Another carefree day, trundling slowly home north up the coastal roads was the prospect that tore me away from the peaceful idyll of Agua Amarga. It turned out to be a pleasant enough but unremarkable route, with plenty of resort developments that were too prevalent to be low-key, yet not concentrated enough to develop any discernable character.
Later in the day I moved inland aiming towards the Comtat, again the landscape was not particularly thrilling, with miles of sun blasted featureless landscape covered in acres of plastic sheeted greenhouses where imported labour toils to feed the hunger of northern super market chains for year round fresh products.
The last portion of the trip was the best, through Alcoy and heading up through the lovely lands of the comtat to hopefully another night of great wine and food at the Hotel L'estacio at Bocairent. So it proved. Mats remembered me from last time, and as before the bike was stashed securely in the courtyard and I luxuriated in my pleasant surroundings, a long bath and the superb evening meal. Hats off to the L'estacio.
And so to the last full day on Spanish roads. Up early and off up the road. Apart from an uplanned detour into the vicinity of the huge and featureless suburbs of Valencia the first part of the day was mostly anonymous motorway bashing.
At a fuel stop I exchanged pleasantries with a couple of West Londoners who pulled in on Harleys, and left while they were filling up, about half an hour up the road they rolled past me, holding a steady 95mph or so. I gained a new respect for the Harley evo motor, it seems they can do that sort of thing all day long, which is just a touch more than the old 800cc Beemer is happy at.
Eventually and with little regret I leave the costal motorway at the rice fields of Amposta, picking up the C12 that was so joyful on the trip down. Approaching Lleida from the south is a little difficult, but once through it the beauty steps up another gear as the foothills of the pyrenees become apparent.
Of course the closer you get the more beautiful it all is;
And so finally to the lovely little border town of Ainsa my stop for the night.
Another day and some more trip highlights. Firstly the retreat over the Pyrenees. Beautiful scenery, sinuous roads tracing the routes of tumbling mountain streams, why would anyone skirt round all this just to shave a few hours off their race to and from their happy holiday destinations.
I love trundling up and down mountain roads. Always have. This time the Aragnouet / Beilsa tunnel was all uphill. Here is the scene at the top, just onto French turf. What a comparison with the same spot a month ago. And how much more traffic there was.
The Pyrenees in May, fresh and enticing
The same spot as above, but the month before;
Anyway there's no doubt I'm back into France. If it feels like halfway home, then that's because it is, geographically and in terms of some other features, like oh, hedgerows, grass verges, domestic gardens and the like, just silly things that you realise you haven't seen in a while!
I have fond memories of a blast along the fast straightish flat roads leading north from Lannemazan to Auch, mile after mile of very light traffic, and high speeds crouched down and hearing the engine clatter and hum like an angry sowing machine pulling on a thread leading inexorably north.
Sometime around noon I called up Harry. I'd read about his bikers hotel. I heard nothing but good remarks, but not classing myself as a 'biker', rather as just someone who rides a bike along with doing a whole lot of other stuff that defines my life better, I'm not always at home with the more narrow minded sterotypes that apply.
Anyway I decided that I'd give the full on bikers hotel a try and if it was all bandanas and macho posing then I'd only have to endure it for a night. When I called him Harry sounded remarkably normal, soft spoken and reasonable so I made the booking, warned him I was quite well south and wouldn't be arriving until possibly quite late. He was fine with all this and promised to save me a steak for the evening meal.
Thus the rest of the day was set, into the usual format of an ambitiously distant target for the day. Traffic was light and stopping just for fuel, toilet, and the odd swig of water I made Harry's (between Limoges and Poitiers) by nineish in the evening.
Harry's turns out to be a laid back melting pot that is what you make of it. Harry's bikers hotel is based at a secluded country hotel and ex-stables that includes camping facilites and Harry himself is as laid back as they come but with the nouse and social skills to make the best of any mix of clients.
I had a lovely steak served al fresco and dined in the darkening but warm evening air with a selection of guests of varied ages and temperaments, all able to share common grounds that start with a love of bikes and touring and ends who knows where..
Harry's Hotel by morning light;
Well the day starts bright and warm. After a few days on the road I'm a bit slow getting out of my pit. Added to that the bike is showing signs of needing some attention, - peformance down, fuel consumption up and the engine doesn't want to idle.
