Long Trip 1 on the Tiger, Atlantic Coast to Extremadura
After riding the tiger
for two weeks on daily trips into the Andalucian hills, it was finally time
to go for a longer journey. The bike was through the 'rodaje', or the 1600km
run-in. We intended to join a swedish couple on a Yamaha XT600 on a three
to five days trip to Portugal. Things turned out a bit different and the
two of us ended up traveling in Extremadura on our own.
Bolonia by the Atlantic coast
The first part of the trip was a fairly uninteresting ride along the 'Costa
del Turismo' from Nerja, bypassing Malaga on the autopista, continuing along
the coast through Torremolinos and Marbella. The terrain changed to the better
after Estepona. Gibraltar was bypassed and we had our first long break in Tarifa,
were the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean. Here you can see Africa very clear
and close(14km from coast to coast). Sand from the Sahara desert was blowing
hard on us as we took pictures of the bikes enclosed between the two oceans.
A coffee and a tapa later and we dropped the idea of spending the night in Tarifa
and drove 20km to the small village of Bolonia on the Atlantic coast. This little
place had a couple of positive surprises in stall for us. The first one came
from our swedish companion, who had had the brain to buy a bottle of whisky
in Tarifa without telling us. We got rooms in a nice hostel on the second floor
with a big verandah were we just managed to kill the first scotch before sunset.
After another scotch we went food hunting.
This was the second surprise. We found a place after recommendations from
the bar in Tarifa were we had stopped earlier on the day. The swordfish was
the best of it's kind that we had ever eaten. The spirits were high and appetite
low after this heavenly meal. We strolled the little village and ended up
on the beach with the rest of the scotch and a few beers. Quite a few problems
of the world were solved during the next few hours and at about an hour after
midnight we were in bed, very tired and not too sober.
The next day started very slow with a long breakfast and shaking knees. We
finally hit the road just after noon and headed north along the coast. We
went trough several small towns and villages on the Sahara the Los Aceitunas
trough Conil the La Frontera road. Interesting and beautiful at times. The
mood among the four of us were lousy, a result from the wet night before,
we thought. It proved to be wrong and after driving to Novo Sancti Petri and
back, ending up in Medina Sidonia in the inland, we said good-bye to the Swedes
for the night with the feeling that something was not right. Anyway, Medina
Sidonia, situated 30km inland of the Cadiz coast, is a nice little town with
great views over the countryside. We strolled the streets for an hour or two
and went early to bed to be ready for some serious driving the next day.
On our own towards Extremadura
At breakfast the next day we discussed the differences and concluded that the
trip should continue separately. So with a goodbye and have a nice trip the
swedes headed for Portugal while we decided to go to Extremadura.
On our own we could now decide more freely and agreed to pass Seville and get
into Extremadura before nightfall. This would cover about 300km in one day which
gave us plenty of opportunity to stop wherever and whenever we wanted. We started
north on the C343 through Arcos de la Frontera and into Seville. Even though
the name indicates it, Arcos de la Frontera(Arcos at the border) is not located
close to any frontier. The name is a relic from the days when the borders were
shifting frequently. Many spanish cities, especially in this area are called
'something' de la Frontera. People just didn't bother to change the names as
the border moved on. Seville was just a coffee and tapa stop. We want to see
more of this town later, but this time it was just a food stop.
After Seville we went straight to Zafra with one short stop in St. Olalla del
Cala. We met two spanish goldwing guys who came from a big mc-rally in Marbella.
They had seen one Tiger in the same color at the rally, which was the first
Tiger I had heard of in Spain, except my own. We chatted for a while before
they took off after insisting on buying the coffee - pleasant people these goldwing
We spent the night in a small hostel in Zafra and had dinner in a small and
very noisy local bar were the television and the populace tried to out speak
each other. The food was cheap and very good, with local specialties as snails,
pig kidney and pig tongue on the table.
