Category: On-Road


The dirty side of Morocco

Recovered from our freezing evening in the icebox and keen to find sustenance we headed out of our hotel in Sefrou in search of breakfast. On the main road there was a coffee bar with a handful of locals drinking coffee and reading the paper, so we sat down and asked if they had food. As is often the case, local businesses depend on one another, so it wasn’t a big surprise to see our waiter go next door presumably to order breakfast and to send someone else out to buy bread. Our breakfast of coffee and omelette drenched in olive oil and floating a top was a square piece of white cheese was not delicious but gave us the strength to explore the Medina of Sefrou. Barely a few metres in the town centre and there was the usual sight of rubbish heaped up on the sides of the road.

Rubbish Choked stream

The oued, or stream running through the middle of Sefrou town choked with rubbish

Time and time again it is depressing to see the polluted waterways of towns choked full of rubbish and resembling a rubbish tip more than a brook or stream as it should. Whatever the reason for such polluting whether it’s a lack of waste collection, education, governmental policies or lack of policing, the laziness and utter disrespect for ones very own environment is appalling and disgusting, depressing and aggravating all at once.

Sefou Medina

Entry gate to the Sefrou Medina

Back on Francois and barely 200m down the road and I got a wasp sting right on the middle of my neck on my Adam’s Apple. Pulling over in a rush annoyed from the sting, I got Arja to look if there was a barb left from the sting. Nothing visible to her, I was increasingly irritated and could do nothing but apply a little Benadryl itch relief and keep riding.

We rode past the beautiful High Atlas mountains and through the Gorge du Ziz, illuminated by the evening light they were a stunning deep red. Before the town of Ar-Rachidia and behind some hills we found a secluded spot to pitch our tent on relatively flat ground despite all the rocks. Although there was a distinct lack of vegetation there was a small dried up brook that had some shrubs along it so I went in search of some sticks to make a fire. A little way up the riverbed was a small acacia tree with a dead branch, this along with a few sticks and kindling would make up enough firewood for a small fire. We set up camp as the sun set over the distant mountains. We were alone and the silence was a welcome relief from the traffic noise and the hustle and bustle of town.

Wild Camping

Wild camping on stones north of Errachidia

Piste to the dunes

From our wild camp spot on stones we rode into Errachidia (also spelt Ar-Rachidia) for breakfast of milk coffee and chocolate buns, without chocolate. After our breakfast we went in search of an internet cafe, as indicated by our waiter there was one around the corner, although closed it had free WiFi so we connected to it on our tablet and checked our emails and Pascal tried to order some parts from a BMW dealer in Granada Spain. The email bounced so he sent it again to another address in hope it would make it to the right person. From Ar-Rachidia we continued south to Erfoud and stocked up on water and food for our detour to Merzouga. Out of Erfoud east and across the oued we followed the tarmac road until about halfway to Merzouga when the road ended turning into piste, a mix of dirt and gravel with sand traps every so often. There were multiple tracks going in every direction so we followed the main one towards the dunes in the distance. At the base of the dunes we came across a handful of desert hotels advertising themselves as Berber Auberges. We resolved after a cup of tea with the owner of one to stay the night at Auberge de Berbers, half-pension, beside the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi.

Piste to Merzouga

Heading towards Erg Chebi (sand dunes) and Merzouga near the Algerian Border

For our evening activity we went on a camel (dromedary) ride into the dunes for a sunset view over the plains and towards the High Atlas mountains. The view was splendid but didn’t quite compare to the seclusion of Algeria or the pristine uninterrupted dunes there either.

Erg Chebbi Sunset

Sunset from Erg Chebbi over the High Atlas mountains

On our return down the dunes but before mounting the camel our camel trainer put on the sell bringing out his little bag of treasures, so-called fossil stones carved and polished into different shapes. The souvenirs were all much the same and none of them interested either of us and we were a bit annoyed at the sales pitch, but that is Morocco, a well oiled tourist trap just sitting in wait to take all your money. At the end of our hour wander the camel trainer asked for a tip. I refused his offer seeing nothing in his work that merited a tip of any description.

For dinner we had a salad of cooked carrots, potatoes, raw cucumber, tomatoes, red onion and black olives covered in a paprika and olive oil dressing. Since it had been quite a while since we had any vegetables or salad, we devoured the entrée leaving only a little room for the chicken tagine that followed. Dubious about chicken from half board hotels in remote locations I started to eat around the chicken but secretly craving meat I tucked into a small piece. It tasted fine, although that’s exactly what I had said the previous times and it wasn’t. I took my chances and decided to live dangerously, and ate all the chicken even though it was a little burnt from the base of the tagine. With dinner down and our tummies happy we headed to our room for a romantic evening by candle light.

