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Old 11-17-2011, 06:48 PM   #1
Rixxy OP
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Talking London to Australia - The Non direct Route - ADV report

SO, i have not been posting the ride so far on ADV but just dropping in when i have an update on our own site as time has been an issue, but i have a few days and because ADV is such a great site i feel a bit guilty so im going to post our full ride on here with pics as i feel its something you will enjoy, it does mean your 5 months behind so i will post a few blogs at a time up to begin with to get you guys up to date.

It might take me a couple of posts to figure out the picture process so please bear with me!!

Admins if you want to delete the old London to Australia post thats fine.

Blog 1 - The Peak District, Yorkshire Dales and The Lakes

So we left London on Saturday 28th of May, headed up to see my parents in Boston Lincs. We got the bike loaded up and left, I took it pretty easy sitting around the 70 - 75 mph mark the whole way and with no traffic we made good time.

The bike looks pretty mad with all the stuff on as it’s a bike tall bike anyway, so with panniers and a top box plus all the extra bits its looks huge. Saying this it still handles pretty well, even though over 80 mph I get fairly bad wobbles from the front, also on left hand corners sometimes I notice a slight wobble when coming out the corner. So I’m going to mention this to KTM and get then fiddle with my front suspension, I was also thinking about dropping my forks through about 5mm as this will push the weight forward a bit. If anyone has any ideas then drop me an email!!



Sunday morning we left about 10am after a hearty breakfast (as always!) and headed towards the Peak District. We went through Bakewell and had a bakewell tart. Well, I had a tart, Cat didn’t like the look of them so she has carrot cake. We noticed a small sign saying classic motorcycle exhibition, so we decided to go in and check it out. It was great, there were about 50 bikes in total, some old Nortons, BSA's, a few of the first TT winners and lots of bike related memorabilia - we met the owner who amazingly owned all the bikes apart from 15 of them, and even more incredible they all worked and some of the 50-yr-old bikes were still able to go on the road each day!!!!!



We then started to look for a place to stay and chose Eden Tree House campsite in Castleton, for the sole reason that it was next to a pub :-) We then visited Speedwell Cavern, and old mining site, and queued up for over an hour to get inside. The people behind us were playing I Spy and Cat kept guessing the answers. It was very interesting as most of it was filled with water, so we had to get in boats in order to explore it. After the cavern we went for a small ride and on the way back to the campsite noticed a small beer festival at a pub, so we dropped the bike off and walked 2 miles back to it, so we deserved our big dinner!



That night it rained hard and we woke to everything getting wet. We chatted for a bit and tried to work out the best plan of action which we both agreed under normal circumstances would be to sit tight until the rained passed but as we only had 3 days to get to the TT and we wanted to do more exploring we decided to pack up and get moving rain or not. So we got the bike loaded, and in itself it was a great test for our packing system, as the only thing that stayed really wet was the tent.

We crossed into the Yorkshire dales, and came to a small but beautiful town called Grassington and decided we would stay in a B&B or pub to dry the tent out. We found an old pub right on the square that had a room, was pretty cheap and included breakfast. So we got the bike unloaded and dried our tent by hanging it between the light fittings and curtain rails, with a hair dryer.



The sun was out and the little village was quite busy, but we didn’t do a lot as it was about 7pm by the time we got ourselves sorted. We had a quick look around some of the shops in the square then had some food (the yummiest fish pie ever!) and went to sleep.

In the morning we went for a long walk through the fields and along the river. It was totally quiet as it was about 7am but the sun was shining and it was such a nice day. There were loads of baby lambs, baby rabbits, ducks with chicks it was just really nice, not to mention it was set with this beautiful river around this lovely town and gorgeous old mill.



We spent some time looking for fish in the river and Cat decided to have a couple of moments of madness - after trying to stroke a sheep she crapped herself as it baaa’d at her when she got too close, much to my laughter! And then she decided to run up the hillside and back!! Was very funny!!

Anyway, we had to get moving again, so the previous night we had text our ever faithful friends the Jetstreams (Chris and Julie) and they gave us a good route out and over to the Lake District.

We got on the road and straight away it was looking good and we headed over some amazingly beautiful roads that were wide enough for just one car. We reached the lakes and after a drive around Windemere Lake we settled on a B&B above a pub in Bowness. Really pretty town with cobblestone streets. We had a few cocktails and beers and a yummy pasta dinner.

Next day we planned a route (this was the first map we had to buy) which took us to the north over the Kirkstone Pass, passed some more lakes and streams, and down the western/coastal side of the district. We visited Muncaster Castle which is apparently a very haunted castle, but we didn’t see any ghosts. The original family still live there, and they have really gorgeous gardens, and an owl sanctuary.



Blackpool was our stop for dinner but we were sorely disappointed. The lights/decorations in the town were pretty and it really is a big rollercoaster, but the fish and chips was RUBBISH! Poor service too. Blackpool was a bit pants, so we didn’t hang around for long, and drove on to Liverpool and the ferry.

We got a bit of bike madness on the way to Liverpool - the autocom had broken so we couldn’t speak to each other, and james’ phone died so he couldn’t even listen to music. But we made it. We arrived about 8pm, and there were loads of other bikers there already, even though the ferry didn’t leave until 3am!



We met a biker who had just arrived from New Zealand, following pretty much the same route as us, and he told us his stories and gave us some great tips. He scared us off Pakistan – said it’s ALL under police escort, driving 18 hour days, can’t even stop for water, and your escorts are all amped up with fingers on the trigger, so you can tell the danger is pretty imminent.

So we’ve discussed the option of freighting the bike from Dubai to Nepal and carrying on from there, which will probably even work out better, weather-wise, since Nepal was always going to be a “maybe” depending on the time of year we got to India
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Old 11-17-2011, 07:13 PM   #2
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Blog 2 - Isle Of Mann TT - Is amazing you should go!!

Well what can I say, the TT is literally madness. We arrived in Liverpool at about 9pm, our ferry was not until about 3am and there were already about 30 bikes in front of us, so we queued up and waited. I was looking round the other bikes, and Cat was bored, trying to get me to go for a walk/coffee, then I noticed a BMW F650 GS with a New Zealand number plate: on closer inspection he had ridden over here covering almost the exact same trip we are about to do. So when he came back to the bike we chatted for a good 2 hours, he gave us plenty of tips on places to stay and things to see and also said Pakistan was VERY dangerous and worth avoiding if possible.

When we were finally moved onto the ferry we noticed how many bikes there were, hundreds, the big KTM just about fitted in and they tied them down with ropes, I have never seen so many bikes in one space so packed together!!




Once we arrived in the island it was about 5am and not a lot was open so we decided to just go and explore: the island was beautiful and it’s the first thing we noticed. We didn’t really know where we were going but we could tell when we were on the TT course and when we weren’t by the crash barriers (or as they’re better known to us, bales of hay!!)



We eventually found ourselves going across the mountain course where it was one way and has no speed limit. We weren’t hammering it but we did have a bit of fun, it was quite funny to see the guy on the yellow 959 fireblade’s face as I come past him will a pillion and full luggage!!

We came down the other side of the course and decided to get some breakfast at a local caff, before heading to our hotel who luckily let us check in early for a sleep.

Later that day we got up and went up to the start/finish straight and pits. The great thing about the TT is that it’s all so open and you can walk around all the garages. We got to see lots of the bikes including Guy Martin’s, and of course I took a special interest in all the different fireblades and even got lucky and was showed around one of the Padgetts Honda bikes after I asked one of the guys a few questions about the exhaust hanger he had as I had not seen one like that before. It was great atmosphere, everyone was so friendly, a lot of the riders were signing stuff and some of the teams even had BBQs out and were just sitting around chatting.



We decided to go back to the hotel and then head for a couple of beers before going to watch the evening practice. The first bar we came to was called Sam’s – very “blokey” as Cat called it! We planned to have one drink then move on but we met these 3 ozzy guys, really nice blokes – House, Gordon, and Nick (I think) they come over to the TT a fair bit and we started talking bikes, telling jokes and generally got on with them really well. They also told us about volunteering as Marshalls so we decided this was something which we wanted to do! We then headed up to the grandstand and soaked up the atmosphere, there was a lot of people there even for a practice and Cat decided to play guess the speeds, and was actually pretty good at it.



After the racing we walked along the Douglas promenade and to the Bushys tent, we grabbed a beer but it was pretty clear that it was not our scene, some people were totally hammered and pushing past you as they could hardly stand, then they started to do a wet T-shirt comp and as good as they are it was just far to messy and we weren’t enjoying ourselves, so we called it a night and head back to the hotel.

Friday we got up and went to meet a friend of mine Mian from London bikers. He had some bad luck - stuck the con rod through the bottom of his engine on his ZX9r, so he was a little stranded! We had some lunch and a couple of drinks before heading back early-ish as we had wanted to watch the racing at Creg ny Baa.

