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Old 05-14-2011, 12:42 PM   #1006
Jammin OP
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Originally Posted by Tom-Traveller View Post
Hi Jay
well done ... lucky man
So, you like Egypt .... it`s one of my favourite countries, excellent diving and the landscape
Good luck and safe travels
Thomas & Andrea & Dave
Yup, glad to have the Sudan visa taken care of. Now, just have to see how exiting Egypt is going to be with the expired visa
I'm looking forward to the desert travel coming up
Say hi to Andrea and Dave

Originally Posted by scout57 View Post
wonderfully done I sincerely enjoyed this , looking forward to more....
thanks for the details...
Thanks, more coming...
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

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Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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Old 05-14-2011, 12:46 PM   #1007
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Grimaldi, Part 3: Engine Room and Landing in Europe

March 6 - 14, 2011

From Dakar, we headed up the western coast of North Africa and then rounded Western Europe before sailing through the English Channel for the final leg to Hamburg. It got a lot colder as we moved north and the waters were choppy around France as everyone was in anticipation of getting back on land.

By now, 18 days into the trip, we were well-settled in our routines on board, which was dictated by meal times. Enjoying a conversation with Sandra over some after-meal espresso.

Some of the fish that was caught in Dakar was salted and sun-dried on the top deck.

Mmm, this would make a good snack.

And then, we finally had the fish barbeque, which was delicious.

The officers were out back manning the grill.

They were a friendly bunch and enjoyed sharing this moment with us.

With Chief Engineer Hufalar from The Philippines. When I told him I was from Madras, he said he was in port there on a ship in December 2004, when the Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami struck and his ship was lifted 10 m (33 ft) and dropped back down, but many other ships sustained a lot of damage there. We asked him some questions about the engine and he said the ship carries 3,000 metric tonnes (3,000,000 liters or 792,000 gallons) of heavy fuel oil for the round trip two month journey from Europe and back of 24,000 kms (14,906 mi), which translates 12,500 liters/100km (0.008 kpL, 0.019 mpg). This is a very crude fuel and is highly polluting, but since it's been difficult to pass pollution laws for ships due to their trans-boundary nature, they go on burning this fuel. However, Europe has enacted very strict laws regarding pollution, so the ship also carries 400 mt of light fuel oil for burning when they enter European ports. There's also 100 mt of gas oil on board, which is slightly heavier than diesel, for all the heavy machinery that is used in moving the containers around. The Chief Engineer was also delaying on giving us a tour of the engine room, so we pushed him on that.

A world map highlighting the regions that have increased air pollution due to ships. The heavy fuel oil (bunker oil) is not controlled by any regulation for its particulate emissions and us passengers felt a bit guilty seeing the thick black smoke bellowing out of the ship's chimney stack as we used its dirty services. It would be simple to throw a filter on their to reduce the amount of particulates being ejected out, but this would reduce performance slightly and no one has been able to pass such global regulation. However, each region can set its own rules, as Europe has done, and with climate change mitigation becoming a reality across many industries, it's only a matter of time before cargo ships have to shape up and do their part to reduce their carbon footprint.

For some reason, I didn't take too many shots of the food, but it was mostly very good. This is some breaded steak (like a milanesa) with green beans. After pigging out the first two weeks, we all slowly started refusing the second course of meat. We knew we had to get accustomed to normal eating quantities as we would be getting back on land soon and feeding ourselves. An interesting point about meal times was that we had to sit in the same seat for every meal. In the first few meals, we all shuffled around to get to know everyone, but Franchesco didn't like this since he wanted to pre-place our drink orders and forbade us from moving around. The ship certainly likes its order.

There were TVs in our room that were meant for capturing over-the-air channels when we got into European waters and after we got near France, we could get BBC World News. I was fine without internet access for so long on board, but was starving for world news. The first day was just the usual news reports, but the next morning, March 11, brought news of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan. I was glued to the TV from then on as this incident was slowing playing out in real time. When people in Tokyo complained of experiencing motion sickness due to the 6 minute long quake, we could relate, as the ship was swaying quite a lot in the stormy waters off France. It was also a strange feeling to be out on the high seas, albeit on the other side of the planet, in a different ocean, as the tsunami was rapidly spreading across the Pacific. It took about 22 hours to reach Chile. Klaus managed to capture the moment when the Fukushima 1 reactor exploded due to a build up of hydrogen inside the damaged nuclear reactor. The Japanese people are resilient and I wish them strength as they climb out of this massive disaster.

As 'Fukushima' was becoming a common household name, the Grande Francia passed through the English Channel. We had also crossed the Prime Meridian the day before and were now officially in the Eastern Hemisphere of the planet.

The White Cliffs of Dover across the channel on England's southeastern coast. The South Foreland lighthouse can be seen on top of the 100 m (330 ft) high cliffs of chalk, which are the compacted skeletal remains of millions of single-celled planktonic algae. The cliffs have stood as a symbolic guard to England through the ages of attack from continental Europe.

Looking the other way at Cap Gris Nez, near Calais in France. The English Channel is at its narrowest between Dover and Calais, with only 34 kms (21 mi) of water separating the British Isles from Continental Europe.

The channel connects the North Sea to the Atlantic and is a very busy shipping lane, as is evident by the close proximity to this MSC container ship.

During the entire trip, it was reassuring to see how safety-minded the crew was.

And finally, we got our tour of the engine room.

Looking down at the top of the eight in-line cylinders of the diesel engine that's...

...made by Sulzer, a Swizz company. The model number is 8 S20 U and it's maximum power is 1,280 kilowatts (1,715 horsepower) at 900 RPMs. It was made in 2001. It doesn't seem like that much power for moving such a huge ship, but it gets the job done. Sulzer have been in business since 1834 and a certain Rudolf Diesel worked for them, leading to their first diesel engine in 1898.

The sounds emanating from this mechanical symphony were astounding. However, I must say I was expecting the cylinders to be much larger. Ok, each cylinder could fit a man in there, but I had this image (I think from the Titanic movie) of room-sized pistons moving up and down, which was ill-placed.

Some spare parts (left to right): piston, cylinder head and cylinder liner. Looks like the stroke (the distance the piston moves up and down) is much larger than the bore (the diameter of the piston) and this ratio would produce much higher torque than horsepower, which is what a diesel engine on a ship would need to do. To distinguish between torque and horsepower, to me, torque is more relevant at low speeds to get things moving and horsepower is more relevant at high speeds to keep things moving.

The engine is on remote control (comando a distanza), meaning the engine is being controlled from the bridge. Wonderful to see such huge, manual levers.

More than an engine room, this is a cathedral for mechanically-oriented people. The engine spanned three floors.

Chief Engineer Hufalar giving us the tour of his control room. I tried to find out some more details on the engine, but could not get from him the capacity of each cylinder. Regardless, he was very eager to show how all the controls worked and even started and shut down a generator from his touch screen just to show us.

Filipinos are known to be highly religious and besides the good people at Rolls-Royce Power Systems, El Cristo is also looking over them.

