Priest in the Church of England. Trustee SPCK. Father, husband, son. "Small acts of Good change the world."

Category: Touring (Page 4 of 6)

I get around a bit…

The Pyrenees and beyond

Well, who’d have guess it? As I left the small town half way up the Pyranees on the French side and headed up to a giddy height before blasting down into Spain, a euphoria grabbed me.

The countryside around me was amazing… I’m not using that world lightly. It blew me away. The mountains around me crested in stunning outcrops that appeared to be held in place by magic, ignoring all laws concerning gravity.

Then as I crossed into Spain the roads started to really want to play, twists that played perfectly to the weight and balance of my bike, petrol stations placed exactly the right distance appart, and car drivers who appreciate that a biker on these roads doens’t want to get caught behind them.

But that was pretty much when the fun riding stopped. I try to avoid main roads and certainly toll roads, I enjoy hacking through the countryside, stopping in tiny little villages and enjoying a quick cup of coffee – in fact some of the best coffee I’ve ever had has been in little villages along routes in France I now can’t even recall.

Spain however changed everything. Northern France is borning, but it’s nothing compared with the first half of Spain. After the promise of the Pyrenees you expect a little more than an industrial waste land and sea side resorts that make Blackpool look upmarket. To top it off I failed to find a campsite that wasn’t a commercial mess, and a site that didn’t look down it’s nose at a biker turning up, sweaty and tired and just wanting a place to sleep.

In the end I had to camp at a place called Camping Joan. That’s about all it had to recommed it, they tried to charge me $16.99, the full price for a family with a car, when I politlly pointed out that the charge for a motorbike, as shown on their price list, was $7.99 the recpetionist became quite rude, and had it not been 8pm already I would have left.

The next day was bright and hot at 7:30am, I got away as quickly as I could. I’ve found that magic couple of hours in the morning before the sun finds its strength the best time to ride, I get more miles done in that first two hours than the next 6 combined.

The landscape started to improve, but not much and by midday I’d decided to ditch my riding through villages and hit the higway and toll roads. 500 miles later I pitched up at a roadside hotel ($25 bargin!) and had the worst night sleep so far this trip!

Blogs on the quiet

Well would you believe it – Orange are a bunch of money grabbing buggers. No really, they are.

They were nice enough to text me and WARN me that using Data abroad was much more expensive than at home, and then to text me again to tell me I´d used at least 5mb of data – that´s 40GBP worth…. mmmm.

So, whilst I´m still writing my daily updates they may not go live that day. I´ve stopped using the phone for data and will now be jumping on public terminals where ever I can.

If anyone has any ideas on how to get cheaper data abroad I´d be very grateful to hear from you.

Also, those of you watching the news will have heard about the current problems in Morocco as they approach the election. Suffice to say I am paying close attention to BBC World Service and will get the very latest local advice from the local embassy when I arrive in Gibralter before I depart.

Sleeping on Acorns and Espania!

I’m sat now in the wonderful country of Spain – hurahh! It was hard to notice that I’d even crossed the border and cheered at least three times thinking I’d crossed into my second country before realizing that it was just a police post.

Last night wasn’t too bad but it doesn’t rate very high in my ‘places to see and do’ list. Again the riding was cold going, I had to ditch the summer jacket and grab the winter jobbie, complete with winter gloves. By the time I got to Toulouse it was 6pm and my options for camping were limited, so limited in fact, that in the end I went for a site that looked like it was run by the military. Huge steel gates guarded this welcome stop from the rest of the industrial estate on which it lived. It was actually not too bad, apart from the huge amount of acorns on the floor and how dry the ground was, in fact I think concrete may have been softer. Tip… don’t kneel on an acorn, it hurts.

This morning dawned cold and clear, not a cloud in the sky, but again really rather cold, this time I took a bet that it would get warmer – and indeed it has. I’m sat now in a little cafe in a little village half way up the Pyrenees. Very nice indeed. I’m not making great time as the roads are so twisty, but far better for me to make slow going rather than bore myself to death on the motorways and toll roads.

Mileage to date

Day 0.5 – 125
Day 1 – 235
Day 2 – 320
Day 3 – 260 (planned)

I’m now scouring the map to see if there’s a slightly greener place to stop on the coast rather than a resort. I’ll update you tomorrow on my success. Gibraltar still seems so far away.

Ahhh yes before I forget – photographs – don’t worry I’ve been taking loads – but I found out yesterday that Orange charge me £8 per meg whilst abroad… if that’s not screwing me I don’t know what it – so I’m holding off on uploading them until I find an Internet cafe – probably in Gibraltar.

Day 1 Proper

It did start well, the ferry was on time, in fact I think we docked 15 minutes early – meaning I hit the french highways at about 11:45am (local time).