Creg ny Baa is a great place to watch the racing as it’s on a corner, and it has a pub onsite and 2 grandstands which for about £2 you can buy a ticket for. It was our first chance to see the bikes on the actually course and soak up some of the real atmosphere. We got a taxi up there so as we sat in the sun we had a few drinks and generally really enjoyed ourselves.


That evening we met with 2 of our other LB mates Mike and Carol at the Charlie Boreman talk. We were a little disappointed in it as they promised to talk about bits which we had not seen on the DVD’s, but it just seemed to cover old ground and I think it was a bit of a money spinner for Charlie.
At the end of it Cat felt really ill - we had been drinking for a few hours but she really did feel pretty sick and it didn’t seem to be the alcohol so we headed back to the hotel which was a shame as we were looking forward to a big night with Mike and Carol!

Saturday was the first day of racing – we watched some of it from the grandstand (going for Guy Martin, but he retired in the 5th lap), and then moved on to Creg ny Baa for the second race. It was a pretty long day – James had a snooze in the afternoon and then we went for a wander through town and had some fish and chips. The fish and chips was what we wanted from Blackpool! I think we ate it about 3 times in the week, it was that good.

Sunday we rode down to Peel on the west coast to meet Mike and Carol for lunch and to check out the festivities. One thing we enjoyed was a guy making wooden statues/ornaments with a chainsaw. We investigated the Peel Castle as well, then went for another blast around the course and mountain road. Completely forgot about the free marshalls dinner we were invited to!

So Monday we marshalled at Braddan Bridge, which was awesome fun! Unfortunately it was also the same day that one of the riders died in an accident, but we learnt so much about the TT and met some great people. Since we were newbies, our job was to stick in the background, and if needed, we would be called forward with the fire extinguisher (James) and the brush (Cat). No incidences on our corner thankfully – and the church ladies were lovely – free tea for the marshalls!

We had a lazy day on Tuesday, no racing. But the evening had the RAF Red Arrows air display over the bay, and then the motorbike stunts from the White Helmets (professional army team) and the Purple Helmets (bunch of old men in long brown trenchcoats without purple helmets). Both were really clever, but the old men were funny – the penultimate stunt being Wheelie Bin Racing!



It was raining on Wednesday which was a shame, as we had met Mike and Carol at their friend Denise’s house in Crosby, right on the course, at the point where the bikes go past at about 190mph! We were able to see a couple of bikes go past, and had a great lunch, but then they called off the races and postponed them to the next day.
Bugger as the next day was our ferry home, so the best we could do was listen on the radio. We did some last minute souvenir shopping, and bumped into our original aussie mates from the first day.


We had planned to meet up with some more LBers in Wales on Friday, but then found out James’ card had been cloned in London, and along with still having so much to get organised at home, we decided to pull out of that trip and head straight home.

So if you were tracking us on Spot, you would have seen us blast straight from Liverpool to London! (if you want to follow our future trips, save this link: http://share.findmespot.com/shared/f...3iaUkb9n7toUdA - it will be active from Monday 27 June)

Few more changes made to the bike, Garmin 660 bought, got rid of the back box and replaced it with a heavy duty bag for clothing, couple more bits of kit bought, and we’ll be ready to roll next Sunday
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Old 11-17-2011, 07:34 PM   #3
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Blog 3 - Horizions Unlimited Meeting UK - No pics in this blog as they got Deleted - so just lots of writing!!!

SO after 3 crazy days in London after the TT, Packing Moving and getting a wee bits tipsy with a couple of pals it was time to head up to Horizions Unlimited for our final bit of advice and to meet other similar minded (or crazy as my Grandad called me) people.



Horizons unlimited – Well it was ok, we definitely took some good knowledge away from it, but it was also a bit daunting. Many people gave us what they thought was great advice, but all of it was conflicting information!

There were hard core travelers who have been on the road for 10 years and live in 1 t-shirt and 1 pair of pants; there were Europe-only travelers who like filter coffee and a bacon sandwich every morning; there were people telling us don’t go here and watch out there; and others who said that’s a great place and its easy to get into china…. so really we came away realizing we just need to do this trip our own way and figure it out as we go along, I suppose we have an advantage in that way as we have no time limit!

We also met the most stereotypical Australian I have ever met! (For those who remember Full Frontal, think of “Poiter”) Lucky I have been to Oz and in the most part (like anywhere) the people are great, but this was guy so funny, typical ozzy bloke, telling me all poms are gutless and never haggle (anyone who knows me knows that’s crap), telling us that we got the wrong bike and we should be on a 250 cc or not on a fuel injected bike, then telling us we didn’t need a carnet we just needed to bride the border guards, then he told us we CAN get in china, he told Cat to hide money in her fanny, he was a millionaire and the government were all bastards… all this random stuff!

I just sat, lined a topic up and let him talk, because actually as much as disagreeing with someone like this is near impossible, you can learn a lot if you can filter out the bollocks. He did say he got through china and told us how to do it, he also said we could get my fireblade into Australia if we take it in as a track-only non registered bike. Cat nearly made the mistake of disagreeing with him (“why the fuck would you go the Sharm el Sheikh? Bloody tourist trap!”) but thankfully he was obnoxious enough that everyone else in the bar area was listening in to him and starting to ask questions, so at that point we decided to slip away!!

Really nice bloke, but I think a nutter (in the good sense). He spoke some truths but tended to miss that fact that he’s been to 80 counties over 25 years, so what might seem second nature to him is the big unknown to us. He did say to “fuck off” all you have read, and just get out there, travel as light as possible and just have fun. He also said to remember the world is corrupt and for the right price you can get in and out of countries on the borders, and decide weather or not you want you passport stamped. I love the idea of being that brave and we will definitely try to get into China, BUT I’m still going to get a carnet as we’re not experienced enough to take those kind of risks, not yet anyway!

We have re-packed again, and yes – we halved our clothing! We have both ditched our jeans and we have cut back to 3 pairs of everything, figuring if we wear everything twice that’s nearly a week. I have decided to leave the spare chain and sprockets at home and get them sent out to me when I need them. Its odd but looking at our stuff now I think we’re taking less stuff on this trip than we have on some of our other europe trips!

The travel plan has also changed slightly, we realized it would be ramadam when we get to morocco in August, so we are going to ride the 1500 miles straight there and do that before ramadam starts. Then head back into Spain and Europe.

Last night we had our last ever Papa John’s pizza (and chicken dippers, and garlic cheesesticks, and cheesecake for dessert), then settled down in our sleeping bags, on the roll mats on the floor – with the luxury of cushions for pillows!

Jen and Oli came round this morning to say goodbye, and soon we’re going to the Ace to meet some London Bikers who will ride down to dover with us. James’ family, including little baby Martin, will be meeting us at Junction 11 services of the M20 for some lunch and a final goodbye, then we ride onto the Eurotunnel train at 2:30pm.

Here we go!
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Old 11-17-2011, 07:59 PM   #4
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And there off - Saying bye bye and into France Then Spain!

So we go to the Ace and meet everyone, Bobby came over to ours first and went picture mad, and took lots of decent pics of us getting ready to leave (Thanks!). At the ace he took even more pictures and Guliano gave us a blow up world map!!

Soon it was already 11am and in typical Jetstream style Chris wanted to leave bang on the dot, so we lined up and I thought there were around 10 bikes joining us, but in fact at that stage is was 30!! Not all of them were coming as far as Dover and around 25 made it the whole distance………….just!



Even the run to dover was not without its issues!! Ginger (legend for forcing cars out of our way so we could filter, otherwise I think we would still be on the A406) broke his clutch lever off!! Guliano dumped his shaft drive in the outside lane of the M20 and Alex Gold lost a soft chain link!! Haha the most random ride I have ever had with LB and all before we properly set off!





My dad finally made it to Dover, only about an hour late, he didn’t take into consideration the traffic at the tunnel!! But sadly my Mum was not there as she had food poisoning. My sister, brother in law and their newborn baby also came. Then we got some food, took some photos, said our goodbyes to everyone, had a sing-along of Waltzing Matilda and then we headed off!

By the time we arrived in France we were both giddy and a bit excited and I think we felt a little sick with anticipation. We decided to just head down on the motorway for as far as possible and then camp. We got to just outside Dieppe, a beautiful little harbour town with some nice restaurants and small shops, we set up the tent and got some food before getting an early night.

The next day we got up early with the plan of really just hitting some motorway and getting some mileage under our belt – it might seem a shame to just blast through France, but we have been here 5 or 6 times before and we really want to hit Morocco before Ramadan!!

So about 5pm we came off the motorway and started to look for somewhere to camp. It was SOOOOOOO muggy, one electronic sign said it was 40 degrees, and we were both pouring sweat, dripping down my nose and onto the tank of the bike, to make things even more interesting there were storms all around us - we kept hitting wet roads but never met a storm. Lightning was everywhere and then suddenly everything in front of us was black and we were flanked by a beautiful rainbow - I knew if I didn’t stop we were going to get VERY VERY wet, and setting up a tent in the wet is no fun!

