Dream Routes by Bus: Galicia
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Dream Routes by Bus: Galicia

Ribeira Sacra – Holy Bank – is the name of a small region in Galicia. The Miño and Sil rivers have cut ravines of up to 500 metres deep into the mountains here. An experience for coach passengers – a challenge for driver and vehicle.

On the drive to the narrow Sil gorge in the north-west of Spain, driving skills, engine power as well as good brake and chassis technology are called for.

Dark clouds brew, wafts of mist rise above the steep inclines of the ravine and give a touch of drama to the already breathtaking impression that travellers get when they first see the Sil canyon in the far north-west of the Iberian peninsula. Rock faces rise almost vertically to the left and right of the river valley. It is precisely these steep hillsides that are among the oldest wine-growing regions in Spain. “Sil gold” is what the Romans called the vines that they planted here on tiny, painstakingly created terraces. To this day, the Galician winemakers have grown the popular “Amandi” here – thereby attracting more and more visitors to this otherwise barren landscape.

The coach company, Autos Rico, from A Coruña around 150 kilometres to the north, regularly brings visitors to the Ribeira Sacra, as the Galicians call the region around the Miño and Sil rivers. A day’s excursion from the coast with spectacular landscape, breathtaking views and a relaxed boat trip through narrow gorges – and a particularly taxing job for the coach driver.

The drive to the small town of Monforte de Lemos is just as relaxed for Angel, our driver at the wheel of the few-monthsold Mercedes-Benz Tourismo, as it is for his passengers. Yet shortly after this, the narrow country roads require his full attention. The route goes through fields and meadows, past small farmsteads, whose main income is rearing cattle. It is just as well that there is so little traffic here, as oncoming vehicles often force the coach to drive slowly and move to the right-hand edge of the road.

The real challenge for coach and driver, however, follows on the last seven kilometres up to the Sil riverbank, where the passengers climb onto a catamaran at the jetty to enjoy the view of the steep hillsides of the Sil gorge and the 2,000-year old terraced vineyards from the water.

The route through the Ribeira Sacra

  • 21.4 kilometres long
  • Up to nine per cent gradient
  • 403 metres of altitude over 6.8 kilometres

The landscape becomes increasingly steep and full of bends. The LU-903 snakes through the vineyards descending more than 400 metres in altitude. A road sign warns: up to nine per cent gradient. Only a knee-high wall separates the coach from the abyss to the right of the road. The countless bends are tight and offer no view ahead. The dark clouds and wisps of damp mist, which rise from the terraced vineyards today, reinforce the drama of this bizarre landscape, whilst our coach rolls further down the gorge bend after bend. Chauffeur Angel has driven this route many times already. “You have to know the road precisely,” he says. On the narrow roads and on the bends, which barely leave room for the 12.30-metre-long coach, it is a matter of trusting the driver’s skills as well as the coach’s brake and chassis technology.

says Alfonso Rico, owner of Autos Rico, who is with us on board today. “Thanks to the new assistance systems and the outstanding chassis, the Tourismo 15 RHD offers the ultimate in safety and driving comfort. Furthermore, the new cockpit means that the handling has become even easier for the driver. And with 335 kW (456 BHP) the OM 470 engine provides more than enough power to majestically master the steep sections from the riverbank up to the heights of the Ribeira Sacra.”

Steeply rising vineyards on one side, an almost vertical drop on the other. The driver cannot afford to look at the fascinating scenery. All his concentration is focused on the road. Yet down by the river, the breathtaking view through the picturesque gorge is a reward for the challenges of the route covered – knowing full well that the return leg through the steep vineyards with extreme inclines and tight bends will be no less demanding than the way down to the valley.

The route through the Ribeira Sacra, a Spanish wine-growing region in Galicia in the far north-west of Spain.

About Autos Rico S.L.

The operator from A Coruña was founded in 1930 by Alfonso Rico’s grandfather, Antonio Rico García. Today the company has 39 full-time employees and a fleet of 39 coaches, 37 of which belong to the Mercedes-Benz and Setra brands. Its main activities are focused on the transport of pupils and occasional tourist services for companies, clubs and private individuals. For company boss, Alfonso Rico, quality, particularly safety and comfort for passengers and driver, is of critical importance. Regular training sessions for the drivers are therefore just as much a matter of course for him as coaches that offer the ultimate in safety and driving comfort.