Days in the mud

I have just come back from 2 days in the mud. Not really, day 1 was quite dry and that’s great for learning the basics. When I started planning this

Nacho on G650GS
Dry, smug and ready to ride

trip, one of the things I wanted to do was to get some off-road training. Having a trail bike and not taking it off-road from time to time is like having a 4WD in the city, and I hate those.

After much hesitation (it’s quite pricey), I enrolled for BMW’s Off-road Skills Level 1. No, I don’t own a BMW, we all know I ride a Yamaha Ténéré. No, it doesn’t matter. Yamaha doesn’t offer this service, neither does BMW France FWIW so I had to enroll in the UK course and that’s good news in a way because the school is run by Simon Pavey, a guy who got to the finish line of the Dakar rally at least 6 times, one of them while riding in Charley Boorman’s team for the Race to Dakar TV documentary.

I had no idea what to expect of the course and it exceeded my expectations. Not only I got to trial ride the whole BMW range of bikes, albeit some for a very short period but I truly enjoyed myself while learning. Day 1 was quite dry and it gave us time to soften up a bit. Off road riding is done while standing on the bike and although I had stood on the pegs before, I would always sit back to turn and do stuff. The idea of turning, or switching gears, or stalling the bike while standing on the pegs wasn’t something I was looking forward to. During day 1, we learnt some basic skills that would become very useful on day 2. We did some trail riding too.

Now, day 2 was something else, day 1 had started sunny-ish and had been mostly dry. Day 2 was typical Welsh. Rain, rain and more rain. As a result the same trails we had ridden the day before had become big muddy pools. Lots of fun. Really, we had fun, I didn’t think I would but I did. I fell off my bike only 3 times during the day (stalled), broke the brake lever (only need to put 2 fingers on it anyway), got my buttocks in the mud and my orange jacket is now brown and orange (I hope it will go back to orange again someday). I spent the whole day with my trousers completely drenched but it was a great day. Seriously, who comes to ride in Wales without his waterproof pants? Me, of course!

Me with my feet in the water and my soaked pants on the G650GS
A lot wetter but still no butt in the mud

In the end it was all good fun, didn’t break anything (although I twisted my ankle on the first day) and had a great time with cool people. The crowd that this course attracts is a pretty nice bunch, mostly bikers wanting to expand their skills and adventurers preparing for their trips. I had a great time.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Brussels again in order to collect my passport at the Kyrgyz consulate and then it’s back to Paris one last time.

London, England, United Kingdom

Kyrgyz Brussels

Here I am, in a city I don’t know and I have looked at Google maps for directions and even saved a few screen caps of what I should do to get where I want to be. And yet, the urge to improvise is strong and I take the bus in the opposite direction. That’s me, I do the opposite of what clear instructions tell me. Good one.

But what am I doing in Brussels? Well, this is part of the pre-trip paperwork and training. I decided to put all together in one trip to save time and lose money. One of the goals was intended, the other one was achieved by simply missing my train this morning and having to buy a new last-minute ticket or otherwise the whole planning would fall apart.

Today is the day I apply for my Kyrgyz visa, the last one before the Chinese visa for which I don’t yet have the necessary papers. So I arrived to Brussels quite early after arriving from Mexico yesterday and sleeping only 2 hours last night, thank you jet lag. Once I had properly fed my improvisation demon, I took the right bus and got to the consulate quite easily. Only to get sent to the bank where I was of course sent back to the consulate without achieving anything else than profuse sweating. No swearing though.

When I got back to the consulate, the Sikh that was on the same bus as me told me that I should pay at the post office but he didn’t know where there was one. Some other guy who was sitting there waiting just paid the guy behind the counter. And so did I.

Now I’m in London writing this post, with no passport and no receipt. I just hope that next Monday they will remember my face and give me back my passport…

London, England, United Kingdom

Happy Towel Day!

Originally, today was the day I would set off: Towel Day 2012. The trend of friends getting married and paperwork getting in my way have delayed me a bit but I still want to mark this day as an important one. After all, my voyage has already started. On foot and plane for the moment but it has.