We found a field with a small wood, we rode in about 100 yards and then set the tent up in there. Accidently really we had an amazing view of the storms over the valley in front of our tent. It was so hot and muggy all we tried to do was cool down, so we sat and watched the storms pass around us and then tried our best to sleep but it was nearly impossible in that heat!!



In the morning we woke and it was still hot in the tent, we both stank - haha probably too much info but what can I say! Cat was pleased with her first night of “wild camping” - I think she expected us to be A – killed and eaten by spiders or B – killed and eaten by a crazy French farmer. As neither of these things happened, and after I had “de-spidered” the tent, she packed the bits up and we got the bike ready to go!





The plan for the day was to do about 150km on the Motorway before getting off and doing some B-roads and having a good trip through Bordeaux. I told the garmin to avoid motorways and it did that but it also took us through the centre of Bordeaux, bit non-descript to be honest but we were soon out the other side and into the beautiful Bordeaux countryside heading for the far eastern coastal road.

Cat was giving me her usual running commentary of what crops seem to be growing and she was also enjoying seeing how much further along they were the further we got south, and discovering that sunflowers all face south. In fact most the farmers were out in the combines, something which Cat enjoyed seeing as she could not believe how big they were when she stood next to one at the Lincoln county show last week.

We hit some smaller towns and stopped for lunch. As usual the French waitress claimed to speak no English - lucky Cat’s French is very good now so we always get away with it, but we both agreed that the French are generally unhelpful and a bit moody. We then headed out onto the far east road which led down the east coast of Bordeaux - it was a lot of fun, good roads, beautiful countryside and good scenery.

Cat wanted to get to the sea and there were a few smaller roads that weren’t on the Sat Nav, so we got adventurous and rode down them until we came to an amazing campsite and our first view of a sandy beach. The weather was cloudy and grey, much cooler that the previous day and it was also very windy so we just had a quick look before moving along, but it would have been great to find this place yesterday when we were looking for a camp!



As we were feeling adventurous we decided to do an off-road track, not a long one, about 5kms. Well you can guess what happened - we fell off, 3 times, nothing massive, just the bike getting stuck, hitting loose sand and then going onto its side (i look at this now 5 months later and think i could do that same track with my eyes closed and one hand behind my back;-) . It was hard work getting it out but by the end of it I was getting pretty good, we had to work as a team both picking our way though it and lifting the bike back up once it went over. It took us about 20 minutes to get through it but we did it and once we hit the road again we were both cheering. It was fun but it’s made us realize that we have shed a lot of luggage weight, if we want to go play in sand we need to be based somewhere and go out light for the day!

Once we got back on the roads, some of which were on the Sat nav and some weren’t, we followed a general southeasterly direction towards the Pyrenees with the intention of getting into Spain. We got to a town called Oloron It seemed pretty big, it smelt like chocolate (huge Lindt factory!) and we were hungry and tired so we decided to call it a night and stayed in a cheap B&B.

We went for a walk around the town and it was half pretty and picturesque and half a dump, lots of empty shops up for sale, and lots of kids riding around on 50cc scooters with no numberplates on. We could not find a good bar but we did find a good Pizza place, so we shared what turned out to be a dam good pizza and some chips before heading back and crashing out.

We woke after a well deserved rest as we didn’t sleep too well the night before due to the insane weather. We planned out a great route over the Pyrenees to Spain and put it into the sat nav, Cat had washed some clothes the night before and wanted to go to a laundrette to dry them but as I hate sitting around I insisted we just strap them to the bike and that they would dry. It wasn’t sunny, it was a bit cloudy but I figured it would work!



So off we went and as soon as we left the town we were on GREAT roads, massive bends, tight bends, sweeping bends and we were soon climbing up the mountain side. The only downside was the weather was getting rapidly worse and soon we were dealing with light rain, soaking roads and freezing fog!

As we reached the top visibility was down to about 6ft!! There were signs for Free Cows (not what I originally thought – imagine rocking into Spain with a cow tied to the back!) and we saw they had been on the road as there were cows pats but we hadn’t come across any yet.

As we got to the top there was a tunnel, I though yay blast though it making lots of noise (you know what I mean) - as I came hurtling out the other side there were about 20 cows by the road side, I nearly mooed my pants! Lucky none of them took much notice of the KellieTheMule and we sailed straight past, but I had a quiet word with myself whilst Cat had a rather louder one over the Autocom.

Soon we came to the French/Spain border, well we think we did, there was a massive building but there was no one in the car park and we could hardly see so we just carried on and started to make our way down the mountain in the fog! Straight away the roads improved a lot, Spain takes much better care of its roads than France does.

On about our 5th corner in I came round the corner and there was about 200 sheep and goats right on the apex of the turn all running across the road! Lucky I was taking it easy so we came to a quick stop and Cat took a couple of pictures. I couldn’t believe it, the road was challenging enough, add in the wetness, fog and poor visibility and then for a chuckle thrown in some animals crossing randomly now and again and all this before I had any breakfast or even a coffee!!

Luckily not long after this it started to brighten up and the further we came down into Spain the better the weather got until it was sunny and blue skies! We came to a small but pretty little town and decided to stop for brunch, which was some tapas and a really good coffee – another point – the French make rubbish coffee, the Spanish make far better coffee!! It was at this point I looked at the laundry I had put on the bike to “dry” – not only had it got MORE wet from the rain, it was also muddy from road spray. Needless to say, I did the washing that night, and we ended up having to throw away one pair of underwear because it stank of exhaust fumes!

The scenery around the mountains was beautiful and it stayed that way for a good 150kms. It was getting hot but dry hot so it was bearable once you were on the move.

We wanted to get to Tarragona, a small town south of Barcelona, to take a day off the bike, get some sun and plan the next 4 days worth of riding into morocco. As we had done some great riding we decided to mix it up between bits of the new Spanish motorway (again which the garmin had no idea about) and the Spanish A roads – both roads have great views and we can comfortably cruise at around 125kph average.

Soon we came into Tarragona, a bit bigger than we thought, so we headed through the town and up the coast a bit. Found a small cheap hostel 5 mins walk from the beach. Then we went straight out and had a few too many cocktails and sangria, and today we have just relaxed.

Cat loves spain mostly because it’s perfectly acceptable to sleep halfway through the day, and this is fine with me as I can catch up on some work and fill in my diary!!
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Rixxy screwed with this post 11-17-2011 at 08:07 PM
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:09 PM   #5
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The Rest Of Spain -

Electricity crisis averted – we took pictures of the adapter we had borrowed to show to people in stores, and finally they understood what we wanted. Now everything has battery again!

We also bought a Camel Pack – very handy and also a great cheek muscle workout!

We left Tarragona bright and early and followed the coast south. We ended up in La Pinet, just south of Alicante, and stayed in Hostel Maruja. It was an amazing place - the front felt like something you see on a dodgy movie about mexico, (I think they do actually film movies there), then you walked through the bar and stepped straight onto the beach!! We were literally 3 meters from the edge of the water, so we decided to stay 2 nights.

Pretty expensive really at 54 euros a night BUT - and it’s a big but - the food and drinks where very cheap so actually it didn’t work out too bad. In fact a few beers and 2 meals there a day was coming to about 30 euros!! I think it was £1.50 a pint!!

We spent 2 nights here and really did just relax. The first thing we did was strip off and head for the waves, then we had tapas, vino y cerveza, and then siesta of course! The next day was spent by the beach, listening to music and playing cards then went for a meal in the evening at a different restaurant further down the beach.

The local English nutter decided to talk to us, obviously very excited to speak to other English people because he just didn’t stop talking! He was nice and normal at first but all we wanted was a few beers, a game of cards and an early night, but we didn’t end up eating until 10pm, and a brucie bonus, the food was way too salty! Cat thought she was being polite and patient, but I was waiting for her to tell him to go away! We’ve now come up with a plan to get out of similar situations in the future!

Then we got a fairly early night, but it was a muggy one again so neither of us slept that well, but we got up early and rode the 600kms to Algeciras. It a fairly nice town, we arrived here at 4pm, after a great ride down through the Sierra Nevada, all motorway but the mountains either side really take your breath away!! When we arrived we were very pleased to find a great hostel at 34 euros a night, ensuite, and then even more pleased to find a small tapas bar open where we had a great meal, and 4 glasses of sangria between us for 14 euros TOTAL!!!

Tomorrow at 11am we leave for morocco, Cat’s planned a route around the country with must-see sights, we will be taking it easy and staying a few days in each place, and no more massive mileage days for a little while!!! YAY!
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:15 PM   #6
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Into Morocco - The Adventure Really Begins!!!


WOW what a culture shock, maybe it’s because we have only been on the road a week, or maybe no amount of time would prepare you for it.

