The SLCenic Route – Episode 5

Graham Laing decided to retire 10 years earlier than planned to enjoy an epic driving tour with his SLC. The plan, inspired by conversations with his Father, was to drive the SLC from the southern most tip of mainland Europe in Spain to the northernmost tip of mainland Europe in Norway.

When he told his children, they said ‘you should write a blog about it’… So that’s exactly what Graham is doing. Graham approached the SLSHOP and asked whether we would be interested in hosting his work, and we were only too happy to share his story. The SLCenic Route was born!

In this episode Graham doesn’t get eaten by a Lynx

The SLCenic Route

Episode 5 – Fried Eggs, Forests and Big Cats

Lisbon to Jerez via Guadiana Valley Natural Park

Day 5:

Another capital city, to drive through and with the “help” of little Miss Google SatNav I get to see most parts. The rich parts of Lisbon are not as grand or as stunning as say Madrid or London, but the poor parts don’t seem to be so squalid or crammed in like Sardines either. Interesting.

Adeus Portugal and Hola Spain.  As each country has lots of different rules of the road and a different language, before I left the UK I created a single A4 page for each country that I could read through the night before and leave on the passenger seat in case I forget (I often forget). Rules like, are dashcams allowed (not in Portugal!), speed limits (dry and wet) and how to say the important stuff, like Hello, Thank you, Sorry, Numbers 1 to 10 and the vital “where’s the toilets”.

Another roasting hot day into the mid 30’s again and not a cloud to be seen.

I did consider buying a frying pan to see if I could fry some eggs in the car, but luckily (?) time was against me. The heat also reminded me of a line in a P. J. O’Rourke book I read in the 80’s. He was travelling somewhere in a hot continent (I can remember where) and he asked at the border the normal set of questions, including “which side of the road do you drive on?” The answer came back with truest of intentions “the shaded side” I used to think that was funny. Today though I coped much better, stopped being a stupid Scot and learned from the locals. Stay out of the sun but in the wind (the exact opposite of Scotland) and have a siesta, they were not, after all, invented for people to be lazy, that would be coffee shops.

Sorting out the route today was easy, Southern Spain has toll roads, and so I set the options to avoid them, included a detour through Guadiana Valley Natural Park and set off to see what would happen.

Turns out avoiding toll roads didn’t just allow me to see more of the real countryside; it also gave me some welcome shade. Think about it, trees are not allowed to grow near enough to motorways to give any shade.

A welcome slice of shade

Spotting the border between Portugal and Spain was much easier than yesterday, the stunning view of the Guadiana River snaking through the Natural Park made sure of that. However it did strike me, as mad things often do, that as the green countryside of Portugal slowly switched to the yellow countryside of southern Spain, it was a bit like their national flags, the green of Portugal slowly giving way to the yellow of Spain. Is the heat is getting to me?

The park did throw up one unexpected event. Beware of big cats. Turns out being ignorant isn’t bliss, especially when phone reception is non-existent and I’m not sure how to ask in Spanish are the big cats dangerous (it wasn’t on my list of “how to say” things). So better to be safe than sorry I took the steering wheel lock with me when I took pictures. Now that I’m back in Wi-Fi land, a quick google shows that they are Iberian lynx, cute as my daughter would say, and it’s more about don’t run them over than watch out for giant man eating tigers. I’m so brave, lol

The roads around and in the Park were brilliant driving roads, you can’t always have epic views like yesterday’s Cabo da Roca. But a good, quiet, well-made road through rolling countryside with more twists and turns than a hundred of Mums Agatha Christie novels and a car with a strong well sorted chassis, brilliant gearbox and willing engine can be loads of fun. At one point, after a lovely shaded siesta, I drove for 10 miles without seeing a car in either direction. We do so little real driving nowadays; it was great to remember what that was like rather than the “follow the leader stuff” we normally do. And don’t worry, I wasn’t driving too fast, my nerves and ability will never allow me to reach the limits of the SLC.

If you do want to see real fast driving, just wait for a while as sooner or later a local Fernando Alonso will scream past in something old, beaten up, with a big engine and show you how to drive. Within a mile all you will see is dust or them in a field, depending on how much of a Fernando they are. It made me think, has nobody made a bumper sticker with “Alonoso is faster than you” written in reverse to be stuck on their front bumper. (Apologies, if you are not an F1 fan you will need to google that reference). It would sell it out in seconds.

Click here to read Episode 6