Lunch in Luxembourg. Breakfast in Belgium.

Suzie has been so reliable and comfortable on this trip. We move on to Luxembourg city and then Namur in Belgium.

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Suzie my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 takes another few countries in her stride.

It was time to move on from my cottage in the woods in Neunkirchen, Germany, so I packed my gear on my V-Strom and prepared to head into Luxembourg. I haven’t said much about my Suzuki V-Strom Adventure 1000 in my posts about this European trip. Why would I unless I was encountering problems? Apart from refilling the Scott oiler occasionally and a quick check over before another days riding, there was nothing to do but ride. This bike does what it’s supposed to do without a fuss. It’s a big comfortable bike that let’s you eat up the miles with ease. A fill of fuel for a little over twenty euros keeps you going for most days, about 400 kilometres. I found that was enough except for one or two days where I covered extra ground for a particular purpose. Of course if you drive it like you are on a race track you will have to pull in to fill more often. It’s well able for poor roads or even occasionally no roads, as I found when crossing into Hungary, where pools of water and rocky unpaved roads were the surprise order of the day. If you want to tackle canyons, rivers and mud pits, my advice is to buy a scrambler. Or a horse.  If you want the kitchen sink get a 113 cubic inch / 1800cc behemoth American tourer. Or a camper van. For most of what you’ll find on a regular motorcycle tour in Europe this bike is perfect and it doesn’t miss a beat. If I had to criticise it I would say that having come from a silky smooth inline four, I found that the throttle control is a bit “lumpy” at low speed but that’s not unusual for a two cylinder bike.  It’s an excellent all-round bike and I’m delighted to own it and I suspect I will get many kilometres or miles of reliable enjoyment with it.

Luxembourg is both a small country and very wealthy, busy and cosmopolitan city. A serious amount of damage could be done by a shopaholic with a flexible credit card in this city of wide DSC06837 (3)pedestrianised shopping streets. Every top designer brand I have heard of has an outlet close to the centre, and the city has a real air of wealth and history about it that I’m not going to dwell on. I parked Suzie in the shade  with a few companions, as you can see in the featured image, and went to explore. I had lunch under a shady umbrella watching the shoppers with their bags from top dollar designer outlets go by. While the temperatures were still relatively high, there were some ominous looking clouds in the sky. Clouds? I hadn’t seen much of those in recent weeks. At least the temperatures were back down in the twenties even if the humidity was still noticeable. After lunch, I left Luxembourg heading North towards Belgium, in light showers that weren’t going to cause any problems or discomfort.

Namur is a fantastic Belgian city with street dining and beautiful little squares full of cafés and restaurants. It’s most prominent building is a citadel, or fortress, that overlooks the convergence of two rivers that meet at the city. It’s well worth visiting and is a fine viewing point to see this interesting little city. I sat in a leafy square, DSC06903 (2)Place du Marché Aux Légumes, and ordered a glass of wine surrounded by what seemed like hundreds of university students from the university of Namur or the Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix, to give it it’s proper title. The tables were shoved so close together to make room for the big crowd that it was easy to talk to the people next to you. I spoke to some students of medicine and law sitting close by. A pretty young student called Roman, a student of medicine, advised me to go a little tapas restaurant in the next street. I took her advice and had a smashing meal in La Cantina, or rather sitting outside La Cantina, on Rue de la Halle. I strongly recommend it as the food was great.

Namur is well worth a visit. I choose it because it’s not one of those cities that you can take a cheap and cheerful flight to, for a weekend away. When you travel by bike you can stray off the beaten path. DSC07001 (2)It’s got everything. A very cosmopolitan and vibrant feel with interesting and historic places to visit such as the magnificent citadel and beautiful churches, one of which, the renowned Saint Aubin’s Cathedral, has many pieces of art, extraordinary bells, and a belfry dating back to the 12th century. DSC07004 (2)Amazing, considering how badly damaged the city was during both world wars. It is a shopping city of considerable note even if not at the standard of Luxembourg. Sunday morning is market day and many of the streets are full of stalls selling everything from books to clothes and anything else you can imagine. Try to experience Namur yourself if you ever get the opportunity.

Next for Suzie and I will be to continue our journey, from Belgium into France, and up to the coast at the historic and interesting port city of Dieppe, on the English channel at the Eastern end of the Normandy coast.

