Category: The Fledding!


Our third ferry journey of the day loomed, 5.5 hours from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands to Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands.

We had plenty of time before departure, so took a detour which led us alongside a runway at one point – I’m sure any airplanes would appreciate the fact that it was a tad more level than the road!

Checking in was a little chaotic as Lerwick is not the largest of towns and the ferry port is in the town itself. There were some minor traffic management issues, but eventually we got through and onto the ferry.

There was the added complication of the staff needing to load all vehicles that were disembarking at Kirkwall in the correct place so that we wouldn’t be blocked by those continuing on to Aberdeen, just to add to the logistics. Hats off to these folk – they really know their business (which is reassuring when you think about it!).

Bikes secured, we grabbed the picnic we had bought before boarding, and headed for the upper decks. We munched on a few supplies on the rear deck while we watched the Shetland Islands gradually recede, whilst keeping a hopeful eye out for whales, but the only sea life we spotted was a seal in the harbour and a few birds.

We did at least espy our first Northern puffin, who kept nice and still so Tony could capture a photo.

Eventually we gave up on the whale watching and strolled through the main deck past shops and cafe, looking for a place to sit. Just before reaching the forward bar, who should we see but the Estonian barman from Saxa Vord, who had left for a visit home the day before us. He had a table to himself, so we ensconced ourselves, bought a round of drinks, and settled in for a chat.

We had an excellent view of Fair Isle as we went past, but still no whale or non-stationary puffin sightings…

After a lesson in just where Estonia is and a good old natter about life and travelling, we left our friend to continue on to Aberdeen and his long journey home, and headed back to the bikes for our arrival in Kirkwall.

We were due to dock at 11pm, so had pre-booked a night in a Bed & Breakfast. We didn’t relish the thought of trying to find somewhere to stay at that time of night, nor of setting up camp.

It was only a few miles to the B&B, and still light enough even at that time to make it easy to find our way. We parked up and found the door open and a nice note from the owner with our keys, as he had gone out for the evening. How lovely to be in a place where folk can still leave doors open without fearing for their safety.

We unloaded as quietly as we could as we didn’t want to wake our fellow guests at this late hour, and settled into our cosy room with a can of cider each to celebrate our arrival.

Welcome to Orkney! 🙂

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After the rally we headed even further north to Unst, the most northerly populated island in the British Isles. We were going to get used to lots of “Most Northerly” monikers over the next few days!

The rally was near Vidlin in the North-East of the main island, so the journey to Unst involved two ferry crossings with a ride along the length of Yell in between.

We’d booked to stay in the hostel at Saxa Vord for a few days, which seemed highly appropriate as it was the old Sergents’ Mess of the RAF base on the island.

Bathroom and kitchen facilities were shared as for most hostels, but this was sheer luxury for us after a few days camping. We took full advantage of the hot water supply with a good soak in the bath, utter bliss.

We self-catered for most of our stay, which enabled us to meet some of our fellow hostelers over the kitchen table. They were an interesting bunch, mostly enthusiastic bird watchers from an assortment of backgrounds and countries.

It was great to bump into one of our fellow rally goers at the most northerly Post Office whilst buying post cards.

Shopping for supplies gave us an insight into what it’s like to live somewhere this remote: “No bread till tomorrow, milk should be in Wednesday!”.

The Summer Solstice and our first Wedding Anniversary fell on the Tuesday after the rally.

We enjoyed a lovely ride around the island, and were pleased to find a couple of standing stones to the South of the island.

The second of these at Bordastubble had amazing acoustic properties, which started to echo my voice as I was walking towards it whilst chatting to Tony.

Muness Castle was well worth the visit, as were the remains of a Viking house at Underhoull, and the beach at Lund.

On our way back we dropped in to the most northerly pub at the Baltasound Hotel.

We enjoyed some banter with the locals and owner, who broke into the supplies of cider that he’d ordered in for an upcoming festival, just for us. We were so bowled over by how friendly everyone was that we booked to have dinner in the restaurant in a couple of days time.

Heading back to Saxa Vord, we had just enough time for a quick wash and spruce up before our celebratory dinner in the restaurant at the resort.

