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.
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. Kirst´s was running like a watch
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.
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
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.
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 Kirst´s 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.
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.
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 ain´t like any motorway i´ve 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.
Monday January sometime,
I´m having a great time winding Kirsten up- everytime she askes me what time it is? I say "January". It´s classic. Anyways we are here in Alhaurin el Grande after a weeks enforced stoppage after Kirst´s 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 burn´t out. Anyway got to go Menu del dias at 7.50 euros is calling.
P.S. To everyone around the world with webbed feet- it.s fookin´ lovely here.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
On the piste - as ever
22nd Feb 2008 – Out of Morocco and to Udine in Italy
We’re in Udine in Italy. The top end of the XT has just been bored, bushed and new piston.
Out of Morocco to Italy to fix that Rattly Motor
Got out of Morocco…
Ferry back to Spain
Did some fine roads on the way to Italy
Goffer at the Border
Anyway- My Engine.
The engine had 60+ thousand on it so i thought i'd be safe and have it rebuilt before i left. It used oil from the start, but i was assured once it coked up, things would settle down. Well they didn't and it kept drtinking like a 14yr old Birkenhead scallie out celibrating their first ASBO.
The engine got noisier and lost power so in the end i bit the bullet. I'd been in contact with Alberto from the Club Tenere Italia website and he said Mario Fazio was "THE MAN" in N Italy so we went to Udine for a consultation.
The gaskets were burnt and the oil seals baked and brittle- as well as one or two other things i do want to get into here- and prime suspects for the somewhat enthusisastic oil consumption.
So a set of gaskets and seals, rebore, +1 piston, and the barrel phospher bronze bushed (for the head studs), oil and filter, saw us once again on the road- thank heaven.
We managed to catch up with Alberto and a couple of other Tenereisti from the Trieste area and go for a drink while showing us around Triesta. What a lovely place. Thanks guys it was good to meet you all.
Henry in Italy
Pretty as a picture
Thanks go to Mario, Gabriel, and Alex at EFFE MOTO, Tricesimo, Udine, 0432480891(take note he is a Tenere and BMW expert). To Alberto for his help and hospitality. To Kirsten for putting up with me while i was fookin' freaking out.
Off to Bled in Slovenia tomorrow…
Slovenia - in the north, very "Sound of Music" , only with snow........ and no nuns. At picturesque Lake Bohinj (yet another mountain pass to get there - I'm a bit mountain-pass'd out now) we got more strange looks off the skiers as we head up the steep hill to see the waterfall at Slap Savica - a word to the wise - don't climb up hundreds of steps in motorcycle gear and Tech 8 boots. It's not big and it's not clever. It is however, very sweaty. And it amused the girl in the ticket office highly. Still, once at the top we decided it's called Slap because i wanted to slap Henry by the time I got there.
The gushing torrent promised in the picture postcards was a mere trickle, awiting the spring melt. Never mind, it was very pretty and at least I gave someone a laugh.
Onto beautiful Lake Bled a short distance away, with the island in the middle shrouded in mist, very ethereal. H insisted on rowing us to the island in manly fashion to see the church and ring the bell for luck. Again my boots made their presence felt as I made a very ungainly entrance and exit to our little boat, mostly on my hands and knees, but I was determined not to go swimming! Not easy with a wet surface and lots of bird poo.
Next stop Ljubljana, after finding a great campsite (20 per cent discount for bikers, bargain!) just outside the city, and getting excited about having the laundry done properly,,,,in a machine!! If you ever go travelling don't take anything white. It's all now a grubby grey - mmm, attractive! Anway, a visit to the city, frankly disappointing , (loved the Dragon Bridge) but we caught the funicular up to the castle , which was a bit dull and not very good value after seeing the stunning Basilica in Venice for 4 euros.
Highlight of the day was me offering to wipe ketchup off H's face , only to find ketchup had squirted out of the bottom of my hotdog all over the jumper I was wearing, and then been spread around by my bag . H has never let me live it down since .
