Friday, 21 October 2011

Days 14, 15, 16 and 17 - Illness and Breakdown

The following day I awoke and enjoyed the usual great breakfast at Bikers Home in Ouarzazate before starting to load my my bike to set off into the mountains. The previous night Pirate and I had plotted a route going across the country following back roads and tracks. Then planning to take the the east coast of Spain before going the most direct route across France.

It was only once I had started loading my bike that Pirate came down to say he had just spent the last hour in the loo and didn't think he was going anywhere that day, He was suffering from a heat related illness or he had eaten something that didn't agree with him.

So we remained at bikers home for at least the rest of that day while Pirate recovered I ammused myself by spending my time socailising with some of Peter's neighbours who were butchering a sheep to create a large tagine, and I got shown around the eldest of peter's neighbours house which was partially completed but it was going to be absolutly stunning when complete. He was a very proud man and really keen to show me how he lived and told me stories of his travels to germany. Communication wasn't easy at all times as my French is week and the local language was Berber (a version of arabic spoken widely in Southern Morocco).

The other thing I did to amuse myself whilst Pirate was recovering was read, I picked up to Dakar and Back by Lawrence Hacking, a book I read in 24 hours. It outlined his journey from rookie motorcross rider to being the first Canadian to enter and finish the Dakar Rally. Highlight of the story was when had to be recovered using his best self reliance and bartering accross 400km of Mali/Senegal.
Gravel road out of Ouarzazate

Pirate on the rough road

The green oued bed

Small village outside Ouarzazate
Riding towards the mountain pass

The veiw down the mountains
After 48 hours of being unwell Pirate annouced that he was fit to leave so we loaded up the bikes and headed for Demnate. We headed north from Ouarzazate following an off road track along an oued through some Berber Villages. It was along here that Pirates fueling issues began again. We stopped along the track and drained the carb float to try and clear all the dirt from the card that was causing the fuel to leak and the bike to stall. after doing this Pirates bike fired up and we continued on our way.

Pirate on the twisty mountain pass
We rejoined the tarmac and it was almost 6pm and we knew we had only 2 and half hours of light left and 100 miles of twisty moutain road with rock's all accross the road where they had been washed down the mountain. The R307 was one of the best roads I have ever ridden with lose tarmac and twists and hairpins going over two mountian ranges. After 2 and a half hours of hairpins, loose surfaces and truely stunning scenery we ran out of light, and we went looking for a place to stop for the night.

Wild camping in the mountains
We wild camped in between a few trees on the mountain side, we were far enough away from the road that we didn't have any problems with being discovered or disturbed. I got my tent up and we cooked our dinner (a vacum packed meal from "Look what we found"). Pirate had chosen to camp without a tent and in the Morning it emerged he had been eaten by ants and looked like the Manimal with red splodges all over his face.

After laughing and taking the mick out of Pirate for his unfortunate incident with the ants we packed up and headed into Demnate for breakfast. at Breakfast Pirate told me his clutch was dragging, I told him this may not be good news, but we had a got at adjusting the clutch and continued on into the mountains. Our pan was to ride a dirt track from Demnate 100 km west and then continue north over the next few days before crossing into Europe.

Leaving Demnate towards the mountains
For the first couple of hours the track was really rutted and torn up so pace was slow, Pirate was really struggling in the heat, but was putting a brave face on it. I had to tell him direct to speak up if he didn't want to continue as we were very far away from help. After about 2 hours the rutted dirt track turned into a gravel road so our pace rose again as we went around many mountain villages and passed through the souks (traditional markets next to the road).

The tough rutted track into the mountains
Suddenly I lost all break pressure in my front break and on further investigation I could see a leak had appeared around the break caliper, I knew I needed to repair this, but I had no fluid and I needed to replace the copper washer so we needed get to the next town with auto supplies, so I could bleed the brakes.

As the day wore on the track got worse and my lack of breaks saw me crash into a wall and almost go over the edge twice, then coming down a mountain due to over reliance on the back break I boiled the fluid and was totally without breaks. The day had taken it's toll on Pirates bike aswell his clutch was really dragging by the end of the day.

The veiw from our camping spot
We ended the day in a village marked on my GPS as Tirsal which took us an hour and half to get through as the steep down hill track was pretty damaged and with no breaks I couldn't control the bike properly. The villagers allowed us to stay in the village and gave us a flat patch of ground to pitch our tent. One of the villagers fed us and gave us a drink of tea.

Bikes loaded into Peter's Truck
After a good nights sleep we were going to ride on to the next town, but in the morning Pirate decided that it wasn't worth continuing with his clutch in  such a bad way so he decided to call Peter from bikers home for a rescue. I decided that with no breaks it wasn't safe for me to continue alone so waited for rescue with him.