While the engine spins in the hundreds of RPMs, the output/propeller shaft is geared down to spin in the tens of RPMs. During the Brazil-Dakar leg, we were on time and had enough days to cruise at the slower speed of 13.5 knots (25 kph, 15.5 mph) to save fuel and the output shaft was spinning at 89 RPM. After the two day delay in Dakar, the ship had to step it up to still make it on time to Europe and the propeller shaft increased ever so slightly to be now spinning at 93.4 RPM. That translated to 17 knots (31.5 kph, 19.5 mph) and now we could feel the engine vibrations throughout the ship. On the Atlantic crossing, it was smooth as glass. It was amazing how such small differences in speed are highly relevant when the size of the object and the distances covered are enormous. When cruising at 25 kph, we were covering 600 kms (373 mi) per day and now at 31.5 kph, we were covering 750 kms (466) per day, since the engine is running 24 hours a day. The second readout on the display is the amount of torque being applied through the shaft of 293.8 kilonewton metres (216,296 foot pounds). Now, that's what I'm talking about! For comparison, your average car puts out around 150 ft-lbs. This makes logical sense, because to move such a huge object, it's all about the torque. The third readout is the amount of power being produced by the engine of 2,873 kilowatts (3,851 hp), which I don't fully understand as it's more than double the amount stated on the engine plate, but perhaps the engine has been upgraded. The last readout is of energy, which is power produced over time (or work done) of 8,337.5 megawatt-hours

Control board showing that the engine was being controlled by commands from the bridge, instead of directly from the engine room's controls.

A reminder on when to use the booster pump; must be like a turbocharger. It probably kicks in when we cross 90 RPM.

I wonder what the third item from the bottom refers too... (joking aside, it reads Sea Chest)

This is after all just another office desk, albeit one that controls a massive engine plowing through the oceans.

Andres, sitting at one end of the control desk, was in charge of all the electronic components related to the engine. He was a cadet, in training to become Chief Engineer.

The massive propeller shaft coming out from the engine and spinning at a stately speed with copious amounts of torque.

The shaft going out the back of the ship and working round-the-clock to propel us ever forward.

The Chief Engineer was delaying our engine room tour because he was still cleaning up some oil spills. A few days earlier, the ship came to a stop out in the open water for a few hours and later we found out that the increased vibrations from the higher speed after Dakar had cracked a bolt that held an oil filter in place and oil was spewing out. They fixed the issue, but had a big cleanup task. After that, there were two more engine stops and I was impressed that we still made it on time with those issues.

Another piece of information that I couldn't glean from the Chief Engineer was how long was it between oil changes. It's obviously a very large quantity of oil that lubricates the internal parts of the engine and it sounded like the oil was never changed or maybe only at a major servicing. He said oil samples were periodically submitted to a laboratory to inspect the condition of the oil and I couldn't get an answer to what happens when the oil is no longer suitable. I think the lubricating oil is slowly consumed by the engine and it's constantly being replaced.

One fact to appreciate while being on board was that the engine never stopped running (except for those 3 unexpected incidents), as even when it's not providing forward momentum, it has to run the generators to provide electricity and desalinate seawater. Once the ship is in service, it's constantly running back and forth along its route with periodical crew changes. If the ship is ever docked for maintenance, it's losing money and thus, I'm still wondering when the oil is changed in this engine.

Engine art. Looking at the back side of the cylinder bank.

A crew member painting a part of the engine.

More engine art. Huge plumbing and joints.

Another crew member down in a nook, painting over some of the ugly parts.

The front of this hard-working Sulzer 8 S20 U.

A gauge in the engine room indicating that we were cruising somewhere between 'slow' and 'half' speed. I love how 'dead slow' is a proper speed. With the vibrations we were experiencing at just this speed, I can't imagine what full speed feels like. The engine probably shakes itself loose from the ship.

Käthi having a go at covering up some of the recent mess with new paint.

A huge engine has huge nuts and bolts and along with that comes a set of huge wrenches.

The Chief Engineer in the machine shop, where replacement pieces can be made to specification.

A tool board with mega-sized wrenches.

That's a 105 mm and 90 mm wrench. Wow. The biggest I use on my bike is a 24 mm for the rear axle nut. That concluded the engine room tour and we thanked the chief for showing us how the ship locomotes through the oceans.

Walking around the ship, I captured a few more shots of my time on board. Deck 6 and the access to where our vehicles were kept.

Checking up on sanDRina and her enormous deck mate. This would be the longest time that I've been off the bike on this trip and I was wondering how riding off the ship would feel like after being at sea for close to four weeks.

The stairwell, descending down into the depths of the Grande Francia.

Just so you know. Also, alcohol is banned for the crew members when they're on board, because an emergency situation could arise at any moment and that's why sailors love shore leave; time to booze up.

Looking out the porthole of the door I went thru to get outside on deck. They're sealed shut when the weather gets nasty outside, which was mainly cold winds as we went around Europe.

The hallways are lined with all sort of charts with information on the ship. As an engineer, I spent quite a while examining all of them, as it was part of my previous job to produce such prints.

Charts detailed all levels of the ship and it was interesting to see where all the fuel was stored, which was in the bottom-most level and along the sides.

An external view of the ship.

Laundry room for the crewmen. The passengers and officers had their own laundry machine and as we neared the end of the journey, I reorganized all my belongings and washed everything possible.

The on board gym, which had some weights, a resistance machine and a cycling workout. There was also foosball and table tennis, which Klaus and I played a game of everyday at 3 pm to break up the afternoon and get the blood flowing.

The computer room where we were allowed to send one email a day with a limit of 2 kilobytes. They stressed that we were not allowed to attach any pictures or include the original message in our replies as they are paying a hefty rate per kilobyte of data sent via the satellite linkup. The communication link is mainly to keep the head office in Naples in constant contact with its ships, to inform them of cargo pickup and drop off. It was nice of them to even offer this to us as it was a vital connection to the outside world in this day and age of internet communications. That's the only thing I missed after about two weeks on board. I think I could've gone for a longer journey if more access to the net was possible. This was the longest time I've ever been off line. I can see satellite data connection becoming cheaper in the future and it's only a matter of time before we can roam the planet with a decent connection to our second life on the net.

The skies changed as we cruised around Europe and it was much more overcast and gloomy. I couldn't spend as much time outside compared to the beginning of the trip.

One last safety drill before docking in Germany.

This time the crew simulated a fire in this control room on the top deck.

A day before landing in Hamburg, we woke up to this eerie sight of wind turbines sticking up through a thick layer of fog and rows of white cars. This is Emden, the westernmost city on the German coast with Holland just across the border.

Rows upon rows of white-clad cars ready to be shipped.

Nice, clean panniers, after hauling dust and grime from all over South America. Tomorrow we would be getting down and I repacked all of my belongings.

These are all my clothes, that consists of one pair of pants (that zip-off into shorts), sleeping shorts, 2 boxers, 5 t-shirts, 3 sets of base layers (for wearing under the outer riding gear) and two sets of increasing thickness thermals, along with 3 pairs of increasing thickness socks (natural silk, regular and smart wool). It's been good to see that this amount of clothing has been comfortable enough to live with for this past year. However, if I stay in one place for more than a week, I'm left wanting for more tops to not feel socially awkward. So, the trick is to keep moving and no one notices.

