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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Bilbao and some culture

Great night sleep in our individual bunks, being gently rocked like a baby as the boat made its way along the French coast and on to Spain. This morning we are woken by gentle music being piped into the cabins to wake all the passengers. A full English breakfast plus cereals and croissants are available in the restaurant, but we opt for a coffee and share two mini croissants. It is only about 10 minutes away to the Aire we have chosen, so we will have more breakfast once we are there. Over the loud speaker, drivers and their passengers were ordered to make there way to their vehicles. Now is the time you need to remember your colour and number of the parking zone your vehicle is at. Several people were asking information if they could locate their vehicle for them as they had no idea!! 5 floors to search and 4 zones – good luck.

Disembarkation is smooth, with traffic controllers on all the roundabouts and junctions through the vast port helpfully directing the way. Soon we are on the major roads around the town and then climbing higher and higher to the Aire which is perched high on the hillside overlooking Bilbao nestled in a valley below with the Ria de Bilbao flowing seaward.

10 minutes later and we are parked up. €15.00 per night which includes 24 hour guard, not that we felt it was needed as the area is surrounded by a fence, electricity, Wifi and very clean male and female toilets. Each bay also has its own water supply.

The views down to the town are brilliant. And the number 58 bus goes to the old town every 15 minutes €1.30 per person each way.

We wander through the streets spotting several “pilgrams” on the Camino de Santigo walk, symbolised by the clam shell on their back packs, although they were easy to spot, with their tired expression, hiking boots and walking sticks.

Is Ribera Market in the old town on the river bank draws us in, I just love wandering around all the stalls set out so wonderfully with, fish, meats, vegetables and the most amazing aromas from the herbs and spices stalls. One half of the Market is stalls and the other is small individual restaurants with beautiful displays of Pinxtos. You wander around purchasing different Tapas from one or several stalls, a glass of wine or beer and seating is in the middle so you can people watch for hours.

The temptation to just stay and keep eating was resisted. Time for some culture. We follow the river bank round to the Puente Zubizuri. A recent bridge that crosses you back to the Abando area where the Guggenheim museum is.

€13.00 Each and we are inside an amazing building its facade is covered in either, sand stone, 1mm thick titanium sheets or glass. No surface is flat.

The art work on display is over three floors, some are permanent exhibitions, others such as the Chinese one are temporary. Four hours later and we have seen enough. Some were thought provoking others I was just not sure about. But all in all glad we went in.

We walk back along Gran Via, renowned for its expensive shops before catching the bus back to the aire and have a Gin and Tonic watching the sun set and the lights over the town. It has been a great introduction to Spain.

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Mini cruise.

Another quiet night and we set off early for the ferry port. Few nerves and excitement are felt as we pull into the checking in area.

With 15 lanes to choose from we opt for lane number 4 next to the lorry lane in case with our length of 7 meters we would be classed as a lorry. By the time boarding is about to commence there are about 20 vehicles max , 10 behind us and others in lanes further to our left. One sole check in lady appears. She switches on the green traffic lights for the first booth, the empty one for lorries, then proceeds along to all the other booths switching their lights to red. Next going back to the first booth she raises the shutter and instructs us all to move over. You can guess what mayhem this caused as people (us) who had been at the front of the queue tried to squeeze back in front again. Eventually we are all through and customs cleared, even with our bear (who has no pet passport) as luckily they only asked if we had any cats or dogs on board.

We watch the last crew members of the 107 on board walk across the car park having finished their shift before we are loaded on. We have to drive the full length of the boat between lines and lines of lorries, turn around at the end and come back up the other side.

This ship has four floors for vehicle’s ! Having read the phamplet we were given at check in, you are advised to note what colour and floor you are parked at. Later we understand why.

We locate our cabin, number 8241 (which was nowhere near 8240 or 8242 or even on the same side of the ship??) and dump our baggage for the butler to unpack and we head off to explore (find a tv for the England game-Andy Holmes comment)

Before long it is just grey flat seas all around us. We while away the hours, drinking, reading, another drink and then shower and change for dinner. When making our reservation earlier on we were all given the same seating time of 6:45 ! Next seating is at 8pm. Dinner was fine, and passed a few more hours before we returned to one of the previously ‘explored’ lounges to see the final half of the England game before retiring back to our cabin.

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Markets and mischief

Whilst entertaining our stowaway, an invitation to visit Jude at her lovely cottage in the small ‘amlet of Couzanet was kindly offered and accepted. We left St Marlo just after 9am on a very over cast day – this was not ordered for our holiday. The weather continued to deteriate to a fine drizzle in the three hours it took us to drive up to Morlaix and then down to Judes. Even with Ali’s brilliant instructions and a picture of said cottage, could we find it, no. We went round the cul de sac three times. Plan B text Ali and use “stalker” App. Ali says we are no where near her according to the App. So we head back out of the cul de sac for the fourth time. Just as we get on to the main road, the phone rings and Ali shouts that the App has just put us at the end of the road ?? According to us there is no “end” of road. Back round again. This time we spot Ali running up what from our angle looked like someone’s drive. If only we had gone round the cul de sac the other way all would have been easy.

What an amazing host Jude is. A lovely level, gravelled driveway and access to running water should we need it – perfect.

After a lovely lunch rustled up by Alison, a walk was suggested to the lake at Brennilis. Now I should point out that there was no mention of wandering around a nuclear power station. Nucleaire de Brennilis has just completed the second phase of a three phase dismantling process that started in 1985 after only 12 years of using uranium cooled by the waters from “said” lakes to produce electricity. Further information can be found at Nucléaire de Brennilis. It doesn’t look anywhere near finished yet.

The lake is large and what little we could see of it because of the low cloud and drizzel looked lovely. Having walked round a very small section we followed a path to what we thought would take us back to the car. Somehow though we ended up wandering past empty buildings and abandoned vehicles, it all felt as we were in an episode of Lost.

Yes that is the reactor plant and yes that is how close we got to it.

After finally finding our way back out and no one arrested, I can safely report that none of us glowed green that night.

The day ended with a little Cuban dancing in the town of Huelgoat pronounced “wellgrat” ?? which was hosting a music festival. Different bars, restaurants and hotels had musicians and singers performing, some better than others, and Ali and I couldn’t resist attempting to salsa, sorry Christophe we didn’t remember very many of the moves you taught us many moons ago.

The day ended with gin tasting of 4 different gins and three different tonics, measures where kept small luckly as Ali and I still needed to cook. Dinner was mango chicken with pan fried pineapple, fresh asparagus and new potatoes, followed by raspberry tart and a glass or two of wine. Lots of chatting (and a visit from Jane down the road) and before we realised it was gone eleven and we really needed to head to bed. A brilliant day thank you.

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