Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

Day 1 – Jo’burg to Hazyview

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

02 October, Thursday
Johannesburg to Hazyview
Going though immigration, the official looked at my passport and asked me what I was here for this year, as last time I had been going to a wedding. Even if I hadn’t have been sleep deprived I would have been surprised! The same guy had stamped my passport the last time we came through Jo’burg, and seemed to remember me…!
Waited a rather long time for the luggage and went off to find Dollar/Thrifty. Found it easily enough but there was no one waiting for us… Presently a Kea man came in, but he was there for someone else :s Anyway, he went off and found our guy, Solomon who came and collected us. It was only a short ride in his Jeep Cherokee to the Kea office where Daniel was waiting with reams of time consuming paperwork… Luckily he didn’t insist on showing us everything after we told him we were familiar with the vehicle and tent. He did, however, fail spectacularly at demonstrating the compressor… He managed to cross-thread it onto the tyre valve and wondered why air was hissing out. Eventually he got out of the way and I fixed it.
Soon we were on our way East. We managed not to take the wrong road out of Jo’burg, which made a nice change.

Day 0 – Flying to Jo’burg

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

01 October, Wednesday
London to Johannesburg

Finished work sharpish at 16:30 and gathered our things together. Mad rush to get the flat clean and tidy, as our French friend, Grégoire would be staying while we were away.

Taxi to Paddington and then the Heathrow Express to Terminal 1. South African ground staff were really good. Had to pay for an extra bag at checkin which was all dealt with very easily.

Decided to eat in the Terminal and snooze on the flight. Stopped of at a restaurant just below the lounge. My fish and chips (washed down with a Rob Roy) was ok but H’s chicken was a bit uninspired. Didn’t have enough time to sneak a cheeky glass of wine in at the lounge, so headed off to the gate. Boarding was really quick, even though the flight was quite full and we were on our way early! A worrying few minutes ensued when I noticed that the recline button was missing for my seat, but I managed to fish around inside the arm rest to get it working.

We both watched the Grand Budapest Hotel, which I enjoyed a lot and ate H’s gluten free meal of salmon. My peri peri chicken was more than a little below par…

We both got some sleep.

Stugan, June 2010

Friday, July 9th, 2010

As my Sis had never been to Sweden, we pencilled in the week before Midsommar. Usual Ryanair ridiculousness and Stansted, but we were on time-ish. Everything went ok at´the far end as well – and many crappy radio stations later, we were at Norrtälje in Flyggfyran (supermarket) bying beer, and other such essentials. Well, that’s a lie, in Sweden it is AGAINST THE LAW to by decent beer in a supermarket, you have to go to a state run off-licence… But still, it worked.

Got to the Stuga and set about eating and drinking. Which we did admirably.

The next day it was off to the sea. The proper sea, on the East coast. And we decided to walk… Going there was fine. We got to see the sea. The route coming home was looking a little more tiresome though, so Sis decided that we should go cross-country. No man has trod the path that we took, I’m sure. Many, many flying things loved that route though. In the end, we got it kind of right, appearing in someone’s back garden somewhere near where we wanted to be.

Thursday was off to Norrtälje and we met BFG and family at Flyggfyran. We stocked up and headed off for lunch, leaving BFG in the meat section… Ahem.

After a leisurely lunch and a nice wander around town, we got a cal from BFG telling us that they had just left the supermarket. Oh dear. As it happened we ended up following them back to Stugan. Only BFG needed a quick stop at Woody. (After him loitering in the meat section, I was starting to get worried that my long time friend was hiding something…) I beeped jovially and drove on. When we decided to stop for ice cream I called BFG and asked how it was in Woody. There was a long silence, followed by a howl of laughter. “Oh, that was YOU hooting” exclaimed the closet “DIY” enthusiast. “I was calling you all the names under the sun”. No change there then….

A very convivial evening followed, with Pimms (eventually) and lots of laughs.