It was about 6pm when Peter arrive for rescue, we loaded the bike and headed back to Ouarzazate grabbing a bite to eat in Demnate before arriving at Bikers home at about midnight.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Days 11, 12 and 13 Things can only get Hotter

Outside The Kasbah in Boulmane Dades
A well deserved nights sleep for Me and Paul was our reward for our hard 2 days in the mountains, with a lovely breakfast consisting of bread cheese jam and omlette. The mission for the morning was to ride the final tarmac section of the dades gorge with Geoff and Pirate who had missed out due to coming around on the road and then ride 100miles west past the Valley of Rose to Bikers Home in Ouarzazate.

Moroccan Citizens Celebrating
We left the kasbah at about 9:30 and continued up the gorge and we noticed a huge amount of celebration with the native people later we found out they were celebrating the fact that the king was giving them the chance to vote on a new consitution. After the uprisings in Tunisa an Egypt the Moroccans had staged a small protest and King Mohemed VI had amended the consitution to appase the younger side of the population. Then on Friday, 4 days later they were going to vote for the new consistitution.

Riding Down the Dades Gorge
We set off up the gorge with geoff filming the ride up the twisty and beautiful dades gorge, The local berber villages harvesting the field of wheat either side of the river. The ride up was relativley cool in comparison to the heat in the town. When we got to the top of the Gorge I turned around t go get an action shot of the other 3 riding through the narrowest part of the Gorge. I ended up waiting there for an hour as Pirates bike had developed a problem with fuel pipe from his tank to the carb leaking. The fix was made by cutting off the problem end of the pipe and attching to the carb again.

Peter and Zineb at Bikers Home
We came down from the gorge and started moving south west to Ouarzazate, We had another hour and a half as the fix on Pirates fuel lines had not worked and the pipe had split even more. Pirate and Paul fabircated a dual skin fuel hose buy cutting as section of tubeing away from Pirates fuel syphon.

Cooling off in an Irragation Channel
We arrived in Ouarzazate (which we had re-named Oo-Ar Zat to make It feel like west country a home from home) and we stayed with a Dutchman called Peter and his wife at Bikershome. We received fantastic Hospitality and great home cooked meal all included in the price of our stay. Most importantly he has a secure garage for storing the bikes over night. Peter also offers GPS guided tours of the Sahara and the Atlas mountains and he provides support in a 4x4. It was very hot over night and Paul and Pirate slept on the roof to try and cool down as much as possible.

The next day we contiuned further south to Zagora and into the Sahara desert and it was the hottest and most uncomfortable day so far, It was so hot that we had to keep stopping to keep our selves from falling asleep on the bikes. The irragation channels that ran by the side of the road we useful for keeping us cool. The next most important thing was getting hold of water to stay hydrated.
Getting stuck in the Dunes

After 200km we arrived at the Sahara Sky Hotel, a place Geoff was extremely keen to stay at as it has an obseravatory on the roof. The room was reasonable due to being off season an we were the only guests of the hotel apart from one german amateur astronomer. Once it got cooler we headed out into the dunes with Geoff and his camera. Even with it getting cooler we were getting drained by the heat every time we stopped or had the bikes stuck in the sand.

I was still being boneheaded and stubborn about wanting to go into the desert the following day however my fellow adventurers made my descion for me as they all decided that it was too dangerous to head into the desert in this heat, I had to conceed it was definitaltely too dangerous to go alone. The following morning I was suffering with mild heat stroke so I had to concided that the rest of the team was right.

Filming with Geoff in the Dunes
It had always been Paul's intention to head home early as he wanted to go into Portugal and Gibraltar on his way home also his ferry from Santander was a few days before our in Calais, But it was that evening at dinner Geoff announced his intention to head home as the trip was costing more than he had expected, so he was going travel with paul as far as Gibraltar and then take advantage of the BMWs cruising ability and comfort to be back in Bridgewater by Sunday (It was tuesday). So the following day we would all ride back to Bikers Home and Geoff and Paul would head further north towards Marrakech and continue on with their adventures.

Relaxing at Bikers Home
That night we were invited on to the roof to look at the sky by the hotel owner, we were all struck with how beautiful the sky was so far away from any light polution, even tho only a quater of it was visable due to cloud cover.

I woke up the following morninga and couldn't really eat any breakfast as I had a mild heat stoke, I forced my self to drink as much water as possible before we left and headed back to Bikers Home, the ride was fairly uneventful.

