From the South of France to Spain, then to Portugal and further South to Andalusia
13th August 2010 – Carcassonne – France
Today's Friday the 13th. Bad luck for Templars and we're more or less in their city. That's also today that we're supposed to get our Transalp back. Something tells me she won't be ready. Abby and I wake up late and have a “petit dejeuner” at the camping's restaurant: a large “cafe au lait” with loads of “tartines” (slices of bread covered with butter and jam) and then we hang around the city to end up at the local McDonald which offers free WiFi access. At the city campsite, 15mn costs 1 euro, what a rip off ! This campsite is the most expensive one we've ever been since we started camping in France and yet, they keep charging extravagant amounts of money for everything, like 2,40 euro for a small coffee or a can of Coke. We start to get fed up with it. The showers are cold, the toilets are dirty and some “entertainers” keep on turning their crappy sound system to the maximum even though there's only a handful of people one meter away from their microphone.
McDonald's full. We try a local Big Mac only to discover they're as bad as in Hong Kong. Do they have a patent on low quality or what ? The price, however, is double sized. Then we walk to Planel Honda, only to be told that the bike should only be ready tomorrow, 4pm. It better be, they close on Sunday and they're on holiday next week. We don't wanna be stuck here another week ! Damn Fridays the 13th and King St-Louis who helped the pope get rid of Templars and Cathars ! We wanna ride !
We walk back to the campsite, cursing popes, kings and Honda mechanics and try to kill time instead of poorly skilled entertainers. At six o'clock, we decide to call Michel and Lise, his girlfriend. We wanna invite them to have dinner at the restaurant. Lise picks up the phone. No way she says, Michel's gonna pick you up and we'll all have dinner here, at the workshop, do you like “magrets de canards” (sort of delicious duck breast, speciality of the region), we'll get some on the barbie. How could we refuse such a nice offer ? So we get a few liters of local wine mixed with grapefruit juice (I know, sounds weird but it's real er... refreshing) and jump on Michel's beat-up car. Back to the workshop. We meet Lise again and Nicolas who's a driving teacher too and Laure, one of Lise's friend who's babysitting Mathilde, a lovely little girl, that evening. While the “magrets” slowly cook on the barbie, Michel asks Abby if she wants to ride a bit ? Of course she does ! Then Lise offers me to follow Abby with her 500cc ! Why not indeed !? Thanks guys ! That's gonna be the first time Abby and I hit the road together. Michel takes a few pictures of us riding together in the sunset. Cool. The road next to their place forms like a circuit almost totally clear of trafic. It's perfect.
We spend a super evening together, the “magrets de canards” were delicious and we all had such a good time together, it was as if Friday the 13th was all just a big joke. Lise and Laure told us all about their trip to Tibet while we were listening to a CD they took back from Beijing. Michel showed us the bus he is working on for their upcoming trip to Morocco and Nicolas showed off his minibus he's living in at the moment. These four definitely weren't your ordinary sort of people, a bit like us, one foot on the road all the time. We didn't need much to feel at ease together. I hope we'll have the opportunity to hook up together again one day and build up a tribe or something. We love you guys, you rule !
Lise drove us back to the campsite because she was the only one still in measure to do so and we crashed in our tent with no further thoughts, just a big happy grin on our faces.
Saturday 14th August 2010
First thought of the day: Is the bike going to be finally ready today !? At noon, we have a final lunch in our favorite restaurant in a cool pedestrian street of Carcassonne. We start knowing the town so well, we take shortcuts and never get lost. Stephane works at the restaurant. He's Laure's brother in law. Carcassonne looks like a big city but is in fact a big village where everyone knows everybody. Then at four, we pop up at the Honda workshop. First look at the Transalp reassures us. There's a new front brake disk and a new tire on the back. Looks like the job has finally been done. The mechanic say he tried it and finds nothing special to complain about. The frame feels a tiny bit weird he said but nothing bad, the CDI unit has been installed (big deal, that takes about 5 seconds) and the bike is running great. The oil has been changed although it was still clean after 3500km and the chain has been greased.
He has one good bit of advise though: add some rubbers on the front suspensions, that will prevent dust and sand to fuck up the seal. Makes sense. I buy two blue ones along with a tire repair kit which, I pray, will never have to be used. The bill is tough, sounds like the Carcassonne campsite overpricing habit has sprayed to the Honda workshop as well. Well, at least we're good to go. Back to road rage !