The next morning was Midsommar’s eve (yeah, I know) so we had to set up the table for an early lunch of pickled raw fish, and other delights. As I was driving, no Aquavit for me (boo hiss). Still, my singing was no worse for it… All too soon it was off to the airport. Got there with hours to spare… Ish. But then again, there wasn’t exactly a lot to do there. Pretty soon we were back at Stansted, after having Barry’s favourite: Salami sandwiches, on the flight.

The evening at Epping Upland was, as ever, great. A nice dinner and plenty of wine.

IoM – 2009-05-16

Sunday, May 17th, 2009

And so to Saturday.

After being woken up by the lashing rain at 5am, I really didn’t want to come out from under the duvet when the alarm went off… However, it wasn’t raining which was a relief.

Over sausage, bacon and eggs it was definitely starting to cheer up a bit, so we got our kit on and our legs over. We headed up to Douglas and the pits and paddock. They were still setting up for the TT there, and we started a lap of the circuit.

The podium at pit straight

The road was still pretty wet, so we took it very easy! John was a bit miffed because there was a diversion around Schoolhouse corner for some road works. The hairpin caught me out! No surprise there then… What was a surprise was the fog. John kept swimming in and out of my vision – it was all a bit twilight zone! Stopped at Bungalow and couldn’t even see the bridge, 20 meters away. As we got to Windy Corner, the fog lifted, and the views were fantastic. Really beautiful. Whizzed back to the pits, and decided to do another circuit straight away. The roads were starting to dry out a bit, so we could up the ante and get a wiggle on. Got a nice run at Ballaugh Bridge and got a couple of feet off the ground (narrowly avoiding the bus…) and managed a major wheelie through Ballacrye by keeping the gas on in 4th at about 95. Sweet 🙂

Our weapons for the weekend

Stopped off at Schoolhouse and asked the guys if we could ride up to where the road works were, which wasn’t a problem. It turned out that they were only resurfacing a very small stretch, so we could get a good look at Schoolhouse corner so John could sort his lines out. Still a bit foggy on the mountain, but nowhere near as bad as it was. However, dropping down past Kate’s cottage and The Creg, the rain came. Stopped at the pits again to get some shelter, with another guy that had the same idea. Ended up waiting an hour or so for it to ease, by which time it was lunchtime, so headed backwards to The Creg for some steak pie, or in John’s case, another breakfast. 

From the Creg

While we were there, the rain disappeared, and it looked much better, so we got back on it for another lap. Although the rain and fog had gone, it had been replaced by very much wind… Very disconcerting over the mountain! Next time around we swapped bikes. John’s blade was somewhat more powerful than mine, but it didn’t stop John disappearing into the distance on my 675! I really should practice more…

After that, we thought we could squeeze just one more lap before heading to the pub. Me, being a girl, suggested that we take it a bit easy and enjoy the scenery (my wrists and shoulders were rather achey). But, that didn’t happen. We passed some guy on a supermoto style bike, but it was obvious he knew his way around. We then got tangled up with some other gus, and got past them before the mountain, at which point John just buggered off! Mr Moto and I tried in vain to hang on, but not a chance. Stopped at Hillberry for a natter. Mr Moto lived down near where we were staying and had been on the island a year or so, so he did know the roads a bit! We pottered back to Balladuke and then to the pub, for a well deserved pint or 5. And another breakfast!

The condom machine in the pub:

In case of puncture...
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IoM – 2009-05-15

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Friday came.

Up early, feeling a little tired (after a heavy night out with the Swedish contingent…. The Bloody Marys were excellent). Gave the bike a (very) quick wash and trundled off to Triumph to get a new rear tyre. That was all fixed, so I gave it some berries up Chigwell High Road, past an annoying blue BMW 5 series that inconsiderately pulled out in front of me. Which turned out to be an unmarked police car… An apology and a few “Yes Sirs” later I topped up with sans plombe and headed home to pack. Everything fitted in the tank bag, which was nice. Or rather, anything that didn’t fit in the tank bag got left behind.

JRC called at 13:30 as promised and we departed – me from home, him from work.

