21. 10. 2006
My alarm rings at 6 in the morning. I immediately wake up and do what I used to do over the last years at this time of the day. I get up, put on my training things and go for a run.
It is still dark outside and I run into the sunrise. For the last time on my familiar roads, for the last time for a very long time.
Today is not like any other day, after running I wonít drive to work, I will start my motorbike and go for a journey around the world.
Heavily loaded the bike is parked in the garden, everything I possess and all my dreams are on it, ready to start.
I am 29 years old and I have prepared this journey for nearly 10 years. Many friends at my age are building their own houses and/or decide to have children. Some of them are working hard to do well in their jobs.†
For the next years, my job has two wheels and 50 horsepower. Having had 50 horses would have made me a rich man in former times.
That sounds like a good beginning and who knows, Iíll probably be rich at the end of my journey, rich of things beyond what money can buy.
I turn the ignition key and drive off.
The road leads me through my neighbourhood and everything is as usual. People drive their cars to the shopping center, trafficjams build up and I find it a little funny. Perhaps the supermarket around the corner has a special offer and that is the reason for the general hurry.
Next stop Mariazell, fantastic weather and crowds of people.I briefly go to the church and drive on.
Sun and warm weather accompanies me through the valley of the Enns into the Flachau. The mountains quietly lie in the evening sun and itís hard to imagine that these are the slopes where Hermann Mayer ďThe HerminatorĒ started his career.
My first night of a journey around the world is worth to remember, I sleep well, wake up and believe that Iím on a vacation. For the beginning thatís not bad.
I canít believe that Iím really doing this. So much had to done during the last days, so many bureaucratic obstacles had to be negotiated and now Iím here on my bike heading down to my first destination. Cape Town, South Africa.
Fortunately the weather remains as nice as yesterday and as soon as the morning mists clear I drive towards Grossglockner mountain.
I decide to take the Glockner mountainroad to Italy. In 10 days I would like to be in Spain.
Despite my heavy loading it smoothly goes up the mountain and I enjoy the warm sun. Actually unbelievable for itís the end of October and the pass is at 2500 meters!
Downhill, things go a little different than expected.
After some steep turns in a rather sporty driving fashion the frontbreak fails nearly totally. I fortunately notice that on a straight part and can stop the motorcycle with the foot brake.
But it comes even worse. As I sit on the bike to take a deep breath, my mother stops her car right behind me. She accompanies me over the Glockner to take some nice pictures of me.
As she gets out of the car to ask me why I have stopped, her car starts to roll. Obviously she didnít pull the handbrake strongly enough and her vehicle is now heading down the mountain. At the last possible moment I jump off my bike, throw it in the ditch, run behind her car and jump into it to stop it just before the slope.
As the car stands, there has already built up a traffic jam from both sides and I have to calm the people down. They donít know whatís going on, for a motorcycle lies in the ditch as a motorcyclist with a helmet on his head comes out of car that parks crosswise on a mountain road blocking the traffic. That doesnít happen every day.
After this unexpected surprise I need a break.
Then I drive down and change the brake pads in the next town. They are totally glassed out. Unbelievable, new brake pads with a life span of not even 500km. I never take sinter pads again. †
Soon Iím happy again. I am on a trip around the world, have done 450km and my brakes are unreliable.
Such a thing could have gone out bad, however it didnít do so and that gives hope.
Tomorrow I go to Italy.
In Lienz I have my break fluid checked. Fortunately it is ok! I expect some more mountains on my route and with a working brake, driving is more relaxed.
I drive over the border and my luck with the good weather seems to come to an end. It starts to rain heavily.
The next 400km become a test for my rain gear. However, everything goes well. I leave the motorway in Novi Liguri and try to find a hotel for the night.
I get a room for 30 Euros, Italy is not cheap. At least the hotel owner is so friendly and lets me park the bike in his own garage.
As I come to the sea the weather gets better again. In Ventimiglia I leave the motorway and drive nicely along the coast.
It is almost unreal when you arrive at the Cote Azur in late autumn on a sunny day. There are palm trees everywhere and people are more relaxed for with the end of the high season most tourists have already left.
I drive to Monaco and take a few nice pictures. Yep, this is probably the most upmarket place in the world and Signore Carrera meets Sir Aston Martin. Today I reach the delta of the Rhone. There I pitch my tent in an old port and stay overnight at the sea. In France the hotels are too expensive, but I find a good restaurant and enjoy grilled Octopus.
I travel down the southcoast and come through the Camarque. In Arles I stop at the famous Pont Van Gogh. A beautiful moment, to see the old timber bridge in the morning sun as the water mirrors the image of the surrounding landscape. Such a scenery must have inspired the old master painters.
After a quick cafe in Narbonne I head up to the Pyrennees. I will take the scenic way through the mountains instead of driving the rather unspectacular road along the coast.
I visit† the small town of Eus.
Eus lies on a hilltop and allegedly is one of the most beautiful cities of France. I walk up the mountain and visit the impressing fortifications and the church.
Europe has to offer so many beautiful places, normally we just donít get around enough.
In the morning I go for a run and enjoy the fresh air in the mountains.
I drive over a beautiful mountain road to the fortress of Mont Louis, the highest† located fortified city of France. Here the French army operates a school for commando forces and paratroopers within the walls of the old fortress.
