I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Accomplished

Wednesday, 14th October

An uneventful ride from Tarifa to the Andalucian city of Seville - skirting Cadiz in the process - brought us to an equally unremarkable stopover, which is a shame, because Seville has much to offer the traveller, so I understand, with top-notch facilities alleged to be full of colour together with a thriving night-life scene; not forgetting the city's famous Cathedral, which is the site of the final resting place of Christopher Columbus.

Despite all this tourist potential, the words 'just too knackered' summed it up for us.

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The following day (Wed-14th) a 140 km [87 mi] westward ride - about 1½ hours ..

.. and we were riding across the Rio Guadiana International Bridge that connects southern Spain and Portugal. The first of a few memorable bridges we would encounter during the following few days.

Entering the Portuguese Republic

.. and the Algarve region beyond - Portugal's premier holiday destination .. and which, it has been said, sold its beachscape soul to tourism in the 1960s and never really looked back. Nevertheless I still wanted to see the region's brash resorts for myself.

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Wed-14th (afternoon & evening) and Thu-15th

Our brief research of the Algarve suggested that the further west you go from the region's capital, Faro, the less 'conglomerated' it becomes. We didn't want to travel too far west and therefore settled on the resort of Praia Da Rocha, located just south of the city of Portimão, for an intentionally lazy 2-night stopover.



Praia Da Rocha turned-out to be not a bad choice.

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Friday-16th

Heading north from the Algarve to Portugal's capital, Lisbon, we detoured away from the main highways and headed-up into the Serra de Monchique mountain range .. and came very close to running out of fuel along the way!

After a run of 270 km [168 mi] from leaving the Algarve coast, we reached the outskirts of Lisbon and the Vasco da Gama Bridge that crosses the Tejo river ..

.. which is the longest bridge in Europe, with a total length of 17.2 kilometres [10.7 mi].

Construction began in 1995 and the bridge was opened to traffic in 1998, in time for Expo 98. The world record for the largest dining table was set when some 15,000 people were served lunch along the length of the bridge as part of the inauguration celebrations. It turned-out to be an event that ended sooner than expected (by 1:27pm), as the organisers failed to make the necessary arrangements with a local portable toilet hire company [← that bit is a joke.]

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More Facts

Portugal was one of the original member states of the Eurozone in 1999, when it replaced the Portuguese Escudo with the Euro (€) currency. The Escudo, outside of Portugal, was then only good for wiping your arse .. so who could blame them?

Lisbon was hit by a major earthquake in November 1755, which at the time was alleged to have caused 10 Million Escudos-worth of improvements around the city.

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After settling into our lodgings at the Hotel Principe Lisboa, we checked the weather forecasts, which confirmed that the rest of the day would remain fair .. but the outlook for the following day (Sat-17th) was for high winds and rain.

We therefore straightaway went into battle with Lisbon's public transport systems - underground metro, ferry and bus links, to make our way to the Cristo Rei statue before 6 o'clock, at which time admission inside the statue in order to get to the top of it by elevator would close. The views from up there are supposed to be spectacular.

Cristo Rei is similar to the Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro, standing over 110 metres [360 ft] tall on the opposite bank of the Tejo River from our digs in downtown Lisbon.

We arrived, puffing and panting .. at 6:05pm, only to be greeted with an unapologetic, "Desculpe .. fechados agora" ("Sorry .. now closed")

Bugger. Photos from around the base of the statue only for us then!

Adjacent to the statue lies the 25 de Abril Bridge, spanning the the River Tejo; the design of which is based in part on the famous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco.

And it was somewhere around this vicinity (above) that something really very sad indeed occurred. I lost my trusty - albeit that it was somewhat temperamental at times - Garmin Zumo 660 Sat-Nav unit, especially designed for motorcycle riders (waterproof etc); OR some sneaky little pick-pocket just got the better of me.

WAAAGH! .. WILLY BUM SICK- POO! - and I'll admit .. I even said the F-word.

Four years that little unit had guided me around the world - and I needed just four more days service from it. Bloody Gone! (I'll admit it again, I said the F-word for a second time!)

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Saturday-17th

A little bit wet and windy in Lisbon; therefore a day off for me to find the optimum solution to my new and unplanned navigation problem. Will it be entirely back to traditional paper maps perhaps? .. or some other means to navigate and pilot my way up through the rest of Portugal and across to Santander in northern Spain, by Wednesday evening (Oct-21st)?

