Wednesday, October 17, 2018

16th October (sunny and mild) 200 km by car

Only woke once last night at 2.45am when I heard the seagull give his horn blare squawk.  I imagined Bedrock Quarry where some guy pulled the tail of a prehistoric bird to let Fred Flintstone know it was knock-off time.  For me it was “more sleep time” and that’s what I did until 8am.  We’re getting quite used to this comfy lifestyle and the unexpected bonus of really good Spanish coffee, so decided to try out the hotel’s 4.50 euro breakfast.  Good coffee, good croissants, happy campers.
Vigo at 8.30am - can't believe how dark it is in the mornings.

Left Vigo at 10am and had the stresses of city and motorway driving.  Strange signs warning us of electronic tolls had us wondering what our bill will be when we hand the car back tomorrow.  Took a diversion to the coast just north of Porto to view the Leica swimming pools and hopefully get a swim as it was 20C and sunny.  Found the pools and even though they didn’t look as tranquil as the photos we’d seen, decided to give it a crack.  However, we were warned off by the local shopkeeper saying the water was too dirty now the summer season had finished – and gotta say, it did look a bit suspect.  So we had to leave that dubious delight and head for the wonders of Porto.
Leica swimming pool - the water quality was a bit suspect but so were the waves
Stopping off to see the pools, meant we got to see this little church on the coast

Driving in big cities must be one of the most stressful things known to man, especially when you don’t know where you’re going.  Maps Me ended up directing us to the cathedral instead of our apartment we had booked on – at least that is what we thought, but eventually after driving around the block a couple of times, (which sounds easy, but must have been the busiest block in the city!), we realised our apartment was actually in the street below the cathedral.  Talk about centrally located, but along with central location comes parking nightmares.  We had been told there was free parking in the street outside the apartment.  I pictured a street like NZ with a well-defined tar sealed road and a kerb and footpath and signs saying where you can and can’t park.  No chance.  This was a myriad of skinny cobbled streets with cars parked haphazardly wherever they could.  We were accosted multiple times by drunken, drugged out self-appointed parking wardens who wanted us to pay for them for the parking spots they had seconded, but they didn’t realise we would rather drive round for two hours than fund their habit.  We did a couple of laps wondering what the hell to do as there were no carparks available, when a van pulled out of a primo carpark just round the corner from our apartment.  Bingo!  We were in there like a rat up a drainpipe, parked and locked the car, taking our valuables with us as there were several unsavoury characters about. 
Inside our beautiful apartment

View from the cathedral - that's our apartment underneath the washing in the foreground - the two right hand windows

View from our apartment

It wasn’t long before the dreadful drive in was forgotten and Porto had us under her spell.  What an amazing, crazy, colourful, vibrant, grungy but charming city with so many nooks and crannies waiting to be explored.  Two hours flew past and before we knew it, 5pm was upon us and it was time to go and meet the hosts of our apartment.
Now I have to say, the exterior of the apartment did not look like anything much at all.  Some of the neighbouring buildings looked thoroughly dodgy, but once Teresa opened the external door and we walked through into the wide tiled corridor with stone walls and took us up a wide flight of polished wooden stairs, we felt instant relief.  Then she opened the door of our studio apartment and we were just thrilled with our accommodation for the next two nights – all for only 60 euro ($100 NZ) per night.  We got everything out of the car ready to hand it back in tomorrow and then took off to explore some more.

Very grungy in parts - this is around the corner from our apartment

Had no idea my brother Nick was also in Porto (foreground)

Teresa had warned us not to eat on the Porto side of the river as they overcharged and the quality of food was not so good.  So we crossed the river on the historic Pont Luis bridge and found a restaurant that served big glasses of port for 2.50 euro each and a delicious salmon dinner for just 9 euro each.  We had a stunning view of Porto as the sun went down and a very pleasant walk back to the apartment afterwards.

