Hello to all our family, friends and HU users.
We are Ant and Nikki Robinson and this is the blog for our around the world trip.
We currently live in Walsall in the West Midlands, UK. Ant is a welder fabricator and I was, until very recently, a civil servant.
We have been dreaming of doing some serious travelling for many years, as we love being on the road and have always enjoyed our camping trips to Europe.
The opportunity arose earlier this year for me to take redundancy from the civil Service and we decided to use that opportunity to take some time out and travel around the world. We hope to set off some time in August 2011 and to head across Europe, down into Asia, Australia then to South America, North America and Canada.
We hope to update this blog weekly as we go, although that does depend on when we can get internet access. We'd love to hear from everyone whilst we're on the road, so you can email us at the copyright link at the bottom of all OUR pages.
Week 11 - Fes in Morocco to Cap Spartel in Morocco
Woke refreshed from a good nights sleep ready to explore Fes. We walked all through the town and the souk which is built on a really steep hill. We were shown the way to a leather shop where you could go up on the roof and look down over the tannery. It was facinating, itís been there since the 13 hundreds and they still do all the processes by hand. Unfortunately due to an attack of numptyness I had forgotten the camera, but honestly is was great! We walked along the town walls past the gardens and through the clothes market several people told us the King was in Fes, but we didnít see any sign of him.
Tuesday we left Fes heading up the N8 back in the direction of Tanger. It must have been the route the King was taking out of town because every 100 yards there was a set of flags and a policeman.
We ran into a huge traffic jam around Ain Kansera. When we got to the front of the queue there was a big party going on to welcome the King on his visit.
We would have stayed to see if we could join the party, but there were so many cars and trucks there was nowhere safe to leave the bike. Once we passed there the traffic thinned out and we started climbing again into the range of mountains known as the Rif. Scenery was amazing again, but the road was terrible and completely washed out in places, not a crash barrier in sight.
Started to get a bit worried when it got to 4 oíclock and we hadnít got to the town we were expecting. It was really cold up in the mountains and I was imagining having to sleep in our survival bags at the side of the road! Eventually just as it was getting dark we came into a town we found a backstreet hotel above a cafť. It was just a room with 3 single beds, but it was vaguely warmer than outside although you could still see your breath. We later worked out why it was so cold, there was no roof on the toilets! We also discovered we were in Targuist which was miles away from where we thought we were.
Next day we got out of Targuist and back on to the N2 which was the road we should have been on before. As soon as we hit the main route back to Tanger everyone on the side of the road was trying to get us to pull over and buy their hashish! We were chased through the mountain roads by 2 cars one pulled over, but the other one chased us for miles. Ant pulled over eventually as the bike is too heavy for throwing around mountain roads like that. He asked us if we wanted hashish, a hotel, a restaurant or to go to his house and drink tea!!! We not very politely declined. We stopped for coffee and 4 different people tried to sell us hashish. We later learned that there is a big Marajuana farm on top of the mountain and the area is notorious for it. By this time we were getting a bit fed up so we didnít stop again and carried on towards Sebta to see if there were any ferries we could get back to Europe.
We pulled up to a gate across the road to Sebta and a chap took us to the side and asked for our passports. We were confused, but it turns out Sebta is Spanish not Moroccan so you have to cross the border to go into the town. We were debating whether to go in when the border chap asked for 20 Euros for ďstamping quicklyĒ that made up our minds and we headed back down the coast to try and find somewhere to stay. Found a cheap hotel with internet and, after a bit of riding round the back streets, a garage to park the bike in. 10 mins after we checked in to the hotel their modem packed up. So much for trying to find cheap ferry deals, so we gave up and went to bed.
Thursday we called into an internet cafť on the way back to the bike. 1st time we had done that, but it was really easy apart from the odd Arabic keyboard. We must have spent 10 mins looking for the full stop key. Got prices for ferry to Italy. It was a bit pricey so decided to see if we could get anything cheaper at the port itself. Dropped down to Tanger Med port through some more spectacular scenery and went to the ticket offices. All the quotes we got were 100 Euro more expensive than the net, so headed off to find somewhere to stay with internet access.
