Touring Ted

2 wheels & no sense. My Motorcycle travel blog.
28.09.2010

Wooooo ! What a week it has been. 

We found our way from the campsite in Venice to the ferry terminal without too much drama. Our itinerary said “WE MUST CHECK IN SIX HOURS BEFORE DEPARTURE AT 10am”.. As always, the Italian ferry companies had f**ked this up as we couldn’t check on for quite a few hours later.  So, as always we sat around and waited. Eventually, the ticket office opened up and in ONLY two hours, 30 passengers we checked on board.  In fairness they did have to photocopy all our documents and deal with about six different nationalities. Waiting around is all part of the game.

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We eventually were given the all clear and rolled on board. Carrying all of our gear up three decks and across the length of the ship in sweltering heat was soul destroying and smashing a bottle of “stashed” red wine just added to our misery. (Nice one Neil grrrrrrrrrr )

We settled in on board well, somehow fitting our entire luggage into a small bunked cabin. That cabin was our home for four days.  Those four days were pretty dull and were spent reading, sunbathing, playing cards with the other overlanders on the ship and also cooking our meals. Now, using petrol stoves on the ship isn’t aloud so we just covered the smoke alarm and put the petrol stove in the shower. Although, I think half the ship knew our game as the smell of Tomato and Basil pasta flowing down the hall ways was a bit of a give away lol.

We settled in well, somehow fitting our entire luggage into a small bunked cabin. That cabin was our home for four days. We cooked our meals in the shower on the camp stoves as the 15 Euro meals were just too much for our budget, we munched away at muesli bars for breakfast and rationed out the booze sparingly..

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We pulled into Alexandria at 2pm. The Egyptian officers came aboard and by 4pm we were off the ship and ushered next to a trailer cabin for the real mayhem to begin.  We had to have our Carnets processed, Arabic number plates made, Egyptian driving licences produced and our luggage searched.  This whole debacle took about four more hours and was an absolute mass of confusion and panic (and that was just the Egyptians). 

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We had arranged to ride with three other South Africans to a campsite that was meant to be 5km from the port. It was clearly marked on one of their GPS maps.  Easy going for the first night in Egypt we thought.

It was about 8pm by the time we were cast into the dark, dirty chaotic streets of Alexandria.  If you haven’t driven in Egypt, at night in one of the busiest, craziest cities then words just can’t do it justice. There is no order, no rules.  People spill out into the street followed by their animals, cut throat taxi drivers live a life of no fear and all the time people trying to sell you things while you’re trying to stay alive. I thought I’d seen some crazy places in South America but Alex beats them all. 

After riding around aimlessly we cut a deal with a local man to take us to a hotel. He drove at cut throat speed through the manic traffic with us all following throwing all of our “western” driving principles to the wind. He took us to expensive or crap hotels until we were rescued by a fluent speaking Egyptian guy called “Micky” who came over after seeing us in a state of tired confusion. . He got rid of the other schemer, got us into a decent hotel, arranged safe parking across the street and even insisted on spending the evening with us, taking us to his favourite fish restaurant and along the quayside of the city. Micky just happend to be a Colonel in the Egyptian Air Force and an F-16 pilot. You really can’t make this stuff up.

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We left Alex this morning and battled the city to the highway and into Cairo where we are now.  Again, we were lost in this massive, crazy city with only Arabic road signs. Luckily, a taxi driver pulled over and agreed to take us to a decent hotel and that’s where im writing this from.

Tomorrow we head into the city and try to obtain Visas for Ethiopia and Sudan..  !


After a week of partying and sightseeing in Barcelona it was time to board our ferry to Livorno, Italy.

The ferry was scheduled to leave at 11.59pm on Saturday night so we didn’t book any accomodation that night thinking we would just chill out at the hostel until we had to check in.

Low and behold, I received an email from Grimaldi Ferries notifying us of a six hour delay.. AHHHHHH.  After Friday nights partying and three hours of sleep, this isnt what we wanted to hear.   Alas, we waited and waited catching the odd nap here and there until we finally headed down to the ferry terminal at 4am. That was already 24 hours without sleep with only three hours sleep in about 48 :(

We finally got aboard the ship at about 5am and in a daze of tired confusion made our way to a chair and collapsed with exhaustion.. We were just dropping off when an Italian biker woke us to inform us that he had arranged free cabins for all the passengers (about 40 in total). WOOOOOOOO !!  We immediately jumped into bed and fell asleep.  Just as well really, as the ferry didnt leave until 9am ( 9 hours late).

