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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake

Calculating Costs

November 2nd, 2006 by sunflowers

By the time I finished work I had a splitting headache. I think it was a combination of being in the office again, stress of the monthly reports due and being allocated projects without resources. But the main reason is I have calculated the amount of money I will have to start this trip. I figure that by the time I have paid off my remaining debt, purchased a bag, tent, sleeping bag, laptop, travel insurance, hot weather jacket and pants, tires, a bike check in BA and the customs payments in Argentina that I will have less than £1000 left to start my trip. I know this is pants. Part of it is that until you start getting ready for a trip like this you totally under estimate the costs involved. I have kept a total of all that I have spent so far and it is £6862.55.

That includes the cost of learning to ride a bike which most people going to do a trip like this wouldn’t have. On the other hand my bike was relatively cheap at £1700 and some people would have spent the entire £7000 on a new bike and panniers. I was also able to use my air miles for the cost of my flight and have quite a bit of the camping gear already eg. primus stove, pots, thermal rest, travel towel.

Hiking ShoesBicycling home I passed all the hiking equipment shops on Kensington High Road so I decided to pop in and look at waterproof duffle bags. The good news is that I am no longer going to get a 130L bag for my bike. The bad news is that after several hours of deliberating I walked out with some really cool looking Gore-Tex hiking shoes. I doubt I am going to take up jogging on my trip and that seeing as how I love to walk I might as well get some decent hiking shoes. I tested them on my eight mile walk to work and they seem ok.

So I am going to spend this weekend seeing what I can sell, meeting up with a friend to talk about how to get sponsorship and start putting together a sponsorship request package for UK based companies. Better late than never 😉

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Hard of Hearing

November 1st, 2006 by sunflowers

I just got back from Dublin. Sitting on the Gatwick express I was listening to my ipod wondering if I have already started to damage my hearing. I was trying to figure out whether I now have my ipod turned up louder than I used to.

Since being told on the ferry to Spain that even ten minutes on a motorcycle above 50 miles per hour would effect my hearing I have become slightly paranoid about it. Growing up with headphones constantly on (actually that hasn’t changed). I used to think my parents were being silly when telling me to turn the music down and that I would damage my hearing. But I read the other day that you can lose your hearing slowly without really realising it and that hearing is one thing that doesn’t repair itself. Once it is gone, it is adios amigos.

Can you imagine not being able to listen to good music or hearing the sound of bird song?

If you are riding a motorcycle between 70-80 miles an hour you have been 15-30 minutes of safe riding time at 90+ decibels. Riding down to Lisbon I did two six hour stints – well over my safe time. So last night I did some research on the web looking for companies that produce moulded ear plugs with earphones built into them and found a company Advanced Communication Solutions and wrote to them asking if they would be willing to give me a discount for being listed as a sponsor.

So my excellent news is that I got home to an email from them saying yes they would. Also their earplugs were developed in conjunction with the Metropolitan Police which is well cool. They have an educational site at www.heartomorrow.com and their company website is www.hearingprotection.co.uk.

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Happy Halloween

October 31st, 2006 by sunflowers

Not that I am celebrating Halloween this being Dublin and I am sitting in a hotel room but there you go. My luggage turned up – hurray – as it had my motorcycle helmet in it – I just hoped it wasn’t bashed about too much.

I had to face the client today which was slightly daunting knowing that they had chosen someone else over me. It might have nothing to do about their personal opinion of my work. On the other hand it is hard as work/study is something that my personal self esteem hangs on. I have never been sporty or popular but I always did well at school/work with fairly minimal effort. So whenever my work is put in doubt I go into a deep feeling of despondency. So after sitting in a freezing cold hotel room I have relocated myself to the hotel bar to get over it.

