Focus Farewell

This is a 2008 Ford Focus 1.8 l 16v gasoline. It’s a Mark 2.5, also known as a Mark 2 facelift and has the more attractive headlights among other upgrades. It has been well maintained and is totally reliable – I have done multiple UK trips and also been down to Portugal in it and wouldn’t hesitate to do so again. Car is RHD and has been French registered since 2016.

It has the Mazda 1.8 16 valve engine which has a great reputation and also has the benefit of a chain driven camshaft – no timing belt issues here. It has no oil leaks and runs very well. Five speed manual transmission.

The car has a brand new CT and is ready to roll for another 2 years. Tyres are new Pirelli P7 Cinturato (205/55-16) – none of your Premier Prix rubbish.
Alloy wheels are in good overall condition, look very stylish and are easy to clean.
Discs and pads are in good condition.
Car has two keys.

Electric front windows work fine as does the air conditioning.

A towbar is fitted but has only been used for towing my light weight enduro motorbike trailer.

The silver paintwork is in good condition, with the usual age related marks and polishes up very nicely. There are two bodywork blemishes – a small dent behind the left front wheel and some rust on the rear left hand wheel arch. Both these areas have been rust treated and hammerited.

Date of first registration in the UK was August 2008.
There is a fully documented service history and stamped service book for the first owner through to 2016 and 70,000 miles. The second owner imported the vehicle to France in 2016 and had the car serviced annually at his local garage. I bought the car two years ago and have done the servicing every 10,000 miles at 120k and 130k which included oil, filter, air filter, plugs. Next service due at 140k miles.
Current mileage is 135k miles (216k Km if you’re metric).

I’m in two minds about selling the car but since I recently bought a van it isn’t getting used very much.

Alvor 2023

I arrived in Alvor in December 2022 and spent a week there waiting for the rain to stop before heading off on my Morocco trip on the motorbike. Having spent Christmas and New Year in Marrakech I was back in Alvor in early January to take up my apartment rental through until the beginning of March. The weather this year was quite different to 2022, when I spent 7 weeks here and didn’t see any rain. This year seemed quite a bit colder and we had quite a lot of rain. Unfortunately this meant that a lot of the off road trails were quite wet and muddy. After the Morocco trip I didn’t use the CRF very much, preferring to use my Trek electric mountain bike or take long walks around the marshes or along the beach to Portimao. I did manage my usual 8km beach run almost every day – just a couple of days missed due to the rain. I joined up with the Algarve Senior Bikers club for a road ride one day which was very cold but great fun. Georgina came to visit for a week before heading back to Vancouver and Sara was here for two weeks.

Rather than write a long description of all the things I got up to I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Christmas decorations outside the Plaza cafe.
Test run on the CRF before the Morocco trip – out to one of the Atlantic surf beaches on the West coast.
One of my favourite destinations – the Velochique cafe in Monchique.
In the clouds up above Monchique.
Wall art en route to Portimao
On the beach
Traditional Portuguese restaurant A Nora…
…where they serve the best tuna steaks.
Another local restaurant – plenty of fresh fish here.
Breakfast in the apartment…
En route to Monchique on the Trek.
Avocado and eggs on toast at Velochique
Coronavirus wall art.
Velochique greek salad with sweet potato fries.
Vegan restaurant in Portimao.
Coffee stop out on the Trek
Tuna and tomato toastie – not bad…
View from the cliff walk to Portimao
Morning coffee at the Plaza, just opposite the apartment…
Lunch at Rocha Poke, above Praia de Rocha, Portimao.
Catching the sun rising from the sea – early morning beach run.
Even the stools in the velochique cafe have a bike theme…
Ominous clouds on the morning run.
Walking to Portimao.
Sun starting to rise…
Pure gold pouring onto the beach…
The impossible hill climb…
Lovely sandwich at Cafe de Paula.
Frost on the boardwalk.
Morning coffee with George.
Oranges and lemons everywhere.
At Velochique for coffee and cake on my birthday.
Birthday beach walk to Portimao.
The reward – Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream !
Portimao wall art.
More coffee and cake.
Harvester on a hill – en route to Monchique.
Up in the hills.
Squid things at Duartes.
Stawberries and chocolate.
Yet more coffee and cakes.
Avocado and mushrooms on toast at Velochique.
Cake selection at Mel & Canela.
Lunch at A Nora with Sara.
Company for my morning beach run.
Fat lady in Portimao – en route to ice cream…
Made it !
Nice day for the Portimao beach walk.
Storm clouds brewing.
Different day, different weather…
Taking the short cut as the tide was in…
Unexpectedly massive toastie.
Free fruit en route to Monchique on the Trek.
Avocado and poached eggs on toast – Velochique.
Mint tea and rocky road.
Paddle.
Yet another huge toastie.
In the sun after biking to Monchique.
On the beach.