The morning fog doesnít seem to lift at all and I drive through a haze that breaks the daylight strangely.††
Here it comes to the most dangerous moment of my journey so far. As I drive into a crossing with right of way,† suddenly a woman comes in from left and steers her car to my lane. I fully hit the brakes and just manage to stop the heavily oscillating motorbike at the side of the road..
The woman drives on as if nothing has happened.
I often imagined that the roads in Europe simply belong to the most dangerous in the world. Often, people donít take steering a vehicle serious enough and with their† thoughts they seem to be somewhere else.
Such things can end in disaster.† When I was in India with the bicycle I hardly encountered dangerous situations, not even in the notorious city traffic of Delhi. There the secret is communication. People use their horn and shout at each other so they notice whatís going on and see who is around.
After the fright I slowly drive around the next corner and must fully hit the brakes again, this time a farmer leads his cows over the road. A well-known thing from Korsika so it surprises me less.
Somewhere on the road to Lleida my engine suddenly stops. Each attempt to start again fails. Today misfortune seems to be my companion!
Suddenly I hear a motorbike coming up. An Englishman parks his bike behind me† and asks whether he can help.
As he looks at my bike he sees that my fuel filter is empty, so for some reason fuel doesnít get out of the tank.
After some closer examination we find the reason of the problem, the breathing-hose† on the tank is bent. If no air gets into the tank no fuel will come out.
I thank Simon for his assistance and we drive on. He tells me that he has got 30 Cents in the bag and thatís all he possesses.
One month ago he left England and now he plays his guitar at the main squares of the cities to earn some money for gasoline and food.
This time I help him out with a tank filling and then continue my journey alone again.
I find a nice camp site in Tarragona and sleep nicely, it has been a hard day. Beauty or death, both can wait around the next corner! My lesson for today.
On it goes through the country of the Camino di Santiago and I feel like a pilgrim.
I drive to Valencia and turn from there onto the road to Albacete.
I come through a beautiful and then hillier landscape. This area is famous for the cultivation of olive.
For me this is a paradies, everywhere I can buy and taste olive oil.†
As it gets dark I decide to spend the night in the middle of an olive plantation. The night sky is beautiful and I see a million stars.
The weather is great and I drive over endless highways heading south.
The landscape becomes kind of unreal for Central Europe, over hundreds of kilometers I see nothing else than olive trees.
Itís a fantastic day on great roads. Iím only surrounded by the endless width of the Sierra de Cazorla.
The warm sun is burning through the Goretex jacket and freedom is always just around the next corner. There is nothing greater than riding a motorbike and seeing the world at the same time.
Then the landscape becomes rocky and meager, I drive through enormous Canyons and believe Iím somewhere in Death Valley. Unbelievable what Spain has to offer.
I spend the night on a nice camp site in the middle of the Sierra Nevada.
After I spent the night on this beautiful camp site I decide to go for a morning run in the mountains.
The air is totally clear and it is great to explore the pine forests with the camera.
Suddenly I notice that I have 2 companions. The two dogs from the camp site have decided to come with me and join me for a mountain run.
Today I will cross the Sierra Nevada with the motorcycle. That is not completely simple, because there is only one possible road connection.
As I look for the right access road I stop in a small mountain village and buy a sandwich in a restaurant. The local men stand at the the bar and drink beer. One of them asks me how I like Spain and as I answer a lot, he says senoritas and starts to dance and laugh. I like it when the people are merry!
The small mountain road leads from La Calahorra to Laujar de Andrax and then over to Berja on the other side.
You must really take it easy on that road for itís narrow and some of the locals in their white cabin trucks think they are Alonso and race on a Formula 1 circuit.
On the other side of the Sierra Nevada the deep south receives me with nice weather and everything is easy going!
I drive along the coast to the small town of La Herradura.
I was here 6 years ago and I remember it as yesterday. The campsite is still the same and I even believe to recognize the girl at the rezeption
I spend the evening in the same nice restaurant where I used to go and they still have their unforgetable Octopus with Pommes.
Spain is really a beautiful country, particularly if one deviates from the main stream of the tourists.
Monday, 30 October 2006
Today I take it easy, that is the great thing about travelling without time schedule. I run for nearly two hours und enjoy the warm morning sun on the beach road.
I see hardly any people, also here the season goes towards the end.
In late autumn the tachometer stands on full power in Europe, the vacations are over† and people must earn money for Christmas. Finally the economy must live of something, this rule applies to Spain exactly the same.
After a good breakfast I take my bike and ride to the mountains.
There is a scenic road which leads from Almunecar to Granada.
I only know this mountain route from reports and it should be really impressing. From the coast it winds itself over hundreds of curves up into the mountains.
On the way to Almunecar I stop at a small restaurant and eat a paella. It tastes excellent.
As I am finished, suddenly the neighbour comes up to me from over the road and brings me a grilled steak. He saw my motorbike and says to me that a man on the bike must eat.
That is truely unbelievable. I go to a restaurant, eat a meal and someone brings me food as a gift. Where else does that happen.
The following hours on the bike are spectacular. The road is beautiful and driving just great.
Tomorrow I will reach Gibraltar, the end of Europe! From there I will take the ferry to Tanger/Marocco. What lies ahead then is Africa, heading down from the north to the south. To Cape Town/South Africa!