Lost luggage suitI got my colleague to take a photo of me in my new suit. I was trying to get him to take it beside the Bank of Ireland sign but all those ones came out horrible so I am just standing beside some yellow statue thing instead. I think that my mum will like it as I am the only one in the family to wear a suit to work. In fact when I was at school I really wanted a job where I wore a suit. I told my mother when I was at university I wanted to be so good at what I did that my company sent me all over the world to do whatever it was I did. She replied I would never been able to get a company to do that. My family is good at reverse physiology like that.

ps. I have added the need to register to add comments to my blog. Sorry about that but I was getting a ridiculous amount of spam. But it is great to get your comments and it makes it easy for me to go back to them when they are done on the blog.

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Duffle Delayed to Dublin

October 30th, 2006 by sunflowers

Got up this morning and Nuno gave me a lift to the airport on my motorbike. Quite strange to be dropped off at the airport by motorcycle. Turns out that Air Portugal’s check in system is pants. There are 10 counters allocated to all the European flights. As I was there only 50 minutes before the flight I asked at a counter and they checked me in right away and I only just made the flight.

Dropping me off at the airportCongratulating myself on making the flight was soon gone when I got to the Dublin airport and my luggage wasn’t there. I wasn’t the only one though – there was about five of us at the counter with lost luggage and one whose bag had been wrapped in cellophane with items missing.

Sitting in the hotel room I realised that my bag wasn’t going to show up and that I would have to go and buy a suit for tomorrow. Strange as it may seem I really dislike clothes shopping. Particularly when I have to buy something for a particularly event. It reminded me of my first ever time getting to the UK and my luggage was delayed. Back then it meant I didn’t have my friend’s address, I was in summer clothes, it was November and it was snowing. At least this time it wasn’t snowing and I knew what type of shops to go to. That time I had been sent to Top Shop which I thought must be having a sale it was so full of people.

I managed to find a suit that is ok and got to see a little bit of Dublin rather than going straight from work to the hotel or the airport. Still it was annoying as a new suit is really the last thing that I need 30 days before I am about to head off. Speaking of which today it is exactly a month before I go – whoowhoo.

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October 29th, 2006 by sunflowers

Cabo da RocaBikers in PortugalGermans at Cabo da RocaToday was the last day that I will be able to ride my bike until The Che Guevara gang arrive in Argentina. It turns out that the Western most edge of the European continent is about 10-15kms from Cascais where I was staying so that was a must visit. It turns out that Cabo da Roca is also the place that all the local bikers gather when the weather is warm. It is hard to get an idea of how many there were from the picture on the right – as they had lined the road the whole way to the memorial. Oh – and I have to throw this photo in even though it might not be easy to make out but there were some Germans re-enacting a medieval ceremony while I was there.

Palácio Nacional da PenaPalácio Nacional da PenaAfter visiting the western most tip of the European continent I headed to Serra de Sintra in the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais. Looking at my guide book I somehow managed to miss the Palácio Nacional de Sintra and the Castelo dos Mouros but I did make it to Palácio Nacional da Pena which is Sintra’s most bizarre building. The castle rivals the Disneyland castle and was built by Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha (artist-husband of Queen Maria II). From what history I have read of Portugal a lot of their kings and queens where called Ferdinand and Maria! Inside is full of the type of clutter they seemed to like in the castles in Europe. Collections of expensive items from around the world. I guess to show how rich you are. Personally I perfer sparse dacor – not that I manage to acheive it.Palácio Nacional da PenaPalácio Nacional da Pena

Back at Nuno’s we ended up talking about his experience in the hotel and catering business and it turns out that he has an undergraduate from Portsmouth and a postgraduate in hotel and catering from Cornell from the US (which I have actually heard of as I think that I met an American guy once who was telling me how important Ivy League universities are). Nuno was the operations manager for one of the poshest restaurant complexes in Lisbon, has started his own restaurant and was then a hotel and catering consultant for two years. So we spent quite a while talking through my so far disastrous venture into Turkish restaurant investment and he has given me heaps of tips and lent me a Food and Beverage controls book to go through. Yet another task to do while I am on holiday in South America (along with studying for my Project Management Institute exam and learning Spanish – but you will be glad to note that I am no longer taking a guitar to learn how to play).

