Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Slap me with a stale baguette and call me French

France is beautiful country, and I love french as a language, they speak with such passion and it is the most romantic language of them all.

Wow its quite difficult now thinking of the past and writing what happened almost two weeks ago. Its so easy to just live in the moment and think of what im going to be cooking up for dinner and who ill be meeting next and the next mountains ill be camping in.

But yes Ill give it a go, France deserves it!

France was something else. I came down from Luxembourg, as it finished off my terd... and spent my first night in Epinal with Lise, another couch-surfing host. We had a cup of tea and then decided to explore, we spontaneously headed for the mountains as they looked so beautiful from the plains. As the smaller roads turned into forest tracks, we continued up and up and into the slippery snow for some excitement. Stopping by amazing cascades and having snow fights and trekking high up into the mountains as the sun disappeared before us and the cool evening sky blew briskly upon on our faces. It was something real special to be up there, so peaceful and dead quiet.

The tiny French towns are so beautiful, some buildings derelict and falling apart, while some neighboring ones are almost brand new which gives quite a contrast. I love the tiny villages dispersed in the valleys. We had a great night that night, being shown french folk dances as Lise played the violin.

That next morning I woke up to a flat front tire, I only realised this once I had packed and was taking off. Bugger! Oh well, I said to my self, I have to learn at some stage how to repair my punctures on these extremely large wheels (comparing them to my postie's CT110). I remembered a tyre place coming into town, so I decided to ask the lads there, conversing with google translator, if I could use their space and their compressor as I still have not got my self a pump. MMM, note to self... get a pump! So I went through the process and found the wee hole, patched her up, and put the tyre back together. It all went quite smoothly until I hit the road and the tyre was not actually balanced correctly as I pumped it back up. So the tyre was somewhat vibrating as I hit the tiny windy snowy alpine roads as I headed for Colmar on the far North east of France of the Lorraine region. Does anyone know a good trick to get the tyre well balanced after changing it by yourself?

The snow through those alps was the thickest snow Id ever seen, it was so magical and so so beautiful, it must have just snowed. I haven't had much experience in the snow so it was very new exciting for me. So riding carefully with a funny bumpy front wheel through some extremely windy alpine roads with patches of snow was a bit of a challenge but quite enjoyable at the same time.

So from Clomar I headed North into a very beautiful wine growing region with a chain of small cute German looking villages. That evening I headed for the highlands where the forests are to find a nice camping spot, I ended setting up camp overlooking the wine growing regions and a small village called Riquewihr, it was a beautiful site. While cooking up a feast and drinking wine, I took the chance to pull out my melodica (a mini instrument with a keyboard controlling a row of reeds with a mouthpiece to blow into) and start teaching myself how to play it. One of my missions this year is to teach my self how to play the keys. It was real nice to be in the forests with the snow and have a warm camp fire. And in the morning for the number 2's, I must have had one of the best toilet views in all of France. I love my morning poo spots, its all about having the best view and really enjoying your surrounding as you release your unwanted biomass and feed the half frozen worms.

Beautiful tiny german villages of Riquewihr

Being unsure of my route and where I wanted to go that morning, I decided to let it be a day of intuition. So I headed out after exploring more villages down towards Mullhouse on the country roads (the highways are boring and you have to pay for them). I was so close to Switzerland, so Switzerland it was. Mike sent me an email explaining must see's and go too's, so to Interlarken on the lakes I went. Stopping at Delemont and getting some info and a map of the Swiss areas, I bumped into another motorcyclist and got some nice advice and routes to follow. I jumped on the old tinternet and got some emails off Jess and Jerome who randomly were in the French Alps in the same national park back to the South East. So that was certainly decided to be my next destination. But as for the majestic sheer size of the monstrous mountains of Switzerland, I was in for a treat. After cheating and not paying for a years worth of highway usage to the Swiss government, I found myself in Interlarken, the sun was starting to set. I headed for Grenwald down the valley and I've never felt so small in my life as these three to four thousand meter high mountains uplifted and made me quite excited for exploring.