Moto Maroc

I had been to Morocco several times before, the most recent trip being three years ago (just before Covid) which I did in the Land Rover with Alexander. You can read about that trip here :
https://v2xs.com/morocco-or-bust-3/

At the end of that trip I wanted to do it again, but be a bit more adventurous by heading further south and maybe do it on a motorbike to make it a real adventure. I had already booked to stay in Portugal (Alvor on the south coast) for January and February and would be heading down there in the van with a motorbike and mountain bike on board, so I had the idea to set off a bit earlier, leave the van in Portugal and head for Morocco on the bike.

I have no reason to go, except that I have never been, and knowledge is better than ignorance. What better reason could there be for travelling?

Freya Stark

Once I had the idea a plan quickly fell into place, my goal was to be in Marrakech for Christmas and I would book accommodation as I went along to maintain maximum flexibility. Having arrived in Alvor I had to delay my departure for about a week as it was raining non stop and riding any distance in the rain is not my idea of fun. My initial goal was to get from Alvor to Tangier and then take stock and come up with a plan for the rest of the trip.

Moto Maroc Route

This was quite an adventure for me as I had not done any real distance on a motorbike before and my only experience of carrying all my gear was a few days with Dougie after the VINCE – which seemed to work out OK. The other aspect was doing it on my own – not knowing anyone else daft enough to want to join me. Travelling alone does have a positive side though in that you can do what you want and go wherever the fancy takes you. I knew from reading about other motorcycle adventurers that the temptation is to take too much stuff, so I was determined to travel light. I was going to be having the luxury of staying in cheap hotels and B&Bs so had no need for camping or cooking gear. I was expecting the weather to be warm so didn’t need lots of extra clothes. Going on the Honda CRF300L also meant that I didn’t need a load of tools – just things for chain adjustment and lube, a few allen keys and the ubiquitous tie-wraps. I didn’t want to have to carry tyre levers and spare tubes / puncture repair kit so had decided to stick with mousses. I changed the rear tyre from the full off road knobbie to a more suitable 50/50 tyre and wanted to do the same at the front but couldn’t remove the old tyre (the mousse was too tight) so I just left the full knobbie, which I knew would quickly wear out on the road – but at least I wouldn’t get a puncture !

Ready for the off… Travelling light.

I generally prefer to wear my open face trials-type helmet as it is very light, well ventilated and gives great visibility. However, it was probably not the best choice for the amount of road mileage that I ended up doing. Ear plugs were essential and I had to wear a face mask/buff most of the time as well.

Quick Overview

My trip lasted 19 days and I covered 2300 Km. I spent 13 of those days travelling and stayed at 13 different places. On the travelling days I covered an average of 180 Km.

Total cost including ferry, fuel, hotels and food was 1450 Euros, or 76 Euros per day.

Jerez

My first overnight stop was near Jerez, south of Seville after 325 Km which took me about 6 hours including stops. This was a baptism by fire and I found it hard work. The bike doesn’t offer any wind protection so you are constantly in the wind blast and even though the temperatures were reasonable (14-18) I soon started to feel cold. On some of the major roads the speed limit was 120 km/h but I was only doing 80-90 to make the ride more comfortable. Over 100 km/h the bike tended to weave – mainly due to the inappropriate front tyre. The bike would have gone faster but it didn’t feel safe at higher speeds and the wind chill was significantly worse. I had decided to make this a long leg in order to give me a shorter ride in the morning to the port of Tarifa to get the ferry.

