Posts tagged Cycling
Next stop was Salema, beachside wild camping along with 10 other motorhomers. This spot is in a wetland, and the sound of frogs and waves serenaded us to sleep. We spent a gloriously hot couple of days fishing, sunbathing and generally lazing about. We managed one cycle ride up the rather steep hills into the town, David’s very cheap bike is currently running on one front gear and he had a hissy fit when he saw the climb out of town. Our bbq is getting heavy use now, it is magical to sit next to the ocean, glass of wine in hand of course, and cook some fresh fish or frango piri-piri.
We reluctantly moved onto Sagres, the most westerly town in the Algarve where the weather turned more windy. Consequently, it proved to be another challenging ride to Cabo St Vincent, especially after a couple of G&Ts. David was carrying Odie in his doggie backpack much to the delight of the busloads of Americans who grabbed the opportunity to take a photo, some by asking if they could and others by snapping away when they thought David wasn’t looking. The lighthouse is the most powerful in Europe and its light can be seen for over 90 miles. It’s a very good thing as the sea is very choppy and rough out there.
Sagres town has a couple of places to park in the van, we stayed at both and had a great time walking and fishing near the town. We enjoyed an incredible Sunday lunch of grilled fish and a massive steak washed down with the local beer. All cooked by an old salty looking chef who brings out the uncooked wares for you to examine before singeing them on the grill. Beats a Sunday roast hands down!
We were feeling rather weary after our overly exuberant new year celebrations in Benalmadena and after a night of recuperation we drove southwards in search of sunnier climes. We decided to return to one of our favourite Spanish campsites, near to the Cabo de Trafalgar (where Nelson fought the Spaniards).
The area is famous in Spain for its pine trees. They were planted by Franco to stop the endless march of sand inland. The trees still produce pine kernels and in January provide a home to an apparently very poisonous caterpillar. We were told by other campers that said caterpillar was both attractive and fatal to dogs. Luckily we only saw a couple of dead specimens and Odie was not at all interested in them, so they can’t be such a delicious doggie delicacy.
There are some fantastic cycling routes which thread though the natural pine park. We were looking forward to using our bikes to discover more of the area. Unfortunately our ambitious plans were rudely interrupted by some enterprising bicycle thieves who nicked our bikes in the middle of the night. They kindly left our bike cover, which means we don’t have to replace it for a third time! After discovering our loss, I had to make a trip to Barbate police station to report it and during this tedious exercise found out that the campsite had been targeted the previous month and that eight other bikes had been nicked in one night not long before we arrived! Pity no one had mentioned this fact when we turned up or we would have locked them to our van instead of to a tree!
We did not let our loss detract from our stay in the lush Costa de Luz, there were plenty of walks to the beach, lighthouse and along the surrounding hills. We were blessed with sunshine for most of the month and this meant David could work outside, although he had to defend his laptop from the sunshine and his legs from mosquitoes!
We squeezed in a visit to Cadiz, Europe’s oldest city, with narrow streets, exotic plants and hardly any parking spaces. We replaced our bikes with some cheap mountain bikes from Decathalon, and David purchased a mound of new clothes to replace his crusty look with a smart sporty style.
The campsite was a very sociable place, which was a major draw for us to stay for a month. We participated in 2 quiz nights (one sober; one with a very random combination of drinks) and played bingo for the very first time (besht played when tipshy!)
We met Padget, a bearded collie, and his owners, Bill and Jane, who are on a traveling adventure like us. It was fantastic to have some mates about again. We went for long lunches, played some hectic tennis and table tennis, went for long walks and drank quite a few beers together. If you want to check out their blog go to: http://www.getjealous.com/Billandjayne
We also met another couple, Paul and Tracey, and all 6 of us played an interesting match of TT which involved running around the table and trying to hit one ball each before stepping out of play. It made me feel rather dizzy and David was complaining of stiff obliques the next day. This was soon followed by a boozy curry night before we hit the road once again! Months of social deprivation were made up in just a few weeks. Keep in touch guys!
I had hoped to cycle along the Canal du Midi at some point on our travels. Luckily, we found a lovely spot next to the canal and close to the town of Villneuve Les Beziers. There were two rival duck gangs that frequented this part of the canal and, the ducks proved to be fiercely competitive when we brought out our breadcrumbs. The ducks quacked all day and night (even at 3am) patrolling their territory and trying to source more food from passers by.
We took down the bikes and went for a lovely cycle ride in brilliant sunshine in over 20 degree temperatures in November! The canal is bordered by plane trees and their leaves turn a bright yellow in the autumn. Much of the land next to the canal is covered with vines and farms. Odie discovered to his detriment that farm dogs are not to be greeted uncautiously, even if they are chained up!
After the hustle and bustle of touristy towns, we escaped to Monti Sibillini and its eerie National Park, which straddles the Le Marche and Umbrian region of Italy. We stayed in a grassy (and free) area di sosta close to the town of Castleluccio, surrounded by mountains.
Handgliders and paragliders make good use of the flat basin, perfect for easy landings. Some of the more adventurous ones could even be seen disappearing in and out of clouds that tumble down the sides of the mountains.
The area is perfect for hiking and mountain biking; we did both whilst we were there. Apparently, there are numerous wild animals and plants to be spotted, but the wildest thing we saw was a bleary eyed shepherd and five sheepdogs who thought that Odie looked like a good appetiser.
