The sun was shining through a clear blue sky, as we found ourselves cruising along the coast in Altea, situated on the Mediterranean, in the Alicante province in Spain. Today’s goal was Guadalest in the Cordillera Bernia / Benicadell. Alicante is the southernmost province of the autonomous region of Valencia, where the warm Mediterranean breeze blows gently inland from the coastline. Sandy beaches and dunes, interspersed with rocky areas and steep slopes, make up a landscape of blue, yellow, white and green tones.
DANGEROUS BENDS AHEAD
First gear screams a little, and we gain traction and get moving. Out of Altea, and onto the road towards Guadalest. After about 10 beautiful kilometres you get to Callosa, and then you start a long series of swings, on the best asphalt you can imagine. The swings lead you up and down mountains, through canyons and valleys, over ancient bridges and rivers, and after each turn, a new and fantastic natural phenomenon reveals itself.
Wild olive trees, strange undergrowth, orange and lemon groves, desert landscape haciendas, and lonely Fincas. You really have to concentrate on your riding here, because in those few places where there actually are roadside barriers, they usually only consist of white-painted concrete blocks, set up at intervals, which you can easily slide between if it all goes wrong. And it’s a long drop.
MOTORBIKES AND MUSEUM MECHANICS
After 1 hour of riding these hypnotic swings, a large building suddenly appears with old cars parked outside, so we slow down to check it out. “Museo Colección de Vehículos Históricas”, it says on the sign. A motorcycle museum all the way out here in the Badlands? To be more specific, in Valle del Río, Guadalest. Inside, a man sitting behind a desk lets out the local version of ‘Hola’. Tickets can be bought for 3 Euros. Inside, there is indeed a museum, 500m2 filled with more than 140 motorcycles, and a dozen micro-cars, ranging from the 1920’s up to the 1970’s. Over 50 different brands, mainly from southern Europe, but also Indian, Harley Davidson and Henderson are represented.
All vehicles were collected over a period of 30 years, by Frac Ricardo and his wife, and then later, by their son. The motorcycles and cars are in incredibly fine original condition and running order. This is truly a well kept museum, where the surroundings are as breathtaking as the vehicles. The museum is situated around 7km from Guadalest, and open every day except Saturday, all year round. Time goes quickly, in the company of such mechanical beauty, and there’s a lot to see here. Iif we didn’t have to continue riding, I could easily have spent the rest of the day here. Highly recommended.
Finally, we can see the church spire in Guadalest, consisting only of the top 5 feet of a normal church tower, placed on top of a mountain peak, making it very distinctive. How anyone can climb up to this tower is a mystery, but it would undoubtedly be an advantage with a background as a mountaineer, as there is no normal access or stairs.
Guadalest was originally founded as a fortress by the Moors, in the year 715, after which the village grew out around it. Castillo de Guadalest was considered impregnable for centuries, until Jaime first changed that perception. The only entrance to the village is through a tunnel carved into the mountain side, approx. 30m in length, 3m high, and 2m wide.
A few hundred steps take you up to the tunnel, so it goes without saying, cars and other vehicles won’t make it up here. For this reason, you only meet walking traffic the streets. The town perches deftly on the mountain top, and a few hundred steps even further up, you’ll find the cemetery. The main street consists almost entirely of restaurants and souvenir shops, as this spectacular location draws many visitors.
From the town, you have a fantastic view down into the valley, over a large turquoise lake, flanked by the surrounding mountains, with the Mediterranean in the distance. The lake was formed by damming the river, and you even can float around on it if you want, in solar-powered electric boats.
You can get a lot out of a day like this, both in terms of the trip, but especially the places visited. If you like good riding roads, with lots of turns and very dramatic nature, then this trip is highly recommended. Dedicate a whole day, so there is time for immersion along the way. That evening, after a long day in the saddle, I said goodnight to the motorbike, which, although as tired as I was, seemed quite happy with the day’s hardships, and responded with a cheerful “beep” when the alarm was activated.