The lovely folk at Saxa Vord really spoilt us with a complimentary bottle of wine and our own special anniversary dessert, both completely unexpected and very gratefully received.

Later that night we enjoyed a spectacular sunset before the twilight of the simmer dim.

Over the next few days we quite spectacularly failed to get to the Hermaness National Nature Reserve, which was the daily destination of many of our twitcher co-habitees.

Luckily for us (if not for them) we didn’t miss out too much, as no puffins were sighted during the length of our stay.

We did manage to spot a good number of the islands bird species on our travels though, including being dive-bombed by the fearless Great Skuas, locally known as Bonxies, on our ride up to the Radar Station at the top of the hill.

We’d hoped to get on a boat trip out past the Muckle Flugga Lighthouse (if only because it’s such a great name), but sadly this was also not to be.

This was not wholly unexpected after a chat to a lovely chap in the bar on our first evening at Saxa Vord. He’d been coming to Unst for four years, and had only just managed to do the boat trip the day before we arrived, as that was the first time that the weather had been favourable.

I’m guessing that the people who run the trips have an alternative source of income!

No visit to Unst would be complete without a visit to the famous Unst Bus Shelter, whose story is told most eloquently on its official website here. The guest book is now sporting a rather spiffing Wed-n-Fled sticker.

We were sad to leave Unst, but the Orkney Islands were calling, well, that and our booking for the ferry.

We packed up, said our goodbyes to staff and guests at Saxa Vord, and headed back across Unst and Yell to Lerwick on the main island.

Joy of joys – after keeping our eyes peeled for all the time we’d been in Shetland we finally saw a sea otter, who I swear gave us a little wave when we spotted him in the harbour just as we rode off the Yell ferry!

He back-flipped away into the bay, and I bounced in my seat all the way to Lerwick, with the biggest grin on my face 🙂

So what is the simmer dim, anyway? And why would anyone name a bike rally after it?

Firstly it’s worth remembering just how far North the Shetland Islands are. If you’re anything like me you’ll have mostly seen them shown in a little box just off the cost of north of Scotland. This is about as true to life as the topological London Underground map, and in reality the islands are at a latitude not dissimilar to Bergen, Norway and mid Hudson Bay, Canada.

Whilst this means that they are not quite in the lands of the midnight sun, it does mean that at midsummer, it never gets completely dark. The sun dips below the horizon for around 5 hours, and the time in between is a surreal twilight known in Shetland as the “simmer dim”.

Bike rallies are often named after the events that inspire them, and as the rally is held over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice at the time of the simmer dim, I guess the name seemed self-evident.

After the gloomy start to the Thursday of the rally, the weather improved considerably, gifting us with a beautifully clear night. One of our new friends, Stenton, had nipped out to go to the loo at around 1am, then came back in and grabbed us both to drag us outside. “You’ve got to see this” he shouted, and pointed across the field of tents to the simply stunning sight of the full moon hovering over the horizon in the simmer dim sky.

The next day was rather amazingly warm and sunny, so we took advantage and went for exploratory ride with Stenton. The scenery was stunning, with a strange kind of bleak beauty. We didn’t cover many miles as we stopped so often to take in the views, along with a ramble through the lovely little Tangwick Haa Museum that we stumbled upon just off the road to Eshaness.

After enjoying the cliffs at Eshaness lighthouse, we rode back through the wonderfully named Mavis Grind to Brae, where we scoffed a lovely fish and chip supper at the UK’s most Northerly Chippy.

I had wondered when I packed for the trip north if I was being a little optimistic including the sun cream, but was pleasantly surprised when the sun decided to keep us company for the majority of our time on Shetland – thank you weather gods!

Other highlights of the rally included a visit by local Jarl Squads, who serenaded us with such surreal Country and Western delights as “Coward of the County”, and the rather more appropriate “Bring Me Sunshine” of Morecombe and Wise fame.

It was nice to see them again at the Lerwick Carnival on Saturday afternoon, though without the singing this time.

Back on the motorcycles for a mini-fled at last! In June we returned to Aberdeen for the 4th time in 4 months, this time on our trusty Moto Guzzi V7s. We had bought tickets for the Simmer Dim Rally on the Shetland Islands, which is held every year over the closest weekend to the Summer Solstice, our wedding anniversary.