Ah! Y feliz dia de la Patria!

Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico

The joy of traveling off-season

If there is a destination that has holiday weather all-year round, you should always travel off-season. You will enjoy the same place, in the same conditions but for a much lower price, at a much easier pace and the crowds will not be there to wake the agoraphobic in you.

Another good reason is that you can drop in unannounced at the Lonely Planet’s “our pick” hostel and still find a bed. This is what we did today and it was as easy as arriving home. We are now in Puerto Escondido in the state of Oaxaca, México. A beautiful place. It is still a bit crowded with local tourists despite this not being the season because  local tourists come here any weekend if the weather’s good but you can still get around without feeling like it’s too crowded.

Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

Meetings and shopping

London baby!

That’s where I’ve been these last few days and not only did I accomplish the main goal of the trip, which was spending some time with my good friend Germán who has just moved there but I also managed to finally meet two of the guys that will be traveling with me through China: Neil and Chris. We meet on Brick Lane, had some drinks and dined Indian food. I wouldn’t have London any other way. Good news, they are nice guys. I wasn’t expecting any less since Neil’s the one who’s been working the hardest for the ride through China.

Also, purchases were made. By me. I now have heated over-grips and I will soon have a Scottoiler. Yay! No more oiling the chain! I am not fond at all of repetitive tasks with deadlines in general and oiling the chain is one of them. Hurray for that! Wait! I still have to install it, I hope I’ll be able to do it without breaking anything on the bike this time 🙂

Now I’m in Amsterdam. On my way to a first little trip before the trip. A short trip but with many friends. The complete opposite of the long trip. I’ll write more about this trip later, now I have to board my plane!

Hoofddorp, Noord-Holland, The Netherlands

Liberating liters

Ever since I’ve started planning this trip, the most used unit of measure has not been, as one could expect, the kilometer. It’s been the liter.

At first it was all about the gas tank on the bike. The more liters the better, it would mean more autonomy for the bike. More kilometers until I have to push it to the next gas station. So that’s all good.

Then came the luggage choices. Here the liters appear again. Pannier volume here, tankbag size there. And the top case. I’m up to 155 liters of luggage. A tough decision because the more you carry, the heavier the bike and also more gas consumption. But I opted for the biggest panniers thinking that at some point I may become reasonable and throw most of the contents away. I’m not saying it has happened, but it might.

And then came the trash bags. Yes, trash bags. When you are leaving for one year, you want to make sure that you leave as little as possible behind because everything you want to keep goes into storage, paid storage. If you keep this book, you may not be able to afford that meal at the end of your trip that you’ve been longing for kilometers and kilometers. So, with that magic stop at the 5 & Diner in Tulsa, OK along Route 66 in mind I set off on the impossible task of emptying my apartment of all non-essencial. So far, with the help of my wonderful friend Alice, I’ve given 350 liters of clothes and 50 liters of shoes to charity, I’ve thrown away 300 liters of paper and other useless stuff and have prepared 60 more liters of various bags and old backpacks to give to charity tomorrow. And it’s quite liberating.

Liters in the tank are freedom to roam for a longer time, liters in the luggage mean I can carry more stuff. But the liters and liters of things I’m getting rid of are liberating. They are as important at the moment as the books that are in the boxes that you can see in the picture. Those I’m keeping!

Paris, Île-de-France, France

Let the games begin!

I imagine Roman emperors and consuls saying that before a circus full of citizens and it almost makes me shiver. This has nothing to do with circus but still, something begins.

Two days ago was my last day of work in a long time. My sabbatical + long holiday started on a Wednesday. On a Wednesday! Nothing better. I’ve believed for some time that endeavors started on a Monday are more likely to fail than others. Or at least not at all more likely to succeed than the ones started on any other day. I stopped smoking on a Wednesday and it’s been more than three years. The end of the working week starts on a Wednesday and that can only be a good thing.

So, on a Wednesday night I left the office to start my big adventure. This is only the first post. I’m going around the world on my bike and I’m taking the camera with me so expect a lot of pics!

Peace out!

Paris, Île-de-France, France