Geoff and Paul left after we stopped for a drink at Bikershome.That evenin Pirate and I Plotted our choice of route home, we planned to take back roads and tracks over the mountains then take the coast road up the east of spain and over the pyrennes, we still had 11 days before our ferry in calais, so we were looking to get the most out of the rest of our Journey.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Days 9 and 10 - Into the Mountains

Pirate packing up the bike in Midelt
This was the day (Saturday 25th July) that I was most exited about, the day we finally leave the tarmac and go high into the mountains, We were far south in Morcocco and about to attack the trail known as MH2 in Morocco Overland (by Chris Scott) this goes from Midelt through the Cirque du Jaffar up to Imichill and then south to Bolamane Dades, we were hoping to be in Dades the following evening.

The first thing I had to do was change my tyres, I had been running on road tyres up until this point but I needed to put some tyres with an aggresive tread pattern the rocky terrain that I thought was awaiting me in the mountains. I had brought with me the Mitas 644 extreme army tyre which I have used in England  and have found to be a good intermediate road/ off road tyre but suffers in slippy conditions as it tends to slide sideways. It was hot so i dedided to pay a local to change my tyres whilst we were having a breakfast of Bread Cheese and Mint tea.
Tyres being changed

Looking Back towards midelt from the Cirque Du Jaffar
After breakfast we went to visit the home of the young lad who had acted as our guide while we were in Midelt, we repayed the families hospitality by purchasing some gifts for those back home and then set off towards the big green wall of mountains that we could see from Midelt.

Riding south out of midlet we quickly lost the tarmac and hit the gravel road that marked the start of the Circque du Jaffar. This started out as a nice gravel road but as we climbed higher into the mountains it started to get very taxing. The rivers that run down the mountin had washed out parts of the track making these crossings quite taxing espeacially for Geoff on His R1200GS, we had estimated the weight of his machine with all his luggage etc to be in excess of 350kgs. We were about 20km from Midelt when the Track got so bad that Geoff decided to turn back.
Chatting with local lads in the Cicque Du Jaffar

Geoff Decided to turn back after we spoke to some local teenagers from Midelt who were hiking in the mountains and were in need of some water. We gave them some water in exchange for a little advice, They told us the the track only got worse as we climbed higher. with this knowledge Geoff rode back to Midelt with Pirate whilst Paul and I continued into the Mountain.

The Boy's were right only about 5km later the track was completely washed away and by now it was getting close to 5pm, and we were still 140km from Imichill on a tough dirt track. Paul and I had to ride down the mountain along the river bed and then a steep climb to rejoin the track. we were shown the way by a young Berber farmer.

Paul and the young Berber Lad after helping lift my bike off my leg
We last section before we rejoined the track was a short steep climb which needed full throttle to get to the top. I went first and the front wheel left the ground at the top and couldn't land it. The bike went over and my leg was underneath the bike. I was just passed the crest of this climb so couldn't be seen from the bottom of the track. I heard Paul reving to come up the hill hopin he would come up the right hand side of the hill as if he came on the left he would hit me and my bike. Luckly he did. Paul and the young lad helped lift my bike off me and we were ready to be on our way after we gave the Lad a few Dirhams for his help.

Rear Brake repair in the mountains
We contiuned on the track and narrowly missed getting caught in a thunder storm as it passed us by the tack became soaked and I came of a further 2 times on the slippy wet mud, It was here I had realised that I new that I had definitley brought to much stuff: I had doubled up on tools and brought to many clothes and the bike was handling like a pig on this wet mud.

Then Later upt the track I totally lost the rear break. I stopped to take a look at the break caliper to discover that the rear break was missing a bolt, probably lost during the tyre change in Midelt earlier, Luckly I had a spare, I put the spare bolt on the bike and we continued on to the end of the track.

Camping at Building Site in the Mountains
We rejoined the tarmac and still had 100km of mountain road to cover before Imichill and it was close to 7pm in the evening. We set out trying to make Imichill but the roads were in a bad way where glacier melt had washed away the tarmac and brough boulders on the to road. The mountain villages were great with all the local children wanting to give us high fives as we road through. In the end however we ran out of light and we started looking for an auberge or a place to camp.

We found some builders building a house in the mountains who let us stay with them, but not only did they let us stay but they also fed us and gave us tea, It was fantastic hospitaility from people who had very little to share but they shared it with us.

The Top of the Pass looking down on Dades Gorge
The next day we were treated to breakfast by the builders and we then gave them a few dirhams and got on our way. Stopping firstly at the Lac du Tislet Just out side Imichill and then setting out for Boumalne Dades, the route we were taking took us over a stunning mountain pass and then through a gorge formed by a river. This was one of the most beautiful days riding I have ever done. we didn't pass another human being for hours.

Outside the Kasbah in Boumalne Dades
In terms of incidents it was a fairly smooth day, the track was much drier as a result was easier to navigate, altough there was one point where we had to follow the river bed as the path had been totally washed away again. We arrived in Boumalne Dade at about 6pm and met Geoff and Pirate at a Service station (They had gone around on the road).