We decide to try our new tire and brake on the little roads of the Cathars country to a small remote location which reputation has been intriguing us for a while. It's just a slope. But not your usual kind of slope. It's a slope where you have to stop your vehicle (even a skateboard will do), put in neutral (if your skateboard has an engine) and release the brake. Instead of sliding down the slope, your vehicle starts to reverse. Outrageous ! The place's called “La curiosite de L'Auriole”, the L'Auriole Curiosity. Well the ride was cool but the curiosity was a little disappointing. It's just a vison trick really. The road looks likes it going up, but in fact it's slightly going down, it lasts 15 meters and that's it. Abby and I are thinking of building one next time we stop somewhere and attract tourists that way. Surely there's a fortune to be made in slopes that reverse, isn't it ?
Anyhow, the bike is handling smooth. That good working front brake is a real relief after so many kilometers with an edgy one. The back tire has a much better grip on the tarmac already even though it's still new. We're happy travelers.
Back to the camping and watching the traffic jams on the news, we decide to stay another day rather than joining the madness on the national roads and highways. We'll leave Monday instead and visit more of the Cathars country tomorrow.
Sunday 15th August 2010
I know, I know, we're a bit late on schedule. We were supposed to be in Portugal today but hey, we gave up schedules when we left so we forgive ourselves quite easily as we head on to the castle of Quaribus, the last of the Cathars castle to resist during the Albigeois crusade. And we quickly understand why. Imagine a medieval castle perched at the very summit of unclimbable rock. We can't even begin to imagine how it had been built. Had King Kong been helping or something ? The way there was incredibly beautiful as we passed from valleys covered with wine yards to stiff little roads along rocky mountains. The petrol was getting low in the tank and being France and being Sunday, we became a bit worried that we might have to spend the night in that medieval castle full of Cathars ghosts but we met a bunch of local bikers up there who led us to a little village with an open gas station. We zoomed back to the campsite in time for dinner, a last “cassoulet” in a lovely little restaurant we had found on our first day in Carcassonne. The lady, hearing that we were leaving on the following day, offered us a glass of “digestif”, a local speciality called “Carthagene” made of early grapes. Absolutely delicious ! We flew back to our tent, suddenly all lightened up !
Monday 16th August 2010
We have a long trip to do today. We have to get to the Spanish border. It's about 450km away. Not impossible but we got to wake up and pack early. We're not sad to leave the camping after so many days. We pay an outrageously expensive bill for a campsite, have a last breakfast and fire up the engine. The GPS gets us in the right direction with not too much hesitations but I'm a little surprised. Why does it take us on such small roads ? We cross almost nonexistent villages, even riding on gravels from time to time ! What's going on ? I suddenly realize that it's set up to “shortest distance” instead of “shortest time”. That should explain. By the time I understood where was the bug, it was noon already and we only had traveled 100km from Carcassonne. The speedometer had also mysteriously stopped functionning as well as the kilometers and trip counters. That stinks ! Probably the cable snapped or something. I could still rely on the GPS to avoid speeding too much but still, this bike is getting old. It's not a “mother-ship”, it's a “grand-mother-ship” ! Damn ! On the other hand, once reset properly, the GPS took us pretty quickly to St-Jean-de-Luz where we had planned to camp. We cruised around the campsites areas. It was absolutely packed with a crowd of noisy tourists complete with loud music and horns. And not a single spot vacant to plant our tent ! It took us ten minutes to become tired of it already and back onto our Transalp on the way to Irun, at the Spanish border. There, we quickly found an Ibis hotel, booked a room, had dinner and a decent warm shower and while Abby crashed in her sweet dreams, I got busy recharging our diverse batteries and checking my e-mail. Sleeping in a proper bedsheets was a nice experience after so many days under our tent. Outside, everything had changed for Spanish, a language I have never learned. However I found that adding A's and O's at the end of French words were doing the trick well enough and I didn't worry much about it. Prices seemed to be on the way down as well, beginning with gas as we had found out in the first petrol station we'd been to after the non-existent border. We had stayed too long in France, it's about time we start saving up a little.
