Tag Archive: twisty roads


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 🙂

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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!

My bike chose this moment to develop a slight problem, the choke stuck in the ‘Off’ position. Of course, rather than be annoyed, I was immediately thankful for small mercies as that is much better than it sticking in the ‘On’ position. I have dismantled the left hand switch and choke lever mechanism and that moves freely once disconnected, as does the choke mechanism underneath the fuel injectors, so it must be the cable. Unfortunately the cable is difficult to get to without taking the tank etcetera off, so as I can operate the mechanism by hand and starting is not a problem, I decided to leave it until a more convenient time.

Since before we left the UK Sarah has said that she wanted to have one expensive coffee in Monaco, so we set off from Asti towards the South of France.

There were loads more lovely twisty roads, which we enjoyed immensely, but after lunch I realised that either I was really off my game or that the handling on my bike had deteriorated. I eventually realised that my rubber mounted handlebars were moving slightly and quickly stopped to sort it out. We had taken the handlebar clamps off when working on the bikes before leaving England and one of the nuts had come loose. Unfortunately it was a size of spanner that I didn’t have with me. I spoke to a guy who was chopping wood outside his house nearby, he disappeared inside and lady luck was definitely with me when he came out a few moments later with the correct sized spanner. After a couple of minutes I had tightened the offending nut, checked the others, returned the borrowed spanner with thanks and we were on our way again.

What an improvement in the handling. It must have been gradually loosening for some time but so slowly that I didn’t notice until it got to a significant level. It just goes to show that having worked on something it is worth not just doing the double check once you have finished, but a triple check after riding for a while.

We had a fantastic ride, with some amazing scenery and mountain roads, and took the tunnel back into France. We didn’t see any border control and continued to the village of St. Dalmas de Tende where we stopped for a break. It was 5pm and we decided that this would be a good place to stay for the night.

We wanted to stretch our legs and so went for a walk through the woods along the banks of a nearby river. It was lovely with the sound of the water running over the rocks, and so picturesque.

A sign warned us to be careful about wild animals and snakes but neglected to mention the crowd of hungry mozzies who were queueing up to have a feast at restaurant Tony!

At least I kept them from biting Sarah.

The Sunday of the rally dawned bright and sunny once again. When I say sunny, of course, there’s something a little different about the sun down in the valley. As we were surrounded by such big pointy mountainy things, the actual sunshine didn’t reach the valley floor until a good 2 or 3 hours after sunrise, and left a similar chunk of time before sunset. An interesting phenomenon that meant that in the Winter, folk living in the valley receive only about 20 minutes of actual direct sunlight, where higher up the mountains they got to enjoy a lot more of it. Lower temperatures with the altitude make up the difference though, so it’s all swings and roundabouts.

Then there was... just us left!

It was Tony’s turn to be a tad hungover this time, so he slept on whilst I was up and chatting to some of our new friends. A lot of folk were up mega-early and had packed and left before I was up at around 9ish (I know, early for me!), but our fellow Brits, of which there were 8 in total, all took their time to pack up so that their tents had a chance to dry in the sun from around 10am. No rain, just a heavy dew, as the weather gods had once again been kind to us with a beautiful weekend.

We took our time and made sure that we were the last tent still standing, and old rally tradition of mine that we just happened to resurrect. First on and last off, seems fair! One of the Valais club members, Jean-Maurice, had offered to take us back to his house for lunch, and very patiently waited till we’d finally finished packing and were ready for the off at the crack of 1pm.

Still waiting...

He wanted to show us some of the roads which we had missed from the ride the day before, so took the scenic route up some amazing hairpins to Lac de Champex and back round again to his small village near Verbier. Absolutely beautiful, and an interesting challenge with fully loaded bikes, even with the hints on how best to handle the hairpins that he gave us beforehand.

Yes, the water was very cold!

After a wonderful 30-odd mile ride, we came to his house and were welcomed in by his family. Veronique, Jean-Maurice’s wife, who was originally from Mauritius, had prepared a delicious Mauritian dinner which we all dived into after whetting our appetites on the ride.

The view from Jean-Maurice's veranda!

After we had completely stuffed ourselves, Jean-Maurice pulled out some maps of Switzerland and Italy, and we spent a happy hour or two plotting possible routes to and around Mandello del Lario, and looking at the options for heading over to the Stelvio pass.

We eventually took our leave and headed off to get the tent back up, as we’d decided to stay in Valais for a few days. Jean-Maurice had offered to take us on another tour around the region, so we’d exchanged phone numbers and he promised to call us later. Another place with so much to see and so little time to see it in, but we wanted to fit in what we could, including a day at the thermal baths that sounded so relaxing! We had spotted a small campsite by the waterfall on our way to Collonges for the rally, so went back there and got ourselves set up in just enough time before the light left us.