Entering into the Swiss alps

As I got further into the valley the snow got thicker and thicker and resorts and ski fields started to appear. It was a pretty flashy part of town, but on my map I could see smaller roads heading right under the mountains where i was to find a barn in the middle of a field full of snow. I really did not feel like camping in the snow so I had a bit of a sneaky peaky and figured that the barn was not in use and saw the loft full of hay. It is here where I snuggled up nice and warm later that evening after a late night walk and explore. This place was magic, and it must have been somewhere around minus ten degrees Celsius too. Some of these mountains are still only half the size of the Himalayas, so Im definitely in for a treat once I get to India!!!

The view from my barn window, it doesn't really capture the

sheer size but this mountain is just above 4000 meters high.

As the morning rush of skiers prepared themselves to get up to the slopes for a day on the powder, I was finishing off my porridge and everyone seemed to give me the double look like a curious cat would, and being the only motorbike Id seen on the road for a good while, i think I understood why. It was bloody freezing and the roads were somewhat icy in places. My fruit and veggies froze too, not good.

After some morning walking on the snow, I decided to head back to France over the Alps again for another mission. I was ready for some of the passes to be closed but Switzerland seem to have the money to keep the smaller mountain passes open and clear of snow. Talk about the windies, I had an entire day of winding up and down and over and round so many mountains, it was crazy and frankly by the end of the day I dreamt of a clear open road in the middle of the desert. On the last dregs of fuel left in the tank, I must have just made it to the border of Switzerland and France where i could pick up some reasonably priced petrol. Ive been spending almost all my money so far on fuel, its been around 1.40-1.50 Euro's per liter.

Wee villages in the alps

After a couple of winding days on the road I was keen for a good chilling, I lost the email I got off Jess and so I was heading for Jerome in Val D'sere, as I was passing by other villages in the Parc National de la Vanoise, I suddenly remembered the town that Jess was in and spontaneously gave it a go. Montchavin it was, I asked around town and found her quite easily. Wow Jess was fantastic, she sorted me right out with accommodation and food as she was running a chalet full of quests. It was my first experience of a ski resort town and they are something different I can tell you that. With the only pub in town, literally next door it wasn't to hard to make some friends while Jess was working. All I wanted that first night was a Guinness to down as it was after all St Paddies day. We ended up having a few and then got a ride up the mountain to the next village with Nicco to a more english style pub where they actually had Guinness. After a night of drinking and being seriously tired, we decided not to get a ride down the mountain with the crazy drunken french guys and so we decided to slide on our bums down the piste (a man made ski slope) back to Montchavin. We had wild adventures as the piest bashers (what I called "Peace Bashers", they are these monster like machines that come out at night and plough the snow for skiing) were after us and we couldnt escape. So into the woods in the snow we ran ad then took a massive sliding all the way back down to Montchavin on our bums. Was so much fun.

The wee village of Montchanin

After a couple of days chilling and getting into my book Shantaram, I went across the way to visit Jerome at Val D'sere, an even bigger resort town full of british skiers. I managed to find some french people in a pub there while I was waiting for Jerome to finish work off the slopes, we got into a bottle of the local Genopi, a very strong mountain herb liquor. It was delicious but after a few I wanted to stop so that when I finally met Jerome I could actually say and remember his name. Jerome was in good order, just like the good times that we spent in Morocco together. Was fantastic there, and the mountains were much higher too. It rained one day there which meant that the snow started to melt a bit. I decided to go for a walk and the pass beyond Val D'sere was closed, I kept walking and was admiring my surroundings and watching the vultures saw in the mountain top thermals when I heard this amazing deep heavy sound, as I looked up I saw this white and muddy wash of colors smash well above me. It was an avalanche, and in all its might it thundered down the crevasse from way up in the mountain tops covered i cloud and I then realised what it actually was. I ran as hard and as fast as my legs would take me through the snow, it seemed to happen in slow motion, but i guess Im just a real fast runner. I managed to take some photos as my camera was in my pocket. But wow what an unexpected event, I guess it just took me by surprise as Im not used to this snow stuff.

