When I arrived in Barcelona it was Sunday, the temperature was in the high twenties (Celsius) and due to a Triathlon closing the main roads the traffic was chaotic, this was my initial view of the City. After finding some fuel and lunch it was time to get out and head south along the coast.
Spain just like France and Italy have Tolls on their major Freeways and they are difficult to avoid. I have been trying to avoid these mainly because on a previous trip I’ve had problems paying with my cards and been left stranded in the queue and had to turn around. Unfortunately between Barcelona and Valencia I couldn’t find any alternative so I gingerly rode up to the gate where the ticket comes out of the machine (and pay when you leave the Tollway). And surprise surprise no ticket came out of the machine and by then 3 cars had lined up behind me. As this gate was fully automated and the help button spoke to me in Spanish there was nothing left to do but politely ask the drivers to reverse so I could turn around. I rode to a nearby building and eventually a guy came out to help me. It turns out these gates have two ticket dispensing slots one lower down for cars and one higher up for Trucks, due to me being on a taller than average motorcycle the machine thought I was a Truck and the ticket was sitting in the dispenser about 2 metres off the ground….this is a first but there will be no more automated Toll Roads for me, I just can’t handle the stress.
Eventually I arrived in Valencia and found a Hostel in the middle of the City to stay for a few days. My bike was now due for another service and as I intended on travelling south along the coast of Spain, catch a Ferry across to Morocco and head to the UK through Portugal it was important I get it done here. Valencia is a modern city, was easy to get around and the weather was warm so it should be easy to spend a few days here while the bike is serviced.
The Main Square in Valencia.
A Parade along one of the main streets.
I had arrived in Valencia on a Sunday so on Monday morning I rode down to the BMW dealer to find that it was closed due to a Bank holiday. I hadn’t been able to contact the Dealer to book the Bike in and was hoping they may have time to fit it in over the next few days. The next morning I rode back down there only to find that they were completely booked out for the next two weeks. The service Manager was a good bloke and after trying other dealers in Spain who were also booked out he agreed to at least change the Oil and Brake pads which should keep me out of trouble for a while.
The same day I had confirmation from the Bike Shipping Company that they had a Container leaving for Melbourne in the last week of October which was a little early for me, however the following one would not leave the UK until late January or early February 2018, add on 7 or 8 weeks shipping time and I wouldn’t see my bike until around April next year (missing the whole Australian Summer). For the first time during this trip I decided to substantially change my plans and head North to France instead of south to Morocco, I would also miss all of Portugal but this is a good reason to come back….
The next morning I left Valencia and headed north through the middle of Spain, the scenery and the weather were spectacular, I was liking Spain a lot.
I found some nice quiet roads with hardly any cars on them and then some dirt tracks through the mountains where I decided to set up camp for the night next to a ruined Farm House.
The next morning I continued north and found a old Castle on a Lake which had been turned into a Café, a perfect spot for morning tea.
Further north at the end of a long day I found a great campsite overlooking a deserted Lake, it was warm and quiet, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Not sure if this town is trying to tell me something…. (Does Rio mean ‘You are a’ in Spanish)?
As I got closer to the Cantabrian Sea on the north coast of Spain the land just dropped dramatically off a Plateau, it was as if I was riding down a Mountain that I didn’t remember riding up. This is the Carretera Santander Vinaroz which drops dramatically towards the sea near Santander and causes a massive change in the weather. Southern and Central Spain had been warm and dry a lot like Central Australia but at the bottom of this road the weather was very humid and wet all in the space of a few kilometres.
Down near the coast it was again time to look for a place to camp. I followed this track through some patches of Jungle and found an OK place beside the road, I didn’t expect much traffic here.
After a warm humid night with some rain thrown in it was time to get going, but first I needed to find some breakfast and this did the trick.
Later that morning I crossed the border into France and headed up the west coast until I arrived at La Dune, a very nice seaside village that reminded me a lot of home.
I had heard of a massive Sand Dune here somewhere and I thought that La Dune was it until I was riding further up the road and found this… Dune du Pilat.