After being waved through the Spanish border, the whole scene changes! Everyone’s cutting in on everyone else, its very hard to see who’s officially working and who’s not, as the border guys outside the hut have small IDs but no uniforms. This one guy gave us the paper work we needed to fill in and then told us what to do, but he was wearing a man’s dress and sandals! He was very helpful and there was about 3 different bits to get through.

The guards and people directed most questions at me and expected me to fill in the paper work, but normally Cat does it as she is far more organised than I am. But in a muslim country, the man does everything (dammit!). Once you got the paper work filled in you have to wait for a gap in the queue then leap into line as quick as possible. Cat took a photo of the madness and one of the main guards came out of his hut and made her delete it right in front of him!
The guy who was helping sort everything out told me we needed international insurance and did we have the green slip? We said no and he said we would need to buy it, which was fine because we were prepared for this. We asked if we can buy it on the border (as advised) but he said no, have to buy in the first town… Odd I thought, then he said he would not be allowed to let us in without it and it was very important we have insurance in morocco, which we knew!

Oddly though the guy in the border box just looked at all my paperwork for the bike and let us through. The only grumble from him was that we used the photo copy of the V5 and he made me get the original, but I explained we were
headed for Australia and we did not want it to get lost or damaged and he was happy, stamped everything, gave us our green carnet form and in we went.

The guy who we thought (and still think) worked for the border people insisted he get in a taxi and we follow him to the nearest town to get the insurance sorted before we could go it alone. So we did that whilst having a discussion between ourselves about whether or not this guy was trying to rip us off. Well we got to the town, went to the insurance place and then the guy we needed to see was not there and was not back for 2-3 hours. So that was the end of that, he had told us we needed it urgently, but then after demanding 20 euros which I reluctantly gave him he pissed off. So we now have no idea whether or not we need this insurance.


(more on this story later…)


Our first town we headed for was Chefchaouen, a hippy mountain town in the Rifs. Well, the ride here was an experience: a bit hairy – slow lorries, people overtaking in blind corners and on the wrong side of the road, sitting up our butts the whole way, cutting up our inside on roundabouts – but there was also great tarmac and awesome scenery!




Once we arrived in the town we made it to what we thought was the centre and found a half decent place to stay that’s costing us about £21.00 a night. Our first impressions were just mayhem! Not only people, but donkeys, bikes, cars, trucks, wagons, kids, all over the street, crossing whenever, selling things, shops overflowing… We later realized we had arrived on Market Day, which I think would stump even the well-travelled!

We struggled to get the bike unloaded in the madness and then I had to go all the way down the street to a private car park, which I have no idea how much it’s costing as I said how much, he said 20 and I said 5 and he said ok - so no idea what’s going on there, lucky 20 dirhams is still about £1.80 so not bad for a day!! (Turned out to be 10 a day…)



Cat’s Culture Shock….

From the border to the town was about 70km, and I was taking photos and checking out the scenery, and was too busy to think about things, but for me the change really hit home it Chefchaouen.

It’s a big enough town to have tourists (it’s also the hashish capital of Morocco) but it’s traditional enough that most women had headscarves and covered shoulders/arms. I felt quite out of place, plus a little tired and hungry, and I think it just sunk in that we were REALLY far from home!

The other thing that got to me was how to deal with the men. Since it’s a muslim country, it’s respectful for men not to talk to women, to direct their questions to other men, and I’m not sure if I can say hello or talk to them.

I’m naturally very look-up-y and smiley, and I’m normally the one who starts conversations or asks for things in another language, so I didn’t really know what was expected of me; how I should talk; if I COULD talk; if a friendly smile and hello might mean I’m a whore….???

So a lot of confusion and I was really glad to get into our room and have a moment in private

… As a side note, this bit was written about a week before it’s been posted online, so you should know that we are really settled now. It just a big culture shock and takes a bit of getting used to. I’ve bought a scarf which I wear over my shoulders, and even though everyone can still tell I’m a white tourist, they can see I’ve made an effort and it helps! The friendly men we’ve met are happy to shake my hand, and the no-talking rule gives me a good excuse to ignore men who are hassling!

Back to James…
So after we settled down a bit, we decided to get out there and go for a walk. We walked right through the local market, not really sure if that’s what we were looking for, but after lunch at a little restaurant where the young waitress was all smiles and really intrigued to have us, she pointed us in the direction of the medina.

We then found the souvenir boutiques, carpet stalls and main square with restaurants, and felt a bit more like tourists again, rather than intruders! Chefchaouen is a beautiful place and we had a fab time the next 2 days. YES you get a bit of hassle, yes they try to sell you hashish, BUT it’s the friendliest hassle I have ever come across, for example:



- Boss you want Hash?
- No thanks we don’t smoke
- Ok Boss, Boss have you been here long, if not go check out our waterfall its very beautiful and worth a look, big welcome in Chefchauoen!!

So the first day we had a long walk around the huge rabbit warren that is the medina (Old City). Everything is blue and white which we found out today relates to them keeping mosquitoes away as mosquitoes don’t like light blue!! (I am now going to substitute some of my black tshirts for some blue ones, I wondered why they were eating me and not Cat!). The streets are about 4 feet wide and are packed full of shops selling everything you can imagine.

The main square has a few restaurants doing 3 course meals for less than 8 quid and I mean eating some seriously good food!! After exploring for 2 hours we settled on a balcony restaurant called Aladdin, it was about 9pm and it was starting to get busy. The menu was 3 courses for 75 dirhams, about £7.00. Our starters were huge, Cat’s salad would have been a big main course!! She just managed to make it look like she had tried to eat it and they brought our main course out. I had beef tagine with prunes and almonds, and Cat had lemon chicken tagine. Cat’s was good but mine was something else - the beef fell off the bone and it was delicious, both were huge and we could easily have shared one between us so Cat got a few mouthfuls of mine also.

The next day was a bit of a repeat of day one, literally! We had been to the internet café the night before and found out we did need insurance as Ebike does not included morocco, and the insurance companies in Chefchauoen only did cars, so we had made the decision to head back to Ceuta (border crossing) to get it.

We went back to the same place the border guy took us, but it turns out they don’t do bike insurance either, and we thought surely the border guy would have known that, so we really had been ripped off! But luckily they knew another company in the same town so went to them, and they did it, no problems, for the price we had been told. So really glad to get that sorted, big weight off our minds.

We got back to our hotel around 1pm, and then after a quick lunch we had a siesta (still on Spanish time!) and then headed back to the medina around 5pm. We followed a roughly northerly (and uphill!) direction taking photos and looking in the shops until we came out near the top of the mountain and found the waterfall that we had been told to visit.

As we approached, a Moroccan lad said the usual Hello, English?

-Yes
- Ahh welcome, the main part of the waterfall is up there, if you want a good coffee go there and if you want to go for a nice walk there is a mosque on the hill over there, if you walk that way you get amazing views of the city
- Ok thanks
- No problem I not want anything, but I have a carpet shop so if you want any carpets please get them from me
- OK mate
- Smoke Hashish?
- No thanks mate.

We followed his directions to the top of the waterfall, which wasn’t that impressive, but the atmosphere around the pools was very community-ish, with some people washing clothes or carpets, while others played in the water with their kids and some young boys were doing backflips off the rocks.

We then decided we were feeling fit, and Cat had read that if you walk up the mountain along the path behind the waterfall they grow a lot of weed and we thought it would be good to get a photo. So we started walking up the mountain towards the mosque, we walked for about 30 min stopping every 5 to take a picture and take in the amazing view of the city.

As we reached the stairs of the mosque Cat squatted behind the wall in the shade and a voice shouted out “Oi, fish and chips mate!” I looked up and it was the guy we had spoken to earlier! He said he thought Cat was peeing, haha! He asked us if we wanted to see how they made hash at the farms, and we actually did, but we said we weren’t going to buy any, but would happily pay him for the tour. We bartered him down on the price, and he started to lead us over the mountain.


(apologies to the parents who might not want to know about this, so you can skip the next few paragraphs if you want!)

10 minutes he said but it was a pretty long journey! Right over one mountain through little footpaths and sometimes not even any paths! He gave us a history talk about the city, a running commentary on the variety of plants that grow and what they are used for, and smell this one boss! After a treacherous walk (great exercise but tricky in flip-flops!) we started to see the odd plantation, then we came towards a small house (a shack, really) and he started to call out in Arabic.

A guy appeared out of the house and after a few words were exchanged they took us to his garden past 2 pretty large weed plantations to sit at the table and chairs in the garden by a little stream. The wife came out and bought us some mint tea, and we were told the story of why this guy grew weed - he used to be in the army, for 12 years, but when he got back there was not a lot of work and they needed to support their families, so he grows the 2 fields of weed and they sell it to tourists, mostly other Moroccans from out of town.