The Avalanche falling from way above the clouds

After taking it easy at Val D'sere I had to head back on the road the way I came as the pass to the South of France was closed due to the snow, so I had to go the long way round. I wasn't complaining though, as that meant I had to stop into Jess again and she was off work and had the entire five star Chalet to her self. Wow, a well needed chilling in the sunshine of the alps, it was well worth the stop, especially the spa on the roof top. I thought yeah man, live it up while you can because later on you are going to dream of that spa and that nice cold snow when your in the middle of the desert of Iran with no one around, trying to fix a mechanical problem or repairing another tyre puncture. So that I did, i chilled well out. It was like I was actually on a holiday which was fantastic and just what I needed.

We also did some very extreme late night tobogganing down the slopes, well mostly Jess. After being in serious pain from hitting my tail feather on the demented dips in the snow, I didn't really want to hurt my bum anymore. But Jess did the most extreme thing I've seen in a long time. With the little red button toboggan she is holding, she took off down this piste which was so steep and so so crazy, I was going to go after her, but looking at the speed she was getting and how out of control she was I pulled out and watched in hope that she wouldn't die. She was eventually stopped by a wall of snow that the Peace bashers were making, and to top it off, the peace bashers were after her. On that same piste, the next day there was an international competition for some super speed skiers wearing lycra suits. Man you've got some balls Jess. That was ridiculously insane.

Jess with the uncontrollable red button

Me with the unstoppable yellow one

After all the good times, I had felt I had to make a move and head to Italy. I didn't know how because so many of the passes were closed. After getting close, the only option was to go through a tunnel. That day the skies opened a pelting of rain and a mix of sludgy snow, I was well wet and cold and so the tunnel, the Traforo del Frejus, apart from the thirty odd euros it cost me, I was happy to be out of the blizzard in the alps and be dry in a warmer hole in the ground. I was having similar feelings as a wombat would in the mountains of Australia. I ended up having my lunch in there as I really did not want to start making a baguette in the rain on the other side. But as I came out into Italy it was sunny and dry, it was such a contrast as to what I had just been through. I've never experienced a proper blizzard before and to get that on one side of the mountain and to then have sunshine on the other... it was a real trip out.

Thanks for all the good times and taking care of me Jess, Jerome and Lise and everyone else I met. I really enjoyed my time in France.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Luxembourg... Bank your terd!!!

Luxembourg is a pretty nice place, after traveling through the flat as a tack Netherlands, North Germany and Belguim, it was real nice to find some mountains and some beautiful forests about. I love deciduous forests in the winter time, all the trees are striped naked, all the leaves are on the ground and it has a real nice ambience about it.

The Nude forests

Luxembourg was my first true experience of Couch Surfing and it was awesome. I stayed with Julie in this amazing amazing mansion of a place, it was so big and real warm. Two nights of luxury. Luxembourg is definitely a place with much dough. Its well famous for banks to set themselves up there as you can make massive transactions into banks without them needing to know where the money has come from. So I gather alot of dodgy business goes on too. The actual city Luxembourg in Luxembourg is pretty nice and has a massive gorge and a creek running below and of course a big bank sitting above.

We had some nice adventures on the dragonfly and I took off through some of the forest tracks to get used to being off road and slipping round in the mud. Was good fun and found a real weird outside church where an alter was in a small cave in the large boulder. It must have been like a secret practicing place of some sort.

The outside church hiding in the forest

So yeah big night out in the town on the first night and slowly recovering over the next day. Thanks for all your kindness and that packed lunch you gave me, it lasted a couple of days, cheers Julie.

Julie at the castle getting ready for those smooth and exciting windy roads again.

And check out my new handle bar covers, they keep my hands from freezing over. Another genius recyclable idea from Mr Marty.

Belgiumese Peas

I love Belgium alot not just because of their peas, but probably due to some very beautiful people I know. I left the amazing Amsterdam in search for Antwerp where Max1million is studying at uni. Here we had many a great partys with max the party king and his flat mate from Uni. Some real good times drinking and eating such amazing foods. MMM mmm MMMM mmmm MMMMMMMMMM!!!

On the weekend we spent some good times with Monica and Farbio and Max at Max's grandparents beach house. Late night bike rides on the beach, playing poker and winning most of the time (Ha ha), cooking up a Barbie and walking through glass doors, what a treat that was. It was so good to see ye all again and have such nice times together by the beach at Oostduinkerke-Bad.

