Friday, 30 August 2013


By Mark

We arrived in Leeds a week earlier then originally intended. The reason being, our so called pre-planning of crates had fallen through. I don't know if it was down to my misunderstanding but there was no longer any metal crates waiting for us.

We stayed with an old work colleague and his wife whom I used to work with back in Perth. Pete was very helpful in giving me a map to do a run around of all the local motorcycle dealerships to try and sort ourselves some crates. Our timing seemed to be out as with each store we would be told, "if you were here yesterday or a few days ago I could have helped you out", the worst one was: "yeah I had plenty but the scrap metal guys just took them away 10 minutes ago"(!) so with a quick race to the scrap metal yard we received more bad news: "sorry mate they have been crushed already"... With our spirits in fast decline we moved from one bike store after another. Our last store was the local BMW store and luckily we finally came up trumps here with the owner offering us two BMW timber crates. Now the next problem - how the hell were we going to get them back to Pete's?

Pete being a local had a few contacts and that afternoon, his mate Glen stopped by in his transit van to take us to the BMW store. This was only after another frustrating call to our freighting company Russels Freight. The young girl who had been helping us along the way forgot to give us one vital piece of information. One must pay for the shipment before being dropped off at the depot. This then in turn gave us a problem, they would not except cash on delivery and a money transfer was all they would take. Not being able to clear the funds through our Australian bank account within 24 hours and coming into a long weekend we had no other choice to shoot off to the bank the following morning to transfer the money.

The guys at the bike store were very helpful and we got 2 used timber crates for free. Later that afternoon I got started on changing the tyres. With less then 24 hrs to go before the bikes were to be delivered I only then realised the amount of work I had in front of me. It did not help that I was given more work to do when I removed the rear tyres. It was hellish to even break the bead where Pete and I had a system of one of us using the bike's weight to break the bead using the sidestand. The problem was that last year we had our tyres changed in Istanbul, I have no idea what they used to get the tyres on the rims but there was a hard glue residue left behind which I had to sand off before replacing our new tyres. Just what I needed. Word of advise: Do not go to KTM in Istanbul!

The next morning I was up early to change the last tyre, service the 2 bikes and also wash them before crating them. The crating was also not going to be straight forward as I had to customise the crates. The smaller the crates the less we pay. So after all the other fun stuff (cleaning, servicing etc) Sanne and I got started. Trying to do it all by ourselves was not easy. I realised we might not get it done for the close of business. With one crate almost done and the time being 4pm we were struggling. Pete was home and now able to help me out thankfully. His son Richard also gave us a helping hand and we managed to knock out the second crate in record time. There was still one more thing to do - PACK! There was just not enough hours in this day for my liking. Sanne helped out and packed my things for me. It was getting on but some how with the help of Glen showing up just in time we made it to the airport with just 15 minutes spare.

With a bit of sweet talking from Pete to the forklift driver, old mate pulled the bikes out of the van in a jiffy. All of us were not looking forward to carrying them out after the effort that went to getting them in the van. The bikes came straight out of the van and straight onto the truck headed for London (Heathrow) via Manchester. It wasn't until this point that I had very mixed feelings on everything. Did I forget something? Are we doing the right thing? Just seeing those bikes on the truck was awkward and there was a feeling of missing them already welling up inside. We have both become so attached to our bikes and they have brought us so far. With still a big journey ahead of us we hope our babies arrive safe and sound in Buenos Aires early in September.

I would like to put a big thank you out to all those who helped us out, Steve from BMW for the crates, Glen for the use of his van and of course to Pete and Richard. By the way Pete, thanks for the motivation while I was lagging behind and dragging my feet while trying to crate the bikes. Putting the nail gun to my head was just what I needed to work faster!

The following day we had time to reflect and sit back and take everything in. It still felt like we had missed something with the crating and packing of the bikes but only time will tell on that. We managed to enjoy the day though with Pete and Jenny taking us around town to pick up a few last supplies that we needed before heading back to London to chill out with Carlos and Ellenice before our flight on the 3rd September.

Just changed one tyre, only 3 more to go!

 My most hated job of all, changing rear tyres

This is the mess left on the rims after whatever the guys used to seat the tyres back in Istanbul

Part way there on the crate building

One down one to go

Pete was going to great lengths to keep me working hard!

