Great write up and photos Matt.
Thanks everyone for coming and making it a good trip. All things considered we did well with the weather with only one wet day. It's been raining and cold here for the past week and set to continue as such for next week.
I didn't even take a camera this year (I forgot it in the last minute panic to get the bike packed) and I don't think anyone in my group took many photos. we had a good trip despite a few detours and delays due to mechanical hiccups we still managed to get to the restaurant in time for a decent lunch - everyone knows where my priorities lie.
I would like to thank Clive for his special spannering on day 1 - I'd managed to bring a spare chain as I'd spotted a dodgy link on the one on the bike (on Sunday afternoon) but also managed to bring the wrong sized socket required to fit the new endless chain. Our tame Dakar mechanic took charge and sorted the problem quickly.
Thanks also to Chris B who, despite ridicule from certain quarters, still brought his multimeter with him, which helped determine that it was the battery on my bike that was knackered and the not the fuel injection system, as indicated by various dashboard lights. My rising stress levels at this point stem from the fact that, at heart, I'm a luddite. Whilst I love the 690 for what it does well I've always wished it had a carb and a kickstart. Thanks are due to Clive for contacting his friendly, helpful KTM dealer mate in the UK, Kustlo for earnestly cleaning out connectors etc., Matt for the loan of his jump leads and Seamus for the loan of his battery and getting me a new one when he collected his parts (and also to anyone who helped by pushing).
Once the bike was back on the road we regrouped and headed into St Cere for coffee. We decided to bypass the morning trails as it was already about 11.30 and head to Camps on the road. This for me was the worst part - at least on the trails you can usually generate some heat but by the time we arrived at Camps I was frozen to the core. We found that almost everyone else had congregated at the restaurant where we had a very good lunch. Talking to the owners afterwards; they told me that they'd only bought the place about 5 months before and after a fairly desperate winter season with virtually no customers and now the extended cold weather wasn't helping much, having 20 odd bikers turning up out of the blue was most welcome, even though we left large pools of muddy water all over their floors. I was impressed that they could provide such good meals with no notice at all when the Soleil d'Oc campsite made a complete balls up of the catering in the evening, even though they'd had several hours notice.
After lunch at Camps we split up with Clive, Chris and Jim going by road to Argentat to secure Mobile homes whilst Kustlo and I followed the trails having great fun on the wet, muddy lanes. Time was getting on and once we reached the most easterly point of the route, bearing in mind the campsite was back west of the lunchstop, we took to the road for a few kms hoping to cut the trace again and do the last few trails into Argentat but unfortunately water had got into my GPS making the display very dim and I missed the poit at which we rejoined the trace and we went all the way on the road.
Phinn and Jim headed off back to the Auvergne on Thursday morning as the weather was still looking threatening so we were just a group of 4.
I struggled on with the dim GPS display in the morning liaising with Chris who had the traces on his GPS 60 (ex Gazz) but some of the road detours around lanes with no entry signs were longer than necessary. We stopped for a good lunch in Beaulieu and after lunch I borrowed the GPS60 and managed to tyrap it onto my bracket which worked OK but made the zoom buttons hard to get at. The afternoons route was a pleasant ride with a couple of impassable lanes due to slippery rock. Karl managed to get up the second one of these where Gazz's group had turned around. Clive, Chris and I detoured and found a really tricky, but passable lane, that will definately feature on next years route. We eventually met up with Karl and continued to the campsite.
We fitted the new battery to my bike and Seamus got his bike back together on Thursday evening. A bit of a slow start on Friday morning partly due to the cold and partly due to acohol induced comas. Glenn and Roy joined our group (as the rest of their group had opted for a hotel in Brive) and were probably impressed with the way inb which I navigated smoothly to the first lane of the day (not!). I blame it on my lack of familiarity with the GPS as I do the rest of the days navigational mishaps - there were many and, in the end, the desperate need for fuel for the 450 meant a fairly long road ride back to the campsite.
Despite the occassional grumpy spat I did have a thouroughly good week, with the unpleasantness of the soggy road ride on Wednesday morning easily forgotten after the fun of sploshing about on the muddy trails in the afternoon.
Look forward to doing it all again next year.