Coffee and fuel stop and a chance to warm up…

Even though this was only the first day I was already thinking my outline plan would need to change. My initial idea had been to cover quite significant distances on major roads in order to get to the places I wanted to visit, but riding on main roads was just proving to be hard work and not much fun.

Tangier

The next morning I set off early to get to the ferry. The temperature was a cool 9 degrees and I only managed half an hour before I had to stop, unable to feel my fingers. Definitely need to look into heated grips/gloves for my next trip. I arrived in Tarifa on time – 90 minutes before the scheduled sailing time only to discover they don’t let you in until an hour before.

Tarifa port

I had used the ferry company app to book my ticket and check-in, which worked fine – the crossing for me and the bike was about 80 Euros and it takes an hour. Very few other people on the ferry.

Bike secured..

I was a little concerned about securing the bike for the crossing, but of course they are used to it and have ratchet straps and tie down points specifically for the purpose. It was very windy and the crossing was a bit rough so just as well the bike was tied down. Passport and Covid forms to be filled in on the boat – obvious you are leaving the EU.

On arrival at the port there were more customs checks and I was issued with a small but vital piece of paper confirming that I was temporarily importing a vehicle. You have to present the same piece of paper when leaving…

Arrived Tangier !

From the port it was a short ride into the city to find my hotel – selected for it’s secure underground parking. This was a common theme throughout the trip – trying to find places to stay that offered some measure of security for the bike. In many places the default is simply parking in the street. The traffic in Tangier was fairly manic and a warm up for the road chaos in cities further south.

Lovely view from the hotel bar…

I had booked two nights in Tangier to give me time to acclimatise and plan the next stage of my trip. I still had the goal of getting to Marrakech for Christmas but needed to change from my original plan which involved too many major roads. The solution was to make use of minor roads, travel shorter distances and allow for more frequent stops that I had originally imagined.

Sometimes it’s a little better to travel than to arriveā€¦

Robert M Pirsig

Planning as you go does give much more flexibility but takes a lot of time and relies on a good internet connection. Back in the EU I take access to the internet (4G) for granted but in Morocco it is too expensive and you have to rely on WiFi in hotels and cafes.

Trip planning…
Moroccan breakfast..
Medina entrance in Tangier
Medina wall art…
Lunch stop – omelette and salad..

I was wandering around in shorts and T-shirt, but the locals were dressed in hats and coats. Lots of great little places to eat and prices much cheaper than back home – my huge omelette and salad was only 8 Euros.

Cats in the sun..
No motorbikes allowed in the Medina…
Sitting outside a cafe watching the world go by with the other old men…
Ancient tombs up above Tangier..
Lots of 3 wheelers…
Abdullah – my Kasbah Guide..

Meet Abdullah, my self appointed guide to the Kasbah in Tangier. He latched on to me and we started chatting and he proceeded to point out some of the interesting buildings and history. We must have wandered around chatting for half an hour, maybe a bit more. I assumed he was just being very friendly – at the start he said “don’t worry I’m not from the tourist office”. As we were parting I asked if I could give him something for his kind explanations and fished out a 50 dirham note (basic wage in Maroc is 15 dirham per hour so I thought I was being generous). He rejected it and said he wanted 200 !

Vegetarian Tagine…

Chefchaouen

With my revised plan I headed south to Chefchaouen (The Blue City) with a distance of only 110 Km to cover on minor roads. I wasn’t planning on doing any significant off road riding on this trip as I was on my own and consider it a bit risky, but also because I hadn’t researched any off road routes in advance. I was relying on Google Maps, but the lack of 4G meant that I had to download the maps in advance and use them in off-line mode which actually worked surprisingly well. Asking Google to pick a route avoiding motorways and tolls was also helpful in providing a more leisurely route.

En route to Chefchaouen…

This ride proved to be a lot more enjoyable – just trundling along minor roads at 70-80 km/h. The wind blast/wind chill is much less of a problem at lower speeds and you have time to appreciate the views. The minor roads also meander through lots of small villages and it’s fascinating to get a small snapshot of daily life in some of these places.

View from my room in Chefchaouen…

To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.

Freya Stark
A fellow traveller…

In Chefchaouen I met a German guy on a big BMW who was heading for the desert further south.

Roof top cafe…
Lots of narrow streets and blue houses…
Lunch with a view…
Sunset over Chefchaouen..