All the clothes are packed in vacuum travel bags that squeeze out the air and compress the volume taken up. These bags are fragile, so I reinforced them with a roll of clear, plastic tape and they've been effective since São Luís in Brazil, which was about 6 months ago. I buy them from this eBay retailer in South Korea who ships a set of 4 of them for $10 (price went up to $12 now) with worldwide shipping included (except Africa). With the air squeezed out, it also lightens up the load, since air has weight and this all fits in my right pannier along with my toiletry/daily chargers bag, water filter and a tool bag.

The four vacuum bags above fit into two large liner bags (like the one on the left) and then I have these four packing cubes for miscellaneous tools and spares, including my medical kit, an emergency meal, multimeter, zip-ties, spark plugs, spare fuel hose, etc. These bags are great since they allow for different configurations inside the panniers and their elongated shape allows me to pull out just what I need, staying organized while on the road. I bought them from eBags.

My original air compressor rusted due to a water leak and I picked up this spare in Argentina, but didn't have the time till now to strip it down to bike-travel mode. Remove the screws and...

...with the plastic housing discarded, this is all you need, the actual compressor, which is very small and fits in the cap of one of my mega tool tubes. You can buy these compressors from any auto parts store and they are quite durable if you take care of them. They make adjusting the tires to the appropriate air pressures for the conditions a breeze.

Clearing out and discarding stuff, I left behind my Lonely Planet South America on a Shoestring and Latin American Spanish phrasebook on the ship, for southbound travelers heading that way. This was a good guide and I like the books Lonely Planet puts out, especially because they have lots of detailed maps from regions down to cities and some information on road conditions between towns. However, it should be noted that this is a 'guide' and not a 'travel bible'. I take what they say in there as a suggestion and then see what it's really like on the ground. Most of the time, it's accurate. It is primarily geared for backpackers taking buses and I even wrote to them suggesting that I could help them make a motorcycle edition with more information on border crossings and motorcycle-friendly lodging and recommended mechanics, but they turned me down. Alisa (MotoAdventureGal) had a good idea about adding a small motorcycle logo next to lodging that had space to park a bike (like a courtyard). However, I think we're too small a market for them to care. The phrasebook was also highly useful. After listening to the language lessons from Michel Thomas, I would then use the phrasebook as I was walking around and this helped me to pick up the language. I also used their Brazilian Portuguese phrasebook and now have one for all of Africa with a little bit on 13 different languages.

In the afternoon, the fog cleared and now wind turbines were visible into the horizon.

Emden is a small town and its biggest employer is this huge Volkswagen plant, which was setup here in 1964 to take advantage of being on the westernmost port of Germany for the shortest route possible for exports, making this one of the three main ports for car shipping in Europe.

Besides the Volkswagen brand, the company owns Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini, SEAT and Škoda. Here, newly finished Audi A4s, covered in a protective wrapping, await shipment to foreign destinations.

New Porsche 911s, Cayennes and the 4-door Panamera saloon, ready to keep the German export-oriented economy going strong as emerging markets increase their demand of high quality German automobiles. I've been a BMW (car) fan since a young age and had an old 325i and the new Mini Cooper, so I see where the reputation comes from. Even with a relatively small population of around 81 million, Germany is now the world's second largest exporter, behind China and they didn't feel the blow that other western economies experienced during the recent financial crisis.

Pushing off from Emden, after a search by the Zoll (German customs in the orange van) of our rooms and our vehicles as this was our first port of call in Europe. They weren't really that nice and all the passengers said it was a rude welcome to Europe. They came into our rooms and asked, "Anything to declare? Cigarettes, alcohol, marijuana?" Then they searched our vehicles in the hold and said we would be called back down if the dogs smelled anything funny. I was worried about the spices, but all was good.

The pilot boat coming alongside...

...and steaming out of Emden, around the north coast of Germany for one last night on board the Grande Francia.

I enjoyed this journey on board a cargo ship for 26 days. I especially liked the part about sleeping in the same bed for more than a week and having my own room for these days, as privacy is a luxury when traveling like I do, staying frequently with others. I cherished the small things like being able to put things on the small table next to the bed and not having to worry about packing up all my things every morning. However, I felt refreshed now and it was back to living on the road. Europe and Africa lay ahead.

Last dinner on board and this group of passengers were good company, making the voyage enjoyable. We shared lots of stories of our travels, along with photo slideshows and videos. The French couple helped me practice my French and Jean was a friendly American to connect with. The Europeans gave me some tips about what to expect from driving in Europe and I was happy to share some Indian cooking with them.

I was excited about this ship journey before my trip even began and I wasn't let down. It's a unique experience and a thrilling way to travel slowly in this age of instant everything. The 12,000 km (7,453 mi) journey from Buenos Aires to Hamburg took 26 days and called in to 5 ports along the way, giving us a glimpse into the freigther side of our modern world. We crossed from 34 degrees south and 58 degrees west to 53 degrees north and 10 degrees east, traversing across a huge swathe of the planet. I'll be looking for further freighter travel in the future.
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

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Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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Old 05-14-2011, 03:38 PM   #1008
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Thanks for the tour of the engine area. Very interesting
It gives BIG a different perspective.
I hope you continue to have a safe and exciting trip.
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Old 05-14-2011, 06:00 PM   #1009
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Great write-up Jay.

I work in the aviation world, but much prefer to travel by boat. Way more relaxing and enjoyable than flying.
Not All Who Wander Are Lost
Make stupid catchphrases your favorite! -- LitteWan
The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a flat tire
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Old 05-16-2011, 03:54 PM   #1010
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Originally Posted by DIESELWRENCH View Post
Thanks for the tour of the engine area. Very interesting
It gives BIG a different perspective.
I hope you continue to have a safe and exciting trip.
Yeah, it's amazing how large we can make things and how beautifully it can function at any scale.

Originally Posted by WOXOF View Post
Great write-up Jay
I work in the aviation world, but much prefer to travel by boat. Way more relaxing and enjoyable than flying.
Thx! Yeah, even after this 26 day journey, I'd do it again, but you do need time :)


Wonderful evening steeping into the culture of Old Cairo. This is a performance of Tanoura, an Egyptian folk dance with Sufi roots. The men keep spinning non-stop for about 20 minutes with different dance acts going on around them accompanied by good beats from a variety of drums. They do this to get into a trance-like state to get closer to their god. It's quite captivating.
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

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Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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Old 05-17-2011, 12:11 PM   #1011
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Love the boat part of the report. Fascinating part of the journey. Thanks for sharing that too.
RISK: "The loftier your goals, the higher your risk, the greater your glory."
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Old 05-17-2011, 01:57 PM   #1012
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It looks like there are 2 types of oil used, one is for lubricating the pistons and gets used up by the combustion, and the other is for the crankcase and gears and is isolated from the combustion products so it lasts a long time. You probably could not get a straight answer about the oil change interval because it is highly dependent on the operation of the engines.

Lubricating Oil Maintenance and Treatment

The lubricating oil should be sampled at least every 3000 running hours, or 2 to 3 times-a-year. Samples
should be taken from the specially fitted sampling cock while the engine is running, or the oil is still hot.
The quantity of oil in circulation should be the same each time a sample is taken. Samples must be well
labelled, representative of the complete oil charge in circulation and should not be contaminated after
being drawn. The sample cock should be purged, a one litre sample drawn during a period of 10 minutes,
the sample mixed thoroughly and decanted into a sampling bottle.