We spent the night in a Kasbah which was totally empty as the there were very few tourists in southern Morocco at this time of year because it was so hot. Dinner was a lovely chicken tagine with lemons and saffron, and the Kasbah overlooked the Town of Boulmane Dades as we watched the sun go down.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Days 6, 7 and 8 - Northern Morocco

Left to right: Glen, Geoff, Matt
We packed up quickly and were ready to leave about half 9 on Wednesday 22nd June 2011. However before left we met a really interesting guy called Glen Burmeister, who was  under taking a challenge that was making us look like a bunch of soft shandy drinkers. Glen was riding from Tarifa in the very south of spain up to the tip of norway and trying to set a record time whilst doing it and raise money for Mind the mental health charity.

We got on the road and the good thing about the Etap hotel was that it was very easy to get on the Autovia (spanish motorway) and on the road to Algericas where we wanted to get the ferry to Tangier Med Port. After a few miles on the road I noticed my bike was really down on power and my top end was really sluggish. I knew what was wrong, when repairing my bike I had put the timing belt on one tooth out. so I stopped in at a services and set about and adjustment. I noticed that my attempt to fix the leak into cam belt chamber hadn't worked, bu the leak was only small so I decided to keep going and just monitor oil levels. It took some time as the engine was very hot.
Fixing my bike at roadside in the hot sun

I pulled away from the garage and 500 metres down the road the cambelt shredded a few teeth and I had no drive this was another half hour delay as I changed the cambelt by the side of the road. The belt had worn really quickly (less than 2000 miles) this was due to the oil leak from the bottom end softening the belt.

On board the boat
As we got on the road I noticed that my top end was slow again, in the rush by the side of the road I'd missed a tooth again. so when we arrived in Malaga to try and obtain the com unit for pirates helmet I set to work adjusting the belt for the 3rd time today.  Unfortunately it was 2pm when we arrived  and seista had jus begun. so pirate couldn't buy the bit he needed. We decided to go without the part and arrived in Algericas at 5pm.

We bought our tickets which were much more than we exepcted (£110 approx each for an open return) and just got on the last ferry of the day. We stayed at a campsite in the coastal town of Martil.

The Campsite in the morning
We woke up by 8 and were on the at about half 9 after we began our love affair with Moroccan mint tea at breakfast time. We got as much water as we could carry filled up with petrol and set off.

I was a refreshing change to be on twisty back roads rather than mile after mile of Motorway/ Autoroute/ Auotvia, although id did take some time to get used to the Moroccan way of cutting every corner so you had ride like everyone was going to kill you out there.

On the road south
It was hot and only getting hotter as we contiuned further south and buy lunch time it had reached 42 degrees. Our lunch stop was great int he middle of know where we had the biggest plate of salad bread, egg and cheese I have ever seen and it cost us next to nothing. The others got tuna with their food but I don't eat fish so I was happy with the salad.

By the time we finished lunch it was gone 3pm and it was clear we weren't going to make it to Midelt but we were only 100km from Meknes so agreed to finish the day there, It had been the hottest day so far and we were all tired in the heat. We got to Meknes at about 5pm and headed to a campsite that was marked on the GPS map I had downloaded before departure unfortunately we found it had been closed since 2009, at this point we were so hot and irratable that we decided to saty in the Local Ibis hotel. This was a slice of luxury that we felt we deserved after the ups and downs of the last week.

Geoff on the BMWR1200GS in Meknes
The first thing I did after unpacking the bike was head for the luxury that the Ibis hotle provided in the way of a swimming pool and a cold beer, it was much needed. That evening we headed into the town centre and the team dynamic was running great we all appeared to be getting on so much better (4 is a much better number to travel with than 3 was my conclusion). Paul had got an old phone to lend Pirate (Pirates phone had died in the rain storms in france) but it needed unlocking so on our way to find food we stopped at a few phone shops and arranged for this to happen in the morning.

For dinner Me and Geoff had our first Tagines in Morocco, a nice meal of Lamb veg and fruits Paul and Pirate weren't quite ready for native cusine and had Pizza.

Waiting outside the Ibis Meknes for Paul to return with an unlocked  phone for Pirate
The following morning we made the most of having breakfast provided and got ready to go for 10am. While Paul got a phone unlocked for Priate. It took until 1pm for Paul to return having been taken all around town  by various local phone unlocking people. This gave pirate the means to make much needed communication with the better half back home.

All the bikes in the Low Atlas
We left Meknes after paul returned and continued south to Midelt, the road went up into the mountains, Morocco is a ver strang country the senery and landscape change very quickly almost as if there is a line in the ground that marks where there is forest, plains and a landscape that looks like it should be on Mars. Being in the mountains it was much much cooler and we even had a little rain which cooled us all down.

