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TUESDAY 10th JULY 2007

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We woke quite early and, after checking the bikes, started off towards Albacete. This turned out to be a busy, bustling market town - on market day! We were looking for a Pharmacist's shop for Henry. The wind noise from his crash helmet was driving him nuts and he wanted to try and get some wax ear plugs. How the hell he was going to explain that to a Spaniard, I don't know! Suddnely the 3 were 2. Bill was behind me but we'd lost Henry in the busy traffic. I rang him and he soon answered. We soon worked out we were in the same street some 250m apart and were soon waving at each other. Bill and I had found a parking space in the busy street but had attracted the attention of several Gypsies or, as Bill called them, greasy dagoes. We knew that if we left the bikes, then they would be picked clean in no time at all. So Bill stayed with the bikes and I walked back up the street to find Henry. He bought something to stick in his ears and we all re-grouped at the market and had a coffe before continuing on our way.
We were making good progress in the heat of the late morning when Henry disappeared from view. We retraced our steps and found him berating his dead bike at the side of the road, in the mid-day sun. What a strange problem. We had a spark, and fuel and compression. It even seemed to be happening at the right time. But each time Henry thought he'd fixed it, It would fizzle out again. I knew my priorities and went to buy some lunch. When I came back, Bill was stood with the biggest grin on his face. He had spotted a loose wire on the low tension side of Henry's coil. Soon fixed and we found somewhere to go and sit to eat the bread, cheese, ham and fruit I'd bought.


On and on we went, in the general direction of Andorra. The scenery was getting better and better. Escarpments towered above us with rock stratifications painting crazy patterns on outcrops. I half expected to hear neep neep and see Road Runner flash by followed by Wylie B. Coyote dashing up the gorge. More wonderful Spanish tarmac and steady bends that go on and on.


STRATA

THE WAY AHEAD

It was getting near to the time of day when we needed to find a site. We saw a signpost and turned left, as directed. The vista just got better and better. The road wound up a valley and through tunnels underneath a hilltop town.

 

VILLEL - HILL TOP TOWN

On the other side of the hill, we came across the only thing that could have been a camp site. We stopped and found someone who made it clear that there was no way that we could camp the night here. Even when I got my wallet out and started waving Mucho Euros at him.

We started back down the valley and had the idea to find somewhere off the road to pitch. We made our way up a track and found a field out of site of the road. The field had been used to grow straw which had been baled and had been left, scattered about in the field.

We got some nosh underway and made decided that as there was no chance of rain, we might as well sleep al fresco. By the time Henry and me had made up our minds where to pitch, Bill was snoring for all he was worth. He had just laid down his bedroll and sleeping bag, laid on top and whamo! He was gone. We covered him up with everything we had, coats and a blanket.



STRAW BED - IKEA CATALOGUE PAGE 255

I looked at the ground and decided that, even with my bedroll, it looked a little stony. I dragged several of the straw bales together and made a bed. With my bedroll and sleeping bag on top, I was set fair. I've never seen so many stars since I hit my head on the garage door.

STATSISTICS - DAY 12:

239 miles Valdepenas - Villel
2534 miles in total
Average 211 miles per day

WEDNESDAY 11th AUGUST 2007

In the morning, we cleared the site to make sure that we weren't going to be a nuisance to anyone. After the usual check of the bikes, we off, once again. Henry'e £4 fold up chair had given way underneath him Bill's had suffered the same fate under my bulk, a week earlier.

We set off after some coffee and generally headed north. We planned to make it as far as the south side of the Pyrenees, if we could. More and more landscapes to die for. Henry had to make a nature call. The services consisted of long concrete half-pipes fixed end-up to provide some privacy from the road.

HENRY'S TOILET

Henry returned some minutes later and declared the services the worst in Europe!. He was not impressed. We hooked up the cookers and got some nosh on the go and a brew. What a view. I looked up and saw eagles soaring on the thermals. Another one to tick off in the "I Spy" book.

EAGLES ON THE THERMALS


Bikes were checked and topped up with oil. On and on we went. Never getting bored. Trying to take in all that we were experiencing.
More roads to F1 standard. It seems to be the norm for Spain. Still, at least we know where all the EU money went. The strange thing is the roads are so good but there is no traffic.

The vistas are so good that I have made plans to return here as a seperate touring holiday. Afternoon turned to evening and we needed another site. We took directions from a garage in a town, just south of the Pyrenees called Oliana. We found the site in the shadow of the Pyrenees. It had a pool and Henry went for a dip while Bill and I sampled the beer for him. We ate in the restaurant and settled in for a good night's sleep.

THE VIEW FROM THE POOL


STATSISTICS - DAY 13
:

267 miles Villel - Oliana
2801 miles in total
Average 215 miles per day

THURSDAY 12th AUGUST 2007

Up and away, up through the Pyrenees towards Andorra. More breathtaking views and the air was so cool and clear.

