Thursday, 30 September 2010

September 9th - Santander

Arriving in Santander, summer at last!

Santander, looking out of the Portside windows as we approach Spain, we see the weather looks great, a clear blue sky, summer all over again.

We unload the bikes, peel off the boat, and out of the terminal gates, freedom, and Morocco lie beyond.

At this point, It's probably a good idea to clue you in as to who rides what.

Myself, I'm on The Grand Wazoo, a modified 1100/1150, the oldest of the lot, and just over 80 000 miles on the clock, home made panniers, and probably in contention with Jason for being most overloaded.... Fingers crossed

Shad, a new 800GS, with only several hundred on the clock, no panniers, 2 ortliebs on the back, and a couple of Kreiga 10's on the front, well balanced and definitely no worries there.

Alan, a ropey looking Tenere 660 that he's not long had, and already a recent dyno jetting episode has left it thirsty, and not able to go much faster than about 70mph. Soft luggage, and ortlieb on the back, seems sturdy enough, he has every faith...

Jason, the newest bike of the bunch, a sparkley 1200GS, and in definite competition with me as to the amount of gear that can be plastered to it, these include a Cosco bag, plastic bowls, a huge tripod, and wait for it, an inflatable bed.. Not a thermarest, but 8 inches of full blown comfort. So, Huge ortlieb, Cosco bag, tank bag, and ally luggage.. we'll see how long it all stays for.

Darren, Nicest bike of the bunch, (writers opinion only, and does not reflect the views of the group), a 1200GSA, that later was to spend more time on its side, than upright, ally luggage, and a small ortlieb. Definitely the least amount of luggage.

So that's us, a bunch of guys who, aside from Shad & Myself, have never set eyes on each other before...
After Me and Shad managing to lose the other three in Santander, we wait at a fuel station till the other three find us, and make a beeline out of town.

We make great progress, the sun's out, by 1pm we've hit the outskirts of Santander, and we're burning a path down to Algeciras.
The motorways are great, nice and wide, and with minimal traffic, and the scenery is pretty damn good too, poles apart from our grey industrialized roads back home.
We make 300 miles easilly before we start thinking about a place to camp.
Now, wild camping in Spain isn't kosher, but that's not to say we weren't going to do our damndest to try, after all, we'd agreed, no easy ride till our sleep-over at Ouarzarzate.

EX205, that's where we find ourselves, and near a little town caled Hervas. We ride through the villiage like a squadron of lancaster bombers, reverberating off the walls of the houses, even Shads 800 sounds like a boxer!

After exiting the other end of the village without seeing anything that floats our boat, we continue up a narrow winding road into the mountain. We stop while Alan, whose Tenere is now refusing to idle, goes up a gravel road to check for a suitable blend for the night.

A local family walk past, and stop to chat! Urgh.. who's got the bloody phrasebook?
Between our pidgin Spanish, and their broken English, they warm to us, but reinforce what we already know, and that being the fact that wild camping is a No-No, however, they say the police never come here, and tell us that a few miles up the road is a nice flat place to camp.

So, Alan back with us again, we head on up the road, however, round the next bend, I look down to the left, and see a small field in the valley, accessed through some rusty gates, and down a winding dirt track. We all head down one by one, and decide that taking over the field for the night is a great plan, We kill the engines, and begin to decamp.

Everything is still wet from the dirty Portsmouth weather we were sent off with, so the panniers are emptied, tents are erected, and the Grand Wazoo serves as a clothes horse, in an attempt to dry some of the gear and clothes.

Alan tucks right into stripping down the Tenere, as it's now sounding like it's running on half a cylinder, and a full tank is only returning 100 miles. Fairing, plastics, seat, tank, lock stock the lot,everything comes off. Carbs are examined, wiring is looked at, some things are prodded, whilst others are poked, all this is now being done by torchlight, as we finally lost the sun 30 mins ater making camp. So there we all are, our first camp together, one bike in pieces, 2 toolkits spread out on the ground, various stoves boiling and cooking...

Dinner is bread, olives & chorizo, and Rooibos tea... and as Alan beavers away, the silence is only broken by the sound of cowbells down in the valley.

(and Darrens snoring)

September 8th - Leaving England

September 8th - The leaving of England, and the "Fair weather brewer"

The alarm had been set for 6am, but of course the day didn't start then, no, it started at 4am. Remember I told you about the heavy rain, and the need to pee?

Well, peering out of the tent, it's wet, and only getting wetter...
Answering natures call, sees me in nothing but a pair of white boxers, and my Alpinestars, crossing the runway in the rain to relieve myself, much to the interest of some horses in a paddock in front of me.

During the night, I'd missed a text from Alan, letting me know that he'd finally made Portsmouth, and had found digs, and would see me on the ferry. So, now slightly damp from natures call, (the rain, I didn't pee on myself) I headed back to the tent to contemplate the day.

Darren was up at 6:30, followed by Shad at 7:30. In the meantime, I had been packing down the wet tent, and re-loading the bike with even wetter gear, now for the "fair weather brewer" bit

Darren, noticing no coleman burning away, with a morning offering atop it, started bemoaning the fact that yours truly was a "fair weather brewer", never mind the fact that everything was soaking wet, and such trivialities as tea was low down on the priority list. (wait until we're stuck on the high Atlas in a thunderstorm, I'd give him "Fair weather brewer"

We left the base at 8:00, and took the road to the ferry terminal, stopping off only at Asda, for some bits and bobs, and at this burger van Shad had been telling us about.

Well, lavish wasn't the word, it was like a tourbus for the rich and famous, gleaming white, decked out in stainless steel, and with what looked like it could have been sleeping quarters attached as well!