Visiting the 93rd Laconia Bike Week.

We finally get to Laconia Bike Week and begin to explore.

Cruising down the Boulevard at Weirs Beach.

Our accommodation for our visit to Laconia Bike Week was at Ossipee Lake which is a popular holiday area. The land surrounding the lake is home to many cottages, cabins, and lake houses, some of which can be rented for holidays. The cottage we were staying at was a beauty and owned by a friend of Matt’s family. DSC04482The family have rented the same cottage for many years and the whole family spend weeks or months there every year. The cottage is about 150 yards from the lake front and there is a beautiful beach and launching area for their pontoon boat from which they swim and fish. The owner, Frank has become a close family friend, and he was more than happy to have us visit for a few days. DSC04665We went for something to eat in Conway and as it was cooler, dark and raining lightly when we rode back up to the cottage, I was glad of the heated grips on the bike and while I had been critical of the amount of heat coming off the right side of the bike, I was glad of it now. The light rain was no match for the massive fairing and it was great to have the chance to give Matt a ribbing about my hands being too hot until I got the setting just right on the heated grips. After a good night’s sleep it was great to sit out on the deck the following morning, and look over lake Ossipee and plan the day ahead. A trip to Weirs Beach was a must, but there is so much more to see in this area that it was hard to know what to prioritise. Matt said, quite correctly, that a trip to Rosie’s had to be our first priority. In America, breakfast is an institution, but when you’re in New Hampshire for Bike Week, Rosie’s is the epitome of that institution. The restaurant is on White Mountain Highway and when we arrived there we parked beside the many other bikes, and some trucks in the parking lot. The booths were full and mainly the occupants were bikers, as well as some local regulars.  Rosie’s is famous for pancakes and Matt ordered one. One? I had never witnessed him order just one before. I soon understood why a man, who is a multiple pancake consumer, would order only one pancake in a restaurant where he professes them to be amongst the best he has ever eaten. This offering was big. Really big. A size or two bigger than the dinner plate it was served on and probably an inch thick.

Weirs Beach, Laconia is the place to be during Bike Week. When I say the place to be, read: the place to be seen. The Weirs is a large sandy beach on the south shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, with a boardwalk and a wide boulevard that is taken over every year by vendors and arcades for the summer visitors. During bike week the boulevard is host to thousands of bikers. A one way system is in place to allow parking on both sides, and the centre, for the huge number of bikes. The biggest difficulty is just finding a spot to park your bike. We cruised down to the Weirs and started our search for parking. A few hundred feet down I spotted a gap, and Matt found one a little further down, and we carefully backed our bikes in. The space for the Lincoln Town Car, the massive Harley I was riding, was just abouDSC04554t big enough, and after a few moments I successfully navigated the back wheel to the footpath. No tug boats or barges were required in this manoeuvre. Jackets, helmets gloves and the kitchen sink disappeared into the cavernous top box and we were ready to wander around. The vendor stalls and larger stores are mainly stocked with clothing and biker stuff. Tee-shirts, leathers, luggage and general bike equipment are the staples. The best part of the visit was the chance to view the fantastic customised bikes and I was delighted with the quality and variety of what was on view on the boulevard. Of course we checked out all the merchandise that the vendors had on display and I got a few Laconia Bike Week 2016 Tee-shirts and Matt got a really nice shirt for himself, and Tee-shirts as presents for some of his biker buddies back home. The hours rolled by and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the cottage. We stopped at the Hart’s Turkey Farm Restaurant. Hart’s started as a small family farm business in the 1940s, delivering chickens, eggs and turkeys in a small truck. In 1954 they opened a family restaurant that grew into a successful business even after they stopped raising their own turkeys. It is now a 500 seat restaurant, and a catering business, about five miles from Weirs Beach. It is well worth a visit and the food we were served was very tasty and there was plenty of it.

It had started raining hard just as we reached Hart’s restaurant and it was dark and blustery. When we set off back to the cottage the rain had lightened but it was still very windy. I really appreciated the protection I had on Electra Glide. I had put on my rain jacket for this trip but I need not have bothered. The rain didn’t seem to come in contact with the jacket and my boots and trousers were not affected at all. Visibility had remained relatively good because the screen on the fairing mostly prevents the rain from obscuring the view through your helmet visor or glasses. So it was time to plan the next day which we talked about for a while and then we turned in for the night after I took a quick walk down to the water’s edge of Lake Ossipee to enjoy the view.