Nuno and TatjanaNuno's packingThe pictures are of Nuno and Tatjana on their scooter (they are taking a Africa Twin for their South America trip). And their kit laid out in the garage. I wish I was so organised – but it has helped that Nuno finished his job four months in order to prepare for this trip. I think that I am going to add some spokes and wheel bearings to my list. And maybe not send the front sprocket back and get a back sprocket as well.

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Passing into Portugal

October 28th, 2006 by sunflowers

Portugal: Population: 10 million Size: 92,000 sq km (560km north to south and 220km east to west) Capital: Lisbon (Lisboa) 60% of the world cork comes from Portugal.

Nuno and FransicoSaturday morning I started out at eight in the morning. Getting up after a nine hour sleep I carried my panniers and bag down the stairs and outside to strap it all to the bike. I was looking forward to a truck free day as a former truck driver had told me that big trucks aren’t allowed on the roads on contenintal Europe between Friday night and Sunday night. I was to be sorely disappointed as that is all that was on the road at that time in the morning. Still none of the roads were as heavily populated as the ones in the UK.

Me standing in front of CascaisPassing through the now disserted boarder crossing and I was in Portugal. Only another few hundred miles to go. The highway speed limit in Portugal and Spain is 120km/hr or about 75 miles/hr and everyone drives much, much faster. At one stage I managed a sustained 100 miles/hr but mostly kept to about 80 miles an hour and was over taken a lot.

Fransico and Africa TwinI arrived in Cascais (tourist resort 26km outside of Lisbon) about one o’clock and phoned up Nuno to tell him I had arrived. Nuno, his wife Tatjana and their friend Goncalo are following the Che Guevara route around South America and ending in Cuba where they are going to meet Alberto Granado who accompanied Che on the motorcycle dairies. Nuno had organised a container to take the bikes out and advertised on Horizons Unlimited so my bike was joining theirs. Anything to get out of crating my bike myself!

Cascais BeachNuno said his trip had been getting quite a lot of publicity in Portugal as though lots of people bike here, as a country they aren’t big travellers. Plus following the route of Che Guevara has it’s own special appeal. Apparently the Argentina embassy has also contacted them about it. So he has managed to get a fair bit of sponsorship. Though not without hard work as he has put together a presentation that he sends to companies. Also the third member of their party is a professional photographer so they are hoping to put together a book afterwards. I am well jealous and definitely motivated to up my search for sponsorship in my last month before I go. I might even learn to write and take better photos 😉

Cascais BeachAfter being at Nuno’s for half an hour his cousin Francisco came around and we all went for a ride and I had my third pillion ever, Southern European style. It was slightly scary being on the back of the Africa Twin zooming around with an open face helmet, jandles (flip flops) and no jacket on (my advanced riding club would be appalled). I got a whirlwind tour of the old town where Francisco seemed to either be related or knew everyone and we headed to the beach where there was some surfing championship on and I saw the most beautiful sunset.

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My first ride on the continent

October 27th, 2006 by sunflowers

Spain: Population: 40 million Size: 505,000 sq km second largest Western European country after France. Capital: Madrid

Rachel and KateOn Friday morning I did a bit more dolphin spotting (I had seen some the day before) and was pretty much just waiting for the ferry to dock. I managed to see the family I waited with at the terminal and said good by to Rachel and Kate (pictured). By the time we actually docked I was fairly packing myself. Getting off the ferry I waited to say goodbye to Ed and Tim but either they left before me or drove by me. I then found a garage and spent another half an hour pumping up my back tyre and trying to put off the inevitable. Finally I hit the road. I decided that I might as well drive straight to Lisbon so that if anything happened on the way there that I would get there in time. I also felt like having some thinking time which you get lots of on the bike. In doing so I promised myself I would be back to see Spain and Portugal properly. After an hour or so my ipod ran out of battery so I decided that I better start using ear plugs. I really don’t like having things stuck in my ears but Ed had told me the day before that riding a bike is louder than working on a construction site and above the legal limit that an employer allows you to be subjected to and that even ten minutes without ear plugs can start effecting your hearing.