Time enough to also watch the quarter-final matches of the Rugby World Cup on Portuguese satellite TV:
  • QF1 - South Africa vs Wales
  • QF2 - New Zealand vs France
I had no 'skin' in these game, as England was well and truly out of the competition. I watched just as a neutral spectator, hoping that the best teams won through to the semi-finals.

It’s not in the Guinness book of records, but Lisbon was the first city to have shipped Guinness out of the UK in the year 1811. O’Gilins is still one of the few pubs in Lisbon where you can drink a perfectly-poured pint of Guinness - continuing a tradition that's now over 204 years old.

And for the record: the first time I tried Guinness I feckin' hated it. I tried it again a second time, to be sure .. to be sure.

I didn't go to O'Gilins to watch the quarter-final matches; instead I stayed-in my hotel room (all alone as I recall), in front of a widescreen TV and a bowl of salted popcorn .. with some fava beans and a nice chianti.

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Sunday-18th

Navigation issue was resolved. See, there was a 'Cash Converters' store (a retail pawnbroking company) just around the corner from our hotel. I popped-in, and there inside one of the display cabinets was a near new Garmin Nüvi 1300 Sat-Nav unit with all the standard accessories, still in its pristine original box, priced at €59.90 [GB£44). A bargain .. so I bought it.

With the appropriate mapping tiles downloaded from OpenStreetMap and installed onto the Nüvi's internal memory - I then strapped it to the bike's existing GPS cradle with some duct tape.



Okay, so the Nüvi isn't waterproof, but it will run on its own battery for up to four hours, which is more than enough for me to navigate in-out and around the cities, where it would be most needed. If it rained - unlikely in view of the forecasts - then I could pop it into a sealable polythene bag.

And Robert's yer mother's brother .. I was back in the business of navigating by satellites and a fully serviceable GPS device that should continue to provide good usage for years to come.

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A 315 km [195 mi] very fast northbound ride - just three hours - and we were riding across the Rio Douro into the city of Porto, Portugal's second-largest city. At first view it looked more like a pop-up town rather than a typical metropolis.


Porto's busy street life .. with roasted chestnut stalls on nearly every corner - just like Christmas had arrived a couple of months early.

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Monday-18th

We took an open-top bus tour, which is always a great way to get your bearings and a feel for any city.

Porto is a colourful tumbledown dream of medieval relics, soaring bell towers and dwellings piled on top of one another, with narrow lanes and stone steps that seemed to zigzag to nowhere.

With numerous stately beaux-arts buildings tangled-up with ..


.. ultra-modern architecture, and ..


.. extravagant baroque churches.

Right outside our hotel, the mid-eighteenth century Church of Saint Ildefonso.

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Built around the mouth of Douro river. Culturally, Porto holds its own against much larger global cities.


Enjoy the blue-flag beaches, walk, stroll, run, jog, pedal gently .. or just laze in the sun .. as you like, along the Foz-do-Douro ("Mouth of the Douro") parish of Porto, which faces the Atlantic.

We liked Porto very much, and would go back in a heartbeat. With the low-cost carrier easyJet now flying direct to Porto from Bristol Airport in just 2¼ hours, returning there for a long weekend break is definitely on the cards.

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Tuesday-20th

The last full day of the whole trip, we left Porto and headed north, and crossed the border back into Spain ..


.. in glorious sunshine.

Weatherwise, we've been extremely lucky during this four-week leg of the trip. Okay, we got sprinkled-on a couple of times, but only for an hour or so on both occasions.

3½ hours later [300 km - 186 mi] we were in the port city, and beachy hot spot, of A Coruña on the Spanish Galician coast.

It was the very last night of all. 'Mixed emotions' sums-up the way we were both feeling.

 Wednesday-21st

Setting-off eastbound the following morning (Wed-21st) into a dazzling sunrise. This would be the longest ride since leaving Wroclaw, Poland last month - 455 km [283 mi] to the ferry port-city of Santander.

Along the way we came across one of the renowned 14-metre (46 ft) high black silhouetted Osborne bulls. 

Over 90 of these unofficial national symbols are dotted on hillsides around the Iberian peninsula. I have wanted to take a picture of one of them for ages. This was my last chance for probably some considerable period of time.


Late afternoon - Santander.

We watched at the quayside as Brittany Ferries' flagship cruise ferry, The Pont-Aven, slipped gracefully up to her moorings. For us, she represented the very last ferry ride (of scores since leaving New Zealand.)

Cast off scheduled at 21.30, followed by a sea passage north across the Bay of Biscay, skirting the island of Ushant. Then a straight run up to Plymouth Sound, south-west England.

