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2.11 Return trip along the Atlantic coast

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

Morocco we have now finally left behind us after three months. What fantastic adventures we could experience in this enchanting country. We are deeply grateful for all the beautiful nature experiences and inspiring contacts with the hospitable people. Somehow, of course, also glad that everything went well and without (noteworthy) incidents. In particular, our confidence in the technology of our FRAME expedition vehicle increases with every adventure and every kilometer. Neither of us really knows anything about technology, and yet we were always able to solve small problems with common sense and, if necessary, with help from the distance. Even when we seemed to be completely stuck in the desert, we were able to get ourselves back on track under our own steam.

Group cuddling with friends...

After the arrival of the ferry in Algeciras we drive to the agreed meeting point with Jacqueline and Dirk about twenty kilometers along the coast to the east. The two have been "waiting for us" here, so to speak, for over a week, so beautiful is their pitch by the sea. We make it just before dark and get right in between our friends and another overlander truck. We are usually not so much for group cuddling (standing close together, as usually done only on a campground), but our old and new friends have given their explicit consent for the short duration of our visit. We are very much looking forward to this reunion and therefore stay the next day on this beach with a view of the Rock of Gibraltar.

top left: Camping site with view to the rock of Gibraltar

above right: after 90 days in Africa we are again back on European soil

It is now the beginning of March and we have pretty much exactly five weeks left to be back in Switzerland. That's enough time not to take the shortest way, so we spontaneously plan a little detour via Portugal and Northern Spain, which are virtually new territory for both of us. That's still a good three and a half thousand kilometers back, probably an adventure in itself.

Besides the rugged coasts along the Atlantic, Seville, Lisbon, Porto, Santiago de Compostela and Bilbao are worth seeing for us in the given time frame. Whether we include the wine regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy after that, we leave open today. But a night in the Jura should finally conclude our five-month journey.

It's noon and we have already covered over a hundred kilometers to pick up my DJI Air 2S from our drone sitter Iulia in Benalmadena. We are not really sure if we should have taken the drone with us to Morocco or not. There were opportunities to take fantastic aerial photos almost every day. But whether it would have been discovered at border control by the scanner or the oozing Rex in the end? We will never know.

Region of Ardales by the olive tree grove overlooking the lake

After Malaga, our route takes us back in a northwesterly direction on expressways, where we can fully exploit our voluntary maximum speed of 80 km/h. In the region of Ardales we look for a suitable place to spend the night and finally place ourselves between olive trees with a view of the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce. We only slowly and reluctantly get used to the fact that back in the Spanish spring there are again many more motorhomes than in the Moroccan winter. All the more we take advantage now again of our abilities to get to our overnight accommodations on steep rough roads. So also here on a headland north of El Morenito protruding into the lake. The yoghurt cups on the Park4Night site near the main road we only see in the far distance ;-)

Fatbikes once again come into use

In Seville, however, we are back in the haven of the many travelers. A place explicitly authorized by the municipality of Castilleja de Guzman for camper vans offering a unique view over the city. What a privilege. Early in the morning we see Seville under a thick blanket of fog. Only the Torre Sevilla stands out of it. It's time to prepare our fatbikes once again and down we go into the city fun. City discoveries with the E-Fatis are almost without exception more enjoyable than with public transport, because we are much closer to the action and feel the city so much better. For once, however, this is not really the case in Seville. The city is ok, but somehow does not meet our expectations. After we have reeled off the sights that are relevant to us and have pushed past the cathedral on foot with thousands of other tourists, we are already longing again for our "panorama terrace" with a view of the roofs of Seville. Through a disused military area our bike ride goes back to the stand. Instead of paella in Seville, today we have spaghetti napolitane at FRAME.

Seville: View of the city from the quiet pitch

above: Our E-Fatis take us from one attraction to another

below: Besides the monumental buildings, we are also fascinated by the monstrous trees

A good hour after Seville, we drive over a gigantic highway border bridge into our tenth country since we started traveling in an expedition vehicle. Ten countries in just under a year, well, we are slow travelers. Portugal surprises us already visually. The country is clean! Brigitte searches frantically for garbage. On the roadside, on vacant lots, in the riverbeds. Simply nothing to find. After Morocco and Spain this really strikes the eye immediately. You also see trash cans on every corner. Not one, but always three, the full range for separate waste disposal. Bravo, ten times bravo to our dear Portuguese. In Morocco, we sometimes had to carry our garbage with us for over a week until we could find a suitable place to dispose of it. Here in Portugal you don't need a minute to find the next waste garbage can. We think that's great. In other respects, too, the country seems very well-kept to us. People are working in front of their houses in the garden or just repairing a fence. Our positive impression of Portugal increases hourly during our drive across the Algarve. The friendliness in the stores is also noticeable. It's just a pity that our Portuguese is very poor compared to our Spanish or French.