Even thought I was driving on the motorway I passed through some amazing scenery. Coming around one corner I was staring into a tree lined canyon. Another part of the journey I passed a deserted fortress on the top of a hill. Most of the time the road was fairly empty and the sun was shining. Perfect motorcycling weather and a nice easy start to my trip. I managed to get just over three hundred miles in before the lack of sleep from the night before started to get to me. It was also starting to get dark and a bit colder. I was going to stop Salamanca but decided from the highway that it looked boring and I was too tired after six hours solid riding to muck about trying to find accommodation so stopped at the first highway hotel. Looking at my lonely planet I read that actually Salamanca was highly recommended. So I have decided that I better make sure I know what sights I want to see on my trip from Argentina to Alaska otherwise I have a tendency to want to get to the end as quickly as possible. And I will start at the bottom and say to myself ‘Right, where am I heading? Alaska’, and just keep on riding.

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The Pride of Bilbao Ferry

October 26th, 2006 by sunflowers

Pride of BilbaoThe ferry between Portsmouth and Bilbao is huge. 11 stories, 2 cinemas, half a dozen restaurants, swimming pool and gym. The best surprise of the trip is that it turns out the Bay of Biscay is one of the prime places in the world to see dolphins and whales. According to the presentation held by the wildlife volunteer, it surpasses the more renown spots of Alaska and New Zealand. 30 species of the 84 species of whales and dolphins have been seen in the Bay of Biscay including common and bottlenose dolphins, fin, blue, sperm and killer whales. In the summer special whale and dolphin spotting trips are run and will regularly see more than ten species. Amazing this opportunity lies within two hours of London and I had never heard of it. When I get back from my trip it is definitely going to be on my to-do list. The presentation also highlighted Iceland’s decision to resume large whale killing and suggested writing to the prime ministers of the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway to say that you would like to go on a holiday there but would not while they are still practising whale killing.

Pride of BilbaoOn the ferry I started reading my lonely planet guide on Spain. Now that we won’t arrive in the ferry town Santurtzi until early afternoon rather than on Friday I am debating giving Bilbao a miss – particularly as I will be back on my whale spotting trip. And instead riding along the coastline to Lisbon. Apparently along the north of Spain in Cantábrica the magnificent Picos de Europa meet green hills, rugged coastal cliffs, quaint fishing villages and sandy beaches. I think I am more in the mood for riding between villages than spending time in the city and then taking the highways. Though it would mean missing the architecturally astounding Guggenheim Museum.

Whale ChartThe ferry belongs to P&O and an interesting little titbit is that the word Posh originates when the P&O ships used to sail to India and on the way out the port (left) side of the boat received the morning sun while the starboard (right)side received the afternoon sun and was then boiling hot in the evenings which was very unpleasant and therefore privileged passengers would travel port (P) on the way out (O) and starboard (S) on the way home (H) having their luggage marked (POSH) which then moved into regular language use to identify someone who was advantaged.


By Thursday late afternoon after trying to watch for dolphins most of the day I was back to questioning the idea of doing this trip myself as I was only a day into my prequel and I was already lonely. Sitting in the front observation deck a couple of guys started talking about biking through Spain just as I was contemplating my way down to Lisbon. So I asked them for advice. It turns out that the GP is being held in Valencia in Spain which is why there were so many bikes on the ferry and they were heading down for it.

Pride of BilbaoSo after getting a bit of trip advice the two guys invited me for a drink and said that I shouldn’t miss the cabaret being shown in one of the bars. So I cashed in my ticket for the Pirates of the Caribbean cinema showing and headed to the cabaret with Ed and Tim. It was brilliant. Everything you can imagine a ship cabaret to be. We started with a couple of lounge singers and then moved onto a short rendition of the musical Greece. After which Ed agreed to come onto the dance floor with me. After getting hot on the dance floor we went up to the upper deck and watched the stars. I saw two shooting stars.

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Getting to the ferry

October 25th, 2006 by sunflowers

Even though the ferry wasn’t sailing until after midnight I decided to head down to Portsmouth as I was hoping to beat the rain, I wanted to get the trip over and done with and I didn’t fancy staying at work.

