Monday, June 29, 2009

Durban to Dublin 21st June – 25th June

Sunday 21st - Well prayers do work. After yesterday’s heavy downpour and snow, we woke this morning and looked anxiously out the window half expecting to see a wet and miserable days riding ahead of us. We were all relieved to see that there was not a cloud in the sky and the day was perfect for a days ride. Since we had stayed over in Villach (You know how to pronounce that now) an extra day we now had to ride all the way to Titisee (And no we didn’t see any) some 450 km’s away. Titisee is a small village in Germany’s Black Forest region. En route we were due to meet up with Rick just outside Innsbrook , a South African guy living and working in London. He had come over to meet up with us and ride back to Wales with us.

Saying our goodbye’s to Tina at the Hotel Mosser, we set off following Christian and Anita who were joining us for the ride on their Harley Davidson. They were going to ride with us to the Italian Border. I’m still not sure if after 3 days of hosting us in Villach, that their intention was to make sure we actually did leave the country or just to have a good days ride with three (Four, Simon was with us) great guy’s. No seriously Christian and Anita as I have said in my earlier reports you were fantastic hosts and a great honor to have met you.

After about two hours we stopped at the last Austrian village before crossing into Italy to have a cup of coffee and say our goodbye’s to our Austrian hosts, we then headed down to the motorway to make up some time and reach Innsbrook for our scheduled meeting with Rick.

On arriving at the truck stop, Rick was already waiting. He had arrived just a few minutes before us. Well done Simon for getting the meeting place right and the timings. We all had a quick bite to eat at the very busy fast food place and without further ado we all set of on the next leg to Titisee. Our group was now five strong, and looking in the mirror to see not two bikes following but now four sweeping round the corners and down the road is a great site.

We got into Titisee at about 17:30 and after being greeted by this very unfriendly bloke at the reception to the camp site we got our tents up in record time, it was by now starting to rain and we did not want to get all our kit wet. Little did we know that from here on in, rain is going to be a big feature of our trip? As Simon so rightly says T.I.E. This Is Europe.

We decided to go into Titisee village to a restaurant for a meal, Jaco, Rick and Simon taking a walk around the lake to the village and Howard and I opting to ride into town.

As we got into town the rain really started to come down. We went looking for the other three guys and found them walking down to the village, Simon accepted my offer of a lift down to the restaurant. With Jaco and Rick saying they will rather walk the last bit in.

Simon, Howard and I arrived at the restaurant reasonably dry and went in to wait for the other two. After about half an hour they still had not arrived. It was decided that I should go out and look for them. Well it was by now pouring. Off I went on my bike to eventually find the two of them walking around the village completely lost and drenched. Now the village is not the biggest place in Europe, and for a guy that has just ridden all the way from South Africa, I wonder where we would have ended up if we had done the trip without a GPS! Jaco, this evening had left his GPS on his bike. He now appreciates it’s worth.

They followed me back to the restaurant. A mere 100 meters away. And we were soon warming up next the log fire and enjoying a good meal.

Monday 22nd
- Up early and under a cloudy sky we set off up into the Black forest region. Destination Les Vogues France. Soon after setting off and climbing up into the hills the clouds again opened up and the rain started coming down. As we climbed higher the temperature also dropped rapidly. We were soon riding in a temperature of 4 degrees.

After about an hour of this Howard (He does not have heated hand grips) Pulled off the road and explained that he cannot feel his hands anymore! They were almost frozen.
Before frost bite could set in he climbed off the bike and wrapped his hands around the cylinder heads of his bike to get some warmth and circulation back into them.

Simon had a spare pair of winter gloves which he kindly lent to Howard. They were one size to small for his hands, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Howard managed to squeeze his hands into those gloves and as soon as he had got his feeling back we were once again on our way.

As we came down the mountains the weather started to clear and soon we were happily riding along under a clear sky. Crossing the Rhine we rode through the Wine growing region of the Rhine Valley. Made me think of Stellenbosch and the Vineyards back home, and reminded me why we are actually doing the trip. For the kids of Pebbles.

We arrived at our overnight stop in the Les Vogues region at about 17:00 in the afternoon. The camp site is probably one of the best and most picturesque sites that we have stayed in to date. It is an old French Château with the camp areas set out under the old oak trees that are growing in the grounds. We were warmly welcomed and after chatting to a few of the campers that invariably gather around our bikes whenever we stop, we pitched tents and retired to the restaurant for dinner and a glass of French wine. All very civilized, a real change from what we had been getting in Africa.

Tuesday 23rd
- Waking this morning Simon warned us that today would be a long boring ride down the motorway to a camp just outside Calais, where tomorrow we were due to cross the ferry into England.

Boring or not we had to do it, so off we set. The road was a highway with lots of traffic and plenty of Lorries. The lorry drivers were quite friendly, we were often hooted at and an am would be thrust out of the window and we were given a thumbs up. Our bikes certainly do attract a lot of attention. Loaded up as they are and with all the sponsors names stuck all over them, we really do look impressive.