Typical Algarve: Wide, clean beaches and sunshine

Drawing strength from the beauty of nature

We are quickly drawn to the west coast of the Algarve to the southwest corner of the country and the lighthouse at the Cap of Sao Vicente. For the night, the cliffs on the wild Atlantic are our destination. And here, too, we find what we are looking for. We are not quite sure if spending the night here is allowed. In the relevant forums we read about imposed fines up to a hundred and fifty euros. Since we cannot discover however any prohibition signs, we risk it times. Only who dares can win! That has always been our motto and we have always done well with it. The cliff is breathtaking. Standing here is actually priceless. Once again we remember the best hotels in the world we have stayed in. But none of these hotels can compete with this setting here in the middle of nature. And the greatest thing about it, we are all alone here. Not a soul far and wide. The Atlantic Ocean, the cliffs and us. Simply phenomenal!

above: At the southwesternmost point of Portugal: Lighthouse at the Cap of Sao Vicente

below: Our first cliff site south of Praia do Mirouço

The "cliff-hanging" can begin

We would have loved to stay a few more days in this special place. But also we do not want to strain our luck unnecessarily. We thank our guardian spirits for the undisturbed night and excuse our lack of courage also a little with the short time left to us. Today we have a long driving day with almost 300 kilometers. Along the west coast of Portugal we drive through lush landscapes, lots of forest, lots of green, so very different from the south coast. Highways and tolls, we put up with it all to make rapid headway. Once again we find a place on the coast south of Lisbon and enjoy the "cliffhanging" in our own four walls. Waking up with a view of the sea. Cooking with a view of the sea. Blog writing, reading, route planning with a view of the sea and in the evening an apero while watching the sunset in the sea. So our sympathetic thoughts about the cold wet spring in Switzerland can be endured to some extent ;-)

Shortly before Lisbon we already find the next great cliff (No. 2) near Praia do Rebenta Bois

Totally quiet and safe: Belem, in the middle of the embassy district of Lisbon

In Lisbon, we then catch up on what we missed in Seville. Starting with a cozy dinner at the steakhouse, a visit to the museum, a walk along the Tagus River, a stroll in the old town and of course, since we were standing in Belem, the tasting of the delicious Pasteis de Belem. They look like slightly burnt cheese cakes but taste lovely and creamy and also not too sweet. Exactly Brigitte's taste. Of course, the photographic tour in Lisbon may not be missing. From the MAAT (Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology) it goes to the Pillar 7 of the "bridge 25th April" up to the legendary East Station and the probably most impressive trend hotel of Lisbon, the Burj Al Arab replica called Myriad de Lisbon.

Driveway of the Myriad Hotel

Belem district:

Lisbon City:

Eastern Train Station / Estação do Oriente:

Pilar 7 Bridge Experience at the Golden-Gate like "25th April Bridge":

We fill our heads with Portuguese culture and history and are impressed that the Portuguese must have managed to build up their colonies mostly as trading bases and less for exploitation. And this worldwide, from Macau to Botswana, from the Cape Verde Islands to Brazil.

Narrow access to cliff No. 3 at Foz do Arelho

Our journey continues north. After the city, as always, comes nature. A cliff near Foz do Arelho, which is not very easily accessible, will be our next stop on our "Atlantic Cliff Tour". What could be more beautiful than standing on such an amazing cliff and listening to the surf from a safe distance. Endless views and a great sunset are almost guaranteed.

On this topic, don't miss our vivid drone video at the end of this blog about the beauty of "Atlantic cliff-hanging" with our expedition mobile.

Pitch at the last turnaround 30 meters before the drop-off

After that we wait in Nazare for another night for the announced monster waves and hope to see the daring surfers at "work". Nazare is the European Hawaii and therefore a mecca for extreme surfers. Thanks to a deep sea fissure off the coast, a gigantic natural spectacle is created here, depending on the weather and tides. Instead of the hoped-for ten-meter waves, however, there are only three meters, and our patience is quickly exhausted. In the meantime we get to know the MAN overlanders Kelly and Markus a.k.a. KEMALU. They recently bought a beautiful house close to the surfer's paradise and now commute more often between their first home, the cold Grisons and the warm Portugal. Bravo you both, you have done a great move and I envy you for it a little bit ;-)

Like-minded people all over the world: Viva KEMALU!