At the end of the day I made the pilgrimage up to the Spanish church on the hill above the town to watch the sunset – along with about 50 other people.

Meknes

It was a 200 km ride to Meknes but I planned to stop off at the Roman site of Volubilis on the way.

Mint tea stop en route…
Volubilis

The route to Meknes went past the hilltop village of Moulay Idriss, which is supposed to be the holiest place in Morocco.

Moulay Idriss

I had booked into a Riad in Meknes and was assured it had secure parking for the bike – which turned out to be the pavement outside the hotel. It was in a very quiet street and not a problem.

Secure bike parking in Meknes..

It was becoming apparent that Moroccans prefer to deal in cash and are reluctant to accept a card even if they have a machine. Nearly every petrol station, even seemingly large ones, would only accept cash. This is not too much of a problem if you are prepared – there are plenty of cash points, but they all want to charge you a commission which seems to be in the 5-10% range. You also need a collection of coins and small denomination notes as it seems everyone expects a tip and being approached by people in the street with their hand held out is surprisingly common – maybe best to not look too much like a tourist.

Fuel was remarkably cheap at about 1.30 Euros per litre and the Honda was doing between 200-250Km between fill ups. That still required some planning ahead as fuel stations were not very common out in the countryside. Police road blocks / checkpoints are very common and seem to be setup at the entrance to every substantial town, but some seem to be in the middle of nowhere. They were clearly stopping people more or less at random and checking their documents. I only got stopped once and the guy just wanted a chat about where I was from and where I was going. I did voluntarily stop on another occasion as I was running low on fuel and wanted to know how far it was to the next station.

Breakfast in the Riad (nice to get an omelette)
Typical Moroccan ornamental ceiling in the dining room.
Sleeping cat on abandoned bike…

Stayed 2 nights in Meknes so had plenty of time to explore. A lot of the monuments and historical attractions were undergoing renovation – a three year project due to be completed in 2023, so I couldn’t visit some of the main attractions.

Renovations in progress…

Ait Ikkou

From Meknes I headed south for Marrakech but it was too far to make in one day so I chose an overnight stop at a place in the middle of nowhere.

On the road to Marrakech
Another tea stop…

It was another chilly start, but cafes were few and far between. It was an hour and a half before my first stop by which time I couldn’t feel my fingers. I was desperate to find a place with seats in the sun so that I could defrost, but in fact the sun was so hot that I was overheating within 20 minutes – the air temperature might be cool but the sun is HOT.

Great views everywhere.
More views…

As I got closer to my overnight stop I thought I would just take a short off road excursion down a trail I spotted. It started off nice and easy but got more and more difficult as the trail started to climb – I didn’t get far before turning round and seeking out my bed for the night.

A little bit of off-road..
Staying at this hole in the wall tonight…

The accommodation was a bit off putting from the outside, but it was actually very comfortable and Habiba (the owner) was very welcoming – tea and biscuits in the garden on arrival and a vegetarian tagine later that evening made with produce from her garden.

Tea and biscuits…

I met another fellow traveller at this place and he was on a 3 month tour of Morocco by bicycle. I was pleased to see he was carrying more gear than me.

Paul from Newcastle

Marrakech

I booked 3 nights in Marrakech to give me a break from travelling and allow time for exploring. As soon as I arrived I walked into the centre to experience the unmistakable atmosphere of the Jemaa el-Fna square.

Made it ! Koutoubia Mosque, Marrakech
Late lunch at the Cafe des Epices

I went straight to one of my favourite places in Marrakech, the Cafe des Epices buried deep inside the Medina and had a very late lunch. By the time I had finished it was nearly dusk and I went back through the main square, stopping to sample some snails at one of the pop-up food stalls that appear in the evening.

Snails
Koutoubia sunset
Olive sellers

I arrived in Marrakech on Christmas Eve and wasn’t too surprised to find there was virtually no sign of Christmas. I was suprised at how busy it was and the number of tourists, no wonder I struggled a bit to find suitable accommodation. I imagine that people just had the same idea as me “Christmas in Marrakech” and as a fly-to destination it is relatively accessible. Not as many tourists evident in the other places I visited.

