Friday, 18 December 2009

Photos 2

Reaching Chefchaouen
No engine
Munchy the crunchy
Rooftop mechanic

Monday, 14 December 2009


Lovely Jubbly
So here I am again, sitting in an internet cafe wondering what to write.
We both finally made it through the border and legged it for Chefchouean, in the Rif mountains of northern Morocco, which was about 100km from the border. We figured it would take 2 hours to reach this little town in the hills.
After about 40km we reached the town of Tetouan, where we decided to stay for the night. Actually Kevs C90, now named "Munchy the Crunchy", dictated that we stop at the nearest town that looked hospitable as Munchy was not feeling too well.
On the outskirts of Tetouen, whilst looking blindly for the gate into the old medina (old town) a big bald local guy, Abdul, a.k.a.Terry Savalas, pulled up besides us on his big Honda motorbike and confessed to feeling, "Lovely Jubbly".

We exchanged more hellos, listened to more catchphrases from bygone TV shows, a little more cockney rhyming slang and then I asked if he knew of a cheap hotel in the old medina, all whilst trying to ride slow enough for Kev, on his newly named Munchy, to keep up with us.
"Follow me please. No worries mate".

Hubbly Bubbly
Even although we both knew he would make a bit of commission from us anyway he could, we followed Abdul straight to a cheap hotel (approx £6 per night for a room each) on the edge of the main square in the old medina. That was good enough. There was a lock up garage opposite the hotel that was safe enough for us to leave our bikes in overnight (approx £1 per night) The rooms we basic but so was our transport so it suited us fine. We have to have seperate rooms, which although more expensive, means that I can get a good nights sleep away from the excessively loud snoring jaws of Kev.

Curly Wurly
Tetouan is a pleasant town. It has a european feeling to it so was an easy town to get to know and an easy introduction to Morocco. It wasn't on our original destination but as mentioned earlier, Munchy was not in good shape so we stopped earlier than planned. This is not to say my vespa was in good shape either. I too had problems with my ride although they did not seem as bad as Kevs. Unfortunatly Kev is not with me at the time of writing to elaborate or defend himself on this subject because at the moment, he seems to be attached via a large rubber band to the hotel toilet. No sooner has he stepped out of the hotel, than he quickly springs back inside again, doing his David Blaine vanishing act. (which he also taught me but that comes a little later in the saga).

Mr. Whippy

After a good nights sleep and unpacking our bags for the first time, it was decided the next morning that Munchy needed an operation. After one night in the first hotel we fell into, I decided to look for a cheaper hotel as we were going nowhere for a few days. Hotel Essalam, around the corner, was a cheaper and cleaner place and close enough to the garage where our bikes were stored so we could check every now and then that they were ok. Dris, the guy at the hotel reception was extrememy helpful and friendly. Our Arabic was slowly getting better thanks to his patience and humour. Most nights were spent outside, smoking and talking in a mix of French, Spanish, English and Arabic. The days were spent searching for a surgeon/butcher for Munchy and, for me at least, eating far too many french patisseries and drinking copious amounts of fresh coffee. I'm in heaven!

Chocolate sprinkles
We eventually found the mechanic we were told was the best and biggest. We had been searching all over town for this garage, walking for what seemed like miles, asking strangers if they knew the whereabouts of the big, one and only, motorcycle mechanic. After searching for two days we found him, almost at the bottom of the street where we were staying, just three or four minutes walk away from the hotel. All the maps that were drawn for us (a series of straight lines and a picture of a bus), all the directions we were given (this way for  3 or 4kms), were all pretty useless. We found it more by chance than by being pointed in the right direction.

Pebble dash
Again, as Kev is not here to tell the story, heres what I believed happened at the mechanics...
Kev took his Munchy to the garage. The mechanic listened to the running engine. He then laughed. The mechanic then shouted to his colleagues to come and have a laugh, sorry I mean, look, at this weird bike. They laughed. More people came, shook there heads, murmurred the arabic equivalent of "Oh dear. No chance" and laughed some more.
In local arabic, the mechanic told Kev that, "If it was a camel he would shoot it, sell the carcass to the local tannery and with the profit, buy himself a small glass of coffee".