We saw a bit of it from the road!The first days ride was lovely – both of us were happy to be back on the road again. We broke the journey at Stirling, staying at a hotel right next to the Wallace Monument.

Sadly our schedule didn’t allow us time to actually visit the monument as we had a 50th Birthday party to get to, so it will have to wait until another time. After a decent nights sleep we packed the bikes up and set off for our second days riding, just as it started to rain.

Gone was the warmth of the previous day – as the rain started to soak through our “waterproofs”, we found ourselves getting colder and colder. I was so very grateful for my heated grips, which I had used on a number of occasions in the past. Tony doesn’t feel the cold as much as I do, so had never used his before. Unfortunately as he tried to turn them on, the control knob broke off in his hand. Bugger.

We were staying with friends about 20 miles North of Aberdeen. Luckily as fellow bikers they anticipated the depth of cold we would be feeling, and greeted us with hot drinks, towels, and a roaring log burner, all of which were very welcome! Once we had defrosted a little we headed over to the 50th party for a few drinks before coming back for a fairly early night.

The following Wednesday we rode back to Aberdeen to catch the ferry to Shetland. It is an overnight crossing so we had treated ourselves to a cabin, as we knew it would be a good idea to stock up on our sleep before the rally.

The ferry port was flooded with motorcycles, all heading to the rally – the lady at the gate said there were only a handful of cars booked for the ferry – I should imagine they were feeling a tad outnumbered!

We settled into our cabins before heading for the bar. Tony commented on how surprisingly quiet it was, considering the ship was full of bikers…

Cue a strolling bunch of biker “minstrels”: a couple of guitar players accompanied by several kazoos. Unusual to say the least, especially as they were playing “Ring of Fire” which is not generally known as a biker favourite. A jolly night of singing ensued before we retired to our cabin for some sleep.

The next morning we awoke bright and early to leave the ferry on arrival in Lerwick, Shetland. The rally site was only about 20 miles from the ferry terminal, which meant that we were there, had the tent up, and were finishing our breakfast by 9.30am.

Now normally we arrive at rallies on Friday afternoon or evening, so once the tent is set up we start socializing over a pint or three, but 9.30 on the Thursday morning was a tad early even for us. The weather was dark and drizzly, so we retreated back to the tent with warming cups of tea and coffee.

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Wallace Monument photo credit: Son of Groucho via photopin cc

I had a big ah-ha moment on Friday when I realised that I was resisting blogging about coming home because I was so reluctant to come home. Then I ended up getting out of bed at 1.30am to write the darned thing… and then I left it another couple of days before I could bring myself to tackle my late night ramblings and make them a little more coherent… So here goes:

It was a bittersweet homecoming indeed. Whilst it was wonderful to see so many of our friends at the rally and to be greeted with a wealth of warmth and hugs, it was sad to know that we were nearing the premature end to this first chapter of our travels.

We were asked the first of many questions along the lines of, “Hey, it’s great to see you, but what are you doing back here? We thought you were going away for years!”.

This was something we were to get used to hearing a lot over the next few months.

The rally itself was great fun, but also not without its ups and downs. As so often happens in early October, the weather was surprisingly warm and sunny. It was also seasonably windy, very windy, which meant that the huge bonfire that was usually lit at around midnight on the Saturday could not be – the club running the rally made the sensible decision not to light it as the wind would have blown hot embers straight over the tents in the camping field, which would have been less than ideal.

It was a great shame as one of the joys of this rally in the past had been to enjoy a good old sing song around the campfire with friends. The upside was that we had a slightly earlier night than we would have had otherwise, so every windy cloud has a silver lining.

We were slow to pack up on the Sunday (that reluctance was manifesting itself again), and we ended up with the last tent still standing. The club were busy with clearing and cleaning the site, and a couple of them stopped by for a last natter.

Finally we dragged ourselves away and headed for home.

We had been away for 2 months, had ridden 3,354 miles through 5 countries and 2 principalities, enjoyed countless twisty turny roads, and more ups and downs than you can shake a stick at.