Whether Gaia or Porto, there is life in the streets...

Time is running out. Porto is on the agenda. We head for a large city parking lot of a supermarket, which should have enough space for dinosaur vehicles like ours. Oporto, as the locals call it, will be the crowning glory of our short Portugal crossing. Gaia and Porto are located directly opposite each other on the Durbo River and complement each other excellently. Gaia is mainly about the storage, tasting and sale of the world famous port wine. Of course, we too were tempted to buy a few bottles. From the standard Twane to the 20-Year old we are now well stocked with red Porto. Vis-a-vis is Porto on the sunny side and delights the tourists with old churches and new restaurants, culture, gastronomy, entertainment. While strolling or drinking Porto on the inviting waterfront promenade, we never get bored. In the evening, you can still hear the merriment far down the river. Either it's the football fans in front of the public TV sets or the bachelor groups of men who are staggering from one pub to another with a glass of beer in their hands. Porto is an incredibly lively and picturesque city and in our opinion even preferable to Lisbon.

above: Porto by Night

below: A sardine store in circus look

A selfie at the Vincci Ponte de Ferro Hotel with the Ponte Luis I as a backdrop

Santiago de Compostela (SDC) offers itself to us in the further course of our return journey as a suitable stopover between Porto and the northernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula, which we aim at next. In Santiago we try to understand the longing of the numerous pilgrims who master this long Way of St. James. We have great admiration for all those who take it upon themselves. We saw a few of them in and around the Cathedral of Santiago. The university town shows itself to us today in freezing cold. For Morocco returnees, a scant ten degrees is simply not enough! We admire the medieval architecture and meander through the narrow streets to the market, where we find some local specialties. Furthermore, we notice the wonderful variety of old trees around the university and thus these also come in front of the camera. A short detour up to the cultural center follows, which unfortunately has its closing day at the moment of our visit. And without wasting much time, we return to the Atlantic, this time to the north coast of Galicia.

At the absolute northernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula

At the end of the day we reach the Punta de Estaca de Bares, the absolutely northernmost cliff of Spain, in fact of the entire Iberian Peninsula. It lies approximately on the latitude of Monaco, so coordinates-technically speaking barely 200 kilometers below the southern tip of Switzerland. For those who have not yet realized it, extremes attract us. Especially when we know that FRAME can do what others can only dream of. Admittedly, anyone can get to this cliff on foot. But to spend the night here and enjoy the first ray of sunshine on the northernmost cliff in Spain from the comforting warmth of a "Hüsler Nest" is something very special indeed.

Cliff No. 4 at Estaca de Bares

Luck is once again with us and instead of the usual spring storms at this time on the Spanish Atlantic, we enjoy very moderate weather today. Stormy winds are supposed to come up again the next day, reason enough to head east and get out of the way, respectively out of the wind. Bilbao and the Guggenheim Museum is our next destination, which we can reach comfortably in three driving days. Galicia, which we now cross, is wild and empty. It bears no resemblance at all to the Spain we know from the south and southeast. It rather resembles our hilly foothills of the Alps, if you don't look over the cliffs into the sea ;-). Near Tapia de Casariego we drive - probably for the last time - to the sea and enjoy a 270° view. But for an outdoor dinner it is already too windy today, so we enjoy the surf from the comfort of our cosy home.

And yet again, we are all alone in the front line: Cliff No. 5 at Tapia de Casariego

In Bilbao we drive to a presumably new parking lot above the city. It reminds us strongly of the great place with a view over Seville, only here it operates as an official site and also offers some services for a modest fee. It has strikingly many Englishmen and Irishmen here, who already let us dream a little of our summer tour on the big island. For the first time I see a country plate "NI" under EU flag. After a long struggle, I let Google enlighten me: "NI" stands for Northern Ireland and is therefore no longer part of the EU. Someone must be desperately holding on to the past.

