Two guys, two bikes & two tents.

A 1999 journey from Plymouth to Santander and onward to the Costa del Sol via Portugal.

Santander from the Ferry

The approach to Santander from the ferry

It was a Tuesday, and it was pouring with rain, but we had already paid for the ferry tickets, so there was no putting it off until the weather faired up, we had to go. We were going to Spain, we were going on our motorbikes and that's as far as the plan went. It was 320 miles or thereabouts to the ferry terminal in Plymouth, so we had figured that 24 hours was more than enough time to get there before the ship sailed. We hadn't actually considered that it might be raining, but as it happened we got there in plenty of time and managed to get changed into some dry clothes before going on board. It was the day of the 1999 solar eclipse, (11th August), when my friend Paul and I boarded the Brittany Ferries luxury cruise ship 'Val de Loire' in Plymouth, bound for Santander in northern Spain. We were both equipped with a motorcycle, a tent, far too much luggage and not nearly enough money! We had managed to get on board before the eclipse occurred and we got to see bits of it on the TV, because the sky over Plymouth was typically British and completely overcast; And apart from the fact that it got dark for a couple of minutes, and every idiot for miles around had their camera out, the only thing notable was the amount of camera flashes as all the idiots took photographs of the darkness in unison.

Santander from the Ferry

Approaching Santander from the sea.

The pictures of the islands were taken on the approach to Santander from the sea. This was my first sight of Spanish soil, as I had never been this far south before. I had previously hitch hiked to Germany through Belgium in 1986, and so Spain was only the third foreign country I had managed to visit.


Seriously suspicious

The cafe owner, seriously suspicious.

It was an uneventful crossing, meaning the ship didn't sink and I wasn't seasick. Paul managed to be seasick though, but he'd just about got over it by the time we docked. We saw some dolphins swimming alongside the ship at one point, this was somewhere in the Bay of Biscay, I couldn't tell you exactly where because there is little in the way of landmarks to go by. The ship takes a full 24 hours from port to port, and we arrived in Santander at 12:00 on 12th August 1999. After disembarking from the ferry we stopped in Santander for about ten minutes to take a couple more photographs with my new fangled digital camera. The photographs are very low resolution by today's standards, but this was 20 years ago and digital cameras were taking over from digital watches as the must have new technology, and mobile phones, although no longer the size of a breeze block, were still only just for talking on.

We then rode a few miles out of Santander, in the general direction of nowhere in particular, mainly because we didn't have a map and sat-navs had yet to be invented. It was generally south-ish, because we were riding away from the sea. Once we had cleared Santander and put a few miles between it and us, we stopped for lunch at a small cafe/bar/shop in a village so far off the beaten track that I can't identify it even now with google earth and the Internet to assist me. The cafe owner (pictured), didn't seem overly impressed with having to deal with two non Spanish-speaking bikers and then when Paul dropped his beer and broke the glass, her suspicions were proved well founded, but she refused to accept any payment for the broken beer glass although it was offered.

A nice looking waitress sat doing nothing.

A nice looking waitress sat doing nothing.

After lunch was over, we continued heading south and after riding a few more miles, we came to the city of Palencia where we saw a nice looking waitress sat doing nothing and so we stopped and ordered a coffee so that she would have something to do. It was while we were drinking the aforementioned coffee that I had my first brush with the law, I got a bollocking in Spanish from a policeman who objected to me parking my bike on the kerb. He was quite animated but I couldn't decide whether it was because I didn't understand him, or because I had parked my bike on the footpath, Anyway I moved the bike off the kerb and onto the street, which seemed to please him a bit because he quietened down and stopped being so animated and went about his business seeming much happier.