What actually happened was that Kev left the bike with the mechanic. After a couple of days we returned to witness the engine in pieces on the workbench. The crankshaft had been removed. The problem lays here. The big end bearings on the crankshaft had decided to call it a day and retire from the spinning world of bearings and decided to knock instead of spin. Hence the loud engine noises Munchy was making.
We believe that new bearings were fitted but its anybodies guess as the language barrier became as high as the price to fix it. That said, the mechanic worked extremely fast, putting aside the other mototbikes in his garage, to help Kev get back on the road asap.

So, Munchy had been fixed. Or at least operated on to make him feel better. (Actually I'm not entirely sure if Munchy is a boy or a girl. I'll let you know) This meant we could continue on our journey to Chefchaouen, in the Rif mountains, a further 60km from Tetouan. This should only take about 1 hour maximum but took a little longer than that as Munchy was still recovering from his operation. As for my Vespa...(as yet - no name, but the carrot cruncher was a close contender).
This particular wasp was getting vertigo. It started in Spain really and very slowly got worse as we hit the Algarve. I was keeping quiet about it hoping it would miraculously get better or go away. Well it didn't. It was getting worse. Along fast straights and motorways it was fine. Ticking over it was fine. It didn't like shopping around town or enjoy going uphill. Any names to suit this kind of character would be greatly appreciated. Answers on a postcard please...
As we left for yet another very short journey to the next town it was getting bad. Kev on his Munchy would/could not exceed 70kmph. Me, on my Vespa with vertigo, could not go slower than 70kmph, otherwise it would just want to splutter to a snails pace. So when a hill showed itself I had to almost literally take a good fast run up to it to make it to the top. While Kev slowly but surely crawled his way to the top. This was getting to be a problem as we were after all going into the mountains.

We arrived in Chefchaouen after about two hours. I arrived first, done the customary, "Wait for Kev routine", followed by the "Got bored waiting for Kev routine", then finished with a, "I' ll have to meet him at the hotel we agreed to meet at, should we get split up routine". The reason I only waited for 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes was because the local big boys kept asking how much my scooter was worth. Not, "Do you want to buy some hash"? Or, "You want hotel"? or even, "Come to my shop and see some blankets", but " How much is this worth"? This was a little worrying since I have no insurance against theft. So naturally I legged it, or should I say, limped it, uphill in search of the hotel we planned to stay in.

Unfortunatly for me, I done the kind of thing I told myself countless times not to do. I asked a policeman for directions. He of course gave me directions but not necessarily the easiest or clearest of directions, sending me up another very steep hill towards a small entrance to the old medina. The Bab (gate/entrance) to the centre of the old medina was barely big enough for my Vespa and I wasn't entirely sure I was allowed inside with my bike as it looked like a small narrow winding path with locals who were shopping and staring at me, wondering what I was about to try and do. A helpful guy lent me his son to show me the way to the hotel, which I would never have found coming in from this direction.

What I was about to try and do was take the stupidest path into the heart of the old medina I could imagine. Some paths were quite steep and all were very narrow, with some high steps that the scooter could not clear without being lifted slightly. For my Vespa that suffers from vertigo, it was all too much and it decided to stop going up any more hills. Luckily, as the young kid sitting on the back of my Vespa had lots of friends shouting his name as he rode past on the passenger seat, they all helped me push the scooter uphill.
I say helped.
They pushed the scooter, not necassarily in the right direction but they were all happy enough to try and help.
I finally hit a downhill path were I 'bumped' the vespa back into action and made it to the centre of town. I found the hotel we agreed to meet at. Haggled my best but it was still too expensive. By this time Kev came strolling towards me, thanked me for waiting for him, then we both looked for another hotel with easier access for motorbikes. We found a most agreeable hotel for a most agreeable price and here we are now, living da vida loca.

