A Spanish sizzler
Good rides in Spain aren’t hard to find; unlike most of our fair island, anything on a map of the Iberian peninsula that seems to be wiggly will probably turn out to be constructed from the same stuff they use on racetracks. Added to that it’ll more than likely run through stunning landscapes, be dotted with romantic hotels set in ancient castles, and come free with enough sunshine to recharge your batteries for a year.
This four-hour stint along Spain’s border with Portugal is different from the usual Spanish routes because it’s not an obvious north-south run – a more classic path would take you round to the east of Madrid. But if you’ve managed to get as far south as, say, the Jerez GP, then making your way up to Seville and from there to Badajoz is as good a way as any of winding up a few days later at the ferry in Bilbao or Santander.
The ride starts on the EX-110 north from Badajoz. Escaping the industrial units and messy outskirts, the road gradually filters into an arrow-straight jaunt through flat, low arable land and sparse, white-washed houses. The scenery has a very American feel; you could be somewhere in New Mexico. Funnily enough, the road eventually winds up towards the town of Alburquerque, perched on the top of a hill and after which the other Albuquerque (without the ‘r’), of New Mexico, is named. Getting lost in the narrow side streets is fun, but pick up the EX-110 again north, heading for San Vincente de Alcantara. The road, still immaculate, undulates through more scrub, then skirts San Vincente.
You’re now on the CC-91 and, as you pass through a limb of the Sierra de San Pedro mountain range, the landscape suddenly changes. Mountains are visible in the distance, and trees dominate the roadside. Corners start to bunch up and tighten into cool combinations, dropping your average speed yet increasing the pace.
Then, suddenly, the trees and corners are gone and it’s back to Us-style scrub and straight, up-anddown roads. But these aren’t dull roads; it’s an impressive, wild-western landscape; perfect for sitting back and piling on through with a rhythmic pulse.
Eventually you pick up the EX-117 towards Alcantara – stop for a jet black coffee to rouse your senses, then across the cobbled bridge over the Rio Tajo, alongside the dam. More straight lines and gentle curves before, finally, proper mountains heave into view. Outside Moraleja, pick up the EX-109 and head into the Sierra de Gata. The road climbs and twists with a wideopen, three-lane encouragement. It’s easy to speed, so watch for lorries moving a lot slower up the long climbs. The scenery is impressive too; it’s easy to take your eyes off the road. I wouldn’t if I were you.
The run down into Ciudad Rodrigo is a gentle unwind, and for the perfect somewhere to stay, the local Parador, set in a 14th century castle, is about as good as it gets.
‘It comes free with enough sunshine to recharge your batteries’
Who needs corners when you’ve got undulations like these to enjoy?