Our trip may have been temporarily delayed, but boy, what a ride so far!

Photo credit: wallyg via photopin cc

Despite the disappointment of having our trip curtailed, we had at least managed to time things so that we could go home via a bike rally, “Ye Gert Busturds”, run by the Moonrakers MCC in deepest darkest Wiltshire. For those of you that haven’t heard of bike rallies, they are nothing at all to do with racing. They are basically biker parties, held in pubs, halls and marquees across the land. Mostly people camp, and there is often live music, the imbibing of the odd alcoholic beverage, and usually a lot of laughing and silliness. Oh and hugs, lots of hugs – bikers might look like a scary bunch en masse, but really they’re mostly a bunch of teddy bears who hardly ever bite the heads off chickens any more 😉

We’d arrived in Portsmouth on a Thursday and the rally wasn’t starting until Friday, so we’d arranged to stay with a friend who lived 30 miles away. Lucky it wasn’t too far to ride, given how green around the gills I was feeling! Navigating by the skin of our teeth and the occasional aid of Google maps on my iPhone, as our SatNav (Mip) was still completely dead, we headed off down some lovely country lanes in search of somewhere to stop for a late brunch.

The road we had taken off the M27 was devoid of any habitation other than the odd farm dotted here and there, so eventually we took a single-lane road to the left, as a pub was signposted to be within hailing distance. What felt like 10 miles later but was probably a lot less we finally found the place, only to find they’d stopped serving food about 20 minutes before. D’oh! Luckily we had lots of directions from the locals, who came out in force to gawp at these two pasty looking strangers on loaded up motorbikes, and eventually we found the village they’d mentioned. We pulled into the car park of the White Horse Inn, attracted by the sign outside that said “Food available all day” – huzzah!

The pub was indeed serving food all day, and had a choice of a full Indian menu or a more traditional English pub grub menu. As someone who would happily eat curry for breakfast, lunch and tea Tony was in his element. I was still feeling rather delicate, so went for the more classic gammon and chips. It was just what the doctor ordered, and after washing the meal and a couple of paracetamol down with lashings of orange juice and lemonade, we went on our way feeling much refreshed.

That evening we had a good catch up with our friend whilst watching him sort through his belongings, as he was moving out the following weekend. I wimped out early and left the two boys talking late into the night, so was feeling considerably better the next day. Well fed and watered we left for the rally, after promising to return the following weekend to help with the move.

Back to Blighty

Our last day in Spain dawned fine and bright. We packed the bikes up for the ferry back to Portsmouth, and headed off to a local supermarket to buy supplies for the trip. After stocking up with as much wine as we could carry (not  a lot!) and some food to sustain us, we took our last Continental ride of the trip.

The ferry was easy to see as the dock is right in the middle of town, but getting to it was a little more tricky. Luckily it only took us two attempts to find the right entry, and then lo and behold, we were stopped and asked for our passports for the first time since leaving home! How ironic that it should be as we attempted to return. Checked through security, we were directed to join the rest of the motorcycle riders by the ferry offices, and proceeded to check each other’s bikes out whilst having a good old natter.

The weather Gods were with us once again, as sun was now hidden behind clouds but the rain held off until just as we started boarding, phew. After the nice chaps from Brittany Ferries had strapped the bikes down securely we grabbed our overnight bags and victuals, and headed off to find our cabin. We settled ourselves in before heading off for a look around the boat, and surprise surprise, ended up in the bar! It was only because we had such a lovely view through the big picture window of Santander receding behind us, honest guv. That and the fact that they sold draught Strongbow, so we enjoyed our first pints since leaving England 🙂

It’s a 24 hour crossing from Santander to Portsmouth, so we had to find our entertainment where we could. Having checked out the film schedule to find nothing that interested us, and munched our way through some supplies in the cabin, we returned to our seats-with-a-view in the piano bar.

Of all the bars in all the world...