While traveling down the highway we passed some wind generators, these are modern day wind mills and I couldn’t help thinking that poor old Don Quixote would have had his work cut out for him if he had to try and take these things on.

Further down the highway we decided to have a quick photo shoot of the three of us riding three abreast along the highway. Testimony to the courtesy of the people we have met along the way. Was the fact that we took up the whole width of the highway and had all these cars and trucks backed up behind us following us at a snails pace along the road while we where doing the photo’s. As we pulled of the road further down the road they all went by hooting and waving to us.

We arrived at a small fishing village about 50 km’s down the coast from Calais and decided to camp there rather than in the commercial town of Calais. Booking in and getting settled did not take to long. We have got unpacking and tent pitching down to a fine art now.

Once camp was pitched we got on our bikes to go into the village for a meal. Simon opted to leave his bike at the camp site and hitched a lift with me. Simon, I promise that was not a wheelie we did as we got into town. I call it a wee!!! Next time hold on round my waist and your legs won’t end up around my neck.
We found this small French restaurant in the village and sat down and ordered these huge bowls of Mussels cooked in white wine for dinner, Fantastic. We are all starting to look a bit chubbier since arriving in Europe. These people certainly know how to eat.

Wednesday 24th
- Today we woke and prepared to leave for Calais and the crossing into England. As we set of there was an air of sadness between the three us, each of us reflecting on what we had been through together these past two months and we are now only one small country away from our end goal … Dublin, the end of our Journey.

Talking about countries we have now crossed 15 countries, two Continents and now cross England then onto Ireland.

We arrived at the port of Calais early for our ferry. Presenting our tickets at the boarding office we were relieved to hear that there was space on the ferry that was due to depart, So we could go straight on. With no waiting about we were on our way again. Not before we had to clear the immigration officer. I stopped at the control point and this very friendly bloke gives me a form to fill in. I look at him and explain I cannot see the writing. He looked at me in amazement and ask’s if I can’t read or write. I quickly explain that yes I can, I just didn’t have my reading glasses on, and he laughed and says Oh! Over 40 are you, don’t worry about filling it in, takes back the card and says welcome to England!

Once we were on board we made our way up to the dinning area and ordered huge plates of farm house breakfast’s. We at last can eat sausages and bacon in the safe knowledge that it contains proper meat and not goat, camel or some other strange meat.

After breakfast we made our way up on deck to watch the White Cliffs of Dover approaching.

Arriving in England we followed Simon up the highway to Wales and crossed over the Sevens River Bridge three abreast and into Cardiff.

Thursday 25th to Sunday 28th - I am combining all these days in one report, because we have been based at Simon Huddart’s country home just outside Cardiff where Simon and Joe his lovely wife, and the two girls Rebbeca and Pippa, have been our fantastic hosts for these past few days.

Thursday morning Simon had arranged for us to visit the local BMW dealer (Riders Motorad) where William the guy in charge there had put on a welcome for us, and somehow organized to get hold of some Boerewors and we tucked into a good meal of wors rolls. Will is an ex South African now living and working over here. Talking to him while munching on a wors roll we could almost have forgotten that we had ridden 17000km’s to be here. It almost felt as though we were at Auto Umhlanga or Ryder Motorad back home.

After our visit we were once again back on the road through Cardiff this time heading for the Cardiff Children’s Hospital where Simon works as a Doctor. Arriving at the hospital we were greeted welcomed by some of the nurses and doctors that could leave there posts. Also there was one of the trusties of the charity that helps support the children’s section of the hospital, after being welcomed and the three of us answering a few questions about our trip, Simon took us on a guided tour of the children’s wing.

I think the three of us really felt a bit out of place clomping around these wards with newly born babies in their cribs and us dressed up in full rider gear.

While we were at the hospital Simon got a call from the Wales BBC radio station asking us to come around for an interview. Getting there they told us that the studio could only fit two people in, Howard and Jaco quickly volunteered me to go do the interview and of course Simon had to be there. As the Hospital spokesperson, the interview went well and was aired later in the afternoon.

Once all these formalities were over we headed back to Simons house for a Barbeque that he had laid on for us that evening, more food !!!

Friday morning we woke to a normal summer’s day, according to Simon, rain and more rain. We were off today to do some riding around the Wales countryside, but not before Jaco and I went into town to have new tyres fitted to our bikes. Our front tyres had traveled the whole way from Durban, 17000km’s not bad for a Continental TKC, mind you I must admit they did look a bit worse for wear by now, Even Valintino Rossi would have declined them as a slick for his bike.

We were also due to meet Hugh my brother who was coming up from London spend a few days with us and do a bit of riding together.

After fitting the tyres and catching up on Hugh’s news we all set of for the Welsh Brecon area.

Once you get riding and with the correct rain gear on it is really not that bad riding in the rain. We were taking the corners a bit cautiously as the rain tends to bring the oil and diesel to the surface and makes things a bit slippery.