Suzie Stars in Dancing On Ice.

A scoot to Kilkenny, icy blast to Mount Leinster and a run to a bike show in Dublin before a date with a man with a scalpel.

About to suffer an absence from biking, I got out on the V-Strom in spite of very wet and cold weather.

I had a date with a scalpel wielding medic yesterday so, knowing there was going to be a period that I would not be able to take Suzie, my Suzuki V-Strom 1000 Adventure out to play, I took the opportunity to get out last week. My first destination on Thursday was  Gorey Business Park in Wexford, the South East of Ireland, to the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland). David had a few spare tickets for customers for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter Show, in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Showgrounds, starting the next day, Friday. He kindly gave me my ticket and I had a coffee and a browse through the motorcycles on offer in the AMI shop, and as usual there were many fabulous examples to ogle.  After a chat with Derek, the Patriarch of the Ryanhart motorcycle dynasty, I headed off again on Suzie to Kilkenny.

One of my favourite short rides is to Kilkenny and a quick visit to Sullivan’s brewery Tap-rooom. I wrote about it in an earlier post about medieval Kilkenny (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-K2)sullivans and my feelings on their beer have been vindicated. There is a medal hanging on the beer taps indicating that the experts at the recent beer judging in the Alltech Dublin Craft Brews and Food Fair event, rated it very highly too. I ran into Ian, their Master Brewer while I was parking the V-Strom in the car-park at the rear of the premises. He is also an avid motorcyclist and we swapped a few war stories on our biking adventures abroad before I went in to order my pint of Sullivan’s Maltings Red Ale and Tikka Chicken Pizza. A pint and a pizza for 12 euros is good value in my book and the chef busied himself with their own wood-fired pizza oven making me a gorgeous crispy based offering. Ellen the bartender was kind enough to advise me to move Suzie into the covered area that is the walkway into the Tap-room to prevent it getting too wet. Which I gladly did because the rain was now teeming down. I had a  browse in their excellent wine and liquor shop at 15  John Street, before heading out on Suzie in the rain again.

A quick scoot to Borris, a small town in the general direction of home and I made the decisionninestones to go over Mount Leinster which had a little snow on it when I looked out my front door in the morning but I didn’t think that was going to be a problem. The rain was coming in heavy intermittent bursts but it wasn’t really an issue either. I made it up to the Nine Stones which is the viewing area at the bottom of the road to the Mount Leinster TV Transmitter mast or antenna, and took a snap with my phone showing a wet and misty County Carlow. I noticed that the gate to the TV mast road was open, which it almost never is, but knowing that the road is really only for RTE TV (national television broadcaster) personnel I wouldn’t be going up there. After all, it’s probably not allowed. And anyway there could still be ice and snow and the usual gale force wind so it would be dangerous up there. So, of course I set off up the road to the mast knowing there were a couple of places I could turn so as not to get to the icy, snowy and blowy bit. Which I duly ignored and got the full dancing on iceblast of the icy gale-force wind I was expecting when I rounded the last bend before the mast compound. Even so, it was hard to battle the wind, but at this stage you are totally committed, no turning back, with a nice covering of ice on the very steep narrow road and snow on the banks. The wind kind of picked me up and deposited me in the middle of the compound, wheels and boots sliding gracefully along in our version of “Dancing on Ice”. I think the judges would have been impressed. I was swiftly reminded why the RTE four-wheel drive vehicles have a little shelter built there to protect them from the large lumps of ice that fall off the mast and could easily damage a vehicle. It’s not a pleasant feeling thumping off a helmet either. I killed the motor briefly, and hanging on to the bike with my knees, I managed to retrieve my phone for another quick snap before the old adage: “discretion is the better part of valour” kicked in and I got out of there, rather gingerly.