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We arrived in Livorno, Italy at 7am after being kicked out of the cabin three hours previously. Still half asleep we rode the 15 miles to Pisa and did a 20 min photo shoot and walk around.. What a magnificent place but nothing much else to do there but eat expensive pasta…

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Pisa was over with by mid morning so we decided to head to Bologna. We had no map, the GPS wasn’t playing fair and with lack of sleep and patience we had a cranky ride to Bologna and a bit of a fall out.  Neil was really feeling the pain of the lack of rest and hardly eating and I just wanted to get to Bologna as quick as possible. It was always going to be a shit day !! We ended up  just taking the toll road motorway and found our way into a hostel recommended by tourist info in Bologna.  Bologna was just an “en route” stop for us. It’s filled with expensive boutiques and pasta restaurants. Not much for me really..  Maybe ill find out its hidden secrets on another trip. The hostel wasnt up to much either. More of a concentration camp than a relaxing place to stop. On the plus side, we found a map there so we could plan a less stressful route to Venice, without arguments !  We spent that night dissasembling Neils carb as it’s been butchered by hab handed mechanic. It constantly leaks but we don’t have the parts to fix it ..All fun eh.

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We left Bologna on Tuesday 21st Sept and arrived in Venice the same day. It took up four hours to ride 100 miles as we stuck to the free roads which were pretty conjected. Italy’s pay roads are fast but paying seven Euros to travel 100 miles is taking the piss a little !

Here in Venice we met up with the two New Zealanders, Craig and Cam who we will be sailing into Alexandria with and probably riding through Egypt and Sudan with.. It’s going to be fun !  :)

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So, today was a day of sightseeing and photo taking in SPECTACULAR Venice. Being so packed with tourists takes away the shine a little but its well worth a visit for a day. I couldnt stay there any longer though.

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So tomorrow morning we head to the ferry terminal here in Venice and board our boat to Egypt and to where the REAL adventure starts. The boat takes four days and with customs the other side, i’ll probably be off the radar for a while….

Until then……….


16.09.2010

We left Covaleda and headed to Lodosa where once again, Neil has family. We were booked into a lovely hostel in the town square and soon settled in.  We were immediately taken to the family owned restaurant and fed mountains of fantastic Spanish cuisine then taken to a really cool bar where everyone was smoking weed (very common in Spain),  a pet ferret was running around the place and large friendly man was selling Ak47’s. I’m serious!!  Nothing to worry about though as it was all very friendly and I was offered a free revolver if I bought one off him that afternoon. Sadly, my luggage is already overloaded so I had to pass on the offer.

After four days of being fattened up and taken out into Logrono for a big “blow out” party in the city we finally left and made our way to Barcelona where I’m writing this post from.  We arrived on Sunday and its been hostel party life every day. I really love hostels sooo much.  There are bursting with interesting party loving people and there is always something to do.  I’ve been out clubbing with people from every nationality you can think of and blowing my travel budget on over priced beer. Still, you only live once !

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To add to my financial misery, I’ve just spent £200 on riding clothes and a large parcel bill.  The riding gear I brought with me for the trip is just too hot, fussy and awkward. Where large armour suits offer great protection and are perfect for a day trip of enduro riding, wearing it day in and day out is miserable.  It took 10 minutes just to put it on and I couldn’t take it off quickly which left me sweating and panting in the Spanish sun, let alone the Sahara !!

So, two days left in Barcelona and then it’s the ferry to Livorno, Italy. We have booked a hostel for Pisa already.  I can’t wait, but until then I’m going to thoroughly enjoy Barcelona some more…

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We have spent the last week in Covaleda eating Neil’s family out of house and home, riding the deserted forest trails on our enduro bikes and sunbathing on river banks. It’s a hard life isn’t it !! These 400cc enduro bikes are uncomfortable and slow while on the highways, but when you can ditch your luggage for a few days and go exploring in the countryside, they really make sense.  The freedom and fun you can have on them is not to be ignored. I really don’t think we could have had such a free hand if we had brought bigger touring bikes. 

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Although the scenery is stunning here and the hospitality first class, there isn’t a great deal to do. The town is almost dead during the weekdays and with no TV or internet etc, cabin fever starts setting in.  I wish I could say I’ve been doing a lot more but apart from gate crashing a wedding on Saturday night and almost empting the free bar, it’s been very slow and relaxing.

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We will be leaving the village of Covaleda tomorrow morning and heading for another small village called Lodosa.  Once more, visiting Neil’s extended family who are spread out over Spain.  It’s times like these that I really wish I had kept up with my Spanish as I can’t really communicate or join in with conversation, which is pretty frustrating. I only have myself to blame though.

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After Lodosa we will probably head up to Pamplona, the city famous for the “Running of the bulls”. Although there will be no bulls there, it’s a vibrant city with more to do.. 

We have booked ourselves in a Hostel in Barcelona for the 14th Sept. Our ferry for Italy leaves on the 18th.  I love staying at hostels. There are so many new people to meet and party with, stories to share and books to swap..

Bring it on………..