It was no huge operation, and the guy was clearly not rich. As we chatted the farmer went off and he and his little boy of about 3 bought back some bags, a sheet and a massive bowl - they opened the bag up and it was full of weed, the most I have ever seen, easily!!

Then he said, are u sure you don’t want to buy some, cos if you do we have some fresh plants, and you can buy what we make, but if you don’t we will use these dried ones to show you how its made? We said no, we are just curious. So then the process…

They laid the silk cloth over the big bowl, put the dry weed plants on top, strapped some tarpaulin around it and began hitting it with sticks. The pollen then falls through the silk and gathers in the bowl below. It was nothing like I expected, whenever I have seen weed it’s been the dried plant and you crush up the plant and smoke that, however these guys told us that over here that’s poor mans weed, and if we wanted we could just take the whole bag full of old plants and seeds with us as it was worthless to them!! The TINY amount of pollen in the bowl was almost odourless and they said it was why moroccan hashish is so famous.

We also found out that it’s not technically legal, but the farmers only get fined (about once a year) proportionately, based on the amount they have. Kind of like a tax?

Very interesting indeed, we walked back with Mohammed and he took us right back into the centre of town, he only asked for the amount we agreed and was very helpful. It was a real eye opener and we had a great time!!

Another stroll through the medina (this place is an endless labyrinth!) and we came across a school performing their graduation ceremony, and were invited in to watch.

After another amazing dinner with great views, James bought a fossil pendant and leather chain, and I bought a prettier blue scarf, and now we’re back in our room, planning our Fes adventure…
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:19 PM   #7
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Karma Cockroach!!!!

This story has three characters – The Wife, a petite Australian who doesn’t like creepy crawlies; The Husband, a big tough guy who will take on anything; and the Cockroach on steroids, at a massive 3.5 inches, who believes in Karma.

The Cockroach made himself known to the Wife late one night when she went for a midnight pee.

“Hello Wife, I am the Cockroach named Karma.”

“Argh! James, there’s a really big cockroach in here!”

“So?”

Not the reaction the Wife was expecting… “Well, come and kill it. It’s huge! How would it even have got in here?”

The establishment was not the sort of place one would expect giant karma cockroaches.

“They crawl up drains.” Obviously.

After inspecting the shower drain with its tiny holes, “Nope, there’s no way he could have fit up there!”

“But that’s what they do, they can squish themselves really small and fit through anything.”

“I think you’re confusing them with cats,” suggested the Wife. “Cockroaches have a hard shell which is why they make such a satisfying CRUNCH when you step on them.”

“Anyway,” sighed the Husband, “just leave him and he’ll crawl back down whatever drain he came from. Maybe he came up the toilet.”

Quick as a flash, the Wife had finished peeing, wiped, flipped down the lid and FLUSHHHHH.

The Karma Cockroach was slowly making his way around the bathroom, aiming for the crumbs in the crisp packet in the bin. “Tell the husband he must deal with me tonight.”

“Argh! James, please come step on him!”

“No, I’m sleepy,” was the excuse. “Close the door and stuff some clothing under the gap so he can’t get through.”

So the Wife busied herself with this task, using the Husband’s clothing of course. The door didn’t close properly, and even though the Karma Cockroach was a Giant Cockroach, he could probably still squeeze through if he wanted.



The next morning, the Wife inspected the bathroom, but the Cockroach could not be found. True, she did not search in every nook and cranny, as she did not want to see what’s actually hiding there, but the Cockroach was not where she would walk, sit or put her hands, so she was satisfied he was not in the bathroom.

Before putting their bike gear on for the day, the Wife demanded that the Husband shake out all her clothing, and tip up her boots in case the Cockroach had made a home in them. “Would be the first cockroach I’ve ever seen in a boot,” grumbled the Husband.

“Well, you should have stepped on him last night!”



Karma Cockroach had clearly been watching the antics from a vantage point in the bedroom, and had decided that it was time he lived up to his name.

He waited until the couple had just fallen asleep that evening, and slowly creeped up the side of the bed. He decided that the perfect retribution would be to tickle the Husband, so he walked purposefully along the covers pulled up to his chin, and scurried straight across his face!

The Husband woke in a panic, grabbed the Karma Cockroach, and threw him across the room.

After a couple of moments of heavy panting, not sure if he should wake the Wife, the Husband flicked on the light to see where the Cockroach had gone. And to make sure it WAS the Cockroach, and not some Demon of the Dark.

“Cat” the Husband whispered. “CAT,” a bit louder. “I’ve found the Cockroach.”

From high up on the curtain on the other side of the room, the Cockroach silently mocked the Husband.

The Wife was put in charge of watching the Karma Cockroach to ensure he didn’t make a run for it, while the Husband gathered his tools…. a giant wad of toilet paper and an empty crisp packet.

Eventually the Husband, after much positioning and manoeuvring, made a grab for the Cockroach.

“Ah-ha! I am too quick for you!” sniggered the Cockroach as he raced at Lightning Speed down the curtain and around to the back.

The Husband also raced at Lightning Speed to the other side of the room. “I need a better view,” he explained.

“Not from 10 feet away” thought the Wife, who by this time had put her bike books on.

“There he is!” she exclaimed as the Karma Cockroach appeared on the wall underneath the curtain.

“Well step on him them!” squealed the Husband from 10 feet away.

The Wife deftly kicked out her left foot and squished the Cockroach against the wall. Ahh, the satisfying CRUNCH!

At last, the Husband could swoop in, pick up the flailing Cockroach with his giant wad of toilet paper and empty crisp packet, and promptly flush him down the toilet, claiming victory over the Cockroach.

The Wife smiled sweetly and congratulated him on his manliness, “Well done dear.”

They both knew that Karma had been restored in the Universe.
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:24 PM   #8
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Fes - Well its a bit of a dump!!

After Chefchaouen we headed over towards Fes, Morocco’s oldest city and it used to be the capital. It was a fantastic ride, the roads were great, we had awesome mountain views, then forest, then desert. We drove througb Ketama and weed literally does grow by the side of the road! We took lots of photos, but we honestly got bored of seeing it after a while, it was just everywhere and as far as the eye can see: all over the hillsides, and in every spare patch on ground, even along the curbs of the road. Anyone would think it was legal!



Once we arrived in Fes is was manic straight away - we went from breathtaking countryside to a busy dirty city in what seemed to be minutes. In our honest opinion, we found Fes to be a dump. It literally looks like no-one collects litter and it’s just left everywhere.

We were trying to find where we were going and a guy on a scooter came up and says “Hey English wow you ride here? Amazing, big welcome to Morocco. Where you staying?” We tell him the name of the place and he says “you are going the wrong way follow me!!”

So we follow him for about 20 minutes, but he is not sure of the exact place so we have to stop at and internet café, and he waits. I’m thinking, man this guy wants some money, but we have no idea where we are and he’s saving us a lot of hassle so we don’t mind.

Cat gives him the name, but he thinks it’s something else and takes us to a place very close, but it’s a different place, and the owner tells us that our hotel is on the south of the city (we are north), so again off we go and follow him, to a carpark on the outskirts of the Medina (the Medinas are too small for cars/bikes to go through).

Straight away the car park “attendants” (sales-guys!) are on us. They are trying to get a price from us for the parking, but first we want to check that we are in the right area. They want 60 dirham a night to park, but that’s like 6 times more than I paid in Chefchaouen so we argue, whilst Cat goes off with a young lad to make sure we had the right area of the medina.



In the end I settle for 30 per night but it was a big argument and left me feeling like I had been cheated out of money AGAIN!! But I was happy to pay the scooter guy, so at this point I turned to him who had been with us over an hour by now and offer to say a proper thank you by getting my wallet out, but he said NO, very firmly and said “I just want you to be welcome in Morocco” before giving the car park guys a dirty look and speeding off!

Cat then calls and confirms it’s the right place and only 4 minutes walk (but after following the lad around for about 20 minutes while he knocks on doors and ASKS OTHER PEOPLE where our hotel is!), so the lad comes back with the trolley and we put out stuff in and he takes us to the hotel.

By this point the guy running the guest house told Cat parking was normally 20 dirhams a day and the trolley guys normally get 20 as well. So I paid the trolley guy 20 and he had a shit fit about it and wanted more, but I was angry with the parking guys and refused so he got annoyed. But looking back he had gone back and fourth twice both with me and Cat so the next time I saw him I gave him another 20 dirhams, and we explained that when we arrive, the trolley boys and carpark guys all seem the same to us. He seemed satisfied.

The Medina in Fes was ok, we went for a walk on the first night. You get a lot of hassle from all the shop owners, and to be honest they all sell the same crap, and it is mostly crap. I’m very disappointed as I expected things to be more handmade and original but Camden market has more to offer and probably at better value as well. But that does not take away from what is a truly old and very unique city, and so if just for this reason it was worth a visit and a walk around.