OLIANA LAKE

We tootled on up the mountain through tunnels and winding our way ever higher and, in no time found ourselves in Andorra. The town is full of duty free shops and garages full of cheap fuel. Shame we filled up last night when we asked for directions! We stopped in a Truck Stop for a Bagette Breakfast.

On up through the mountain. More breathtaking views. Then, a fork in the road and a choice of "tunnel" or over the top? No contest. We went left and upwards. Climbing on and on, all three bikes coping without question. This seems to be just what they were designed for.

A PHOTO OPPORTUNITY

THE VIEW

We reached the summit and sat there for a few minutes, feeling so chuffed with ourselves. Taking in the views and breathing in the clean crisp mountain air. I felt such achievement that all three bikes had held up so well and that they were coping with the mountain passes admirably. Then around the corner from the north side of the mountain came a gaggle of French cyclists. They'd made it all the way up from the French side without the benefit of any horsepower! Chuffed ' no more!


PORT D'ENVALIRA - 2408m


The run down the other side was just as exhilarating. We eventually ran into a French town called Ax Les Thermes. As we climbed out of the far side of the town, zig zaging up the hair pin bends, I realised that Bill and Henry were no longer behind me. I turned around and went back to look for them.

Bill had come to a junction and was not sure which way to go. It was on a steep incline and he had tried to hold this bike on the front brake.

That's where it happened..

Twin leading shoe brakes don't do backwards and so Bill decided that going over the side was preferable to going back down the mountain backwards. Henry tried to save him from toppling and he went over as a gesture of solidarity. So, we have the junction of three roads with two motorcyclists stranded on their sides in the middle. What do you think the French motorist does in this situation?

Pas de problem monsieur, we treat zem as if zey were zee mini roundabout, n'est pas?

Not one of them stopped to help.

Once we were all vertical again, we decided that it was time for a cuppa. It seems to cure all. Henry sparked up his thermo nuclear device and we brewed up. Another hour or two's riding and we stopped for lunch.

Bill kept watch for the Gendarmes while Henry and I did a little light shoplifting. Not the truth, of course, but the words do seem to fit the picture, don’t they? We tore apart a cooked chicken and it went down well with some French bread and yet another brew.

Restored, we headed across country to Carcassonne then picked up the Motorway east to Narbonne. We stopped in yet another services for some agua and fuel. The bikes were parked in front of the shop and a gaggle of French bikers on "plastic rockets" drew up. The usual gestures of friendship were exchanged and they gathered around our bikes pointing and talking amongst themselves, our languages deviding us. One of the French rideers had full multicolour leathers on complete with knee "sliders". Bill approached him and pointed to his outfit.

"Monsiurre, this" he said indicating the fine garment. "I have one just like this at home in England. Your's is very nice."

They all seemed to understand and their facial expressions indicated that they were either impressed, or maybe a little sceptical.

"The only difference is that these,- " said Bill, pointing out the sliders "On my suit, they are worn away to nothing - gone" Bill further explained by mimicing getting his knee down, first one side then the other, then back again.

They all realised that they had been teased and roared with laughter. British humour. Next year - Germany.

Before long, we were speeding (on Enfields?) north towards the next goal, The Millau Bridge, but before that, we needed another nights rest. We turned West off the autoroute and asked directions for le camping. We followed the grunts and gestures and found a delightful municipal site on the shores of Lac de Salagou. We were all soon fully erect on our pitch and headed over to the local bar.

When we found out that the beer equated to over £3.00 per pint, we decided that tonight was going to be a dry night. Being a municipal site it had no camp shop so we were stuck! Henry was almost in tears. Here we were, in the middle of the French Langadoc region, renowned for its abundance of cheap plonc and he was having none of it!

We went back to our pitch and set about getting some scram going. Chicken and mushrooms with pasta. We must have moaned a little too loud about the price of the beer and lack of wine as the chap in the next pitch appeared with a bottle of half tidy plonk rouge. It turned out that red wine didn't agree with him and he couldn't bear to see us in tears any longer. He then appeared with another.

We got chatting and, although I'd never met him, he was from Newport, about 15 miles from me in South Wales. It turned out that Mike had worked in the same industry as me before he retired and we had many friends in common. Small world. The wine soon disappeared and so did Mike. He returned with a case of beers and the evening went into a spiral dive from that moment on. We ended up in front of their friend's caravan having a merry old time, drinking their beer all night.

When we realised that everyone else had gone to bed (but not asleep, thanks to us) we said our goodbyes, thanked them for their hospitality and retired for the night.

STATSISTICS - DAY 14;

240 miles Oliana Lac de Salagou
3041 miles in total
Average 217 miles per day

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