To say that the burgers were huge, is an understatement, they were 10" in circumference, and were served stuffed with not only breakfast, but lunch and supper too.
We ate in the rain, and made haste to meet the boat.
Boarding went without a hitch, and we were soon strapped down in the hold, and making our way to the upper decks, to rendezvous with Alan and Jason.

I must appologise for the lack of ferry pictures, but we were wet, the gear was wet, and we were more intent on drying out, and getting some grog inside to warm the proverbial cockles.

The 24 hours aboard Brittany's finest dragged, and the time was passed drinking beer and coke, eating dodgy ship food, and chatting to several passengers, who found us an either interesting, or bedraggled spectacle, not least of all, was "Harry the hatchet", an ageing bloke, off to Santander with his wife, to "scare the shit out of some people in the dark"... (his words)
Apparently he was from the Isle of Wight, and collects debt, as well as racing his Fazer around the globe.. likely, or unlikely, who knows?

The morning passed to afternoon, and then to evening, with us listening to the ragged ships entertainers, and later, nodding off in the seats. Alan, Jason, and Darren had cabins, all whom offered to share with us, but me an Shad took the manly route, roughing it on the floor, and recliners..

I nipped out on deck at around 11pm for a last cigarette, only to be accosted by a large Yorkshire lass whom I guess was somewhere in her middle to late 50's, who asked if I was alone.... (ooeerr)
When I replied that I was with some friends, she said that she knew I was with some "roughty, toughty bikers" but was I really alone... (this sounded scary, so I withdrew a little, as I didn't fancy the thought of having to excuse my way out of another cabin invite)

She proceeded to try and engage me with stories of her dead son, and John Gotti, whom she'd met in the States, and while describing a meeting with Gotti, recounted how he'd stroked her chin, obviously feeling obliged to stroke mine, to lend emphasis to the tale..

Strange, first Harry the Hatchet, Now the Black Widow..

I retired at this point to the relative safety of the recliner section, and sought out some much needed sleep..
I remember dozing off, with my boots off, listening to Crash Test Dummies, and seem to remember some dude sleeping next to me on the floor, with his face against my feet..

Fair play I thought, they'd been in my boots for around 15 hours though..

Portsmouth - 7th September

Portsmouth - 7th September.

Shad and Myself had decided to leave a day early, and set up camp at Baker Barracks, on Thorney Island, spitting distance from the ferry terminal, it would give us chance to double check we have everything we need, before we get an an early breakfast, (at what has to be the most expensive burger van I've ever seen), and a short ride to the ferry tomorrow.

London and the M25... 4 hours to traverse 160 miles, all due to roadworks, and congestion on the sodding M25. No filtering either, especially not with a wide rear like the "Grand Wazoo" had... I could picture the panniers collecting paint samples before too long.

Getting down to the island, we set up tents just off the disused runway, incidentally, the same runway where Shad had previously broken his leg, flipping his KTM. It wasn't long before we were joined by Darren, and Alan was due down at some point too. Jason was meeting us on the ferry, and Alan's arival time was unknown, so the three of us headed off into town, for fish & chips.

We returned to camp around 9(ish), and the coleman surfaced for a brew of South African Rooibos tea (This was to see Darren convert on his return to England)

Alan then sent a text, to say he's run out of fuel up nr Birmingham, and that his bike has issues, ie: 90 miles to a 22 liter tank, plus two primus bottles, oh, and that it's running rough too. He''ll either see us after midnight, or take lodgings elsewhere. "Never mind", I retort, "ride safe, and we'll see you when we do"

Secretly, I wondered what the hell he was letting himself, and us in for, a 660, running rough, on what was to be a 4200 mile trip, and we haven't even left home yet.

Teeth brushing, & face-washing ensued, along with a cigarette, and a last cup of tea for me. We retired to our snug sleeping bags & thermarests at 23:00.....

Sadly, I was awakened at 04:00 by heavy rain, and the need to pee

The beginning - What it's all come down to

The beginning.

Somewhere back last year, someone started a "trip to morocco" thread, which attracted a bit of interest, with several souls saying that they'd go. Thing is, back then, it was a raggedy group of individuals with no real game plan that met up one afternoon, and shortly after the first "meeting", the original poster of the thread dissapeared into mists of time, no longer interested in setting sail for the Sahara, and the thread disolved into sporadic, undefined posts, that were neither organised, or disorganised.
They were merely that, post. But, they prompted me to get on with it, and plan my own trip, I was going, with, or without company..

I had always planned to go this year anyhow, as a tribute to a late friend of mine Mick Dewhurst, with whom I was initially going to do the trip.
Back tracking a bit, one good thing did come from the initial meet up back then, that was in the form of Shad Williams, we seemed to hit it off from the start, similar age, similar interestes etc... You get the picture?

Shad and myself kept regular contact, talking over ideas and discussing possible spots to visit, so I set about planning a route, one that would cover places we both wanted to see.
Over the coming months, gear was assembled, routes were planned, offroad riding was slotted in where possible, and of course, one eye was always on the forum, looking for one or two others we may gel with.

Long story short, (so I can get on with the actual trip)
Darren, was someone we'd met on that first meeting back then, and he seemed like a good sort, albeit quiet. He'd kept in touch with Shad, and it appeared he was still eager to go. In the meantime, I'd been contacted by Allan, a diver out in Nigeria at that time, who'd seen the thread, and was interested in joining us. He would be on an "Unproven" Tenere 660, and a case of fly in from Nigeria, get on this bike, and ride back to Africa.

A similar, chance email came from London based engineer Jason, looking to hook up with us for the trip.

Blah blah blah, plan some more, blah blah and more blah .... that's it, 5 of us, enough for me, we sail from Portsmouth on September 8th, lets all meet there, and see what happens.