Sanne with the bikes crated just before sending them off

The hard part, lifting them into the van

The lovely view from Pete and Jenny's backyard

Pete, Jenny and ourselves


By Sanne

North to Scotland it was! We used to live there for a couple of years back in 2005 and did a lot of traveling around the Highlands in our car and occasionally on a rented motorbike. Now we were back and ready to do it on our own bikes! Buuut the sun was not smiling upon us. Our first night camped on the shores of Loch Lomond was very wet and from then on in until we left Scotland 5 days later the rain barely stopped. Although we did have wet weather pants and jackets, our boots were not water-proof so within minutes of riding in the rain there were puddles of water in our boots. We stopped at the Green Welly shop to get some plastic bags which we put our feet inside which helped a little, but our socks were still wet at the end of each day.

The highlands did not disappoint. Despite the terrible weather the scenery was as stunning as we remembered. Riding through amazing Glencoe it was very windy and very hard to keep the bike on a straight line with severe gusts blowing in from the side threatening to blow us in front of an oncoming car at any time. Guess it's a preview of what we can expect in Patagonia.

Our poor tent had gotten seriously wet in Loch Lomond so when we arrived in Fort William later that day on our way to Isle of Skye, Mark proposed that we bite the bullet and check in to a B&B. At first I was a little hesitant because of the money we would inevitably spend, but in the end I caved in as the thought of spending the night in a wet tent wasn't particularly inviting. We found a nice place at the top of the hill overlooking Fort Bill at 60 Pound a night. We made the most of it by drying the tent (the owner of the B&B was so nice to let us put it up in the garage) and dry our wet socks! We felt very lucky to have a warm bed for the night and cuddled up under the big doonas.

The next morning we left Fort William and headed for Isle of Skye. To get there you go through and area called Kyle of Lochalsh which is stunning and is where you will find Eilean Donan Castle which people will recognise as the castle from the Sean Connery movie "Highlander". We had been there many times before but it was still impressive, although it was the first time the weather had been this bad! When we set wheels on Isle of Skye the sun almost managed to peek through the clouds and we rode for a bit in the dry. We camped just outside Portree and went to a local drinking hole for a beer, which neither of us really enjoyed much. Seems like we both have gone off beer a bit lately.

Had the weather been better we would have circumnavigated the whole island and possibly gone to some of the other islands, like Mull, but with the weather as grey and wet as ever we just spent one night on Skye before going back to the mainland. We spent one night in Fort Bill, this time camping (still in the rain of course!) and then spent our last night in Scotland in Peebles. When we lived in Scotland years ago Mark and I used to be very into mountain-biking and on most weekends we would put our bikes into the back of our car and drive to Peebles to ride the 7Stanes trails in Glentress Forest. Back then it was really low-key and small; now it has grown so much and has been developed a lot.
That was to be the end of our Scotland trip. We crossed the border to England and headed for Leeds to crate the bikes...

 Stopped to say 'hello' to a Highland Cow on the way

Beautiful scene

Eilean Donan Castle

Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Waterfall, Isle of Skye

 Portree, Isle of Skye

 Isle of Skye

Another impressive Highland Cow

And a young one

Just chillin


The inhabitants of the local mental asylum were on a day pass that day

Another foot-in-plastic-bag change

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Lakes District and Hadrian's Wall

By Mark

So with things looking pretty organised on the shipping side of things we hit the road for the Lakes district. Ever since we have been in the UK we have been constantly checking weather reports and now things were on the change and not for the good. Luckily our ride up the motorway was uneventful and we kept dry, we did however meet a lovely family at a petrol station who later emailed us with the offer for a place to stay. Sadly we had already passed by their home town so could not take them up on their offer. Thank you again.

Not knowing much about the Lakes district apart from being one of the wettest places in the UK we just found ourselves riding into a very busy little town, only then did we realise just how busy this place gets. So with the chance of a bush camp looking pretty slim we headed for a local campground for the night. On our way through town earlier I had noticed a watersports centre and since we had not been doing anything too exciting and out of the ordinary I suggested to Sanne that we should go skiing.