Our stay in the Dolomites started at the Dolmiti camping village. They have a camperstop option of €19.50/night if you stay for 3 nights. A bit of eyelash fluttering got us the special price for only two nights. Alternatively, there is an area di sosta just next door for about the same price. In the end, we forgo rafting (the river did not look very wild) and opted instead for a mouton bike route. It turned out to be quite a climb up some very steep Dolomite slopes, but our hard work was rewarded with a fantastic downhill stretch. Near the top is a fantastic waterfall crashing to the rocks far below. David was keen to get a picture but after climbing over the barrier fence it soon became clear that he’d have to do some rather perilous climbing among the pine trees jutting out over the sheer drop. A stern look, followed by several agitated shouts and promises of pizza forced him back to the safety of land. No photos for our trip, but an intact husband, phew.
Fussen is most famous for its castles but there is a lot more to it than fairytale architecture. The town is full of quaint shops and has much to offer the visiting tourist. There is a beautiful alpine blue river running through the town, with its own beach if you dare brave the freezing water! A fabulous cycle network leads you to Lake Forgensee where there are various watersports on offer. You can also cycle to both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles.
We decided to scout out the parking situation for the castles. Arriving at 12pm we discovered hordes of tourists milling around and realised we needed to arrive as close to the opening time (8am) as possible, to avoid queuing for hours for a ticket. There is a beautiful lake near the castles which is virtually tourist free. Swimming is permitted at a designated spot where you can hire deck chairs and make the most of the crystal clear lake waters. Having no swimming costumes with us we opted to cycle up the mountain. What started off as a reasonable road soon turned into a perilous path with near vertical drops and numerous rockfalls. Our ride very quickly became a bicycle-carrying hike to the Mariebrucke. This bridge gives a great view of the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle.
The following day we booked ourselves on the castle tour. There are tours in German and English, or audio tours for the rest. We managed to get onto the first English tour which thankfully had substantially less than the standard 50 people per group. The tour lasts only 30 minutes and felt rather rushed but is nevertheless well worth taking. King Ludwig II was clearly away with the faeries. The castle is built more for artistic value than architectural sense, but is in some ways all the better for it.
Up to now we have missed out on many of the local festivals as we seem to leave the towns a few days before they take place. When we found out that there was a reggae festival happening in Fussen we jumped at the chance to attend, especially when we read that they were a South African band and we could get a little taste of home. However we are not convinced that they are actually from South Africa as the mike was passed to David at one point and he sung ‘Ishe Komborera Africa’ to a very puzzled looking lead singer.
Deutscheland! Quite often we’re not sure when we have crossed the border from one European country into another as there are no border posts. It became blindingly obvious though when our TomTom stopped showing a speed limit and BMWs flew past us at 200km/h – we were on the autobahn!
German efficiency was apparent to us right from the start. We arrived at the Stellplatz (the German version of camperstops), parked the van and walked across to the office. A minute later, as we were trying to work out what to do, the official arrived and asked us if we were the English owners of the van parked across the way. He had left a note on our windscreen asking us to come to the office to sort out payment!
Freiburg is Germany’s southern most city (apparently the most sunny too) and has excellent green credentials. It is famous for its Munster church, worth a visit as well as the square it sits, in which has a market every week day. We had our first Bratwurst, mine a hectic curry flavour and David’s a traditional grilled version.
We visited a wine festival in the main square and tried a Rielsing (heaven) and a very potent red which left a salty encrustation on the glass. Speaking to the wine buff we were told that very good red wines produce this calcium deposit. Clearly we have not been drinking enough very expensive wines then! Another worthwhile excursion in Freiburg is climbing the hill with the Schlossberg tower which gives a fine view of the excellent architecture in Freiburg.
The days were sticky and hot (I have since been told that Europe was immersed in a heat wave) so we did our best to awaken early and make the most of the day, before the heat could make us too irritable. Today we retrieved the bikes from the bike rack (it has been a while) and cycled along an undulating coastal path. The sea was stunning, oscillating from aquamarine to deep blue and back again. A quick dip cooled us down so we could ride back to camp. The rocks here almost look like petrified wood.
El Porto De La Selva boasts restaurants designed by Dali and a statue of liberty with two flames, showing up those proud New Yorkers. We saw an odd sign that seemed to say that kids playing football in the street have priority over cars. Traffic must be slow here.
Football final night saw us venture into town early to ensure we had good seats. Every eatery was clearly trying to cash in on the event. At our chosen venue the owners’ home television system was mounted onto two very rickety tables to ensure that everyone could see. Early on it was clear that the satellite connection was intermittent (the picture kept warping like a bad acid trip) and we were switched over to terrestrial, with accompanying Spanish dialogue. Our corner was mostly orange and a lot of the Frenchies around us were secretly supporting the Dutch. There was much betting on the final result, but none of us could predict what finally happened! Viva L’España!
The celebrations were, of course, quite intense with hooters and fireworks going on for hours. What a way to spend our final night in Spain. Tomorrow we leave for France.
What we’ll miss about Spain:
- saying “Ola”
- paella, choritzo and sangria, mmmm
- a constant supply of sunshine
- the low cost of living
What we won’t miss:
- the crazy driving, especially on the narrow mountain roads
- being baked at mid-30s temperatures
- TomTom’s appalling service in Spain
- the often grumpy, surly attitude of the Spanish
Another long day of driving, about 6 hours this time took us to South of Bordeaux alongside a wonderful Lake and bordered by Europe’s oldest manmade forest.
The Aire has a charge of EUR7 per night but well worth it as it borders Le Lac. We unhooked our bikes and set off for the local supermarket to test out some Bordeaux wine with our supper. Halfway there I was sure something was wrong with my front tyre, three quarters of the way there I was certain and when I stopped and discovered a massive bulge where it shouldn’t be I threw a hissy fit and sent David off by himself. Once wine was poured and dinner made I was a much happier girly.