winds were blowing savagely against my body as I fought
to stay on the bike and maintain some control over
its movements. It was the beginning of January and
normally this time of year most people choose to leave
their bikes tucked away in a dry garage. Normally,
I would be no different, but I had decided to take
my Maxim 650 and head for Spain's Mediterranean coast.
I just hoped that I would make it there in one piece.
With the weather the way it was, I was glad that I
had been sensible enough to avoid going through France,
and book passage on the ferry instead. It hadn't cost
much. For about £100, I bought a one-way ticket
for a P&O ferry, that included bike carriage and
a cabin, to Bilbao. All I had to do was get to Portsmouth.
That was easier said than done.
worst part of the journey was the crossing from the
motorway into Portsmouth. There was a vicious cross
wind that slowed me to 25 mph and blew my bike into
a forty-five degree angle. But I made it, and got safely
onboard the ship. In the terminal I had befriended another
biker who happened to have the same name as me. He had
bought a brand new Honda for a trip to Pau, Southern
France. Ian told me that he had ridden from Manchester
that day. I had, up until that moment, felt quite proud
of myself for battling the forces of nature for a distance
of fifty miles. But after hearing about Ian's ride,
I suddenly felt quite humble.
We passed the evening sipping ale in
the ship's bar, listening to the worst cabaret duo I've
ever heard, and ogling the barmaid as her ample breasts
moved freely with the motion of the ship. Later that
night, as the ship sailed on into the channel, I slept
soundly unknowing that outside the winds were blowing
at gale force 11. The next morning the ship was being
tossed about on 30-foot waves, which made showering,
or even walking, very difficult. I was constantly being
slammed into the walls or thrown across the bathroom.
I emerged looking more of a wreck than when I entered.
Up above, people were queuing at the shop to buy travel
sickness pills. Everything else was closed due to the
fact that nothing would stay still. While all this was
going on, I was worried about my bike ending up on the
After three days bouncing about on the ocean like a
piece of flotsam, we finally arrived in Bilbao at midnight,
a day late. We disembarked at 7.00 a.m. Thankfully,
our bikes were still in one piece. Outside, it felt
quite warm and the wind had dropped completely, so I
didn't bother wrapping-up. I waved goodbye to Ian as
he rode off towards France, and turned my bike southward.
It was still dark and I had to find a petrol station.
I got on the open-road, I started to shiver as the cold
wind hit. At the petrol station I filled-up and then
had to convince the attendant, in my best Spanish, that
he had short-changed me. I got there in the end and
continued onward, but not without additional clothing
and thick socks. I wasn't properly kited-out for very
cold weather. Basically because I couldn't afford it.
I hoped that it wouldn't get much colder. I rode for
three-hundred miles that day; through wide mountain
passes and narrow twisty roads that seemed to have been
designed for a motorbike. I also learnt that having
a heavy backpack was not a good idea when riding on
mountain roads. It helped me when I lent into the corners,
but hindered when it came to straightening-up. It was
had taken the Autopista from Bilbao to Zaragoza and
it cost me £20 to go a measly 150 miles. So I
took the N232 from there onward. It wasn't that much
slower, and was a lot more fun. The Autopista was long,
straight and devoid of life. The only other people I
saw were old English couples towing their caravans.
I hit the Mediterranean coast at 3.00 p.m. and rode
down to Peniscola where I spent the night. The town
was lined with huge hotels that were all closed. I found
a room in the only hotel that was open and had to pay
£30. A lot of money on my budget. It was a nice
room though, and I made sure that I got my money's worth
by using every facility included.
had this theory that the further south I rode, the warmer
it would get. A stupid theory that proved to be wrong
in the long run. I was now in the region of Valencia.
The entire coastline was inundated with orange plantations.
They lined each side of the road and I could have quite
easily pulled over and pinched a few. Only I didn't
fancy an irate Spaniard chasing me down the road with
a shotgun. The view was perfect. To my left was the
sparkling blue Mediterranean Sea, and to my right were
the beautiful mountains that sheltered this part of
the country, and were the main reason for the warm winter.
Although, as soon as the sun went down, so did the temperature.
rode for a further two days down the coastal road. The
N340 runs virtually the entire length of the coast,
stopping just short of Portugal. It breaks off at certain
points, but for the most it stays by the coastline.
With scenery like this I couldn't help but smile as
I sped down the highway, passing all the slower traffic
and generally feeling like the luckiest person alive.
I headed for the Costa Blanca. Somehow I took a wrong
turn and after about half an hour, realised I was going
inland. I consulted the map and found a route back to
the coast. I took the C320, which is the equivalent
to our B-roads, only it was wider and in better condition.
As I approached Denia I rode through mile upon mile
of high-rise hotels, and quite frankly it made me sick.