I rode into Arcachon a little further north and found a nice Caravan Park to set up camp in for the night then rode back down to climb the Dune. It didn’t look that hard…until I got closer.
It was a pretty tough climb in the soft sand but I survived to see this at the top.
Getting down was a lot easier, just run but make sure you don’t fall on your face as you wouldn’t stop until you hit the trees at the bottom.
The next day I continued travelling north towards Normandy where I paid a visit to Omaha Beach made famous from the D-Day landings by the allied forces during WWII.
Overlord Museum just near Omaha Beach.
The beach itself was not what I expected, it looked just like any other beach and not the steep unclimbable cliffs that you often see in the movies.
The nearby US Memorial and Cemetery is very well set out, is free and well worth the visit.
I spent a few hours wandering around here and even though the story has been told over and over I really didn’t expect so many white crosses.
The weather was turning cold again as I headed north and it was getting more difficult to find out of the way places to camp. I found this on a small track just outside a village in Northern France just before dark, beggars cant be choosers……
The next morning I rode into a small village in Northern France called Pozieres.
This small Village in the Somme was the scene of one of Australia’s most costly battles 101 years ago, it was taken and lost a number of times resulting in over 30,000 Australian casualties, from a Country at that time of just under 5 million people.
The French people living there at the time regarded the Australians as their saviours for eventually liberating their Village and they still have the original Australian flag flying in the centre of town.
Next stop on my small Battlefield tour was another small Village in Northern France, this one is known as Fromelles. This was the location of Australia’s first major Battle in France during WWI, it was over quickly and was a massive failure for the Australian’s who lost over 5,500 casualties in less than 24 hours. The Memorial and Cemetery have only been set up recently as a result of a mass grave being located near the Village where a large number of Australian Soldiers were buried and largely forgotten about until a few years ago, many have still not been identified.
Just north of Fromelles near the Belgium border I found a quiet place to camp, this would be my last night in the tent and it was cold and wet.
The next morning I tried to find my way out.
I rode through Belgium skirting around Brussels and ended up in Bruges for lunch.
Later that night I found an average motel in Dunkirk, France not far from the English Channel and settled in. Early the next morning I rode down to Calais where I boarded the Train going under the Channel to the UK.
First time I’ve ridden my bike on a train that’s goes under the sea.
In around 40 minutes I was on dry land and in the United Kingdom….
Where after over 6 months I was back on the right (left) side of the road which took a bit of getting used to.
The traffic in London in the rain was something to experience.
There is no better place to end a Motorcycle trip than the Ace Café in London and the Burger was a heart stopper…….literally.
So after lunch I rode the short distance to a Hostel I had booked and settled in for the night. The next day I dropped my bike off at the Shippers and got it ready for the trip back to Australia in a week.
I still had 5 days in London before my flight left so I became a walking tourist………. except for the bit where I took the Hop on Hop off Bus.
Big Ben is undergoing some major surgery.
Even though it was freezing cold there was no shortage of tourists walking around.
And patting horses.
London Tower where a few people have lost their heads over the years.
Buckingham Palace, not sure if the Queen was home or not…
Tower Bridge where they still raise the centre platforms once a day, just for the tourists.
The changing London skyline.
St Pauls Cathedral.
So after a week in London it was time to fly home….after a 7 hour stop over at the airport in Jakarta, Indonesia.
After 6.5 months and over 35,000 kilometres through 30 countries from Tokyo to London I was finally home. The bike would arrive back around mid December and after getting me all of this way with only two blown Headlight Globes deserves a rest and some TLC.
I have experienced a lot of firsts during this trip and met a lot of great people and made some life long friends along the way. This ride has given me many great memories but strangely the places where I was truly out of my comfort zone seem to be the lingering ones.
This was my fist major ride away from my home country and others who have done these types of trips either say “Never Again” or “When do I leave?” I think I fall into the second category, it is good to be back home and see family and friends and not need to pack up and ride nearly every day but one thing I am sure of ….this is only the beginning.