Craig Parkes discovers the delights of an off-road motorbike tour in Portugal with Dakar Rally legend Ruben Faria.
I might by no means have imagined that on a chilly and moist Wednesday in mid-December I’d be travelling to Faro, Portugal to hit the paths with a Dakar Rally veteran. I received my fortunate break once I acquired an opportunity telephone name from an previous path driving pal, Dave, who’s a daily contributor at Journey Bike Rider journal.
Somebody from the magazine was resulting from journey out to Portugal to experience with Ruben Faria Journey Excursions, however a mishap on two wheels meant they might not go. Needing to fill the area at brief discover, the chance was prolonged to me and I took me all of 5 seconds to determine. Work? Or driving off-road trails in Portugal? A few days later and I discovered myself in Gatwick.
- 1 New faces
- 2 Assembly Ruben Faria
- 3 Driving KTM 450 EXCs
- 4 Hitting the paths
- 5 Superior driving expertise
- 6 Prime nosh
- 7 Lashed by rain
- 8 Eating out like locals
- 9 Again to the coast
- 10 The motorbike tour in Portugal expertise
- 11 Everybody again to Ruben’s
- 12 Greater than a motorcycle journey
- 13 Who’s Ruben Faria?
- 14 Need to journey the paths of the Algarve? Right here’s how one can…
- 15 Journey with Ruben Faria
One of many nice issues about travelling alone is the individuals you get to satisfy alongside the best way. Whereas I used to be sat at a bar within the departure corridor, a younger Kiwi man requested me if I might take his photograph for him – he’d simply obtained his nautical engineer certificates and apparently it’s custom to get an image of your self holding each the certificates and a pint of Guinness.
We obtained speaking, and as quickly as I discussed my journey he proceeded to inform me how he used to work in a motorbike store in New Zealand, and the way he’d go driving with Chris Birch, KTM’s god on two wheels.
That night time, I landed in Faro, grabbed some dinner and obtained myself to mattress early for decide up the subsequent day. Within the morning, the facility of bikes shaped one other fascinating dialog as I began speaking to a Dutch man. He turned out to be an enormous motocross fan who attended each GP at his native circuit, Assen.
Assembly Ruben Faria
Dakar Rally legend Ruben Faria
At eight:30am, Ruben picked me up from my lodge. Immediately it’s clear that he’s a very pleasant chap and he’s straightforward to speak to. I used to be launched to the opposite passengers within the automotive, Mathias Brunner, from a French motorbike journal, and Ruben’s occasion coordinator.
We headed for breakfast and, on the best way, I received the prospect to talk to Ruben concerning the excursions he’s operating. He defined that, so long as a gaggle is made up of riders of an analogous talent degree, he can tailor the driving to go well with anybody. In truth, he has a small monitor on-hand to lean primary off-road expertise if want be.
It wasn’t lengthy earlier than we met our bikes, taking a brief drive to the well-known Portimao Circuit the place Ruben’s crew have been ready for us. His two major workforce members are Lewis, the mechanic and backup rider, and Evil (yep, Evil), who drives the backup van. There was solely 4 of us on this journey, although it’s attainable for the crew to cater for teams of as much as 10 riders.
Driving KTM 450 EXCs
The climate was dry, about 12C with a couple of clouds; a pleasing feeling in December. The bikes, KTM 450 EXCs, have been all lined up, wanting immaculately ready and labelled up with our names. They’re completely suited to the kind of terrain we have been going to be driving, with GPS models mounted to the handlebars, every one displaying the day’s route.
I acquired become my driving gear and Lewis launched me to the bike, taking the ritual very critically and taking his time to make actual changes of lever positions and brakes to go well with me completely. I used to be made to really feel like I used to be a part of a Dakar Rally staff given the superb organisation and a spotlight to element.
The eye to element continued so far as the timings for the day and the preparations all through have been involved. It was as if Ruben had taken his Dakar expertise of a exact timetable and utilized it to his excursions. All the things that was meant to occur did occur, and all the time when it was deliberate to.
Hitting the paths
As we set off, Ruben took the lead, with Mathias and me within the center, adopted by Lewis on the again. There was just a few metres of tarmac earlier than we hit the filth, with the primary few miles being pretty clean, fast-paced, flowing gravel tracks.
It was instantly obvious that Ruben could be very snug with velocity, and from the beginning it was troublesome to maintain tempo with him. In fact, maintaining with the Dakar rider isn’t mandatory as you’ll be able to comply with the GPS route at your personal tempo and Lewis will all the time be following behind.