Followed the coast road looking for a hotel or campsite, but there was nothing. The road was beautiful really hilly and twisty, but the wind was incredible and Ant was reduced to tiptoeing the bike round the bends to keep us upright. We passed one point where there were lots of people and some kind of winch. It looks like someone had driven off the road and down the drop. We didnít hang around for fear of being blown over to join them. Followed the coast all the way and ended up back in Tanger not having passed a single hotel! Decided to cut our losses and head back to the campsite in Cap Spartel. Pitched up and went to McDonalds to use the internet. We had a choice of Saturday or Tuesday for the ferry. Couldnít decide so we tossed a coin and it came out Tuesday, so we had a couple of days to sort ourselves out and pack the bike.
The next few days were spent repacking the bike so we had easy access to the stuff we would need on the ferry, tootling around Tanger, washing our clothes, tinkering with the bike and shopping. To keep the costs down we would try and cater for ourselves on the ferry so we spent a lot of time in Marjane supermarket trying to figure out what would still be edible after being in our cabin for two days. Whilst shopping we also decided to try, what we think was conger eel for tea. We BBQíd it and it was lovely. Had the texture of lobster meet with a more fishy taste, unfortunately it was almost inedible due to the bones. By the time you had managed to extracate any meat you could eat it was cold!
Week 12 - Cap Spartel in Morocco to Pisa in Italy
Monday night we packed up as much stuff as possible and went to bed excited at the prospect of moving on. On the whole we enjoyed Morocco, but we were both more than ready for somewhere new.
Tuesday morning we packed up the last of our camp and set off for Tanger Med. We decided to try the motorway this time, as it was still windy and we didnít fancy the coast road again. Worried about having no ferry ticket as we had booked online and hadnít been able to print the confirmation, but we just went to the ticket office with our reference number and they printed our boarding cards no problem. Joined the queue and went through passport and customs control. The new Tanger Med port is so much better than the old port in Tanger city, it was even verging on efficient! We followed the cars through the port and were stopped on what we initially thought was a way bridge, but it turned out to be a giant x-ray machine. It was really cool, like a car wash attached to the side of a truck. Unfortunately we were told very sternly we couldnít take any pics by an official with a gun, so we didnít argue.
Tied the bike down next to bulk head on the lorry deck and found our cabin. There were lots of people who didnít have cabins, so there were belongings and blankets taking up every available bit of floor space in the even in the stairwells. That canít have been a comfortable nights kip. Itís a good job we took our own food, as the boat wouldnít take Moroccan Dirhams and none of our cards would work in the restaurant. The shop was rubbish too. Needless to say we werenít very impressed with the ferry.
We had a brief stop in Barcelona on Wednesday night, which looked very nice from the side of the ferry and then we were off again. We were late getting into Livorno and then we had to wait for another hour to get our passports checked before we were allowed off the ferry, but at least we werenít in a car. I recon we were off at least 30 mins before all the other passengers as they had to unload all the lorries before they could open the car deck. Our first impression of Italians was great. The chap who checked our passport asked where we were going and gave us directions to the nearest campsite! We rode up to customs and said we had nothing to declare and that was it.
We followed the directions out of Livorno and found the campsite straight away, but the gate was closed. I wandered in and chanced to find the owner on her way home. She said we were very late for booking in, but took pity on us when I explained we had only just got off the ferry. We sorted out the paperwork and rode into the best campsite ever. We had a sea view pitch, with itís own balcony and itís wasnít even that cold. We cooked chicken and noodles for tea on the balcony and retired to bed.
Went into Livorno in the morning to get our bearings and find a cash machine for some Euros. We were both deliriously happy to be back in Europe. We sipped coffee in a pavement cafť and listed all the things we didnít realise we had missed, like tarmac and road signs and seeing women in the street. Got a map and decided on a route plan for Italy first stop Pisa.
