Camping set up

Finally today a short post about my camping set up.

I have chosen to use a tarp and a bivvy bag rather than a tent. It is a more discrete solution than a tent, I can unroll the bivvy bag/sleeping bag/sleeping mat/ground sheet in a matter of minutes and sleep anywhere if I have too, with the tarp as cover and protection from the rain if necessary. Id like to thank my friend Piers for the tarp and my uncle Mark for the bivvy bag, ill try and get them back to you both in one piece with not too many holes.

Although the sleeping roll looks big (im sure I can compress it much more with some straps) it is very light for something that will hopefully keep my warm, dry and comfortable for the next three months.

Lastly the cooker I’m using. It is a stainless steel cutlery strainer with a hole cut out. This is a method very popular by bushcraft enthusiasts and the very helpful people from a website I have also gleamed a lot of information from, dedicated solely to bushcraft, BushcraftUk.

This combined with my trangia meths burner means I have a stove that I hope to run mostly on wood I pick up, or if I have to (or fires not allowed) I can burn meths. My tatonka billy set and crusader cup completes my cooking equipment.

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Sailing Trip

The second post Id like to write today involves a 2 (that ended up being 3) day sailing trip with a friend of mine, Ben. Last year we did a weekend trip on his little Corribee (a 21ft yacht with barely room for the two of us and gear but great fun all the same) down the Medway river to Chatham where we overnighted at the marina there before returning the next day.

The next step up from this we thought was a crossing of the Thames, over to Essex. The distance didn’t seem too much further than our last trip (about 30 miles we calculated) and so planning got under way. The only free time I had was the last weekend in May (4 days before my bike trip!) which meant I had no real free time so I ashamedly left most of the planning and preparation to Ben and his dad.

The 21ft Corribee, Evening Star
Ben at the Helm

This meant that on Saturday 28 May I got up a half 5, met Ben and his dad at their house and we were on the boat and away by 7. So much for taking it easy now Id finished work and no longer had to get up a 6 everyday.

The first day involved a slightly windy and rough crossing of the Thames with big container ships popping up all over the place, but we crossed fine and rounded a huge sandbank (that we hadn’t accounted for initially, this added many more miles and hours to our trip) before heading up wind. At this point the wind was STRONG, the waves were BIG and we were SOAKED. So, in a state of probable mild hypothermia we decided to take the sails down and get motoring.

Unfortunately motoring meant relying on a 3.5hp outboard that barely had the power to push us upwind into the waves. And needed refilling every 40minutes after it cut out and left us floating backwards. And spent half the time out of the water as the boat rocked backwards and forwards so wasn’t really much use anyway. Our speed over ground (after the tide and all that) was barely above 3 knots and it took us a good 4 hours (while still cold and miserable) to crawl into Burnham-on-Crouch.

Thankfully they had warm showers. Unluckily their tumble drier was pants. 3 cycles at 40mins (and 50p a time) nothing was dried, or warm, it was all just equally damp. The boat was soaked inside in most places but we managed to find a couple of cushions that weren’t too bad, and after some food and a few drinks we eventually slept.

Food and drying things out
Sunset at Burnham-on-Crouch

Day two we left a bit late (considering the previous day had taken 12hours, we were not on our way till 11ish) and had the tide and wind behind us down the river crouch. Conditions seemed perfect and we were making 6+knots with just minimal sail. Turning upwind past the sandbank, making progress became impossible. The wind was ridiculous, the waves were huge, and we didn’t like it at all. Clothes that were still wet from the day before became drenched, moral sunk and fearing for our lives, we decided we’d had enough. We turned to head back to B-o-C but couldn’t even get there. We ended up eventually (again many many hours later) crawling into Bradwell Marina.

This meant we were further from home than if we had just stayed in the previous marina! The boat was a state, everything was damp and the thought of another night on-board was soul destroying. Thankfully Bens dad had booked us into a local pub, so after a wash we headed there for a great meal and a few pints. All paid for by our parents as well, excellent!

