My first sight of the UK was the Isle of Wight in the distance. I am from Southampton so I know the area well. It was a real homecoming feel to sailing around the island and into Portsmouth Harbour.
I am on the ferry from Santander in Spain to Portsmouth in the UK. The boat seems to be full of bikers who have been riding the Pyranees. You can tell they are bikers because they are all over the aged of 50, have beards and black t-shirts. Strangely many have Yorkshire accents.
Philius Fogg went around the world in 80 days, I went to Ghana and back. I am happy with that, I met far more people. Ôÿ║
I was not expecting much on the ride yesterday morning. I had a message from am old Scouting friend who lives near Santander but unfortunately it was all a bit late for me to detour and meet him. I did not have a paper map of Spain so was not expecting the mountainous terrain to continue, I was expecting a levelling out near the coast.
Although I have been riding on motorways all day, it has been through some spectator scenery. This part of the country is well worth visiting in it’s own right. The only thing is that it has been cold and windy.
I went straight to Tangier med, the ferry port, this morning; only stopping for fuel and to buy a ticket at one of the service station sales booths.
I arrived may after 12 and checked in for the 2pm sailing with FRS to Algeciras in Spain.
The missing day 8 post:
I took my time getting packed and ready to go this morning. This was my first night camping and it was an opportunity for me to rearrange things in a logical way. By 10.30 I was on my way to Algeciras and the ferry.
At every service station or layby along the road was a little tiny booth with massive signs advertising tickets to tangiers. At first I ignored them thinking i wanted official tickets not fake ones. As I got closer to town even the official road signs proclaimed tickets at the next junction. I succumbed to less than subliminal advertising, stopped, and bought one..
Mine said my ferry left for Tangier med at 2pm. I need not have been so suspicious of being ripped off.
I was at the terminal with loads of time to spare, the waiting area slowly filled with cars. And then, one by one, they started turning around, getting others to move out of their way, and driving off. 2pm came and went and a Spanish lady on a Ducati with her partner approached me and explained the port of Tangier med was closed and if i came back at 4.30 to the Cuetos terminal the ticket would let me on a ferry there. Great… where’s Cuetos?
It turns out it is Spanish held terratory along the coast from Tangier. Slight change of plan but nothing serious, I would however use Expedia to book a hotel there due to the time. I found an Ibis advertising for about 30 euros, bargain! I tried to book but the transaction failed. I put the address in my satnav anyway.
On landing it was getting late and I was getting tired. I followed the sat nav but suddenly the border post was in front of me! Eeek! What do I do? I had not seen any decent hotels so far and the area looked decidedly unhealthy as a place to stop and ask. Ok, let’s go for it…
Even before the first roundabout I was approached by a man wanting to speak to me, He dodged out of my way just in time, I have been warned about fixers! ! They help you through the borders for a fee. I can manage on my own thank you! The next guy approached me had a semi official tourist board id around his neck. I could have made that, I thought.
He asked me if i had the green import form for the bike! Christ! I forgot about that! I was supposed to get it on the Tangier ferry which lands in Morocco, my ferry landed in Spainish territory! Panic! What should I do? Ok, I had been told in these situations, play the dumb tourist. Not hard seeing I was the dumb tourist!
My friendly guy just happened to have the form and guided me around getting things done. . I was suspicious as hell and made it obvious to him I was not going to pay him. After the customs checked my now completed papers My friendly guy.explained he would show me a good safe hotel with a garage for the bike and then show me around the town. OK suspicions confirmed, alarms ringing, I decided to confront him. . How much was he going to charge for these services? He eventually said 35 euros. I surpassed myself at how quickly I agreed but the whole area did not feel safe and I did not fancy my chances of finding somewhere after the border, I followed him in a taxi, to the main town. I was expecting a short journey bit no, we went for many kilometers along a motorway, we went through police road checks and a toll booth where the fixer paid for me as well. Now this is where we all expect me to be led up a dark alley and be mugged, I was thinking this as well. But…
The garage is fine, the hotel cheap and reasonably clean, he gave me a walking tour of the old town and market, found me something to eat that was cooked on a BBQ right in front of me, and then returned me safely to my hotel. I was so grateful, and not having change, I have him 40 instead of the 35 he asked for.
So once again sir (he did tell me his name but I was too tense to remember it) I must apologise for doubting you and I am grateful for your help. For the second time today I need not have been so suspicious of being ripped off.
Tomorrow I plan to travel to Rabat where I need to get some visas via a blue town. …
Distance: 620km, Start: Madrid, End: Calahonda between Malaga and Marbella, Spain
Another big mileage day today. It started with long flat straight motorways through farmland growing every kind of crop. Surrounding the plains were mountains and no sooner was I in them, the olive trees began. And they went on, and on, and on, and… you get the idea.
Distance: 20km, Start: Madrid, End: Madrid
The only travelling today was from my hotel to the centre of Madrid and back. I spent most of the morning in Parque del Retiro which is a massive 19th century park with a big boating lake, a crystal palace and a modern art gallery.
Distance: 450km, Start Pamplona, Spain, End: Madrid, Spain
This morning I thought I left in good time but i didn’t realise until later the clocks had gone forward so I lost an hour.
Initially I set my Satnav to Salamanca avoiding motorways, my intention was to go via Portugal, a place I have never been. After about an hour of depressing sights of closed businesses and decay all the while following alongside an empty motorway (it is Sunday), I reassessed what I was going to do. I decided riding around Spain and Portugal is something I can do in future, this trip is about Africa so why am I going via Portugal? If in future I circumnavigate Spain, going through the middle is a good plan for now. So that’s what I am doing. I reset the Satnav to Madrid using motorways and here I am.
Distance: 340km, Start: Bordeaux, France, End: Pamplona, Spain
Yesterday after leaving the ferry I forgot the bike maintenance checks so last night I wrote a check list. The people looking through the dining area window seemed impressed as they watched me going through the list, checking fluids, adjusting chain, checking tyres… They did not seem so impressed when the bike promptly fell over when I tried too drive away. Note to myself.. add “remove disk lock” to my list. Also remember not to panic if engine fails to start after dropping the bike… it is probably still in gear. In case anyone missed my embarrassment I accidentally pressed the horn as I lifted the bike.