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Mid-late afternoon, Thursday-22nd.

Into Plymouth Sound - looking back over the port quarter of The Pont Aven towards Rame Head, Cornwall .. and suddenly, I was confronted with the imminent prospect of sailing into the bowels of Plymouth.
Now there's a sentence you don't want to say too often if you can possibly help it.

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Disembarkation at Millbay Docks, Plymouth, was childishly straightforward; followed by a surprisingly uncongested - bearing in mind it was rush-hour time - 50-mile [80 km] run down the A38 /A30 / A392 into a blinding (literally) early winter setting sun.

65 minutes minutes after crossing the Tamar Bridge into Cornwall .. I was home, of all places. I turned the ignition key of my little black beauty leftwards .. for the last time.

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And so my moderately adventurous motorcycle ride around the world was finally over.

During the course of the last few years I had witnessed and experienced many wondrous things that I could never have imagined before it all started:
  • I watched the sun rise-up over the eastern horizon at New Zealand's East Cape before anyone else (7 billion people) on Earth
  • I crashed badly in the middle of nowhere, South Island NZ; spent four days in a foreign hospital and seriously thought about giving up motorcycling altogether - I mean, .. forever
  • I baked in the brutal heat of the Aussie Outback
  • I began to love Australia
  • I felt the ground turn to jelly during a 6.8 magnitude earthquake on the island of Bali.
  • I was awestruck by the Yi Peng Floating Lanterns Festival in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand
  • I touched the sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha
  • I saw the River Ganges bathed in a mellow dawn light at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
  • I stroked my fingers across the pink marble walls of the Taj Mahal - probably the most beautiful building in the whole wide world
  • I watched the pomp and theatre of the brazen Wagah border closing ceremony in the north-western Indian state of Punjab. Absolutely .. Incredible India.
  • I fed wild Orangutans in the remote and ultra-humid jungles of northern Sumatra
  • I pleaded with Vietnamese Customs officials for two whole hours to allow me free passage to cross their frontier - and I learned in doing so that a smile can take you a very long way in life
  • I flew alongside the summit of Mount Everest
  • I paraglided over Himalayan Mountains
  • I rode on an elephant's back in the jungles of Chitwan National Park, southern Nepal
  • I've marvelled at so many ancient temples and the vanished civilisations that built them.
    • I rode 3,000 kilometres through Iran, from the southern Hormuz-based port of Bandar Abbas, up to the northern Armenian border. Independent travel was banned for Brits just five days after I received my 30-day unrestricted visa from Tehran. I got very lucky
    • I smelt the spent butane gas from a floating hot-air balloon at dawn in central Turkey
    • I strolled around the Acropolis, and the 'Floating Monasteries in the Sky' at Meteora, Greece
    • I crossed over some of Europe's highest and perhaps least known mountain passes
    • The ghosts of Auschwitz-Birkenau touched me.
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    I have been invited into the dwellings, as an honoured guest .. broken bread, tasted the victuals and savoured the warm friendship of: Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs; Southeast Asian Muslims - Arab Muslims - Persian Muslims - and Turkish Muslims. Believe me, there is nothing to fear from these decent and gentle folk except an unprovoked attack of overwhelming kindness and hospitality.

    So many other life-changing events also occurred. For instance, my father and my dear mother both passed away during the course of this journey. But life goes on.   
    • I've made wonderful new friendships, across four continents, that I'm sure will carry-on forever
    • I became the godfather to an adorable little Australian boy
    • I was blessed with the gift of a beautiful and very cherished granddaughter back home in the UK.  
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      Summary:
      • Over 100,000 kilometres
      • Across 12 Time Zones
      • Through 40 countries
      • Unbelievable
      • No regrets at all.

        Conclusion:

        Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog; a tiny little corner of the world wide web .. and for reading some of the ramblings of a bloke that is rapidly growing older; who has just fulfilled an ambition before it was too late .. which has given him some peace of mind.

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        The last video [Click on the forward play arrow]

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        Only by chasing dreams will we ever truly know who we are .. and learn who we could be.

        Far better to fail in the chase .. than to never chase at all.

        Have a great ride 'round the rest of your life .. and never forget that in the end, it's not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away.

        The End


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        From Ellen's journal: click on this link →  My last update
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          1 comment:

          1. Welcome Home both of you. Glad you made it home safely. We have enjoyed the way you shared your travels - Well done. John and Kris in Melbourne

            ReplyDelete