We woke up the next day, conditions were much much much better and we headed home. It was a 46 nmile trip back, travelling at 4knots it did take a while but we eventually got back to the home mooring, packed up our stuff and got home. Phew! Although it had cost us an extra day (and a day of precious pre trip time less) it was a great adventure and tested us to the limits, which I loved as its not often I’m faced with a challenge like that.

The Forts, old military buildings, halfway across

Emotional Rollercoaster

I’ve got a few quick fire posts to write while I’m still in the midst of a nice caffeine buzz.Firstly I wanted to write about my emotions for the last few weeks. They have been all over the place, massive highs as I imagine the dream of life on the road, just me and my bike. As long as I have petrol, water and food nothing can go wrong. Then to big lows as the thoughts of camping in a wood somewhere in mid France, surrounded by axe wielding rapists and murderers.

This trip is the biggest thing I have ever done. So far its just been a relatively well known route through life. I was born, learnt to talk and walk, went to school for a number of years, did my homework (mostly), saw my friends, played on a rugby team. Interspersed with all this ‘normal’ stuff have been a few little adventures, trekking in Morocco, expeditions to Snowdon and the Ashdown Forest, a couple of days spent cycling the South Downs Way, camping trips in local woodland. These all required a bit of planning but not really more than an early morning or a late night, or maybe a couple of days thinking about it.

This motorcycle adventure has been in the making for years. From watching the well known Long Way Round and Long Way Down, to the amazing trips of Austin Vince and friends in Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa  to reading as many trip reports on advrider (A great site dedicated to motorcycle adventures of all shapes and sizes, I have been a member for 2 years now!) it has always been there, bubbling away, in the back of my mind. Since finishing school last summer I have spent almost a year working, saving and planning solely for this trip.

Over the last few weeks the stress and the pressure of my deadline to leave (2 days leffttt!), finishing work, ending my first ever relationship, my emotions have been boiling over far too often. Laura, my first girlfriend, who I have been with since I was 16, is now over. What with her being at Uni for the last year (so we have seen each other much less than we were used to, living a mile apart) and me paying her ever less attention while I was busy working on my bike and the trip, coupled with me now leaving for 3 months and then off to Uni myself two weeks after I return, us finishing seemed a very logical conclusion. Though in the matter of love and emotions logical is not particularly comforting. At all.

To her, if she ever reads this, she didn’t seem to much of a fan of the whole motorbiking thing to be honest, I wish nothing but the best. That was shamelessly stolen from Adele but the local radio station has been playing it 10 times a day for the last few months and it hasn’t left my head. On a side note its amazing how, when I am emotional, music and lyrics seem to have a lot more meaning.

The more I then thought about this trip, just me and the bike, leaving my family and my home, no girlfriend, haven’t seen my dad properly in months now, won’t get to see any of my friends as they all return home themselves for summer, I felt lonely. But then 10 minutes later I would be on top of the world whilst I daydreamed of wining twisty coastal roads, over looking a glorious blue Mediterranean sea, with a lunch and a swim to look forward to…..

So I think the point of this post was to highlight firstly just how big this trip is to me, and secondly that it has been a hugely emotional ride, and I haven’t even left for Dover yet.

But enough of being a girl, I am supposed to be a big hairy biker now so its onwards with preparation, in less than 48 hours I will have left for Dover with the trip of a lifetime ahead of me.

My work place
Tea break

I would finally like to say a massive thank you to everyone at work, its been an amazing experience and the amount of things I have learnt has been incredible. I would like to say a special thanks to Sam, without who this trip wouldn’t be half what it should be, he hasn’t stopped helping me with the bike and seems to have lent or given me every bit of bike gear he possesses. The trip ultimately wouldn’t be happening at all without the job he gave me so I am very very grateful. Also a special thanks to Phil, my ‘mentor’ at work, half the time a miserable grumpy old bastard (I can say that because he’s not next to me), the other half an inspiration with his tales of cycling adventures and motorcycle trips.

