Thursday, August 30, 2012

Race to Paris

The race is on

I do like a challenge. How about we race from Ace Cafe to Paris hotel. I take the bike and ferry, you take the bus and Eurostar. So Lorraine jumps on local 224 bus to London centre, train to St Pancreas and hops on the Eurostar which takes 2hours and 15 mins. Amazing. Meanwhile, my GPS is trying to drag me through London city centre which I ignore and get to the M25/M20 and head for Dover. 

Goodbye UK

I know the channel tunnel is faster but I do prefer the time off on the 90 minute ferry to meander around the ship for a bit. Added to that, the psychological leaving of UK is a big thing, seeing the white cliffs of Dover disappear over the horizon is important, then I seek the new horizons of Europe and beyond! Makes it more of an adventure perhaps.

Anyway I blast down the A26/A1 to Paris and arrive in less than an hour after the arrival of Lorraine. OK, I lose, I expected to, however, if I'd taken the tunnel instead, I'd have won!


Last year we attempted to have dinner in the Eiffel Tower Jules Verne Restaurant. I was annoyed by the door man telling me I had to book 3 months in advance (in a slight french accent of course) So 3 months ago I did just that. Brilliant, we had the best seats in the place adjacent the windows facing North. Nice meal, six course degustation, although I don't think anywhere near as good as Dear Friends restaurant in Perth.

I love the atmosphere of the place. The weather is warm dry and sunny. The beer is refreshing cold and delicious. The bike is parked up in a side street covered up from prying eyes. I doubt it makes much diference as it's absolutely filthy.

So we have some time together, do some of the touristy stuff and I leave for the south. I'm aiming for Besançon, from there further south to Briancon in the Alps. 
Meanwhile, guess what? My Carnet has arrived. In Yorkshire!. Not much use to me here. So the plan is; Lorraine will send it out or fly out herself in next week to make sure all goes to plan.

Next: The best roads in the world?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Totally Ace spot to be

Steven Kirk at the Ace Cafe
I'm not a MOD or a Rocker. I reckon more of a mocker but it doesn't matter as Im getting the full monty breakfast here at the wonderful iconic Ace Cafe in London.

 Home to the start of many adventurers travels, the Ace Cafe is well known in UK and around the world for bikers or perhaps even scooters.

A whole bunch of us dropped by for breakfast and a chat. I recommend the full cardiac arrest special English breakfast complete with builders tea. Lovely!

I'm now heading off to Paris. I'm racing my family in true "Top Gear Style". I take road and ferry, they take public transport and the Eurostar. First to the hotel at the Arc d'Triomphe gets the beer in.

I wonder who wins!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Twice upon a caravan

An entire school, normally reserved for well deserving young ladies has been transformed into camp ground and cinema venue for the 2012 Advenure travel film festival. Fancy that! 

I'm down in Sherborne in Dorset, at Sherborne school for girls. Its set in a sort of olde England where all things British exist A beautiful town with things you'd see in quaint olde England magazine monthly.
Last night I watched 
an American, Robert Fulton,  travel from UK across the middle east to Malaysia and Indonesia. Nothing unusual about that these days perhaps? However this was in good old 1932 where many roads didn't exist and it was filmed solo, with ancient equipment. The film is called Twice upon a caravan. Excellent stuff. I reckon his narration made the movie. So there's hope for me yet. I had to smile as he travelled through many of the places I'm planning to go to.

Have you seen Mondo Enduro or Terra Circa? If you have you would recognise this legendary guy. Austin Vince.

Austin and his lovely wife Lois are responsible for setting up the Adventure Travel Film Festival, an annual event. If you get a chance to, get yourself along to the next one near you. 

Sadly, I had little time to spend there but in any case managed to track down Austin for a chat.

Off Road Skills

Simon Pavey  and  Steven Kirk
If you've seen Long Way round, Long Way Down or Race to Dakar, you'd have recognised this chap. Simon Pavey is a bit of a legend when it comes to off road riding. He's competed in several Dakar events in recent years and is also  responsible for teaching Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman, Claudio von Planta and Steven Kirk (thats me) among thousands of others, the necessary skills needed to handle a big machine off road.
I've been lucky enough to spend several days in Wales, Thailand, and more recently in Portugal with Simon and his great team. I've learned some amazing things. Simple things like picking up the bike seems obvious but many get it wrong. How do you push a 1200cc machine through ruts, puddles, slippy mud, steep hills, very steep hills and f##kin steeper hills on a big bike. Thoroughly recommend you get yourself along there. It may be far for some, but I'll bet you a few dollars you will never regret it. 
Thanks Simon.

In the meantime, I'm still awaiting my Carnet de Passage documents. I need these very very soon or I won't be able to go through India, Pakistan or several other countries on the way. Getting worried now!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A few days off in Yorkshire with family

It's been a bit quiet.
Apart from the sound of chug chug chug, pshht, glug glug glug, burp. chug chug chug, pshht, glue glue glug, burp.
 Ah the life of a a canal boat captain. I’ve taken a week off to plod along at a maximum speed of 4mph. Life on a 57 feet long canal boat.

Before I head off over the world, I wanted to spend some time with the family so we booked a canal boat for a week. Much more fun than a hotel, probably much cheaper too.

We wandered the canals from Sowerby Bridge to Huddersfield and back. Great fun.
Its lovely that you can wander between pubs in a very civilised fashion. 

Anyway, this has nothing to do with P2P but it is nice to get a few days off from our hectic schedule of late.