Spirits high at the Campsite in Midelt
At times we were at 2200 above sea level however by the end of the day we dropped to around 1000 metres above sea level and the town of Midelt. the campsite in the town was empty and it made us realise how few travellers were heading to southern morocco at this time of year in this heat. We got our tents up and walked into town where we were shown to a local resutrant. We had a massive dinner and it cost us a total of around £15 for four of us. After dinner we returned to the campsite had a few drinks and and we had proper chat and a really good evening, after 2 days of brilliant roads and fantastic scenery Morale was high again.

The young lad who had shown us the restuarnt agreed to come and meet us in the morning to take use to get our tyre changed. Although it isn't in the spirit of independant motorbike travel didn't fancy changing my own tyres in this heat. I needed to change my tyres to Knobblie trail type tyres as tomorrow we were heading to the Mountain paths and the Cirque de Jaffar.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Days 3,4 and 5

Much of the remainder of the ride through france was relatively uneventful until we were passing Birraitz only 25km from the spanish border. Once again Geoff and Pirate had fallen behind so I found a safe space and pulled in. Immediately as I pulled in Pirate and Geoff came round the last corner so I pull out in to the space infront of them, thinking that Pirate had seen me pull out and would have given me space (I wasn't exactly descreet with a bright orange mo-hawk on my helmet). I pulled out but I hadnt changed down to first so pulled away sluggishly. Pirate hadn't seen me and we had a near miss, in honesty I shouldn't have assumed that pirate had seen me.

A few miles down the road, near St. Jean de Luz, the top pulley on the cam drive had worked loose and I lost all drive from the engine. The engine was really hot to work on and the temperature was warm  so it took a while to cool. The repair frustrated me as I kept making silly mistakes and it took a much longer time to repair than it should have.

Not long after this we crossed the spanish border and went through a toll, I followed the protocol we had used the whole way through france by pulling into the service/ rest area immediately afterwards. Pirate hadn't seen me and rode past with Geoff . Luckly I had seen them and pulled out of the service and caught up with them. Geoff pulled in and we all followed. At this point Geoff came and spoke to me about riding ahead and my general speed. With 3 long days of road riding behind us and an afternoon of incidents this was my last straw I needed to blow off and have some time on my own steam so rode off intending to wait at the next toll.

About 5km down the road I lost battery in my GPS and the Motorway split outside san sebastian, and I went followed the direction to Bilbao thinkint that was the direction we were heading. When I got to the toll I put some fresh batteries in my GPS to find I should have gone towards Madrid and Burgos rather than Bilbao. I was still steaming from the fall out we had had later but knew we had to join back together.

Day Three Map
We agreed to meet at Miranda de Ebro but had no accomodation arranged, It was almost 11pm when I arrived at a Truck stop out side the town which appeared to have a small hotel but the reception appeared closed. I pitched up on a piece of deralict ground and waited for Geoff and Pirate to arrive. I was still really upset with them and I definately was starting to feel like the awkward 3rd wheel in the trip I had spent most of the last year arranging route planning and saving for.

Geoff and Paul arrived at midnight and were about to pitch up next on the deralict ground when a security guard told us we had to move. He allowed us to lay our camp beds in a car park and we got some much needed rest.

We awoke at about 6am on Monday the 20th June after an awkwards nights sleep in a carpark. It was already starting to get hot so I decided to switch into the Motorcross Suit I had bought for the hot weather. The atmosphere between the group was not great and every one was not really talking and it wasn't until we got to Madrid at lunch time we really spoke to each other.

Day Four Map

The afternoon ride from Madrid to Granada was the most boring and straight road that I have ever ridden along until we reached mountains where it started to get twisty.

Motorway Srvices about 160km from Granada
We aimed for granada that evening and arrived at 7pm and it was half nine by the time we got into a hotel. We agreed to aim for the centre which was a lovely medevil city centre and I was really glad to be there, However pirate wanted to stay at out of town hotel and wasn't happy about the decison to saty in the centre.

That evening Geoff and I went out for a bite to eat we had gazapacho soup followed buy cous cous with chicken. I was pleased to eat some fresh food after 4 days of fast food and stuff off the shelves of motorway service station.

As Day 5 came around I was keen to stay in the same hostel in the Centre of Granada another night but the others wanted to pack up so when Paul arrived (around lunch time) we should head to the port.

The hot weather and thin oil had made my oil leak look much worse than it had at any other point on the trip. I thought the oil was leaking though the cam drive into the belt chamber so looked to replace the O ring in there. I found a garage that was recomended to me by a local motorcycle hire place. However it turned out to be a Tyre shop. However they gave me space to work and supplied me with and oring that fitted.