The three famous towns of Extremadura
The fourth day on the road was very tight in schedule not so much in distance
but in the number of cities to visit. We had decided to go though Merida, Caceres
and Trujillo on the same day. We had finally entered Extremadura and wanted
to see the cities and pueblos from were the 'great' conquistadors came. Also,
Merida in Spain would be Bentes second and my third city with the same name(Mexico
The landscape in Extremadura is very scenic in March. It's flat and dries
up in the summer when the heat gets horrible for a couple of Norwegians. This
time we had about 22-24ºC and arrived Merida to be met by an unusual
display of anticar/mc attitude from the local police. We headed for the plaza
as always to have our coffee and chose, as usual, to park the bike next to
the table so we could keep an eye on it. I hadn't shut it properly down when
a very angry policeman came over and asked me to get the hell off his plaza,
no cars or bikes allowed, as is very unusual in this country. I said I was
sorry and tried to find a parking space close, to keep a certain visual contact
with the bike. But no, I was whistled on by the same man from a hundred yards
with a big wave to get the hell out of the block and to some parking lot on
the other side of town. By now I was steaming inside my armor from anger and
heat and waved for Bente on the other side of the plaza to get over here so
we could get the hell out of this place. Bente had sat down at a street restaurant
with two café con leche which she had to abandon despite heavy protests,
I was by this time impossible to reason with. When we were ready to mount
the bike and find another bar, we realized that the helmets and one bag were
left on a chair in the middle of the plaza. After another minute or two of
waiting we drove to the other side of the same plaza through a network of
one-way streets and ended up on the same restaurant, where the nice and understanding
barkeeper had kept the coffees warm for us. This time I was determined to
find a space for the bike where it wouldn't be harassed by the local police,
so I walked up to a tow-truck from the local parking authorities and asked
if the spot I had chosen was legal. They smiled and said "Go drink your coffee,
we'll look after it for you!".
This display of kindness was all that was needed for my mood to improve. We
sat for half an hour on the main plaza, enjoying our coffees and the display
of the overly eager policeman trying to remove everyone and everything from
his plaza. Even the bar-keeper smiled.
Next stop was Caceres 31km north and the old part of town in the center.
My paranoia regarding theft of my bike had us standing in the reception of
the Parador hotel, one of the luxury converted castles run by the government.
We were allowed to park it in front on their premises and put all our clothes
in a locker inside. I did not expect this to happen for free, but the receptionist
said it shouldn't cost us anything, just nice to be able to help. "Buy the
way, we are now serving an excellent lunch in the restaurant that I suggest
you try!!". So much for free! We went down to the restaurant and saw a very
international styled hotel restaurant, which of course meant quiet and boring.
The lunch was ordered, and allthough it was over priced it was excellent.
Going into the old town was like going through a time warp back to the 14-15
century. It's a very impressive collection of old buildings and very untouched
by modernization. A lot of films have been shot here, among them the 1492
- Columbus film with Gerard Depardieu. Every tower in the town is covered
by a stork nest. Storks travel from Africa to spend part of the year here
and we saw great many of them, included one who was about to build a nest
at the end of a building crane. This would probably give him the greatest
home among his buddies, with changing views as the crane rotated. The old
town is kept free of neon turist signs and has kept the atmosphere of the
Two hours later we mounted the bike again and headed for Trujillo, the birthplace
of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of the Incas. This is, as Caceres, a very
old town with a antique part where almost every building is set as it was
400 years ago. Trujillo is very touristy with busloads of people coming from
Madrid or wherever every day. It is still worth a visit due to the picturesque
historic town. We visited the Pizarro museum where one can see displays and
historic facts of the conquest, quite interresting and located in the middle
of the old town. It was also once the home of Pizarro.
There is a statue of Pizarro on the main plaza which the story claim was
originally a statue of Hernan Cortez. The sculptor gave it to Mexico as a
present, but at the time Cortez was not very popular and the Mexican goverment
declined to accept it. The statue was too good to be thrown away, so some
minor changes was done, and like that they had a monument of Fransisco Pizarro
to place in his home town.
Up to the castle and down on our backs
The next day we wanted to get off the main road and see the countryside outside
the mainstream areas. This is after all the kind of roads the Tiger was built
for. So we headed south again towards Zorita and Medellin. We wanted to visit
Medellin since I had been in Medellin, Colombia and since this is the birthplace
of Hernan Cortes, conqueror of the Aztecs(PS Medellin allready had a statue
of Cortez, and I guess that's why the Pizarro statue isn't located here). We
visited the Aztec museum in Mexico City last year, so this was a natural stop
for us. The road took us through some hidden back road villages, where every
soul raised their head at the sound and sight of the bike and anyone we met
wanted to help us with directions. The people here is really helpful, stop the
bike for two minutes in a village and someone comes up to you and ask if you
need any assistance. The roads where real dirt roads at times and the suspension
was working overtime. The response from the bike on old paved roads where the
asphalt is full of holes is impressive, we cruised at 80-100km/h with 20-30cm
between each hole. Bente had to lean forward because the top box shook like
hell, but the riding was still comfortable.