The additive and wear metal content and the degree of contamination by fuel can also be determined.
The significance of the analysis results is best assessed if they are considered as a whole and in relation
to the past analytical history of the lubricating oil. The correct interpretation of an oil trend requires a
knowledge of the specific lubricating oil consumption, the fuel oil type and how the lubricating oil is

The condition of the lubricating oil depends on the amount of lubricating oil in circulation. The level of the
main lubricating oil tank should be kept within a range of 70% to 90%, and with no more than 10% of the
charge replenished at any one time.

In the course of time even the best quality lubricating oil shows signs of deterioration in condition due to
ageing, oxidation and contamination caused by the working conditions, in such a way that a change of the
oil charge is necessary. However it is not possible to give a fixed interval for this purpose since this is
influenced by the operating conditions and the efficiency of the lubricating oil treatment.
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Old 05-20-2011, 09:20 PM   #1013
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Originally Posted by Jammin View Post
Yup, glad to have the Sudan visa taken care of. Now, just have to see how exiting Egypt is going to be with the expired visa
I'm looking forward to the desert travel coming up
Say hi to Andrea and Dave

Thanks, more coming...

Hey Jay, still in Egypt or left with the expired visa !

Dave left already, too ... and we are preparing / leaving today for Sardegna
Finally, a 2 week vacation

take care and watch out for donkeys on the road
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Old 05-21-2011, 02:23 PM   #1014
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Originally Posted by WilderRider View Post
Love the boat part of the report. Fascinating part of the journey. Thanks for sharing that too.
Yeah, the water voyages have been very interesting so far on this trip and maybe there'll be a few more...

Originally Posted by WarLlama View Post
It looks like there are 2 types of oil used, one is for lubricating the pistons and gets used up by the combustion, and the other is for the crankcase and gears and is isolated from the combustion products so it lasts a long time. You probably could not get a straight answer about the oil change interval because it is highly dependent on the operation of the engines.
Thanks for providing that info. It clears things up. Yeah, didn't think it would be easily correlated to changing the oil in a bike/car, but fascinating to see how things happen when it's on such a large scale. I still want to see room size pistons

Originally Posted by Tom-Traveller View Post
Hey Jay, still in Egypt or left with the expired visa !
Dave left already, too ... and we are preparing / leaving today for Sardegna
Finally, a 2 week vacation
take care and watch out for donkeys on the road
Hey Thomas,
I'm still in Cairo, moving very slowly I figure the visa's already expired, so what's the big deal
Ive been doing some more bike maintenance stuff, things I didnt get done at your place (due to the spark plug issue). Also, waiting till Tuesday to do a phone interview with this radio show back in the States. Need a reliable net connection for that.
Good to hear Dave is on the move again. And you guys as well for the test run with the new Katooms. Hope all goes well. Say hi to Andrea. Tell her I slept in the tent and am very thankful for her patchwork
Donkeys and crazy minivan drivers


I got a new windshield made here in Cairo, at the recommended mechanic's shop of Mohammed Anwar. He's a great resource for big bikes and did fantastic work for me.
I installed the Loobman Chainoiler and got a new chainguard made to catch the oil spray.
Also installed some sponsored Ricor Intiminator inertia valves for the front forks and Vibranators to reduce vibrations in the handle bar. Bike already feels much better with the Intiminator, more responsive.
Did some things that have been on the back-burner for a while, like moving the auxillary LED lights to a switched circuit so that they shut off with the ignition (if you remember, after the Centech stopped working in Peru, I wired all the important things directly to the battery with inline fuses, but no switching). So, glad to finally get that done.
Fixed a small issue with a loose connection for the Stebel horn. It's working again, but doesnt sound like when it was new.
Also welded a wide foot plate to the new ManRacks Adjustable Sidestand.

The permanent spark plug feels tight in there, so looks like it's holding. All the gaskets I replaced in Switzerland at Thomas' place also fixed all the various little leaks around the engine. I'm feeling good about the bike.

Awesome day playing in the sand dunes outside Cairo today. Went with Bisso, a Cairene CS offroader in his Jeep Cherokee for a rally training course in 'dune bashing', speeding up and over huge, steep dunes. Was fun to be flying over the sand. Enjoyed climbing up them. This picture is from the highest dune in the area, which was surrounded by hard, flat desert stretching into the horizon.

J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website:
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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Old 05-22-2011, 03:31 AM   #1015
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Europe, Part 1: Autobahn into Paris

March 16 - April 3, 2011

Riding in the Old World. I wasn't planning to pass through Europe on my trip and I thought I could go from South America to North Africa directly. However, plans changed with Grimaldi, the shipping company, and now I was in one of the most developed parts of the world. Having ridden through the 'New World' of the Americas, it would be good to see the land of the old colonial powers, especially since I would be heading into Africa, where their legacy is still strong.

Once I got rolling on the ground, I thought this would be a short transit through Europe after collecting my Moroccan visa in Paris and then heading for West Africa. However, the visa rules were very strict and I was refused, unless I applied from my home country. This changed all the plans for Africa and I rerouted the trip, heading to Egypt and the east side of Africa. Due to the waiting game with the Moroccan embassy, applying for a new passport (since I was out of pages) and then updating my carnet de passage for Egypt, I ended up spending more than a month in Paris, catching up on my website and other tasks.

Rolling on the ground on the third continent of this trip. Käthi and Michael in their LandRover Defender traveled with me on the ship from Buenos Aires, after finishing a two year trip through the Americas. They were heading back home to Switzerland and offered to help me get my bearings of riding in Europe, after we got out of the customs area in Hamburg. Surprisingly, we didn't have to do any paperwork for the vehicles. We asked in two different offices in the port and they didn't know what to do with us and just sent us out. I didn't even get a stamp in my passport. What a contrast from traveling through developing countries. They said the big red box on top with the Swiss flag got them waived through a lot of checkpoints, since they were mistaken for a medical vehicle, like the Red Cross, but that's a white cross.

Parking on the sidewalk; I was going to have to get used to the more relaxed approach to two-wheelers in Europe compared to the US.

Before I boarded the ship in Buenos Aires, Thomas, a bike traveler from Switzerland who was following my ride report on ADVrider, put me in touch with Michael Happe, who runs the website for a regional motorcycle forum (, dedicated to enduro riding in northern Germany, and I asked him to help me out in getting some new tires for sanDRina.

Within a few hours of getting down from the ship, sanDRina was being pushed into Jens' garage. He's a friend of Michael's, who recently opened an online off-road store ( and got the tires for me and had all the tools needed.

Jens and Michael working the new bead breaker. Jens was happy to put his new equipment through the paces. I ordered the Heidenau Scout K60 tires after reading lots of glowing reviews. Besides the deep 50/50 tread, it's been said to be really long wearing, which would be highly important, considering that getting tires for my kind of bike will be difficult in Africa. I was saving the Kenda K270 that I was carrying from Bolivia for the rough roads expected further into Africa. I mounted the Heidenau here since I knew there would be a lot of tarmac riding coming up and that too at high speeds, to keep up with traffic around Europe, and the Kenda needs to be treated nicely (slow speeds) at the beginning to ensure a long life.