Whilst this was happening pirate when with an Ex pat we met at the tyre shop to replace his cardo coms unit that had broken down in the rain. With no luck he was given the address of a place in Malaga and we planned to visit there following day.

After fixing my bike we went to carrefour to meet Paul as this was our agreed meeting point. Paul didn't arrive until 5pm and he arrived at a different Carrefour the other side of town. Whilst we were wait ing for him I fixed the Ridgid industrys spotlights, it was just a case of installing a new switch as the old one had died in the rain.

We spent the night at an Etap hotel on the edge of town that was just as soul less as the last one, I would have prefered to go back to the hostel in town and enjoyed the medevial centre of Granada.

Pauls arrival very quickly changed the group dynamic and we seemed to be all getting on better, there didn't seem to be the arguing over whose sat nav to follow and and what speed we were running at.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Trip Report 2 - Days 1 and 2

I woke up at 8am on the morning of the 17th June 2011, although most things were packed and ready to go there were still some things left to do. The first errand of the day was to pop into the post office and pick up an international driving permit, this isn't essential for Morocco but it does help by translating the terms of a UK driving licence in to other languages.

More worring though was the fact that I didn't have a spare key for my MT 350, it had come up on the MT riders club that Timpsons carry a key blank that will work. I went down to my local timpsons who told me they would have to order the blank in for me, with departure only 3 hours away this was not an option. After going around several independat key cutters I decided to run the risk and carry only one key.

After all of this it had got to 12:30 and Pirate and I were supposed to be leaving at 1pm so we could get to Countess Services on the A303 to meet Geoff at 2:30. Needless to say it was actually 2pm by the time we got on the road after all the bikes had been loaded and much swearing had taken place due to not finding certain essential items and then finding them again. The long and the short of it is you can't get from bristol to Countess services in half an hour. I decided to put my rain suit on as although the sky was currently clear it had drizzled a little previously that day.

After saying good bye and I love you to Liz, my better half, we were on the road and spirits were very high and apart from traffic coming out of bristol the jorney to countess services was smooth running. Well smooth running until we stopped to put some fuel in the bikes; before leaving I had swapped the standard fuel cap on my Acerbis tank to a lockable one (not because i was worried about people stealing fuel, but because I didn't want a breather pipe getting in the way of my tank bag) and I had managed to do it up so tight that the locking mechanism failed. I knew i had enough fuel to get me to countess services tho so pirate filled up and we got going again.

We were well over an hour late by the time we got to countess services and Geoff was begining to think we'd gone with out him. As soon as we got there we set about forcing my fuel cap off with a screw driver this took about 20 minutes of more swearing and fettleing when eventually the cap came free, so I filled up with feul and we were on our way to dover.

Our journey day one.
It was after 4 when we left Countess services which ment that we reached the M25 at 5pm, now any one who knows anything about travel in the UK knows that you don't go round the M25 at 5pm on a Friday night, Had we been on time we would have been arriving at the Travellodge in Ashford at 5pm ready for as much sleep as we could get before getting on the road  to cross the channel the following day. Instead of getting relaxed here we were stuck in a traffic jam and then it rained and by rained I mean it poured down it was monsoon conditions. It took us 2 and a half hours to go 30 miles.

Eventually we arrived at the travelodge at about 8:30 pm only 8 and a half hours before our scheduled departure time on the ferry (5am). It was 10pm by the time we were ready for dinner, a wholsome meal at the closest fast food restaurant, and we didn't get to bed until close to midnight.

 It was 3am when our alarms went off to get us up in time to make the Ferry at 5am however once again we didn't leave in time as it wasn't until 20 past 4 when we set off on the 25mile ride to Dover. Once again we had under estimated how long it would take us to load the bikes up and get fully kitted up with all our gear.

I set off on to the motorway trying to keep my bike at 70mph (yes officer) all the way to dover to give ourselves the best chance of getting our 5am ferry. It soon became clear that Pirate and Geoff were not interested in running at pace.

In my personal opnion alot of this came down to the way Pirate had loaded his bike. Pirate had decide to take not 1 but 2 spare rear tyres and a spare front tyre and had attached them to the outside of his front panniers making his bike almost the width of a small car and because of this his bike became unstable at 65mph, unfortunately Pirate can be stubborn so despite this unwelcome feature and my gentle hints the tyres stayed in place for the whole trip. So despite having a 350 engine and probably I was carring more weight than Pirate (alot of it unnecessary) my bike seemed to have a more comfortable cruising speed than simons 500.

I was often having to slow down to 50mph to let them catch up. Then suddenly on the last hill going into Dover at 4:45 (So I was still hopeful that we may just squeeze on to our 5am ferry) I lost sight of Pirate and Geoff completely from my mirrors. I was swearing and cursing them as a pulled into a layby thinking that they may have followed a different path around dover or something as they had different Satelite Navigation systems to mine. I waited for 5 minutes and then moved to the Port entrance as this was the most sensible place ro wait if they were going a different route.