The next day, Friday saw me heading off in nasty sideways rain. Real rain. If you get straight down rainDSC05578 in Ireland it’s not considered real rain. Straight down rain brings the comment “it’s a grand soft day” instead of a hard day with proper sideways rain. Straight down rain is kind of summer rain, but don’t let that fool you because summer is a moveable feast in Ireland that doesn’t follow any real seasonal occurrences or dates. I rode up to the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin for the Carole Nash Motorbike and Scooter show and luckily found a nice sheltered place to get the bike out of the nasty weather. The show itself was excellent. The AMI & Overlanders, Touratech Stand was one of the highlights and their customised black Africa Twin was a sight to behold. It’s theirs for the year for tours and demo rides and I hope I am back fully fit in time to get a jaunt on it before it goes on a holiday abroad. I am not sure DSC05599how to give you an idea of the scale of this event because it was way bigger than I imagined it was going to be. All the major manufacturers of bikes and suppliers of clothing and protective gear as well as many other organisations were present. There were lots of exhibitions too, custom bikes, vintage bikes and the myriad prizes, cups and medals, as well as the leathers of a certain Mr. Joey Dunlop. A Northern Ireland motorcycle legend, Joey Dunlop was voted the second greatest motorcycle icon ever by Motorcycle News, and many would argue should be considered number one. DSC05666Some living legends were called to the stage in the Main Hall and gave interesting accounts of their racing experiences too. Of course there was food and drink stands and at times when the rain eased off a little it was possible to go outside and see the stunt riders performing their skills in a fenced off paddock. I imagine it is more usual to see four legged steeds being lead around there because the RDS is most famous for equestrian events. I could have stayed ogling the bike beauties for days. All the best adventure bikes from Honda, Yamaha and many more as well as fabulous cruisers from Indian and BMW. Ducati, Yamaha, Harley, Suzuki, Triumph, Husqavarna, Royal Enfield and many more were also showing their fabulous wares. As well as the beautiful vintage Indian in the featured image, the modern “behemoth” Indian Roadmaster was spectacular, but all the manufacturers did themselves proud. Kudos to Carole Nash for a fine spectacle. And that was only Friday with two more days to go in what had to have been a brilliant weekend for all the motorcycle enthusiasts who attended over the weekend.

I met Colin, an old school friend, also a big bike fan, and we nattered away for about an hour and then it was time to gear up and head back out into the heavy traffic and sideways rain. It was a rotten dark, wet evening heading down the M11 on Suzie but it was worth it.  Now lying convalescing in my sick bed (read: being spoiled rotten with beverages and tasty bits) I know I will again be suffering some withdrawal symptoms (http://wp.me/p7IHqF-ST) and worse than the last time, because this time I have a bike in the basement but am just not allowed to use it for a few weeks, or maybe a week, or maybe… We’ll see.

Happiness is a girl called…Suzuki.

Getting in some trips on the new V-Strom 1000. Laurie loves the comfort…

The new V-Strom exceeding expectations.

My wife Laurie was not a fan of the seat on my Yamaha Fazer. It was a reliable bike and brought me on some long trips and back, safely without and issues, breakdowns or fuss. dsc05573-2When I decided to change, Laurie’s comfort was one of the highest priorities, and the V-Strom Adventure I got from the guys in AMI (Adventure Motorcyles of Ireland) to test ride, came first in her rating. It got an immediate thumbs up with a special reference to how comfortable the seat was. So, we picked the Suzuki V-Strom up, all shiny and new, in Gorey Business Park in the first week of January. To say the least, she is loving it. I think the number of miles we covered on it together has probably already exceeded the number covered on the Fazer.

Last weekend we did some nice miles, heading to Duncannon beach in Wexford, in the dsc05574South East corner of Ireland. It’s a lovely beach with great views of the Hook Pennisula and the Waterford coastline. It’s one of Laurie’s favourites, having spent all her childhood summers there. Duncannon has some great pubs and restaurants and we hookstopped on the beach, which is firm enough to drive on. The “Ta-Dah” moment in the featured photo is when Laurie found a suitable piece of driftwood to put under the side-stand so we could park up for a little while. We headed for the Hook which is another of our favourite stops. Hook Lighthouse is one of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. After a visit to the Lighthouse restaurant we were off again. Waterford City and The Copper Coast was next on our agenda.

We got new Scott jackets and pants along with Schubert helmets that are very comfortable and we are very happy with them. I am particularly happy with the communication system because I can’t hear a word she says. Probably down to my bad hearing. Perfect.

seaview

Withdrawal Symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms and loyalty to a great bike (or not).

No motorcycle in the basement where they should be at least one.

