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Published: October 4th 2013
The trip has started.
On the 23rd September I left home on a KTM 990 and will any luck with end up in Cape Town. 20,000km and three months. The plan is to head down via the east of Africa: catching a ferry from Genoa to Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia, and finally South Africa. A Facebook page with regular updates is here
The idea for the trip was a bit last minute. Two months ago a Dutch guy Jaap, who Jeremy has ridden with in Laos, suggested that he might want to join him on a trip through Africa. Due to work Jeremy wasn't able to, but over a few beers he hatched a plan with Trace for me do it. Initially it seemed unreasonable to me - three months away from family and work?? Come on. But in true Trace style she convinced me that this type of thing is what life is about, and made a few important arrangements to make sure she and Finn could manage for the month or so before they head to NZ for a 7 week work/holiday visit. She really is an amazing
person, I'm super lucky for many reasons being married to Trace, this trip is a prime example. Big thanks too to our friends in Scotland who have pitched in help. Legends.
So on the morning of the trip we headed in together to drop Finn at nursery, and with a serious dose of guilt gave him a big hug goodbye and headed home to finish packing the bike. The mix of emotions was unique for me. Apprehension. Excitement. Guilt. Sadness. Anticipation.
How do you go about leaving on a trip like this? It's quite hard just to ride away from the front gate for Cape Town. I just needed to trust that I'd sorted the critical stuff and rode off like I was going to the shops, but with more luggage.
The sun was out, and it was warm for late September as I made my way down the M1 to London. Scott and Imelda put me up overnight, before I tackled the London traffic the next morning heading towards Dover. Pulling in to the wide open space of the port was the first time it really felt like I was
embarking on the trip. I'm going to leave this island and see how far south I can get.
In France I blasted down the country on the toll motorways, taking a serious toll on the local insect population. What's that last thing that goes through the mind of an insect as it hits the visor of a motorcyclist at 130kph? Its arse.
I asked the campsite owner at my first night's stay if she could find another campsite online near Grenoble. She did, and I loaded it into the Sat Nav. 650km later I arrived into the impressive mountainous surrounds of Grenoble, and was looking forward to setting up the tent and soaking in the surrounds. However the campsite was situated in the midst of a semi-industrial area, with social housing high-rises. The camp itself was more of a trailer park. Couldn't see the mountains. Hilarious.
The next day however made up for things. I pointed the Sat Nav to the east into the biggest mountain ranges I could find and had an incredible day winding through the French Alps. Uncertainties about the trip were blown away as I wound my
way through and over the mountains on brilliant French roads. All this was new for me, I've never been near this area, and it was a reminder of how good it is to be somewhere new, soaking in the novelty.
I found a small campsite that was the polar opposite of the Grenoble camp. In a quiet valley, only two other campers, super friendly owner with cold beer and killer wood-fired pizzas. The owner was also a fan of the KTM, lots of impressed French noises and kissing of his thumb and forefinger. He send me on a trip the next morning on "the very best road" up through the mountains, part of which was on a gnarly rock road up to a pass 2800m high. Oh wow, the roads and scenery were mind blowing.
After lunch in Roubion, a village perched on the side of a cliff, I headed south towards Jaap's sister's place in the hills near Nice. It was an unusual circumstance to meet Jaap for the first time considering the trip we have planned, but even more unusual to meet his family who had gathered to send us off with
a BBQ. They were brilliant, a massive feed, some French wine, and a helping hand with the last minute preparations. Thanks Sophie for the power adapter, really really good to have!
In the morning we nailed a couple of croissants, a couple of espressos, and rode off for the ferry from Genoa. The docks were my first taste of Africa, where the chic of Southern France was replaced by dodgy cars loaded with goods heading to Tunisia.
The ferry has been sweet. I'm sitting in a cafe on-board writing this, charging up the electronic kit, and looking at a few photos from the past few days. Last night we met Fre a Belgian guy who's heading to Tunisia for a couple of week's riding, and Morsi, a Tunisian guy who works in Italy and heading home to visit family. Last night the four of us sat on the deck with a few Peroni beers and bottle of whiskey, and enjoyed the feeling of the slow and inevitable chug towards Africa.
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