Erg Chebbi Dunes

Palm trees on the edge of the Erg Chebbi Dunes

Pains of travelling as a couple

The following day we headed into the town of Merzouga following the dunes until they joined up to the main asphalt road. From Merzouga we headed to Tinejdad and Tinrghir and the gorges of Todra. We spent the night in the newly built maison d’hote called Mogador Ait Idir on the way north from Boulmaine Babes towards the gorges. The host was very warm and welcoming and we had dinner with the family altogether in their living room watching Moroccan television. The room was comfortable although quite cold and the showers were heated by a wood furnace so the hot water took a couple of hours to heat up properly. All the vegetables and produce was either from their garden or sourced locally. I thought to myself that we are definitely in the rustic and self-reliant part of the Atlas here. The owner had a large garage that was mostly unused except for grain storage and served as secure off-street parking for the night.

The gorge of Tinerhir

Just after visiting the gorges of Dades we had an argument about whether to continue and take the dirt track north through the Atlas mountains to Imilchil or not. Arja was right, even if the road was open we wouldn’t make it in one day. She wanted to go around via Skoura and then to Demnate. I was obstinate and knowing our time in Morocco was coming slowly to a close felt that it may be our last opportunity to ride off-road and Arja was standing in the way of that. Of course none of that was true and Arja looking out for our best interests was the sensible one, well until she threatened to smash the video camera and jump from the moving bike.

Boumaine Dades

Oasis village of Boumaine Dades

Just at the very moment I stopped Francois to let Arja off and appease her in order to avoid doing something stupid, another big bike pulled up. It was an American named Jim on a hired F800GS from Marakesh. We got chatting and we exchanged contact details and he took a photo of us before heading off in opposite directions. We made up and agreed that the most sensible route was to ride from Dades to Skoura and over the Atlas mountains to Demnate. It took the best part of what daylight was left arriving in Ouzoud at 17h30 as the sun disappeared behind the horizon. On the way we marked a significant milestone, 80,000kms on the odometer.

80000kms

80000kms – Time to celebrate!

It was an intensely beautiful sunset ride on the sweeping and meandering road towards Ouzoud. By far this road was the most pleasurable that we had ridden in Morocco as there was very little traffic and the road and weather conditions were almost perfect. Without a doubt the benefits well and truly out way the pains of travelling as a couple. Its times like these that make travelling together and being able to share such wonderful experiences that remind us of how lucky we really are.

Landslides

Plenty of landslides all along the road to Demnate through the High Atlas mountains

Mountainscape

Stunning mountain vistas throughout the High Atlas.

After check-in at the Kasbah Auberge  on the hill just before town we unloaded Francois and headed into the centre of Ouzoud to be hounded by the touts for souvenirs, parking, hotels and food. We waited for quite some time before our dinner of meatball tagine arrived and when it did, we were disappointed. It wasn’t anything special but we were hungry so ate and then went back to our accommodation with a grey and white rabbit and our own bungalow by the swimming pool.

Kasbah Delights

The following morning our breakfast by the pool had Arja’s taste buds watering for more. The hot bread and Moroccan crêpe, resembling more an Indian chapatis than a crêpe was hot and delicious, the coffee was even strong, unlike what we had tasted up to now. I guess that is the advantage of having French owners. The day started out dry but overcast, we rode back through the centre of Ouzoud and straight past the cascades without even stopping because we didn’t want to deal with the touts and rather fancied racking up some kilometres before the weather turned as we had a long ride ahead to Fes. Over the middle Atlas we continued on our way north towards Fes.

Tagine

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Not knowing the first thing about Fes or having any directions, we kept riding into the traffic and lights until we arrived at what we thought was close to the centre of Fes new town. We were hopelessly lost and we couldn’t find any placemarks and the only hotel we found didn’t have parking and was far too expensive. Luckily my persistence when asking for a discount attracted the attention of a junior consiege who asked if we wanted a cheaper hotel. We said yes and he suggested calling his friend who would show us the hotel. The price sounded right so we accepted, after all one could only try. Drinking a mint tea and chatting in English while we waited for his friend to arrive, Arja was a little uneasy and let me know by worried glances. The freelance tourist guide and translator arrived by a little red taxi and led us to the outskirts of Fes-el-bal. We were uncertain where we would end up, and had no idea where we were going or what was in store, but we felt good about this and to be honest we didn’t have much choice but to trust in someone and he had an honest face. After about 20mins of swerving through heavy traffic we passed through the gate of the Medina and down to a parking spot under a mosque. I went to visit the guesthouse in the medina while Arja waited with Francois and our gear. After about twenty metres down an alley the guide and the owner of the hotel disappeared into a dark passageway. I had to bend and duck through the passage which went for 15m then a left turn and a narrow opening to a dead-end where there was an unmarked wooden door that opened with a creak. Past the door and the restored Dar (family home smaller than a Riad) unveiled all its glory with a magnificent central foyer come courtyard decorated in mosaics and hand crafted wooden shutters. It was beautiful and we were lucky to have the opportunity to find this guesthouse.

