100k by road to Cain.

After 20 minutes of rest, if that, we start back, yes we still had to walk another 12k back to Cain. I know you must be saying we were mad, and at one point I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. The climb back up from Poncebos sometimes on hands and knees up the rocky goat track, which had taken an hour to cover the 2k down took me 2 hours!! I felt dizzy, sick and at times struggling to catch my breath. Probably not the best conditions to have on a four foot wide track that disappears on my left over 500 meters to the river far below. The sun was just beating down as it was 2pm and hardly any shade. With lots of stops every 50 meters or so we finally make it to the top – only another 10k to go. Fortunately the rest of the way is either flat or down hill and I was now back to normal. (!-AH). Breathing was fine and the dizziness and sickness gone.

No further pictures taken as didn’t have the energy. Andy bless him carried my rucksack. (more brownee points-AH). We had to rashion our water and had our final sips as we crossed the middle of the three bridges that are close to the beginning. Finally we make it back to Bella, sit in the shade and devour a large bottle of fanta orange. It was now 5.30 pm.

Time to get out of here and back to the Aire. Bella was magnificent. She managed every hill without any unloading, albeit in first gear and very slowly. There were only two scary moments one when a motorbike coming the other way breaked sharply on the bend to allow us to pass and he nearly dropped his bike as he skidded on the gravel. Second was when we met another car coming the other way and she wasn’t reversing up but instead tried to squeeze past, the drop off the hill was her side so we pulled into the ditch our side and let her get on with it.

Finally back and safely parked up. In a day or two I will be immensely proud at completing the 24k but at the moment I have blisters and very tired legs. Didn’t really feel like cooking for some reason so thought we would eat out. At 7pm we set off but neither of the restaurants open till 9pm. Too shattered to wait we head back for spaghetti Bolognese.

One of the the three blisters I ended up with.

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Moving into the heart of the Pico Mountains

Today was a day of lots of oohs, ahhs and oh my gosh. Added in were lots of breathing in as we squeeze past on the narrow roads with barely inches to spare with the rocks hanging over the road – invariably it always seemed to be right on a blind bend.

The morning started misty as we headed off along the N-625, a road that twists and turns, as we started to climb up the Picos we couldn’t really see much. Then suddenly as we reached the summit the mist broke and the most amazing view came into sight.

Luckly there was a viewing area with picnic tables and plenty of parking. We stop and just stand and stare. No words can really describe them and then all too soon the mist rolled back in again. It was as if mother nature was just teasing us.

We start the decent down to a lovely village called Posada De Valedèon and finally we have lost the mist. For the rest of the day we could see the mist and low cloud around the Pico mountains that surround us but this village was constantly bathed in sunshine.

The aire is €10 a night with all facilities including showers. The village has a couple of restaurants that don’t start serving food until 9 pm in the evening (as it seems the way with all Spanish restaurants), a tourist office, a couple of 2/3 star hotels and a small church which Andy climbed up the very steep steps to the bells. Tomorrow is “the” walk.

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The hunt for Enol and Ercina lakes.

After a slow rise we are finally on the road again at 10 ish. Having learnt our mistake yesterday the sat nav is programmed to take motorways today. We are soon eating up the miles and arrive at the aire at Cangas de Onis. The town looks lovely and there are plenty of businesses offering canoe hire but the aire is just basically a car park in the middle of town. It’qs hot, no shade and doesn’t appeal to us. Out comes park4night app and there is a small campsite just further up at Covadonga called Camping Cavadonga!

€16.00 a night, plenty of shade, park where we like and use of Wi-Fi and showers. After our second shuffle round we are now parked up next to a stream. We unload the bike and head off to find the lakes. They are meant to be beautiful. I can’t tell you if that is true or not as we never got to them.

Having travelled 20 minutes up the AS-262 we come across a lovely church. Basilica de Santa Maria La Real de Covadonga

Santa Cueva

We stop to have a wonder around and it is whilst consulting the sat nav before setting off again that we realise we missed the turning to the lakes. Returning back to the roundabout the road we need to take has traffic cones across it and men in high vis jackets. Stopping we ask if we can go through and are advised that you can only visit the lakes on a bus. By now it is late afternoon and give up on seeing the lakes. We then spot a sign for a funicular train so head off to try and find it. May be that will take us to the lakes. Having travelled at least half an hour and having only seen one further sign we once again give up and turn back. It had been nice having a ride out on the bike but didn’t really achieve much. Back to the campsite and I make use of their Wi-Fi to up-load the blog whilst Andy keeps an eye on the football.

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Elephants and Buffalos

With the temperature rising on what looks like a hot day in Bilbao and saying goodbye to fellow English motorhomers it is time to get moving again.

The sat nav is programmed to avoid motorways and we spend about 2 hours traveling along very twisty roads, scenic but time consuming. With still one and a half hours to go we consult the map we purchased on board the boat, nothing like being organised, and opt for motorways and blow the cost of the tolls.

A quick fuel stop (our first this trip) and we are soon eating up the motorway miles. About 10 minutes before our exit we stop again as the cover on the motorbike is starting to flap. Thank goodness we did, as one of the four straps securing the cover had somehow come undone and was now wrapped around the axel of one of the trailer wheels. Luckly no damage and it came off easily. It could have been much worse. Said cover removed completely, as won’t travel again with it on as just not worth the worry.

Leaving the motorway there are no toll booths – perfect, and following the signs for the National Parque de Cabazone (which is a huge safari park covering hillsides and valleys), we have to ‘re trace some of our route as we are at the wrong park entrance. Finally we are parked up over looking a lovely lake and with elephants and water buffalo wandering around behind us it seems rather surreal. The park has been extended so the animals are not as close as they use to be but close enough to hear them in the morning. Waking up to elephants trumpeting, now I didnt expect that this holiday. The area they used to occupy is now the extension to the parks cable lift that takes you round the whole park suspended high above the animals on the plains below. At €30.00 per person we decided to give it a miss and just sit under the trees reading.

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