I left on Bank holiday morning at 6am to try and beat the traffic.. I knew it was going to be a long ride to Surrey but I had to leave sometime !!

Wearing all my riding gear that I bought for Africa left me shivering in the “British summer”. I had to stop four times in the first couple of hours just to warm my hands on my exhaust pipe and jump about to get some blood back into my limbs…  I lost count the amount of times I thought “what the f**k am I doing” !! 

I battled on through the conjested, biker hating traffic that I love England so much for.  I never really warmed up wearing just body armour and my cycling wind stopper jacket…   A few lessons learnt already.  I have brought TOO much stuff, the luggage is too heavy and my wateproof cover for my tankbag flys off at anything over 40mph.. Great !!

I eventually arrived at Neils place six hours later in a bit of a daze. My bike was soooo heavy it handled terribly. With a top speed of a staggering 60mph it had me thinking if i’d picked the right machine for such a long trip. I’m still thinking that now ! Still, too late now and no turning back.

Things cheered up a lot once I unpacked and Neils mum thrust a cup of tea into my hands. 

Neil still hadn’t packed his bike or even ridden it for a few weeks.  To add to our lack of sensibility, his brakes didn’t work… This started me stressing a little although he didnt seem to mind !! Alas, we got it working (a bit) and we settled down into worrying about the next day  :)

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Wednesday morning we awoke at 6am, packed up and were on the road for 7.15am. It was still freezing cold, my hands were numb and we were stuck in typical gridlocked traffic all the way to the ferry. It’s no surprise that the ferry terminal was full of bikers waiting to escape these shores.

12 hours on the ferry passed as slowly as we predicted and we didnt sleep well in our reclining chairs with drunken old bag ladies talking all night… Still, the thought of warm, sunny spain was on our minds !

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We arrived at Santander and immediately headed out of the city..  It doesnt take long to hit beautiful, rolling , green countryside and forrest. I had no idea Norther Spain was so beautiful. I’ve been wasting my time in the south all these years. The trip really starts to make sense once you feel the sun on your neck and the stresses of everyday life start dissolving.  Life is simple once again !

Five hours later and we are here in Covaleda. This town is the home of Neils family and the most “Spanish” place I have ever been. There is no tourism, no tacky shops or hotels and no “English breakfasts”. Its such a beautiful town and Neils family are showing us fantastic hospitality. I’m certainly not going to go hungry here.

So, the next few days will be spent getting fat and playing on the forest trails around the town. Fantastic stuff and zero stress.

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I will roll out at 7am tomorrow morning so I better write this now !

The bike is packed and all I have to do is go and ride it now….  There’s plenty of crazy thoughts running through my head right now. Will this old battered enduro bike make it ?? Will I bet able to get the visas ? Am I going to get kidnapped, murdered, run over and shot at ?  … Knowing me, probably all of the above !

To be honest, it’s the waiting which is the worst thing. I’ve been ready for a while now. I finished work over a week ago and i’m just bored sitting at home waiting to leave..

The thing i’m LEAST looking forward to is the long ride from my home in Merseyside to Neils place in Surrey. Avoiding Motorways (my bike isnt fast enough), it’s going to take about 6-7 hours.. Not fun in bank holiday traffic ! I guess im going to have to get used to this and back into the mind set.

While on the road, you become a different person. Living a day at a time is the norm. You get used to packing and unpacking your bike, looking for places to sleep and long long days in the saddle.  When you finish a trip and get yourself back into the “Bubble” of a nomral 9-5 comfortable existance. It’s very hard to lever yourself out of it again..

I’m looking forward to being that other person again because it’s a fantastic way to live and very “free” !!!   I miss it !
So, anyway ! I don’t know when the next post is coming.. Soon I hope !!  Off I go……..   😀


15.08.2010

Ahhhh I can’t believe it. Only two weeks to go.

Quiet a lot has happend since my last post.  I finally have my Carnet de passages (Very important customs document for the bike and worth £8000)   There is nothing stopping us now. All the ferries are booked, the bike is running ok and I have bought a spare pair of undies !  :)

Packing……. GROOOAN !  If you thought you had problems packing for a week on the Costa Brava then try packing and arrranging everything you will need for youself and a motorcycle for a six month journey through Africa. I have the equivilant packing space of one large suitcase and I have to fit in all my clothes, tools, spare parts, camping equipment, paperwork , first aid kit, mosquito net, food, water etc etc etc !  I am the master of packing light now but it’s so stressful trying to guess what you will on won’t need on an extended trip like this.

So, the plan !!

I’m going to leave Merseyside on the Monday 30th August (Bank holiday traffic BOOOO) and mosey my way down to Neils in London. Avoiding motorways, it’s going to take about 6-7 hours. Grim !!  The ferry leaves Plymouth on the 1st September !

It’s all go now…  Watch this space !


It’s too late now ! No going back.