The next day our freelance tourist guide and translator arrived for a walking tour through the Medina of Fes, which is a real labyrinth. From the Kairouan mosque to the Tanneries we dodged, trod, twisted, ducked and meandered around the small and unmarked lanes and passages leading from one souk to another. Textiles and tapestries, legumes and leather goods, riads and mosques, Fes certainly has it all.

Fes Tanneries

Fes Tanneries

Riad

Courtyard of the Intercultural Riad in Fes

Rif Rif Rain Rain

We left Fes shortly after breakfast in a light drizzle of rain and the weather only got worse on the way to Chefchouan as we passed over the Rif mountains. If we thought that the weather might clear as we passed to higher altitude then we couldn’t have been more mistaken. The clouds came down to meet us and soon the wet roads turned muddy and extremely slippery, the rainy vision turned to white mist as we ascended into heavy fog. Our warm dry hands gradually soaked by continual rain soon got colder and colder, until my hands, crisped, were grasping to the hand grips frozen solid. The cold penetrated through us and the fog strained our vision and gave us headaches, uncomfortable is an understatement however the need to find a dry and warm place drove us on. The visibility was zero, I literally couldn’t see more than ten metres in front and the fog had obscured my rearview mirrors. The only way I knew we wouldn’t run off the road and hit a tree was because I was following the tail lights of the car in front. What seemed like an eternity of battling the cold and poor visibility was dragged on by the traffic in the towns we passed through, for it was market day. We didn’t even stop for lunch, we rode on towards Chefchoaun at times praying for a break in the dense fog. Finally the weather began to clear and as the fog gradually disappeared so did the headache that came with it. We were now descending towards the valley and even the rain eased somewhat as if to welcome us and let us see the  most remarkable landscape that had until now been hidden from sight.

Our evening was spent wandering around Chefchouan by night under the dim street lights that illuminated the blue washed walls and cobblestone streets of the medina.

Chefchouan by night

Chefchouan by night

Blue Washed

Typical of Chefchouan, blue and white washed stone houses

Leaving Chefchouan wouldn’t have been so bad if our gloves and helmets weren’t soaked through from the day before. To make the gloves more bearable to wear and easier to put on I heated them on the engine for a few minutes whilst we donned on our rain suits. Struggling with the damp gear we finally got on Francois and headed off to Tangier through the miserable weather, which cleared a little and for the last 50 kms from Tetouan to Tangier was fast and pleasant on the new two lane highway.

At Tangier port the prices for the 35min ferry crossing to Tarifa in Spain were very expensive, the first quote for the two of us and Francois was 980MAD. I asked another agent and it was the same so I asked for alternatives, the guy mentioned that Acciona has a boat to Algerciras from the new port for two-thirds of the price to Tarifa, what he failed to mention was that it was 45km from Tangier and our boat would leave in just over an hour. That was too tight in my opinion so when confronted with this new tid-bit of info brought to our attention by the police officers at the entry to Tangier old port, we headed straight back to the agent and asked to have our tickets changed. We had paid 625MAD and the agent asked for and extra 55 Dirhams to change the tickets. Somehow we were still 300 Dirhams less than the original quoted price of 980 for the same passage to Tarifa but I wasn’t about to say anything, then Arja started to kick-up a stink thinking that I was paying a lot more for the tickets to be changed. All I wanted was to grab our passports, tickets and customs form and go as surreptitiously as possible.

We made our way to the port after I explained to Arja that it was a good deal and once she had double checked the ticket details we headed towards the departure gate. It was also rushed and quick that we hadn’t the least amount of time to reflect on our past month in North Africa. To be honest it has been very different to what we expected, obviously travelling with our own vehicle has contributed immeasurably to our experiences and where and how we travelled but by and large we have been very fortunate and lucky with the people we encountered and the hospitality we’ve been shown.

