Exploring Sierra de Gredos and Serra da Estrela
Mid-May, an international group of four experienced riders and three pillions from the Algarve Senior Bikers (ASB) set out to explore the Sierra de Gredos and Serra da Estrela, two rugged mountain ranges in western Spain and central Portugal, both of which asked riders and pillions for a challenging dance on narrow twisted roads.
After meeting in Évora, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, we crossed into Spain on the Ponte Internacional do Marco, the smallest international bridge in the world.
The wide, wind-swept plains of the Extremadura led us to Cáceres, another UNESCO World Heritage Site with a blend of Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture.
One of the cultural highlights of the trip was a visit to the Hieronymite Monastery of Yuste, to which Charles V of Habsburg, Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain, Archduke of Austria, Lord of the Netherlands and Duke of Burgundy resided from after his abdication until his death in 1558.
From Yuste, the route winds on small, twisty roads through the Parque Natural de Sierra de Gredos, up to the Puerto del Pico, the highest point of the pass at over 1300 m altitude.
North of Ciudad Rodrigo, a medieval town that is famous for its Iberian ham, we had to negotiate the narrow roads leading up to the Salto de Saucelle with steep gradients and many hairpins towards the Douro valley.
On the Portuguese side, the mountain roads in the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain range in continental Portugal, were in no way inferior to the previous challenges in Spain.
From Manteigas, we drove to a chilly 1500 m high mountain pass to descend through small laid-back villages with their typical black slate-roofed houses to hit the EN2, the famous “Route 66” of Portugal, in Góis.
After one week of riding and more than 1500 km, the group made its last stop in Arraiolos, a charming Alentejo town with a long tradition of producing woolen carpets, which can be examined in the excellent carpet museum and purchased in the numerous carpet shops.
By Walter Kollert, ASB member