You get the jist
The last few days have been spent searching for some decent local produce, which proved to be harder than I imagined. There are plenty of guys offering the best of the best but it is the worst of the worst. Its ok now though. I am most happy.
The rest of the last few days have consisted of me, on the hotel roof terrace, with my Vespa engine in pieces, replacing bearings and oil seals. I said I had a problem. Oil was leaking from the crankshaft onto my stator plate. I knew I didn't do a very good job of changing the bearings and seals a few days before I left UK so I packed some spares with me and have just finished putting everything back together. The engine is back in the chassis. It started second kick, ticked over pretty well for 30 seconds, I turned it off and thats how I left it as it was getting dark.

So tomorrow we will go for a test drive as Kev is also uncertain that his Munchy will make it to Fes, our next planned destination.
So far we have not broken down but have just had a few "teething problems", I would say. Actually, "Routine maintenace" is a better description.

Teething problems
Nothing can stop us now.
Or can it.........?

Wednesday, 9 December 2009


Here is a few pictures of our journey so far....
Ami Vinocasa

  El Burro


Put me clobber on...

And I think about leaving


The tools are out after just 70km but at least we can say we made it to Spain from Portugal , even if it is only 35km away from our starting point!

The computer keeps crashing so photos will be limited to just a few.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Honda C90...Bulletproof? My arse

...please excuse punctuation...another dodgy foreign coming soon...


For the first time in the history of this blog...the voice of  Kev...

"I was going slow uphill so Scott could keep up and too fast downhill so Scott could not keep up ...NOT...
but then I realized that the petrol gauge was going down quicker than I was moving. I looked down and noticed petrol leaking down my leg and over the spark plug:.
I pulled over; had a fag; tightened up the screws on the carb and realised I left the locktite with the guide book.
Carried on for another 10km. Scott went ahead without me and as he had no mirrors he did not notice me on the side of the motorway.
I took a detour to a national park as I was bored with the motorway* and waited for Scott. Ended up in the town of Palace y Villafranca at the same hotel where Scott had been waiting for me. Stroke of luck.

From the hand of Scott again...

Now I will have to finish the story.


*Scott: What Kev means is; he got lost. I can tell you this now, as he has had to shoot off rather quickly to the hotel toilet.
If only he went that fast on his C90.

Whilst waiting for Kev; riding slowly; I had been pulled over by the fuzz. Heres what happened to me;

They pulled me over and wanted to fine me countless Euros as I did not have the 2 mandatory mirrors on my scooter that they said was required by law. That was their excuse anyway. They refused to talk or understand english.
I think they were jealous that everyone was looking at my scooter and not looking at them on their "manly" motorbikes.


The 2 cops were giggling in Spanish to each other as they thought of what to write on their "On-the-spot-fine notepad".
I managed to explain in my best Spanglish that my vespa had no mirrors when it was made some 35 years ago.
"Manufacturer no fabricado", I shouted in a spanish accent, whilst pointing to the vespa.
They carefully felt their way around the legshields looking for some kind of bracket but found nothing. I prayed that they did not look under the  handlebars where a bracket could be fitted.
I told them that I had ridden the vespa all the way from the UK through Portugal and Spain on my way to Algerciras, without mirrors.
This made them laugh even more and they had to let me go.
I made a hasty get away and went to the nearest town to wait for Kevin. I arrived in Palace A something or other.....? 
A crazy bus driver kept overtaking me and pointing; grinning like a spanish motorbike cop on laughing gas.
I found out he was another vespa freak and he led me to a cheap hotel where I later met up with Kevin again. He had re-appeared!


After we had some food; I pulled out a 20 euro note to pay; expecting lots of change; the owner took the lot; then he must have felt guilty he had ripped us off and gave us a "free" glass of ? fairy liquid? So nice...
I awoke to find (eventually) Kevin fixing his carb; again. With loctite this time.
We continued towards Algerciras to catch the ferry to Morocco. Kev was listening to drum n bass on his MP3 player then realised it was not drum n bass at all but his engine banging and knocking.
We got split up again in Jerez de la Frontera.
Kev done his David Blaine vanishing act again; literally about 50 metres away, at the bottom of a hill, on a ring road we were on.