The bald Pirelli MT 60 that was being replaced after 13,000 kms (8,075 mi) of rough riding from Santa Cruz, Bolivia down Ruta 40 to Ushuaia. The tire performed well and is available throughout South America, but it is a bit soft and didn't last as long as I would've liked. However, lots of riding at low pressure over gravel, sand and rocky roads definitely ate into the tire's life.

I also replaced the cush drive rubber inserts, which dampen the vibration between the rear sprocket and the wheel. They were rock hard and I think they contributed to my rear wheel bearing failure near Ushuaia.

Jens balancing the front wheel, which was a treat for sanDRina, since the wheels have not been balanced since I got the bike. I always made sure to balance the wheels on my previous street bike (GSX-R600), but didn't think it was as important on a dual sport.

Replacing this spacer and dust seal, which got damaged while repairing the first rear wheel bearing failure in Peru. I got all these parts shipped to me in a care package to Buenos Aires (thanks to my sister!).

Checking the clearance between the new Heidenau and the swingarm. The stock rear tire on the DR650 is 120 mm wide, but most people run 130 tires. The Heidenau comes in a 130 version, but the tread and compound of this 140 model is far superior and I was glad to see it fit nicely. Let's see if I can get more than 15,000 kms (9,300 mi) from this tire.

Thanking Jens and Michael for their super help in giving sanDRina some new shoes. It always a pleasure to experience the camaraderie that exists amongst bikers the world over.

I stayed the night with Michael, who was prepping his Honda Africa Twin in the garage for some enduro riding coming up in Sweden.

It was very cold in the morning, around 1 C (34 F) as I got rolling towards Paris, 940 kms (584 mi) away. I wanted to get there as soon as possible to figure out my visa for Morocco.

I did the Hamburg to Paris leg in one day, after being on a ship for a month. It was reassuring to see how easily sanDRina and I could switch on and do a high mileage day. Click on it to go to the interactive version in Google Maps.

Thanks to Michael who took these nice shots on his way to work after pointing me in the right direction.

Michael also helped out tremendously by giving me the GPS maps for Europe, which made navigation a breeze in my travels around the continent.

Thanks for the good help, Michael. Onwards to Paris.

I was super excited to finally be riding the German Autobahn, the standard against which all the motorways of the world are compared to. Of course, I wish I had my sport bike to truly appreciate it. It's famous for not having a blanket speed limit, all though about a third of it now has permanent limits around urban areas. The fact that road accidents are comparable or even less that motorways in other western countries (4.5 fatalities per billion vehicle kilometers in the US compared to 2.2 on the Autobahn) is a feather in the cap of speed lovers as we can site the Autobahn as a reference where good driving skills and strict enforcement of safety laws is much better than conservative speed limits, like in the United States.

The overpass; the brilliant idea of grade separation, where one axis of transportation flies over the path of another axis at a junction to ensure unhindered mobility. Before the Autobahn, all junctions were intersections, which are considered at-grade (meaning at the same level) and this simple idea transformed the concept of roads. It is also now universally recognized as the symbol for limited-access motorways the world over. The overpass meant that traffic joining a motorway had to 'ramp' up to speed before entering and ramp down while exiting. We take these facets for granted living in a modern world, but it was only a few decades ago when these ideas were major breakthroughs in traffic management.

I was so pleased to be amongst drivers with a very high level of discipline for road manners, owing to the strict and arduous process of getting a German driving license. Everyone was cruising in the right lane and only using the left for overtaking. They strictly followed the rule of no overtaking on the right (referred to as 'undertaking'), which is considered dangerous. This rule also exists on the US Interstate system, but is hardly enforced, leading to a culture of zig-zagging around traffic, which I admit was great fun on my sport bike. There are unmarked police cars and motorbikes on the Autobahn equipped with video cameras to aid in enforcement of these rules. Tailgating is also strictly enforced, along with faster drivers being too aggressive with slower ones. I was cruising around 110 kph (68 mph) and had to twist the throttle a bit more when overtaking the numerous trucks on the Autobahn, to ensure that I wasn't going to be run over by some speeding BMW in the left lane.

Cruising in the right lane, freezing with the low temperatures, my spirits (of being an automotive enthusiast) were uplifted seeing the multitude of high speed German automobiles bahn-storming by in the left lane. This is after all the homeland of BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Porsche, which were more than 60% of the cars that I saw on the Autobahn. Too bad the auto-capture mode on the GoPro only caught this Volkswagen Passat Wagon whizzing by. However, it illustrates the majority of the car types that I saw: station wagons. This shape is not popular in the US, even being looked down on and to fill their need for space, the cumbersome SUV is the accepted shape. In Europe, they're generally more practical and fuel conscious and this shows through with their love of the station wagon. I can see now why BMW makes an M5 Touring, a station wagon with 500 horsepower.

I was wearing my maximum protection against the cold and managed to do at least 200 kms (124 mi) between breaks, since this was a high-mileage day. Criss crossing the US, I learned to pay attention to overall average speed and used the estimated-time-of-arrival readout from my Garmin 60Cx GPS to gauge my breaks and the time spent running warm water over my fingers to bring the blood back. I installed heated grips but couldn't use them since the switch was broken in the accident from Bolivia and I never got around to fixing it.

As I got near Cologne, it finally started warming up and the terrain got a bit hilly, compared to the flat riding through northern Germany. An indication of the high quality of German automobiles is the higher octane petrol that they need with 95 being the lowest grade (with 10% ethanol), going up to 98 (5% ethanol) and 102, which could be considered race gas in the US. This is why Europeans are so worried about the fuel quality in the Americas. What will they do with 86 octane fuel? I also wanted to avoid riding through Europe on this trip due to the high cost of petrol here. At €1.50/L (US$8.12/gal), it's one of the most expensive prices for petrol in the world. About two-thirds of the price is government taxes. This is done to encourage public transportation use, which is generally one of the best in the world and it also encourages the use of smaller-engined cars that have better fuel efficiency. Due to its slightly lower price, diesel-engined cars are very popular and make up about 50% of all personal automobiles. The fun thing about modern diesel cars is that they produce more torque than horsepower, which is more usable around a city and torque is fun! The old image of dirty diesels has been replaced with cleaner burning fuel sippers.

Taking a break in a roadside park after crossing into Belgium. Due to the lack of borders between countries in the Schengen Area, there was hardly a notice indicating that I had entered a new sovereign nation. However, I did note the reduction in high end German automobiles and also the driving manners slowly deteriorated as I headed west. By the time I got to France, it was only Renaults, Citroëns and Peugeots who were cutting back really close to me after overtaking, compared to ample space given on the Autobahn. Besides the no speed limit factor, the Autobahn trumps the motorways of other European countries by being toll-free (along with the BeNeLux countries). I paid a hefty toll of $11 for the last 220 kms (137 mi) into Paris on the French Autoroute and vowed not to take anymore toll roads through Europe.

I navigated the streets of Paris and rolled up through this typically narrow Parisienne street to the apartment of a good friend, Vincent, in the 6th arrondisement (district).

Vince and Agnes (pronounced An-yeah) taking me out for a sushi dinner, which I haven't had since leaving Chicago. Vince and I used to work together and became good friends over lots of ski trips. He and I were the most adventurous of our group of friends and we would head out for all the double blacks. He's from Nice, in the south of France and has been skiing since he was 5. After Chicago, he moved to Paris and met Agnes, a lawyer.

