El Otoñal – the autumn meet, with Mujeres en Moto

Last weekend, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join the Mujeres en Moto’s autumn meet again. The Otoñal, as it is called, was held in a tiny little village called Anento, in the vicinity of Zaragoza.

I arrived very late on the Friday, just barely made it for dinner at 10pm and pretty much was ready to fall into bed after that. With a full week’s teaching in my back, I pretty much fall into bed every Friday evening, so add 4+ hours on the bike to that and go figure, I was dead. Fortunately, this year I did not wake up with fever Saturday morning, but could fully enjoy the event from then on. And I was even told my Spanish has become better, but really it hasn’t – I just think I’m better all round without fever.

Saturday offered excellent weather and Eva, la jefa, i.e. the president of Mujeres en Moto, had prepared a ride for us with scheduled stops for coffee and photos. Unfortunately, we had an accident early on, a rider slipped on the farm dirt on the tarmac and skidded into the ditch, fortunately though without any real damage to either bike or person. As the accident happened, the nearest riders stopped, parked and rushed to help and, with joint women power and impressive efficiency, the bike was back on the road. The following day it was my turn to receive this favour, but more about that later.

The area around Anento was perfect for riding. I love the tiny farm roads and little villages which seem lost in time, it was an amazing ride out – my only complaint was that I had dressed too warm;y so my warm mid-layer had to go at the coffee stop. I’m so thankful for the flexible Knox layering system, it makes changing weather conditions so easy to handle – and it is such a lovely problem, feeling too warm in the end of October, isn’t it?! We had our coffee stop in a village with 30 inhabitants, we must have helped the turnover of that pub considerably with the purchase of our drinks. The lovely little bar-lady kept herself busy making coffee after coffee and serving peanuts and cold drinks while we posed for photos in the plaza and enjoyed the music from Teresa’s mighty trike. There were about 70 of us, so quite a sight for the locals.

Onward we rode to another tiny village, where, with permission from the police, we parked outside the wall and gate and posed for photos. After this, we were homebound for lunch at the Albergue in Anento, followed by a tour of the town and its surroundings. The countryside around Anento is quite astonishing with the gorge, the water features, cliff formations and castle on the top. With witch hats being obligatory for the tour, the 70 of us trailing along in our pointy hats certainly looked impressive!

The Saturday ended with a Halloween masquerade dinner and while I know that heaps of adults love to do this, sadly I’m not one of them. Just like last year, I just didn’t bother. I know it annoys some but I see such things as part of my work and just can’t be arsed on my free time. I was a green face witch at our Halloween event at work, much to the children’s (and parents’) delight – and no, there are no photos from this event 🙂 I do, however have plenty of photos and videos from the Otoñal. Share and enjoy!

Just like last year, the disco was such a strange cultural experience for me. Eva played song after song and it was evident that everyone knew literally every word of the lyrics and these are songs that I’ve never heard before. I do listen to Spanish music and there are several artists I really like, but nothing has ever prepared me for the Mujeres en Moto disco experience. This is a bit of Spanish culture I cannot tap into, just enjoy it through the eyes of a foreigner 🙂 And I do enjoy it!

Sunday morning I returned home taking a mix of lovely little farm roads and larger roads. It was a beautiful day, I made several stops, for lunch, for coffee, I even had a siesta on a bench beside the road. Excellent end to a busy weekend. However, before signing off I want to extend my warmest thanks to the ladies who rushed to help me when, much to my own surprise, I fell over on my bike at the parking lot in Anento. The bike was erected before I had even understood what had happened, erhm – lock still attached to the brake disk. There is a first time for everything and I’m so happy I didn’t fall and damage anything or anyone, or even myself. Live and learn!

Slow riding in Ireland

Three weeks, it sounds like a long time in a small country like Ireland and one can easily make the assumption that within that time we could complete the Wild Atlantic Way. However, doing things in a rush is not our style, we like living slow and there were a lot of things we wanted to do. I was happy to be out and about on my bike, camping, running and getting some good rest after a stressful year. Christopher was happy to be out and about checking out old stuff, like stones and taking photos and more photos. We also wanted to sample some ciders and eat some tasty food.

I arrived ahead of Christopher – I came over from France with an overnight ferry and arrived early morning while he ferried from Wales and arrived in the afternoon. This gave me a good opportunity to run some errands, more precisely to check out the Knox Urbane Pro riding shirt at the Overlanders in Gorey. The Knox gear is not yet available in Spain, so this was good use of time for me, and I could have coffee and scones while resting a bit after a sleepless night on the ferry. Business done, we headed up to the Wicklow Mountains for camping and riding, a highly appreciated recommendation from the guys at Overlanders.

