The following morning we got up and made our way to the garage to make sure everyone had full tanks of fuel. We had filled up the day before so we were okay, we also had a wander around Portsmouth and made our way to the ferry port. The ferry was boarding on time so we didn’t have long to wait once we had checked in and cleared customs. It left on time and we were having a great crossing until we hit the force 9 or 10 gale that was heading straight at us in the English channel.
A rough time of it
All change, from the calm sea we had been enjoying to this rocky bobbing ship in the middle of a swelling sea. Almost everyone was seasick and the boat suddenly became very empty! Most people just retired to their cabin and festered in their own self pity! We had three feeling the effects of seasickness and didn’t want to eat or drink and one was not feeling very well at all. She wanted to head to the cabin and stay there until this was all over.
It was still very choppy and the nights sleep had been an experience, at one stage I strapped myself into the bunk bed to stop me falling out of bed. As we got to the Bay of Biscay the weather improved and the crossing became a little more bearable.
Breakfast was a much better affair than the previous evening’s meal. The ship had been cleaned up from the night before while the passengers were in bed. The decks were not the prettiest place to be as people were seasick and things that were not strapped or nailed down found themselves on the floor. Cat was feeling really rough, even with the weather looking much better the damage was done.
Because of the bad crossing we arrived in Santander 2.5-3 hours later than scheduled, this put us behind on our riding day. Cat was still not feeling well even though we had a pretty easy last couple of hours, she had not eaten for the whole crossing and had been seasick most of the night with very little sleep. Not everyone had got away lightly and four out of the six were feeling a bit green during the horrendous crossing.
We got off the ferry and found our land legs and as soon as we were ready we headed off through customs, put our waterproofs on and got underway. It wasn’t long before we were on the main drag and then riding towards the mountains section. The roads were damp in places and very wet in others. We encountered rain, low cloud base and periods of no rain for the first few hours but as we made our way to the flatter area towards Salamanca the heavens opened.
We had quite a few stops, fairly frequently due to fatigue and no food on the ferry. This delayed us a alot but we made good time with some higher speeds through the flat section on the motorway. We had to watch out for diesel in what has been described and referred to as diesel alley (near Salamanca).
It was going to be a long day
The rain stayed with us for a few hours and we were all cold and wet. The speed was pretty steady but we were up against it. Lack of sleep, lack of food and being wet was not helping with concentration levels. At times we were spread out and stretched over upto a mile or so between smaller groups.
Even with the weather being poor, we still managed to make up some good time and had to cover over 100 kilometers in just under half an hour to reach Portugal before we lost all the light. We didn’t make it in time to the border before it got dark and then had a final run through Portugal to our hotel in Guarda in pitch darkness.
We had to find the hotel as we had never been there before. I had booked the hotel with a travel company in the Algarve a few months previously, it was not cheap and I was sure I had been ripped off by using a third party. But being as I had not been in the north of Portugal for a few years I really didn’t know where we should stay. I chose an easy option and decided at the time never to do that again!
Seeing the hotel was a welcome sight and we really did need this stop, it was a very tough route and the last 24 hours were not the best time for people without sea legs to be on a rough crossing. The hotel was very comfortable, it was warm and so inviting after a long hard day riding in the rain, wind and darkness.
The hot shower warmed us up before heading out to find a bar and a local Portuguese restaurant to have some food and relax for an hour or two before bed. Only four of us made it out, Cat wasn’t feeling too well and Steve being the gent he was, stayed with her to make sure she was okay.
We found a great little restaurant just down the road, it sold typical Portuguese cuisine. The house wine was just what the doctor ordered, it was getting late and we had decided to have an early start to ride the 350 miles down to the Algarve.
This was to be the highlight of each day, finding a good restaurant with good food and good company to unwind.
About the riding
The riding was bloody hard work, it was demanding for newer riders to cope with. Especially because of the ferry crossing the night before, seasickness, a lack of sleep, riding over the mountains first thing in the rain and wind, then the long motorway ride with biblical rain. It was also a long journey to reach Portugal, even on a nice day in daylight but having to navigate this in the dark was a real achievement. I was happy with the riding and they thoroughly deserved the handshake and congratulations when we arrived.
Welcome to touring on the Continent, it came with one almighty bang and I doubt they will ever forget the first time riding on the wrong side of the road on a cold, wet, late afternoon from Santander to Portugal. Well done to all the riders who coped really admirably in the awful conditions.