On the last day we got a guide to take us around and show us the main sites. He walked us all over the place for over 2 hours and cost us the equivalent of £10.00 - the highlight for me was the tanneries, which we would not have seen otherwise, what an amazing place!! But he was an unofficial guide, and we had one hairy moment when, whilst walking us back to the main square, down a small dark alley, two pretty hefty men start walking our way and our guide suddenly legs it in the other direction!

We thought we were going to get robbed, but the men walked passed, and when our guide caught up with us, he explained that he has had trouble with the police for being an unofficial guide, so he didn’t want to get caught again. We don’t mind that really, everyone’s gotta make money.

We woke the next morning to a great breakfast from our guesthouse, it was like a mini buffet – just for the two of us! The English guy who owns it was great and as a house it was fantastic, the best place we have stayed in so far: breakfast, laundry done and room with bathroom for just £35.00 a night. After breakfast we packed the bike up before hitting the road again and headed for Dades Valley near the desert.
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:29 PM   #9
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Tinghir, Dades Valley and Todra Gorge - Fantastic fun!!

The only downside of the ride to Tinghir was getting ripped off royally at our lunch stop. Not much in major terms – we paid about £13 when it should have been £6, but that’s still double, and the guy was just a slimy bastard – spoke perfect English, asked us about our trip, really “friendly” and then BAM! Double the price! It taught us a good lesson though – not to trust anyone, and to always ask for the menu first!
Other than that, we had a great ride through. There were some beautiful valleys and some mad crazy desert and just a road with RED sand for as long as the eye could see.

We passed the place we had originally planned to stop as we were making good progress and it was not that hot. The heat is proving to be a big issue for us - for the next 4 days its 40 degrees or over in the area we are in and this is forcing us to change our plans a bit, and it’s just too dangerous to travel in that kind of heat.




Anyway, we came through a beautiful Gorge, all red rocks and high stones, with bright green oases along the bottom but bare earth otherwise. It was so pretty, and then in the middle was this beautiful old Kasbah (old fort) and they had turned it into a Hotel, so we figured as we were already ahead of our planned stop, (and the fact they had a pool!) we would stop and ask how much to stay there. At 500 dirham, which is about £45.00, it included the room, ALL soft drinks, a 3 course dinner and breakfast for 2, which we thought was a good bargain!

The first room we went to had a stinky toilet - a lot of the bathrooms here smell a bit I guess because of the heat and lack of proper sewage, but this one was a bit stronger then normal. So when I checked, it did not flush and there was stale pee in it! I was annoyed at first as we had not long got over the rip off by the lunch place, so I was determined to either get a better room or leave, and with no hassle they switched our rooms and were very apologetic and even sent someone to help move our things.

We then went to the pool, which was a bit of a cock fest so we did not stay long as we didn’t feel too welcome. It must have been a lot of local people who use the pool too - all the woman sat around in burkas while the men swam and Cat felt a bit self conscious I think. Then we just went and gave the bike a going over, double checked our plans which have changed slightly and then we headed back to our room to relax for a bit before coming down to a decent meal in the evening.

In the morning we woke very early as it was already getting hot and after breakfast we were on the road by 8am. The ride was again great with some fun dirt and sand track to have a play on. We even let the tyre pressures down properly and it made a big difference, the bike just drove though the sand even with the extra weight. Then we came to the end of another gorge and there was a huge desert lake - the scenery is amazing, you can see where huge 30 ft deep rivers flow at certain times of the year but at the moment they are completely dry. It’s like something out of a movie and you are just blown away by how much this has shaped the landscape.



After about 3.5 hours and 180km we turned up at our hotel. We felt a bit mucky when we arrived, and a bit pissed off with Morocco in general. We didn’t like Fes, it was too pushy and smelly, and then the guy on the way out ripped us off, so we didn’t have any trust of moroccans at all.

But our hotel was lovely. It had been recommended on several sites, called Hotel Tomboctou. It’s very peaceful here and very beautiful, we have been to the pool twice and we have been the only people there except the cleaners.

We had a bit of a nap, and then geared up to go into the town, obviously worried it would be a dump or we’d get a lot of hassle, but actually it was great. We found a decent looking place and asked for the menu, straight away he gave it to us and the pricing was great, so we sat and had a decent meal for about 80 dirhams including drinks. We were not the only tourists there and there was a Chinese couple and another English could turn up as we ate.

Another customer, a Moroccan, started asking us questions as he heard us speaking in English, and automatically we have our guard up now, but it turned out he was a really nice guy and was actually living in Amsterdam but came back to visit his family for the holidays. We saw him again the next evening and he seemed a little more “happy” and chatty – now we’re wondering if the restaurant is his only business in Amsterdam??

We found the markets, and it was great to walk around with any hassle – not even any “please to look in my shop”! We met a silver jewellery maker who we bought a couple of bits of for about £25.00 total – I got told off as Cat said we could have got it much cheaper!!

We had another fiesta (SIESTA rixxy! – I’m sure you mix up your words on purpose sometimes!), and then in the evening we decided not to eat at our hostel as it was more expensive then town and we had a good experience at lunch. So we headed into town again, it was a lot busier.

I really love the sense of community here and the fact that everyone comes together of an evening, and drinks mint tea, and chats, or kicks a football around in the square. It’s a real mix of people, but with very few women in the café and restaurant areas.

We met another French-Moroccan who lives in France and he asked if we were looking to eat, we said later and he said there was a nice restaurant 2 minutes away, very clean and cheap, so we went and checked it out and he was dead right, it was also in a great location and meant we could just watch the madness of the town square. Again, a friendly person who just wanted to say hello and offer advice, without wanting anything in return. Our opinions of Moroccans are improving.



We have got into the habit of sharing meals, and its working really well so our dinner came to £9 including a tip!! The guy was very friendly told us he did a good breakfast! After dinner it was getting pretty late but we decided to have a walk around the markets, a lot of them had started to close but again really with the exception of the odd shop its a lot of tat really. The nice thing is we could mostly walk along have a look at stuff and not get bothered every 2 minutes. The people that do say hi are quick to point out they are not local and often offer helpful advice. On the way back we passed a group of lads, one guy must have heard us talking and said something like “Hi mate, English, how you going mate” but just to himself really, so we ignored him and carried on and then he said (also quietly) “well fuck you, fuck you” but we heard it and immediately cat and myself stopped and turned around. Cat glared at them while I said, “Did you just swear at me?” He went red in the face, and scared and he said “er no” and I replied “humm I didn’t think so……….” It was so funny to see their reaction, all his mates gave him so much shit as we walked away,! It’s not that bad really, I was stupid like that as a young kid but I can imagine how embarrassed he was to have to deny it in front of his mates!!
Our First Off-Road Adventure:
(written by Cat, for those who need this information in advance – Oliver!)

We had a great ride for our first off road adventure today!

We drove through the Todra Gorge and I got an awesome photo of the bike in front of the full 300m height of the gorge, but I had to lie on the floor to do it and I got a muddy bum!

Then we followed a piste which cut over the mountains. At first it was just compact sand, a bit gravelly but easy to ride. From the plains, we could see the switchbacks heading up the mountain, so we lowered the tyre pressure as we started heading up.

I completely trust James but when we’re slipping around on sand and gravel on the edge of a mountain with a sheer drop on one side, it gets a bit scary!

A lot of the piste was worn away, so we followed the tracks in the riverbed. It was dry, but full of small boulders and very gravelly.

At one point we came to some workmen (we had already passed a couple of trucks, they are obviously repairing the road) who had just laid a big pip along the road, but not created a way around, so they moved stones and boulders to create a path for James (I jumped off to photograph) and they literally LIFTED and manoeuvred the bike to help it around the tight corner. Amazing!



We got some great shots, and are so glad we did it (and made it!) but it was hard work – physically and mentally tiring – and we were sure glad to see the tarmac after 40km and about 2.5 hours!

We drove out through the Dades Valley and Gorge, which was more awesome scenery. You can clearly see from the mountain erosion that they had been carved out by an ancient river.

Crossing over gravelling roadworks and around tight switchbacks were nothing now – at least it was on tarmac!
We saw some really interesting rock formations which James thinks look like melted chocolate. I’m a bit of a nerd so I tried to google how they are created, but I couldn’t find any info except that they are actually called Monkey Fingers.

We have decided we really like Tinghir now – it has lots of Moroccan tourists, a great atmosphere and hardly any hassle! We ate lunch and dinner at the same places for all 3 days (best not to experiment too much, we’ve learnt).

Our last day was just a full relaxing day – sleep in, have a google, play monopoly, do some washing and just chill out. We met the owner of our hotel who was a 65yo German, very friendly, and talked to us for ages about business and how he’s in the process of selling the hotel and wants to get into trains in Canada! It’s inspiring to see someone of his age still going strong and always onto the next thing.

