Spain - Portugal

July 2017

Part 7: Urkiola - Greece

My host Jim at Oviedo has already left the apartment as he works as a driver for a supermarket which means that his bed misses him before the rooster wakes. I didn't wake much later as I had many km to cover and I go to the kitchen and see how I can satisfy my stomach before I satisfy my eyes on the road. Did I praised my host enough on my previous post? (part 6). Well, maybe not. Since he works for a supermarket he had flooded the kitchen and the fridge with all shorts of edible and drinkable stuff for breakfast with a clear written message that it was all at my disposal. What a top guy...

My iron horse loaded and ready to head East for the Basque country, weather is OK for the moment but rather questionable and I hit the road. If I had more time in my hands and better weather I would definitely dedicate more of the first for Picos de Europa National Park but instead I just intended to drive as close to it as possible. So, on this surprisingly cold 1st of July I take AS114 in an attempt to make my long riding day as scenic as possible. It was scenic without a doubt but the weather didn't allow me to capture beauty - I did captured (once again) some considerable amounts of water instead. It is a marvellous area that you shouldn't miss if you are around, how could I know that 1st of July would look like 1st of January up there.

After a couple hundreds of km I am outside Bilbao, still rains and I stop at a gas station for a refill. The guy working there sees my Greek number plate and starts a chat. Behind my helmet and in a super noisy environment I manage to here him in English calling me "Ulysses" and commenting on the long distance I have covered to make it up there. I don't think I had a similarly intellectual encounter at a gas station before. I thank him and depart to ride in the rain again for the last 100km.

I struggle to find my next Airbnb located up in the mountain of Urkiola and after repeated cross checking on maps and Airbnb I am outside a yard that looks pretty much like the place I'm looking for. The door is closed, weather shows mercy and has stopped raining minutes before but I am kinda anxious as it would rain again anytime soon and I'm already wet enough and tired. I start calling my host Francois but no answer. With no other choice left I call his name. No response. I am a second away before I jump the fence to make my way into the property when Francois appears from his fence at the property next to the one I was about to invade. As I turn my back to reach my bike and drive up to his entrance a full sized German Shepard appears from the first property. Yep...just imagine what would have happened if I had jumped that fence...

Francois tells me that it's a tricky way to make it up to his place so I'd better wait for him there and he'll come pick me with his car. I said to myself "how bad can this be - it's not even a gravel road". Well, when I walked a few steps to see what they were talking about I understood...I didn't want to leave my bike there in the middle of nowhere though so I told them to take my luggage and I would ride my bike up this slippery twisty uphill with less weight. My worn rear tire showed mercy so I made it in one piece and Francois with his wife brought my luggage in their car.

What a fantastic couple and a super beautiful place they have in this Basque heaven. My room puts a smile on my face instantly. Look at my bed:

The whole house of this amazing BnB is decorated from Francois's wife (damn - missed her name) and the location is wonderful - at least on OK weather conditions. Have a look:

Bedroom view - so cold that my beer tasted as it just came from the fridge at night

Garden with view to Circo de Markuarre

180 panoramic attempt - hope it gives you an idea

Francois and his son would go the town of Durango around 10km away for a visit to the supermarket so they kindly offer to take me with them as I definitely need some stuff too. They also invite me for dinner later and his super smiley and talented wife makes a great one. We felt like friends instantly and I extend my stay for a plus day as I want to wait for better weather. Besides, what a nice place to be waiting for the clouds to give place to the sun...

I grab a chance of a not so rainy day and do a bit of hiking around. Didn't regret it at all:

Still quite misty and wet:

I like to keep small things from my trips for my (short of) travel museum at home but this time I went kinda too crazy picking this hole piece of wood I found while hiking around:

Yes, this piece of log is about to travel a couple of thousands km all the way back to Greece on my bike :) Totally worth it to keep a memory from such a place though - listen to the birds singing in the woods:

As the weather gets better my images get clearer so here's some crispier images from the garden view:

It's my last day there, weather is nice for the first time after many days, I have the Basque paradise in my palm, impossible to not ride my bike around. Riding around the Basque mountains is top joy - feels like every single route is just pure fun. I headed to the sea to see how the coastal places look like. It's been a while since I was able to take pictures like this:

On the N634 with view to Getaria

Coming from Greece the above can't be jaw dropping for me but what really was without second thinking was San Sebastian. I mean...look at this:

You have this wonderful beach and it is super clear and quiet even in the heart of the high season. Amazing. The whole city is a masterpiece:

I leave this gem behind and take a different but still heavenly route back to my BnB:

Next morning, I load my bike and take my tasty breakfast out in the garden for the first time as the previous weather didn't allow so:

Francois comes to me and says in his Basque English "You look like you think a lot. What are you thinking about?". He was right, it feels like that when a long trip like this comes close to its end. You have all these images and experiences in your head, still each one of them trying to find the right place in your memory. We hug and kiss like old friends and I leave behind one of the best places I've ever been and some of the best people I've ever met.

3 hours later, as I make my way South to catch the ferry from Barcelona (back to Italy and then Greece) I come to a dead end. Who knows what the hell happened to the road and how recent this is that Google is not aware yet? A couple of British bikers that arrive share the same question while I picture the area:

Another hour later I make a stop to picture the interesting rock formation of Mallos de Riglos. Looks like a mini me Spanish equivalent of the Greek Meteora. Nice:

An hour and a half later I am melting under the Spanish sun and in the absence of a rest area I make a stop under a bridge in a desperate quest for some shade:

The ferry brings me from Barcelona to Civitavecchia from where I make an overnight at a nice AirBnB house right by a private lake full of frogs. See my loaded iron horse parked outside:

Next day I ride up to Ancona to catch the next one to (finally!) mama Hellas. After almost a month on the road I can't wait to see Greek water again and when I do it feels priceless:

Feels nice to be back home after a long trip like this - time to service my trusty companion so we both feel nice:

See you on the next one!