Happy Christmas and a great impending New Year to everyone, but I am suffering withdrawal symptoms. Self-inflicted of course. Not the usual, aftermath of Christmas type symptoms. From over indulgence in food and beverages consumed with the Christmas fare, and not even from visits to the purveyors of fine beers and liquors. In the form of the local publicans. No, none of the expected outcomes and consequences of the holiday period.

I sold my Fazer (1000c.c.) a few weeks before Christmas and now, strangely, the basement is entirely bereft of motorbikes. An unusual problem. It is usually a case of trying to squeeze between the handlebars of several bikes. I sold my vintage Z about a year ago and the Fazer has been sent on it’s way too. I sold it a few days after handing over a bundle of greenbacks, coinage or dough. Whichever is your favourite moniker for your hard earned funds, for a new bike. A new bike that I won’t get possession of until 2017.

Of course now, every time I have reason to leave the house I meet motorcycles and motorcyclists. When I was on my way home from delivering the Fazer, for onward transmission to it’s new owner, I stopped at a garage and met two fine gentlemen with the shiniest of shiny sportsbikes. Think Kawasaki with 1400 c.c. and BMW with a bloody jet engine. The riders told me they live in Dublin but originate from Russia. And isn’t it a fine day for a blast. Well it would be if you had a motorcycle. So that was a week or so before Christmas. Everyday since I have met buddies on cruisers or adventure bikes. Hasn’t the weather been really great? Nice to get out of the house after all that turkey. Get lost you teasing pain in the…

Sympathisers such as my wife say it won’t be long until there is a brand new shiny bike where the Fazer was. That is no consolation. None whatsoever. That’s like saying to someone that is going through a break-up that time is a great healer. Never say that to anyone who is going through a rough time. Well, I always believed that the Fazer and I would be together forever. dsc04838-2_liI suppose it’s not the first relationship that seemed destined to be forever that didn’t survive. Now every time I go through the basement of my house, which is very often, because I keep that other form of transport that I use, that shall remain nameless, outside the basement door, all I can see is reminders of what used to be. Helmets, open face and full face; bike jackets and pants, leather and textile; biker gloves, goggles, buffs, scarves, balaclavas, chain oil, tool sets and all the other accoutrements that a biker collects over the years. And most especially the vacant spot dedicated to and supposed to be full of bike. Or bikes. They are a reminder of my loss. So stop trying to console me. Specially on a day that everyone is saying is so fine, and the holidays are still here, if you are a normal person who gets holidays when there are supposed to be holidays. Even my brother-in-Law Declan told me he would probably ride up today on his Triumph America. Well guess who isn’t riding “bitch”. Walkers talking about walking. Runners talking about running. Even swimmers talking about swimming. Get thee behind me Satan!

Fazer and I had some great times together. In the featured picture I was on one of my blasts to Hook Head in the South East tip of Ireland. One of the oldest working lighthouses in the world. In the other image I had Fazer packed for a blast around Europe. Never once did it have as much as a slight mishap or leave me down in anyway. Totally reliable. Oh, what times we had. I am now the person that I have occasionally made a slightly disparaging remark about. A biker without a bike. And I am not in the least bit happy about it. Roll on the early days of 2017 when the folks at AMI (Adventure Motorcycles of Ireland) in Gorey can register my new purchase for me and I can try to start a new relationship. Oh what a coquettish, cheating, fickle person am I…

 

Ted Simon’s Original Jupiter’s Travels.

“Those were the times when I felt full of natural wisdom, scratching at heaven’s very door. The days of Jupiter”.

An epic journey around the world that began in 1973 on a 500cc Triumph.

I have previously written about “Jupiter’s Travels In Camera” (here: http://wp.me/p7IHqF-FE),  in an article which concentrated on the 2013 book. In it Ted Simon published 300 images from his original epic journey which began in 1973. While they are a fantastic record of the places he visited and images of the people he met, it doesn’t explain why the original publication, Jupiter’s Travels, which included none of his photographs, was such a resounding success. Ted simon was an accomplished writer and journalist when he began this epic journey. He was German born but lived in Britain. After studying chemical engineering and doing his national service with the RAF, where he had founded a magazine for new recruits, he had been spotted by an editor who gave him work at the Daily Express. He eventually left to start a man’s magazine called “King” which only survived a few years. He continued to contribute to a wide variety of publications. The editor at The Sunday Times was a motorcycle enthusiast, just like Simon, which undoubtedly helped in persuading a serious broadsheet newspaper like The Sunday Times to become involved in this project. Harold Evans was editor of the paper from 1967 until the 80s and obviously had a great interest in travel. He founded the luxury travel magazine Condé Nast Traveler in 1987, but for the purpose of this article his most important attribute was his willingness to support Simon’s round the world motorcycle trip. A trip that was proposed before anyone had ever heard of adventure motorcycling and it was considered a crazy idea at the time.

