The morning is clear and cool with a fog hanging out in the valleys between the green, grapevine terraced hillsides making a brilliant contrast to the bright blue sky above the layer of fog. We will ride to the northern coast of Spain today spending a couple hours riding the N-222 in the Douro valley, ranked one of the top driving roads in the world, ( http://www.avisbestroad.com/uk/the-top-25-roads/ ). The road was a perfect blend of curves and straight sections, elevation changes and perfect scenery that had us in slow-mode riding style as this was perhaps the most beautiful scenery we had encountered. The terraced hillsides of grapevines set in a patchwork quilt style. some rows facing this way, others at 90 degree angles to it’s perfect neighbor and then other just there. All of this was broken with occasional chalets and towns with the layered fog burning off slowly to reveal the beauty of the Rio Douro, cutting a ribbons path of flowing blue through the valley to the town of Pinhao.
As we were coming to the village of Pinhao we pulled over on the side of road, got of the bike and sat on the moss covered stone wall bordering the Rio Douro looking toward town and, just looked. We sat at that spot in the shade of a couple large, green leafy trees not talking while we munched on an apple, just taking in one of the most beautiful sights we had seen. Villagers would pass us, walking or biking, and smile and wave on their way toward town, stopping at the bakery and market to buy fresh baked breads and fresh fish to prepare for the evening meal and visiting with friends all doing the same. The life here is simple, relaxed and refreshing. If I happen to just up and disappear some random day, look here for me first, as we will be riding, relaxing and drinking Spanish wine and Portuguese port.
Little did we know that the ride from this point north to the coast of Spain would be just as brilliant.
OK, time to go and we cross the bridge into town, riding slowly down the main street enjoying the village ambiance. We rode north out of town headed to the Spain border and jumped on the A-52, like an interstate highway, to make up some time. It was a beautiful ride twisting at fast speeds in and out of curves with not much traffic and we stayed on these roads for about 200 Kms. We finally got to slow back down and get on small two-lane road as we headed up toward a1400 meters pass. Almost to the top we crossed an arm of an alpine lake/ski resort and another unexpected pass following the Rio Vejo as it fought its way down through yet another canyon. The road weaved back and forth, gaining elevation with rock walls jutting out forming one side of the road, while on the other side a small river wove its way among pocket of grassy areas and old homesteads. As we came to the top of the pass we met several bikers on holiday from the Netherlands. We exchanged routes as we were both headed in different directions of things that shouldn’t be missed ahead.
The road in front of us beckoned us as the curves were tight, unpredictable and unprotected. We pressed on, not so fast as to miss the beauty in front of us but not so slow as to miss some of the thrill associated with this kind of riding. We rode into the town of Potes and were treated with a beautiful village, cafes on the water near a bridge crossing a small river and horses with riders making their way through town.We headed back out of town while looking for a place to camp, finding one about 2 kms down the road. Pulling in to the camp we found a few Dutch sitting around having happy hour, drinking wine and sharing camp space. We set up camp, washed out our riding gear and headed down to the small restaurant on the stream, for Paella, just as dusk was starting to cast its long shadows across the campground.
A fantastic blue skied morning greeted us as we packed up camp in anticipation of a ride to the northern coast of Spain. The road toward the coast remained fantastic all the way to the beach. We rode through a tight canyon following a stream that had cut through the rock for eons while my GPS was showing about 5 minutes to the Atlantic Ocean. We came down to the beach through the community of Lekeitio. This beautiful town surrounded a tidal bay filled with boats stuck in the sand as the tide was low with only pockets of water surrounding islands of soft muck. As we were riding across the bridge we pulled over just to take in the views and smells of the ocean, watching the people riding bike and jogging along the waterfront. I’ll say it again, the past two days have shown some of the most inspiring scenery of the ride. We continued on the the beach, stopping to enjoy the view and weather along the Atlantic coast on the northern coast of Spain. Yep, we said to each other, we are really here. How about a selfie. We continued our coastal drive which reminded us of the Pacific Coast Highway on the western coast of California, looking for a perfect campground to drink some wine, have dinner and watch a sunset. Along the way we passed through a town that had a suspended ferry croosing across the river. Very cool.
Coming around a corner we found the Camp Itxaspe. It was absolutely perfect, high on a terraced bluff overlooking the ocean. While we were eating dinner and chatting the sun started to set and I realized that from that point, high on the bluff, I would be able to watch the sun set and again rise in the morning over the Atlantic Ocean from the same spot.
Back at the camp after sunset our neighbor invited me over for a cigar and a drink of very rare scotch. Some people just know how to travel.
Cheers, from 2WANDRRs…