Tuesday 17th August – Irun to Santiago-de-Compostela – Spain
The weather is so damn shitty this morning ! It's been raining during the night, good thing we cover our bike ! The ride is going to be outrageously long today as we decided to make it all the way to Santiago-de-Compostela in the North-West of Spain. That meant riding about 650km in one go. I've never done that before. I've never even driven anything on Spanish roads. Neither did the bike as far as I knew. Let's try anyway. The GPS took us faultlessly out of Irun and onto the highways. The speed limit drops by 10km/h here compared to French highways. But then again, the curves are a bit sharper and the wind, along the Atlantic coastline is slightly stronger too. Spanish drivers are very civilized, no tricks, no sticking in the back, the signs are good, the tarmac is smooth. We avoided a couple of traffic jams by using the emergency lane without anyone complaining about it, smooth ride. We're not waiting for reaching the reserve to refill the tank, we do it every 160km or so. That way, no surprise. We have a quick lunch along the highway. My Spanish improves at sight !
We had left Irun at 10am and we arrived in Santiago at 8:30pm, zooming between the blue coastline on our right and the mountains on our left. The trip had been fast and very beautiful but now my fingers were aching from grabbing the handlebars so long ! I never quite felt that before, am I getting too old !?
We found a lovely typical little hotel on a small square near the cathedral, all furnished with classic spanish furnitures. The hotel manager made a point of showing us our room before we booked it. The walls were made of old stones and we had a balcony looking upon the square where we could see our bike. He even went to the neighboring police station to instruct the cops to keep an eye on it ! What a lovely move !
We took a quick shower, changed clothes and, feeling refreshed and happy to have made it so well, we walked our way to the cathedral to discover its facade all lightened up with the sunset orange colour. What a sight ! Pilgrimers were laying on the floor with their stick and bags in front of the cathedral, looking as satisfied with their walking achievement as we were with our riding accomplishment. We let the sunset go, the facade of the cathedral became dark and we set of to find a restaurant. The streets were packed with tourists and pilgrimers but we found a little kebab place where we refilled our starving stomachs before returning to our hotel for a well deserved night of sleep. We had wanted to stay one more night in that lovely place but the hotel manager sadly announced that he had made a mistake and our room was already booked the next night. We'd have to find another place. Oh well, not to worry, we felt blessed with the beauty of the city. Luck would be on our side for sure.
Wednesday 18th August – Santiago-de-Compostela – Spain
Today, we have an holy mission to accomplish. Neither Abby nor I are particular fans of the Catholic faith but Santiago-de-Compostela is not just any cathedral city, it's the end destination of so many travelers coming from all over Europe, it doesn't matter what faith they belong to, to us, they're travelers first. And so are we. So we had decided a long time ago that we'd go to the cathedral and burn a candle there for good luck before heading to Africa. We woke up early, had breakfast which was included with our room and we went to the hotel next door to inquire for a new room. Being so early, there was one. The manager spoke French and insisted to show us the room first. No balcony this time but we still had the same view and could check on our bike downstairs time to time. Perfect. It had free WiFi as well. Told you luck was upon us !
We showed up at the cathedral before the huge crowd of tourists that visits it all day and there was a mass inside. We nearly forgot to take off our hats being the pagans we are and I was scolded for taking pictures with the flash on while some monk was summoning the crowd to stay silent. Damn, I hoped our candle would still be accepted even if I didn't know how to do a proper cross sign on my chest. People were queuing in order to confess, everyone seemed so serious and concerned. I saw two women crying from an excess of religious emotionality, but I felt happy and free and still in the right place. We searched for candles but there were none of that surprisingly. Instead there were some sort of vitrine with tiny red light bulbs in it and you had to drop ten cents to light up one. That looked pretty much like some pinball machine or something. Somehow it lacked the spirituality I was hoping for. After all, what happens if a fuse blows ? So blows your wish too ? Oh well, lets get on with it, we dropped ten cents in two different red lights vending machines, one for Abby and one for me and we left the place to visit the old city around the cathedral.
There was a queue of tourists outside each entries of the cathedral and we congratulated ourselves for having been early birds. The streets were packed with tourists too but we made our way to quieter areas. I wanted to send a postcard to my parents. Postcards are easy things to buy but when I asked the pierced lady for a stamp, she looked down at me and muttered I had to go and get it at the tobacco shop. Now, I'm a smoker but post offices that pimp tobacco shops was a new thing to me. Anyway, all the tobacco shops we found were closed. Siesta time ! They would only reopen at 4:30pm. So I asked local people for the “Servisso Postal”. I wasn't far, it's called in fact “Officina Postal”. My Spanish rules ! Once we found it, I requested a “timbras por Francia” and was given one immediately. Who needs schools and language teachers huh ?