The secret of the success of the book can be attributed to Ted Simon’s style of writing. His enthusiastic and artistic method of crafting his story draws the reader in to the point that the book is difficult to put down. He tells of surviving war, deserts, imprisonment and particularly his own fears, while telling interesting anecdotes of the vastly diverse people he makes acquaintance with along the way.  From 1973 to 1977 he travelled around the globe on a Triumph Tiger 100. A 500cc bike that was chosen for it’s simplicity as well as to try to bolster the failing British Motorcycle Industry. Simon’s story was broadcast through the pages of The Sunday Times at a time when Triumph was tearing itself apart, to be reborn two years later as a type of workers’ cooperative. It was Simon’s experienced penmanship that made the story of the journey so successful. It sparked an industry related to motorcycle adventure riding, and the accessories and equipment that a would be, round the world rider could possibly need, and all the blogs, websites and publications dedicated to motorcycle adventure riding that now exist. None of which existed when Simon was packing for his trip:

“I knew I had too much stuff, but there was no logical way to reduce it. Some of the problem was, of course, pure sentiment. How could I junk anything as unique and exotic as a mixture of cod liver oil and glucose”. Friends had told him this was an old naval remedy for tropical sores. “But generally I was on the horns of the knife and spoon dilemma; if you take a fork, why not a spoon, if salt then why not pepper; if you are going to ride fifty thousand miles on a motorcycle then at least you want to lie comfortably at night”. He didn’t have access to the ‘wisdom’ that’s available now on a myriad of websites and blogs. Where to find the smallest, lightest and most ‘eco-friendly’ tent, toothbrush, plate etc. etc. in the world. “Who can walk along the pavements of the City of London and seriously contemplate the prospect of being struck by a cobra. I suspended my judgement and went on adding to my pocket universe like an agnostic crossing himself before battle”.  How he chose his route too was as much a matter of sentiment. “Generally the great overland journeys follow the Asian land mass East until the traveller is forced to take to the water at Singapore. I chose a different way because I was powerfully attracted by the challenge of Africa, and in great awe of it too”.

Taking on this massive circumnavigation of the globe that saw him cover 63,400 miles (103,000km) dsc05444-2through 45 countries was not without trepidation for Simon. “People in lightweight suits, with interesting jobs and homes to go to, flaunted their security at me and I felt my gut scream at me to strip off this ridiculous outfit and rush back into that light and the familiar interdependence…. I was lost beyond hope, utterly defeated”. Equally he felt the rush of anticipation and excitement when he set off. “Within minutes the great void inside me was filled with a rush of exultation, and in my solitary madness I started to sing”.

How can I convey the beauty of the writing in this book to you? It’s impossible to pick out just one or two passages and say this is the definitive charm of Ted Simon’s writing. So I will just let you sample a few lines from the first page of the book and you can decide for yourself. “I let the bike roll off the asphalt on to the grass under a shade tree. The trunk of the tree was stout and twisted with prominent roots and a grey scaly bark. Drooping clusters of small dry leaves gave a medium shade. It was a common tree in India though I still could not remember its name”.  He had run out of petrol fifteen miles from the nearest village and waited in the shade of a tree. “I did not doubt that help would come, and with it most probably some unexpected twist in my fortunes. It had taken years to achieve that measure of confidence and calm, and as I waited I allowed myself some pleasure in knowing it”. Some unexpected twist in fortunes on this occasion was being guest of honour at a local wedding where he saw a mesmerizing dancer and was introduced to the name Jupiter in a bizarre and whimsical meeting with a “wise” man.