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If you are not familiar with the terrain of Greece, Italy and Sicily then you may be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t so many mountains. Well I’m here to tell you different. Greece from head to toe is just mountains. Italy, well you can count the plains on one hand, and Sicily, the bends and tunnels never cease. This is coming from an Aussie who has spent the past two years in Switzerland riding the alps. So rest assured, if you are not a highway cruiser, then the back roads will be full of the still very authentic rural and rustic Mediterranean experience. Enough said. Since Pelopennese, the southern part of mainland Greece, where we spent several nights camping and the other part thereof drenched from head to toe and freezing from the torrential rains and flash flooding combined with single digit temperatures. So it’s no wonder why we took the ferry from Patra to Brindisi, in search of better weather. The only trouble is that to escape bad weather on a ship we had to go through it. And even the upgrade to a four berth cabin didn’t help. The turbulence, the creaking, the jostling, the clanging and the deep gutteral moans the Ionian Queen made as she crested and dived through the waves along the route to Italy was more than enough to keep one of us awake worrying about Francois below deck and whether we were about to re-enact the titanic, albeit on a much smaller scale…  Dawn broke and we saw land but Arja wasn’t happy until her feet were steadfast on the solid ground, and we were safely back on Francois. The only issue was that Italian customs needed to inspect the whole boat, what with 50+ trucks onboard, that took a while! Finally once off the boat, we waved farewell to our Italian duo from Roma also riding two-up on a GS, and we headed off in the wrong direction. I told you we should’ve keep following them, they know where they’re going, yells Arja through the intercom. Of course she was right, I was wrong and we did a u-turn on the freeway entry and back tracked the wrong way up the entry ramp all in true Italian style, afterall anything is permitted so long as you don’t get caught! This IS Italy, bienvenuti.

Sunset on the beach in Calabria, Francois gets a taste for sand and pebbles - Fully loaded too!

If the gusts of wind hurling us from side to side on the freeway didn’t get us, then the lunatic Italian drivers, screaming along the freeway at some ungodly pace did. It’s not often that I am caught unawares by drivers but in Italy it happens far too often for my comfort.

Next on the road was Ostuni, and if you have never heard of it then it’s probably because it’s more famous cousin, Alberobello boasting the Trulli houses overshadows this otherwise exquisite and gorgeous whitewashed town. It so happens that we rode on into town just as a parade was going on. Of course until this point we have been oblivious to all news and current events going on around us, including the riots in Rome, Mt Etna erupting and flooding in Catania. But we’re ignorant and we like^ it that way.

Onwards and upwards along the tight twisting back roads of Puglia we rode until Alberobello and the Trulli houses. But these weirdly constructed houses, reminding me of the Indian cow patty stacks were still used and lived in. Bizarre but true. The only thing to top off southern Italy would be some troglodytes, an exploding volcano and making Sicilian TV. Well guess what! Oh damn, there I go again blowing the story before I’ve even begun to tell it. Well it’s pointless saying this now but if you want the details then you’ll have to just keep reading.

By now you should know that I don’t write pace notes or keep a detailed roadbook of each and every turn and how many kilometres to this turnoff and to that road and so on, so for me to start now would be a waste of our time and we wouldn’t be enjoying our travelling, it would become too much hard work, and well I’m all about riding and experiences of new cultures and languages. If you’re not happy, then write me a letter. By the way did you check out our location map which is updated in realtime? I know it’s not perfect but it’s a start and yes there are some bugs…

So from Trulli we went to Sassi, the town known until the ’50’s as the malaria cesspit of Italy. The people had no electricity, sewerage or running water and were living in relative squalour. So a visit to the troglodyte dwellings of the Italian poverty from yesteryear was on the cards. The careful route planning was all prepared by my trusty and beloved co-pilot, all down to a tea. However it would be stupid to ignore ‘official’ hawkers seeking out tourists to sell them some accommodation or a guide to visit Matera, the modern town above the Sassi underworld and the caverns built into solid rock. We did our own tour by foot but upon our return to Francois, the offer of accommodation in a Sassi B&B cave sounded too good to pass up, so we were led astray to a cave room, right out of the Flintstones, complete with a shower embedded into the stone. All this for a mere 40 euros, well who are we to say no when it started at 80. We were tired and hungry and it was late, we caved, pun intended.