Mmm, so much salmon and tuna. I did have some sushi when I was in Picinguaba, on the coast of southern Brazil, but it wasn't as colorful as this.

Vince had a really nice apartment, referred to as a 'flat' outside the US, but in accordance with the high property values of living in the city of Paris, most people can only afford so-called 'shoe-box' flats. This is half the flat with a bedroom on the other side. Lots of charm with the wooden rafters, and sufficient for one or two people.

Vince was in the heart of the city, close to the grand Église Saint-Sulpice, with only Notre-Dame being slightly bigger. This church was built over a long period of time and was completed in 1870, but soon after, the northern tower (on the left) was damaged by Prussian shelling. You can see they look different as the northern tower was designed by Jean-François Chalgrin and the southern tower by Oudot de Maclaurin, which was never finished for the lack of funds and the start of the French Revolution. Restoring the northern tower was undertaken by many people over the years since the damage, but only with a serious effort from the local government in the last ten years, did it finally get done properly, opening to the public in 2010. The church is also well-known due to Dan Brown's novel of The Da Vinci Code, where the gnomon (astronomical solar indicator) in the church was referred to as the 'rose line'.

The beautiful staircase leading up to Vince's flat. Most buildings in Paris are either four to six stories high and there are no elevators, except in some modern, high-end buildings. Vince and I were supposed to meet our friend, Ian, from Chicago, for a short trip to Morocco, but with my visa taking much longer to approve, I could not go and meet Ian who was bringing a huge care package for me with spare parts for the bike and most importantly, a new Canon 50D SLR camera. But Vince went and brought me these goodies. I sent my old Konica-Minolta 5D SLR back to the US as I decided it was time to upgrade. I got lenses to cover a wide range from a Sigma 10-20mm ultra wide to a Tamron 18-270mm tele-zoom, along with a Canon 50mm fixed lens. I wont be able to use the SLR for all the pictures, as it's impractical, so my Canon SD940 point and shoot will be taking most of the shots.

Entrance to Vince's building. I had this image (from movies, like Before Sunset) of Parisienne apartment buildings with a courtyard in the middle and here I was.

Vince, surfing his couch in the streets of Paris. Agnes was moving in and I helped out with the furniture hauling.

The narrow Rue Servandoni, wide-enough for just one car with protection for the pedestrians.

On Sundays, the thing to do in Paris is have a huge brunch and then go for a walk in a park. Some delicious French bread with a healthy spread of butter to go along with...

...a variety of tasty French dishes: Salmon Roulade with cream cheese and herbs, muffin cake, fruit salad, fromage frais (fresh country cheese, similar to Indian curd) along with hot chocolate.

The heavy brunch was followed with a stroll through nearby Jardin du Luxembourg, the second largest park in the city, a place of tranquility from the busy streets outside. It was built with direction from Marie de Medicis, the widow of Henry IV, from the year 1611 onwards.

The park has over a hundred statues and Vince pointed out this first model of the Statue of Liberty, which was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi in 1870 before the full size version was erected in New York Harbor in 1886.

Men playing a round of boules, a French ball game, in the grounds of the park. They try to get a series of heavy, metal balls as close to a target as possible. Everyone was armed with a tape measure.

An 1870 bronze sculpture of a lion and his ostrich prey, called 'Lion de Nubie et sa proie' by Auguste Cain.

La fontaine Médicis, one of the first features of the park, designed by Tomasso Francini, who was brought in from Florence, where the patron Marie de Medici was from. The fountain was built in 1630, but degraded over the years and then Napoleon Bonaparte had Jean-François Chalgrin restore it in 1811. Along with work on St. Sulpice, Chalgrin is most noted as the architect of the Arc de Triomphe.

Seeing as I had to wait for about three weeks to get an answer from the Moroccan embassy whether I would be granted a visa or not, I gave Vince and Agnes their space and surfed a few couches around Paris. I left the bike safely at Vince's work garage outside the city. This is Florence, whom I met at a CouchSurfing meeting in Buenos Aires, a couple months ago, and I contacted her once I got here and she invited me to stay for a while. She's very active in the Paris CS community and was in the midst of planning the biggest CS gathering in the world, which happens every summer in Paris, the city with the largest number of resident CouchSurfers. We had lots of good talks around her kitchen table. She comes from a small town on the way to Lyon and works at a private bank here.

Florence lived near Gare du Nord (the main railway station) and her flat was conveniently located right above Madras Cafe. This part of the city is known as Litte Jaffna, due to the presence of a strong Tamil community from Sri Lanka, who were granted asylum during the 1980s when the civil war was raging back home there. I come from Madras (Chennai), just across the Gulf of Mannar from Sri Lanka and whilst we are both Tamil people, our culture is quite different, including the language. Even if they're Sri Lankan, restaurants usually get Indian names, since they're considered to be more easily recognizable. In the same vein, most of the Indian restaurants in the world are run by Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and even a few Indians.

Right next door was Saravanaa Bhavan, a chain of South Indian restaurants with branches all over the world. I was as excited to find this place as an American tourist might be upon coming across a McDonald's in Cusco. However, this restaurant has a good reputation back home and is a real treat for South Indians and other lovers of Tamil food.

I treated myself to a dosa with an assortment of chutneys and dahl (lentils). This would be a typical breakfast from my mom and I was really craving a dosa, as it had been over a year since I had my last one (back in Chicago). The dosa is a crêpe (thin pancake) made from rice flour and is eaten with savory items, as opposed to a French crêpe, which can be eaten with sweet fillings. There are many different varieties of dosas, with the highlight being the super thin paper dosas that are about a meter long.

Being an active CS city, there were lots of events going on, like meeting up for a movie, picnics in a park, etc. One of the evening gatherings was a Quiz Night at Lions Pub, where the whole bar is taken over by CouchSurfing. Teams of CSers have to identify the names of strange songs and movie trivia with the winning team getting a bottle of vodka (we won once!). I became good friends with Uwe and Christophe and we chatted up these au pairs one evening. Christophe is from Le Mans, working for Renault outside the city near Versailles and he had similar aspirations to travel and was plotting his own path to get there. Uwe is a German mechanical engineer, who moved here recently and after exchanging good vibes, he invited me to stay for as long as I wanted.

Christophe had a house warming party for his new flat in Versailles and invited a bunch of CouchSurfers. This is tabbouleh, a salad from Syria and Lebanon, made with bulgur wheat, parsley, mint, tomatoes and onions, with lemon juice and olive oil. Good healthy eats.

A shot of one side of the party.

A slice of Roquefort (Bleu Cheese) that the French eat like butter. The distinctive flavour comes from the green Penicillium mold in the cheese, which was used as an antibiotic before the medical benefit of penicillin was discovered. I never liked the taste in the US, but here, it went down a lot smoother and I was actively seeking it out.

Duck liver pâté.

A cute shot of classic, tiny European cars: the original Fiat 500 and the original Mini Cooper. Both cars have been revived with the new Mini Cooper already being a success story.

This was the name of a French song I liked for many years since India and was pleased to see it as a store name. Also, if you see the scooters parked out front, the one with the two front wheels is a very popular model here, since there is a loophole in the law that if the front tires are separated by a certain distance, then a motorcycle license is not needed to operate the vehicle and just a car license will do.