Monica, Farbio and Max blissfully enjoying the cool breeze

Max and me dune jumping

Saying last goodbye's for now to Monica and Farbio the groove master, we went to Bovesse to have a special meal at Vivian and Francis's house with Max and Caroline, was so nice to visit you all again and eat such delicious food and wine. Vivian is such an amazing cook.

Another odd thing besides Belgimese peas is that they breed this ridiculously large cow called the "Belgium Blue" Now looking at this cow its more like a cross between a cow and a rhino, Its massive and besides all the muscle it has, it is infact too muscly to give birth by its self, these cows need a cesarian every time they produce a calf. Crazy high maintenance cows, and they have such large heads. Check out the slab of corn beef you'd get off this beauty!!!

Belgiums got the Blues, keep eating you heiferlump!!!

We travelled back to Antwerp where I left my motorbike and chilled alot, sleeping in and reading and checking out the city. Took Max for a ride into the Havens (Big Ports) and taught him how to ride a motorbike. Max did real well and enjoyed it immensely.

I had one more day at Bovesse as I headed south towards Luxembourg. I did a wee bit of work for them and got painting on the dragonfly again, eating very delicious foods and spending some beautiful time with Vivian and Francis, such a beautiful couple full of so much love. Had a great ride with Vivian too through the back country lanes. Thankyou all, I had a real nice time in Belgium once again.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Well for all those who have been to Amsterdam over the years, I guess you know what its all about... or do you?

I had the very awesome privilege to stay with Tom and Anne and their two wee ones Jasper and Rosie on their newly aquired adventure contraption called the "Papillon" (French for Butterfly).

C'est avec plaisir que je vous présente le Papillon

Tom and Anne and the crew are also at the beginning stages of planning crazy adventures all round the world on their 30 odd meter ship recently purchased from a beautiful couple on the ADM (a pretty old squat in the industrial area to the west of Amsterdam). What a place the ADM is, full of so much life, love and amazing creations.

Crazy everyday creatures

Everyday was so unique and so amazing its really hard to explain what really went on. The best part about the Papillon was the cruising all the way up the Noordzeekanaal into central Amsterdam having a wee puff of Amsterdam's finest.

Cruising into central Amsterdam

I love being on boats and would love to join da crew in the Caribbean when you finally get there. Anne keeps saying its a race back home, I plan on getting back around Xmas 2010 for my 25th to have another wild combined party with Nick and Ben. Anne seems to think she'll still beat me cause she reckons ill love it so much and wont return. Who knows?

So the Papillon is almost ready to go, The crew are planning a departure in the spring/summer up to the Norwegian Fjords for a bit of a practice run before they take on the North Atlantic Ocean passage to Canada. But even before then they are looking to spend next winter, not in the coldness of Amsterdam but in the warmer Mediterranean around Crete. So many wicked adventures to come. They too will have a blog and some very interesting stories to tell, so I look forward to hearing about the adventures of the Papillon very soon, Ill put a link to their blog up when they set it up, this one will definitely be wroth a read.

Tom enjoying the ride with wee Rosie while Anne is at the helm

So the ADM a very interesting place to say the least (http://www.admleeft.nl/index.php). There are so many amazing people staying there from all over the world and quite a few are working on some very interesting projects. Its a very diverse mix of all sorts, from sailers to gypsies. Its a place of great creativity and a place for dreamers to actually turn their dreams into reality. They also have massive festival there at the RoboDock. Check the site out.

On Monday night its a must to go to the barge up the end of the dock for an all you can eat seafood buffet of locally sourced and fresh as seafood from the North sea. The owners who we met are the only sustainable fishers left in Holland as they fish traditionally with hand nets and drag the fish up to the mud flats and sort the catch out. It would have been an awesome experience to have gone out with them for a week of fishing. Their Barge was incredible too, Squeezing down the stairway into a candle lit cabin that open up into the guts of a massive barge and there be seafood everywhere, anything you want, you pick and choose. The ambience of the place gave a feeling that i will not ever forget, between the candle lights, dark stingy pirate vibes and the music, seafood, dogs and amazing crazy people, Woo.