The next day was slow going from Puglia over the mountains via the smallest of small mountain roads to Calabria. It was slow, rough and at times felt endless, and we didn’t cover more than 300kms. Truly, the steep uphill blind hair-pin (switch-back) corners were a lot to handle, add the full weight of Francois and throw in some gravel to the mix and then add an earthquake to destroy the road and you’re starting to paint a picture. Then there are the Italians, cutting corners, herding goats and sheep and parking their cars in the middle of blind corners, to catch the unwary. After ten hours on the bike we were exhausted yet again and we bargained for our hotel room having circled three towns just to find all the camping sites closed, as hard as we could. The trouble with travelling quickly is that you need to adjust the budget accordingly, it’s fine to say let’s wild camp, but if you don’t have food and water and as we can’t carry much, it’s not always possible. So far this trip we have stayed in the same place only twice and now it’s the end of our twentieth day on the road. But before we found our hotel, we dabbled with the idea of sleeping on the beach, and almost did as the sandy detour with Francois was not far off being stuck in the soft dirty silicon.

Idyllic waters and the headland of Tropea Calabria

With our deadline for the ferry to Tunis looming over us, we decided to cut short our visit of Calabria and make straight for the ferry to Sicily. Only the day before in Sassi, an american couple had told us about Mt Etna recently erupting, and well, we didn’t believe them, so we decided to see it for ourselves. It turns out that Mt Etna did have a little spit and spew out some gases and ash but nothing serious.

Mount Etna 3329m spitting out ash and gases

On our way down from Mount Etna, we got lost and ended up in the town of Adrano on our way to Enna where we are staying tonight. As I was confused and wanted to check the map, I pulled Francois up by the reigns right smack bang in front of the Castle and directly opposite the town hall. Just at that very moment the Liberal party member Pietro and his journalist and camera-man walked out of the Municipal building and saw a sight for sore eyes and spotted an opportunity. That was us, two sunburnt, lost tourists with a big yellow motorcycle speaking not a word of Italian between them. Not to be camera shy, I accepted the request to tell all Sicilians how wonderful Ardarno, umm, Adrano is and what a beautiful castle they have, all on camera. So to all our Sicilian fans and to the greater Italian public that no doubt watches Sicilian regional TV of Adrano, we salut you and say G’day Mate!

Oh and for our efforts, the party member for the liberals gave us a clay mask of the devil, no we’re serious, photo will come soon, I promise.

Footnotes

^ Perhaps it is a bit tongue in cheek, but the truth of media is that it’s rarely telling the whole story, and if you were brought up to know that lying by omission is still a lie then by induction media are doing that, in portions that are just believable enough if you don’t know better or if you’re not really sure where the accounts are coming from.

Day 1, Saturday, 1st october

The alps to the Alpi apuane and Tuscany

We find ourselves now in the evocative region of Tuscany and the stunning mountain range of the Alpi and really what a change from Switzerland. The landscape went through such dramatic variations as we passed from the valley of the Rhone over the Alps then in the northern plains of Italy which are so hot and dry. Our route eminated the route that my parents took 30 years ago, almost day for day. It’s not the first time we will cover the tracks of my parents on this voyage of discovery through north Africa. But we leave them now as they took the boat from Genova and our trip now takes us deep into the tuscan hillside. We arrived at the Mediterranean sea just at the height of Livorno, following the autoroute until Aulla the gateway into the Alpi Apuane and northern Tuscany. We meandered our way to Bagni di Lucca and up to our pre-booked B&B at Cocciglia. Our hosts were waiting for us with big smiles at the entry to town, it was a good feeling to have arrived after what was a long eleven hour day and 648kms. The town was picutersque but tiny and our hosts insisted that we park Francois up the narrow laneway and in front of the house, with some careful manouvering he was tucked away for the night.

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Day 2, Sunday 2nd Oct

We rose for an early morning walk before breakfast to explore the tiny village and surrounds of Cocciglia, with only 14 inhabitants year long. The walk certainly brought on our appetite and the home made bread at our B&B was delicious. We left Cocciglia in the direction of Pistoia. By mid morning the Sunday traffic was already quite heavy and we knew it would be slow going to Firenze. Luckily we were going in the opposite direction to the Italian weekenders leaving the city life and heading for the hills. We used our newest gadgets, a GPS equiped Google Android tablet and 3G WIFI dongle to navigate into Firenze with unexpected ease. Our setup is also tracking our every move as we wander and meander our way through Southern Europe to North Africa.

In the center of Firenze we parked just a stones throw from Piazza del Duomo and locked up or helmets and the front tank panniers with the bicycle lock taking our valuables with us as we continued our tourism by foot. There would seem to be almost no ugly or uninteresting part to Italy, everywhere you look is one amazing sight after another buildings full of history and character. Without a doubt the Ponte Vecchio is the most famous bridge in Italy and rightly so.

