Travel Through Spain, Gibraltar and Spanish North Africa on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Spain, Gibraltar and Spanish North Africa on a Harley (11/1/98 - 20/1/98)
Distance 1625 km (82290 km to 83915 km)

This is part of the third section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Andorra

11/1/98 Off to Spain, Barcelona (the 25th country since starting). The weather has been brilliant sunshine since Nice. Coming off the mountains we passed through a five km tunnel (my longest) and later through smaller tunnels to emerge almost at the centre of Barcelona without the usual stop start traffic lights from the outskirts. The old city doesn't seem to like vehicles and eventually, after trying a few cheap hotels and car parks we had to succumb to $US 10.00 a day just to park the motorcycle. This really seems ridiculous when our double room with ensuite is only $US 22.00. I soon softened to this well laid out city with its pedestrian ways when while strolling in the evening we came across many buskers, in a city square, playing Spanish music and flamenco dancing.

12/1/98 No trip to Barcelona could be complete without a look at some of Antoni Gaudi's famous architecture. Particularly the La Sagrada Familia, a church begun in 1882 and not yet finished. It must be one of the biggest religious constructions currently being built in the world and certainly gives credence to the word gaudy. We looked in amazement that such a structure could be being built today. It did however give me an insight into the building methods and enormity of other religious and war defensive structures that we have been visiting on this trip. Its only equal in the religious world are the massive Hindu gopurams of India.

13/1/98 Three hours on the internet this morning.Street flamenco dancing, buskers The services available at each cafe seem varied. Some only allow you to surf and to send email, a smaller number also allow download of your messages from a home address and few and far between allow the transfer of files to enable us to update this web site. Hence the slow updating of this site. After seeing over 3000 sketches, paintings, drawings, ceramics and lino cuts of Pablo Picasso's works at a local museum I had a greater understanding but no greater liking for his later works. Although I did enjoy some of his earlier paintings.

14/1/98 Goodbye to Barcelona after three very pleasant days, and a stop this morning at the local H-D dealer for an oil change and the exchange of an Australian pin for a Barcelona one and off to Tarragona.

15/1/98 After yesterday's toll way charges (about $US 0.08 per km) we decided to use the national highway instead. Unlike the Cote d' Azur in France where the entire coast is heavily populated and hilly, this part of Spain is relativelyGaudi, one of his buildings in Barcelona flat and more sparsely populated making using the national roads good travelling. 200 km and we were in the medieval fortress town of Morella. At 1000m, surrounded by terraced paddocks it sits atop a pointed hill overlooking the barren countryside, one of Spain's oldest continually inhabited towns. We have adopted the local habit of eating the main meal in the middle of the day, usually about 2 pm and doused with a glass of wine. The 2 hour lunch is thriving, and now that the days are lengthening, we also feel we have the time to indulge.

16/1/98 An early start, off at 8 am. At least it is early here as it is just breaking dawn. The best time of the day to ride. The morning sun bouncing colours off the low cloud and people starting their day's work. Took a couple of smaller roads through Cinctorres and Castellfort before reaching the coast at Castello. It seems every village here is perched atop a rocky knoll, with a fortified wall and "now" church which was probably a mosque during Moorish (Muslim) times and maybe even a church prior to that, as the area has been inhabited for so long. Along the coast to Valencia where, yes, there are acres and acres of oranges, yes, Valencia oranges growing. Further down the coast we settled for the night at Calpe on the Costa Blanca, a summer resort for North Europeans.

17/1/98 All down the Spanish East coast it is "granny season", where the retired crowd heads south to get away from some of north Europe's winter. Plying their motorhomes and caravans up and down the coast looking for cheap spots to stop. This contrasts incredibly with the tourist development we saw going on south of Alicante. High rise hotels, villas and condos springing up like mushrooms after rain. 500 km today across to Granada, fringing the snow capped Sierra Nevada mountains. We travelled through salt pans with flamingos feeding, coastal hills, high rise developed beaches, lowland irrigated crops and highland fruit trees, allLa Ahlambra, and Islamic building from the 14th Century in the one day.

18/1/98 La Ahlambra is Granada's claim to fame. An Islamic complex from about the 14 century, truly immense with some intricately carved wall decorations. But I am starting to feel a little historied out. Every corner of Europe seems to have magnificent buildings, great architectural feats of the past but I miss the natural beauty of unspoilt wilderness with wild animals. It is difficult to find ancient history and natural beauty in the one place, mankind seems to supplant one with the other. The areas of western Europe we have visited so far are lacking in unspoilt nature.

19/1/98 Often when riding I wonder what we achieve in a day or whether a day was of any value. But it is not always the large things that we do that give meaning. It can be as small as a different type of coffee, a local pastry, unusual scenery, an encounter with a local character or just managing the daily grind. Every day is different, we travel roadsWhite buildings of a country town on a green landscape that we will never ride again and see countryside that we will never see again. That in itself is enough to keep me interested in the riding. 170 km today to Ronda, the home of bull fighting, with the oldest bull fighting ring in the country. It's a great time to visit, out of season, where you can walk into the ring, pretend to be a matador, and take in the history from the museum without the dilemma of whether to attend a fight or abstain on animal liberation grounds. We did notice that the museum included vanquished matadors killed by victorious bulls as well as successful matadors and the mounted heads of deceased bulls.

20/1/98 100 odd km down a mountain road through the white villages of Southern Spain brings us to Gibraltar. (They are called the white villages because all the buildings, bar the stone church, are painted white). We decided to stay in the Spanish border town of La Linea and commute to Gibraltar as prices in Spain are much lower because of the strong English Pound. Gibraltar, a British colony since 1713, has its own government and the people consider themselves an independent country tiedThe rock of Gibraltar from the airstrip crossing from Spain to Britain. Spain still has eyes on Gibraltar, a thorn in its side, and have often made the land border crossing difficult, or closed in the past. This is my first return place in Europe, having been here nearly 40 years ago when I was 5 yrs old. Of course the place has changed, but what do you remember at 5 yrs old.

21/1/98 We have a long list of postcard people, slow mail, and when postage is cheap it is time to post. Twelve went out this morning before we headed to the other end of technology at Gibnet. They had offered to let us use their facility free to update our web site and get email. This was much appreciated as there are no other cyber cafe's in Gibraltar. Then off to the H-D dealer to pose for photos for the local newspaper and exchange T-shirts. The rock itself, one of the pillars of Hercules, the end of the known world, is steeped in history. It has Europe's only apes, the first Neanderthal skull ever found, 33 km of tunnels built during the 15 sieges, limestone caves and a moorish castle. We spent the afternoon atop the rock before an incident marred an otherwise perfect day. WhileRiding across the airstrip and into Gibraltar parked, a passing car clipped the front wheel hard enough to break the steering lock. The plunger lock when broken remains locked and unlockable meaning we could only ride in circles, not much fun. After fiddling for over an hour we managed to free the lock by using a hacksaw blade to wiggle the plunger back up into the lock and then filled the hole with a piece of hose preventing it from falling down again. But now we don't have security for the motorcycle, a worry heading for Morocco tomorrow.

22/1/98 Algeciras and a ferry ride across to Ceuta in Spanish North Africa. Ride on ride off, one and a half hours and $US 35.00 and we are on a different continent, our third (fourth if you consider Australia a continent). Ceuta is one of two Spanish enclaves in north Africa where there seems to be a mix of Spanish and Moroccan influences like the mix of English and Spanish at Gibraltar.

Move with us to Morocco , or go to our next visit to  Spain




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