Mario the chef also put on another dinner for us one night in his caravan, and well apart from the great food the company of these mad hatters was amazing, laughing constantly all night long. I love the ADM and cant wait to go back one day in the future if it is still there. Cheers for the good grub Mario (Mario wants to be the chef on the Papillon when they set sail).

Fred was also creating a world record masterpiece, making a motor-bycle that could ride 300km on one litre of fuel. He has simplified the engine remarkably, it doesn't even have a gear box. Check it!

Fred with his 25cc motorbycle

I took off on the weekend to give my good friend Jason Lessels and his woman Birgid a visit in Oldenburg, Germany. So my experiences and the good times in Europe keep on coming. Bigid organised between all their uni mates to complete a very north German tradition called "Kohlfart", It's pretty much an excuse to play silly games and walk around the country side with a very old billy cart that the wheels are about to fall off on and its full of alcohol.

Jason dragging the cart back home, now almost empty of alcohol

While constantly drinking with these extremely big germans (the germans are so tall), we played games like Bosseln, a bowling game where you have two teams and bowl the ball along the lanes as far as you can and try not to get it in the ditch full of icy water. There was a throw the teabag with your mouth competition, the 3 pieces of cardboard race where you always had to have one foot on 2 pieces at one time, and the ever so amusing egg and spoon race.

The 3 pieces of cardboard race

After all the drinking we headed into town and ate Cabbage (thats what you eat after the first frosts in winter time) and potatoes and Pinkle and kochwerst. It was so delicious. Was such an amazing day full of loads of fun, what a german experience!!! Cheers guys. Ohh and on the cycle ride home we had to stop by and do some binning.

Next day I took off up the very north of Germany to see the North sea. The land and sea are separated by these enormous dykes. They are so big and they are all over the place. Man... rising sea levels could mean far more less of northern Germany in the near future. The islands up the very top are quite unique as you can actually walk a couple of Kilometers to them apparently when the tide is low. That arvo, the sky decided to precipitate and it was quite difficult to find a camping spot as there weren't many woods around. Anyhow I eventually found a place by a frozen lake and set up camp in the freezing rain. All I was thinking was, what are you doing you crazy bastard, head south, the Mediterranean is calling you.

This is my camp set up when it rains and while im next to a frozen lake.

Little do I know I still have to cross the snowy French and Swiss alps into Italy where fresh snow is still falling. Bugger to that.

So heading back to Amsterdam I headed along the North Sea coast line and along the largest man made dyke across the sea that I had ever been across, the winds were strong but it was a beautiful sun-shining day. There were large washed up ice bergs on the edge of the dykes too, something Id never seen before, they looked so sharp and dangerous.

The bike on the dyke

Without knowing I was back in Holland heading down the east coast along beautiful sandy beaches, it wasnt to long till I was back at the ADM to chill and sort my self out till I took off to Belgium to see max1million and Farbio and their beautiful families and Monica my sister is heading over too.

Cheers to Tom and Anne for letting me stay, I had such a great time, especially with the kids, and to all the great people I met and shared wonderful experiences with at the ADM, what a place.

Dragonflys flirting at the ADM

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Scotland, land of the golden spurtle.

Wow, porridge, and oats, I love it! Porridge and the use of oats is such an amazing source of wholeness and well-being that the world should endeavor to use this wonderful grain for every meal possible. The Scottish have the world porridge making championships where you traditionally make porridge using a spurtle and cracked oats, pouring the oats into the pot of hot water with the left hand while stirring with the right until the porridge has formed a rich and silky texture. And so on it it goes..... all the porridge ways of being, its an art in itself (porridge with butter and raw sugar, for savory porridge with butter salt and pepper, porridge mixed in with seeds and fresh orange, deep-fried balls of porridge for dinner) let the imagination go wild just like Bubber the shrimp fisher on Forest Gump. And as for the spurtle, well its really just a stick so you apparently dont break up the oats while stirring. I wanted to make porridge for Australia but going to the competition meant Id have to stay in the Beautiful highlands for alot longer, some other day eh (the winner gets a golden spurtle!!!).