Trieste next to visit Alberto & Maria from the Club Tenere Italia website. Too expensive to stay in Trieste so we got a room in Koper, Slovenia, about 20km away and squeezed together on H's bike for our firts proper "night out" since we left the UK. Most of the time we're in bed early, both knackered. Met up with Alberto and friends who were all lovely , his wife Maria was sadly in bed with the flu, and between us we made ourselves understood. Alberto's English was very good which made things easier. They showed us round their stunning city, and it was interesting to note that by midnight, even though the place was crawling with people drinking outside all the bars, there were NO drunken idiots, NO brawling, and NO slappers!! Oh and not a policeman in sight! How IS Liverpool's Capital of Culture getting along, anway??!
Škocjan Caves the next day gave H's poor old knees a hammering, but al least I remembered to take jeans and walking boots to change into this time.
Monday 3rd March - CROATIA!!!! The border guard rolled her eyes as we both excitedly asked for our passports to be stamped. And we got some very odd looks from the queue of traffic leaving customs as we took piccies under the 'Welcome to Croatia' sign. Down to Pula to see the enormous Roman Amphitheatre , 100ft tall and mostly intact. Then along the coast to find digs, preferably a campsite. Pity they're all closed till April. Still, we found one, closed, but with workmen. Using our powers of persuasion (ask if we can stay anyway) one of them jumped into his car to fetch the boss from the pub . 5 minutes later and we're the only residents of an empty campsite, with use of the showers, hot water and soft loo paper (always welcome!). A lovely cosy warm night in the tent, then woke up to the pitter patter of raindrops. Ah well, I suppose it was too good to last, almost 7 weeks without rain.
A lull in the rain let us pack up our gear and bikes, then it started again with a vengeance as we got dressed in the showers.
Brekkie at a nearby cafe, we made our way along the Adriatic coast with the lady cafe owner's words ringing in my ears "it's raining and very windy, not good for moto". She wasn't wrong. A few (very few) miles later after being blown almost into the path of an oncoming coach I pulled off into a truckstop and sat shaking like a leaf. H was shouting at me to park the bike but I was waiting for the wind to drop enough to get at least one foot off the floor so I could park it without getting blown off it! After 2 hours of H's coaxing , and sympathetic looks off the customers, we decided to head back to the nearest town to find digs. The wind was a bit lighter in the town so we thought we'd get as far as we could towards Split. We ended up on a motorway inland, but as I got blown off the road onto the hard shoulder and we could see the police up ahead stopping the trucks from going any further we pulled off the nearest junction into a small town called Čavle and a lovely old man put me in his car and took me to some digs nearby. And that's where we are now. The wind's still blowing and it's now snowing !!!!
So, hope everyone's ok , hopefully the sun'll come out tomorrow, tomorrow........!!!
Love Kirst xxx
We are now in Mostar and finally the realisation we are getting somewhere hit's us. It's been solid adventure and delays for the last few days.
We left Rijeka having been warned the roads south may still be shut- we went anyway. Sure enough 50 odd kliks later the road is barracaded and the "BURA" (a vicous unpredictable wind" warning signs are up, as eveyone else was ignoring them so did we. We got as far as Senj before i rounded a left hand curve and the bike vitually stopped dead as the BURA hit. I was just lucky it hit head on. I pulled the bike into a pension carpark, parked up and turned around to find Kirst 100 mtrs away pinned to the armco by the wind. As she rounded the bend, the wind took her and the bike and though not able to stop the drift she was able to choose were she docked and safely parked the bike. I walked back to her and found a nice policeman fighting to stay on his feet, wondering how he was going to rescue her. I arrived- he buggered off sharpish- and we maneouvered Kirst and the bike to the safety of the car park. After 3 days delay in Rijeka i was eager to press on, but no. We stopped the night.
Next morning was glorious and we carried on to Sibernik and the Moto Pub. The pubs owner Miro was a diamond, finding us digs nearby and after a good drink Saturday night, escorting us around the area on his Africa Twin on the Sunday.
Monday we carried on south along the spectacular coastline. Superlatives just keep on coming as around everycorner is a picture postcard scene of quaint villages (for now), rugged mountains and a sea the colours and clarity i've never seen before.
The weather has been fantastic and although it's been great i don't think i'd be too keen on the trip in high summer.
On reaching the border we were shafted for Bosnian Insurance- English Insurance not acceptable mister- 22 quid each for a week, and on - in the pitch black by this time - to Mostar.
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