Green laning and Detling Kit car show

Nice day out on my bike today, took a few green lanes:

And went to the Detling Kit car show where my boss was showing off his Lamborghini Diablo replica (picture is from his house), and his McLaren M6 GTR replica
There were other great kit car examples:

(a lovely cobra that ill make one day…)
Also saw my old PE teacher with his hotrod
And finally (as you might have noticed from the first photos)… I’ve got my rack built! Again my boss Sam did a lot of the work but its hopefully very strong and I can at last have my bag on the back so no more rucksacks! Just need to add a few more things to get the side panniers sitting well and not rubbing against the exhaust and luggage wise I’m sorted!
Alex

Route Planning (Still!!)

So I showed my website to people at work today and they brought up a very valid point: Ferry’s are EXPENSIVE. In particular trying to do all the island hopping around Greece that I was planning to do will be costly. In the lonely plant guide I’ve borrowed they say a bike will cost the same as a person on a ferry, and the ferry prices I saw were averaging about 20 euros a trip. So for say 5+ ferries (probably more like 10), paying 2×20 euros each time, as well as the ferries for Corsica and Sardinia, I am spending a large chunk of my travel money on boats. I also with that route end up doing the length of Italy twice.


The OTHER option then is to explore and visit more of Eastern Europe, take a route that after the Alps follows the north coast of the Adriatic Sea down to Greece and Turkey again, involving the Black Sea coast a bit or even a loop around the Sea of Marma in Turkey, before back to Greece. Then its just one ferry over to Italy before riding its lenght (and skipping Corsica and Sardinia).


The latter route would take in many more countries and would cost less (also living costs will hopefully be far cheaper for the time I’m in those others places).


Due to the way I’ve done my route planning (ie I haven’t really done much) depending on how the money is lasting the Greek islands are something I could decided once I’m there, similarly Sardinia and Corsica could be skipped if I find myself in the middle of Italy and low on funds. This is I think the “beauty” of the logic of my planning, as in I can decide on the fly, although I will have to make a decision about Italy x2 or north of the Adriatic, but even this can be made once I’ve done my time in the western Alps and the dolomites. My only deadline is meeting Laura, my girlfriend, and her family in France on the 11th August. 


Ill have to keep thinking about it and get some advice from people who know more about the countries than I do.


On a separate note I have (with ALOT of help from Sam and Phill at work) made a great start on my rear rack. Its a job I have been a bit apprehensive about as from what I’ve heard its got to be bloody strong, and it breaking in the middle of know where would leave someone pretty stuck. Then again I’m only using a fabric top box and throw over Oxford panniers so really worst cast scenario I don’t even need the rack everything can be tied to the bike frame somehow. But we’ve beefed up the subframe and got some very strong bolts holding two grab handles and the start of the rack in place. Once its finished I’m sure it will be plenty strong enough, Ill keep you updated.


Alex

PREPARATION!

I leave in 19 days. NINETEEN DAYS! I have spent months and months working, reading, thinking, planning for this trip. And its in 19days. I should really get my self sorted.

The bike is currently parked just outside my window. It is missing a headlight cover, and any sort of rack to carry all my luggage. It also has a slight gearbox issue which I thought might have been resolved yesterday when I took it apart and found a bolt just lying around in the engine. Said bolt was then accidentally snapped putting it back in its rightful place, fortunately Sam managed to make a new one, and I have two on order that I can collect early next week.
I also currently have no bivvy bag, no tarp, no maps of France, Italy or Greece. No ferries booked for Sardinia/Corsica or the Greek Islands. I am hoping the ferries can be done at the port on the day, we’ll see…
I’m waiting for the website to get online, it will be at http://www.zazer.co.uk and if anything is just a way of me organising the planning that has been circling in my head for the last few months.
I should probably keep doing useful things, I’ll write more soon
Alex