Motorbikes can park right along with bicycles. I was liking this laissez-faire approach to two-wheelers.

A French crêperie, making Nutella stuffed goodness.

Regarding my paperwork, after a long wait, Morocco refused to give me a tourist visa, saying that I could only apply for one in my home country and couldn't do anything for me since I didn't live in Paris. I told them many other countries said the same thing (Brazil, Chile, the EU) but upon seeing that I was traveling overland and it wasn't practical to get all the visa beforehand, they made an exception, but nope, no dice with the Moroccan consular. I could've gone to another city, maybe Madrid, to have tried there, but I think it would be the same answer and besides, by now, I was going to be heading into the thick of the west and central African rainy season, so I changed the plan to heading down the east side of Africa. To do this, I would need to enter in Egypt. For Africa, a carnet de passage is needed (or makes life easier) when temporarily importing the bike and each country has its own rate with Egypt being the most expensive. I wrote all about the carnet here.

Since I didn't plan to pass through Egypt till much later, I had to wait another 10 days to get my carnet approved for use in Egypt. The French Automobile Club was very helpful is taking care of this for me.

The most recommended paper maps for Africa are the ones made by Michelin and three separate maps cover the whole continent. I had No. 741 and No. 746 for west and southern Africa, but needed to get No. 745 to cover the northeast and I found this bookstore (Librairie Eyrolles) which had the whole basement dedicated to travel books and maps. This whole section was just maps of Africa, with detailed country level maps.

Getting to know my new camera and walking around Paris provided me with ample photo opportunities. This is the Église Saint-Séverin in the Latin Quarter of the city. The church was started in the 11th century, but didn't get finished until the 15th century. That shows how old the city of Paris and this area is, going back to Roman occupation. Beyond that, it has been inhabited from 4000 BC onwards.

The popular Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which was also featured in the movie, Before Sunset. The original store and reading library were setup in 1911 and till today it keeps to its original creed of giving a place for young writers to stay and work.

The bookstore is very charming, like numerous others around the city with spaces to sit and read in various nooks and corners.

A water fountain outside the bookstore and across the street from...

...Notre Dame de Paris, the grand cathedral on the Ile de la Cité, surrounded by the River Seine. It's considered the finest example of French Gothic architecture. Construction started in the 12 century and it was completed by 1345.

A fresh seafood stall at night.

A street corner displaying the signature look of Parisienne buildings, which were dictated by the civic planner, Georges-Eugène Haussmann. Paris is a very old city, but its street plan hadn't changed from the Middle Ages into the 19th century and over-population was plaguing the city with its narrow, winding streets and leading to a low quality of life for its residents. This prompted Napoleon III to finally enact the plan of rebuilding Paris and charged Haussmann to implement it. From 1853 to 1870, the old buildings were torn down and the streets were redrawn to the current wide boulevards and similar looking facades or style of all the buildings in the city. He designed city blocks as a whole, instead of individual buildings by themselves. He's credited with improving the quality of the life in the city, but also stifling creativity with his strict rules.

J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

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Jammin screwed with this post 08-10-2011 at 06:38 AM
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Old 05-22-2011, 10:56 AM   #1016
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Really enjoying your RR, Jay. It's amazing. Thanks for taking the time and effort to share with all of us!
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Old 05-23-2011, 12:21 AM   #1017
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Europe, Part 2: Paris, The City that Captivates

April 4 - 20, 2011

During the second part of my stay in Paris, I went out and did a few of the typical touristy things that Paris is famous for. Being the most visited city in the world seems far removed from the remoteness of the Bolivian Altiplano, but the throngs of tourists can't hide the beauty of this captivating city.

I walked by this fresh food market in the 14th arrondisement, where I was staying and captured the variety of seafood that was on display. This is a type of ray fish.

Scallops, referred to as Coquille Saint Jacques in France in reference to Saint James as the shell was his symbol and worn by pilgrims on their pilgrimage to his shrine at Santiago de Compostella in Spain.

Escargot (snails), a French delicacy.

Jumbo shrimp.

An old variety of tomatoes, marmande ancienne, with its unique ridges, coming from the south west of France.

This is Uwe, who invited me to stay after we met at a CouchSurfing event. He had a beautiful apartment, but typical of this city, a tiny kitchen.

We had fun cooking together and I prepared this salmon dish with garlic, chilli powder and soy sauce, baked in a toaster oven.

To go with a spinach and mandarin orange salad. To get the maximum benefit from the main ingredient in spinach, which is iron, the body needs vitamin C to help it absorb all those minerals.

Another evening, Uwe made some crêpes, filled with ham, eggs and cheese.

At a Venezuelan party in the 19th arrondisement. We met a few of them at another CS event and they invited us to this birthday celebration. I think there was one French person there.

I chatted up these Italian beauties from Torino and Valentina (on my right) had just traveled through South America and we found out we were just a few days apart at the Salar de Uyuni in southwestern Bolivia.

Time for a chicken curry in Paris. This organic, free range bird came with head and feet. It was the first time I had to chop the head off, but if you're going to eat meat, you can't get squeamish about how it got to your plate.

Sharing my curry with Uwe, Paolo (from Venezuela) and Marjanne (from Holland).

Staying in the city as long as I did, I became a frequent user of the Paris Métro, the underground rapid transit system, with one of the densest networks in the world offering a métro station about every two blocks. Besides its efficiency, the Métro is known for its beautiful art nouveau entrances designed by Hector Guimard.

Along with artsy exteriors, the interiors of many métro stations are worth a visit by themselves. The vaulted design of the stations, instead of the usual support pillars, lends the space to creativity. This is Cluny - La Sorbonne on Line 10, under the famed University of Paris that was referred to as La Sorbonne and was founded in 1150 and got broken apart in 1970 into 13 different universities.

The Métro was inaugurated in 1900 and since the early days, advertisements have been plastered on the walls, but in a decadent manner, being framed by a gold border.

The cast-iron balustrade in a plant-like motif of the entrance to the Anvers station.

Besides art nouveau, there a few stations with a completely unique look, like this one of the Arts et Metiers Station on Line 11 right under the Museum of Arts and Crafts, which also houses items of historical scientific significance. It was designed in 1994 by François Schuiten in a 'steam punk' style to capture the essence of Jules Verne's science fiction works. Besides the huge gears, the station resembles a submarine, complete with portholes.

The entrance to the Abbesses station on Line 12 is one of only three original glass canopy entrances from Hector Guimard that are still standing. The original company that operated the system was La Compagnie du chemin de fer métropolitain de Paris, which was shortened to Le Métropolitain and further shortened to Métro. It's from the Paris Métro, that the word 'métro' has been genericized from to refer to underground urban rail networks. In the US, the word 'subway' came from the New York system but elsewhere in the world, the word 'métro' has taken precedence.

The Abbesses entrance brings you up to Montmarte, a traditionally artsy neighborhood of the city, where this quartet was strumming out some good tunes.

Montmarte refers to this hill, which is the second highest point in Paris, and this surrounding neighborhood. The biggest attraction is the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, built on top of the 130 m (427 ft) hill.

