FRANCE AND ENGLAND 2005 (Jenny’s diary)

June 18: Leaving party / Pot-luck lunch and/or afternoon tea. Unfortunately most members of our motorcycle club couldn’t come, as they were away at a motorcycle rally. There were also some other friends who had prior engagements and couldn’t make it. However quite a few friends did manage to get there and we were very glad so many could make it. However it was very sad to have to say goodbye to so many good friends, including some very good friends.

June 19: Cleanup day and planned day of departure. The cleanup took a lot longer than expected probably due to more friends calling in to say goodbye: Astrid; Francoise and others. We had planned to leave at 2 pm as some fellow motorcyclists had expressed a wish to ride with us for our departure. However no-one turned up which was just as well as we weren’t quite ready by then. As it happens, the heavens opened just as we were ready to leave and it bucketed down the whole evening so we decided to wait until the next day.

June 20: We finally got away and rode along Route Napoleon. The bikes seemed to be handling strangely with the heavy loads. A little Gorges d'Embleze extra air in the tyres helped somewhat. We sheltered under a railway bridge, while another deluge came down during a thunderstorm. A little further along we were waved down by oncoming traffic: a muddy stream crossed the main highway and we had to ride through it. Afterwards, our bikes looked like we had already completed our journey... On to Sisteron, Die, then a little detour via the beautiful “Gorges d’Ombleze” where Pete had the first accident of the trip toppling his motorbike over while getting back onto it.

The rubber side is down again Luckily no damage to either him or the motorbike. We arrived in Alixan at the house of our friends, Luc and Josephine, somewhat later than planned. They were cool, calm, and collected as always and Luc cooked us up some delicious “Baba Jean’s” - something like little deep-fried samosas filled with cheese, garlic and spinach. We ate them wrapped in lettuce leaves – absolutely delicious! Wonderful hospitality !!!

June 21: We farewelled our first hosts, and then headed off for the Amida Buddhist retreat centre in the middle of France. We took some quite minor roads and underestimated the distance, so ended up arriving there quite late as well !!! It was a very hot and long day but enjoyable.

June 22: Breakfast with Modgala and guests Derek and a young man from Japan whose name escapes me. We would have loved to stay longer but had to push on to get to the Horizons Unlimited rally in England. It was another hot day and quite a hard day’s riding trying to do some distance on the motorway. We made it to Boulogne near Calais but had just missed the 9pm sailing so booked into the youth hostel for the night – nice hostel.

June 23: Caught the speed ferry to England – quite impressive. Headed North trying to bypass London but unfortunately took a wrong turn and ended up in a horrendous traffic jam in south London. Pete’s bike objected and kept stalling on him but the problem turned out to be lack of petrol !!!. Finally got out of that mess and rode up through England on the motorways. Called in for a break at the Buddhist House – the Amida Trust centre in Narborough near Leicester. We were kindly offered a coffee and ended up staying for dinner too. Pete met the Venerable Anomadharshi and Willemein for the first time, and we were both introduced to guests Val and Mike. Then we headed off to find the site of the Horizons Unlimited rally arriving at about 9pm. We set up our tent and then sat around a small bonfire chatting into the wee small hours. We had no supplies and were very kindly fed and watered by one of the organisers – Danny.

June 24: Dawned fine but the weather packed it in by 10.30am. Rain, thunder and lightening... good old England. Luckily, the tent had proved itself to be watertight so far. I chickened out of the rideout as we were told it would be slippery if wet, and I didn’t fancy damaging either myself or my motorbike so early in the trip. Pete courageously went anyway and had a good time, and he was the only one other than the rideout leader who didn’t fall off!!! I spent the day helping out with new arrivals and chatting to people.

June 25 to 26: Intermittent rain but no problem... lots of very interesting talks to listen to: Ted Simon of Jupiter’s travels; Tiffany Coates; Grant and Susan Johnson; Sam Manicom, etc. We were invited again for dinner by the wonderfully generous Danny. BBQ trout on the menu and English beer. Sat around the campfire again chatting with Danny, Andy from Scotland, Sheonagh and Pat from England, and a kiwi chap whom we had previously met briefly in France. The next day more talks and a tyre changing demo. Also met John from NZ who is currently living in London.

June 27: Lazy day. Chatted to people leaving and eventually packed up and headed back to the Buddhist House again.

June 28 to 30: Stayed at the Buddhist House, chatted, checked email, and Pete helped one of the guests, Vicki, to fix her van. We also bought a new tyre for my bike with Vicki’s help – she kindly drove me into Leicester to pick it up. I fitted it under Pete’s guidance, with some difficulty.... it was quite a toughie.

Mankinholes July 1: Said farewell to Anomadharshi, Willemein, Vicki and Mike, then rode up through the Peak District to Mankinholes Youth hostel.

Very beautiful little villages and scenery.

July 2: Rode up through the Yorkshire Dales – again very beautiful scenery. Small and often very narrow country roads lined with hedges, foxgloves, and dry-stone walls. We eventually found a campsite on a farm near Middleton-in-Teesdale.

July 3: Toured around the Lakes District after a leisurely English breakfast in a cafe in Middleton. First stop Grassmere for some of the undescribably delicious Grassmere gingerbread. Well worth the stop. Munched on gingerbread beside Wordsworth’s grave nearby, and then wandered around the village before heading for Hardknott pass and environs. Spectacular scenery especially around Grassmere and Elterwater. Twisty mountain passes with one lane roads, gradients of up to 30% (1: 3), hairpin bends, sheep on the road, and oncoming traffic, ... all this made for very interesting riding. (The first tar road ever where I had to ride up and down in first gear! P.) We finally got back to our campsite frozen solid and decided to continue down the road to the local pub to warm up. We were very happy to find that they had a fire going which we didn’t expect in mid-summer. And I think we were rather lucky to still get something to eat so late... homemade steak pies with chips and mushy peas. How English is that? All this washed down with a pint of Guinness and followed by a game of pool. Nice evening and a friendly host, George, the owner of the Strathmore pub.

July 4: Packed up in intermittent drizzle and the rain started just as we rode off. It continued all the way to the Newcastle ferry terminal just to give us a genuine English farewell. Not a pleasant ride but we made it without mishap. Boarded the ferry along with about 60 other motorcyclists mostly from Norway. Perhaps they were also escaping the English weather? The crossing was initially very rough particularly during the copious buffet dinner. Everyone was staggering around with their plates of food as if blind drunk, and some were just as green. The seas calmed down shortly after the dinner though thankfully, and the rest of the trip was fine. We can highly recommend the ferry company DFDS for professional service, good food, comfy cabins, and very reasonable prices. (The standard rate was about 150GBP for one bike with rider, incl. cabin, but we got a special for 36 GBP! Made for some more green faces when we told other bikers... P.)