January 02, 2008 GMT
2nd Jan 2008 - The first week on (or indeed not) the road

Day 1
The setting off was liable to be somewhat chaotic with lots turning up to see us off (make sure we went more like). Trip down with Raymondo in the van was just nice to chill out. Dragged bikes out of van to find first problemo- i had left my topbox keys on the kitchen worktop- so now was unable to access the topbox to retrieve my helmet and gloves. Oh how we laughed. Arranging with Dave by phone to send the keys to Bilbao we boarded the "Pride of Bilbao". Air con on the boat killed me so i was an unhappy bunny, so enough of that, Kirst put up with me very well.

Day3
Arriving at Bilbao 4 hrs late due to being an engine down, i proceeded to break into my top box to get me lid and gloves as UPS had forgotten to pick up my keys. So 5 hrs plus late we set off, and got to Lermas before we called it a day. Checked oil in my Ten and it was right down the tank and i KNOW it had the recommended amount of oil in it. Filled it up to were i could see it and get a level. Kirstīs was running like a watch

Day 4
Set off into the unknown, and the unkown in shitty weather as well. Rain, snow, freezing fog all were our companions as we conquered the mountains north of Madrid. Kirst was warm and snug with her heated jacket (once she had plugged it in) and i was warm and snug behind my Gaucho. We stopped for a quick coffee and bumped into a local cruiser club on a run out. Back on the bikes around Madrid and south toward Granada. It was great riding weather now, and the kilometres were tumbling. I pulled over into a servicios with about 400kms on the clock just to have a 10 mnute break. Kirst pulled alongside and mentioned her bike was a bit wobbly, so i thought a bit of air would do the trick. Jumped on Kirst`s XT and wobbly it was. Over at the air point i just kicked the tyre to make sure it was inderinflated- THE WHOLE WHEEL MOVED! On investigation all the inside mounted spokes non drive side of the -newly built- rear wheel had snapped. Fortunately there was a nearby town, so i rode in, was introduced to Raul- a guy who spoke excellent English- and was promptly sidelined while he organised accomodation, bike pickup, bike repair, world peace and the healing of the sick. I may be accused of being flippant here but all credit to him, he was a Godsend.


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Broke Spoke



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Broke Spoke


Day Whatever
And so here we are waiting in Villart de San Juan for the mechanic to inform us we are ready to go. Then we intend to proceed to Morocco, even without the incentive of the Dakar as it has been cancelled...
More to come

Posted by Henry Mawson at 05:55 PM GMT
January 11, 2008 GMT
Day 9 (but it is in Spain so time as a concept is not formally recognised)

All we have ever wanted is for people to do what is asked of them.

Engine builder? Build me an engine to travel the world without stupid effin problems. Wheel builder? Hows about a wheel that will do more than 350(ish ) miles before self destructing. JUST DO YOUR FOOKIN JOB!!! But to answer your inquiry, no, no wheel yet. We should hopefully have a cobbled up wheel by this afternoon, and i have ordered a few spoke sets from home and am trying some of the guys on "Maximumbikes" who are living here in Spain to recommend a wheel builder, somewhere on our way down to Algeceiras to rebuild the wheel(s) properly with Yamaha Geniune Parts.

Posted by Henry Mawson at 06:01 PM GMT
January 13, 2008 GMT
11th to 13th Jan 2008 - Castilla La Mancha to Granada

11th Jan
We are off, thank you Castilla- La Mancha, and the hospitable Hostel Vina, but we have to go, heading to Huescar and Pete from "maximumbikes". A steady 50 mph sussing Kirstīs temporarily repaired rear wheel and slowly the flat plains, vinyards and olive groves of Castilla- La Mancha give way to the vinyards, olive groves and mountains of Andalucia.

We rode the Ruta de Don Quijote to the fantastic 317 into the mountains heading toward Puebla de Don Fabrique until Kirst noticed "a shortcut". Onto the A4380(ish) and over La Sagra (2381mtrs) skirting the Parque Natural de la Sierra de Castril. A fantastic concentration sapping antidote to the plains we have left behind us. Proper XT country- dodgy wheel or not. Only us and the birds of prey on this road. A quick phone call to Pete upon arriving in Huescar and we are welcomed by Sandra and Anton, proprietors of the Cuevas Ansaca, the cave hotel to be our home for the night.

12th Jan
What a nights kip. After promising to be up with the larks, Sandra, Pete, Anton, the dogs all ended up knocking us up at 11.30ish to make sure we were all right. Another dead day then as we settled in looking forward to another night of Gypsy music, cervasas and tapas.

13th Jan
Up early as Pete had put the hours in to give him the free time to show us around Lake Negratin. Unfortunately a stomach bug had laid Kirst out and we delayed our start by a couple of hours. Sorry Pete i feel really bad.
Relagated to use the autovia it was off on the N330 onto the A92. Boy this ainīt like any motorway iīve used. Hugging the Sierra Nevadas it swooped and soared, the veiws breathtaking. Dropping into Grenada and the nightmare begins- it is a rabbit warren. With more ignored road signs than i`ve ever seen. Riding up a back jigger in sheer frustration at not being able to find our digs, we arrive outside the Funky Backpackers Hostel. Washed, dressed and off to Plaza Nueva and the tapas bars of Granada. Great atmosphere, food and drink.

Posted by Henry Mawson at 06:03 PM GMT
January 21, 2008 GMT
Jan 21st 2008 - Huescar to Alhaurin

Monday January sometime,

Iīm having a great time winding Kirsten up- everytime she askes me what time it is? I say "January". Itīs classic. Anyways we are here in Alhaurin el Grande after a weeks enforced stoppage after Kirstīs wheel once again blew out 4 spokes- and non of them the ones done in the repair.