There was a full-sized grand piano, complete with suited chap tickling the ivories to give us some old classics, which we thought terribly civilised. In keeping with the mood we switched to cocktails, which had nothing to do with the realisation that we could sup generous Long Island Iced Teas for only 10 pence more than a pint of cider. These things always seem such a good idea at the time…

Later there was a quiz, by which time we’d acquired an extra team member in the form of one of the other bikers we’d been chatting to at the ferry port. Now neither of us are usually great at quizzes, but somehow we managed to win this one – perhaps it was the extra help that did it!

Later that same night, I went to the bar to buy a round of drinks, only to be accosted by a couple of gentlemen who were propping the bar up and getting happily pickled. They insisted on buying me a drink, despite my protestations that my husband was waiting for me. After a little while he came down to see what was holding me up, and they insisted on buying one for him, too. You can see where this is going, can’t you…? Eventually the bar closed on the handful of us left still standing, and we staggered off back to our cabin, somewhat the worse for wear.

Luckily the rolling of our gait was cancelled out by the rolling of the ship. I think that’s what I remember, anyway.

Of course these things never seem quite like such a good idea the next day. I’m lucky enough not to get hangovers very often, but this one was a humdinger. Tony managed to get some breakfast down, but I completely wimped out and just did my best to re-hydrate a little. We struggled out of the cabin once the call came to vacate, and headed down to the bikes. Before we knew it, we’d docked and were off and away, back on to British soil.

Still very fuzzy around the edges, after two months on the Continent our mantra was, “Ride on the left, ride on the left!”.

The lazy way to ride home

To Santander

The following morning the weather looked marginally better, although I suspect that it was because we were looking at it with the benefit of a good nights sleep.

We checked the weather forecast which said that the bad weather would continue into the afternoon but would then clear up that evening, leaving fine weather the following day. A quick check of the map revealed that we were an easy 250 km ride from Santander, and with the ferry booking two days away, that meant that we didn’t have to ride through the storm. Easy choice, we could do it the following day in the dry (S: the fact that the bed was the most comfortable one we had slept in since leaving home may also have influenced our decision somewhat!). A quick word with our hosts via the wonders of Google Translate and we were booked in for an extra day.

We had a relaxing day, reading and, thanks to our hosts letting us use their internet connection, checking emails and blog writing.

By late afternoon it had stopped raining and the weather was beginning to brighten up, so we went for a walk to stretch our legs and explore the immediate area. The hostal was situated an a flat plain with the mountains in the background, giving us a great opportunity to see plenty of sky and cheer on the departing clouds.

Upon our return we were provided with a lovely meal and spent the evening with our hosts. I found it very frustrating not being able to speak more than a couple of words of Spanish and we resolved to ensure that we could at least speak enough to get by before we reach Mexico.

The following morning dawned dry and fairly sunny as promised, so we bade our farewells and set off towards Santander.

It was fine in the sun, but out of it the temperature dropped markedly and it was early afternoon before it warmed up appreciably.

The motorways were boring but quick, and the only difficulties that we had were with strong crosswinds on many of the bridges once we had reached the coast. That and Sarah’s iPod joining Mip in committing Hari-Kari, so no more music on the move for her.

Getting into Santander was easy and we quickly found a hotel to stop in close to the sea front. It was their last available room, but Sarah was still able to negotiate us a deal along with secure parking for the bikes.

Once we were unpacked and sorted we set off on foot to explore Santander, and what a pleasant surprise it was.

A lot of ferry ports can be industrial or run down but this was neither, with a beautiful beach, sea front and impressive houses and gardens.

One house was having work done on it, as evident by the scaffolding around it. There was a sheet on the outside of the scaffolding, obviously in an effort to keep the dust and mess in, but it had been printed with an image of a house just to make it look prettier. To me examples of extra effort like that show that people have a pride in their town or surroundings, which is good to see.

Along the promenade we saw lots of obviously fairly well off Spaniards taking the air and several very well executed sculptures. One that caught my attention was a stone bench looking out to sea, with a permanent stone resident at one end and plenty of space for people to sit an keep him company.

After a paddle in the sea, we walked the one and a half miles to the old town and it was worth every step. There is a large square surrounded by shops, bars and cafes which was pleasantly full of people walking in the sunshine or relaxing with a drink. We had been recommended a restaurant by the hotel, but it was closed, and remained resolutely so as the evening progressed.