Medellin gave us the first drop of the bike as well. There is a castle in the
village and we wanted to go all the way up, on the bike. Halfway we where stopped
by a horse which was tied to a open gate. We did not want to pass it since there
was no owner in sight and we knew nothing of what sort of reaction we could
expect from the horse if we passed half a meter from his hooves. The path up
to the gate was steep and full of holes and cracks from heavy rain. When we
turned and headed downwards, Bente suggested that she got off and I drove the
steep part on my own. After all we had a 43 liter top box loaded to the limit,
a very top heavy combination. But no, I said, off course not, this is a off
road bike, let's do it. Five seconds later the front wheel slipped after a stupid
use of the front brake from an inexperienced off road driver and the bike was
over on the side with gasoline floating and two confused people on the ground.
No damage was done to us, but the bike suffered some minor scratches, broken
right turn light, scratched paint the size of a thumbnail and bent brake pedal.
No serious stuff, the speed was close to zero. A castle warden had heard the
whole thing and came running for assistance. We had raised the bike again when
he came, so we thanked him, politely declined his offer to leave the bike and
take us to the castle on foot, and headed southwards again. By the way, the
Tiger is a really heavy bike to lift back up when its lying downhill. But strength
comes out of panic, it was back on two wheels in no time.
A great night with the locals
With the lesson learned how not to drive off road, we continued southwards through
Higuera de la Sirena, Campillo de Llerena and Azuaga to Alanis. The roads were
in all kinds of conditions, from good paved to dirt roads. We aimed to spend
the night in Alanis. It was dark when we arrived and driving in the dark on
bad roads in Spain should be avoided if possible. The first bar we visited had
a room available and the price was good after some bargaining so we took it.
I parked the bike in the bar owners garage at the other side of town, next to
the brand new BMW 735 that was only used for sunday driving. The car we went
back to the center in was his every day car, a broken down old fart with lousy
suspension on lousy roads. A smile broke on my face. The man saw this and smiled
back, reassuring, as if saying "It's in a lot better condition then it sounds,
feels and looks!".
We made the trip back and the car survived. That night we walked 50m from the
room and found a small and noisy bar(like all bars in Spain), noise from 15
people trying to compete with a television set on full volume. This is the way
it should be in Spain, and when one gets used to it one realize that it is very
social and has a good atmosphere. We sat alone for a little while before starting
a conversation with the owner, a middle aged woman from the Barcelona area.
We asked the woman if she knew where to go for the local Parque nationale. 'Que!
National park - aha - Off course, yeah we have at least four threes and a small
waterfall - and they call it a national park', she said with a big grin. Soon
after two locals mixed into the conversation and we had a terrific night. One
of the locals had no teeth in the upper part of the mouth, which made him difficult
to understand, talking a back road Andalusian dialect. So in the middle of a
sentence I asked him with a smile 'Habla espanol?'(Do you speak spanish?), a
question that turned the other local over with laughter. All in all one of the
best nights on the whole trip.
We found the local park the morning after and it was more than the four trees.
A back road leads through a cork oak forest with waterfalls and streams, an
excellent road that took us from San Nikolas de Puerto along an old railroad
track and ended on a road twenty kilometers north of Konstantina, another surprise
town. We entered the town and stopped at the first open bar we saw, a hole in
the wall in a white street. Inside we met a man in his late forties who had
traveled the world in the seventies, worked in Australia, seen most of Asia,
Africa and the Americas and had now settled down in the Andalusian hills with
his German wife and made a living from livestock, horses and a little of everything.
We sat for an hour talking about his travels and how life treated him nowadays.
An interesting meeting, and when we left the bar to head south, the town surprised
us by being much bigger than we expected with nice white buildings, narrow streets,
market areas and a lively atmosphere. We stopped along the main street to discuss
left or right at a crossroad, some seconds later a man came to help us. Andalusian
helpfulness once again.
The rest of the day was covering a lot of distance to get home by night. We
took another back road to La Puebla de los Infantes (Children's Village), down
to Palma del Rio, further on to Ecija - where we had the best Revueltos de Esparragos
ever, further on to Osuna, Martin de la Jara, Sierra de Yuegas and then
down to the main road passed Antequera, down to Malaga and home. We even passed
a village called Malcocinado which means 'badly cooked'. We decided against
eating there. The last part of the trip was in extreme strong winds of gale
force down the valley towards Malaga at speeds of 120-150km/h. The bike was
a little shaky in these conditions fully loaded, but it never did anything surprisingly,
and we were safe home late in the night.
All in all this was an excellent round trip and we covered 1600km in five
days, not too much and not too little. The bike behaved well, but I decided
to do some refinements to it. The front is a little to soft. This will be
fixed on the next service. The tail will be stiffened up a bit too, since
most of the driving is done with passenger and a full top box.
Good to be back in the apartment to wash ourselves, the bike and the clothes.
Next trip is Cabo de Gata.