We decided not to go into the ACTUAL desert (Erg Chebbi, the sand dunes) because it would likely be more than 50 degrees and it’s too hot and just silly to risk it. So we’ll save that for next time. But we’ve booked Marrakech for 2 nights, so that will be our next stop
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:32 PM   #10
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Its looking good, if you're heading to Perth give us a call.
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Old 11-17-2011, 08:34 PM   #11
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We certainly are mate we are now in Nepal about to hit India we will spend a fair amount of time in Perth as we have family there so we should make a plan for a beer!!
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Old 11-17-2011, 09:47 PM   #12
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Marrakech - Great place!

From Tinghir we crossed the Altas Mountains, heading for Marrakech. We weren’t sure what to expect as Fes had really put us off big cities. The ride over was great, it was about 200km of flat roads, then just before the mountains we got pulled over by the police, I thought I could have been speeding but I was sure I wasn’t. Anyway it was all good, it turned out the police officer was very friendly and he just wanted to play point and ask us, “what’s that? “ (sat nav) “what’s this” etc………..

When we hit the mountains it was more of the same, great roads and big mountains, so I’m not going to bore you with the details, but it was very grey overhead and there were storms all around us - we even hit some rain and a bit of wet roads.

As we got closer to the city the traffic increased and the level of sensible driving decreased. In Morocco it seems to be the rule that if you think your car is more valuable than mine it means you are smarter and therefore you get to go in front of me. This was highlighted when a woman (well who else J) over took us, whilst there was a long line of traffic in front of us, on double white lines into the fast lane of oncoming traffic on a bend, I nearly had a meltdown but just braked and let her in. If I was in London she would now have no mirrors and a big dent in her door but I didn’t fancy spending the night in a Moroccan cell so I just laughed it off but it was pretty dangerous!!



On the plus side Marrakech was nice to ride into, there’s not too much litter and it seems to be a pretty wealthy city. Once we arrived and had settled down we decided to go and explore the city, and we were pleased that it’s a great place!

The Market square is so buzzing, it has everything and I do mean everything – snake charmers, monkeys, magicians, there’s food stalls in the middle with great smells and wafting smoke, loads of fresh OJ stands, fresh fruit on wagons, snail stalls, hawks, eagles and so much more, it was SO so so busy, what an amazing atmosphere, and the great thing was you didn’t get too much hassle. YES you get hassle but it’s nowhere near as aggressive as Fes for example.

So we just walked around and soaked up the atmosphere, lights, smoke, people gathering to watch the street shows, market stalls, food stalls, such an incredible site and thousands of people, it’s like nothing I have ever seen and it made me think that back in the day I bet that was Covent Garden was like, even though where we were made Camden Market on a Sunday seen like a boring stroll though a graveyard!

It also made me think that there is good AND bad about Health and Safety - it can take away a lot of fun and very interesting things but I didn’t like seeing the monkey on chains, and the tired thin horses pulling carts. In fact, myself and Cat both agreed we wouldn’t give money to anyone using animals as they did look very malnourished and a bit sad.

We then wandered though the souks area and Cat bought some funky aladin trousers. She is a bugger and no longer haggles, she just names a price which she thinks is good and does not come up. The guys tried to sell her the trousers for 500 DHS (£45.00) and she ended up paying 100 DHS (about £8.00). She is hardcore and I’m very impressed.





During the day we just relaxed by the pool, it was over 40 degrees so there is not a lot else you can do. Nothing happens here really, some of the food markets open in the morning but the big markets open at about 5pm and get busy from 7pm until about midnight, there’s no 9-5 over here.

On the second night, we planned to head to the square again, so we asked for a petit taxi outside our hotel. We know it’s 20, they kept trying to charge 30, so we walked away, they came chasing down the street for 20, but we just ignored them and walked instead. Screw ‘em.

We could see the tall pillar of the mosque from where we were, and it was a bit further than we thought, but not too bad a walk.

There are loads of cafes around the square with terraces – perfect to sit and drink watch the madness. You really do see a lot, so here are some of our favourites: The fight between local shop owners and a pick pocket they saw working a crowd; The crazy guy, who was the worst magician I have even seen BUT was drawing a massive crowd through just being in the square and making a good 100 DHS an hour – it looked like he was just showing the crowd interesting things like ships in a bottle and swinging statues.



There was also the English girl who was crying, not that I take pleasure in that but she just seemed to be being a bit dumb and blonde and her friends didn’t seem to have a lot of sympathy; The kids begging and looking all sad and poor, then getting money out of some fool and sharing a cheeky giggle or showing off to each other; The stall holders arguing over who had the right to sit where; the blind guy who was begging a another blind guy, but has amazing site that could see coins and pick out the smaller ones!!!!!!



When it gets dark, the little kids switch from selling tissues to selling these flashy-whirly things that you fling up in the air, they spin and then fall slowly, like a mini neon parachute. It was excellent we loved it and we could go sit there every night!!
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Old 11-17-2011, 09:55 PM   #13
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Essaouira


After Marrakech we headed for Essaouira, The ride was pretty uneventful as it was just 200km of motorway. The one thing we did see a lot of was big lorries that were massively overloaded, so overloaded it’s worrying! Yet as if this is not enough danger, they then have 4, 5, 6 or more guys sitting on the top of the cab whilst the lorry is hurtling along the motorway at 100km/hr!! It’s amazing, if it had to break hard, swerve or anything, they would all be dead, yet it is a regular occurrence!! It makes a mockery of the please wear your seatbelt signs!!!
Still it makes even a motorway ride very interesting, myself and Cat being blown away by each vehicle more dangerous and overloaded than the first. For example how many cows do you think you could fit in a Toyota pick-up? 2…? Maybe 3? How about if I told you 4!! Yes 4 full sized cows, one at the front sideways, 2 next to each other and one at the back sideways, heads and bum over the edge!!!!!!



We also saw enough men squished into the back of a pick-up, enough to make us think they might be people smugglers! (but not very good ones, without a roof on the pick-up)

Well we arrived in Essaouira on the coast, the first thing we noticed was that it was a lot cooler, mostly because of the sea breeze, so it was a manageable 28 degrees.


We had a rough idea of where to go, and we soon found somewhere to park, but as usual we then had to deal with the Moroccan hassle. It’s like walking into a madhouse, everyone comes rushing over and offers you places to stay, and how many nights parking, and do you need a cart? And the little kids with their hands out, of course!



But when we insisted on a straight answer for the parking, we were surprised to be told 20dh a day, which is a very fair price so we agreed. Then we were told to go with the cart guy as he knew where our hostel is, but as usual he had no idea and even after we told him again the name, he took us to somewhere different.

We were hot and sweaty and Cat was running out of patience, I was trying to stay calm. We are getting used to the silliness that takes place every time we arrive somewhere new, and we try not to let it block our opinion on any city, but walking back and forth in full bike gear is hot and tiring!

So after asking about 10 people (and an incident with a probably very nice man but who tried to touch James’ helmet) we ended up at the right place. As soon as we walked in, Mehdi, the manager, was very friendly, showed us to our room which was much nicer then we expected and then showed us the roof terrace, hammock room and the bar/chilling area, and offered us a welcoming beer.



Basically, it’s our hostel that makes Essaouira so fabulous. It got 93% from hundreds of reviews, so we booked it straight away. There are several other groups here, mostly from Australia and England, and many are staying for a good length of time so we have made new friends. We like it so much we extended our stay 2 extra nights.

And then for the next 5 days we did nothing but relax. Most of the time has been spent sun-tanning on the roof terrace, listening to music, or downstairs in the bar chatting and playing drinking games. We’ve had a couple of big group dinners, and on the Sunday night we all got some free punch because the hostel won an award (not surprisingly!) We ventured out to the beach once or twice, and for breakfast or lunch, and did some shopping (which Cat then had to post home!)


We also had time to make some plans. When we leave Morocco, we have decided to get the ferry to Genova in Italy as it’s only 330 euro and it’s just covering the same ground if we ride back through Spain and France again plus it will take a week to 10 days and the ferry take 2 days and in the end it works out a lot cheaper.

We have also booked tickets for the Moto GP in Czech Republic on Aug 14 and in San Morino in Italy 3 weeks later, so we are going to have about 3 weeks to travel in northern Europe before heading to Czech, then 3 weeks to travel Eastern Europe and back up through Croatia to Italy for the San Morino GP. Then it’s down Italy and over to Greece, and after that it’s pretty much a Squiggley line to Oz!
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:43 AM   #14
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The Ship that Sucked - It wasn't that bad, unless you compared it to there description!!!

So we decided to get the ferry from Morocco to Italy.

I know the hardcore biker out there will be saying it’s not really a bike trip if we get the ferry when we can ride - well we’re not trying to break any records, we’re on holiday and using the bike to get around!

So we weighed up the options and decided that 10 days and 1500 miles (costing around 600 euro with petrol and accommodation) versus 330 Euro, and quote “not just a ferry but a cruise ship across the med, with a pool, gym, beauty centre, shopping mall, room Magnificent, 3 restaurants, 2 bars and a nightclub” would be a far better way to do the same trip. So at only 330 euro for our own room we paid up and booked.