On Christmas Day I treated myself to breakfast at the Grand Cafe De La Poste – an upmarket cafe in a grand building that used to be the main post office. It was only after I had taken this breakfast picture that I realised there were some Christmas baubles in the background…

Happy Christmas from Marrakech !
Posh but simple breakfast…

Outside the cafe I stumbled across a group of 3 wheelers (motorcycles with sidecar). These appeared to be Chinese copies of the original BMW flat twin design and were available for guided excursions around the city or out into the desert. This cafe is the start point for their tours.

Three wheelers

As usual I spent the day wandering about and stopping in cafes for a mint tea and to watch the world go by. For my Christmas lunch I had a nice French restaurant in mind called the Bagatelle, which is a way out from the centre and was not too busy. They didn’t have any special Christmas dishes but for dessert I spotted the option of a “Buche de Noel” so ordered that and it did turn up with a bit of Christmas trimming…

Christmas Pud

Reflecting on my Christmas experience in Marrakech I realised there were a lot of firsts for me this year…

  • First Christmas with no cards
  • No presents
  • Eating Christmas dinner sitting outside
  • Wearing shorts and T-shirt
  • No booze (well I did manage an illicit Moroccan beer)
  • On my own – this would have felt very strange at home but not a problem here where Christmas is just the same as any other day

Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.

Freya Stark
Christmas Day Sunset
Colours in the market
Sunrise over the Atlas mountains
Marrakech Breakfast..

Essaouira

Having achieved my main goal of Marrakech for Christmas, the other place I was keen to visit on this trip was Essaouira – an old fishing port on the coast directly West of Marrakech.

En route to Essaouira – not much rain here !
Sun, sand and surf in Essaouira.
Essaouira wall art.

Essaouira is a popular destination with surfers and there are plenty of surf schools and equipment rental places – lots of people out on the water too.

Sunset surfers.
Chicmobile..

There is a small but busy fishing port here with some bigger boats that seem to bring in huge catches of small silver fish (sardines?). There is a much larger fleet of smaller boats who must use a different technique (line fishing?) as they bring in a much more varied catch of bigger fish including conger and moray eels.

Amazing and quite shocking amount of fish being landed…
This boat was storing the net ready to sail – lots of crew needed to stow the net which covers the entire deck to a depth of a few feet.
Excellent vegetarian tagine in a little vegan cafe
Fishing boats at sunset
It doesn’t get any fresher than this…
Pre-dawn run along the beach…

I stayed in Essaouira for three days and took the opportunity to do a bit of trail exploring along the coast. I followed a trail that eventually led to a little surf shack/cafe in an idyllic spot – perfect for yet another glass of mint tea !

A bit of off road riding at last…
Surf shack/cafe…
Cheers !
Back in Essaouira for late lunch and yet more tea…
Camel dusk in Essaouira…

From Essaouira I had to plan a route back to Tangier – I needed to get back to Portugal to start my two month rental of an apartment in Alvor. I opted to meander up the coast with a few stops along the way.

Oualidia

This small town is set on a lagoon and I had booked a hotel with a great view over the lagoon and sea.

Room with a view…
Oualidia wall art..
The lagoon provides much needed protection from the sea which seems pretty rough here…
As a change from my usual vegetarian diet I decided to try the seafood platter – it was huge !
On the beach
Home made bread delivery trailer..
Sunset over the lagoon.
Simple Moroccan breakfast.

El Jadida

Further up the coast El Jadida was a much bigger place with a port and massive fortifications built by the Portuguese. The hotel had a lovely garden, which provided secure parking for the bike.

This was New Year’s Eve, but much like Christmas there was no real sign of any festivities.

Hotel garden
Moroccan salad and sardine tagine..
Lots of stray cats – couldn’t resist this one…
Cattle Egret scavenging in the bins..

Casablanca

I couldn’t avoid the major cities along the coast so had to visit one of them. We stayed in Rabat last time so I though I would take a look at Casablanca. It is the biggest and most modern city in Morocco which is probably great for the economy and business but not so great for the tourist.