Firenze to Chianti wine region, Greve in Chianti, Montevarchi, Arezzo, to the Parco di Livarno.

Campsite was closed so we headed to the top of the park where therwas some flat ground more suited to camping. Although the wild pigs and hooligans in their cars perturbed our tranquility which otherwise was a superb location with a crescent moon and a clear night and a sky filled with stars.

Day 3, Monday 3rd October

We woke to the gentle rustle of wind in the trees and a lot of relief knowing that dawn had come after a restless nights sleep. The morning on top of parco national di Livarno was fresh but with the promise of hot and dry day ahead. The telling factor was not just the bright orange sun but the lack of dew and especially the lack of condensation on the inside of our tent.

We decided to break camp and head straight into town and look for breakfast and coffee. Down the hillside we stopped for a picture of the Church we passed on the day before, a church  on the pillgrimage route of St Jacques de Compstelle.

We stopped in Castiglion Fiorentina at a busy little patisserie where locals were having their morning coffee standing at the counter. Our breakfast of coffee and pasteries was enough to get us going, we hopped back on Francois and headed for Cortona. Admittedly the whole region of which we know very little, and especially the less visited parts of Tuscany are amazing. Towns like Cortona, Gubbio and Greve in Chianti certainly warrant a less rushed visit, however our goal is to make our ferry for Greece and ultimately the Sahara.

We kept on whilst the going was good and as there was a lot less traffic on the minor roads the riding was most pleasurable.

At the checkin for our ferry to Igoumenista we met Dave, from UK on a BMW 1150GS, Mark from Switzerland on an Africa Twin and Lori also from the UK on a Yamaha Tenere all on their way to South Africa. On the boat we caught up with the trio and shared some of our experiences and talked through their travel plans. It is always nice to meet like minded souls on the road, it’s a kinship or brotherhood, not to be sexist but there is a kind of mateship even if we are complete strangers otherwise, brought together by a common interest.

The first thing we did onboard the ferry was get our 4 berth dorm and have a shower. The heat below deck coming from the engine room created a sauna like parking and we were both dripping with sweat.

Day 4, Tuesday 4 October

We disembarked at Igoumenitsa to the dawn of yet another beautiful day, greeted by a deep red sky over the Ionian coastline. Exiting the international port we said goodbye to our acquaintance, Stefan from St Gallen in Switzerland who was riding a Honda Firestorm equiped with an enormous rear one-piece saddle bag. The short ride to the domestic port of Igoumenitsa was already hot, making our riding gear stick to our skin.

We headed straight for the old town of Corfu and parked next to the fort towering over the city and a local food market selling fruit, vegetables and that mornings catch of fresh fish. I feel the true way to meet locals and gain a sense of a town or village is at the markets where they shop. The most marking thing so far of Greece are that almost no one wears a helmet. And even fewer are wearing any kind of protective clothing, perhaps understandable given the heat and inconvenience of it but this just demonstrates the lack of policing in Greece.

My first impressions of Corfu are much like any Mediterranean fortified town, the old town isn’t especially interesting but has a certain holiday feel about it, what with all the tourist shops and scooters. Leaving Corfu I was surprised to see eucalyptus trees along the roadside, the smell of the gums made me immediately homesick and all I felt like doing was sitting under the shade of the glorious trees chewing on their leaves like a Koala.

We left the island’s metropolis for the peace and quiet of the north-west. Barely out of town several motorcyclists overtook us at speed on the mountain roads, none of them had any helmet and not so much as a pair of sunglasses to protect their eyes.

Our swim in the sea at agios georgios beach was divine providing the much needed respite from the heat and humidity. After our bathing in the salty waters we went in search of a supermarket and a camping spot. Instead we found a sensatioal sunset on top of the hill in Afionas. Where we decided to spend the night.

To save a little we cooked our own dinner of Pork marinated Corfu style and a salmon steak to accompany our Greek salad and tzatsiki.

Wednesday 5th October

Beautiful breakfast of fruit salad and thick creamy yoghurt with honey and some unannounced intruders that decided to take a bath in Arja’s honey. The youghurt, which was more like the french fromage blanc, had a scoop of honey in the middle and looked a bit like a minature bird bath, or perhaps thought the wasp. The inscense brought out by the owner helped but these wasps (not wogs) were not to be deterred.