We sat at a cafe/bar on the edge of the square and Sarah tapped into their Wifi with her phone, finding an unusual wine museum restaurant nearby, Bodega Cigalena, which had great reviews on TripAdvisor. It was only a couple of minutes walk, and what an interesting place!

The walls and ceilings were covered with racks and shelves, filled with full bottles of wine and other vintner paraphernalia. The barman was of the good old fashioned kind, jolly, knowledgeable and happy to recommend suitable wines to taste whilst we were waiting for the restaurant proper to open.

Needless to say we had a fantastic night with brilliant food and wine, helped in no small degree by our waiter who was superb.

Going back to the hotel we were in good spirits, but this was tinged with an element of sadness at the thought of us having to leave tomorrow and return to England. We both would have much rather been riding south to catch the ferry to Morocco!

We awoke to a dry day with the sun gamely trying to burn off the mist that was rolling down off the mountains. A quick check of the weather forecast revealed that we were due some rain today, no, having read the forecast properly, lets make that lots of rain, and strong winds moving across the country later on in the day…

When we set off my father hadn’t been very well. He had insisted that we still make this trip as, in his words, “It’s bad enough that I’m not well, but I don’t want it on my conscience that I prevented you from making a trip of a lifetime”. Something for which I am very grateful. Thanks Dad.

Because of this, we knew that at some point we would have to come back home to see him, hence our decision to have a shakedown trip through Europe first before going to the Americas. That way we could be close to home in case we were needed. I’d had a telephone call from the consultant, and it was apparent that that time needed to be soon.

We had booked a ferry from Santander to Portsmouth in three days time so, with the bad weather looming, we decided that we were going to make a push and try to get as far as possible before it set in. This gave us the added benefit of being able to ride the last of the twisty N260 in the dry, particularly as much of the road sported ‘Slippery When Wet’ signs, and the regular cliff faces and drops didn’t give us much room for error on some of the bends!

Well I’m glad to say that the N260 lived up to it’s reputation, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves yet again.

At one small town the road was temporarily blocked by a procession of Morris Men dancing with their sticks, followed by a band.

We parked up to enjoy the spectacle and have a quick look around before setting off again, finding an artisan baker who had an interesting sign, and an ancient AMC two stroke motorcycle fitted with the biggest crash bars in the world!

Further on, we couldn’t resist stopping for refreshment at a beautiful bar restaurant in the curiously named town of Gavin.

Next stop was for petrol, and whilst filling up, we noticed some interesting cars across the road in a restaurant car park. We went to take a look and discovered it was a French sports car club, obviously out for a Sunday drive in the last of the sunshine. After a nosy at the cars, we  thought to have a bite to eat at the restaurant, but the owner was a miserable sod who refused to serve us. I think that he just didn’t like bikers as he was happy to serve a family that had arrived after us in a car. This was the only time that anything like this had happened since we had left the UK and I was pretty angry, however we left quietly and denied him our business.

A few kilometers further on we came across the La Trobada restaurant which was very friendly and cheaper to boot, bonus!

As we rode on westwards the scenery changed quite dramatically, with the ground being very barren and appearing to be made up of large pale grey rocks and scree.

Imagining it without the patchy vegetation, it looked as though it could have been a moonscape, or even a stage set from a Science Fiction movie.

Nearby was a lake with very low water levels, and I think that there must have been some hot springs somewhere as we occasionally got wafts of a strong sulphurous smell, and neither of us had been eating eggs (S: the odd sign for thermal spas was a bit of a clue, as well!).

It was late afternoon when we joined a motorway, and as we rode along, the skies were getting darker and darker. We were doing the old “Shall we, shan’t we, stop and put our waterproofs on” thing, when the first few large, heavy rain drops hit us, so it was straight onto the hard shoulder. Unfortunately not quite quickly enough – by the time that we had waterproofed up, it was lashing it down and we were both rather damp. We should have stopped earlier, but then hindsight is always 20/20.

The winds were picking up but that wasn’t too bad, it was the sudden gusts that actually pushed the bikes across the road which made riding a bit fraught and tiring.