The fifth larget mosque in the world, capacity for 100,000 people !
Lunch stop in the fish market..
Salaheddine – the chef
Famous film about Casablanca

Asilah

Having been using minor roads and meandering along at a relaxed pace for the last couple of weeks I now needed to up the pace. My next stop was six and a half hours away on the minor roads so I elected to use the motorway which reduced it to four hours – still a long haul on the bike. This journey only served to reinforce my earlier thoughts that travelling distances at speed on the Honda is just no fun – more of an endurance test.

Another room, another view…
Asilah wall art…
More wall art…
Not many people staying here tonight…
Almost had the beach to myself for the morning run…

Tangier

The final leg of my trip within Morocco was a short run back to Tangier to the same hotel I stayed in originally, ready to catch the ferry the next day.

Back to the same little restaurant for omelette and salad…
A smile from the chef…
My last night – treated myself to a mint tea in the hotel bar…
Out for an early breakfast in Tangier…
First one in the queue for the ferry…
All important piece of paper to be allowed out of Morocco with the bike…

Seville

Had an overnight stop in Seville on the way back….

The Giralda by night with Christmas decorations still very much in evidence..
Last stop on the road – next stop Alvor…

Reflections on the Trip

Specs on the beach – Alvor

The bike ran perfectly throughout, the front tyre was almost worn out (as expected) – but I didn’t get any punctures. The limitations on cruising speed and distances travelled were mine rather than the bike’s. Travelling more slowly (70-80 km/h) on minor roads was much more enjoyable than racing across country on bigger roads. Travelling at this time of year I would still prefer to have some sort of fairing on the bike and heated grips/gloves would be essential.

Throughout the trip I was pondering on what was the ideal balance between time spent travelling and time spent exploring new destinations on foot after arrival. I felt that I had come up with a reasonable compromise as I enjoyed both aspects – pootling along through tiny villages and admiring the view and then wandering about a new destination, finding an interesting place to eat and just sitting outside a cafe with a mint tea watching the world go by. What seemed to work well for me was to set off late morning, allowing time to get out for a run and have a leisurely breakfast, but also allowing it to warm up a bit before setting off. Then spend 3-4 hours riding at a relaxed place to the next stop, arrive and have time to get out and explore the new surroundings in the late afternoon. You are far enough south here that even in the depths of winter there is still 10 hours of daylight, which comes as an unexpected bonus compared to being further North.

Another dilemma you have to address is: what is the optimum length of time to stay at a destination – 1,2,3 or more days ? Obviously some places will just be a pure overnight stop to break up the journey when there may be nothing interesting nearby to warrant staying longer – that was the case for my “hole in the wall” stop at Ait Ikkou. I settled on a default of a one night stop, which could be increased to 2 nights if there was enough interesting stuff nearby to be worth spending an extra day exploring. Once you increase that to 3 days, you really need to be using the place as a base and planning an excursion into the surrounding area on the extra day. Having said that I could happily spend a good few days in Tangier, Essaouira or Marrakech.

For my trip I preferred the inland destinations, which just seemed more interesting than the generally more modern coastal stops, apart from Essaouira which is quite a special place. Of the places I visited I wouldn’t go to Casablanca again and Oualidia is really only suitable as a short overnight stop as there is little to explore.

My lightweight packing regime seemed to work out fine – in fact I could reduce it even further. I did manage to do a bit of washing in the sink of one of the hotels which helped the clean clothes supply last the trip. Having a portable kettle/jet boil would be useful for making a drink in the hotel room in the evening – only one of the places I stayed provided a kettle. The bag tied to the rear rack was easily removeable, but the saddle bags were not – which meant I had to empty the contents of them at each stop and then repack them before setting off. Not a big deal but room for improvement. My open face trials helmet wasn’t the best choice for riding at speed, but I do have a couple of other options which I need to try out (I quite like the lightweight option though).

I suppose the big question is : would I do it again ? Well that’s a definite yes, but I would do things a bit differently : be more adventurous, go further south, go to more places I haven’t been before, plan more off road riding (either to get to a destination or as an excursion once there). I would still prefer to travel at lower speeds on minor roads, so to go further would need more stops and a longer trip.

To the next adventure…

In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.

On a motorbike the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.

Robert M Pirsig

.


Autumn 2022

Having returned from the VINCE trip to Spain I had a visit from my brother Chris and also from Georgina, which was followed by a trip to the UK to visit all the family. This post shows a collection of photos from the visits with some notes on the highlights – the mostly cold and wet UK weather not being one of them !

