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  Spain

Al Faix, Almeria, Spain; 3rd April 2009.

 

From Les

   Oops!!! I spoke too soon about how well the bike was running!!!  The final day in Kefalonia was spent riding along a beautiful coast road and returning to Graham and Rachel's home with the bike’s odometer registering 100,000miles! - Congratulations Old Girl.  Our ferry to Bari, Italy was leaving at 8:30pm and it began to rain about 6:30pm!  The old girl seemed to have developed a rather noisy, lumpy sound on her way to the ferry so we hoped that the gentle motion of the ship would rectify whatever ailed her.

We treated ourselves to a cabin for the night as we wouldn't be getting into Bari until 10am the following day; the temptation of a half price cabin swung it for us. The sight of the bright blue sky and the warmth of the sun as we watched a pod of dolphins close to the ship was a real welcome to Italy. Happily, the crossing was very calm and the old girl was still standing where we had left her; but the noisy engine could not be totally ignored.

We eventually managed to navigate our way out of Bari and headed west towards Napoli (Naples). We observed two very different types of propagation as we passed through flat lands with lush green fields and prostitutes loitering every 200mtrs or so along the road.  Gradually the landscape became rolling hills with olive groves and small conical-shaped stone buildings hidden amongst the trees. As the day progressed the scenery became more and more interesting. On the top of almost every rocky hill we could see buildings clustered around a church or monastery. The fruit orchards were filled with wonderful pink blossom and the trees were beginning to show new green leaves. The roads became even twistier and the hills steeper with occasional patches of snow in sheltered areas.

From Salerno on the west coast we began the famous Amalfi Coastal route which literally hugs the very edge of the rugged rocky coastline, carving its way through narrow, picturesque villages and towns. Around every bend unfolds a different scene; all spectacularly colourful and with a definite Wow factor. Poor Nick had to concentrate so much that he missed a lot of the views and I was very glad that we were heading north so that we were not riding too close to the edge. The holiday season has not started yet here but already there are coaches and camper vans creeping around the tight hairpin bends. I wouldn’t want to visit between mid April to October!!!

We stopped off at one of the many small towns in a bay called Maiori. It was nice to see the locals promenading in the evening just before sunset.  A seat overlooking the pretty harbour was the ideal setting for our evening feast of pizza and cake from the local bakery. The next morning we woke to sunshine again and continued the amazing ride along the Amalfi coastline with many photo stops en-route.

From Sorrento we jumped onto the motorway for a while to eat up some miles. We passed by Mt Vesuvius and could see a little of the ruins of Pompeii. We then bypassed Roma (Rome) and some snow-capped mountains, stopping at regular intervals to tinker with the engine. Nick even changed the spark plugs at one point but still the old girl popped and gurgled 

By the time we decided we should be looking for digs for the night it was beginning to rain a little and accommodation was not that easy to find. Eventually after 7pm in the dark and the rain we decided we would have to pay over the odds rather than continue riding and booked into a hotel on the outskirts of a medieval town of Siena. The Italian mode of driving is rather cut and thrust and I didn't feel at all happy about riding at night here. One of the rules we gave ourselves on the trip was “not to ride at night” and the couple of time we did, we had near misses! It didn't help when the headlight bulb failed and Nick had to ride on an adjusted main beam.

In his younger days, Nick went on a school trip cruise and had visited Istanbul, Athens and Pisa so to complete the trio we headed for Pisa.  We took the back roads through the vineyards of Tuscany which appeared to be water logged, and as the day progressed, everything else became water logged as well.  The rain did ease slightly for a quick photo session of the famous “Campanile” or Leaning Tower. The tower definitely is leaning at about 4.1m to the perpendicular, even after 11 years of ground levelling. The plan was to stop off and have a coffee in the sun ... what sun?

Italy's road systems have an amazing amount of tunnels. The rule seems to be “If it's in the way, go through it!!”  I think we must have travelled about 100 kms underground!!  Thank goodness as the rain became more persistent and eventually even my trusty Daytona boots began to leak. Poor Nick was soaked through to the skin.

At Genova we found a BMW shop and were hoping to have a little TLC lavished on the bike but the mechanic was just off for his 3-hr lunch, at 11.30! We decided not to wait so rode on towards France.  We passed Monaco, Nizza (Nice) Cannes and eventually stopped off in Brignoles at a tried and trusted F1 motel.

Nick had been looking at the map, and unfortunately I hadn't! “We will get to Tom's for dinner tomorrow but it will be a longish day!!” says Nick ... Famous last words. We rode our longest day ever, 851 miles in 14 hours! We were up before dawn and on the road as the sun rose and arrived at Tom's at 9:15pm in the rain and dark 14 hours later!  We also clocked up 87,000miles for the trip so far. The warm welcome from our old cycling friend Tom soon thawed us out along with “Don Simon” (wine) and a wonderful Beef Bourguignon.

Tom moved from Norwich to Al Faix, Almeria about 10 years ago and now offers board and lodgings to cyclists who want to experience the amazing cycling tracks and trails through the spectacular hills and orange groves, often as a pre-race-season training camp; see the pictures. He is contactable on casaallos@yahoo.co.uk 

The views from Tom's house are incredible, the fragrance of wild flowers and orange blossom fill the air. The pool is warm and it's only 10km from the beach at Mojacar, mid-way between Almeria and Murcia on the South East coast of Spain; an ideal location.

We will enjoy our time here with Tom and then gradually head north towards Norfolk and home. We don't know where we will be staying, so, if anyone has a small place to rent in the Norwich area for a few weeks ... think of us!

Til next time, Lesley

From Les

Biarritz, France; 6th April 2009

   A short bike situation update from the sharp end!

When we left Greece the bike was misbehaving, popping and banging although she was still tapping along ok.

We rode progressively through Italy and all the while trying to find a BMW mechanic to quickly look at it. We did find one but not before he got stuck into his pasta and wine lunch, we had no luck today! Undaunted we then rode through France and into Spain where we stayed with Tom Smith, our old cycling friend.

After five days of being well-fed and watered we headed onwards with our sick bike. I had thought I'd fixed it after finding the waterlogged air-filter, but no). We rode to Valencia in the hope of finding a BMW bike dealer. Just on the outskirts I had some help! A Hyundai car salesman jumped on his laptop and found the address, then printed out a map. As I stepped outside a gent in a posh BMW car offered his assistance, and actually led the way to the shop! Aren’t the Spanish wonderful? And no one stole anything off me!

We arrived at the shop to find they didn't open for an hour, at 4pm, so we waited and when they opened and were first in. After checking the throttle bodies, which were perfect, the mechanic checked the coils on each spark plug and found that one was not working correctly. £100 later and we had a new coil and a smooth, born again bike!

We're now near Biarritz. Only two or three leisurely days ride to Calais via some Decathlon shops as we browse for new equipment! All’s well we should be back to the UK within a few days with mixed emotions about our impending return - we're already planning our next adventure!

Nick & Les x

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