After a couple of extra miles I had settled into the bike and I took a while to admire my environment. All the surrounding hills and valleys have been riddled with tracks and the thoughts boggles at simply how a lot driving there’s to be down in southern Portugal.
Superior driving expertise
Each 15 to 20 minutes, Ruben would pull over and verify that everybody was snug with the driving and that every part was OK with the bikes. He was aware of taking good care of all the riders to ensure everybody was driving inside their capability.
The journey had kicked off at 10:30am and, aside from a couple of cease checks, had been fairly full on. I used to be following Ruben, watching in awe as he navigated the tracks, making each flip so exactly and with ease, it was a pleasure to observe.
There are some nice trails alongside the best way, and Ruben and his staff has spent loads of time compiling routes of the most effective within the space. In case you choose quick trails, you’ve acquired it, and in case you’d want slower, extra technical tracks, then the blokes have gotten you coated.
Round lunchtime, we arrived on the coast, stopping at a stupendous, conventional Portuguese restaurant overlooking the ocean. We parked the bikes towards the hand rail of the ocean view platform and took within the surroundings. Ruben defined that in the summertime it’s virtually inconceivable to get a reserving at this restaurant because it has a number of the best seafood obtainable within the space.
We sat down for lunch and commenced exchanging tales of the morning’s experience whereas having fun with some wonderful meals. Earlier than heading off for the afternoon’s journey, we hung round for a bit and soaked up the views. The driving of the afternoon was somewhat extra technical than that of the morning, however simply as fulfilling with a lot of winding single tracks going up into the mountains.
Because the day went on I used to be feeling rather more comfy with my bike and it was simpler to maintain tempo and nice to have some difficult hill climbs to attempt.
Lashed by rain
After tearing via the hills, we took a change of path and commenced to go again in the direction of the coast, this was a very fascinating a part of the journey because it was on a sand street solely 10m from the cliff fringe of the coast.
All of the when you might see the waves of the Atlantic crashing towards the rocks under, sending white water spraying excessive into the air. We stopped briefly to absorb the view, and as we did so the climate modified for the more severe. Heavy rain started to lash down, however not even these circumstances might detract from how nice this space was to journey.
The rain eased off after an hour or so and we continued to wind our means alongside the coast earlier than slicing again inland to our night lodging in Pedralva, a wonderful complicated of small cottages on a hillside.
Eating out like locals
Ruben advised the story of how the cottages have been nearly derelict at one time, till a gaggle of pals bought them and utterly renovated every of them in their very own particular person type and named every one after a special seashore within the space.
Staying right here was really an incredible expertise and as quickly as I entered my condo I felt the welcoming heat and couldn’t wait to get out of my moist driving gear. It was now 6pm and the plan had been made for pickup at 7pm for dinner at an area restaurant. It was good to have an hour to loosen up and benefit from the room.
We have been pushed to an exquisite conventional Portuguese restaurant for dinner and Ruben selected a diversified array of dishes in order that we might pattern several types of native meals. The restaurant employees have been all very pleasant and the standard of service was wonderful. Extra importantly, the meals was superb! (This appeared to be the case in all places we stopped).
Again to the coast
I discovered myself consuming and having fun with many issues I might have by no means had dreamt of ordering myself and, after the meal, we have been handled to ‘medronhos’, a robust spirit comprised of the fruit timber that develop wild everywhere in the hills. It’s stated that the spirit is so pure that, when you have been to get drunk on it, you’d get up with no hangover.
The subsequent morning, as a result of the earlier night’s coastal journey had been dampened by the climate, we requested Ruben if we might return now that the climate was a lot better. The temperature was up, the solar was out, and the skies have been blue, so off we headed.
We took a barely totally different route again to the coast, beginning with some technical trails and steep climbs. As we crested the final hill, the Atlantic Ocean stretched over the horizon. As is regular for the Atlantic, the waves have been excessive, and it was a very lovely sight. We took a second to soak up the view and take some footage watching the waves crash towards the rocks.
The motorbike tour in Portugal expertise
It was now noticeably hotter than the day past, so our jackets have been off, and we set off on the day’s experience. The going was extra technical than the day earlier than, with a lot of single monitor and lose, steep rocky climbs testing riders and bikes alike. The path terrain was so assorted over the 2 days, as we had ridden over mud, rock, grass, gravel and sand.