Scott seeing me offScott one of my colleagues kindly came down to take a couple photos of me. As it turned out I got a photos of him and we got a couple little clips of me taking off.

As I was leaving in prime rush hour traffic it took me a little while to get out of the road my works is on but once I was around the Hammersmith roundabout it wasn’t too bad. I drove down through Barnes in South London and after about twenty minutes decided that I must have missed the sign post for the A3 so I stopped at a garage to check my map and also put some air pressure into my rear tyres now that I knew I could use the air pumps at the gas stations. Turns out that I still couldn’t. Even after moving my bike back and forth I couldn’t seem to fit the air pump onto my tyre value so I asked for directions and found out the A3 was a bit further and told myself it was better to have slightly under pressure tyres on the wet roads. I removed my winter gloves and jumper as I was boiling hot jumped back on my bike and headed off.

I haven’t done much riding at night so riding along the A3 to Portsmouth on the wet roads with the fully kitted and probably quite unbalanced bike was fairly daunting. I tried to tail slowish moving cars as I found that I could barely see when I was by myself and in fact wondered if my headlights were on at all. At one stage when the road turned into single lanes and wound it’s way up a hill I was being blinded by cars coming the other way and had another car riding up my backside, I wondered if this was the most scared I had been on the bike.

But with only one stop for petrol and to check that I had taken the right exit (I hadn’t) I made it to the ferry terminal. On stopping to queue for the ferry I realised that I had a high beam light that I might have made use of on my way down if I had remembered that I had it.

Waiting at the ferry terminalI went into the terminal for my two hour wait and after waiting two hours read the piece of paper that I had been handed to find it was actually a seven hour wait. I spent the time either on the phone to my family in NZ and later on talking to the family that I was sharing the row of chairs with – playing noughts and crosses and hangman. Finally at three thirty I hung up my sister when they announced the car drivers should embark only to find that motorcycles are first and my bike was the only one still in the queue. Getting to my cabin at four in the morning it didn’t take long to fall asleep.

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Leaving Home

October 25th, 2006 by sunflowers

It was a poignant moment as I loaded up my bike this morning with everything I am taking down to Lisbon with me. It was a bit hard to pack for the cold and rain I am going to encounter from London to Portsmouth tonight (ferry has been delayed from 21:15 to 00:30). The excellent weather expected in Lisbon this weekend (27 degrees – wicked), working in Dublin from Monday to Wednesday (work clothes and rain jacket) as well as everything that I want to send with the bike.

I then tried to pump up my tyres but my foot tyre pump which was already buckled and straightened buckled some more so I decided I would take it to a garage on my way to work to fill the tyres.

As I seem to be slightly leaking oil (I am going to get a full service when I get to BA) after reading the oil gage which was about 1cm under the max line I decided to put in the last half a cup of oil in my bottle before I took off. Reading the gage afterwards it was now showing 1cm over max but I thought hopefully I can at least get to work.

I then tried to start the bike and went into a totally panic as it just wouldn’t start. Running back into the house I found my RAC card and phoned to see if they would do a home visit. A £66 upgrade to my membership fee had me deciding against that option.

Going back out to the bike I realised that I had been turning off the fuel gage while it was parked at home as personally I am surprised due to were I live it hasn’t been nicked yet. Yep that was it.

So with the bike started I headed off to the petrol station. After moving my bike around so that the tyre caps were on the bottom I noticed that the air machine said no ‘bikes’. Now did that mean bicycles or motorcycles. So I decided I could make it to work on slightly under pressure tyres.

labelMade it to work and at lunch time went down to check my bike and it is leaking oil slightly so I mopped it up and checked the oil level again – slightly over but after a fluster of emails to Charlie (apologising for the early morning panic call) I have decided it will be ok.

I have also put some labels over the tape over my kill switch just in case it isn’t rain proof. When I tried to order another kill switch they said I would have to order the whole part and just to glue the plastic bit back on. Does anyone know if super glue works on plastic?

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