Friday, 31 August 2012

Back in France

By Mark

So we left Spain behind and made our way back into France which was slow going. Holiday makers everywhere with their big motor homes were slowing down the traffic to walking pace. As soon as we left the coast behind and turned inland the roads cleared and we could make tracks again. Thank christ for that as I no longer had any rear brake pads left (metal on metal) which I have been favouring ever since I ended up with a warped front brake disc which makes it pretty ordinary to pull up in a hurry! I was really hoping that we would find a Suzuki dealer soon and I had my prayers answered the following day. After packing up camp and within half an hour we came across just the store I was after. In no time I managed to get my new pads, no disc though but luckily for me the boys at Vincent Motos fitted them for free! And with a new pair of gloves at cost price I was ready to hit the road again. I was very happy with the new purchase as my old gloves had now been sewn back together about 3 or 4 times and had seen better days. The guys at the store were champs and very helpful and friendly. In the 30 years of running the store we were the first overlanders to have visited so they were happy to see us. So anybody out there travelling through this part of France and need some work done on their bikes you should really stop in there.

We made tracks and our main destination in France was to make it across to Mont Blanc on the border with Austria and close to Italy for another ride through the Alps since we enjoyed it so much last time. Along the way we contacted a good friend who we met in Thailand also travelling overland on his bike. He had now returned home to France and we found out that he was on his way to Hamburg to go back to work. Along the way we managed to catch up with him in a little town called Vallon-Pont-d'Arc. It was a shame we never got to ride with him in Asia and this time again we didn't get to either as he left his bike behind and instead was behind the wheel of his motorhome. Well we had a bed to crash in and a bit of couch surfing road trip style was in order. It was great to catch up with Stef and have him show us around yet another beautiful part of France, even though it was very busy. We caught up over a few drinks and mixed more than one or two different types of booze including some Absinthe we picked up in Barcelona. We also got into some home-made Grappa from our friends in Greece followed up by some home-made Rum from France all the time drinking beers. Surprisingly we all woke the following morning feeling pretty good. After some lunch we parted ways and we look forward to catching up again in a couple of weeks when we reach Hamburg.

We were off to Bernin a village outside of Grenoble to a friend of Stef's - Francis. They met each other in South America a couple of years ago while they were both travelling around the world on their motorbikes and we had been given the opportunity to stay with him on our way through to Switzerland. Little did we know that we would end up spending a week with him in his awesome house in a beautiful part of the world. Francis was amazing, so helpful and generous with everything and we all had a blast sharing stories from our travels. The blog of his RTW trip is Route Estivale and he is currently planning another trip which will be one of the most adventurous of any motorcycle rider I have known and we wish him all the best with his preparation and the travel itself. Francis took us hiking and I also had the chance to go rock climbing, known as and the via ferrata. It was a blast even though at times I did get a little nervous and it didn't help that there was a memorial for someone who had died up there just before climbing the hardest part! Trying to keep up with Francis' pace is not easy and I now really feel how out of shape I have become. All things aside it was great especially the following day when I got to go paragliding for the first time (thanks mum, the money you gave me for my birthday was well spent). 

While having all this fun there were also a few moments that were a little annoying, say the little niggling bike problems we have been having and trying to overcome them. I lost count in the end how many times I pulled Sanne's carby out to fix it and get it right. In the end we had to take it to a mechanic and get it sorted out along with my small electrical problem. The problem was small but it was not allowing the bike to go to high revs and limiting the speed to 50kph. The guy from the workshop was a champ and fixed it in no time and would take no money, in the the end he took only 20 Euros for his work. We also got our seats customised a little more as they had been getting particularly uncomfortable to ride with my arse falling asleep in 10 mins of riding. Hopefully now our time in the saddle each day will be a more comfortable one.

France has been more breathtaking than I could have imagined and the people open, warm and friendly along with being quite generous so a big thank you to all we have met. So as our time in France draws to an end it has been hard to say Au Revoir...

The great guys from Vincent Motos

Take it easy Mark - it's just hemp

And then we came upon this little town:

Stef and me


Good times

Cheese and Absinthe - the classic mix

Lunching in Lidl's carpark - real povo style!

Exchanging travel stories with Francis in his cosy home

And then he took the lazy gits hiking

Almost at the top

We did it!

The clouds are moving in...

Time to make a hasty retreat

About to go rock climbing

More work on the bikes

I hate working on carbies!

That's me on my first paragliding flight

The mechanic who tried to help us

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Salvador Dali and San Sebastian

By Sanne

I dragged Mark to Figueres, Salvador Dali's hometown to visit the Dali Museum as I had been here before and I knew Mark also loved Dali's work (he even has a tattoo of one of his paintings). The museum is as kooky as it gets but what else could you expect? No explanation necessary, I think the pictures speak for themselves.

After that we made our way west across the Pyrenees which I'm sorry to say were a bit disappointing after the Alps. I know that's really not fair to say and one shouldn't compare things to each other like that, I'm just still so smitten with the Alps :) We went through Andorra where we marveled over all the cheap booze (tax-free heaven) and were annoyed that we didn't have any more room in our luggage. That day we went from Spain into France, France to Andorra and from Andorra back into Spain (needless to say, Mark was over-joyed).

We then made our way to Donostia San Sebastian which is on Spain's Atlantic Coast. It's a little touristy sure, but very very nice indeed. We followed the coast road a couple of hours further west and this coast was just completely different from the Mediterranean side. Much more wild and rugged, small fishing villages scattered all along the coast, surfers catching waves. Would have loved to keep going all the way to Portugal. Well, that will have to be another trip :)

The weird and wonderful world of Salvador Dali

Camping in the Pyrenees


Some people just can't handle the heat

Donostia San Sebastian