March 21-29, 2023
Spain is a big country, at least by European standards. Spain is about 75% the size of Texas. And like Texas, it’s big enough that the landscape and the climate varies by region. This is at least our fourth time traveling through different parts of Spain, if we include the first couple of times fifteen or so years ago when we flew to Barcelona and rented a BMW GS to head through France and Italy. And it’s not the last.
Last September we rode across Spain from northwest to southeast, to store the bike in Malaga for a several months. We rode through some nice mountain passes and a lot of open plains before getting to the seashore in Malaga.
This year, after picking the bike up in Malaga, we headed a little further down the coast to catch the ferry to Morocco for a couple of weeks, and then returned to Spain with the plan to head west to Portugal.
After a day at Marcin and Ela’s place in Manilva, and a change of tires, it was time to head west toward Cádiz.
A Voice From The Past
A few weeks earlier, while relaxing in Malaga, my phone rang. I looked at the screen, and it was an unknown caller, so I did what I do 99% of the time with unknown callers: I ignored it. About twenty minutes later, it rang again. Same number — a European phone number — but not a number I recognized. Since it was a European number, I decided to take a chance and answer it.
“Is this Patrick Williams?”
“Yes, it is. Who is this?”
“This is the Adventure Authority. I’m afraid I have to advise you that you are in violation of the Adventure Authority Code which states that you must make your location known to all other adventure motorcyclists in the area while traveling in Europe.”
Silence while I tried to figure out who this might be.
Finally, he gave in.
“This is Daniel.”
I couldn’t believe it.
I had last talked to Daniel Rintz in Buenos Aires, Argentina in March of 2016, when I shared my apartment with Daniel and his girlfriend Joey while preparing to ship my bike to South Africa. They were nearly three years into their round-the-world ride on two BMWs, and were also shipping their bikes to Africa, though they would be quite a ways behind me, as I was on a little 250 and could afford to fly it to Cape Town, while their big BMWs (and their budget) meant that they would be putting them on a ship. Also, I was taking the easier eastern route north through Africa, while Daniel and Joey were taking the more challenging western route, eventually heading home to Germany.
That was the last time I had seen them.
“Where are you?” I asked.
“We’re in Spain, not far from you.” I was unaware that they were following our travels.
We talked briefly, and made plans to meet up after Diana and I returned from Morocco.
But first, we had one last trip to make with Marcin and Ela and their daughter Lilly. While Diana and I took the bike, Marcin and family drove their car to Ronda, an hour and a half from their home in Manilva. Ronda is a quaint little mountaintop town overlooking a deep gorge. It is famous for the stone bridge across the gorge that connects the old town and the new town. Oddly, we learned about it several months ago, while watching old episodes of The Amazing Race. In one episode, contestants had to cross a tightwire strung under the bridge. Because of this American television show, we immediately recognized the bridge in Ronda.
On the way to Ronda, we stopped in Gaucin for a coffee, and ran into these two Dutch guys. They run a tour company that does “self-guided” motorcycle tours in different parts of Europe. They were here scouting new off-road sections for one of their Spain tours.
The bridge in Ronda. If you look just below the arch section, you can see a doorway and a walkway with a railing. This is where the cable was strung across from one side to the other for the Amazing Race contestants to walk across to the other side.
This happens to us frequently, but Ela picked up on it in Ronda and took a photo to paste on her Instagram page. She referred to us as “celebrities” because people kept approaching us asking about the Texas license plate. It’s definitely a conversation starter, though it happens so often I’ve said I’m going to use a Sharpie and write “Yes, Really” on the back of the Rotopax water container above the license plate, in response to the common opening line: “Are you really from Texas?”
While enjoying churros with Marcin and Ela in Ronda, we mentioned that we were headed to Cádiz to meet up with Daniel & Joey. “I love Cádiz!”, Ela said. So a couple of days later, we met again in Cádiz.
We had a day in between Ronda and Cadiz, so we camped in Zahora, right across the road from the beach. Happy to be back in our tent (our “home away from home”). We haven’t camped as much as on past legs, mostly because we were staying with friends or it was cheap enough in Morocco to afford some decent lodging. We’ve got a few house sits coming up as well, which will reduce our average lodging expenses, but I really like the tent when we have a nice place to stay (ie, a table to cook and eat at, and decent showers/bathrooms are a requirement for Diana).
In Cadiz, Ela showed us around the seawall, with some beautiful parks to walk through, then took us to the local market, where we had an assortment of local delicacies, from sea urchin to chicharrones.
Cadiz is a beautiful city, with a large old section that is very walkable.
These trees near the seawall were massive.
Some of the branches on these trees were as much as five or six feet in diameter. This tree had a section that reminded me of a “waif” or a mummy or ghost, with his arms drooping down in tattered clothing.
The lovely Ela and Lilly.
Looking across to Castillo de San Sebastian.
Ela led us to this open-air market where we had chicharrones (deep-fried pork rinds and pork belly). Healthy? Uh, nope. Delicious? Yes.
We also had fresh oysters and sea urchin. I don’t normally recommend consuming raw shellfish right off of a folding table on a sidewalk, but Ela had never tried either before, so why not?
Miraculously, we all survived.
That evening we met Daniel, Joey, and their 15-month old son Joshua at San Francisco Plaza. Over beers, we reminisced about our earlier travels, and talked about future plans. The conversation came easy and we enjoyed their company so much that we arranged to meet again for breakfast the next morning, and again later that afternoon. It was great to catch up with them, for Diana to finally meet them, and to meet Joshua. Although they’ve ticked the box for “Three Years Riding Around the World on Motorcycles”, they continue to live the life, now with a toddler, in a van pulling a trailer with a Suzuki DR400.
Joey, Joshua, and Daniel. Daniel and Joey made two movies about their motorcycle travels, the award-winning “Somewhere Else Tomorrow” and “Somewhere Else Together”. We hope to cross paths again, perhaps in Portugal, or maybe in Germany.
We were unaware until we walked into the lobby of our apartment in Cádiz that it had a “Round-the World” theme. This is the floor tile mosaic as you enter the lobby. The building was built in the 1700s, and recently remodeled into these beautiful apartments.
And this is just outside our apartment.
Our AirBnB in Cádiz wasn’t cheap, but it was extremely nice and comfortable. We saved enough by camping and staying with friends to afford to stay here for a couple of nights.
After a couple of nights in Cádiz, we were finally ready to head for a new country, but we had one more city in Spain to see first. We’ll be back through Spain again before long though, but it’ll be a different part, again.