Europe: “The final countdown”

‘We’re leaving together

But still it’s farewell

And maybe we’ll come back

To earth (well Cornwall), who can tell?

(apologies to all those born after 1986)

It’s a tres grand country

The roads out of Nice towards the Alps were epic.  Yes, I know I’ve said this before and so, yes, we’ve been well and truly spoilt on this trip.  Although noticeably cooler as we moved north (liners back in the suit for sure), I’d rather have cold and dry than warm and wet any day – even if snow was forecast in the high Alps!  Thankfully we had already planned to go more west than north so we were fine even if we did have a couple of icy starts.  The roads were winding, empty and all around was the most gorgeous mountain scenery – particularly so as a result of a riot of autumn colour.  I have not really explored France and so was gob-smacked at the size and scale of some of the areas we were passing though.  Route Napoleon and the D911 to name a couple of beauties but the roads through the vast Cevennes National Park were incredible.  As you exit the national park, there’s also an interesting tourist route – the Larzac circuit – which takes in 5 medieval villages which in the 12th and 13th centuries were the domain of the Knights of the Order of the Temple.  The villages formed part of the Order of the Hospitaliers which sought to provide accommodation and care for Christian pilgrims and the Order of the Templars was founded to ensure the safety of those pilgrims.  We felt in good hands.  The circuit covers 85 km and is accessed off the main A75 – which is also the road that features the very impressive Millau viaduct.  What an amazing sight it is too and holey moley, it’s very, very high.  In fact, it’s quite difficult to get a sense of that from the bridge itself but is certainly a stunning sight from afar. The mast sections make it the tallest bridge in the world although the bridge deck is only the 15th highest in the world – mind you at 270 metres above ground it’s high enough thanks!  It is consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time and I’m not surprised.

The bridge from afar
The bridge from afar

Homeward straight

Eventually the roads became longer and straighter – which was perhaps just as well as it got a bit on the wet side.  Finally arriving at the ferry terminal in Cherbourg it felt like the end of an era.  Waiting to board the ferry took some time as all the trucks had to back on as one set of doors were ‘broken’ (gulp).  Impressive to watch and must have been a real tester for the drivers who had all other truck drivers looking on and rating their performance.  It wouldn’t be the end of the trip without yet another wet embarkation but thankfully we managed the final performance without falling off the stage.  Arriving in Poole the next morning met with another delay as a rather hefty spanner was sought in order to help the only working ramp on its way…. not particularly sorry to get off that ferry it has to be said.

What an experience

Although many highlights have been captured throughout the blog posts, having done such a fantastic and epic adventure, what are some of the stand-outs for me?

  • the delight of having a full tank of petrol and knowing you have a full day to enjoy using it
  • the variety of biker acknowledgements – nodding, leg extensions, two finger very cool arm out, waving in any way possible – love it
  • the fact that biking is such a conversation starter – you’d have to have a very impressive car to get anywhere near the amount of interest and then it might be for all the wrong reasons
  • having absolutely no concept of time or what day of the week it is – and it not being a problem
  • adapting to different cultures – not just the people but the way of getting around
  • never feeling daunted as we had prepared well and it all worked
  • the fantastically different scenery, people and cities
  • the remoteness of some of the landscapes and being on a bike within it – by far the best way to experience it
  • the multitude of ferries and tunnels and such a wide range of road types
  • doing things and seeing places I’d never thought I would do or see
  • learning to ride a motorbike at this late stage of life and having the opportunity of making the best use of my new skill in a way I would never have thought possible – 10,000 miles in 3 months!!

Scores on the doors…

  • 100 days from leaving our ‘base’ in the Midlands and returning home
  • 65 biking days and 260 hours ‘in the saddle’
  • 74 nights in hotels and 53 hotels
  • 17,252 km (10,721 miles)
  • average fuel consumption 4.4 litres per 100 km (Triumph), 4.9 litres per 100 km (KTM)

Missing biking already….

What next?

Next blog will feature a review of all the kit and equipment used.

Off roading beckons so watch this space!

P1010568

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