Our aim had been the the southwest coast but the Wicklow Mountains were a pleasant surprise and we fully enjoyed riding there a couple of days taking in the diverse landscape. The contrasts in nature between overgrown thick forest and nearly tropical look, to barren fields and mountains made for great photo opportunities and we found some small roads where we were nearly alone. It was rather chilly so I layered up with my rain jacket on top to keep warm – but it did not rain, which was great.

The Guinness lake.

Over on the southwest coast we set camp for a few days and explored some very small rural roads on the Beara Peninsula and the smaller peninsulas to the south. The smaller the roads the happier Christopher is, and I must say that not all roads were easy on the BMW, although if I’d still had the Kawasaki I probably wouldn’t have even tried. We had had some very mixed weather, none of it what I would call summer weather, but especially when riding along the coast we got some sunny moments and I could occasionally pack my rain jacket away.

Cold, windy and rough, but believe it or not, this road is part of the Wild Atlantic Way. On our way to Sheep’s Head, west of Bantry.
I love the cliffs and the waves breaking against them causing the water to foam and look turquoise.
On local recommendation, we headed to Garnish Point where you can take the cable car to Dursey Island. No way would I ever get into the cable car, and although sheep are no longer permitted it did look small and claustrophobic. The view was awesome so we enjoyed a coffee stop before riding on.
There are lots of these little roads to enjoy.
On our way to Moll’s Gap and Gap of Dunloe. I found the generous colour marking of the sheep perplexing, on the other side of the hill they were purple.

While I don’t have any photos to show from our riding on the Iveragh Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, I do have some from seeing extremely old footprints on Valentia Island. One of the perks of travelling with Christopher is that he does research and finds out about cool stuff to see for free, like these footprints from a tetrapod. These footprints can only be seen in a handful of places in the world and they are 360 million years old, tetrapods were, in fact, the very first vertebrates to get out of the sea and live on both land and water. This was so so cool to see!

We moved up one peninsula and explored the area around Dingle. The town itself we tried to avoid, as it was packed full of tourists (hey, no – we’re not tourists, we’re travellers!) Our only reason to venture into Dingle was to buy camping gas and new sporks, as we kind of had run out. Foxy John’s, the only hardware store with a pub I’ve ever been to, got us sorted on gas (FYI, he stocks click, screw and pierce cannisters).

We had some amazing weather here and we enjoyed exploring the area and taking lots of photographs. We also had some clear nights where, even though we were not in the Kerry Dark Sky Reserve, we could see the stars very very clearly – like I have never seen them before. Unfortunately we had no clear skies while in Kerry, so that is still on the list to come back for.

The view from the hiking trail at Clogher Strand, near Barryferriter.

One of our quests on the Dingle peninsula was to find the Ogham stones. We circled around quite a while without finding them, the GPS and map both clearly marked the spot. Well, the farmer had also marked the spot, they were in a field with a “Beware of the bull” sign. Hmm, seems the farmer wasn’t happy having a national monument on his land. Ogham is an early medieval writing using lines used in this area.

Finally a day where I could ride with only the Knox Urbane Pro shirt and no outer layer. Irish summer is not quite what I call summer, but I think the shirt will serve me well back in Spain.

The Dingle and the Beara peninsulas were my favourites, perhaps because we had the best weather and we found some interesting stuff and tiny roads to ride. Sadly, this was as far north as we got before heading back towards Dublin. We passed by Overlanders again, my bike desperately needed a new chain kit and I was very happy to get this done before taking on the next leg in my journey.

Our last night in Ireland was booked in Dublin. However, there was a hassle to find a place to stay, the hostel we booked especially for their parking in the back had no parking at all and could not see the problem of parking in the street and later in the conversation the receptionist conveniently had trouble understanding English. I lost my patience, demanded a refund and we went to stay near the police station where we parked and securely locked our bikes.

While locking the bikes, Christopher had his five minutes of glory – a guy enthusiastically commented on his British registration plate: “Have you come all the way from England on a 125? Fair play to you!”. I must add that he is a fairly seasoned traveller by now, although for him it is never a motorbike holiday, it is a photography holiday. So while I tried to slim down the packing, he brought two cameras, but that is a whole other story, not to be told now.

The photographer in action.