I first came across Robert Fulton back in 2007 when I was seeking inspiration for the upcoming Russia trip. I wanted to understand what drove people to want to explore the world on two wheels – I was trying to understand what this strange obsession was; what was it that had so thoroughly taken over every waking moment of my life? I wrote about it briefly on my blog – the title was ‘Searching for a Hero‘ – in Mr Fulton I’d found one.
If you want to find out why this one man inspired so many great overland travellers (Sam Manicom, Lois Pryce, Austin Vince and others) then come along to the Adventure Travel Film Festival where Mr Fulton’s film is a pick of the show.
I’ve started planning for a six week run next year out to Kazakhstan and Russia. What that means in practice is that I’ve sort-of asked my boss for permission to take six weeks leave, I’ve sort-of thought about dates, I’ve sort-of thought about money, and I’ve sort-of cleared it with Mrs Cashmore.
That’s a lot of sort-ofs – but the most important thing is that I’ve definitely started drawing lines on maps and making spreadsheets. This is how my trips start. Just 15 months to plan!
When I went to Budapest I spent an extra day ‘bunged up’ in the hotel. When I was feeling better I took a walk across the road to the famous cave church. I love visiting places like this – and when I was still feeling under the weather the quiet time and reflection really helped.
On the way out the gentleman who was looking after the place noticed I wasn’t a local and asked where I’d come from. I told him my story – a short run out from the UK on my motorbike – I’d hardly finished the sentence before he was digging around in a pile of pendants… he gave me a St Christopher and told me to take it home to my local church and ask my priest to bless it.
Click to read the full prayer
This is the prayer that the vicar at Bledlow wrote for me – we said it together with Catherine last night. I think it’s beautiful and it will come with me on all my travels. I hope you have something that you can carry next to your heart on your travels, something that gives you faith that the road ahead will not be too dangerous, that the people you meet will be kind and friendly and that your motorbike hangs together just long enough to get you around the world.
My Travellers Prayer Written for me by our vicar, Jennifer Locke.
Heavenly Father, we ask for your blessing upon this emblem of your saint, Christopher, holy patron of travellers.
May Matthew travel consciously with Christ as his companion.
Give him wisdom that he may travel prudently and with due regard to the safety and customs of others he may meet on his way.
Give him the awareness to perceive in the beauty of nature a reflection of your glory.
Still his heart that he may be at peace with your world and your people and reflect your light to those who have not yet come to know you.
As Matthew wears this emblem, may it be a reminder to him that you are there to protect and guide him in his going out and his coming in.
Pizza Boy Bragança, Portugal
One tiny scooter that dares to leave town and just can’t stop anymore. An ordinary sedentary driver in shorts and t-shirt, whom they call Pizza Boy. Stories and sensations of a world seen at 25 mph, on top of a motorised flea.
I’ve been playing with where I should go next… google maps you know. Anyway Top Gear did a run out to Albania earlier this year and that got me to thinking… Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia all sort of form a nice circle from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and back. Which is nice.
Take a look at the map below and let me have your thoughts on the route. No real planning in there so far – just the roads that google maps tracked as I drew the lines. The idea is to get the bike run out to Trieste in North Italy and then run the circle over two weeks. The red line into Bosnia and Herzegovina is only there if I have time on the way back.
I’ve given up and booked into a hotel this evening. I’ve done this for two reasons. The first is that I forgot my sleeping bag and mat – yeap not just my docs. I managed to swing by Decathlon in France on the way into Germany and bought a €20 bag and a €10 sleeping mat – I can confirm the mat feels like it cost less than €10 to make – every slightly bony part of my body hurts today. Fortunately I don’t have many bony bits.
However, that wouldn’t be reason enough to wimp out of camping this evening on its own – the second reason is that I have been rained on all day. It’s managed to work its way through two layers of waterproof gear, through my top and soaked my thermals right through to the skin. Theres nothing worse than camping in the rain when you’re already soaked through. I’ve found a nice little hotel for €50 just this side of the Hungry border – about 400km west of Budapest.
The run out of France was dull. Belgium was dull, Germany was dull up to about 200km west of Austria. Austria is stunning – what I could see of it through the rain and clouds. It’s fair to say any seven day adventure has to blast through northern France, Belgium and a lot of Germany before it starts getting fun and interesting. But boy was it worth it. Despite the horrid horrid weather I’m still smiling and can’t wait to get out into Hungry tomorrow.
Oh, whilst I remember, Siemens know how to have a work party – hire out an entire camp site, issue everyone with camp fire song books and sit around a very large fire singing into the small hours. I can’t imagine many British companies managing to pull that off without 25% of people off in the bushes doing things with another 25% of people and the rest totally bladdered.
It’s 7am here in Calais. I’ve woken to a feeling that I’ve forgotten something. A quick check of my camping gear reveals it…. I’ve left my sleeping bag and sleeping mat on the spare bed back at home. I’ve also left my V5 and insurance docs.
This is becoming horribly predictable on my little jaunts. Morocco I forgot a set of poles for the tent, Russia I managed to leave my thermals and now I’ve managed to drag all my camping and cooking gear out of the UK only to leave the most vital components.
The plan now is to drop into a cheap camping shop this side of Germany and see if I can grab a cheap mat and bag for less than €100 – which I estimate is what I’d spend on two nights in ETAP or F1 hotels on the way to Budapest where I’m crossing fingers Catherine can bring out my gear.
Oh, and the weather is really crap this morning. Okay, okay I admit it – I’m having quite a lot of fun 🙂 The run out here was great – Stace would be proud of my 120 miles in one sitting, almost tank to tank 😉 I had a whole carriage to myself on the train and the weather here was stunning when I arrived last night. As I type this I can see the clouds have broken up and a quick google maps search has located a Decathalon just off my route to Germany. Germany here I come.
The plan for the run out to Budapest started as a straight forward dash out and back. But after asking for advice on the Horizons Unlimited forum for places that were somewhere along my route and that I simply couldn’t miss the Stelvio Pass was pointed out to me – how could I possible go so near the pass and not take a run at it? So here’s the final plan – the itinerary that I shall not ignore, that I shall follow to the letter.
I leave Friday 22nd at lunch time for the train over to Calais. Wish me luck. If you spot somewhere I should be going – please let me know – I’d hate to miss something spectacular because I knew nothing about it.
I don’t know about you but the very idea of dealing with a puncture when I’m on the road fills me with dread. When I was running tubeless tyres it wasn’t quite so bad – plug the hole – pump with CO2 cartridges and get to a garage. But now I have tubes…. well I’ve been petrified of how I’ll deal with a flat.
Before I rode out to Russia I took a six month City and Guilds motorcycle maintenance course here in London. We spent two hours dealing with tyres and tubes – on beautiful clean, new bikes – what a breeze! The tyres had been on and off the rims so many times you hardly had to use the leavers.
Fortunately at the Horizons Unlimited meet up in Derby earlier this year I was lucky enough to see Grant Johnson run a tyre changing demo… I was blown away (see what I did there) by the aspects that I simply didn’t know and actually, once you have the know-how, how easy it can be… why on earth was I ever worried?
The good news is that Horizons have produced a DVD which is basically Grant doing his demo – in detail and with notes. I can’t recommend it enough – if you’re frightened of dealing with a flat, or even if you just want to brush up on your skills before hitting the road, this DVD is for you.
It’s available to buy from the Horizons Unlimited Store (you need to scroll down some to find it) for $24.99 US or from people like Traveldri-plus here in the UK (I’m afraid I couldn’t find a direct link so just give Les a call).