Reading the menus at the restaurant where we had lunch proved a little more difficult but “ensaladas mixta” where indeed “mixed salads” and “filetto con batatas” were, for sure, “filet with fries”. A little jar of “vino tinto” with that and, in no time, I was the happiest pilgrim biker in town !
Abby and I watched a couple of street jugglers after lunch so as to avoid swinging like drunks too obviously and we actually had a great time watching them as they were really funny, or was it the “vino tinto” ?
Hanging around drunk in old Spanish towns proves to be quite an appetite opener so we found a paella restaurant at night fall and stuffed ourselves again while indulging with only a couple of glasses of beer this time. So we managed to pass in front of our hotel reception in a quite decent manner. Our mission had been accomplished, we could now leave this holy town feeling blessed. The speedometer, however, didn't recover as we disappointingly found out the next morning. Oh well, miracles occur in Lourdes, not in Santiago, and we had not been able to find any Honda workshop anywhere. It was now time to go South and join Pedro in Portugal, 250km away.
Thursday 19th August 2010 – Amarante – Portugal
Pedro is an old biker friend of mine whom I've never met before except online. He contacted me once, about two years ago, after watching a video I had edited of my old Yamaha Virago. He was having one as well and liked the clip on YouTube. We had kept posting to each others since. I knew he fancied my old goggles which I had put on my old style helmet during my Virago years so I had promised him I would take them along with me and give them to him which I had done. The ride to Amarante was pretty event less apart from the fact that it was a new country for both Abby and me. But when we arrived near the city, some deviation turned our GPS mad and we ended up pretty lost in the villages nearby. Now the roads were very small, sometimes very steep and paved instead of the tarmac I'm used to ride on. The sun as hot but we made it eventually except that a new feeling of unknown had now kicked in. We really felt in foreign land now. It looked all dust and sundries. The grass was yellow instead of green. People didn't seem to smile much although they were very helpful and kind when we asked them direction. Strange feeling.
We found our campsite. There again, the lady at the reception, who could speak French very well, as most of the people we had talked to so far did, was very nice but the campsite looked weird with not a single spot of grass to plant our tent. It was all just dust. Other campers watched us trying to find a spot with that serious look on their faces that we had difficulty translating, were they friendly or hostile ?
After having a serious hassle handling our overloaded Transalp on the steep trashy ways of the camping, we settled near the river, on a pile of dust since nothing else was available. My mood was rather bad as I was exhausted with all that riding in difficult conditions but I cooled down at the camping bar with Abby. There again, noone smiled, noone even looked at us directly in the eyes. The one eyed barman seemed moody, we didn't even know if he spoke French or English but he served us our drink nonetheless. We sent Pedro an SMS but it probably never reached him.
We had arranged to meet at the camping the next morning however so we rode the bike to town to see if things were a little more friendly there. It didn't look like it. There was that absence of smiles, of cheering up which had delighted us in Santiago for instance. It seemed weird in a hot southern country. We ate some half burned chicken with oily fries, drinking some syrupy stuff and went back to our campsite after purchasing some ham and bread from a little grocery store. The lady at the grocery, again, could speak French fluently. I asked her why and she said that she had worked in France for 30 years. She worked in Fresnes which is a jail city and in La Hague which is a huge nuclear factory. Damn, maybe that's why they all don't cheer up ! If they all went to work in the shitiest parts of France, I understand their depressed looks ! We ate dinner near the river, trying to keep the dust from getting in our food. Can't wait for Pedro to show up !
Friday 20th August 2010 – Amarante – Portugal
We woke up early (8:00, isn't that early ?) and waited half an hour before calling Pedro. Abby's phone is working everywhere so far, what a cool thing !
Hello Pedro ! Is that you ? I asked a bit shy.
Hey Mate, you have arrived already ?
We're at the campsite Mate, what time do you think you'll make it there ?
About ten, is that ok ?
Sure Man, we can't wait to see you !
At ten, as we're having coffee at the camping bar, a guard calls me and tells me my friend is waiting at the entrance. Damn, they didn't even allow him in ! Alright, at the entrance we shall meet then.