We’ve spent plenty of money this month….

The ferry to Santander is booked, the ferry from Barcelona to Italy is booked and the ferry from Venice to Egypt is also booked. Thats £600 in ferries alone .. Ouch !

More good news is that my bank guarantee has been accepted for my Carnet de passage.  Within a few weeks we should have all the required paperwork and bookings. Wooo

I’ve also had to sell my other bike to help fund this trip. It’s a welcome boost to the travel fund but i was very sad to see her go  :(

Well, not much to report apart from that really. Just buying more and more spare parts and bits and pieces that we overlooked. When will the spending stop !!

6 weeks to go !!


14.06.2010

Where does the time go !!!!!!!!!!!! Ahhhhh

So, whats new with me and planning !  Not a lot really, or nothing really interesting enough to talk about. Just the usual routine of buying spare parts, fettling with the bike and trying to organise ferries, carnets, visas, inoculations etc… The list (and cost) just goes on and on.

I think the bike is 95% finished and ready to go.  Having such a small bike is a nightmare when it comes to finding space to put things. It’s a real challenge. It’s really looking like the real deal though.. A proper beefed up old rat lol.

With me things aren’t so good.  I hurt my knee over 2 months ago whilst playing football now and it’s still not healed. I’m being sent for an MRI scan as it should be better now.  Doctors and Physios are throwing ideas around of ruptured cartilage and sprained ligaments.  All I know is that it hurts most of the time and I still can’t even jog on it..  I really hope it sorts itself out in the next 10 weeks or I at least know what the problem is.

On a brighter note, I’m off to Cyprus next week for a wedding.. Looks like it’s going to be a scorcher so good practice for the Sahara :).  I’ll have to be REALLY careful with my spending over there though. My travel fund is already less than I hoped and i’m running out of time to earn anything to add to it before I leave.. Why do people always get married at the most inappropiate times. Hows selfish ! lol
So… I have a bit of an idea of a time table for the trip.

1st September – take ferry from Portsmouth (UK) to Santander (Spain)

23rd September – Take ferry from Venice (Rome) to Alexandra (Egypt)

Thats it for now……..heheh.   Progress though isn’t it :)


Jeez ! Time is really flying.  If everything goes to plan I should be on the road the first week in September !  2010 that is !  Crikey, thats only just over three months time.

Me and Neil (my travel partner) took a long weekend ride around Wales with his friend Noel. It was great fun. We got to try out our travel bikes fully loaded and experiment with our luggage set up. As always, lessons were learnt and it really showed the importance of going for a few trial runs with the bikes before we hit the road properly.

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As for the riding, the weather was fantastic. We spent four days idley cruising around the Welsh countryside.  Looking for places to wild camp, drinking tea in small villages and explore and in almost a “throwing darts at the map” type style that I really love.. .

We had  also arranged to meet the two New Zelanders for “Tea and Scones”. These are the guys we will be leaving Europe with and had originally decided to share the cost of a Libyan tour with .. They were very friendly and seemed pretty laid back about most things. Like most kiwis I have ever met in fact :)  I reckon we’re all going to have a lot of fun and mischief !

The ride home wasn’t as smooth going though. My bike kept breaking down on the motorway leading to more doubts in my head about the sensibilty of taking an unreliable, temperamental 400cc Enduro bike on a 16,000 miles overland trip…  We shall see !!  They say it’s the problems that make the adventure !

Well, predictably enough the route has changed again..  A new development in the Mediterranian Ferry system “should” open up a route directly from Venice (Italy) to Alexandra (Egypt). This will allow us to skip the beaurocracy and large costs incurred with trying to cross Libya and Tunisia.

The new plan is to take the ferry from Spain to Sardinia and then to Italy.. Ride south and pick up the boat from Venice into Egypt then head south down the east coast as first planned.  This should save us a couple of weeks and plenty of pound stiring enabling more frolics in the south and what I think of as “REAL AFRICA”.

Nothing is in stone yet so watch this space !!

The last month i’ve really spent a huge amont of cash on spare parts, riding and camping gear ! I thought I had all this stuff from South America until I realised id sold or given it away while on the road.  My bike, riding gear and sleeping bag was sold in Colombia, my tent abandomed in Buenos Aires, and having a different bike means I have had to buy a whole new bag of spare parts for the trip !  Buying 16,000 miles worth of spare parts in one go is very expensive.. TRUST ME !!

But….

I still havn’t sorted out my Carnet (An expensive, time consuming but compulsury document for import and customs of my bike in Africa).

I still havn’t got my passport translated into Arabic

I still havn’t got any travel insurance.

I still havn’t organised any malarials and jabs.

I still havn’t got my bike running reliably

I still need a load of bike spares

Oh, and i’m still walking with a limp and can’t really use my right knee !

So.. Things right on track then !!  Here cometh the madness !