We had a phone call from Pete’s cousin Elizabeth and she and Phil have been having a horrendous time battling headwinds and thunderstorms and gold medal snorers in the alburgues they’ve been staying at – makes us very glad we have hired the cars and made some headway.
Pete here: We thought getting out of Vigo was a nightmare, it was kids’ stuff compared with negotiating the tiny cobbled streets of Porto. Julia was giving me directions off Maps Me and the next thing you know, we’re stuck in a dead end or being directed up a one way street. Really stressful and poor old Ju was getting it head on from me. I was glad once we’d parked the car, to get all the gear out and into the apartment as it’s in a pretty dodgy area, although close to everything. The meal was fabulous…. Who says I can’t show a girl a good time. Salmon out of a tin, a nice tomato and a bit of lettuce, with some onion rings to spice it up. Now there are those of you who are at this minute are saying ….no not…..not even Pete would do that….and you’d be correct. The salmon dish was perfect, as was dessert and the Port was divine. And all with the person I love. Looking forward to seeing more of Porto tomorrow, just not keen on driving here.

Monday, October 15, 2018

15th October (raining most of day, warm) o km

Watched some motorcycle racing from San Juan last night, as there was no footy on. Jonathan Rea was racing. His tenth straight win in a row…amazing. Climbed into bed and even on the slightest movements, this almighty sound rang out with the squeaking of springs and scraping on the hardwood floor.  So too scared to move, we settled into sleep. In the early hours we were woken by two different sounds. The first were seagulls on the roof of the hotel just above us and they were going off. Sounded like they were trying to kill one of their own and if I could have climbed onto the roof, I’d have killed a few more. Even Julia heard them, but I think that was in between turning over. The other annoying sound was that of people talking until around four. Just loud enough to be a disturbance.
A stunning statue at a busy roundabout

Woke at 7.15am to pouring rain - the end of cyclone Lesley coming through. This morning we have to either extend the hire of the current car to take to Portugal, or get another if our one is booked. If the company won’t let us cross countries then we may stay another night here, if they have a room, otherwise it will be back on the bikes and we are getting very wet. Julia was into the downloading of photos from yesterday, as soon as we woke and I got breakfast ready. I’ll sign off now and my follow up report will hopefully have good news.
Hey Georgie - see you got your own wifi over here

So….Returned the car downtown. Told us that we could take our car to Lisbon, Portugal but it would cost Euro 2000 to cross the border. That wasn’t going to happen. Then one of the girls recalled that they have three Portuguese cars at the airport that need to be returned and we can take one of them…not for free I might add, even though we’re doing them a favour. Had to go to the airport to check out the options to see if the bikes would fit in.
Volkswagen Polo….no chance. Renault C3….no chance. Skoda Fabia…..maybe, but it will be tight. Looked at the size and still not sure we’re going to get those bikes in, but we’ll give it a go. God knows what happens if we can’t, as the car still needs taking to Porto and we have paid 115 Euros for it. We will just have to make those bikes fit.  Had to drive back to the hotel as by the time we got back from the airport, the city branch was all shut down for their afternoon siesta.  At 4pm, we will know if we have made a big mistake by ordering a car far too small.
Phew! Bikes in, just got to fit the bags in now.

It is now 6.19pm. We have loaded the Skoda Fabia with our two bikes and the majority of our gear for the trip to Porto. I suppose living in a tent and cycling with only the bare essentials for months has at least taught us how to cram things into a small space, because I honestly did not think we were going to do it.  So that is a huge relief.
Shortly we will resume our love affair with Ruta Burgers, the gourmet burger place we found last night. They were delicious, so they’ll get another shot. The weather has been miserable all day, which is probably just as well as with all the pfaffing around with the cars, it feels like a wasted day. Predicted as sunny tomorrow, which would be nice as we will have the afternoon and following day to peruse the sights of Porto, although Wednesday is looking like rain again.