After greeting each others warmly, we led him to our tent so that he could see our bike and get his goggles. Pedro was as nice in real as he is on the Net. It was his day off. He works apparently very hard at some supermarket and is up every morning real early as his work is far from Amarante but he loves his city and wouldn't move for an empire. He was very kind to show us around his town that sunny morning and all of a sudden, everything looked charming and lovely as he showed us spots on the river where he used to play as a kid and little paved streets and the church where he had got married. Thanks Pedro, we really needed you to get to the right feeling of your region. We had a great coffee at the terrace of his usual coffee shop and everything seemed different than the previous day thanks to his cheering mood. His wife Vera wasn't feeling very good today, he said, so he'll have to leave us this afternoon but he would return with his bike the next day at 10:00 and take us for a ride around his region. Take your camera along, he said.
We spent the afternoon chilling in the shadow of our campsite and took care of various domestic duties like writing this blog for example, and we had an early dinner of more chicken at the camping restaurant served by a very gentle French speaking grandmother who looked Abby's age. Go figure.
Saturday 21st August 2010 – Amarante and around – Portugal
As promised Pedro was there, waiting at the gate of our campsite at 10 o'clock. He was sporting a cool shiny blue Suzuki Intruder 800cc, which he was going to ride for the 5th time only with us today he said. He had changed his old Virago for it not long ago and appreciated the difference in power. Abby jumped in my back and off we went, me fearing that perhaps I would have to race after his 800 all day but no, Pedro is an excellent rider and he loves cruising around at speed that lets you see things rather than zooming around fixing the tarmac. We enjoyed the ride immensely as he took us around valleys of vineyards on small curvy roads and through lovely little villages complete with medieval castles that we would never have found without his guidance. He made sure we would stop regularly to refill both the bikes and ourselves as the temperature was rather high and we rode nearly 350km together for about 10 hours, loving every single minute of it. Pedro, you're adorable Mate ! Thanks again for that ride from the bottom of Abby and mine's heart ! The views were magnificent, diverse, interesting, astonishing sometimes, you name it. We just could not have seen Portugal this way without Pedro, you gotta be a native to know those paths. Pedro has been delivering newspapers in remote spots for years and that's why he could lead us so well. The GoPro cam went out of juice after a while but I hope I can edit some of the spots we went through, it should look cool, specially with Pedro cruising in front of it. Not a single time did we go too fast, he led us like a pro. If anyone wanna go to Amarante for a ride, make sure you get in touch with this guy as he's the best ambassador to Portugal you could ever dream to meet !
We were back at the campsite at about 8:30 and he went to have dinner with his family. We would meet again the next evening as he had to work next morning but didn't want to let us miss the yearly Devil's night that was going to be celebrated this Sunday in Amarante !
Sunday 22nd August – Devil's Night – Amarante – Portugal
We took a rest today as the ride had been pretty long the previous day. The roads were very curvy and my fingers were aching a bit, again. First we went to the city centre were a classic cars exhibition was going on. Some very nice models indeed including some old French Citroen cars which I'm very found of. Some antique bikes too. When the sun became too hot, we went to have a good lunch in a crowded restaurant which served us plenty but rather oily food. Then later that evening we met Pedro and Vera at his favorite coffee shop where he could copy the video clips I'd shot the previous day. He brought us two patches to saw on our jackets, one from Portugal and the other from Amarante. He also gave us a bottle of red wine of his region which I am actually drinking as we speak and a USB recharger which is going to be very handy when my cams run out of juice.
Copying the HD videos took ages but we manage to make it in time to watch the Devil's Night being performed at the very front of Amarante church. I ask if the Pope agreed with it but he doesn't know about it apparently. The whole show attrats a huge crowd and it was hard to get close to the main scene. The music sounded rather gothic. Pedro and Vera had to leave us soon after as they had to wake up early to go to work the next day. We were sad to say good bye as they were the loveliest people you can get to meet. We lucky so far, after the Giles family in Wilton, Michel, Lise, Nicolas and Laure in Carcassonne, we had the good fortune of meeting Pedro and Vera in Amarante. Santiago must be on our side, definitely.
Monday 23rd August – On the way to Lisbon – Portugal.
We wake up early but not too much. Lisbon isn't that far actually, merely 350km away, we should make it a cruising trip.