It was getting late and we decided that the best thing was to find somewhere to stop for the night. It was a good call as I’d had enough wind induced moments for the day, having had a particularly close call on a bridge when the wind nearly gusted me into the armco barrier. I don’t mind admitting that it scared me, which caused me to tense up, which of course just made things worse.

Without Mip to help us with the finer detail we took a wrong turn in the confusion of a multi-motorway junction just outside Pamplona, and ended up on a scenic tour of an industrial estate whilst trying to work out how to go back on ourselves. Eventually we made it back en route, and started looking for a promising place to pull off and find somewhere to stay for the night. Pamplona is the city famed for it’s annual spectacle of the Running of the Bulls, which meant there should be a lot of hotels around the town and it’s surrounds, but deciding on the best exit from the motorway to find them wasn’t proving to be the easiest of things, what with the rain, traffic and our general tiredness. Eventually we just picked an exit, left the motorway, and started looking for somewhere to stay, but with no luck, everywhere seemed to be closed.

In Iza on the outskirts of Pamplona, we saw a small sign for a hostal pointing up a side road. After a bit of a trek and a few wrong turns, we eventually came across a converted barn and farmhouse which looked lovely. The owner heard the bikes and came out. They had no guests, so we were welcome to stay and park our bikes in their garage. Excellent.

The Hostal Rural Huartearena was built into the hillside and their garage was basically most of the ground floor. It was massive and just the sort of thing that I dream of having one day, being immaculate, painted, heated and lit. I was feeling bad about us and the bikes dripping water all over the floor, but they weren’t bothered and let us hang up our gear to dry.

Our hosts were very friendly, the accomodation superb, and the home cooked evening meal wonderful, so when we retired to bed, we were both very happy, warm, dry bikers 🙂

We slept like logs at the Borda El Vilar Casa Rural and awoke refreshed to be greeted by another fantastic sunny day. Throwing open the windows revealed a wonderful view of the Pyrenees with the sun burning off the morning mist from the wooded slopes. Beautiful.

Suddenly there was movement outside the window and a cute kitten jumped onto our windowsill, purring and investigating everything, as cats are wont to do.

The previous night we had done our usual washing of socks, etc and, as they were still slightly damp, Sarah decided to lay them out on the window sill to dry in the morning sunshine.

In a flash the kitten forgot it’s search for Rich in Rabbit and snatched a sock off the window sill. It was only Sarah’s quick reactions in grabbing the other end of the rapidly disappearing sock that foiled it’s plan. There then ensued a right royal tug of war with neither contestant willing to give in easily. Luckily Sarah’s persistance won the day and I had to stop laughing long enough to remove the other sock before the kitten grabbed that one instead.

Our friend’s cat treacle used to have a penchant for catching and killing socks. She recently passed away at the ripe old age of 21 if my memory serves correctly, and it was great to see that her spirit was living on in this Spanish kitten.

After a delicious but simple breakfast of local produced ham and cheese, we re-loaded the bikes, were waved off by our friendly host and rejoined the N260 towards Sort.

Its fair to say that after the fun that I had had the previous day I was eagerly looking forward to riding my little V7 along the next section of the N260.

After a few kilometers we saw a beautiful valley with a stunning bright blue lake, that gave us a wonderful excuse to stop and stretch our legs.

A short distance further on there was a wild mushroom market with stalls selling all sorts of wierd and wonderful fungi. I love the taste of wild mushrooms and so we just had to stop and investigate. We had a coffee at a nearby cafe and learnt that the whole area was in the throes of a gastronimic festival to celebrate their local produce, these very mushrooms.

We set off again and, after refuelling with cheap petrol at only 1.13 Euros a litre :-), we threw ourselves into enjoying the ride.

The N260 is a fantastic biking road with everything from motorway quality wide tarmac to twisty mountain hairpins, with some truely amazing scenery.

I think that the pictures speak volumes.

After another tiring but exhilerating day, we stopped in the town of Fiscal and found a room at the Hostel Rio Ara, where the staff were very friendly and let us put our bikes into their secure garage free of charge.

Not the best or cleanest place that we have stayed at, but it was certainly the cheapest so far and totally adequate for us to get our heads down and have an early start in the morning. Well, early for us, anyway!