On our morning stroll through the Town of Afionas we noticed a high proportion of foreign land owners, which seems to be very much the trend and often they are the ones bringing in money that helps to restore old delapidated buildings and towns. On our way back to our accommodation at Porto Timoni we decided to have a rest day and stay a second night to relax, do our washing and go swimming. Of course the location and scenery had a lot to do with the decision but mostly we wanted to have a romantic and intimate weekend, just us and no riding, afterall we are in sorts turning a page, what with Arja having left her job, it’s a time to celebrate.

Walk down to the beach of Porto Timoni followed by a siesta and later some detailed route planning up into Albania.

Quite naturally a beer on the terrace restaurant led to a delicious meal from the family run restaurant of the same name as our accommodation.

Day 6, Thursday 6th October

Breakfast consisted of freshly squeezed orange juice, assorted fresh fruits, filtered coffee, honey youghurt and of course the annoying wasps… On our way out of Alfionas we headed to the north coast and the mountain village of Perithia. From there we took a dirt road that joined Petalia.

Hilltop lookout of Pantokratos which dominated the whole island with its telecommunications towers and baren brown hillside dotted with the odd shrub. Keen to make Albania we decided to skip the rest of Corfu and make straight for the port to catch our ferry back to mainland Greece.

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Dear Friends & Family,

With the onset of summer and fully out of hibernation, we’ve been taking the plung wherever and whenever we can, the past weekend was in Nice, but not before we got drenched on the way there and the way back. Going back a few weeks, we were asked by an acquaintance for an interview about our travels, of course as we love to talk about our trips and travels, we couldn’t refuse. If you’d like to read the whole article then it’s available in full here.

“… there are many things on the road that can’t be anticipated and no matter how much preparation you have, it won’t help.”

“The unconditional friendship and generosity of complete strangers has changed us in ways that we are still finding out even today.”

Read more from our interview with Antonis, from Bikers Time Magazine here.

We are also preparing for our big ‘Tour of the Med’ later in the year. More on that to come next time, but more recently we’ve been busy servicing Francois and conquoring the Alps, one pass at a time. The past long weekend we managed to fit in several mountain passes from Geneva down to Nice and back up again.

  • Col du Télégraph 1566m
  • Col du Galibier 2642m
  • Col du Lautaret 2057m
  • Col de la Bonette 2715m
  • Col de Vars 2108m
  • Col de la Cayolle 2326m
  • Col Turini 1604m
  • Col St Martin
  • Col Valberg

Take a look at the view of the alps from inside our helmet, and see what we see. We’re also improving our new blog all the time so check back again soon to see the latest changes and stories from the Northern hemisphere.

You are invited to view Riding2up Adventurers’s photo album: Over the Alps to Nice

Monaco and Cote d'Azur Over the Alps to Nice – 6 Jun 2011by Riding2up AdventurersFrom Geneva over the alps to Nice we passed over 9 mountain passes and through gorges in the rain and snow.

View Album

Play slideshow

Best Regards,

Pascal & Arja

It’s quite surreal to now be in Oslo ten months after we set out. The truth is that it has gone quite quickly and although we have met many people and have many tails and stories to tell the trip was in the end far easier and better than we could ever have hoped.

It is now that we’d both like to thank everyone who has help us, encouraged us, supported us and sponsored us along the way. It’s been especially fantastic to get feedback to our stories and know that people have been continually following us on our way through the tough times and the high times. It is very reassuring when we were both down to know that people were waiting for updates and news from us. It kept us going and made our trip more meaningful.

The most common question by far since we arrived has been ‘What next?’ and with good reason, we’d both love to keep going but the winter is quickly setting in and with both of us needing work we’ll certainly be occupied with job hunting until Christmas.

That said we have more trips on the horizon and even more than ever we will be needing the help and support of sponsors so spread the word and let anyone that might be interested know who we are.

Ride to live and live to ride.

Ride on ride strong.

December 8 2008

After a slow morning we headed further into the  Cameron Highlands to Birchang in search of strawberry farms and the famous tea plantations. After wrestling Francois through the public holiday traffic (Muslim holiday Hajid) we only just saw the turnoff to Sungai Palas and Boh Tea estate. The steep narrow windy road was extremely picturesque and slippery due to the moss and leaves. Extra care was needed and the sounding of Francois’ horn on blind corners proved a cautious measure that paided off on several occasions. At the Boh tea house we were waved on by the security to continue past the parking lot directly up the hill to the café and lookout, this sort of treatment is common for motorcyclists in Malaysia and something that could be learnt in Australia.

Aside – not only do motorcyclists get special treatment but they don’t pay tolls, parking and have the right to park on footpaths if the motorcycle parking (which is everywhere) is fully used. There are of course many more motorcycles here in Malaysia than Australia but the proportion is not as high as in other asian countries.