Got some internet back at the campsite and looked for somewhere to stay. Best we could come up with was a hostel in Pisa so we booked in for 2 nights. Packed up camp in the morning and set off for Pisa. The countryside was beautiful, but decidedly wintery looking after Morocco. Didnít take us long to get to Pisa, but then we got thoroughly lost trying to find the hostel. Eventually we found the train station and I went in to buy a city map only to find we were just round the corner from the hostel! Booked in and discovered one of the best things about Italy, it costs a fortune to park your car but bikes are free.
Walked into town and it was really bustling and lively. The streets still had fairy lights up so it all felt very festive.
Found a little restaurant and had the set menu which included the best spaghetti carbonara I have ever tasted. Back to the hostel feeling very pleased and with our love of Italy growing by the hour!
Sunday we walked through the town, stopped for gelato, and then up to the leaning tower. I know ice cream is probably not the best thing to have for breakfast, but it was really good.
The tower was great and spent a happy few hours wandering around and doing the tourist things.
Stopped for lunch at a restaurant that did good beer. It had been a while, as Morocco was dry so I steered a very happy and slightly wobbly Ant back to the hostel. Pizza for tea and to bed, next stop Venice.
Week 13 - Pisa in Italy to Rimini in Italy
Monday morning we were back on the road and heading to Venice. Too far to go in a day, so would stop for the night in Bologna. Almost immediately we got out of Pisa the road started to climb and we were heading into the mountains.
Got a bit worried when we started to pass signs that said we should have snow tyres on, but although it was grey and cold we didnít see any snow. We passed an Autodemolitzioni (scrap yard) just outside Lucca and called in to see if he had any parts. The bike is still handling badly from the crash in Morocco, but he didnít have any big bikes just scooters. Pressed on through windy mountain roads and beautiful Tuscan scenery and got to Bologna late afternoon.
Pitched up and into the campsite restaurant for some food and to keep warm.
Really cold night and the ground was frozen solid when we got up in the morning. Set off wearing all our clothes to try and stay warm and after a bit of wiggling around and an accidental trip up the motorway for a junction, found the non-toll road to Venice. Got colder and colder through the day and we were shivering by the time we got to the campsite in Fusina. We tried to get a bungalow but they were closed for the winter, so decided a hotel was the best option as it was too cold for the tent. The hotel we were given directions to was closed so we rode into town looking for another. The only one open was a 4 star and I nearly died when we discovered it was 100 Euro a night, but it was even colder and dark by then so we didnít have much choice.
It did give us a chance to find a cheap hotel in Venice though, so after a quick roadside breakfast / lunch (well checkout wasnít till 12 and you have to get your moneys worth at that price!) we set off towards Venice.
We crossed the bridge and followed the signs for Tronchetto which we knew had parking facilities. The car garages were really expensive, but after a bit of searching we found a bike park right outside the water bus terminal and once again it was free! We rearranged the luggage, threw a tarp over the bike and set off to find the water bus to our hotel.
Water bus was no problem, but finding the hotel was a bit more of a challenge. We found it in the end, it was the one with scaffolding all over it. Apparently it was a really old building and they were having some urgent repairs made to the roof. I can confirm the hotel was old, as the following day my foot went through one of the stair treads! Also our room had the worst lamp shade we had ever seen, but that might be just nit picking.
Despite the hotel Venice was the most beautiful city I have ever been to. It was so pretty it felt unreal like you were walking through a film set. We did the touristy things; theatre, gondola ride, Piazza San Marco and Rialto bridge. We took tons of pics in Venice so here is a selection.
It was lovely and really interesting to see how everything has been converted to water. We saw skip boats, cement mixer boats, bin wagon boats, water busses, water taxis and water ambulances.
Two days really wasnít long enough and we almost ended up having to stay longer. The day we came to leave the water busses had gone on strike! We were told they would be running until 9, but they werenít. Luckily as we were wandering from bus stop to bus stop we found 2 gentlemen who were also trying to get out of Venice. We shared a water taxi with them to Piazza Del Roma and then got the monorail back to Tronchetto. The monorail was a great find. It was the only thing in Venice that was cheap at 1 Euro each and it ran every 4 minutes. No one in Venice seemed to know it existed! We think itís a conspiracy although weíre not quite sure why.
