Amazing what you can find out on a day’s ride on a motorbike in Salamanca.
Riding a motorcycle in dry, warm weather is enormous fun. Conversely riding a bike in cold, wet, icy conditions is at best interesting. I did think that winter was approaching and as Salamanca is very close to a ski resort temperatures and conditions might not be conducive.
My Grandma, a very wise woman, always told me “if in doubt go without “. I don’t know if she simply thought I was indecisive or whether I was too young to make a decision. In any event, on that occasion I took a flight leaving my wheels behind.
Life is the choice between desire and priority. I was lucky because the desire to learn Spanish and the priority to do it coincided, so it was a “no brainer”! I completed my university language course and continued with private lessons for 6 months. As I learned more, I made Spanish friends in the city and then fell in love. Why does that always happen?
In the Spring I fetched the bike from it’s winter holiday and then the exploration of these beautiful lands began in earnest. As a lover of the countryside and exciting biking roads there was a lot to discover and many people to meet. It’s all very close to home as well and the city is a good place to return to after a spell in the great outdoors. It’s friendly, smallish and there’s always something going on. An amusing statistic is that there are 1,500 bars and 400 hairdressers for a population of some 100,000. Of course there’s much more to do than that, being home to, arguably, the oldest university in Europe.
It’s all on the doorstep
I would like to say that we travelled far and wide to discover the wonders of the mountains and valleys but the fact is that it’s all on the doorstep. Within a 30 to 40 minute ride we were amongst it. Mountains, rivers, plains, historic towns, jaw dropping views and loads of small businesses whose owners are very welcome to show you what they do and make in the “far reaches” from the city.
Amongst the things that they produce are wine, olive oil (obviously), leather, honey (including some delicious liquors), embutidos which are all the cured meats like Chorizo and then the traditional Jamón. Cheese is also a big artisan industry of which Torta de Casar, I can assure you is “to die for”! Rich, creamy and very tasty.
There are many mountain passes that are accessible by road and many of them rise to an altitude of 5,000ft or more. From the summits the views are fantastic. It appears that you can see all of Spain. The mountain trunk roads that join the bigger towns are the most fun to ride. They’re considerably faster with long sweeping bends winding their way along the river valleys and through the foothills and passes between different mountain ranges. There’s plenty of opportunity to take in the views or to stop for photos and the inevitable coffee. The high passes require a bit more concentration but are truly worth the effort.
In our travels we have seen Black Vultures, Golden Eagles and many different birds of prey. There are also Storks, some of whom don’t migrate and allegedly Cabra Montesa although we haven’t yet been lucky enough to see any as they tend to roam the less accessible regions. However we were told by an ageing hunter that if we stopped the bike when we saw a family of rabbits (who are always there), walk 100m to just past the fence where a Red Kite has his lunch, we’d see the Montesa on the rocks below. Well…d’you know what…..? We have seen quite a lot of stags, deer and wild boar which are considerably bigger than I thought they’d be.
We’ve ridden the bike to hundreds of tiny little places. We’ve travelled on small lanes and faster highways and we’ve met many people who all have something to offer the explorer. We’ve gathered a wealth of information which we’d love to share. In the past these would have been places I simply wouldn’t have had the time to find on a 2 week tour. Further, I don’t think I would have risked the very small roads, especially the unsigned ones for fear of misplacing my position! Or worse, running out of cafés!
Of course, the fact is, that even the smallest of villages has a bar and a church and only hamlets might be without a fuel station. Everyone has to drink, pray and ride a motorbike (not at the same time). We discovered one little village in the mountains near the Sierra de Gata where the inhabitants (some 120) face their houses with 450 million year old fossils. There we met the mayor, about 28 and a volunteer, who was very keen to show us round (and is looking forward to seeing you). The land outside the hamlet is a place of great geological interest and is unique in Spain. The fossils were found by chance, some quite big, and were used with other materials to build houses. The mayor’s grandfather was a keen hunter and since his death, many of his tools for skinning and preparing game for the table have been collected and added to the small museum to commemorate the artesan skills of the past. We lunched in the Hunters Restaurant where the owner told us he does wildlife tours of the mountains in his 4 x 4. Amazing what you can find out on a day’s ride.