Despite Pedro's advice to take the national road that would provide a much better panorama, we decide to make it fast and take the highway. It's really expensive by the way, compared to other European countries. Dunno why. And there's lots of payment gates too. What's the point of speeding a little if one is going to waste time at so many gates ? Petrol is far more expensive than in Spain as well, go figure. Pedro had mentioned a certain high degree of corruption among the Portuguese govt. members, maybe that's why.
As we approached Lisbon, the weather turned weird. First the wind began to blow hard and then rain showed up. The GPS took us faultlessly to Lisbon Ibis hotel as we had to scrap all that dust off our chest but it was full. We tried other hotels but they were all full. The cheapest one we found was 140 euros ! Forget that. Then we tried to find the camping. We ended up in some sort of refugee camp area that felt totally unsafe with strange people yelling at us as we passed by. Finally, thinking it was the entrance of the camping, we ended up in some sort of Police headquarters. That's when the rain started pouring again, big time ! The floor turned amazingly slippery all of a sudden and I nearly fell down with the weigh of Transalp and the gear and Abby as my foot couldn't get a good grab of the ground. Fuming with rage and frustration I decided that we had seen enough of Lisbon, let's go to Beja instead. That was only 150km away anyway and I needed to get out of that wicked rain.
As we rode some more, the sky turned blue again and the wind stopped blowing. Sometimes you just have to go along with your fate. Ours was to miss Lisbon, we don't even have any regrets.
As we approached Beja, we spot a huge hotel in the middle of nowhere. All the windows are shut. It looks closed but we try anyway as it starts to get late and we don't wanna hang around at night. Fortunately an old man called Jose greets us in French and even in English and assures us that he has a room for us and even a safe garage for the bike. We take a suspicious look at the room only to be rewarded by an amazing sight. That hotel must date back from the time there was no highway in the country and I bet it wasn't cheap then. That room is luxuriously decorated, the bathroom comes complete with a bathtub and brass decorations, it's lovely. How much is it ? 40 euros. Great ! Can we have dinner ? Yes, sure, Jose replies ! Fate huh !? Thank you Santiago !
We have a delightful and quite huge dinner and I indulge in a whole bottle of local red wine while old Jose instructs us about Portuguese history. One common thing we noticed, is that every single Portuguese person we met is very proud of his country and never miss a chance to assure us about it. You don't get that in other countries where most people are happy simply complaining about what's wrong in theirs. Makes a nice change.
We have a good rest in our deluxe cheap bedroom and wake up late next morning having very little to travel.
Tuesday 24th August 2010 – Sevilla - Andalucia - Spain
Forget the highway today, we have time, Sevilla, our next destination is only 250km away. We decide to listen to Pedro and take the national road to exit Portugal. Thank you again Pedro. You were so right. Is it you talking about our favorite cult movie “Easy Rider”, I felt as if I was riding in it thanks to you. The sights were amazing, crossing fields of olive trees and vineyards, passing through small villages with colorful houses, watching little churches that looked as if we were in Mexico, horses in the fields, bulls that looked ready to fight in a “corrida”. I slowed down to a cruising speed, enjoying a sense of freedom I had not yet felt for the entire journey. We were almost alone on that road, I began swinging the bike from left to right. Abby sitting in my back was feeling the same emotion. She yelled “I love you!” all of a sudden and I yelled back a “me too !” that was too short for what I was feeling:
Pure bliss !
It took that long to reach that precious feeling we were seeking but there it was at last. We really were on the road, on our own, like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hooper when they reach that community in that dry land up the mountains. I finally had made my dream come true. I was 16 when I first saw “Easy Rider” and I was so stunned by it that I watched it three times in a row that day, knowing that this stuff was something for me, something I needed to do one day, even if I had to die at the end. Today, my dream came true, I'm a happy man... and I didn't die.
Instead, I arrived in Sevilla. We found an hotel very quickly and it had a safe parking for our Transalp. The city looked very nice, a bit big but very cool. Ancient Andalusian buildings everywhere, a different feel from what we had been through so far. People were smiling again. We'll stay a while. The Transalp needs to be fixed anyway. That speedometer and kilometers counter are quite useful, I need to protect the front suspensions tubes and the clutch cable starts feeling like it's gonna break anytime now. Our next destination will be Algeciras in order to take the ferry for Ceuta and off we'll be in Africa. Somehow, we feel like we need to catch our breath, fix the bike, upload our pictures, update our blog and then we'll be good to go. We had plan to wait for the end of the “Ramadan” to cross to Morocco anyway, we're a bit early. Let's take our time and visit that great looking city. The hotel is cheap enough, there's no rush.