Parasol mushrooms

Chris was over for a week with the main objective of doing some trail riding on motorbikes, but we did manage to fit in a bit of DIY as well. As a bonus, we foraged some parasol mushrooms on one trip out which were lovely on toast for lunch.

Digging up the drains…

I had been having recurring problems with my drains becoming blocked and had already dug a few holes trying to find the source of the problem. Each time I unblocked the pipe it seemed to get clogged again after a few weeks which was very frustrating. With Chris’ help we managed to pinpoint the blockage and dig yet another hole to get access to the pipe.

Pipe blocked by roots

The “root” cause of the problem turned out to be roots from a Virginia Creeper that used to grow on the North end of the house. It seemed that when the pool was installed, and the builders were putting in a trench to get water and electrical supplies from the house, they had fractured the waste pipe and made a bodged repair. The repair was not fully water tight and over the last twenty years the roots had gradually worked their way inside the pipe. We remade the repair and then encased the pipe in concrete for good measure.

Chris hard at work…

Another job I had been putting off until a rainy day was to cut up a load of scrap wood to make kindling – I now have enough to last all winter and probably the next one too.

Albas beach.

It wasn’t all work though – we did manage to get out on the bikes most days, usually involving a cafe stop en route.

Pont Valentre with Alexander and Chris
Birthday lunch for Georgina

Georgina came over for a week after Chris’ visit on her way to spend Christmas in Canada and it was her birthday while she was here.

Go for it George !
Alexander made a birthday cake…
Sauzet

Having taken George back to the airport it was time for me to set off on my long drive to the UK, stopping off at Alexander’s place in Limoges to drop Hebe off for her holiday.

Limoges sunset..
Tea stop on the Somme…

On the way up North I stopped for a break at a services that overlooks the Somme – it seemed very bleak and deserted.

Calais beach

I had an overnight stay in Calais before catching the train the next day and took the opportunity to go for a run along the beach.

On the beach
Weird beer glass…

I went to an “Au Bureau” for dinner and ordered one of their craft beers which was served in a very odd glass with a special wooden stand.

3D printed parts

Arrived at Chris and Corinne’s smallholding near Newcastle to find Chris had been playing with a new toy – a 3D printer. I suggested he could make a cover for the steering wheel lock on my KTM to replace the scrap of duck tape I’m currently using to stop water getting in – and he obliged. Having now got home I can confirm that it fits and does the job perfectly.

Big boys toys…

The first job on the farm was to empty tons of stones from the big trailer, where they had been dumped since building the extension of the house. Now that the trailer was needed for mucking out the barn they had to be moved. The plan was to use the smaller stones to fill in ruts that had been made by the tractor when taking feed to the animals in the lower fields.

Job done !
Mucking out…

The next job was mucking out the barn ready for calving animals. It had not been done for a while and was a foot deep in places and far too matted and heavy to shift by hand. No problem when you have a tractor with forks.

Durham

On my previous visits there seemed to be so much to do we never left the farm to go anywhere else. But this visit coincided with Chris’ birthday and Corinne had arranged to go into Durham for lunch. This was a trip down memory lane as both Chris and I were at University in Durham and have fond memories of the place. We were treated to this view almost daily on the way to and from lectures.

Trenching

The new barn has a bit of a flooding problem and Chris wanted to install a drainage pipe, which required digging a trench across the floor. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be done with a machine as there is a water pipe running across the floor somewhere and he didn’t want to rupture it and start another flood. This meant we had to dig the trench by hand and the earth floor was so compacted it was like concrete – and we never found the water pipe.

Job done…
It seems they speak a different language Oop North…
Posting

The final job for this visit was knocking in some fence posts. A simple job you would think but some of the posts were massive – made from old telegraph poles. Fortunately Chris had a new attachment for the tractor to play with – a hydraulic post knocker with a 350Kg hammer.

Morning run at Ravenside…

From Newcastle I headed over to Preston to spend some time with sister Sara. While my time with Chris seems to involve manual work, getting together with Sara usually involves lots of running and walking.