Got back to the bike and it was all still there and not covered in parking tickets. I still canít quite believe we left it there for 2 days for nothing. Got on the road and headed down the coast to Ravenna. Didnít take as long to get there as we thought so we arrived early afternoon and in time to feel the tremor of the earthquake that happened in Northern Italy. Ant managed to continue having an afternoon nap through the earthquake so it really wasnít a biggy by the time it reached us. We wandered into the centre of Ravenna for a few hours which is really nice and famous for mosaics apparently. After a crisis of indecision we ended up back in the hotel restaurant for dinner and 2 of the best mixed grills weíve ever had.
Saturday we went to Rimini. It wasnít too far from Ravenna so we got there with plenty of afternoon left to explore. We walked down to the beach which was really good. Wide and long with nice soft sand. We were the only people there. You could tell it would be heaving in summer though, so I suppose January has some advantages. We walked into town and found the triumphal arch of Augustus and the roman amphitheatre, unfortunately though it was shut so we could only look over the fence.
We found a self-service restaurant round the back of the train station and had roast pork and pasta for dinner it was great. Knew the food would be good as there were loads of policemen in there getting pizza.
Sunday we decided on a day trip to San Marino, which is the smallest principality in the world. It was cold and rainy, but only 45 mins away so not too bad. We headed for the centro storico and we climbed up a really steep hill the road had loads of switch backs and we wobbled up it in the rain. Parked the bike and walked into the old town.
It was really picturesque, but so cloudy you couldnít see anything from the viewpoints.
We went to the vampire and warewolf museum which was fun and then stopped for a coffee and a warm up.
Whilst we were in the cafť it started snowing! We walked all the way up to the castle and then on our way down took in the San Marino museumand this really strange statue that looked like 3 mosquitos stuck together.
It had cleared up a bit by then so we did get to see a bit of the view.
Back to Rimini and dinner in a really nice steakhouse restaurant on the seafront. Fell into bed with very achy legs from all the walking and looking forward to the ride to Pescara tomorrow.
Week 14 - Rimini in Italy to Pompeii in Italy
When Google maps tells you it will take over 5 hours to get somewhere theyíre right. It was only a couple of hours to Pescara on the motorway, but the coast road was built up all the way and slow going. It was cold and dark and raining by the time we got there we thankfully checked in, grabbed a pizza and crashed out.
Tuesday we checked out the weather forecast and there was snow coming. If were to cross the mountains to Rome it was now or never. We figured the motorway would be quicker and safer if it snowed so for once we followed the green signs and got a toll ticket. Almost immediately we started climbing and it got colder and colder. We got about a third of the way to Rome and it started snowing. It got really heavy and then covered the outside lane of the motorway. I think through sheer will power Ant kept us upright and we stopped for a coffee and to defrost. While we were having coffee there was a queue of people taking pictures of the bike. We were sitting in the cafť thinking wierdos taking pictures and Iím sure they were thinking wierdos riding that contraption through all this snow.
The bike was sprinkled with snow when we got out, but we pressed on and eventually the snow stopped and we started to drop down towards Rome.
Got off the motorway and immediately got lost. Found a bus stop with a map in it and found our way to Porta Pia and then to the hotel. Got some yummy gnocchi with gorgonzola at a local restaurant and went to bed.
Up early for exploring in Rome. Wandered up to the nearest bus stop and found we could buy a 24 hour ticket for busses and trams for 4 Euro, bargain! Bought our tickets and caught the bus to The Colosseum. Which was incredible.
Iíve seen it so many times on the telly, but actually being there was fantastic, despite the rain. Walked all round the different levels and looked at the displays. I particularly liked the Roman graffiti which must have taken ages to carve into the stone.
Stopped by the gladiatorís training school and then grabbed a coffee to warm up a bit.
Spent the rest of the day looking round the forum ruins,
the Circus Maximus,
the Piazza del Popolo (which seems to be the place to go and snog your Italian boy / girlfriend. I swear some of the couples were trying to set some kind of longest kiss record!) and the riverside. We walked down the Via del Corso and had a look at the shops, but too expensive for any retail therapy.
