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

Tag: blogsherpa

I don’t mind the rain… I’m Welsh

Taking my lead from Mr Dalton, this weekend saw us planning a ride up to Yea and back via a whole collection of roads that you really shouldn’t take a gixxer on – but Mr Dalton, being Mr Dalton – a farm boy from New Zealand type – ignored such advice as ‘you haven’t got the ground clearance’ to declare ‘I’m inclined to ride unless utterly shite, are we not men?’.

BOM Radar from BOMradar iPhone AppHe was of course referring to the slightly dodgy weather forecast for the day. ‘Cloudy start with chances of isolated showers in the afternoon’. So I replied ‘Quite, I’m inclined to ride come what may… grew up in Wales – meet yours?’. You could argue this was tempting fate – but a quick check of BOM* radar that morning suggested a small windy front clearing for a good ride later in the morning.

We headed off and hit the Hume Freeway on time to meet up with Jamie… it was then Nigel realised we needed the Hume HIGHWAY, one junction back along the M80. ‘Shall we just go back?’ I meekly suggested…. ‘No! We’ll meet him down the road – call him’. Or something along those lines – suffice to say we missed Jamie and finally caught up with him a few miles up the road at the Craigieburn Servo (service station for my UK readers).

BOM Radar from Oz Weather iPhone AppThis was actually a fortuitous turn of events – the weather front was massing and again checking the radar we saw it was just a band of rain and we’d sit it out. An hour later I decided to check the radar from another source – and was rather amazed to discover the difference in radar images from two different iPhone apps… it appears that a radar station was down – and whilst my app (Oz Weather) reported this, Nigel’s didn’t (BOMradar) – but continued to show a small amount of rain. When the radar station came back online I saw what the weather was really doing – to which Nigel quietly stated, ‘sod this for a game of soldiers’ and fled the scene.

So our 288km ride turned into 50km north of Melbourne and back again in the pouring rain. Ah well – can’t have it all.

*BOM – AAustralia Bureau of Meteorology

It did however result in a nice collection of photographs of a typical Australian Service Station – sorry Servo – in the rain.

Here’s the moment, caught on camera that the whole thing ‘just went wrong

Moules Marinières

We’re onto the fourth video in my cooking on the road series and this week I take a look at mussels. They’re cheap and when you’re near the coast you can’t beat them for a quick and easy meal. An excellent source of Selenium, and vitamin B12, and a good source of Zinc, and folate, they also have a high calorific value – making them the perfect food for on the go.

The really simple recipe for this video comes from Alexlebrit, again on



  • 0.8kg/2lb mussels,
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped,
  • 1 shallots (or a small onion), finely chopped,
  • 8g/¼oz butter,
  • Parsley, thyme and bay leaves,
  • 50ml/ 1½fl oz dry white wine or cider,
  • 60ml/2fl oz double cream or crême fraiche,
  • Crusty bread, to serve,


1. Wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won’t close when lightly squeezed.
2. Pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and then knock off any barnacles with a large knife. Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell.
3. Soften the garlic and shallots in the butter with the herbs, in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels – it should only be half full.
4. Add the mussels and wine or cider, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them open in their own juices for 3-4 minutes. Give the pan a good shake every now and then.
5. Add the cream and more chopped parsley and remove from the heat.
6. Spoon into two large warmed bowls and serve with lots of crusty bread.

Alex, from Brittany, France.

I wish I was off to Timbuktu

Those of you that know me well, know I love a bit of an adventure. If I’m not actually riding my bike to Russia or Morocco I’m probably planning what the next trip will be (at the moment that’s probably going to be a short run up to Uluru on the possibly new XT660x.)

Anyway, one of the places that most conjures up dreams of adventure has to be Timbuktu – and I’d not really clicked it was quite as close to the UK as it is – well applying Australian values to distance rather than British. But it appears that it’s so close in fact, that you can fly there. And drive. And glide. Or to be more specific, you can drive, then fly over the water, glide back to earth, drive a little more then take-off again to avoid a natty little mountain range.

The gentleman responsible for this trip is an ex-SAS chap called Neil Laughton. He’s the classic British gent off on an adventure. He says, “Sadly the political situation in some areas on our route is not good and there are some unsavoury people about so we must be careful.” – I just love it.