We left Huescar, Renegade and the glorious Cuevas Ansaca for Granada, and another goodtime. and on to Alhaurin el Grande. Pootling down the autovia Kirst kept dropping back. then catching up and dropping back again. I pulled over to ask what the fook was going on and she told me the bike was all wobbly again. Yep, another load of spokes gone. As we knew Alhaurin from last year and our time with Torotrail, and as we had fortuitously pulled over at the Coin exit, we carefully made our way there.

Kirst went trawling around the hotels- ouch, before nipping into an estate agents and coming out with a weeks let on a Finca. Let me tell you it has been hell on earth. What with meals on the veranda. Having to go out early doors and pick our own oranges and grapefruits for breakfast. We have a saying in SES (AMEC Special Engineering Services)- "Anyone can rough it!" Anyway with the replacement wheel (along with another set of genuine Yamaha spokes to rebuild the failed wheel) my topbox keys and a few other doodads due today, we are finally gearing up for Morocco tomorrow. We even went mad and gotr Kirst a replacement rear Trailwing as she was still riding on the tyre the theiving scumbags who had it away, had burnīt out. Anyway got to go Menu del dias at 7.50 euros is calling.

Henry

P.S. To everyone around the world with webbed feet- it.s fookinī lovely here.

Posted by Henry Mawson at 06:05 PM GMT
January 25, 2008 GMT
25th Jan 2008 - Ceuta to Chefchaouen (Morocco!!)

After spending an exteremly unrestful night in Ceuta (dont care how cheap the hostel is- make sure it is not on the local cruisers route- fookin ambient house music), we finally made it into Morocco. For the most part Spain was great and we met some great, helpful, interesting people. It just wasn't where we wanted to be- well not for 22 days anyway.

Coming through the border we collected an exteremly affable helper who we couldn,t get rid of- not that we tried to hard. We just paid up and went with the flow. Got completely stiffed for the insurance though- our fault not checking details. Paperwork done and off we went.

The ride up to Chefchaouen was uneventful except for the wind. Very blustery, and Kirst was having a bad time of it. Still here we are camped above our first Moroccan stopover. We were hoping to have a good nights kip but the fair is in town and its directly opposite the campsite. We wandered over- as you do- and were faced with a "Wall of Death", i mean come on you just have to. We paid our 50p and climbed the stairs to look down upon a ratty GT185 Suzuki, a couple of gallons of petrol in an old mineral water bottle and a few tools of the trade. Me being an up and coming Health and Safety Officer it was enough to give you a turn. The rider was great! No hands, side saddle, taking nougat off the croud whilst riding. Real seat of the pants stuff.

Down into the medina tomorrow.

Henry and Kirst

P.S. Kirst has pointed out, it was indeed MY fault for not checking details on our insurance documents

Posted by Henry Mawson at 06:07 PM GMT
January 27, 2008 GMT
27 January 2008: Morocco - Chefchaouen to Azrou

What a day. Riding the Rif was rumoured to be fraught with possible incidents. Well we're obviously lucky cos it was awesome. The roads, the scenery, the ride. All worth the irritations, and there were some. We (I) took the slightly more minor route of Quezzane to Moulay-Idriss and Meknes because of the green route on the map.

Stopping to take pictures or go to the loo in a seemingly unpopulated area would prompt a handful of heads to pop up out of nowhere and make a beeline for us to try and bum a bonbon, a Dirham - fookin TEN Dhirams on one occasion! Anyway they got fook all.


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Furs



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Moroccan Shop



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Moroccan Shop


The only hostile occasion was a group of kids - being alerted by Kirsten's bike, picked up stones and sticks and raced down the hill towards us. All to no avail , as it happens, as we were beyond the range of all but one. This imaginative chappie, who was a bit bigger than the rest, got within striking distance of me and, at full tilt, charging down the hill, let go of an enormous hawk of phlegm. In his excitement, or fear of us escaping unmarked, he mistimed his assault - which had no velocity to it - and ran right into it. The cunning little tyke nearly had me though, as I laughed so hard at the sight of him covered in snot I nearly fell off my bike !

We arrived in Azrou in darkness, and with the GPS reference from the UKGSER site, found the wonderful Gite de Charme Ras Alma, who due to a last minute cacellation had a room . A big thank you to Mehdi & Azizi, who gave us a very warm welcome and a most excellent dinner and breakfast.


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Digs


Posted by Henry Mawson at 12:00 PM GMT
January 29, 2008 GMT
29 January 2008: Erg Chebbi Sand Dunes, Merzouga

Between Errachidia and Merzouga, the first 'ooh aah' moment of the day was seeing the Oasis du Ziz, a splendidly green valley in what was now becoming almost featureless desert.



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Oasis du Ziz


I pulled off the road and to the edge of the gorge, beckining Kirst over for a photo opportunity. She took some persuading but eventually braved the piste most of the way - me taking her bike to the edge for the piccies. That done, we carried on, Kirst had to stop and get off her bike purely so she could jump up and down with glee at being in the desert!


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Erg


And we weren't even in sight of dunes yet! Afer passing some very impressive hotels and through a bustling Rissani we finally arrived at the foot of the dunes at Erg Chebbi. Both of us were tearful and speechless and could only mutter words along the lines of "holy ......!"

We are steered in the direction of Auberge des Roches where we are happily relieved of 150 Euros for digs, food, and the full tourist hit, and a view of the dunes from our window. Within 30 minutes we are heading into the sunset on our camels Lawrence and Vera - well come on, we're on holiday!


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On the piste - as ever



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Kebab



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Desert



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Digs



Posted by Henry Mawson at 11:44 PM GMT
 


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