Thursday we caught the bus to Vatican City and went to the museum. Some of the statues and artefacts were really impressive, but Ant and I found the art to be a little bit on the violent side for our taste. They did seem to have a model of the Death Star outside though, which was quite cool.
The Sistine Chapel was another place it was fantastic to be after having seen so many pictures of the ceiling. We only have 1 fuzzy picture taken from up my sleeve as youíre not supposed to take photos in there. I haven't posted it as I really shouldn't have taken it. They had a man shouting at people and everything. We walked round to St Peterís, but it was shut. We assumed the pope must have been having his lunch, as it didnít reopen till 4. We made do with a look at the Christmas tree and nativity which were still there even though it was the 2nd of Feb. I guess the pope doesnít have to worry about bad luck!
Back into town by bus via the Castle Saint Angelo and the Trevi Fountain, which is massive and more of a waterfall than a fountain.
Well worth a visit if you are ever there, really pretty when itís lit up at night too. Walked up to the Pantheon which was shut for mass, timing is important when visiting Rome. Shattered after all that sightseeing so Pizza for tea and then back to the hotel for an early night.
Packed the bike up after breakfast and incredibly it started snowing. Thatís the first time itís snowed in Rome for 28 years! Due to the cold and wet the bike wouldnít start so Ant had to do some fettling with it and clean the plugs. Got it going eventually and headed out of Rome on the Tangenzianale. Took the SS7 towards Aprilia, but the rain eventually drove us into McDonalds. We were the lady with the mops worst nightmare. She had to come and mop the floor round us every 5 minutes as the rain dripped off our clothes and left puddles on the floor. After another couple of hours of torrential rain and the beginnings of a thunderstorm we decided to call it a day and stopped for the night in Latina. Went to Carrefour and bought a pic-nic tea. Sat in the hotel stuffing our faces and watching the lightening.
Saturday was beautiful, all the rain had blown away and it was bright and sunny. Nice coast road again and we got to Montedrangone in no time at all.
We started looking for the hotel and then I remembered we couldnít find one in Montedragone and had actually booked in Licola Mare, which was another 50k down the coast. We were quite glad as Montedragone looked pretty grotty. Little did we know Licola Mare was much worse! Found the turning for it off the Naples Tangenzianale and after passing a considerable number of ladies of the night we found the road the hotel was on. It looked like the rubbish in the town hadnít been collected in months and there were gangs of men on every corner and dogs roaming everywhere. The hotel itself wasnít too bad and we had a nice view of the sea over the burnt out cars on the beach.
Made a hasty exit from Licola Mare and went into Naples to try and find a McDonalds to book somewhere in Pompeii. No sign of a McDís and the traffic and cobbles in Naples were a nightmare. Got on the ring road, which in Naples isnít a ring, and we were going the wrong way! Gave up eventually and took the motorway to get out of Naples. Took the exit for Pompeii and horror even more cobbles! We wobbled our way down the road and decided to try one of the campsites opposite the entrance to the ruins. They had some caravans available that would be warmer than the tent so we booked into one of those for a few days. Looking forward to exploring the ruins.
Week 15 - Pompeii in Italy to Patras in Greece
Reasonably warm night in our caravan with the heater going full blast. Ant went to Carrefour up the road and got bacon for breakfast, yum! The campsite was really busy for the time of year with lots of cars coming and going.
After breakfast we braved the cold and went to explore the Pompeii ruins. They were amazing. It was so cool to be inside the archaeology, but also a bit eerie as all the streets, houses and shops were still there and you could really imagine how the town would have been.
We saw some of the casts of the bodies left behind and loads of amphora and other items that had been preserved. The theatres were still there as well and the big one is still used for open air performances during the summer.
Got really cold so returned to the caravan for a warm up and checked the weather forecast. It was snowing everywhere else in Italy, the southwest corner we were in was the warmest place to be. After checking with the campsite guys they had a warmer bungalow we could move into the next day, so as the forecast said the weather was going to be bad into next week we decided to hang on in Pompeii for a few extra days and see if anything improved.
Tuesday we moved to a bungalow and it was much warmer. To celebrate we went for a wander around Pompeii town and (because the temperature was above freezing) we stopped for a gelato. Spent the rest of the day and the next doing boring things like washing and shopping and buying pressies for Antís birthday.