The BBC have a good video complete with more details over on the News site, or you can read more about the trip on the expeditions own website.

400 miles and we made it to Poland

It’s hard to think that just 48 hours ago we were still in mother Russia, now we’re in Poland… in a hotel… living the dream 😉

Not much to write that’s not already in the video – but talking of the video – they’re not working properly. For some reason the videos ARE uploading to the QIK service but not to our website – so to see the latest video go over to to view… I’ve emailed support and it may just fix itself. For those interested it appears the RSS update isn’t coming through… mmm odd.

Anyway – all is well here and here’s the latest video. Not quite live, from Poland.

France, really?

850 miles to Dieppe. Easy enough, 400 today then the balance tomorrow. The budget has got a bit tighter as I realise I’ve left my credit card at home and I plan how to get to Dieppe in the most fuel efficient, toll efficient way. Fortunately it’s easy. Via the toll roads it’s 890 miles, avoiding the toll roads it’s 770. So the short, but long way it is.

I’ve never wanted to thank my Tom Tom more,  today it showed me parts of Spain I had no idea existed, as we drew closer to the foothills of the Pyrenees, I rode through village after village that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a post card for the alps. I started riding at 7am this morning and by 1pm I’d just about crossed the border – a mere 180 miles in 6 hours riding.

I don’t care, I’ve stopped, I’ve appreciated, I’ve taken photographs; and no one has asked me for money (not counting the petrol station attendants).

By lunch time I’m nearing the border and decide to dash into a little shop before I do and grab some bread, cheese and salami for lunch, on my way out I notice that the jam is on special offer – how can I resist!

50 miles later and I’m sat on the beach of Saint Jean de Luz, pen knife in one hand, jar of jam in front of me and a baguette, smothered in the contents of said jar in the other hand. I try to ignore the fact that the jam has dribbled down my chin and threatens to drop onto my last clean shirt, because wiping it off would mean disturbing the perfect balance of salami on one knee and cheese on the other.

Utter bliss.

I hit 450 miles and decide enough is enough, I start looking for cheap hotels, remember this is France and hit the Tom Tom of the nearest Formule 1. Done, 50 miles to go and then sweet, cheap sleep. It’s not to be however, the hotel has shut down and my only option is the 39 euro a night jobbie I spotted 10 miles earlier – ahh well there goes the budget.

Dropping bags, coats, tent etc in the room I pause only to note the free wi-fi, grab the laptop and head into town to write up the last couple of days and to enjoy good French food and wine – a success on both counts. I’ll be here again.

I love France. Or did I say that already?

Spain is wonderful

I don’t know if it’s just the feeling that I’m getting closer to home or if it’s the perfect weather, either way I feel like I’m walking on air. This side of Spain is wonderfully beautiful, I’ve decided to head straight up the middle via Madrid then up to the French border over the foothills of the Pyrenees and into Saint Jean de Luz.

I didn’t make it as far as France but ended up in a crappy chain hotel just south of the foothills. As I was passing 360 miles for the day on the speedo I saw a wall of raining heading for me, I watched in horror as the storm, stretching from horizon to mountains came straight for me. Seven, eight, nine streaks of lightening hitting the ground at the same time as you could feel the warm air rushing before it trying to escape the frigid cold that hid behind the hail stones.

I ducted into the nearest services (Autogrill) to wait it out, no sooner had I parked the bike under the sun shelter than it pelted down, I ran the 50 yards to the entrance of the garage and even in my bike gear was soaked to the skin. I’ve never seen anything like it. I decided there and then to book in and get dry. By the time I made it to my room the storm was in full sway. I stood on my protected balcony and watched was the biggest hail stones I’ve ever seen dented cars, vans and people alike as everyone ran for cover.

If you’re ever passing by an Autogrill, keep going, The hotel rooms are nice enough, and it was the best shower I’ve had since leaving home, but it appears they offer cheap rates to lorry drivers, who come and go all night long, shouting, laughing and drinking into the wee small hours. Even with my ear plugs in I didn’t have the best of nights.

