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Altafulla to Perpignan

24 Rue du Docteur Koch
Perpignan, Languedoc 66100
France

I woke at 3:30, 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 this morning. Breakfast was at 8:30. I’d had enough and decided, after a bit of a mental struggle, to get out of bed and go for a run. I headed down the hill towards Altafulla’s beach front. There was hardly a soul around. I don’t understand it, it’s beautifully cool at that time in the morning and yet everyone is still sleeping.

Returning to the hotel I discovered that my key to the nigh door didn’t work and I was trapped outside. I rang the night telephone number, this being an only temporarily staffed hotel, but it didn’t work. I sat on the step and played with my phone for half an hour until the cleaning lady turned up.

I couldn’t decide which way to go today, something complicated by the fact that my GPS doesn’t have maps for France. I started off badly, missing three turns in a row because the GPS was slow in catching up with my position. Frustrated, I decided to reprogram it and take the shortest route to Perpignan, even though this would take me down the toll roads. At the first booth I felt rushed by the cars behind, so unable to get a pocket open with my gloves on, I stuffed the ticket in my teeth. Not the most sensible thing to do. Realising that this wasn’t a viable option I managed to stuff it into my pocket as I rode along. This wasn’t wise either, as the screwed up ticket wouldn’t work in the terminal at the pay booth and I had to wait for someone to come and help me, much to my embarrassment and the frustration of the drivers behind. I resolved to find a better system.

At the second toll booth of the day I took my time and carefully inserted the ticket in the ma case on my tank bag before driving off. Cracked it, I thought. But as I arrived at the pay booth thirty kilometers down the road I discover that the ticket had vanished. I mustn’t have done up the Velcro properly. More angry motorcyclists.

When I arrived at the Hotel Kyriad Perpingan Sud Ina small industrial estate outside this nice French town (great choice Nick), Dave’s bike was already in the car park.

Teba to Castellon de la Plana

Teba to Castellon de la Plana. 742  km 7:08 moving, averaged 103km/h. 
Mark let me stay the night in one of his very pleasant appartments. I slept like a log, but was still awake at 5:30am. The rest of the village was still sleeping, hardly surprising when you consider that people were still sitting down to dinner at 11pm. I tried to fill my water bottle in the apartment kitchen. And promptly pulled the tap from the counter. I was horrified, but only for a moment. The kitchen. Was still work in progress and the faucet hadn’t been connected. 

The BMW R1200 GS might have the same engine as my motorcycle in Saudi, but it felt like a much heavier bike when I got on this morning. It’s a little taller and when it’s on the side stand it leans over substantially, making it quite an effort to get it upright. Once it’s moving though, it is as light as a feather. I hope I don’t drop it though as I doubt I could pick it up without help. I certainly can’t get it on the centre stand. I watched as Mark showed me how to do it. Simply pressing down with his foot. When I try, I can stand with my complete weight on the stand and it doesn’t budge an inch. Quite amusing. 

The journey to Castellon de la Plana was substantial –  742 km and Mark thought me mad. I’ve been sing some long journeys in Saudi though so it didn’t seem too intimidating. To cover the distance in a reasonable time meant that I’d have to use the motorways though and that didn’t sound too exciting. 

They turned out to be very pleasant though. Considerably more interesting than my usual run down Half Moon Bay in Saudi Arabia and with such polite, slow and considerate drivers. At one point,  as I was trying to work out which lane to take at a complex junction I realized that the driver on my right wasn’t being impatient, about to cut me up or collide with me, but was actually patiently waiting for me to make a decision. Driving here is a lot less stressful than in the Eastern Province. 

I stopped every two hours or so to buy fuel. When I fill my bike in Saudi it costs £1.68. Here, I have been filling up when the rank is still 1/4 full and it has been costing £14. Ekh. 

I decided to avoid Vallencia and its busy traffic and stay in the pleasant sounding Castellon de la Plana. It was quiet and my hotel was great – the Luz Castellon,  highly recommended for £35 a night, but the town is a dormitory for Vallencia and about as exciting as processed white bread. 
Some good views today but no photos as I couldn’t stop on the motorway. 

Malaga on a motorcycle 

I was very happy to land at Malaga. After a 12 hour transit in Amsterdam where I enjoyed my first bacon of the trip, I planned on visiting the old sherry bar in the centre and then finding a tapas bar down one of the back streets. I was happily making these plans when the conveyor belt stopped. I found the lost baggage counter and had a one sided conversation with a rather aggressive official. Our mutual understanding was just 34, so I went off to seek out that number. It was hidden away at the back of the arrivals hall, through the sort of door that you are not sure if you should open. There was a pile of bags that had come from outside the EU. 

There was a young driver outside waiting for me and after several minutes in the lift – I kept getting out at the wrong floor each time it stopped – we were on outr way.  At breakneck speed we passed the Malaga exit and kept going. Mark’s house and the motorcycle were somewhere in the mountains apparently. Perhaps I should have read the website more carefully. The countryside was beautiful, with long shadows across the olives and the sun low in he sky. We approached each bend at such a speed that I had to hold my breath. “You know the road well, I take it?” wasn’t an effective way to ask him to slow down. “I like rally driving.” To prove t we took the next blind corner even faster, leaving the road only briefly to avoid a small car that by comparison seemed stationary. 

We pulled up outside Mark’s villa at Teba (36.98069° -4.91369°) and were promptly invited to the bar for a couple of beers. The quiet village, about 30 KM northwest of Malaga as the crow flies, was buzzing with the sound of locals enjoying Friday evening. My bike was sitting outside the bar, having just been to the garage for new breaks and a front tire. 

Mark thought I was having a joke when I told him planned to leave at 6:00. We negotiated 9:00 as he bike wasn’t quite ready and Mark still had to wire up the GPS. It takes me a while to shift my day around to more normal times once I’ve left Saudi. 

The view from Mark’s villa. 

   
 

We have arrived in Kathmandu

We arrived on schedule in Kathmandu and the Snowleopard team were ready and waiting to collect us. It’s good to see the team again. We transferred through the chaotic traffic to Lazimpat and the Hotel Tibet, which looks somewhat like a Tibetan monastery.

The flight was uneventful, with only one student losing a boarding pass. We’re now having lunch in the hotel before a briefing and exploring Kathmandu.

Many congratulations to the Appleby’s. Maris and Robbie now have a baby brother!

We have arrived in Kathmandu

We arrived on schedule in Kathmandu and the Snowleopard team were ready and waiting to collect us. It’s good to see the team again. We transferred through the chaotic traffic to Lazimpat and the Hotel Tibet, which looks somewhat like a Tibetan monastery.

The flight was uneventful, with only one student losing a boarding pass. We’re now having lunch in the hotel before a briefing and exploring Kathmandu.

Many congratulations to the Appleby’s. Maris and Robbie now have a baby brother!

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Patan Backstreets

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Morning in Patan

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