Many people say their lives were changed by this book and motorcycles don’t have to be your thing to enjoy it. Ewan McGregor attributes at least part of the inspiration for his and Charley Boorman’s journey as described in their book, Long Way Round to Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels. The pair actually met Ted Simon on their journey in Mongolia. Others have read it and only saw a certain negativity in Simon’s fears and the tribulations encountered on his journey. For example: “I was heavily inclined to expect the worst, and when a strange Agente came for me in the afternoon and took me down those grim steps to the basement I really thought the worst was about to happen. But it was only to have photograph and fingerprints taken”.  But equally there are descriptions of times of great contentment and joy. After particular difficulty loading his Triumph on to a ferry, the roof of which he slept on, he remarked about the beauty of his surroundings and the night sky: “For three days and two  nights I drift up the Nile along Lake Nasser. The sunrises and sunsets are so extraordinarily beautiful that my body turns inside out and empties my heart into the sky”. At times he comes to achieve real inner peace: “I needed no better reason for the journey than to be exactly where I was, knowing what I knew. Those were the times when I felt full of natural wisdom, scratching at heaven’s very door. The days of Jupiter”.

Ted Simon’s website is worth a visit. It gives mountains of information about his journeys: Jupitalia.com. The photos are from his publications or are of his books. Jupiter’s Travels was first published in 1979 by Hamish Hamilton Ltd.

The Motorcycle Diaries.

Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado set off on a vintage Norton around the Americas. Book describing the formative journey.

An epic journey that awakened a Revolutionary.

It was while drinking sweet “mate” that two friends decided to set off on an epic motorcycle journey from Buenos Aires in 1951. They were sitting under a vine in Alberto’s place drinking mate and discussing recent events, including Ernesto having recently quit his job, as had Alberto, that the discussion turned to travelling to remote countries and oceans, that a decision was reached: “Why don’t we go to North America?”.  “North America? But how?” “On La Poderosa, man”.

That’s how the formative journey of the famous Revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guervara and his friend Alberto Granado was decided upon. La Poderosa was Alberto’s old and extremely unreliable Norton 500 that the friends started their journey on. It was destined to fail on them and after nursing it through Argentina and Chile and Peru, it was beyond repair. The friends completed the journey by raft, plane,train, truck, bus and for the most part begged and worked their way around the Americas, eventually ending up in Miami, before flying back to Argentina.

Ernesto was a medical student and Alberto a bio-chemist who had experience of working with lepers. The two doctors were moved by the abject poverty they witnessed on their journey and helped beggars and lepers along the way when they could. They were horrified by the conditions of the miners in Chile, many of whom “didn’t even own a blanket”. Guevara, who also suffered from asthma, commented on an old woman, dying from tuberculosis, asthma and a heart condition, “only a month ago this poor woman was still earning her living as a waitress…it’s at times like this that a doctor is conscious of his complete powerlessness,  that he longs for a change”

After their journey ended, Guevara returned to his studies, graduated as a Doctor and embarked on another journey around South America. In Bolivia he experienced the Bolivian Revolution and came in contact with a Cuban revolutionary, with whom he maintained contact.  In 1954 he saw the overthrow of the democratically elected government in Guatemala, by U.S. backed forces and then joined Fidel Castro to wage guerrilla warfare against the despotic Batista dictatorship in Cuba. The Cubans call all Argentines by the nickname “Che”, and “Che” Guevara was regarded by them as a military hero and leader, particularly when his leadership resulted in a massive victory and the end of the Batista regime. He was appointed to high position in the Cuban Revolutionary Government and represented the Country internationally on many occasions. He addressed the United Nations in 1964. He was eventually murdered by U.S. backed Bolivian Forces when he was captured while on a secret trip to promote the revolution in Bolivia.

The motorcycle journeys Guevara undertook, his first on a bicycle with a small motor attached, and the later one with Granado, on the 500cc Norton, bear no resemblance to the modern adventure motorcycling that is the biggest thing in biking in decades. It is an industry all to itself now. It’s all about the power of the bike, the suitability of the tyres. The best accessories and equipment so that nothing can go wrong. Alberto Granado had a slightly different take on their motorcycle adventure, when in 2004, he said: “The trip would not have been as useful and beneficial as it was, as a personal experience, if the motorcycle had held out. This gave us a chance to become familiar with the people. We worked, took on jobs to make money and continued travelling. We hauled merchandise, carried sacks, worked as sailors, cops and doctors”.

Review of the book “The Motorcycle Diaries” written by Ernest Guevara and published by Harper Perennial in 2004.