I used to be beginning to get hungry, so was happy to reach on the day’s lunch cease. The venue was a busy roadside restaurant which is seemingly very fashionable because of the effective delicacies that’s obtainable. Once more, Ruben and his colleagues selected quite a lot of dishes from the menu and we sampled the meals out there. An entire octopus wouldn’t be one thing I’d usually select, however it wasn’t dangerous…
That afternoon, after lunch, we spent much more time within the hills, tackling some actually steep climbs. This was my favorite half. We wound our means by way of single-track trails till we got here throughout what appeared to me like a nationwide park. There have been lovely timber throughout us, with rocky streams that we rode alongside, ending with a water crossing. I requested Ruben concerning the place and he confirmed that it was a nationwide park and that the route we had taken, regardless of it seeming too good to be true, was completely authorized!
Everybody again to Ruben’s
We rode a short while on tarmac again to Ruben’s home, and around the again was his bike workshop the place two of his Dakar bikes and his Dakar trophy caught my eye. After drooling over all these, we have been taken to our final night time’s lodging, a transformed farmhouse with particular person flats.
After freshening up, Ruben took us to his delivery city of Olhao, a coastal resort with a strip of inviting bars and eating places. We parked up and walked into the one Ruben had chosen. Over a scrumptious dinner we spoke about his Dakar expertise of consuming. He defined that through the day the one sensible meals to hold was cereal bars, and after two weeks of them together with a camel pack containing water as much as 40C, issues received a bit robust!
Greater than a motorcycle journey
To sum up my expertise of the Ruben Faria Journey Tour; it’s not nearly driving, it’s about seeing Portugal, appreciating the gorgeous panorama within the space, observing the tradition round you, assembly new individuals and attending to style all the scrumptious native delicacies.
The excursions are designed for any capability, even in case you are an entire newbie with no expertise of driving off-road, with protected coaching areas obtainable to apply in earlier than venturing onto the paths. For me, probably the most exceptional factor about the entire journey was Ruben and his shut crew, they’re all so pleasant and attentive, I really feel like I arrived as a buyer however left as a mate.
The paths are a few of the greatest I’ve ever ridden, and I can be going again in the future to benefit from the expertise another time.
Who’s Ruben Faria?
Ruben began driving bikes on the age of 5. At the moment, within the Algarve, it was troublesome to get Japanese youngsters’ bikes, so his father constructed customized rides for him from numerous elements of previous bikes.
At 12 years of age he had his first correct motorbike, a 1980 Honda CR125, which he used to compete in nationwide motocross championships. After this, he moved onto the Baja championship, and gained twice on a Yamaha YZ426.
In 2006, he discovered himself on the beginning line of the Dakar Rally, and ended up making some nice occasions and even one stage win. In 2010, he was a staff rider with KTM manufacturing unit and Cyril Despres, the place he raced up till 2017, when he suffered a nasty damage that pressured him to cease competing. His greatest efficiency within the Dakar got here in 2013, the place he positioned second general.
As we speak, Ruben continues to be concerned with the Dakar Rally, however as a workforce supervisor, however he began operating excursions in Portugal in 2014 after pals would touch upon how unbelievable the driving was in his native areas.
Usually, an off-road tour masking such a big space would create points with residents and land house owners, however Ruben could be very well-known within the Algarve and could be very respectful of different individuals, taking the time to wave or acknowledge as we rode by. Going ahead, Ruben plans to run excursions that cowl the entire of Portugal, from north to south.
Need to journey the paths of the Algarve? Right here’s how one can…
Flights from the UK to Faro Airport, the Algarve’s fundamental transport hub, are common and fairly priced. With a flight time of round 2 hours 45 minutes, you’ll be taking a look at costs from round £110, with prices being considerably cheaper within the off season.
Journey with Ruben Faria
Whereas there’s nothing to say you couldn’t flip up in Faro, rent a motorcycle and hit the paths your self, to take advantage of your time and to make sure you get to experience one of the best dust tracks round, you’d be higher off trusting the specialists.
Ruben Faria Journey Excursions presents a number of path driving excursions the place the emphasis is on driving onerous (however inside your means) within the day and enjoyable in fashion and luxury within the evenings. Ruben’s workforce will ensure you see the perfect sights, experience the perfect routes, and dine in the most effective eating places round, with bike rent and package rent obtainable, which means you gained’t have to faff round with maintain baggage in your flight.
For extra info on Ruben’s excursions, together with pricing and availability, head to www.rubenfariaadventuretours.com.
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