Adventure Country Tracks: Portugal
“The plan was to design an authentic, multi-day adventure trip that is just a couple of days from Central Europe. And this is precisely what we have delivered – a five-day adventure tour covering 777 miles that is suitable for the large adventure motorcycles and all motorcyclists, and combines breathtaking landscapes with a thoroughly enjoyable riding experience. I think a lot of motorcyclists will be thrilled by ACT Portugal,” says Touratech CMO Martin Wickert, who is rightly proud of his new Adventure Country Tracks (ACT) project.
Although the adventure touring segment is growing steadily in Europe, there is an increasing imbalance between this growth and the opportunities to travel long distances off-road.
Of course, many owners of adventure motorcycles dream of a grand tour that involves selling their house and giving up their jobs. However, this is not a realistic possibility for most of them because they are bound to their jobs by family and other obligations. This is where the ACT concept comes in – real adventure tours that fit into a two-week annual holiday.
“We took our inspiration from the Backcountry Discovery Routes pioneered by Touratech USA,” explains Wickert. “However, there were numerous aspects we had to adapt because Europe is different to the United States in so many ways – in terms of topography, population density, road network and even just the culture. There was therefore no point in simply copying the concept – we had to find our own solutions.”
The ACT project has been in planning for more than 12 months, and the idea is still not complete. We first had to find a suitable region and then decide on the key features of the tour, which enabled us to put the route together. We will follow the same procedure for all the ACTs that we hope will open up a number of regions in Europe for adventure motorcyclists.
To ensure we have a uniform and coherent concept for the whole project, we defined binding elements and set out minimum and maximum parameters for the difficulty. This provided the basis for selecting the roads and tracks that are suitable for the project. “Unlike the United States, Europe does not have an extensive network of rough tracks. The majority of our routes are former trails that have now been paved, so we looked for what gravel tracks were left and linked these to a route,” says Wickert.
We decided to launch the project in Portugal. Along with a labyrinth of tracks, the interior of the country also has a network of minor roads that meander through the contours of the landscape rather than cutting through them. This provides the perfect setting for designing a first-class route that offers a huge amount of riding enjoyment both on and off the road.
Wickert says, “By working with Filipe Elias from Touratech Portugal, who has traveled on these roads his whole life, we were able to make a good start in conceiving the project. He also had the right contacts, because it will be the local partnerships that will make the Adventure Country Tracks into an intensive experience.”
ACT Portugal adopts the classic Backcountry Discovery Route concept of going from border to border. The route therefore runs from north to south along the eastern edge of the country – though not in a direct line. Instead, it takes in many detours to the most interesting places and follows routes that give extra thrills or pass through particularly beautiful landscapes.
The route through Portugal is also remarkable for the diversity of the landscapes – the green vegetation of the north gives way to shades of brown in the central areas, while the warm south is dominated by yellow. There is clay, gravel and even sand. Numerous castles along the way bear witness to the country’s rich history.
Working out the route, traveling along it, and continuing to improve it was more than just a job for Filipe Elias – it was a passion. “ACT Portugal is not only a fabulous route that wends its way through Portugal from north to south, it is all about what Portugal feels like! I want motorcyclists to experience our wonderful nature – the landscapes, rivers, lakes, mountains and valleys. I want them to get a feel for our history and culture, our friendly people, our cuisine and our wines. And one thing is for sure – when they go home, they will take a love for Portugal with them, and will come back again with their family and friends to show them our fabulous country,” says Elias.
Anyone who is interested can download the GPS data for ACT Portugal free of charge from the dedicated website. This information simply has to be entered into a navigation device with suitable map software. This ensures the maximum level of flexibility on the road, so all that’s left is to set off on the route. You can travel as far as you want each day, and take breaks as and when you feel like it. There is no tour guide telling you it’s time to go, and no group that you have to follow. There is no set speed or required stops, and you can stay in whatever accommodations take your fancy.
“An important part of adventure tours is discovery, discovering things yourself, and opening your eyes to the world,” says Wickert of the project’s philosophy. He continues, “You can do all these things on an ACT trip. The only thing set out for you is the route, and it is up to each individual to decide what to do with it. We want motorcyclists to feel this freedom to really let go. Guided tours can greatly limit the individual experience, while traveling independently can mean a lot of time is lost in trying to find the right routes.
ACT offers a third way that combines the best of both worlds.”