The following evening we headed for the lake and by this time the weather had well and truly turned but it didn't put to big a dampener on things. I have not skied in many years and Sanne not at all. I think she wished that we actually did it somewhere a little warmer and more tropical! Surprisingly though the water was not too cold and we were given wetsuits to keep the cold out. The conditions for skiing though were great and as the evening went on the wind dropped and we had smooth water to ski on. I had a great time but struggled a few times to get going. I decided to jump on the wakeboard and face planted a few times before getting up but it was all worth it. Next time somewhere warmer would be even more enjoyable.

With the weather all over the place we decided we should head for Scotland via Hadrian's wall. There was talk of visiting Ireland but with a deadline of getting the bikes ready for shipping and the costs involved we opted just to stay in the UK. The weather was no better there than Scotland and we were both looking forward to checking out some old places we used to visit when we used to lived there. So our ride north east was a pleasant one and we enjoyed the empty roads and open landscape. We arrived late and to pretty ordinary weather so we set about finding a place to spend the night and check out the wall the following day.

Hadrian's wall was built around 122AD and the actual reason for the building of the wall which runs for 117.5 km's from east to west has never actually been clarified although it was probably for border protection and to stop the Barbarians (ie Scottish!) from stealing cattle and sheep. It was the northern-most border of the Roman empire. It is now a UNESCO site and measures have been but in place to slow the deterioration of the wall. A significant portion of the wall still exists after being saved in the 19th century from the destruction of quarrying. It is known to be the most important monument to be built by the Romans in Britain. We spent the day stopping in at different parts of the wall before heading for bonny Scotland!

Not a bad campground and the weather was still on our side at this point 

Lake Windermere, notice the change in the weather

Sanne looking forward to hitting the water

Styling it up

Me having a go at getting some air

The beautiful countryside around Langdale

The rain was now following us wherever we went

Lots of these little guys all round the countryside

Would have been great to have some better weather but the countryside was still very beautiful

One part of Hadrian's wall near Haltwhistle

One of the longest sections still in contact

Saturday, 17 August 2013


By Sanne

We left London to head west towards Wales. We had arranged to catch up with Zeman and Mike whom we met back in Cambodia last year where they were running off road dirtbike tours Cambodia Expeditions.
On the way we passed by the UK version of Mark's hometown in Australia: Gloucester, so of course we had to stop for a photo op.
We stopped for the night at a campsite outside the peculiar named village Hundred House. Here we met up with Mike and the Black Desert Training Team. Owned by Craig Bounds and Tamsin Jones, they run offroad tours through Wales and have both competed in the Dakar Rally and Australasian Safari. Respect. Really nice couple and it would have been cool to spend some more time talking to them about their experiences. Off course they also earn our respect for favouring the DRZ-400 as their ride...
We went out for dinner with the whole crew that night to the local pub in Hundred House. It was cool to see Mike again a year and a half after meeting the boys in Cambodia and he is just one of the many people whom we've met again down the track.

The next day we rode to St Davids via some beautiful little roads that Mike had recommended to us. It became clear immediately that Wales is very pleasing to the eye. Lots of little single-lane roads, LOTS of sheep and barely any other vehicles around so we had the roads almost all to ourselves. We arrived in St Davids, the smallest city in Britain, in the afternoon and went to see Zeman at the boat harbour where he works as a skipper for a boat tour company. We managed to score ourselves a free trip on one of the boats for the afternoon thanks to Zeman and we went out for an hour and a half sailing around Ramsay Island where we saw many seals frolicking in the water.
After that we followed Zeman on his bike back to his house where him and his wife Deb had been so kind and let us stay for a few days. As with Mike, it was great to see Zeman again. He runs his dirtbike tours in Cambodia in the winter and then spends summers back in Wales running boat tours. Not a bad life really.

The next day we went for a ride around the area with Mike on his DR BIG 750. He took us on all these small roads that we wouldn't have found ourselves so it was really nice to have a local guide leading us. Also, it is totally nice to be able to just follow someone for once and not having to navigate! We stopped at Pentre Ifan, an ancient burial chamber with a huge capstone poised delicately on three uprights dating all the way back to about 3,500 BC. The capstone weighs over 16 tons(!), is 5 metres long and is 2.4 metres off the ground. Quite remarkable. Local lore says that sometimes fairies are seen here; they are described as 'little children in clothes like soldiers' clothes and with red caps'. Wow, creepy much! Maybe we should have camped there and made a sort of Blair Witch Project style movie - the Pentre Ifan Project...doesn't sound quite as catchy does it? 