M25 was its usual miserable, lane-hogging self… But I soon arrived at the car park formerly known as the M1. Promptly got a soaking, but only for about 5 minutes – up ahead it looked a lot brighter, and the traffic eased up as well. So it was a fairly easy run up to junction 19. Just after joining the M6, I spied a red bike behind, which conveniently turned into John. How good was that? Parked up at Corley Services for fuel and comfort, which was a welcome break ™, and it was sunny! It wouldn’t last….

Batted on up to Liverpool (cue dodgy haircuts and moustaches). John expertly guided us through the more salubrious outskirts to the Liver building, and the port next door, with time to spare. The rain came with a vengeance while we were waiting for the ferry. Doh.

The ferry was populated by stereotypical scousers, who were drunk and loud, and stereotypical eastern Europeans who didn’t understand the concept of “No Smoking”.
John managed to pull a young-un. About 4 or 5, and bike mad. She was quite funny. Her dad kept apologising to us! Time passed with the help of crisps and beer, and we were soon disembarking onto a dark, but dry Isle of Man. Had a bit of a misty ride down to Balladuke farm, near Ballabeg. John and Elaine were very welcoming with tea and a beer! We were pretty knackered so it was off to bed.

Bike09 – Sunday 19th

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Up at the crack of something or other – certainly not dawn… Shockingly, Mr. B was up and about first! Mr. G and Mr. J almost fell out of bed.

The weather was much better 🙂 loaded the bikes and departed for Lausanne. There was some pretty dramatic scenery up and down the sides of mountains – really beautiful. Through the Swiss border and had a choice of routes. Decided on the ‘slow’ road. Bloody good choice. Route 9 into Lausanne was spectacular.

Stopped by the lake to have a comfort break and had to get back on it as time was marching on. Getting out of town was definitely a lot less fun the getting in… Loads of traffic, crappy roads, traffic lights and Mr. J’s sense of direction all contributed to a rubbish hour or so of riding. Montreaux was lovely, but the worst roads ever! And to top it, we got stuck behind the fuzz. Quite painful, I can tell you.

Had to pause just before the Alps to fuel up and tog up, as it looked pretty rainy up top.

Towards Chamonix

Towards Chamonix

Halfway up

Halfway up

Up we went! We thought that the scenery so far had been good. Here it was quite simply spectacular, stunning and many other superlatives. Unfortunately we couldn’t keep stopping for pics.

Luckily it didn’t get too wet, but it did get very cold, so we were quite relieved to roll into Chamonix. Found a very pleasant little hotel pretty quickly, freshened up and headed off to the Terrace bar. And saw Man U lose to Everton on penalties, so the was a good start to the evening!

The Terrace Bar

The Terrace Bar

Had a very nice meal at a restaurant whose name escapes me, and tried in vain to find somewhere lively so decided to call it a night – at 10pm! As expected, Mr. B rattled the windows with his snoring, although it was Mr. G fumbling with the earplug packet that woke Mr. J!


Today’s route:

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bike 09 – the start of the adventure

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

So it finally happened. The lads are off to France on the bikes. To protect the individuals in question, names have been changed to protect the innocent. They will be known only as Mr. B, Mr. G and Mr. J. Mr. B might well have been know as Mr. Brown for reasons far too complex to go into here. No animals were harmed in the making. Well, except for thousands of flies. 

Mr. B graciously let us stay the night of the 17th april, so that we could have an early and coordinated bacon sandwich in the morning. which was nice. Then it was all go go go and off to dover. The M25, in all its usual wonder was stunningly dull. But this leg passed uneventfully enough. Got the ferry with time to spare and settled down to a nice mug-o-t. Then the Germans came… Luckily these were 2 yummy-mummy germans and their cute daughters, so we didn’t mind that at all. Obviously only Mr. J was looking…

Off the ferry and it was direction reims! Decided to autoroute it most of the way as there is not much to see and we had about 500km to cover. The weather was getting steadily crappier, so during one of many petrol stops, it was decided to stay on the autoroute all the way to Nancy. Coincedentally enough, we ran into the Germans again!