Pascal Filming

Pascal filming the locals harvesting tea from the undulating tea plantations

After the tea house we went to a strawberry farm and vegetable garden to look at the typical food of the region and how it’s grown. No real surprises except for the Malaysian apple (as it was called by our impromptue Bangladeshi tour guide) the size of an apple but in the shape of a roma tomato with a light green/yellow skin and light orange flesh which tasted more like a mini rock melon than an apple.

December 9 2008

Our alarm sounded at 5:30am intended to get us up and out the door for the sunrise over the highlands from Mt Birchang standing at 2018m. After a couple of false starts and a lot of difficulties in overcoming our laziness we made it out the door to a chilly morning. Halfway up the mountain we took a wrong turn and ended up following the muddy goat trail through tiny small farms until the road deteriorated so much we turned back, convinced that no tourist bus or 4WD would come this way, so back down we went still in pitch black and eager to find the right assending road before sunrise. We finally made it and joined five chinese tourists at the top of the lookout tower where it was a very cold and windy wait for the sunrise. The weather was more reminiscent of Europe than the tropics. It was well worth the cold early wakeup and the morning scenery is breathtaking. It fortunately is one of the few pockets of rainforest that hasn’t been cleared for palm tree or tea plantations.

Sign our petition against Palm Oil plantations that destroy rainforets.

After breakfast we checked out of Father’s Guesthouse and headed to Ipoh via the ‘new’ road which wasn’t marked on our map. It was a piece of motorcycling paradise lined by stunning views and cool tropical mountains the road was wide, in excellent condition and barely any traffic, except for the odd diesel truck or bus. I got covered in soot and when we stopped for lunch I wiped my face and all the black soot from the exhaust of the trucks came off on my hanky, disgusting!

Kuala Kangsar Mosque

The team infront of Kuala Kangsar Mosque in the Royal town

After lunch, we continued on our journey to Kuala Kangsar (the Royal town). We were both really hot and bothered so we crashed at the tourist information centre and enquired about accommodation for the night. A nice guy booked us a double room, but unsure about whether we wanted to stay, we headed out in search of the grand mosque. We took a happy snap of its golden domes and then drove down to the riverside for an afternoon seista. We ended up staying the night and found the town to be a very homely and friendly place to be away from the typical tourist traps of Malaysia.

Sunday 7/12/2008

We’re writing this update from Pascal’s iPaq connected to WiFi in the comfort of our room in Tanah Rata a small tourist centre in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. Apologies if there are typos or missing text…

The first day on the road

Well it felt like a long time coming, and even though we have managed to fit in a lot over the past couple of weeks, there is nothing quite like hopping back on the bike and going for a spin, which is exactly what it felt like – except that we’re in Malaysia!!

Before setting of on our first day of riding we were sent off by all the wedding guests staying at our hotel in KL, the obligatory photos, some video footage and a couple of small wheelies  along the hotel driveway to mark our departure.

We were lucky guests to the extremely ornate wedding of our friends Phil and Elisa

It was a relatively hassle free ride along the A-road highway (not the boring freeway where you don’t see anything) for about 200kms and a quick roadside lunch stop in Bidor before heading up the mountain road to Tanah Rata. Malaysian drivers have an annoying and sometimes dangerous habit of cutting corners and running wide, this isn’t such a problem as most of them drive quite slowly, give way to other traffic and have well maintained vehicles (ie. Good brakes) which won’t be the case for other countries we’ll be travelling through. Best to keep our wits about us and that’s the main reason for not wanting to ride too far today, even just 200kms on unfamiliar roads can be very fatiguing.

Undulating hills of the Cameron Highlands are covered by Tea Plantations

It truly felt great to hit the road and have the importation all behind us now (even if it isn’t the last of the red tape it’s a start – only 24 more countries to go). I think that the reality of the dream has now started to set in as we come to terms with the idiosyncrasies of travelling on the road.

After an ordeal getting Francois out of customs our first day on the road was very memorable and fantastic to be on the bike again.

After we left the wedding party we headed north along highway 1 on our way to the Cameron Highlands and Tanah Rata to escape from the oppressive humidity of KL and the lowlands. At the local steet (night) markets at Tanah Rata we bought ourselves a noodle dish, somewhat resembling a padthai with flat rice noodles stirfried in a massive wok with bean sprouts. We later found out that they were in fact quite spicy like a lot of malaysian food and that the chilli sauce served with the noodles wasn’t necessary for our sensitive palets.

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