I can't feel my hands! But just keep driving.
Updated: Feb 19
21st to 22nd January 2020 - The journey from Bilbao to Peniche
It is rare that an alarm clock is a welcome sound, but on Tuesday morning, the ship's alarm clock announcing we had 1 hour until we reached Bilbao, was a welcome one indeed. It announced freedom! and our first full day driving. The sun had barely started to peak its head up when we disembarked and made our way out of port, it was truly liberating as we hit 4th gear in search of the first petrol station on route to Pontevedra in Western Spain just north of the Portuguese border. The petrol station we arrived in looked great, very modern with a space age feel but the funny thing was not particularly practical. Sure they had petrol, air, good coffee and just as an added bonus a boutique market store complete with fresh bread. Now all this would be fine but we needed oil and beside the organic pastries and artisan bread they had no oil! So we had out first unpack to find the oil that was buried deep deep down in the lock box. Not the smartest spot to pack it but I didn't feel that comment would be appreciated.
That minor annoyance aside, it was good to get an idea of how where we had put things and how this would need to be rearranged. we filled up with oil and hit the road. My first shock came when I realized how short a distance the car was going to go on one tank of gas, I was concerned the trip through Africa might take more like 12 months at the hourly rate of which we had to stop. However, these stops became a blessing as we chundered along motorways, as they gave us a chance to step inside and warm your hands which were heading somewhere between numb and painful.
Motorways were not ideal, firstly Bumbles’ maximum speed is around 95km an hour secondly, they are boring and thirdly they a freezing cold! however, as Richard has to work they are necessary so only one day off work is needed. It doesn't stop me cursing this fact with every km we pass at our record-breaking speed. We stopped three more times before lunch which was essential just to keep our limbs moving. Our route along with a service station we pulled into ran along the Camino trail which was exciting as my dad completed the trek earlier last year and I would love to complete it at some stage. The tiny little villages dotted along the northern parts of Spain which must rely so heavily on pilgrims and trekkers for their livelihoods were quite beautiful and content. We stopped in one station which was coffee at a tiny standing bar and a chocolate croissant, perfection in its simplicity.
I almost laughed or cried, funny how often that two co-inside, when we saw the snow start to fall from the air at one of our stops, and I honestly thought what the fuck are we doing here! If we hadn't have pulled into a little town for lunch shortly after I seriously think I would have thrown it away and hitchhiked the rest of the way.
Lunch was off the side of the motorway, tucked away behind a slip road with an oh so wonderful radiator they could have served me cold oats and I would have lived with it just for the warmth. Thankfully they were wonderful, in the broken conversation we ended up with an array of parma ham, cheese, and delicious warming soup to start which was wonderful. the mains were a version of fried fish and veal, they were less wonderful as I think they had used an entire vat of vegetable oil to fry them, but they did the trick. On we trekked for an uneventful if not freezing afternoon, I was pretty miserable when we arrived in Pontevedra shortly after dark but we made it!
Pontevedra was beautiful, although very quiet in the winter. The streets wove on hiding ancient secrets with wonderful architecture from between the 12th to 15th centuries when this was a bustling port town. We ate at Casa Fidel O Pulpeiro which was simple, friendly and an excellent Galician meal. I do recommend the Octopus with the house white wine, it is by far the most tender and tasty Octopus I remember eating.
The next day dawned early with Richard having to work on and off. We had an ambition of reaching Peniche by lunchtime but that was out the window given we now knew the distance that we could feasibly cover in a day. Unlike yesterday, the rain had disappeared and it was a lovely start to the morning, then the suspension went.
Off the motorway and into a church car park we ambled, divine intervention perhaps? We unpacked and Richard was back under the car. A quick fix though saw us back on the road with little time lost. The day and it was fairly uneventful with a mixture of a rest stop, petrol, work call and so on. The highlight was by far the most wonderful Portuguese lady who left us after a long chat about the trip and her time in Australia, with her number, a hug, and promises of lunch.
We reached Peniche around 3 pm and I could not have been happier, not to mention the hunger that had kicked in! First impressions, great apartment with a lovely fireplace, the town in the midst of winter did resemble the quietness as if an atomic bomb had just exploded, I hoped there was life somewhere.