The morning wears on as I work on the bike without much improvement. When I finally call a halt to the tinkering and go out to fuel up I can't find a garage that's open.
Returning to base, Harry explains that yesterday was a bank holiday and so is tomorrow. But not today? I ask. No says Harry, but they call a normal day like today sandwiched between two bank holidays 'the bridge' and there is a marked tendency in rural France for it to be indistinguishable from the holiday days either side. You have to admire the logic.
Harry clowns for the camera
So when one of my new found friends - a chopper rider on an extended visit to france of some 5 years offers me a beer while I work, the decision gets made. Today will be 'the bridge' for me too. A days rest is called for, and by God I'll have it even if it means a marathon trip to London tomorrow.
Lurking at Harry's
And so the day wears on, people come and go during the day and residents for the night begin turning up, the beers go down well and in the evening a four course meal is prepared by some local ex-pat ladies and washed down with suitable beverages. What a great , relaxing sunny day of rest amongst new found friends.
I retire, bushed, to sleep around 11 but the party rocks on till the small hours. Around midnite I hear one of the Yamaha's fired up, rolled into the bar area where the Kiwi owner performs a bunch of doughnuts to universal acclaim, filling the entire ex-stable with acrid burning rubber-smoke. It's all in the best possible taste.
Well the gang are all off on a ride-out to see the preserved ruins of Oradour-sur-glane, - the village that was destroyed by the SS in a revenge attack towards the end of WWII.
Not for me though, I have to hit the road in the other direction, I have to be back in London by Friday night . So it's a fair bit of motorway bashing, until I branch off to the west to give Paris on a friday a wide berth, before picking up the coastal motorway up Abbeville way.
Trouble is the bike is getting more and more recalcitrant, which adds a certain edge to proceedings, - the closer I get to home, the less it wants to go.
Limping up the peage to Calais and roughly on time for my early evening slot on the Chunnel I have to go through a tricky rigmarole at each pay booth - roll up to booth blipping throttle, else it'll stall, get one glove off, blip, get 2nd glove off, blip, root around for change, blip, pay, blip, glove one on, blip, glove 2 on, blip and away.
At the last booth on the entire road before the last stretch to Calais, as the last glove goes on the engine fumbles and dies. It's raining of course. I push to the side. It won't start. I save the battery, unload and out with the tools I splish around in puddles fiddling with plugs gaps and the like.
It still won't start. By this time I'm swearing in full-on Tourettes fashion. Eventually with a combination of small plug gap and full choke (and if I only twigged a cooler engine) it catches and with more blipping and fooling around securing things I'm back in the game.
The beauty of Chunnel travel is once again apparent as I limp in late and despite missing my original booking simply go onto the first available train.
Thus I'm back over the channel and she fires up with some persuasion for the last leg through the cool and damp English evening back to my roots.
The Blackwall tunnel spits me north of the river, and with my destination of South Wooford in view I'm trundling through Friday night cruising traffic behind a couple of likely lads in shades and a flash convertible BMW car. I have to laugh to myself as their cool scene is constantly infringed by me holding my engine at a constant 2000rpm lest it stall. more than once they shoot me a look of consternation. Good value I think to myself.
And so home. the engine dies finally turning into my brothers street and I coast downhill and into his yard. He appears at the door presently - "I heard you turn into the road then nothing, but christ it sounded rough - have you killed my bike?"
London May 09
Fuengirola May 09, 1600 miles apart or is it a world apart?
Postscript - The engine problem was nothing more than closed up valves on what turned out to be an unleaded head. After a good service that turned into a top end overhaul 'The Duchess' is back pounding the streets of London. I'm back at home some months later with a new house and a beautiful baby daughter. One day I'd like to do the trip all over again.
Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.
"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."
"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"
Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.
Next HU Events
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- France Mini: Sep 5-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! Aus NSW: Oct 31-Nov 2
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 13-16
- NEW! HUMM Morocco: May 13-16, 2015
What others say about HU...
"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA
"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada
"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia
"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders
10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!
NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!
Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!
What turns you on to motorcycle travel?
Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!
New to Horizons Unlimited?
New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!
Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.Read more about Grant & Susan's story
Membership - help keep us going!
Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.
You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.
Books & DVDs
All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.
MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!
Story and photos copyright © All Rights Reserved.
Contact the author:
Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.
Hosted by: Horizons
Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!