Tuesday, 28 March 2017

No particular place to go ....

We're having some great spring weather here - 15 degC today with bright sunshine. It would be rude not to go out and burn some petroleum. Essex country lanes explored - the snap below was taken on Bulphan Fen. Happy Days!!

Now you see why I don't take selfies!!

Monday, 6 March 2017

Guilty pleasure

The guilt comes from making the Tiger filthy dirty by riding all day today - the previous owner told me he'd never used it in the rain and kept it spotless. The pleasure comes from... riding all day with nowhere to go but round bends.

I recently bought a book called 'Bikers Britain' which lists over 70 good rides; I figured there must be some near to where I'm living down in darkest Essex; sure enough there was a 125 mile loop that went out to the coast and back, plus a second south to north road that I could use to get to the loop. 

125 mile loop

Connecting ride
 So I set off around 10am, the weather was bright and blustery, the roads wet but drying out. I took the back roads through Brentwood up to Chipping Ongar, plenty of traffic this close to the motorway but it gradually thinned-out going up to Great Dunmow; wide sweeping B roads with nothing but farmland and the occasional picturesque village to slow down for.

The first part of the ride proper started at Great Dunmow, up through Finchingfield towards Steeple Bumpstead (I just love that name!) and I have to say it was fabulous! Well-surfaced, if a bit greasy and damp, with plenty of bends and elevation changes to make it quite exciting. Finchingfield was one of those impossibly quaint villages, all thatched cottages and old churches beside village ponds. Just lovely even in the winter sunshine.

 I turned East at Steeple Bumpstead onto the Loop; again, just great twisty roads all the way to Laverham and beyond. I must own up to feeling a bit tired by the time I got to Manningtree - it was all a bit intense for the first ride of the year, so I had a little break then picked-up the bottom of the Loop to head back towards Finchingfield via Sudbury.

By the time I got back to Finchingfield I was knackered, so stopped in a little tea-shop for some refreshments; soup and a sandwich always goes down well, plus they had gluten-free vegan cakes so I made a bit of a pig of myself!
Bentley on the village green

 I then headed South through Great Dunmow then back the way I'd ridden up in the morning, all great roads that I shall need to ride again. Got home around 4pm that's around 5 hours actually riding. I have to report that my new Touratech comfort seat worked well, hardly a twinge from my rear end! What a great way to use a tank of petrol!

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Back on 2 wheels - thanks to late-night e-bay purchase

Amazingly, when we unloaded it from the delivery man's van it looked even better than I hoped. Nice and clean. Right, need to start planning some nice long rides ........

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The London Bike Show

 It's mid-Feb so time for me and the Kid to make the trek to the Excel centre in East London to look at all the new bikes. Lucky for me the Kid was with me; I nearly bought a bike, helmet, boots, jacket - well I'm determined to get back on two wheels this spring - but as he reminded me I've already got everything except the bike, and e-bay is sitting there just waiting for me to make a late-night bid :)

This year's show seemed better than ever, all the major manufacturers were there with large displays, plus some new small ones, custom corner, classic bikes, even a couple of auction houses with a large selection of 'interesting' bikes. Plus of course plenty of clothing and accessory stands. A nice day out. Here's some photos.

Nice pair of Nortons

Custom scrambler based on new SC950 - you'd need to have a really long right leg to ride it though!

Belonged to some racer - Rossi

Suzuki had a selection of Barry Sheene's machines on show

We wondered how you get this thing to go round corners

The Kid tries the new Thruxton R for size

Just to prove Triumph don't always get it right! A bobber with ape-hangers.

El D tries scrambler - felt like I was on a moped

Ducati just looked EVIL

Started making these again

I didn't know they'd started making these again

Nice custom

Hand-built instrument

Not sure if exhaust will melt rear light - looks cool though

This machine was based on a triumph and had incredible details - see also 2 pics above

Beautifully detailed - looked a bit weird though

Not sure if this Custom entry was built by Disney

Wonderful hand crafted Ally body panels

Friday, 3 February 2017

Saying farewell to Colombia

Before I left England I bought a snorkel mask fitted with prescription lenses, and a new Nikon camera that could be used underwater - just in case ;)

So after hanging around in Buga for a few days, I decided to head over to the Caribbean coast, maybe visit Cartagena - however, reading Lonely Planet book it mentioned that Colombia owned a couple of islands up near the coast with Nicaragua; San Andres and Providencia. Now Providencia was occupied by the British for a couple of hundred years, the famous old pirate Henry Morgan using it as his base for attacking Spanish galleons and his treasure was reputedly still buried somewhere on the island - ha, maybe that snorkel mask would come in useful after all!