‘Yes yes yes!’ I was shouting into my helmet as I devoured French village after French village and by 2pm my tummy was shouting ‘where’s this famous French food?’.

As I hacked off the main roads and started to explore tiny villages my heart sank as I realized that virtually everything closed at 1pm and refused to open until at least 3pm… grrr. I finally found a patisserie open and purchased the last baguette before digging into the emergency rations (already) and slicing up some salami.

I love the French. As I sat there in the middle of the village devouring my lunch, several people sauntered by (doing what I couldn’t say everything was still shut) and everyone wished me ‘bon appetite!’

The evening didn’t progress so well. As I descended on Bourges it became apparent that not only did everything shut for two hours in the afternoon, at 4pm everyone goes home. Nothing was open anywhere, I’d failed the first test of the expedition – provide for myself! Once again I dug into the emergency rations, put up the tent and made myself rice, with sliced salami and leek and potatoes cup ‘a’ soup. Very nice it was too.

Fully fed and camp made I thought it would be wonderful to experience a little French bar, take in the local conversation and enjoy a little of the local tipple. I grabbed computer, book and phone and headed into town. Guess what; yes everything was shut.

Heading back to the tent I was overcome by an intense feeling of loneliness, that’s quite rare for me, and had the petrol stations around me not been shut I think I may well have packed the bike and headed for home. I can’t explain it, I’m back  on the road today and everything is great, the roads are beautiful and I finally feel I’m beginning to see the real France.

I’m sat now with quiche, coffee and sun being deafened by a test of the local air raid siren. Let’s hope tonight’s visit to Toulouse is better than my fleeting visit to Bourges.

Out of the staring blocks…

…. but let’s hope that the trip goes better than today.

 

Anything that could go wrong today has… first of all when I changed my brake pads on Saturday the dealer had sold me the wrong part. Today saw me leave six hours early so I could call into a dealer on route and buy some new rear pads – then doing the work at the side of the road in Newhaven.

 

Thank goodness everything is working and the bike is going well. I’ve got a slow speed wobble at around 20 mph that disappears at 40mph – I think it’s simply down to the weight on the back, so I’ll try re-arranging things tomorrow on the Ferry.

 

Ahh yes the ferry. I’m leaving at 7am, which means being at the terminal at 6am, which means being up at 5am. Joy.

 

If tonight’s B&B stay is anything to go by I’ll be very glad to get out camping, for one thing I wont have to lump my bags and boxes up two flights of stairs to my room… not to mention Newhaven isn’t exactly the nicest place in the world.

 

So tomorrow sees me getting half way down through France to Bourgess, then onto the coast the following day.

 

Wish me luck for the first real day of Journey To Morocco!

Route

Well I’ve now got an interactive map thingy – which you can find over on the Route page.

It shows the planned route so far, and then when I actually go it will update with news and photos from each of those locations and perhaps a few more… the theory being yellow dots are planned stops and then purple dots will be actual stops with photos / videos!

Oh the fun I’m going to have in various internet cafes!

Preparing for the trip is half the fun

So very true! I love reading about other people planning their own trips – and the language they use to explain the hardships that face us on the road – those very hardships which make the trip worth doing in the first place.

I don’t put a lot of quotes on this blog but I read this over on Horizons Unlimited this morning and it made me laugh – a lot – I just wonder if it’s only us mad bikers that this is funny to?

Once again, I am packing for a trip where the the temperature can range from “why the hell is my helmet filling up with smoke – shit, my hair is on fire again” to “that had better not been my other testicle that just rattled down my pant leg. I wasn’t done with it yet!”. Welcome to travel in Canada.

Read the whole thread over at Horizons Unlimited HUBB

Grrr what bike!?!

The thing with most real bikers is that you can only afford one bike – my current employer certainly doesn’t see the need to pay me enough to run two – which boils down to the reality of having to chose a bike with way to many tricks to make it amazing.

I need a bike that will happily send me 27 miles down the A1 each morning, then crawl through Central London traffic. Okay easy, I need a commuter bike.

I need a bike that will tour the UK and the rest of the world on tarmac. Okay easy, I need a tourer.

I need a bike that will tour far away places that have no roads and take me on an adventure. Okay easy, I need an adventure bike.

Bugger.

Hafod - looking down the valleySo I need a good all-rounder – the CBF600 has been amazing, it’s a commuter that will happily take a shed load of luggage, not complain and let me tour the UK and beyond…. but it starts to get a bit limited when you hit even the most benile of b-roads.

That’s left me with a few other options, the BMW GS1200, the KTM Adventure, or maybe something from the far side, the Aprilia ETV 1000. The BMW is too flashy and everyone has one, the KTM is too tall and the Aprilia, well that’s just about right… except I’ve just discovered they are being discontinued.

Bugger.

So what now?

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