Our observations of Spain have been. Very family oriented. Kids have great areas to play in and safe too. Spanish men are a little more withdrawn, in general than the women, but once you’ve struck up a conversation, they are fine. The women are very aware of how they look and both of us have commented on their style and dress sense. Driving has generally been very courteous, but they have a rule at certain roundabouts that neither of us understand and results in a free-for-all, first to their turnoff, wins. It is crazy and scary. Most homes in built up areas in Spain are high rise. Whether older or new, Spanish people take great pride about the inside of their homes. Eating out is accepted as normal and Tapas is not only common, but dirt cheap. People don’t think of eating at night here before 9pm, which isn’t our cup of tea, but it brings the community together.
A colourful mural on the way back to the Hotel Celta

It’s now 8pm and we have just returned from Ruta Burger and we have to say, it was just as nice tonight as last night. The Scottish couple we met there last night was also there again tonight so we had another chat with them.  The staff are excellent as is the food.  We were hoping to watch England vs Spain on the tele tonight but for some reason it’s not being screened, even though they showed Wales last week.  Shame.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

14th October (rainy morning but clearing with showers, cold - mild) 320 km by car

We woke at 7am after a reasonable sleep and it sounded like our neighbour did too as we could hear him using the toilet – that’s how thin the walls are.  In fact, when I went to pull my charger out of the wall, the socket came with it, so I carefully put the screws back into their holes and pushed the socket back into place.
Got the wages done and one day’s blog uploaded while Pete got a shower and tidied up.  Then I showered and we went down for breakfast at 9.30am which was included in the 42 Euro price for the night.  Well I don’t know about you, but I reckon two pieces of fried bread and a cup of coffee do not really warrant the lofty title of a continental breakfast.  But I have to give it to them – the coffee was great! 

Back upstairs to load some photos onto the computer before checking out at 11.15am and hitting the road for Vigo.  We had a tremendous turnaround with the weather overnight and it makes us so grateful we got such a perfect day for our adventures yesterday.  It had gone from 28C and sunny to 8C and raining – it must be the edge of Hurricane Leslie which had been lashing the coast of Portugal yesterday.
We set off in the rain and the scenery was nothing to write home about, very plain you might say as we were indeed on the plains and true to popular belief, the rain in Spain does appear to fall mainly on the plain.  Very, very glad we have a car today!
What a difference a day makes.  Look at that weather!
The car park at our hotel this morning.

Pete here - After driving for a short while, decided to get off the N roads, which are like the secondary roads, with speeds of around 80kms and jump on the A roads, which you can do 120kms on, but everyone does about 150kms at some points. I have to say that generally in Spain I have been impressed with the standard of driving after expecting a nightmare of a time….however, there is still time and we still have to encounter southern Spain.
A lot of agricultural land as well as a lot of wasteland today, but what was noticeable was the parched and burnt land, where they had the fires over summer.
Evidence of the fires over summer through this area
For the eagle-eyed, you might notice a strange green blur on the left side and a couple of orange bits - those are the relection of Pete's undies and socks drying on the dashboard.  I believe he wants to patent that idea too.

Those fires actually jumped the motorway and anyone caught on the road when that occurred, must have thought their time was up. Drove for two hours straight, then took a break for a coffee and something to eat at a service cafeteria. In that time we’d covered 240km and that was just cruising. If we had roads like this in NZ, we’d be in Auckland from Taranaki in no time at all.
The second half of the drive, we actually had a lot of hills - glad we're not cycling these!
The view from our hotel last night - quite a
difference from the mountain views!
Ju here - We arrived in Vigo at 5pm and turned onto the road our hotel was on to see a guy standing in the middle of the road, gesticulating that we should park where he indicated.  We were very confused – yes I had booked online, but I hadn’t said when we were arriving, what kind of car we were driving or anything that would have the hotel recognise us.  Had our fame spread this far?  Or did now send a GPS magnet through your phone so they could track your arrival?  We decided he must have us confused with someone else or wanted to rip us off, so kept driving, only to find another man up the road doing the same thing.  It was then we realised they were parking scouts who made a living off finding car parks for people – we guess you were expected to pay them if you took one of their suggested car parks.  We noticed that here there was no such thing as not parking on the corners at intersections – in fact these seemed to be the primo places as they were a little bit easier to get in and out of.  Found our hotel easily enough- the hotel room only cost us 32 euro for the night, but the underground parking cost 9 euro, and it was very tight!  Managed to get in without scraping the car – hope we can get out again intact.