After riding through such natural beauty, to see it
ruined in this way was not something I wanted to look
at. So I wound-up the throttle and continued southward
to Calpe. This was a much nicer town. It had been commercialised,
but no so much as the others.
I got a room for £6 in a cheap
pension that was run by a mad Englishwoman. She was
like a female version of Basil Fawlty. After three days
of hard riding, I decided to rest-up for a while. It
was such a nice place and my bike would be safe there.
The pension was in a block of residential flats that
had a private car park. I could also give my bike a
much-needed wash. This part of Spain is very dry and
dusty and it leaves your bike filthy.
is a good base from which to take rides into the
neighbouring mountains. I visited Guadalest, a town
high up in the mountains. The ride there was a series
of twists and turns and drops. It was almost like
being on a rollercoaster. The riding was much easier
without the weight of my luggage though. Over the
week I visited other
such as: Moraira, a charming small coastal town,
Altea, and the infamous Benidorm. Even in winter,
it was crawling with tourists. A few miles up the
road from Calpe is a village called Jalon. It's
famed for its wine, and let me tell you, it's good,
cheap and very strong.
I left Calpe and headed further south.
I was still clinging to the theory of it being warmer
there. I continued along the coastal road, stopping
at Alicante and Cartagena. The great thing about Spain
is that you can park your bike on the pavement, which
meant that I could park outside the pensions and not
have to leave it on the road. In Cartagena, I parked
right outside the front door of the pension. The owner
was very friendly and helpful. Although I think his
wife was a bit mad, as she just sat and glared at me
each time I walked past. I tried greeting her a few
times, but she just continued to glare and mumble to
Cartagena, I rode to the Province of Almeria and
stayed in an area called Cabo de Gata. The area
receives 100mm of rain each year, making it the
driest place in Europe. It is also a magnificent
sight. Riding in, I almost felt like I was in the
American west, and half expected to see a band of
Indians come whooping over the hills.
I rode in to the breathtaking sight of stark desert
meeting sparkling ocean, and found a room in the back
of a beachfront restaurant. The surrounding mountain
range provided some great rides and I spent the next
couple of days exploring the area. It is probably the
most undeveloped part of the Costa del Sol and has only
a scattering of small towns, which are very quiet at
that time of year.
further down the coast I had come, the windier it
had become. As I rode on to Marbella it began to
feel a lot colder. Over the five days I spent there,
I had one day without rain and used it to ride into
the Sierra Blanca mountains. I rode through a series
of whitewashed villages. Every single building was
wondered if when it came time to repaint, they just
evacuated the village, covered the roads and had
a plane fly over and dump a few tons of white paint
over it. I headed onwards to Ronda; a town set by
the side of a deep gorge. My route took me through
a high mountain pass that was in terrible condition.
I bounced and shook my way for miles until I came
into Ronda. I hoped that nothing had been shaken
loose on my bike, or come to think of it, me.
I took the main road back to Marbella.
I was hoping to continue on toward Portugal the next
day. But it wasn't going to happen. This part of Spain
was having its worst rain in years. I was staying in
the British run Hostal del Pilar. Fortunately it had
a bar and open-fire. Mike, the owner, told me that there
had been severe flooding in the area. After five days
there, I was beginning to claw the walls and decided
to make a run for it during a break in the rain. I knew
that if I headed west, the weather would get worse,
so I headed back east. As soon as I got past Malaga
the sun came out and it warmed-up. So much for my theory
about it being warmer in the south.
headed back to the Costa Blanca where I knew there
would be good weather. I took the road that went
through the mountains north of Almeria City. Apparently
a lot of Western movies were filmed there at one
time, because of the similarity with the American
passed through an extremely cold patch, and to take
my mind off it, I tried to imagine myself as Mickey
Rourke as he rode his Harley Davidson from Texas to
LA in the film Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man.
The scenery was right, but it proved impossible as Mickey
Rourke never had a pile of luggage on the back of a
dirty bike, and wasn't freezing his arse off in weather
that made your nose run like its life depended on it.
I felt more like Lloyd and Harry riding into Aspen in
Dumb and Dumber. Admittedly, it's hard to wipe your
nose at 80 mph. The only thing you can do is sniff it
back up, or wait for it to reach the vicinity of your
mouth and swipe it in with your tongue before it's lost
forever down the front of your jacket. If I had arrived
at a hotel with dried snot splashed all over the front
of my jacket, then I think I would have found the place
conveniently full. I stopped at a garage to get my circulation
going again, and saw a dog curled-up in the corner looking
cold and pathetic and I thought, I know exactly how
I spent another week soaking-up the
sun in Calpe before riding back to Bilbao to catch the
ferry back home. This time the sea was as calm as a
lake. I was sorry to go, but I intended to return one
day to see more of this beautiful country that is, in
my opinion, a motorcyclist's dream.