So apart from the porridge we had a fantastic Ceilidh experience, In all our wisdom with sold out tickets we decided to photocopy some more on yellow paper to get in. It worked a treat and wore my kilt like a true scott with my penguin suit thanks to Mr Shephard, but by gees it was bloody cold when the wind blew a breeze, Brrrr!!! A night full of randomness and great times with Jess Fitz, Chantal, Zoe, Hannah. Then the Red Door for some late sunday night crazy menstrual drumming, everyone being painted in red and dancing wild dances. What an experience that was!

So while encountering few adventures here and there and watching the metamorphism occur with the awakening of the dragon fly from its larvae. Jess Fitz and I had great times in the cold preparing and painting her up, now she seriously does fly.

Mr Marty and the Dragonfly

So Jess and I took off on more adventures to see some of the Scottish west coast across on the ferry to Dunoon, was amazing to travel round and see some of the wild west coast, the cold is definitely numbafying though.

Jess gone bug crazy!!! See what the cold does to people.

The highland mountains covered in snow and small windy country lanes along loch sides was absolutely amazing. Jess on a photography mission for uni took some real nice shots too. Some will go up soon.

Ruin on the loch.

Are you seeing things? I think I am.

So after all the work on the bike and turning Jess's bedroom into a shed (cant thank you enough Jess, your bloody brilliant!) fixing pannier boxes and sorting out bits and pieces, all is underway and moving forward in a very positive direction.

I then took off to stay with some very beautiful friends in Edinburgh Chantal, Zoe and Jay, was real nice to just chill for a couple of days and be fat and happy :) So much goodness and so much happiness. More adventures out along the River Fourth almost to the coast line with Chantal on the back of the fly, we had the coldest picnic ever on a rock where i felt the ultimate bum groove to fit my tiny little bum into, was the best natural groove ive ever sat in, it was actually the best part of the whole picnic as hands mouth and well head swelled up and turned purple and orange (I wanted to calve the groove out with a chisel and take it with me). Was so so cold. To warm up we decided to play Frisbee on the rocks and run round like mad hatters. Then Chantal was super keen to learn how to ride the dragonfly. So wow first person with the shortest legs got it after a few goes. I was pretty impressed that Chantal had the courage to give it ago considering she couldn't touch the ground, On ya first motorbike she had ever ridden!!!

Chantal and the de famous Arthur's seat with Edinburgh in the background

Went to a gig at the Forest Cafe (Pretty awesome place for good music, food and great people in edinburgh). Then a late night play on teh best playground equipment in the Medows. So much fun!!!

The coldness is so so cold when riding the bike. You cant help but have numb fingers no matter how good your gloves be. It hurts too. Robin and I went on adventures on the Saturday up and around the hills south of edinburgh with the intention to go for a bit of a hike. Robin also had a go on the dragonfly, he got it, your a natural Robin, you should get yourself a bike mate! Had so much wholesome goodness food wise at the girls house mmmm yummm yummmmm yummmmmmmm!

The next day I set off to take Zoe for a ride and then up to Dundee to visit James who Ill hopefully meet up with on the Iran and Pakistan leg of the trip. Had plenty of Haggis that night too, oh man i love haggis, full of so much goodness. Then we watched The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou to get into the boating vibes as Amsterdam and the Papilon is calling. I had such a great time in Scotland and thankyou everyone for all your kindness and good times we shared, Much love to ye all.

So I took off on the Monday morning a little too late from Edinburgh as I had to race down to Newcastle to make my ferry, I got a few flashes from the speed cameras too (suckers all you will see on your big flashy cameras are photos of two big dragonfly eyes and a man on a mission, there's no making out who I am Mr DVLA Ha Ha). So on the groove and I made it to the ferry without a map just 5 minutes before the last ramp was pulled up to get vehicles on the ferry. What a massive relief not to have missed it. My bike was completely covered from salty grit being put on all the roads, I had to wash straight away in Amsterdam or else it would have eaten all my dragon fly away. I had a nice ferry ride and met some great spanish motorcyclists to share stories with.

Having my last goodbyes as we venture to the European lands

Goodbye to the UK and hello to the rest of the wider continent where so many adventures are to be had. Im heading into the lands of the unknown, Who knows what will happen???

Thanks so much to wonderful Chantal to who was so kind to give me her camera so i can actually take some photos. All i need is a card reader thing which i shall get one day soon and more beautiful pics shall be shared with you all, thanks Chantal.