On the leg from Metz to Nancy, the rain really started coming down. Oh it’s so much fun sliding across white lines and spinning the rear up overtaking lorries! Mr. B seemed the only one not suffering – having a (relatively) sensible machine.

Incredibly we managed to find the hotel académie with no trouble at all. Mr. J recognised Avenue Foch and for some reason his addled memory retained enough to remember the way. Mr. G was convinced that we had taken him to some godforsaken industrial estate, and the hotel did little to persuade him otherwise… The bikes were parked and there was much freshening up before a well deserved beverage. Only we seemed to have found the depressing end of town, so we struck out in search of more life. This was thankfully quickly found, and no sooner had we blown the froth off, Mr. J was approached by a tipsy French girl in search of rolling papers. In his best pigeon, Mr. J exclaimed “je ne comprende pas – je suis Anglais!” so she went to get her mate, who happened to be in a band. Mr. B was in his element and was soon outside having a smoke. Food was the next item on the list, so we wandered around like lost children until we happened upon a pizza place. We were all starving, so that was job done. The calzone that Mr. B and Mr. G had were huge! This was followed by a quick stroll around the local square which was incredibly ornate.

Place Stanislas, Nancy

Place Stanislas, Nancy


After that, we thought “just one more beer would be nice”. As you do. The only lively place seemed to be the irish bar (naturally!) so it was in there for a guinness. At £8 a pint… just around midnight, Mr. J headed off to the toilet with the comment “we should head off to bed now, got to get up early in the morning”. On returning, he found Mr. B and Mr. G in gales of laughted. Apparently, as soon as Mr. J was out of earshot, Mr. B growled “I didn’t come on holiday to have a eff’in early night”.  So that was 3 more guinness then! And more… Still, the scenery inside the pub was loverly 😉

Eventually we wound our way back to the hotel, feeling smug that the first day was a success.


Today’s Route:

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saturday at last

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

everyone was up at the crack of 10 something. Or was it 11…? anyway, it had sort of been decided to go to monaco, so it was off to the bus stop, with a small detour for vittles. another mumbled half-arsed attempt at french from jim. pete, as usual, was perfectly fluent.

sqeeeeeezed onto the bus, with the normal french old-dears barging in front of everyone. it wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t. jim got a cheap thrill when some old geezer grabbed his knee… it was the closest anyone got to pulling all weekend.

decided to head up to the palace and old town first. which was nice. looking out across the main harbour, we noticed that there were quite a lot of karts zipping around. odd, this hadn’t been mentioned in any of the ‘what’s on in the ‘

friday night in the côte d’azur

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

after a brief rest and a game of “kings queens cocksuckers and douchbags” (don’t ask – or rather, ask guy) pete couldn’t wait for seafood any longer, so it was off to le grand bleu in cours saleya. i’ve never seen pete so quiet. after it was a bit of a crawl to find somewhere decent. started at thor while we thought about it. then someone suggested les distilleries idéales. which was just about to close… so we headed back to cours saleya where we had seen a bunch of not too shabby looking girlies. which was nice.

the morning after the first night

Friday, October 17th, 2008

not too bad actually. we hadn’t got too hooped last night so we were fairly fresh. so much so that we decided to go out.

pete had arranged to meet a friend around r. de la Liberté so off we went. eventually we found her 😉 and her two (possessed) kids. i’ve never seen so much destruction in such short time… but we managed breakfast. one thing we seemed quite good at was eating 🙂

as we were rather pleased with ourselves, we decided to go for a walk. along the promenade. all the way along. silly.

we were pretty much at the airport before i suggested that maybe we should turn around. something to do with my forehead burning… so we turned around so that i could burn my neck instead.

there were some nice sight’s on the way back to make up for it.

as we got to the old town, guy asked the inevitable: “what’s the time?”…. well, “beer o’clock” was really the only suitable answer