The morning run – an 8Km route through Avenham park.
Well earned lunch stop
Skye keeping an eye on me.
Grandma duties…

Sara’s eldest daughter Zoe had recently given birth to twins (Rowan and Freya) and it’s a full time job looking after them together with Rory so Grandma Sara (known as GaGa) often steps in to help.

Lytham St Annes

We went out for the day with Rory to the seaside at Lytham (where all the rich people retire).

Rivington

We had a few trips out to Rivington – a moor near Chorley, and spent some time trying to find a memorial of a Wellington bomber crash that happened during the war as well as the usual exploring of the abandoned house and gardens.

Dog walking in the hills.

I spent a weekend with Felicity and family in Manchester and took the opportunity to help out with a bit of DIY. The main job was to redecorate Peter’s room – new flooring, new bed, repainted and new curtains.

Amy and Nicola helping with the painting.
Job done…

It was now time to head south to visit Lucy and Family in Horsham and pop in to see Nanna. I stopped off at a biker’s cafe near Box Hill in Surrey.

Ryka’s Cafe Box Hill
Hot pastie

As the cafe was closing one of the staff came out and offered me a hot pastie for free, which I was delighted to accept.

Warnham Church

From my hotel in Horsham I was able to get out for a run each morning around Warnham village and deer park.

Back home with Hebe in her snuggly bed.
Autumn dawn.

After a month away it now feels very Autumnal here and a lot colder than I would like – time to plan my winter trip to Portugal and Morocco…

Post VINCE 2022

For our post-VINCE trail riding this year we were joined by Dougie’s daughter Millie, so we called the first part of our adventure the “Millie Mondo” – until she had to head off to Barcelona to fly back to the UK. The second part was just Doug and myself on our Honda CRFs which we called the “Honda Mondo”.

For the VINCE we were based in Casa Lecina, which was near the main resort that Austin had booked but was right at the edge of the trail network he had established. So for the Millie Mondo we moved to a small hotel (Casa Custodio) in La Roda de Isabena. Some of our friends from the VINCE had the same idea are were staying at a nearby campsite and were able to join in some of the rides. This was much more leisurely and about exploring the area so I’ll let the pictures and captions speak for themselves…

Out running before sunrise at Casa Lecina
Casa Lecina and the village of Palo, viewed from the valley below.
Feet up with a cup of tea after the VINCE
I think this tyre has seen better days…
Mille leading our morning exercise class…
Coffee stop in Campo en route to Isabena.
Campo Church
Near Isabena – Dougie and Millie went for a swim in the river
Another medieval bridge, near Graus this time
Proper breakfast at Casa Custodio (no English spoken though)
View from the tower at Fantova
Fantova tower from the church.
Inside the ruined church of San Martin
Doug, Millie and Eva make up the congregation.
Picnic lunch at San Isidra (with Nigel)
CP704 On top of the world

After the Millie Mondo, Doug and I moved on again to the catalan region (we had been in Aragon) and headed for Oliana. Our idea was to park the vans at Hotel Cal Petit and set off on the bikes for a few days, staying at different places along the way. After a few days we would return to the vans, load up and head back home via Andorra, where Dougie wanted to do some shopping…

Jeboil tea stop en route to Oliana
Google Maps must think I’m still on my dirt bike if it expects me to drive up this…
Nearly there… This monument is from 2009 when the Tour de France came through here.
View from our first stop in Cambrils – that table is solid stone !
Trditional carafe of wine in the restaurant.
Massive toast for breakfast.
On the trail…
Amazing views everywhere.
View of Pedraforca from our casa rurale – Rustic Vilella
The Gaudi building…
Inside the refuge, next to the Gaudi Building
Plenty of room to bed down for the night.
Pedraforca in the morning light
Repsol garage coffee stop.
Small hill top village
Back to Cal Petit and loaded up…
Into Andorra – 1 deg and snow !
Dougie shopping for moon boots…
Big beers in Andorra
..and a big breakfast !

There was no food in the house when we got back so we went into Cahors to find something to eat..

River Lot reflections
Gambetta sunset.
This makes a change from the very meaty Spanish diet…

So that’s it for the Spanish trip this year. Next on the agenda is some trail riding in the UK in October (Dorset), a December trip with the bike to Morocco and then my annual migration to Portugal in Jan/Feb…