A characteristic of the neighborhood are its many long escaliers (stairs) leading to the top.

A grand view of Sacré-Cœur at sunset. It was built for a variety of reasons, such as to honor the dead in the Franco-Prussian War and the uprising of the Paris Commune in 1870, along with being a national penance for the excesses of the Second Empire of Napoleon III. The winning design was from Paul Abadie who went with a Romano-Byzantine style and incorporated many national symbols, such as the two equestrian statues of Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX at the entrance.

A view of Paris through one of the arches at Sacré-Cœur.

Being the highest place in the area, it offers a panoramic view of the city. The Haussmann influence of setting the height of the buildings showing through with the flat skyline.
Click here to see the high resolution version.

Besides the basilica, walking around Montmarte is a pleasant experience (if you ignore the throngs of tourists).

A few streets from the basilica is Place du Tetre, known in English as...

...the Artist's Square, as it used to be the home of Paris' modern art movement, with Picasso, Salvador Dali and other great painters taking up residence here at one point in their careers. Nowadays, local artists sell their works along with doing the typically tourist thing of portrait drawings and caricatures.

Meeting up with Shanaya, a classmate and old friend from Kodai School days in India and her recently married husband, Anurabh. She's running a successful food products company in Ahmedabad and flies regularly to London, where Anurabh is finishing up at the London School of Economics. They just happened to be coming to Paris for a weekend getaway while I was there. Shanaya's been following my trip on facebook and asked, "what happened to you? You were such a good boy. Where did this crazy motorcycle trip come from?" A good connection was made with Anurabh since his father is an Indian ambassador and is currently in charge of the passport division back in India. If only I had met him a few days before he could've got me a full 10 year passport, instead of the 2 year passport that the Indian embassy in Paris gave me, citing that I wasn't a resident of Paris.

We found a Tibetan restaurant for dinner to relive the cuisine we had up on the hill of Kodaikanal in southern India. When the Chinese took over Tibet in 1959, India offered asylum to the Tibetans and they've setup communities in various places around the country. Dharamsala, in northern India, is the home of the Dalai Lama and the exiled Tibetan government. This issue is a thorn in the growing good relations between India and China.

The small town where our school was located had a sizable Tibetan population and along with that came some great food. Having some steamed momos, which are a rice dumpling stuffed with beef and vegetables. We hadn't eaten momos in about 12 years.

The abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the resting place of the great rationalist René Descartes (1596-1650), the father of modern philosophy, popularly known for his statement "Cogito ergo sum" (I think, therefore I am). He is highly influential as he was the first thinker to frame the natural sciences in a philosophical framework. His ideas on dualism (that the mind and body are separate) are still being debated today and continues to influence thinkers. He put forward the idea of methodological skepticism, where by doubting the truth of all beliefs, one could arrive at the beliefs that were certainly true. He is also the inventor of the Cartesian coordinate system and founded analytic geometry. In the 20th century, this area around Saint-Germain-des-Prés was home to the existentialist movement with the likes of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir frequenting the nearby cafes.

A night out in the 11th arrondisement, catching a performance of a reggae-bossa band at Le Réservoir.

They had the coolest toilet there. To ensure the seat was clean and hygienic, upon flushing, the seat spun under the central band that had a flow of water on one side and a squeegee on the other side. Brilliant.

For a Sunday brunch, Uwe prepared this Chicken Quiche, using mushrooms, onions and Thai curry paste. Super tasty.

Uwe was heading for a dinner to a friend's house and invited me to come along.

Xavier is quite the cook and he prepared this unique dish called 'Welsh' that comes from the northern state of Nord-Pas-de-Calais on the English Channel. A lot of cheddar cheese is melted with some amber beer and then the slices of bread (from above) with ham and onions are placed in the middle of the dish and smothered with more melted cheddar and then it's placed in the oven. The name comes from the 17th century when the term 'Welsh' was applied to mean anything of low quality as this dish was traditional eaten with rabbit meat, considered a substitute for other meats.

Some hors d'œuvres of black olive spread, while we waited for the Welsh to bake.

Xavier's super heavy cast iron tea kettle.

The Welsh, all baked up.

And to top it off, it's crowned with a fried egg. Mmm, tasty, but maybe not so healthy French food.

A toast before dinner with Xavier and his wife, Maria.

After having some pinot noir wine with the heavy dinner, we finished it off with the digestif bitter of Underberg, made from a wide variety of herbs and produced by the same family since 1846 in Germany. It was kept frozen and went down well.

Saying goodnight to Xavier after a nice evening. Almost every doorway in Paris is decorated quite elaborately.

Another evening, after talking about East Africa a lot, we decided to head out for some Ethiopian food, to give Uwe a taste of what it was like and I told him I'd report back once I got there on how close this was to the real thing. A variety of wat (stews) served on top of injera, a sourdough flatbread. The meal is eaten with your hands (only your right hand, mind) and everyone eats from the common dish.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon we headed out to Parc des Buttes Chaumont for a picnic with Christophe and Vicky. Good conversation over bottles of wine, lots of cheese and andouille sausage.

Clean, free, public bathrooms.

And last, but not least, the grand monuments of Paris: The Arc de Triomphe, inaugurated in 1836, to honor all those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It was designed by Jean Chalgrin with strong patriotic symbolism and set the tone for future public monuments. In the center lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, an eternal flame in memory of those who died and were never identified from the World Wars.

This is one of the four main sculptures around the arc titled Le Départ de 1792, also referred to as La Marseillaise (the name of the French national anthem). It was designed by François Rude and incorporates the idea of heroic nudity with nude French youths against bearded Germanic warriors in chain mail.

The arc sits on one end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, the center of Paris' high life, making it the second most expensive strip of real estate in Europe. The wide boulevard framed by clipped horse-chestnut trees make it easily recognizable.

The Eiffel Tower overlooking the River Seine at sunset; the classic image of Paris and France. Built in 1889 for the World's Fair, it has become the most visited paid monument in the world.

Viaduc de Passy, a cast iron bridge crossing the Seine and being captured in many movies.

La Tour Eiffel at night from Trocadero. I caught the spinning beacon just as it passed dead center to appear like the tower was beaming a laser into space.

Catching the full moon as it passed behind the tower (this was a month after the super moon). The puddle iron lattice work of Gustave Eiffel showing through brilliantly with the night light.

The pièce de résistance as the tower bursts into a dazzling, glittering show of light for about 10 mins every hour.

A grand way to end my month-long stay in Paris, the city that captivates. Being a major hub and influential city of the world, I'll definitely pass through again. I made some great connections during my time there and felt I got to taste a part of what it's like to be a Parisienne.
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

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Jammin screwed with this post 08-10-2011 at 06:39 AM
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Old 05-23-2011, 05:09 AM   #1018
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One word! FANTASTIC! Thanks for sharing.
A14 KLR 43k miles ,07 1250S Bandit 75K miles , 03 Chevy Truck 80K miles '43 model me. Simper Fi
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Old 05-23-2011, 05:15 AM   #1019
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Wow! I had never heard anything that really made me want to visit Paris as it always seemed too touristy, but it's definitely on the list now
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Old 05-23-2011, 05:10 PM   #1020
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Originally Posted by achesley View Post
One word! FANTASTIC! Thanks for sharing.
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