It’s harder getting in than getting out

Off the ferry and onto the open roads of Spain! Or so I thought. Nope, this being the Morocco ferry much messing around in customs as every single car and van is searched from top to bottom. Several drug dogs on duty and I resist the urge to give them a cuddle and play tuggy with them!

My turn eventually arrives and expecting the third degree I remove my helmet, get off the bike and take off my jacket. The stern looking guard eyes my up and down, apparently ready to give me a good frisking, when he boss appears behind him, takes on look at my passport and waves me through… five minutes and a very upset customs guard later and I’m away, into Spain!

It’s only when I’m about an hour in that I realise I have no euros, am fast running out of fuel and actually, it’s going to take about four days to get home. Bummer. Running into a little village on route I manage to find a telebanco withdraw my budget for getting home and fill up Toby. Then four hours later I decide enough is enough and seek out a nice comfy hotel.

Hotel La Paz is wonderful, a traditional place full to the brim with hams hanging from the ceiling, when I order a ham salad for dinner the owner takes one down and moves to the kitchen – it can’t get much better than this. That is until I actually try the bed… this is why it’s so cheap then.

Tomorrow brings me a day closer to home and with any luck into France.

Into Morocco, beyond the tourist traps

Riding out of Tetouan towards Chefchauouen I was struck by how poor this country actually is. Lots of people liing on the outscirts of the city, living much as they must have done in the middle ages. Donkeys, carts and what cars and vans there were, were being thrashed within an inch of their lives; in some cases beyond it.

Chefchauouen is a breath of fresh air – 580m above sea level it’s clean and doesn’t have the bad feeling Tetouan has left in my mouth. Having said that I’ve already been offered a rather large chunk of weed!  It’s obviously a tourist destination but I’m begining to wonder what exactly the tourists come here for.

The mountain ranges leading up to Chefchaouen are striking, marred only by the amount of litter everywhere. The evedence of a tip on the outer reaches of Tetouan persisted for well over 20 miles, scaring this otherwise beautiful countryside.

When I mentioned a breath of fresh air I wasn’t talking about the actual air quality. In the towns it’s thick with desil fumes and on the main roads, trucks, cars and cows all belch constantly to create a real ‘smell of Morocco’.

I’m having to leave behind an awful log of pre-conceptions about people, how we should live and beauty. It’s proving a lot more difficult to leave my decedent western lifestyle behind that I thought.

This evening I arrived in Ouazzane, actually it was just after lunch. I managed to only pay my guide 10MAD rather than the 200 I got stung for yesterday, and find a room for only 120MAD, rather than the 400 that got taken from me for the palace suite at the most expensive room in Tatouan! Feeling a lot better about the people of Morocco I set out for an exploration of the medina – wonderful place, full of energy and interesting little shops selling ripped off Nike gear.

However, walking around I was accosted several times for money, and when I got back to the hotel room feeling a little warn out by all this ‘white westerner must have money’ lark that I was rather pissed off to find the hotel owner had cleaned my bike – a service he justly expected payment for – unfortunately I’m on rather a tight budget for the moment and I could ill afford the money I grudgingly handed over with a scowl – hardly the reaction he was expecting I’m sure.

Tomorrow? Who knows. At the moment I’m not seeing the beauty of the place or the people. I think I must be doing something wrong.

National Day

Red & WhiteHere in good old GB it’s National Day – I’d say it’s a riot of colour, but actually it’s a riot of red and white – everywhere. You can’t turn around without seeing the colours balzened over people, shops, animals and even the drinks. The Gibraltarians take this very seriously!

I’ve spent most of the day joining in the party, drinking red drinks and laughing at the very few people who didn’t get the message that today you had to wear red & white – it’s a bit like playing spot the tourist – oddly I don’t feel like a tourist – not sure why.

I’ve made a lot of friend here and I’m going to be quite sad to leave. The day before Yesterday I met a couple of polish backpackers on their way into Spain and a chap called Ed who had just come out of Morocco. It was my duty of course to purchase him a beer and get the very latest intel. Yesterday 4 new people joined me in the Youth Hostel dorm – 2 backpackers from Brighton and 2 German chaps – very nice people who are all 7 years younger than me but can’t hold their drink – inexperience.

Tomorrow I leave for Morocco. Wish me luck.