Turns out Wales was to be the destination for catching up with old acquaintances. Stef, the French biker whom we had run into several times on our trip was on a bike trip with a friend in Scotland and came to see us in St Davids on their way back south. We all went out for dinner that night at a local Indian restaurant which was really lovely and the next day we went out for a ride together. On the way Mark noticed that my tail light had stopped working and Stef being a former motorbike mechanic went to work on diagnosing what the problem was. It wasn't clear but we assumed it had something to do with the circuit board as some of the resistors looked a bit corroded. Fast forward to a few days later when we are putting the board back in again as we hadn't been able to fix it yet, and I kid you not - it magically works again! This is not the first time my bike has responded in such a peculiar way that there is no logical explanation. So my lovely bike has therefore now been rightfully named: Christine, after the Stephen King novel about a car that has a mind of its own...

After saying goodbye to all the guys we headed for Aberystwyth, or Abba Wrist Watch for people like me who cannot for the life of them pronounce Welsh town names. Here our genial hosts were John and Karen Walsh, parents of one of Mark's friends in Australia, Claire. John himself is a bit of a bike nutter and has done many bike trips around the globe so we had plenty to talk about! When we weren't being smothered in puppy love from their 14(!) dogs and cat we managed to go for a ride with John. He took us to a place called the CAT village. And no, it's not a village full of felines (although that would be freakin' awesome), it stands for Centre for Alternative Technology. It was settled by hippies back in the seventies as a sort of experiment to live off the grid and in a more simple and ecological way. I am very inspired by alternative living as a whole and when I "settle down" (hate that term) I do want to live as sustainable a lifestyle as I possibly can. Well, a lot of examples of sustainability are on show at this village, amongst them a strawbale house. For people who have never heard of this a strawbale house might sound a bit wacky but it's actually a very sensible way of building a house and is known for its high insulating properties. 

John and Karen were wonderful hosts and even after we left John kept on helping us. We were heading to Abergele in Northern Wales to Wood's Motorcycles, owned by Andrew Woods the mayor of the town whom we had met in Hundred House as he was one of the participants of the Black Desert Training tour group. He had then said to us that if we ever needed anything he might be able to help. Well, we took him up on that offer! We weren't going to make it to the bike shop that day because someone (Mark) had a total brain fart when we left Aberystwyth and so instead of heading north, he proceeded to lead us east and all the way around a mountain, which resulted in us having only made it 100kms from Aberystwyth in three hours! To be fair, there was a reason for this senior moment of his; after leaving John and Karen's that afternoon we witnessed a motorbike accident where the guy involved was very lucky to still be alive. So Mark's mind was elsewhere after that, understandably. Anyway, because of all this we couldn't get to the bike shop in time so Mark rang up Andrew to talk about the crates. Well, turns out John had already called Andrew for us and arranged everything! Andrew had some crates for us and John had offered to pick them up with his work van and drop them off to Leeds, where we were going to ship the bikes from. So that's what it must be like to have fixers working for you! What awesome guys to help us out like that. When we went to the shop the next day we saw the crates and although they could definitely work they were quite big. No problem for Andrew! He promptly called up a friend of his in Leeds who owns a Ducati store and asked for crates for us. So now we have crates arranged and a place to crate them in Leeds (in the guy's workshop) which is a huge relief! Sometimes it really is about the people you know.

A little taste of home...

Craig and Tamsin from Black Desert Training

Mark and Mike

Riding in the Welsh countryside

Lone phone booth

Sailing around Ramsay Island

Mark and Mike

Pentre Ifan (seen here with the fabled fairies) 

Having a beer with the boys

The bikes together

A beautiful little bay in Pembrokeshire

Stef and Mark trying to diagnose my tail light problem 
(little did they know Christine was playing a trick on them!)

St David's Cathedral

Stef, Mark and Bruno

Mark with Zeman

Mark and a sunflower in the CAT village 

Out for a ride with John around Aberystwyth

Beautiful riding terrain

Mark with John and Karen

And I FINALLY got to taste some delicious spotted dick!