We were desperate to stretch the legs so after the lovely young Czech girl czeched us in, we took the cameras and went to see what Vigo had to offer…..and it was not a lot.  Just a big city with lots of shopping and cafes.  A few nice park areas but the waterfront was very industrial and not very inviting and we actually found nothing we wanted to photograph.  Being a Sunday we found one convenience store open and bought milk for our breakfast tomorrow, then headed back to the hotel, keeping an eye out for somewhere to eat.  Spotted La Ruta Burger and went in there.  It was now 7pm and we ordered a beer and a wine and asked to see the menu.  The waitress said the kitchen didn’t open until 8pm but she would ask the chef if he was prepared to start cooking now and lucky for us he was.  Pete ordered a chorizo burger which he said was delicious and I created my own burger with chicken, lettuce, avocado and mushroom – some of my favourite foods and most of which I haven’t eaten for two months.  It tasted so good I said to Pete if they were open for breakfast, I’d go and have it again.
Back to the hotel room where we finished the mammoth job of sorting through and editing all the photos we took yesterday.  Lucky for us the wifi was playing the game and uploaded 35 photos very quickly.  I’d just posted it and we had a call from our friends Jason and Lauren who have just moved back to the UK from NZ (yes, they are both nuts, but in a delightful way).  It was so cool to be able to see and chat to them and was a nice way to round off the evening.

We didn't get many photos today, so here are the rest from yesterday afternoon.

13th October (sunny and hot) 15 km on foot, 130km by car

Woke at 7am after a lovely sleep and dozed for a bit before Julia jumped in the beautiful shower. Funny isn’t it to be describing a shower as beautiful, but when you go from camp showers to lovely tiled, perfectly decorated bathrooms, you want to make note of it. After I’d showered we packed up our possessions, took them to the car and went into the bar for breakfast, which was simple, but very nice. They could have charged anything, especially the time that we turned up, with nothing available, but they charged 75 Euros, including breakfast.
The view from our window this morning
Oseja village church

Took shots of our resting place and village and drove the very winding, narrow road through to Cain, the starting place for our gorge walk. Took a little longer than we thought as every hundred metres we were oohing and aahhing and stopping to take shots. 
Pete in the rental car - enjoying the ride much more this morning
These were the kinds of views we were getting just on the drive to the Ruta del Cares walk.

Shall we have this picnic table for our morning coffee?
Or perhaps this one?  Oh decisions, decisions!
The village of Posada de Valdeon which was absolutley humming with trampers when we drove through.

You might think this is the track, but this is the road.  It wasn't all like this, only about 10km
Finally at Cain and the start of the Ruta del Cares
We paid 3 Euros to an older guy to park in his field in Cain and what a bargain. The human traffic was tremendous. People were everywhere. Those in hiking gear, people with dogs, adults with kids…of all ages, four to thirteen. Older folk, runners…it was mayhem.
Now….you all know me….I am not criticising….but…what the hell is anyone doing taking a dog, from a Dachshund to a husky, on a gorge trek through the mountains, on very rocky terrain. What about their pads people….However, these must be the same idiots who take four year old kids on a twenty kilometre hike, where there are no guardrails at any point, and the children, with a misplaced foot, could plummet, five hundred feet into the cold river below. It was scary walking on the outside when passing people. Some of those with dogs had them on those extendable leads….are you kidding me..? Talk about an horrific accident waiting to happen. Finally, you’ve got those prats who want to walk two abreast on a single track, which is trying to cater for two lanes anyway, who march past, not thinking that a heavy nudge would see Enrique or Maria Consuela, doing a bungy over the gorge, without the required attachments.
Finally ready to start at 11am
Wow that water looked tempting!

