Brighton2capetown - France

Brighton to Cape Town Overland by Motorcycle










5th October 2007

Our arrival on the ferry was heralded triumphantly by a 139db air-horn blast as Dan's horn button became wedged against his tank bag whilst carrying out a particularly tight manouvre in the ferry's vehicle bay. After such a challenging few days to get organised and leave followed by a miserably wet start to the journey, we were both physically and mentally exhausted.  We caved and found ourselves a motel no more than 100 miles or so outside Calais for the night.  A meal and a good night's sleep did us both a power of good and set the tone for the next couple of days - excellent weather, dry camping and easy progress across France to the foot of the Pyrenees [30th September 2007].

The end of our third day brought us to Bayonne - "Where the Pyrenees meet the Atlantic".  With the sun low in the sky and no campsites falling conveniently we referred to TomTom who, in the absence of listed campsites closer than 210miles, suggested Tourist information offices and a short backtrack to the closest of these.  At the top of our list at that moment was food as well as shelter and, with it being Sunday, we were worried that we wouldn't find an open boulangerie to pick up some bread. Luck found us and while U-turning to get to an open bakery we also spotted a campsite sign and soon were rolling into a secluded site with a thick canopy of trees and a friendly Australian couple with whom we wiled away some time talking about the trip and answering the usual questions ("Are you mad?", "Don't your family love you?", "What? On those enormous bikes?"). Anyway, we like to arrive announced and this afternoon was no different. One slight slope, a loaded motorcycle and a flagging Edward soon had a horn button once again pressed firmly against a tankbag ensuring the peace and quiet were well and truly banished.

Apart from the first night in our motel, we were winging it with campsites, simply riding in the right direction across the country until 4.30/5pm and then keeping eyes peeled for campsite signs - this seemed to work well despite us running the gauntlet with the end of the traditional French holiday season at the end of September.

Crossing France to the Pyrenees had been a case of following TomTom down an "avoid tolls" route, which inevitably meant a lot of dual carriageway mixed in with the more interesting roads and we did what bikers do - made the best of it by entertaining ourselves by stretching our legs and standing up on the pillion pegs leaning into the windblast, ducking down behind the screens into pseudo-racing crouches and so on...

The riding experience so far? Interesting. Each of our panniers weighs in at just shy of 20kg and we have probably 5kg in a bag on the rear rack, so there's enough extra weight on an already top heavy bike to make things interesting.  When ridden smoothly and gently they handle very sweetly, but the pannier racks have a bit of flex to them so if you throw the bike into a corner like a sportsbike, they bite back as the panniers seem to catch up with the lean angle of the bike and drag it down further.  You soon learn...  We're both already feeling that that same flexibility in the pannier frames is going to make things very interesting when the roads get more challenging.

A wet night lay behind us and the damp morning which greeted us quickly cleared into glorious sunshine.  A plan was hatched to follow a prevous holiday's waypoints across the mountains, enjoying the twisty roads and impressive vistas on the way.  After a stop off at the local hypermarche to pick up food, plastic fuel cans and break for a spot of lunch, the plan was modified to get us over the Pyrenees and over the border before nightfall.  After a dramatic climb into the cool air, with its corresponding exciting descent, we found ourselves in a large but incredibly quiet campsite in country number two -  Spain.