OK, so the road gets a bit twisty up ahead...

Jean-Maurice called to say that the weather forecast was good for the next day and then expected to rain on and off for three days after, so suggested that we postpone the trip to the baths so we could take our tour on the good day. We arranged to meet him in Martigny at 1.30pm, and, as we were nicely full of the meal we’d been treated to earlier, we decided on an early night so that we could be up at a reasonable hour the next day. Well, reasonable for us, anyway!

Tony enjoying the view

Monday saw us up, breakfasted and on our way in plenty of time. We met up with Jean-Maurice and off we went on what turned into a 70+ mile trip. We picked up a couple of J-M’s friends en-route, who we just happened to bump into, 2-up on their Very Purple BMW K100RS. They decided to join in the fun, and away we went, up hill and down dale, or should I say, up mountain and down more mountain! I had the SatNav on so we could track the trip, although I have now found out, 8 days later, that it seems the SatNav only saves the last 7 days, so it’s gone. Gutted! It was a wonderful day, though – we saw all sorts of amazing roads, fantastic vistas, and strange and wonderful things such as the rippley pyramids, which are indeed a natural formation.

Yes, they are actually a natural formation, or that's what they tell the tourists, anyway!

We stopped for a coffee break at a hotel in Nax, a small town perched on the side of, yes, you guessed it, a mountain, and at the juncture of 3 valleys. The break was very welcome to me, as I’d discovered that needing to go to the loo most definitely affected my riding when dealing with the twisty turnies, so the relief was two-fold!

Many miles later we all parted company and we headed off back to our campsite, tired but happy. We decided that we’d done enough riding for one day, so walked over to the restaurant attached to the campsite, and perused the menu. Not cheap, but that was something we’d come to expect in Switzerland, so when we spotted Chateaubriand on the menu, we decided, sod it, we’re on honeymoon, let’s push the boat out! This caused much amazement to the owners of the restaurant, who said, “But the English usually eat cheese omelettes!”. After a little light bantering, it turned out that in 28 years of running the place, this was the first time that any Angleterres had ever ordered Chateaubriand! Good to know that we continue to surprise and entertain as we go.

Camping by the waterfall

The meal was absolutely excellent, and the local wine that they recommended to accompany it was also delicious. We retired to bed fully replete once again. Happy days indeed 🙂

The view from our bedroom window

We awoke refreshed just in time to see a bunch of paravane parachutists enjoying themselves, swooping and swirling about in the clear mountain air above Chamonix. One tasty continental breakfast later, we were packing the bikes under a blue sky in bright sunshine and getting ready to set off. We have been so lucky with the weather.

In no time at all we were enjoying throwing the V7’s around some more twisty roads with stunning views and before we knew it we were at the Swiss border. We slowed down at the customs post, ready to be checked out, but no one appeared so we just rode on through. We were on our bikes in Switzerland!

We stopped to refuel and had a pleasant surprise as the petrol was much cheaper than in France. The prices were displayed in both Swiss Francs and Euros but my mental arithmatic quickly revealed that it was cheaper in Swiss Francs than Euros. I paid on my card and we decided to keep our eyes open for a cash machine so that we could pick up some Swiss Francs. No problem, after all this is Switzerland, renowned for it’s banks.

Near Martigny

We had a great ride and got to the town of Martigny, which was not too far from the village of Collonges where the Valais Moto Guzzi Club were having their rally. We had been looking out for a cash point on any likely bank looking type building since crossing the borderbut had failed miserably. Sarah pulled up in a layby outside the tourist information office and I went into the bank next door to try and get some Swiss Francs. As I walked in I realised why we hadn’t been able to find any cash machines: they keep them all safely inside. A few moments later I walked out much relieved, with our Swiss Francs in my hand. We were soon on our way again, destination the Moto Guzzi Rally.

Riding down the road from Martigny to Collonges, we had to pull over to admire a cascading waterfall that spewed out from halfway down a mountain. I love waterfalls, actually being around water generally, and this one was pretty spectular. A couple of photos later we were on our way again, only to halt once again by the side of the river we crossed over once we left the main road. We’d noticed when riding through the alps that one of the streams we followed was an amazing bluey-grey colour, and this was a river that was exactly the same! We had no idea whether it was because of being glacier run off or what, and later discovered that it was none other than the Rhone, so at some point we’ll do a little internet research to find out the cause.