The diaries - 1   


10 August



Did I say things had gone too easily? Never tell a God your plans as Mick is fond of saying.
We had gone to Wales to test out the equipment and the bikes fully loaded when a problem arose which necessitated an urgent trip to the doctors.
With three weeks before departure day I was doing the round of the Consultants, hospital tests and scans, trying to find the cause of a severe liver dysfunction.
To cut a long and fraught story to the bone, it appears that seven years of taking anti-inflammatory tablets had caused my liver to go into shutdown.

Three days before we left I got the all clear after a rigorous de-cleansing routine that would try the patience of a saint. Mick came out of it quite well!

Not the ideal way to begin a long trip – but what a relief to be on that ferry from Hull, I just hope that that was all the drama we see over the next few months!



What a relief when Sue ‘phoned and said that all was clear.  We’d both resigned ourselves to the fact that the trip was probably off, however hope was forever eternal in the human breast and so we continued to work on the ‘bikes and get them ready …. In case!  When the good news came however it was still all hands to the deck, and panic stations!
After a tremendous ‘send off’ from Rainbow, and an escort to the ferry at Hull, in the rain, (thanks Fran, Tony and Andy) we were sailing away for the start of our Long Way Home II trip.   India here we come.Sunday we rode across Belgium and Germany to our favourite haunt, Hotel Forsthaus at Riedener Muhlen, where good friend Arnold and his son Bob were waiting.   Monday to Wunderlich for photographs.  My F800GS has been equipped with all their available goodies for the trip, in return for some ‘location’ photographs showing them, for their 2010 catalogue!  I hope we can supply.
We rode south to the Black Forest and camped at Schapbach, I had last camped here in the early 1980’s with son Martyn, but how the camp site had grown since then. Next came Bad Ragaz in Switzerland, a rather nice campsite.  We had kept well north of the coastal road round the Bodensee, with its HGV’s and tourist traffic… we had none of this but open roads, bright sunshine and magnificent scenery. I type to this point in the saga, in the holiday campsite at Lecco, Italy, on the shores of Lake Como, next to the main railway line. It’s like Butlins on a bad day, but hey, the Julia Pass we encountered on our way here is one of the most magnificent of all passes.  Not as high as some, but the twists and turns seemed never ending, and even for Sue on the laden TTR 250 cc Yamaha it was pure joy…  she’s still grinning now!
We don’t have any maps and we’re quickly learning to take one day at a time.  Pulling off a motorway we had got onto by mistake and in to a garage, we weren’t even sure what country we were in.  Sue asked a guy if we were in Austria or Switzerland.  His questioning look as he replied that we were in fact in Switzerland said it all.  Asking where we were heading Sue replied “India” He walked off ‘tut tutting’ as he shook his head in total disbelief.

Friday August 7th and I send Leigh at Rainbow a “Happy Birthday” text… I tell him all is well.   Mmmmm mistake, ten minutes later and I’m checking the bikes over after morning coffee and find my steering head bearings well shot.  They had been replaced about ten thousand miles previously and were OK when we set off.  A thousand miles later and they were shot again!  Eighteen miles later and we’re at the BMW agents Tag Moto at Bergamo.  They look at the bike, nod their collective heads and take the bike in to the service area.  Twenty minutes later I see my GS zoom out and round the block and back in again.  All is OK, we’ve adjusted the steering head bearings to the correct torque and all is OK.  Your problem is the weight you are carrying.”  Call me a sceptic if you want, but I know my way round bikes, and adjusting steering head bearings does not get rid of notches and grooves in them.  Anyway, the weight I am carrying is much less than if I had a pillion on.  A quick check and the notchiness is still there, I show the collective eyes and the boss man shrugs his shoulders.  “It will not kill you” he says, “Just ride and it will be OK”   Are you listening BMW?  “So they’ll see me to the Himalayas and back will they?  More collective shrugs!

We ride to the agent in Milan, a welcoming bunch of guys indeed.  They recognised the problem and sorted out for the bearings to be done by the dealer at Bari, where we were heading, to catch the ferry for Greece. The bearings would be sent there and waiting.  

This was Friday so we have two days to get to Bari and find somewhere to stay, to be at the dealers for 9am Monday morning. We ride south, long motorway miles.  We cut off the motorway late afternoon to find a campsite on the Adriatic coast.  We should have known better, we were here a few years ago and it’s bloody crap.  No one will ever impress me by saying they go to the Italian Riviera for their holidays, I’ll just feel sorry for them.  We eventually find a camp site at Altidonna, a very small pitch, we put the tent up and go find a drink and something to eat.  Because the site is so busy, and all hemmed in, you can’t normally just climb outside for a pee in the night, now can ya?  So early morning Sue pees into a plastic container to then empty outside, well that was the theory, but the container had a crack in it and so Sue basically has a pee in the tent. If the peeing didn’t wake the neighbours our laughing and antics certainly did.

Hotel Europa at Bari had a warm welcome waiting. Eighty Euros per night with safe parking for the bikes, so we book in for two nights while we get the head bearings sorted.  Whilst Bari is a busy port, the old town sea front is very beautiful.  At ten pm there are hundreds of people out walking the evening air, many hand in hand, the restaurants and pavement café’s are full and very busy.

Baldassarre Moto, BMW dealer in Bari do the head bearings.  Much delay, no one speaks English and they want to do the recalls regarding the fuel level sensor and front axle but they don’t have the parts and don’t start the head bearings until late in the afternoon.  Many cartoon drawings later they accept that these update have been done and will now start the job the bike went in for.  Two hours and the head bearings are done.  The bike now goes where I steer it and doesn’t have a mind of its own.

During the day we had walked to the ferry port to enquire about getting across to Greece.  Why are all Italians sultry, have no humour, no eye contact, the girl at the desk is so matter of fact and so … well it was quite apparent that quite simply she would rather not have been there.  We book for the fast ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece, for the 8pm sailing the next day (Tuesday 11th August) A ten hour crossing with no cabin… we sleep on deck and under the stars, cruising the Adriatic at its best?   We’ll see.


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