Arriving in the Brecon area we stopped of at the Touretech shop to have a look around and make mental notes for our Christmas wish list. While there we also met up with Nick Plumb a local lad that has done the Dakar a few times. He was very interested in our journey and a pleasant hour was spent swapping stories. Across the road from Touretech is the Globe busters office. This is the base of Kevin and Julie Saunders ,they hold a number of Guinness World records for around the world expeditions, they also put together and lead motorcycle tours to various places around the world, they had just got back from doing the recce ride of their next expedition, London to Beijing. Talking to them about this trip it sounds really exciting and challenging.

After saying our goodbyes we were once again on the road this time heading out to Simon Pavey’s Off Road Academy which is just up the road on an old Coal mine. I had met and ridden with Simon last year when he was out in SA and was really looking forward to getting to see him again and see his training set up. Simon is also the guy that trained Charley Boorman and Ewen Mcgregor before they did Long Way Round. He has also done the Dakar a number of times. His last one being this year in South America where he finished a creditable 33rd on a 650 X Challenge.

Riding up to the training area was a bit of an eye opener for Hugh, he was on his Triumph road bike, lucky the gravel road there was not to long. Arriving at the training area Simon was busy with a course, he very kindly offered to lend Hugh an off road bike and allocated the guys from our group to one of his instructors to show them around. He then invited me to go on a ride around the training area with him. He has a 500 hectare property with these steep hills and being an old coal mine there is no shortage of rocky up hills and twisty down hills winding there way through the woods. When he asked me if I wanted to have a look around one of the instructors standing close by asked him if I was going follow him on my bike with my panniers still on the bike. Simon confidently tells him, “Yea of course I can” he says, he has seen me ride when we rode together in SA. Thankfully I saw the wicked grin on this instructors face. I quickly opted to remove the panniers.

I follow Simon who is on a cut down 1200 ADV and me on my 1200 Adv, poor thing has just crossed Africa and now here I am racing through the mud and rocks through these Walsh hills. I am not sure if Simon was testing me or whether he just likes to spend his time wrestling big heavy bikes around tracks that make the GS Challenge red route look like a gentle Sunday out ride. Well half way round this madness he stops on top of this mountain and proudly points around him and says this is his training area and playground. Yea right! All I can see is mist and rain and in between getting my breath back I know I still have to get down in one piece.

Once again we set off at a blistering pace and not too soon enough for me we are back where we started. Thankfully me and my bike are still in one piece. Once again the 1200 GS Adv has proven what a capable bike it is .There are not many places you would not be able to go with these bikes.

I did however really enjoy the ride and would definitely like to get back there some time and do some more riding in the area, would also love to get the 450 Enduro there and really have some fun.

Getting ourselves together once again we say our goodbyes to everyone there and head off down the road back to Simons house an hours drive away. As we set off we did see a look of envy in a few of the students eyes that were there on course. All we can say to you guys. Practice what you learn there on course, then get out there and do the trip of a lifetime. The world is a big place RIDE IT!!!!

Simon was on call on Saturday so he couldn’t do any riding with us today, plus it was a massive day for us, besides the Boks playing the Lions this afternoon. Jaco’s wife Corne and his children Barend and Berne were flying in to meet up with him. This morning Jaco was up earlier than his normal 5am wake up time. I looked out the window and saw him pacing around the garden like a caged tiger just waiting to get going to the airport to meet his family.

The rest of us went off for a short ride around Cardiff and a little way into the country side stopping for tea at an old 15th century ruined Abby.

Getting back to Simons house in time for the rugby we watched the game with Simon and his family. The noise in the sitting room was deafening during the first half. All I can say now that the game is done and dusted, we are very glad that we will be able to ride into Dublin with our tails up and heads held high.

Sunday - Howard and I are relaxing around the house, Jaco is spending time site seeing around Cardiff with his family, and we are all mentally preparing our selfs for the final leg of our journey up to Holy head in the North of Wales. Tomorrow we will spend our night resting before catching the ferry across the water and into Ireland.
We are looking forward to this with very mixed feelings. The Irish hospitality is I believe something you don’t find anywhere else in the world, we are really looking forward to that, but on the flip side it is with a great sense of sadness that we do cross into Ireland. We have spent the last two and a bit months riding together, sharing hardships, seeing wonderful and amazing places, meeting fantastic people and generally being a part of something that will be with us for the rest of our lives. Words cannot really explain enough of this feeling, I am sure you can all put your own minds to how we feel right now.

Enough of that, the journey is not yet over till the fat lady sings. As they say in show business.

Look out for our final report on this trip once we have reached Dublin and handed the Lord Mayor of Dublin the letter of greeting from the Mayor of Durban. We have managed to keep this very important document in one piece and clean for the Mayor.

After meeting the Lord Mayor we then ride the final few km’s down the road to the BMW Dealer where our bikes will be able to stand proud on the show room floor for all to see.

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