We start looking for a decent mechanic but the Honda dealer is on holiday until the 30th. I guess that's a good sign that we have to stay. We walk around Sevilla but it's the afternoon and everything is closed. It's 4:00 pm and not a shop is open ! It's “siesta” time. It's too hot as we soon find out. Everyone is taking a rest in the shadow and so should we if we don't wanna burn or melt. The air feels as if we had just opened a gigantic oven. We find a small coffee shop opened and indulge in a huge icecream and a fountain of fresh water. Then we crawl back to the hotel, feeling exhausted. We didn't risk ourselves out of our room until dark, preferring our bathtub instead, but when we did, we were rewarded with an amazing view of the city enlightened and we walked along the river, spotting the cathedral and other monuments in the background. What a day it had been ! And now, the night, a full moon night in Andalusia. I was falling in love with that city. As we walked by, we spotted a young man with a telescope. He invited us to look in it. It was directed at the moon and neither Abby nor me had ever seen the moon that close. We shared his enthusiasm for it. No dark side to it today, definitely !
Wednesday 25th August – Sevilla – Spain
The guy who's guarding the parking in our hotel speaks French fluently. He indicates a Honda garage about 10 km away where we might be able to fix our Transalp. Since it is quite difficult to find someone who can speak either French or English around here, we ask him to call the place for us and inquire if they're open first and if they're able to find spare parts for an antique Transalp. In the morning, we had been hanging around the city, finding most repair shop on vacation but one that was opened had a very kind mechanic in it who's diagnostic was that our speedometer cable was fine, it was that part at the end of it that needed attention. Of course.
Once we were reassured that we wouldn't make that long ten kilometers ride by 45 degrees in vain, we set off to the place and again, we were glad to have a GPS to take us there for we had only arrived in that city the day before. We arrived at ten to two and were informed that, should the entire part have to be replaced, it would cost us 100 euros and be ready by Friday. But the ultimate diagnostic would have to be made later on that day because they closed the shop for “siesta” at two and would only reopen at five. So we drove back to our hotel. By that time, my face was glowing red, I had trouble focusing on my riding and jumped several red lights, not even aware of them. I was gently getting a heat stroke. By the time it was five, I drove back to the Honda workshop with a blistering headache and a look of exhaustion that made people over there bring me to an air conditioned office and give me loads of fresh water while the Transalp was being analyzed. Yep, the whole part was out, the clutch cable needed indeed a replacement, nope there was nothing they could do about the side-stand security no longer working and yes they would fix these suspension protections. Orders were made, all we needed to do is return on Friday at 10:00. I'm not too sure how I made it back to the hotel but after a cold shower, I just crashed on my bed and only remember Abby bringing me a sandwich later that evening.
And we're not even in Africa yet !!!
Thursday 26th August 2010 – Sevilla – Spain
I'm feeling much better today. We're off to visit that city. The reception of the hotel is pissed off with me because I smoked in their bloody holy bedroom, not even, I actually smoked in the bathroom, with the window opened and the door to the bedroom shut ! But that's not good enough ! They sprayed an horrible product in the room that's supposed to refresh the air and I don't want my headache to come back because of that shit. What the hell is happening to people all the around the world these days with smoking ! I am being bloody careful and respectful of others but I don't feel the reverse is true. I am as entitled to smoke as they are not to ! Grr, I'm pissed off ! Now I'm gonna have to go down in that hellishly hot street to smoke my fags because of these morons ! Faschistas !
Posted by Pascal Leclerc at August 26, 2010 08:00 PM GMT
Well anyway, Abby and I went for a walk in town before it was getting too hot. Remaining in the shadow and drinking lots of water helps by that sort of temperature. We went to see the cathedral, very nice indeed, and we loved all the small streets around it. Very Andalusian not surprisingly enough, we took lots of pictures and now I have to upload them. Why is it taking so long and hanging so often I wonder. Maybe too many people smoking on the Net, it blurs the bandwith, they should ban smoking on the Net too !!!
At the moment, we're waiting for the temperature outside to cool down and we'll go and have dinner at one of those lovely little restaurant that serve seafood near the river. And they better have an ashtray for me or I'll throw the waiter into the flood ! With the ambient temperature, he'll be cooked in no time, I'm sure !