Audience member: "Can you pull a rabbit out of your hat"?
Magician: "No but I can pull a hair out of my bum".

Again I waited...and waited...this time I could easliy turn back to find him, which I did but his trick was so good he had completely vanished; even though 2 seconds ago he was right behind me. His close up work was amazing.
After trying the toy walkie talkies for a while and searching high and low I could not find him.
So what did I do? he he he!
I headed off.
Towards the road we agreed to travel on beforehand.

Candid Camera
I went on the main road which we found out Kev was not allowed on as his bike was considered a toy and not fit for fast roads such as these.
I waited at a cafe; where after 1 hour or 2 Kev pulled up with his C90 banging away like a panel beater on amphetamines. He had to take the back roads reserved for gypsies riding donkeys where he says; and I dont believe a word of it; that he saw 'lots of people fixing vespas on the roadside'.
The original plan when we left the hotel that morning was to head straight for Algerciras. As we could not travel on normal roads we had a choice at the crossroads -
Follow the old peasants road towards Algerciras or ...
take a different road that had a couple of towns on it where we could hopefully find a hotel if needed.

Russ Abbott
In true proffessional explorer style we tossed a coin to decide which road to take. We ended up heading towards a great little town by the name of Alcala de los Gazules and decided to stay there the night. It had taken us 2 days to travel about 100km. We asked an extremely helpful local by the name of Juanma )many thanks Juanma for your expert knowledge; your guided tour and friendship) for a cheap hotel.
It would have been nice to stay a little longer here as it was such a nice town but we wanted to catch that elusive ferry.
I pursuaded Kev that he should at least limp the final 60km to Algerciras so we could get on the ferry and actually make it to Morocco to prove everyone wrong.
Well; thats what we did. It took a couple of hours to travel those last few kilometres but we made it onto the ferry and arrived in Ceuta at around 2pm.
Ceuta is actually a tax free Spanish province, )ah ha ive found the commar key) so it was another 3 or 4 km to the actual Moroccan border and a further 100km to our planned destination of Chefchouean in the Rif mountains.

At the actual border we could tell straight away that we were no longer in europe and in a different continent. It had the similar hustle and bustle of some of the asian countries we have both visited before in previous lives.
Mayhem. Languages we did not understand. Not having enough time to read the guide book we managed to buy earler we did not really know what the crack was to get through the border without getting ripped off, which was not so good.
Empty forms to fill in were shoved in our faces.
"Park the bikes here",
"No, move them here",
"No move them there".

Helpful hustlers

Guys clutching documents, telling us we needed to fill them in, then insisting that they fill them in for us. Of course they were going to ask for a small fee to 'help' us. So me being me, I wanted to do this myself.
Meanwhile Kev had a few guys helping him fill in his details. After getting a laser to the head from the medic )checking for  flu we think) I handed in all the nessacary documents to the official. I had no insurance for Morocco )no green card) and the official threw the papers back at me,
" No Insurance".
Damn. What to do? I was told by my insurers that I would have to buy insurance on the border. After asking a few people at the border I was told that this was no longer possible.
What to do?

Itchy brown eye
Kev in the meantime was at another kiosk doing the same thing )he also had no green card/insurance but the official didnt seem to notice and he had his papers stamped and went straight through.
Of course I then rapidly went to the same kiosk, got my papers stamped and also went straight through. Unfortunatly the guy who helped Kev did not like me (as I filled out the forms myself and did not give him any money).
He called me a, "Bad man".
This little "hustler" also knew I did not have any insurance and threatened to tell the border officials this before I managed to enter Morocco.
"Ok.You win. How much do you want"? I said.
"10 Euros", was the reply.
I retalliated, "10 for that, you must be mad".
We agreed on 5 Euros. I only had a 20 euro note but he politely gave me 15 euros change and  I promptly got on my scooter and was about to ride off quick. The alternative was to leave the scooter at the border with Kev, jump in a taxi with this little hustler )I use the word 'hustler' lightly) and drive 35km to get insurance. No chance.

