Brighton2capetown - Spain

Brighton to Cape Town Overland by Motorcycle

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Spain 

5th October 2007

The ghost-town campsite we'd stumbled across in the Spanish Pyrenees was beautifully equipped and we lost no time in getting ourselves set up, hanging the previous days laundry out on our washing line and also on the bikes' protective crash bars down by the engines still hot from their mountain work-out.  The scene was set for a perfect night's sleep in our cool, peaceful, blue sky mountain surroundings.  Ed commented that it'd be good to get a good night's sleep after the previous night's rain, and joked that having said that, some creature [a nasty case of moles -Ed] would now wait until the middle of the night to burrow up under his tent and chase him round the campsite.  As we settled into our tents for the night, aggressive fictional fauna were the only threats facing us in our mountain idyll.

That night saw a thunderstorm of biblical proportions, with both of us lying in our tents hoping to heaven that the tents would stand up to the right royal beating the elements were giving them.  There was only around three seconds between some of the lightning strikes and the thunder ricocheting across the valley towards us, so I guess we had a right to feel nervous as the flimsy aluminium poles flexed around us in the high winds and the thin fabric of our flysheets allowed us to trace out some of the forks of lightning striking the nearby mountainsides.  Needless to say, that much desired perfect night's sleep was not forthcoming.

Both tents survived the onslaught, and were not only still standing but also dry inside the next morning.  On leaving, we had the promise of good weather, but as we descended further into the valley, we found ourselves riding into the clouds and struggling with poor visibility.  Once the road began to climb again, visibility again improved and the rest of the day was dry and bright, allowing us to make good progress south towards Valencia.

We stopped off at a conveniently placed beach-side campsite about 50 miles shy of Valencia, and discovered that it was very much the destination favoured by the grey pound.  Or more accurately, the grey Euro.  The place was packed with German, Dutch and Belgian pensioners wandering around in their Speedos.  Our pitch however backed on to that occupied by a very friendly retired British couple, Trevor and Rachel, who welcomed us to the site by recommending us the on-site bar and restaurant and passing two perfectly chilled cans of San Miguel over the fence.  Welcomes don't come much better than a chilled beer after a day long ride, and the tone for the evening was set.  We proceeded to eat in the restaurant as recommended, and set the world to rights as we drank more beer... :o)

One thing that has struck us through France and Spain is that our bikes have grabbed attention almost wherever we've been.  They're physically enormous and have even greater presence for being all painted in white.  People see the decals on the panniers "Brighton to Capetown 2007-8" and come and talk to us in petrol stations and on campsites and want to know if we're on our way or have just been, when we're going to arrive in Capetown, or when we left home, and wish us luck and so on.  It's been a great ice breaker with random people of all nationalities since we left.  However, it has made both of us wonder how the bikes, and of course we, will be received when we arrive in the poorer countries.  Will we be perceived as arrogant rich foreigners, and is there anything we can do to reduce that perception?

Another night of rain followed, with a cloudy and very humid start to the following day.  We made the mistake of continuing to avoid motorways and struggled to make good progress, got caught in traffic in Valencia and eventually decided to cut our losses and hit the Peaje.  This turned out to be a great move: clear, free-flowing motorway replaced the grind of an A-road network struggling under the sheer weight of random-driving-spaniards it was built to transport.  It actually turned out to be a better way to see some scenery - the motorway snaked through the mountainous country with clear views to all sides, whereas on the single carriageways our views had been restricted to the back of the next truck, and our attention focussed purely on the next overtaking opportunity.  The only disadvantage of the motorway riding was the inability to stop and take photos, however at this stage in the journey that desire came second to covering the distance.

Random driving appears to be the norm in Spain.  They are better at roundabouts than the French, but for example, take a bizarre approach to lane discipline on motorways: merrily cutting up other road users in order to get out of the way of a fast approaching vehicle from behind.  They mean well, but that doesn't make it any less dangerous.  The air-horn sound-cannons got more use, this time intentional.

At around 5pm, we were due a fuel stop, so pulled off the motorway where we saw a sign for some services to discover the main entrance to a campsite, right there in front of us.  Perfect timing on all counts, we booked ourselves in for some rest after a frustrating but informative day on Spain's roads.  We woke on 4th October to discover that the area had been taken over by militant snails, keen to seize all property to support their campaign.  For animal lovers, no snails were harmed in the production of this photo, but in fairness, we couldn't be bothered to check the engine bays...

That day saw us carry on on the motorway, hot-footing it towards our ultimate Spanish goal, Algeciras - the port from which we would catch a ferry to Morocco.  Algeciras is only half an hour or so from Gibraltar, so we took the opportunity to drop in and savour the sort-of-britishness of it all.  Gibraltar seems a fascinating place, and reminds me a little of Hong Kong as it looks British, only different.  In this case, the main differences are that every square inch has a scooter parked on it and the sun is shining.  And there appear to be no road regulations as such.

From the Europa Point at the southern tip of Gibraltar, Morocco is clearly visible, and we took the opportunity to take some photos of the bikes against an African backdrop for the first time.

We then made our way back into Spain in search of a campsite, and for the first time, we struggled.  We had to head past Algeciras, and a little past Tarifa to find a secluded campsite, this time predominantly populated by the Dutch.  One motorhome had a sticker on it from the Zebra Bar, a campsite and overlander's hang-out in Senegal which we expect to enjoy some time at.

Today, on 5th October, we have taken a day off from the riding to have a day of tourism in Gibraltar, and make use of the internet access in the library to bring you this update.  Tomorrow we head to Algeciras to catch our boat to the next country, and indeed next continent of the trip.

Mileage to date: 1800 miles

Elevation: Sea level to 1750 meters.

General Climate: Sunny days and rainy nights (10 to 30 Deg.C)

Moments - Dan: clear visor lost on day 4 - noticed day 5, heated-grip control knob lost (overtaken by it on the Spanish AutoVia)

Moments - Ed: sidestand foot broke off on day 3 but should be reunited with its stalk soon. 20 minutes of  stunning helmet camera footage with the camera turned off. Speedo cable dropped out while coaxing bikes to 90mph but was later reinstated.

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