After a couple of moments the 2 of them turned up and rode straight past me without stopping to say what happened or anything (I was quite taken a back by this and thought it was quite rude). So I climbed aboard my steed and set off through passport control and followed signs to the ferry. On my way through I got flagged into customs, both times I have been through dover I have been pulled into this customs shed. Inside the shed there was a lady who probably thought that making jokes was akin to devil worship. Any first she was grumpy about the orange mohawk on my helmet. I didn't dare take the helmet off to show her that I had a real one underneath. Then she asked me if I was carrying a knife. My reply to this was "only my camping knife".
"Oh can I see it" she replied.
So I un pack my tank bag and get out my swiss army knife.
"That's a weapon, It has a lock blade"
In my mine a lock blade is  saftey feature that stops the blade folding back on your fingers, but apparently under UK law a lock blade is a weapon (how ridiculous). I was quite worried that she was going to confiscate the knife, a knife I had spent a lot of money on during my last europe trip (I had bought it in switzerland). Luckly she proved to be human after all and she told me that as long as it remained on the bike It could stay with me.

Leaving Dover on the Boat
I caught up with Geoff and Pirate and it was now 5:15 and our Ferry had left but for no extra cost we were moved on to the 5:55 ferry, which was odd as we originally wanted to book this Ferry yet had been told it was sold out. I found out the reason that Pirate and Geoff were held up was because pirate had run out of petrol. Having syphoned some out of geoffs massive 38litre fuel tank on the GS he was on the road again.

We left the UK and arrived in France just before 9am (French time) having had breakfast on the boat. Our first job was to get petrol so we set off in to Calais to get Petrol. Once we had got petrol we got on to the Autoroute.

Once on the autoroute it wasn't long until we had to had to pull of the road as Pirates side stand spring had broken and was dangerously hanging loose. So we pulled off the road and strapped it up with a couple of cable ties and got back on the road.

Once we got south of Rouen the rain came back to us and it was once again torrential so we pushed on through though just as we cleared the main patch of rain it was my time to break some springs, my centre stand springs disappeared, Geoff told me the loose stand was creating lots of sparks behind me. Once again a fix with a couple of cable ties fixed this problem and we were off again. Unfortunately the rain had caught us while we were stopped and we were once again riding in torrential rain.

The next drama occored at a toll booth on the peage, I couldn't see any manned booths so went to an automatic one, The sensor on these automatic booths is designed to register for cars. so wouldn't pick up my bike. We were stuck by the booth with a queue of cars building up behind us. I had to walk accross to the the closest member of staff to get someone to open the gate for us after we paid.

Our journey day two.
Next It was Pirates turn to loose his centre stand, He now had no stand and for the rest of the day every time we wanted to stop he had to lean his bike against a lampost or wall. Unfortunately whilst fixing pirates bike the rain had come in so hard and side ways it had flooded my engine. My bike wouldn't start so we pushed it to the next bridge to check out why it wasn't starting. If it was water only time would cure it as it would have to evaporate from the engine. So while this was happening I just checked the cam belt to ensure that this wasn't the problem. After half an hour in the dry under the bridge we put her back together and she fired up and we were on our way.

Pirates Bike against a lamp post
By the end of the day we had got as far as Tours, 200km short of our intended destination for the day (Bordeaux). We ate at KFC because it was convienient and quick and then got a room at the closest Etap Hotel. The etap hotel was ideal for people just pulling off the motorway to stop for the night, however with 3 people in a room and all our bike gear as well it was more than a little crammed. Pirate managed to rig up a bungy to his bike so he could now use his side stand.

Trip Report 1 - Before Departure

In 2009 I undertook my first motorcycle trip abroad, to Dubrovnik and back on a Kawasaki W650. This was a eureka moment for me as I had found a way to combine my two passions in life: motorcycles and travel. In addition I found the joy of riding on unpaved roads whilst riding to the Southern tip of Istra (the North Westerly heart shaped peninsular in Croatia). Some of the most beautiful landsacpe I experinced on this trip was only veiwable on unpaved roads.

After returning to the UK I wanted to buy a dual sport motorcycle so I could get more experience on unpaved (green) roads. I settled on a Harley Davidson MT350 they had been the British milatry's main motorcycle for the last 15 years and they were now being removed from service. Soon after puchasing this bike I went for a ride and I found out how tough my new hobby was going to be, after almost giving up on the first lane I attempted as it was a tough rock climb on the outskirts of Keynsham near Bristol. From then onwards I was hooked going green lane riding most weekends where available. In these early days I broke the golden rule of all outdoor pursuits "never go alone" and with hindsight I was lucky I never seriously hurt myself, as I didn't have back up, but in my mind I could go alone or not at all and this was no choice for me.