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

By bus we get down to the city and enjoy the scenery along the banks of the Nervion River in the direction of the Guggenheim Museum. It is too cold for a boat trip today, so we finally board the streetcar. There is actually only one streetcar line, which makes us suspect that Bilbao is probably not as big as one could believe after the degree of popularity. Three stations and we are standing in front of the extremely complex architectural masterpiece. Deconstructivism is the term for this complicated architectural style, which we have already encountered in Dubai at the ME Hotel of the Melia Group. What seems to be a planning orgasm on the drawing board for the architect is probably more of a nightmare for every construction manager. There are neither clear forms nor structures, but rather confusion and chaos. Actually not at all in accordance with Brigitte's artistic philosophy of her photography. She rather loves clear lines, structure and minimalism. And yet she seems to be completely taken with this building. We circle it once from the left and then from the right, always in search of a constructive photo as part of the deconstructive Guggenheim building.

"Maman", 9 meters spiders sculpture by Louise Bourgeois

Of course, we don't just come to Bilbao for the fascinating building, we are also very interested in the exhibitions. We are lucky, because today the temporary exhibition of Lynette Yiadom Boakye, a talented African artist, is just opening. To hold her own next to the artworks of Miro and Koschka is probably not easy, but she succeeds very well with her lively, colorful style of capturing people of her surroundings in paintings.

Richard Serra's steel sculptures

In addition to the three temporary exhibitions of the great painters, we also enjoy Richard Serra's huge walk-through steel sculptures. For once, it is not the art of nature that holds us spellbound, but man-made art. Our senses are literally flooded with new impressions, so that in the evening we just stagger out of the museum feeling hungry. Instead of a last paella in Spain, however, we end up in a gourmet restaurant today and let ourselves be carried away by a nine-course degustation menu. The overkill of the senses is followed by the culinary supergau. We are so over-saturated that we simply retire for the weekend in a fairy-tale forest shortly after the French border.

Desert, cliff or forest. FRAME makes wild camping a real pleasure

The countdown is on. The Easter week and a little more than a thousand kilometers remain. In Bordeaux, we look for an organic winegrower and are immediately amazed. There are countless of them here. In the most famous wine region in the world, some health consciousness seems to have really arrived. My biologically-minded wife is especially happy about that! In Saint Emilion, we finally drive to the Château of Arnaud de Jacquemeau. Mother Jacquemeau welcomes us warmly and assigns us a nice parking space in the middle of the vines. After LacertA in Romania and Tokai in Hungary, this is once again an oenological adventure and in our opinion an indispensable part of a discovery trip in these countries. I don't know how legally the wine lovers who arrive by car leave the winery after a tasting. We, in any case, do not have to worry about that. We taste and immediately crawl into our FRAME. Two cases of the finest organic Grand Cru and a few magnums still find room the next morning in the gift boxes that have been empty in the meantime.

Top: Saint Emilion, Bordeaux at the Chateau of organic winemaker Arnaud de Jacquemeau.

below: Grand Cru storage and bottling are approved by us, our meanwhile empty storage boxes can get filled again

Chateau de la Greffiere in La Roche-Vineuse

And because it was so great, we try the same thing again two days later in Burgundy. West of Macon we drive to the Château de la Greffiere, where we have registered for a tasting. Already at the second glass, however, we realize that we have probably not arrived here in the same Burgundy, which we paid homage to in our younger years thanks to good drops from Gevrey-Chambertin or Volnay. Our chosen route from Bordeaux to the Swiss Jura leads us too much south past the best Burgundy wines. Well, you can't always be lucky, in retrospect I should have researched more carefully here. The stay high above the vines of La Greffiere is but otherwise a crowning conclusion of this rapid France crossing on our Morocco home trip.

Also the second last stage to the Jura passes without further problems. The color of the cows gradually changes from plain white to spotted black and white, and of course it becomes increasingly mountainous. We would have missed the border control if we hadn't noticed the slightly different road signs. We are back in our home country! On the Parking des Planets above Bullet we enjoy our last Moroccan-Adventure evening with a wonderful view over Lake Neuchâtel and the Vaud Alps. The urge to get home is now growing and, despite the Easter holiday, we are already heading home one day ahead of schedule.

Back in beautiful Switzerland with a view of the snowy Vaud Alps (not in the picture on the right ;-)

Our second adventure trip will also remain in our memories forever. From the Berbers in the High Atlas to the camel drivers in the northern Sahara to the nature-loving fishermen on the North African Atlantic. All of them welcomed us, all of them gave us a little insight into their lives and their views. Together with the wonderful impressions of Mother Nature, we have also become a great deal richer and more experienced on this journey. Inspired and grateful, we can hardly wait for our next adventure this summer. Off we go to the big islands in the North, to Scotland, Shetland and Ireland!

Next Adventure - Summer 2023: Scotland, Shetland & Ireland

Next Blog: 3.1 Escape the wet spring


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