No chance

Then next, the border official  who was checking that the papers were stamped correctly etc noticed something was wrong with my documents.
All the time Kev had been patiently waiting just 10 metres away in Morocco proper, on his C90 ready to go.
"Where did you get these papers stamped"? asked the border official.
I had to lead him to the booth where I got the papers stamped, fearing the worst.
Would I actually be allowed into Morocco after riding 2500km to get this far?
Would I have to go to the nearest town in a taxi to Tetouan, to get insurance at an extortionate rate?
Will we make it to the town of Chefchouean in time for supper?
Will Kevs C90 go any further?
Will I ever find out where the "open bracket" - )) is on this keyboard?
Tune in next week to find out this and more in the next episode of A Long Lay Down.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Let the games commence

Now the fun and games commence as we left for Morocco on 3rd Dec 2009. Me, still on my trusty Vespa  and Kev, finally joining me on his Honda C90. So far on this journey nothing of interest has happened to me, Kev, his van or the scooter.

On the Vespa, I ve travelled just over 2000km, averaging around 333km a day, riding for about 4 or 5 hours a day, likewise with Kev in his nice warm van, listening to his stereo, smoking tabs and that.
But now, with Kev ditching his van in Luz and finally getting on his C90, things start to get a little more interesting.

In Luz, at Johns villa where we stayed for a week or so....many thanks to John by the way for letting us use his place...Kev transformed the place into a mini Mike Bavins ( a local motorbike workshop) and had his C90 up on a makeshift platform to prepare his bike.
Modifications included changing the oil 3 times,
stripping the carb a few times,
fitting a grill on the headlight which he later decided to take off in the end.
He also had another C90 there which was used for spares which I believe once belonged to Tom who is off on yet another C90 from  John O Groats  to Lands End sometime next year. Catch up with him  here 

I also decided to get my scooter up on the platform to change the oil and prepare the vespa. I changed the oil as planned, checked the nuts and bolts were all tight etc which they were.
I did not really know what else to do to it as it was running fine.
I wiped off the bugs that were splattered across the front.
What I did end up doing was bending the front mudguard getting it off the platform.
Nevermind. Probably the first of many knocks and scrapes to come.
A few days later, as I was sure there must be something I could do to the scooter to make it a little better, I decided to clean the cylinder head and piston which I found out was built up with coke.
That was that.

So we set off for Morocco. Spain is only about 30km from where we were staying in Portugal so our aim was to get at least to the other side of Seville and if the going was good and if we had time, head straight for the ferry at Algerciras which was an ambitious +500km ish away


We left Luz de Tavira in Portugal at 12pm on 3rd Dec.
After 50km, in Spain, about 1 hour into what I would class as the start of the trip, I pulled over on the side of the road to see Kev with his toolkit out, holding a screwdriver and shaking his head.
Oh dear. So soon already?
His carb was coming loose and was leaking petrol if he went over 70kmph.
We soon got going again and making our way to Seville. My scooter did not enjoy going so slow, especially uphill so I overtook him uphill and let him overtake me downhill.
A few kilometres before Seville he did not overtake me.
So I waited....and I waited...and I waited...
Hmmmm? He could not have been that far behind but I could not see him.
I think his carb must still be playing up. I had to keep moving as we were on a motorway and those Spanish motorcycle cops I kept seeing needed some money to buy their kids Xmas presents. So I carried on at a very slow speed towards the road we agreed to meet on should something like this happen.

I will leave you all in suspense now as I need some food and a coffee. Tomorrow, if Kev has had time to write anything for me to type into this blog, I will tell the rest of the story. It is getting more interesting believe me.

Au revoir
mange tout, mange tout