In June 2010 I got married to my girlfriend/fiancĂ©e of 6 and a half years and at the time we were talking about moving to Canada in 2012, although this ambition has been put on hold for now, at the time I wanted to ride a motorcycle accross Europe to Morocco before leaving. I decided that my summer holiday in 2011, would be to ride my MT350 to Morocco and into the Atlas Mountains and hopefully as far as the desert. I thought would be the ultimate adventure I could take on two wheels in three weeks riding to and from Bristol.

Through the MT Riders Club I met another rider, known as "Pirate" or Simon who became my usual riding buddy as we were able to be free at similar times in the week. As time went on Pirate and I have become good mates. In the spring of 2010 I told pirate of my plan for summer 2011 and his immediate reaction was "can I come?" to which my reply was "of course considering everywhere I'm intending on visiting is public road, so I can't really stop you."

After Pirate got on board we offered a space on the trip to some of our riding buddies unfortunately noone could make it due to work or family commitments. One good mate of ours, Franc really wanted to go and I think if there was any way he could have made it he would have.

Another thing that put many people off joining our adventure was the time window we choose for our adventure, late June/early July when the heat has the potential to rise to 50 degrees centigrade. It emerged that it wasn't going to be an easy trip according to the information we had. It was suddenly becoming a real and challenging adventure to the Sahara in summer. The challenge aspect of it prompted me to try and make some good out of this adventure and I started raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Campagin.

In the Autumn of 2010 I got involved with another internet based motorcycle club: Horizons Unlimited. If you are ever inspired to take a trip on two wheels yourself this internet based forum aand travel advice website is an esstential travel accessory. It was through Horizons Unlimited that I met both Paul and Geoff who we goiong to join us in the trip.

Eventually we had our team and I got to planning a route. I didn't want a ridgid itineary, instead I wanted a rough idea of where we were  heading at each stage of the trip, so although there was no set agenda there was a plan. Our plan was to get through Europe as quickly as possible hopefully in three days but to give ourselves a fourth in case of unforseen incidents; then route around Morocco losely listed as Tangier - Meknes - Midelt - Bolamane Dades - Zagora - Ourazazate - Marrakech - Tangier  and finally with four days left to get home.

In the planning one of the major issues that came up was the vast difference between the machines, Paul's Honda XR650L was similarly capable to mine and Pirate's MTs, but Geoff's BMW R1200GS was much heavier and much more road biased than the other bikes. With this in mind we made sure that at all times on this tirp there had to be an altenative route on tarmac incase Geoff or the machine wasn't up to the tricky sections.

Eventually the 17th of June 2011 came around and we were set to go!!

Monday, 13 June 2011

1st Stage Target

Big Thanks
I would like to thank every one who has donated to our fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy Campagain so far, and if you haven't then why not??

Yesterday evening thanks to a very generous off line donation from Liz's mum, Madeline Momtazi we reached and passed our Target of £1000. however no point resting on our laurels we want £2000, this will fund staff with specialist knowledge of muscle disease - including occupational therapy, support and expert medical advice at one of the Muscular Dsytrophy Campaigns specialist centre for on week or  66 hours of research into treatments for Muscle disease.

I guess now I will have to have that bright Orange Mo hawk that I promised I would if we reached target before we set off.

So donate now on my Just Giving Page

Even More Thanks
As friday's departure day draws near i would like to thank some of the many organisations and people who have helped me get this far and ready to go.

Kickstart were the training provider who got me originally through my bike license, I would recomend them to anyone wishing to take their motorcycle license.
Since passing my test I have now become friends with some of the instuctors and back in October 2009 it was with Kickstart and a "Club Run" that I went on my first organised Dirt bike ride.

KL Motorsport have been a great supplier of Parts for MT's over the 2 years i have owned my bike. Steve (the company director) is a top bloke and has always been helpful on the end of the phone.

KL motorsport is always my first choice for MT parts and they ar almost always delivered next day.

 Zen overland is run by a friend of mine who i met through Horizons unlimited (see below). Gabriel has been very useful in terms of emergency parts and extra kit for this trip. Suppliing much of my upgrades and additions. (I highly recomend the ridgid industries spotlights he sells). Helping me Pirate, and Paul in diffent ways to prep for this trip he has been indispensable as a font of knowledge.

The MT Riders Club is the essential members club for anyone with or thinking about geting an MT it is estential to be a member of this club. Me an Pirate met through this owners club.

Horizons unlimited is the number one information source for would be motorcycle travellers and and overland expeditions, it was through this forum I met Geoff and Paul.

So now back to the process of packing and preping for our adventure!!