 I flew to San Andres, which was an absolute shit-hole, could not wait to get away! Next day caught a little 20-seater 'plane across to Providencia, saw the coral reef from the plane window - that looks nice.

First glimpse of reef from 'plane window

The island is described as 'unspoilt' which means no hotels, just basic cabins on the beach for rent. I managed to get a room in a house by the beach with very friendly owners; due to the history of the island everyone speaks English and Spanish so it was really easy to get by. Unfortunately, seafood and beer are the staple diet of the islanders, so this teetotal vegan was in a bit of trouble, Luckily my hosts offered to cook for me every day - beans rice and fried plantains were great the first day, by day ten I was totally sick of them!!!!!!

Empty beaches - every day
 Due to the difficulty in getting there and the lack of hotels, there were very few tourists, basically I had the beach to myself apart from a few fishermen.
Typical house

Pretty church

 One day I hired a golf buggy to travel around the island (there's very few cars and none for hire), most people travel around by scooter, but the ones for rent looked like real death-traps, plus no-one wore crash helmets so I took the safe option. Took about an hour to circumnavigate the island on the single road, so I did that a couple of times just to use up the day!
Always wanted a 4-wheel drive pick-up, just thought it would be bigger!
 Another day I took a boat trip out to the protected marine area by the reef - stopped off at a little island where the tourists were being serenaded by a reggae band dressed in Hawaiin shirts - cool!
Morgans Head

 My new Nikon camera proved fairly worthless; it did take pictures underwater, but they all came out blue-green, couldn't seem to adjust the colours. Still, I did get to snorkel with turtles and some colorful fish, so the trip was worth it.
Swimming with turtle

 After a couple of days of relaxing on the beach I was pretty bored so started hiking, one day I walked up to the Peak, the highest point of the island. It was a pretty hot and sweaty 3 hour hike in the heat, but great views from the top.
View from the Peak

That perfect deserted beach again

 After 10 days on the island, I hate to admit it but being alone with no-one to talk to and only beans to eat - I got bored. I know, I know, Caribbean island, sunshine, no work to return to - I should have just stayed put. But a little voice in my head kept telling me I should be thinking of doing something more adventurous. And I have been sort of planning a bike trip when I get back home - so, even though I knew I'd regret it, I decided to cut the trip short, changed my ticket and flew back to Bogota then on via Paris to London. Arrived yesterday, it's bloody freezing cold, raining, grey and miserable. Had a great time in Colombia, 7 weeks of sunshine, adventure and a whole lot of beans! Here's to the next adventure!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Zona Cafetera

With my usual impeccable timing, by the time I got to the coffee growing area in the foothills of the Andes, the  harvest was finished so not much to see except lots of little green bushes. Oh well, the area is very picturesque, I did a two day hike up through the rolling hills up into the cloud forest and into a national park; stayed overnight in a little wood cabin surrounded by hummingbirds and some weird animal that I'd never seen before.
Up through rolling farmland

across Indiana Jones bridge

Into cloud forest

Butterflies loved my rucksack 

King of hummingbirds

Never seen a black & white one before

No idea what this is

Stayed a couple of days in Salento, a town that was having a (6 day) festival to celebrate coffee harvest; the WWII Willys jeep is very popular here as a workhorse for transporting sacks of coffee, they even had a a procession using kid-sized jeeps to celebrate their popularity.

Still in use

Kiddie-sized jeep

Moved on to Santa Rosa to visit the hot springs - stayed in a lovely old hotel reminiscent of a Swiss chalet up in the mountains; cascading waterfalls, a hot spring falling into a man-made pool where I spent a couple of days relaxing.

Thats steam not mist

Hot spring

Cold water fall

lovely old hotel interior

Drove on down towards Cali, the salsa capital of Colombia (that's the dance, not the hot sauce ;) - yeah, a young lady I attempted to dance with at the fiesta in Salento was not impressed with my 'Dad' dancing and suggested I go to Cali to take dance lessons. Stopped off at a town called Buga that has a famous Basilica where pilgrims come from all over Colombia to get healed of illness - not sure if it works, but there was a lovely old colonial hotel across the road with a swimming pool and jacuzzi where I scored an executive suite overlooking the pool for such a ridiculously cheap price that I just had to stay there!
Basilica with virgin in front

Spent many hours in this lovely swimming pool

So hectic here!
To be honest the countryside is so pretty and the people so friendly that I've got sort of bogged-down here, slowed right down to Colombian pace of life.