This past week has been a wonderful mix of adventure, food and sight-seeing, shared with my good friend, Sara. She is also on a mini adventure, a world traveller extraordinaire in her own right, with plenty more trips under her belt than I, it was the first time we have had the opportunity to meet up abroad. Sara is the person who helped me to see what an amazing position I was in late last year. Having spent so many years grinding it out in my career, striving to achieve more and more, I had felt lost. I can so clearly remember the conversation we had at the pub when I returned from Nepal. I was overwhelmed with how amazing the trip had been, but what where to now? These wise words ticked over in my brain…… “You can do anything you want!”
Sometimes it does take an amazing friend to help you to see the forest for the trees. The ball began rolling post that and each time we met up the trip had grown and grown, to what it is today. So, as always, thank you for being such an inspiration to get out there and see the world.
Waiting at the train station in Valencia I was bursting with excitement. As you all know, the past few weeks in Spain have been tough with the lack of friendly people to interact with. Seeing Sara was the highlight of my trip in Spain and we made the most of it. Eating, drinking (mostly me), and walking until we were exhausted.
Valencia is an interesting place, definitely one of the nicer main cities and it struck a nice balance of history and modernity in the architecture and attractions. Without doubt the highlight of our time there was spending a stormy afternoon safely inside the Hemisferic building, which we agreed looked like a bug from the outside, watching a stunning short film on the national parks of America. With crossing a few of those off my list high on my plans for my time in the US, it was very inspiring.
Actually, as I wrote that I realised that Sara may well challenge my chosen highlight of Valencia with the rather unusual and pretty cool giant play ground made from Gulliver’s Travels. The statue or whatever it is was laid out in a gravel pit, loads of lovely sharp things and high places for kids to fall off! I turned out to be one of them as I was hell bent on having a photo in the giant shoe, which I then very unceremoniously fell face first down it……. I still have the scrapped knees, the laughs made it totally worth it 🙂
Moving on from the chilled-out vibe of Valencia to the hustle and bustle of Barcelona was a shock to poor Yogi and I. Firstly on our way we encountered yet another snap storm. I pulled over on the shoulder, barely wide enough for the bike to quickly put on my weather gear. Just as I swung my jacket over my shoulder it was caught by a huge gust of wind, blowing it into the middle of the road. Watching as trucks roared past and ran over it many times I considered cutting my losses. Thankfully a Dutch truck driver stopped his giant lorry (that’s for you David!) and picked it up and ran it over to me. I was incredibly grateful!
With a somewhat eventful yet still boring ride behind us we came upon the huge and impressive main road into Barcelona. Unfortunately with delays it was 8pm, peak hour. It took over an hour fighting our way through the city traffic, where people in cars go out of their way to block motorbikes. With that attitude running rife, Yogi was hit from the side by a rather aggressive old bag. Only just managing to right the bike, so luckily, he and I did not take a tumble in the middle of Barcelona it was a scary and very frustrating moment. What on earth did she think that would achieve? Unfortunately for her, she put down her window to scold me for simply existing I think in Spanish, to which she received an absolute mouthful and although she didn’t speak English, I am quite sure she understood the sentiment. With poor Yogi’s mirror dislodged, the heat, traffic and having the wrong address to our accommodation it had been a long day. For both of us actually, the Spaniards it appears had taken a leaf out of the French train systems book and called a last minute strike leaving poor Sars on a slow boring bus into Barcelona.
Having had our fill of Spain, the food and the people we decided a change was needed and went for a very late dinner at the most quaint and amazing Italian restaurant. Well done Sars for finding it! It was a wonderful last night together, the food was to die for as was the gorgeous Italian waitress who showered us with kindness and proper service. Heaven!
With Sara on the move the following afternoon to meet friends in Budapest, I too decided to pack up and head as far as I could towards the French border, back through the Pyrenees. After so many miles of boring, long roads in Spain it was spectacular riding back in the mountains. The air was crisp, the curves were endless and the views were getting better the higher we climbed.
Reaching the top of the pass, about 1,800m in altitude, we came across a group of stunning horses grazing freely on the side of the road. Carefully avoiding them I stopped to take a photo when I realised the north side of the pass was blocked. Now what?! Looking on maps it told me the only way was to go back down the same way I had come and ride another 3 hours around. It was getting late, having only left Barcelona at 3pm in the afternoon and it was definitely getting cold. Wondering if the road was indeed closed (yes that thought did cross my mind), I thought best to try and translate it when another rider stopped next to me. Ferran, a Spanish rider, told me, no the road is closed! Showing him where I needed to be, he graciously offered to help show me another way, only 20kms to go! What a wonderful piece of good fortune and timing.
Chatting with Ferran, he agreed with my feelings that unfortunately the Spanish were not the most welcoming of cultures to outsiders and it appeared one of the reasons for that was my being a woman travelling alone on a motorcycle. Strange, but at least I had confirmed I wasn’t reading the vibe totally wrong. After a lovely chat and cake, Ferran once again helped me to find the campsite before giving a couple of pointers for the following days ride. As I have said from the very first minute on this trip, it is made by the kindness of strangers you meet along the way. Although I hadn’t had the best time in Spain, the final hour was lovely, and I am very grateful for that.
Recharged from the week spent together and a clear mission to reach Russia within the month, it feels like the next segment of the trip is fully underway. Now back in France, winding through endless country and mountain roads Yogi and I have been having a great time. Each ride takes us through more beautiful outlooks than the last, never ending switch backs and a feeling of being back to nature. Now on our 3rd campsite this week, we have stopped for a couple of days after some long rides to regroup and get organised for the ride up north and ultimately crossing into Italy by the end of the week! We will need our wits about us with the crazy Italian drivers, but I am sure the scenery and food will be worth it 😊
P.S: Just as this was going live, my lovely new friend Elain became a Nanna to beautiful Archy – congratulations xxx