Pete wishing they walked on the left over here

The aquaduct which is your constant companion - I assume it's the reason the track was built.
Perhaps one of our researchers could find this out for us as all the signs were in Spanish -
strange that!

Finished and would have been happy to jump in that river behind us only it was just in front of a dam and didn't have togs.
So we had to settle for a foot soak.....and that water was icy!

The scenery was beyond belief and I’m sure some of the photos will not do it the justice it deserves. Massive mountains of rock rising up from the valley below and around every bend, a different photographic opportunity. I’m surprised that we made the distance that we did, with all the stopping we did. After a bite to eat, we decided to return to Cain, with even more photo ops. Bathed our feet in the freezing waters at the end of the hike, which was heaven, for a minute, before you couldn’t feel your feet anymore. Sat in the shade (and we had to pick our spot carefully to avoid all the dog poop) drinking a couple of cokes from a little store run by the guy who charged us for parking, rather than the bigger restaurants/cafes that were humming.  With all these tourists, there was not one public toilet, so this place is going to get pretty mucky, very quickly.  Must say that the majority of walkers we heard, were Spanish, with only the odd few from Germany. No one else spoke English. Although this would be counted as a serious tourist attraction, most tourists on holiday probably wouldn’t bother travelling this far into the mountains to walk. Managed the drive out, with only minimal encounters with other vehicles, which was a blessing, because trying to negotiate a passing manoeuvre on these roads is dicing with death.
Just took this photo through the car windscreen

We thought that the walk would be the end of the gob smacking scenery, but now we had the autumn colours, the trees, the lakes and the rock to contend with. As Julia stated as we drove along, she thought it was the most scenic day of her life……which is amazing really since she has me to look at every day.

We hired the car to get to Vigo and avoid the mountain passes by bike, so that we could get back on track. As Ju said, a lot of the mountain roads went through the valleys, but, you had to climb those initial mountains to get to that point. It was definitely worthwhile hiring the car and rather than take the train from Seville, which was our original intention to get to our end point of Barcelona, we may well do the same again. If we had taken the train from Bilbao to Vigo, we would have missed so much. In the middle of nowhere, we had booked as we travelled, a hotel for the night. The La Alegria was out in the wops and we booked it online. It was a three storey, basic, but very clean and tidy, hotel/bar/restaurant. We have no view, but I’m hopeful that we will have a peaceful night’s sleep, once again. After being shown our room, we opened the window as it was a bit stuffy and adjourned to the bar, where we indulged in wines, beers and coffees and hopefully, if we are not too pissed, food….which apparently is served between 9.15pm and 11pm.  About 8pm Ju was getting cold, so went upstairs to get her trackpants on.  Leaving the window open had been a huge mistake as the room was full of hundreds of flies.  We had noticed a silage smell when we pulled up to the hotel but once inside, had forgotten about it.  It must have been this that had attracted all the flies. It was real horror movie stuff – there was no way we could kill them all so we managed to convey to the waitress through google translate that we had mozcas in our habitacion and got a new room.  At least it was a distraction from the hunger pangs.  Now all I have to do is keep Julia awake. After thirty odd years, there are only so many party tricks that I have at my disposal.

The rest of today's photos, we will put on tomorrow's blog as we think you've seen enough for one day faithful readers.

Well, we ended up spending four hours in the bar, blogging, doing photos and waiting for the restaurant to open and finally eating at 10pm. It was fish soup…ok….meat of some sort with supposedly chips…yeah right..!! and a cold custard type dessert, which wasn’t too bad. It’s a budget hotel and that’s what we got. The beds were comfortable enough, but because they are on a tiled floor, the wood moves on them and makes a noise. The walls are literally paper thin and we can hear the coughing and spluttering of the bunch of workmen they have staying here. Let’s see how the night rolls on.