We arrived at the ferry terminal with loads of time, and just relaxed: we have got good at just relaxing in strange places and 3 hours just flew by.

Getting through Moroccan customs this time was a lot easier. Of course, we did have one guy try to rip us off, wouldn’t be Morocco without it! He asked to help us, and got us some forms, but we kept saying “We can do that”. He lined up with Cat at the check in counter and told the man is Arabic what she could have told him in plain English. He kept asking for our passports, and then we literally had to take the forms out of his hand, and then he said, with a friendly tap on my leg, “give me some money my friend” to which we laughed and said no. He then demanded the forms back, so Cat went back to counter to get more, while I politely continued to refuse to pay him. I think he was swearing at me in his language but at least we’re not 5 euros poorer! We’re getting pretty good at this!



So we sat and watched the ferry unload, it was like something crazy from a movie, it was so good I stopped listening to my ipod and sat and watched as overloaded after overloaded van appeared from the “cruise ship”. I had my suspicions at this stage but from the outside everything looked very “cruise ship”. We should have been clued up by the fact that we were boarding from the freight quay instead of one of the eight passenger quays.

So after a lot of faffing we got sent on board. First impressions were good: they have a nice lift, and we were greeted by well turned-out Italian staff, and sent to our little private room.

But from here it went down hill. We went exploring to see the facilities, and to find the “list of activities” that we were told to look out for. First we came across the pool - well if it’s been open once this year I would call that a lie – netting over it, no water and very dirty; the beauty salon CLOSED and now a junk storage room; the GYM just an empty ROOM; the CASINO is a “D EAM CASI O” and is boarded up (albeit with pretty blue window paper, but closed nonetheless!); the Room Magnificent……. Well if you haven’t got the idea yet then I think you need to go read another blog!!



So with the exception of the crappy self service restaurant, 1 bar area and 1 small very expensive restaurant it was all closed.

But the truth is it was still a very good deal, even if it wasn’t the ship we imagined. We have played monopoly both days (at which I’m the best [yeah, keep dreaming Rixxy!] ) and we have generally just relaxed. The staff are not helpful for anything beyond basic service; the room light is broken; the men’s toilet is shocking; the WIFI does not work – it charges you then takes 40 minutes to load anything – and if you make a complaint you’re met with an apology but once you try to get beyond that they no speak so much englisy. So what you gunna do?!

Anyway into Italy!!
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Old 11-18-2011, 01:50 AM   #15
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The Ride To Berlin Via 5 countires and 2 Animal Stories

So the last week or so has not been as full-on exciting like Morocco, but we have done some amazing rides, been over 5 passes in the alps, and crossed into 5 countries!

We basically sped through Italy to a camp in the Dolomites, then took it easy going off motorway and following the squiggly roads through the Alps.

We love the roads around Austria and Switzerland - if you’re one of my mates and ride a bike, or even if we don’t know each other and you have stumbled across our blog, and you’re having dreams of riding abroad then get on your bike and head down to Austria/Switzerland.



The roads are amazing - you have to be careful or they will catch you out - but they are great, not just from an amazing sweeping corners point of view but from a breath taking scenery point of view.

The passes so high you have to put on jumpers in the middle of summer and once you reach the top of some you get to play in snow! Yes it costs money to get here but yes you can afford it! Stop going to the ace, buying cakes and tea for a month and you will have the money to do it……… you can thank us after!!

The only downside is that Switzerland is VERY VERY expensive: £1.75 a litre for fuel, Cat had to pay a whole euro to pee (she made sure she got her moneys worth though!) and we could not find anywhere to stay for less that £120 per night!


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We had a great ride through Switzerland, but we ended up riding 50km back into Austria where we found a stunning place for £60.00 a night, and it had the most comfy bed I have ever slept in. We woke in the morning to an amazing view of the mountains and not a cloud in the sky.

We had a breakfast, where we sneakily make lunch sandwiches and snuck them out under a jumper before making our slow way to Bodensee Lake in Germany via Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

It was nice to be on the road in good weather but we were both feeling a bit homesick and getting pictures of Wenger was great but left us feeling a bit down in the dumps. So it’s really hit home that we have left and it’s been hard to deal with. We HAVE been having a good time (well cockroaches and dodgy ships aside) and we are enjoying the exploring, but you do miss your bed and home comforts and its starting to sink in that this “holiday” is some what longer then you can initially comprehend!



But we spent the day chatting and sorting our feelings out, and then found a KTM dealer near Bodensee, so we put Kellie in for her first service on the road, and spent 3 nights on the lake, chilling out and planning the next part.



We hired push bikes one day and it was loads of fun! We rode about 22km, Cat is amazing I think she should enter the Tour De France next year. (Haha – not quite! But I really enjoyed being able to stop right up close to the fields to see what’s growing, and testing the apples/strawberries to see if they’re ripe yet.) We stopped off for coffee and OJ in some of the coffee houses in the middle of the forest and we even rode on the gravel roads, the cycle network around here is excellent!!

The bike came back from service in perfect working order, except for a little scare with the coolant level, but a quick call to KTM in Hemel Hempstead solved the problem (air bubbles!).



We packed up and left our campsite around 10am, a little later than planned but hey ho we are in no rush. We headed for our old stomping ground the B500 in Germany’s Black Forest (I know Gaz just broke down and cried at the thought of missing this!)

It had actually changed a fair bit in the little over 12 months since I last visited: there were lots of concrete blocks along the verge which I didn’t think was very biker friendly and they had added LOTS of speed limit signs!!

We stopped at the pub on one of the corners, and we had a great steak lunch, and then programmed the sat nav with a little help of route selection from our german pub owner and headed north as our aim is Berlin.

After a couple of hours we stopped to get some bread rolls and ham and cheese for dinner that night and breakfast. As Cat did the shopping, I played with our route as Cat had been “helping” with a map and we were in a different area than I had planned….

We wanted to wild camp that night, but had trouble finding a place that we thought was secure, but did enjoy riding around the fields and farms looking for somewhere! In the end we used the sat nav to take us to the nearest campsite, but we didn’t like them so we went to the second campsite, and just bedded down for the night.

The following day started off with great roads and twisting corners and forests, but then the rain caught up with us, and we as we were only 300km from Berlin, we thought it safer (and quicker!) to hit the motorway and get straight there. Unfortunately all our gear was soaked when we arrived. We found a hostel who had no availability, but they found a nearby hostel who had one apartment left. As we got the details, Cat asked if there was a Belushi’s/St Christophers in town, as that would be our ideal choice, and the lady said, Yes, This is the one I am sending you to!

So within 20 minutes, we were checked in, our gear spread out in our room drying, and we were in the bar with a beer in our hands!


James the Country Animal Rescuer:

Coming down one of the passes in Swiss, James saw what he thought was a ferret going into a hole by the side of the road. He pointed it out to me and it was a big fluffy tail flicking about.

We stopped by the side to get a photo and thought it was weird that it didn’t disappear in the hole or run away, so we got off the bike and we walked closer to get a picture.

Then we saw a leg poking out and realised it was a fox, and he had obviously got stuck down an overflow pipe after chasing something! He was fully stuck so we waited until he calmed a bit, then J grabbed his back legs and pulled him out and pushed him forward so he would run away rather than attack us.

He ran up the hill and stopped about 10 meters away and looking back a bit confused as to what had happened. We got a couple of pics so you can see for yourself!!


Bees Don’t Like James:

So I’m having an issue with bees.

Yes bees. I got stung for the first time in Morocco. On the bike, helmet visor open, bee got stuck between my face and the side of the helmet and stung me on the side of my face, twice! I was ok after I stopped the bike but it was a bit sore.

Secondly, in Germany I had popped out to get something for the tent and on the way back BAM one got me again, but this bastard hammered me! It hurt so much I was so shocked, I nearly crashed the freakin bike, my face swelled up, my eye went a bit black: it was mental how much this bloody thing hurt!!

So now I’m terrified, riding with the visor shut and if anything hits my helmet I’m over paranoid………. I know what you’re thinking, I was thinking the same thing, at least I wont get stung now! Well I’m not out the woods yet!

A few days later I’m riding along, helmet closed, visor closed and what should manage to squeeze at 60mph between the 1 centimetre gap between my chin and the helmet……… you guessed it, another fucking BEE!! I went into panic stations but lucky got it out before it stung me, and before I crashed the bike. The other car drivers around me must have though I was mental!!

And if that wasn’t enough, I even got attacked for the fourth time in Poland – a bee landed with a WHACK on my arm, and stung my inside elbow through my rukka sleeve!!

WHAT have I done to the world, I ride for 4 YEARS without an incident and now bees seem to have developed the ability to get into every single tiny gap, with super-strength stingers than can penetrate gor-tex! They really have it in for me :(
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