In meantime, I'm awaiting final documents to be delivered. The Carnet e Passage is overdue and I'm starting to worry that it may not arrive in time for me setting off !

Friday, August 24, 2012

Day 2. Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle
I do love the chance to see some of Scotland’s beautiful heritage. We have an extraordinary amount of stately homes and wonderful castles, many in ruin, some in need of repair and some just simply beautiful. This place is stunning. Glamis Castle just north of Perth is situated on some lovely grounds and home to an annual music event. The Prom 2012 featured classical music with some Scottish flavour and I was lucky enough to be there to capture the atmosphere of it on camera. This is where the Queen mother grew up you know.

The staff at the castle were magnificent and a special mention must go to Libby Reynolds who was a real gem. Thanks Libby, you're a star !

Here on the roof we could watch the arrival of thousands of people from around the country bringing everything with them. Tables, chairs, candelabra, beer, wine. So civilised. I really will have to return here. Brilliant atmosphere.

I was privileged to wander around the grounds on two wheels. Not the usual variety, two parallel wheels on a computerised gyroscopic defy all physics electric scooter. Great fun and I never crashed once. Look at these things. I have some excellent video also.

I was sad to leave early, but I'll be back next year if I can.

On another subject, I still haven't received my Carnet de Passage documents. Without this, I can't get into Iran or India! more to follow ...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Day 1 - Overloaded but happy

12/8/12 Day One
This is it! This is the beginning for real.

Perth Provost Elizabeth Grant
Perth Provost, Elizabeth Grant has been kind enough to meet me and send me on my way. She turns out to be a lovely lady and we instantly get on. I’m sure we could talk for hours about the politics of Scotland, the demolition of the ugly City hall and the future of Scotlands oil but alas we have to get down to some civic and planned duties. I present the Provost with a gift from the City of Perth Australia and she presents me with a similar message to take with me. 

 Liz wishes me well and I head over to the South Inch for some photographs. My son Steven is here to take some pictures and video. I bid him farewell and head for Ardlui further west.

When I finally settle down on the road, with all the gear checked, bags loaded, equipment fitted, camera housed, money in pocket and a full tank, I finally breath a short sigh of relief that I’m actually going, actually on this trip. It takes me another hour of twisty roads to improve my new and improved heavy loaded bike handling skills before I start to smile to myself that yes, I am actually on this trip. No more planning, wondering, worrying about the small things, this is happening.
I power out of a corner on the road from Callander and I’m presented with this amazing image of beauty.  I’m in a Glen of beautiful bright green, blue water glistening in the river alongside, the sun breaking through a dramatic and hazy Scottish summer sky It’s as if God was rewarding me for being here, for doing this thing, for choosing this bike, this road. I’m becoming aware of this feeling of euphoria, satisfaction that I’m doing the right thing. Forget work and worries, this is the right thing.

Every corner improves my confidence, the overweight luggage on the back startled me yesterday and had me worrying about stability, dropping the bike at slow speed, turning is a nightmare, but this road is taking all that away. The machine is perfect for this. I’m so glad I chose my Triumph for this trip. I wonder if I’ll still think the same in weeks to come.

I arrive at the Ardlui Hotel later that evening and sit for more than an hour in a state of total happiness and relaxation. I’ve never been able to meditate but I suspect the feeling is pretty close to this. Riding a wonderful motorbike through beautiful scenery and incredible roads of Scotland has to be one of the best things ever.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just landed and my feet haven't touched the ground

Just before leaving Manchester
Busy Itinery
Busy 36 hours.
Left Perth on QF77 11:55 am 8/8/12
Landed in Manchester 9:55 am 9/8/12
Taxi to Youles motorcycles Manchester arrive 10:50.
Unpack and re-pack too much stuff & leave Manchester 2:00pm
Drive for 5 hours and Arrive East Kilbride 7:00pm
Unpack shower and head out for a well deserved beer at the Monty.

Anyway, its been a mad rush. I feel a bit weird still, jet lag and tiredness. The thing is, I can't hang around as I have too much to do today. Fit some bits to the bike, re-arrange my chaotic luggage system, count the things I've forgotten.

I thought I'd got clothes sorted, can't find my shorts. I have so little clothes yet so much stuff. I'll have to look at this some more. Hey I've noticed, how much space shoes take up! I will have to find inflatable ones. Anyone know where I can buy them?

I had to laugh yesterday. This bloke at the bike shop in Manchester wondered about where I was heading, "Australia" I said, "where?", "Australia" I said. "where's that? he asks, "You know, Australia, the country down under" I said, "Fuuccck" he says with mouth left wide open in disbelief.

This is my cake Avatar. Love the kilt!
Better make mention of the guys at Youles Triumph. Thanks very much guys, I was quite anxious about my bike (as you do) and you have done a brilliant job on it. Also, I need to say, I don't think I'd ever seen it that clean since I first bought it. Impressive!

I forgot to add this wee gem. At my going away party in Perth ... the Australian one, this cake was presented to me and my wife. This little character is me. Isn't it great?

I'd better go get my arse in gear. Its 7am here, the sun is shining, my bike awaits my attentions, and I'm a bit peckish. Looks like McDonalds first thing.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

No sleeps left

Thats it! No more waiting. No more sleeps. I'm off.

Strange and emotional feeling. Great to get going, Sad to leave my family. Very unsettling at the airport.
Wont be too bad though, we meet up again next week for some time :)