Thursday was Antís birthday and his pressies were mostly food. Really chunky chocolate and a big squidgy cake. I also bought him some glue so he could stick the soles of his boots back on, as they had started to peel off in the cold and wet. Checked the weather forecast and although we had blue skies and sunshine it was still snowing almost everywhere else. It looked like Friday was going to be the best day to get through the mountains to Bari, so we decided to make a break for it tomorrow. We returned to the bungalow to start packing up our stuff and the realisation slowly dawned that the campsite wasnít busy, but that we were actually camped in a BROTHEL!
While we were in the bungalow every couple of hours a different car would pull up and out would get a lady and a gentleman, invariably wearing dark sunglasses. After they had vacated the bungalow the cleaning ladies would come round and change the sheets and another car would pull up! But what really gave it away was what we could hear through the extremely thin bungalow walls. We have never been so glad not to speak Italian, although siÖ.siÖ.si doesnít leave much to the imagination.
Friday morning we were packed up early. Ant went to check out as one of the stream of cars was pulling in and it seems we were getting a cheaper daily rate than the hourly one, so that was good. Got lost getting out of Pompeii and took the road to Sorrento rather than Salerno, lovely scenery though. Got the right road in the end and immediately started climbing. The temperature dropped and eventually we came to a police road block. They were diverting heavy traffic off the motorway. We became a bit worried when they looked at the bike and started laughing. Then they asked about snow tyres. They let us carry on, but made us promise to go slowly. A few miles on we couldnít do anything but go slowly as it started to snow really heavily. A few minutes later the road was covered and we were skating along. Though will force and iron bum muscles Ant managed to keep us upright, we wobbled off the motorway at the next junction and took shelter under a bridge. A policeman came to see if we were alright and said there was a hotel in a couple of kilometres. Unfortunately it was a down a steep twisty hill, so I walked and Ant slid down the road as best he could.
We were so happy to see the hotel appear around a corner. It was very swanky, a 4 star hill resort and wellness centre! We were just glad to be out of the snow. After a very nice dinner in the restaurant and a hot chocolate, which was so thick you had to eat it with a spoon, we went to bed with everything crossed that the roads would be ok in the morning.
Saturday was still cold and snowy, but the roads had been cleared and we figured we hadnít got too much further to go until we started to drop down out of the mountains. We set off and the roads got better and better and then the sun came out. Yay! We were flying along enjoying the ride when we went around a bend and the back of the bike felt all squirly. We pulled over and put some air in the back tyre, then had a ciggy whilst we watched it slowly deflate again. Nothing for it, but to change the tube so Ant took the tyre off and I found the spare tubes.
Got it all back together but there wasnít quite enough oomph in the compressor to reseat the tyre properly so we wobbled the last 15 k into Bari and found a tyre shop. They were great, fixed the punctured tube, reseated the tyre and gave us a very stern warning not to go to Greece because it was dangerous! Couldnít find any internet access in Bari town so decided to try the ferry terminal because, despite the opinions of Italian tyre shop guys we still wanted to go to Greece.
Found the ferry port and rode up to the ticket office. There was a ferry leaving in a couple of hours and the tickets were slightly cheaper than I had previously found them on the internet. Result! We got straight on the ferry, strapped the bike down and bagged ourselves 2 Pullman seats. The ferry sailed on time at 8pm, so after a bite to eat we read until we were tired enough to get a bit of sitting up sleep.
I was really surprised to have slept until 5.30. We were woken up by lots of activity as people were getting off at Igoumentsia. After the stop the ferry was practically empty, so we stretched out on all the empty seats for another couple of hours until we reached Patras. Rode straight off the ferry and out of the port, no customs, not even a passport check. We followed the coast out of town heading in the direction of Athens and eventually found a campsite that was open. Pitched up with a beautiful view overlooking the water.
Went in search of food and found a kebab shop in the next village. Our first taste of gyros and we were in heaven. Stuffed our faces and fell into bed to catch up on the missed sleep from the night before.
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