So here we are again. A Jeep packed to the brim, more cameras than people and 15000km of road ahead of us. Discover More 2015 will be two months shorter, 10000km fewer, and feature only one person on the bike for the duration. The person tasked with taking the bike round Europe will be the inimitable Luis Castilla, a French-Mexican biker who won the competition/job to be the Rider only a month before we set off.
Our first challenge was the 25 hour ferry from Portsmouth to Santander. Despite our initial fears of seasickness and subsequent heavy medicinal preparation in the form of sea sickness tablets (Pro double dropped before he could even see the boat), the crossing was fine. However, the advertised WiFi, ‘Internet @ Sea’, didn’t really live up to expectations. Louis nearly threw his laptop overboard.
The first ride out of the ferry to Odessa was an unexpectedly beautiful one. Despite being on the motorway for pretty much the duration the scenery and undulating road made for a really pleasant ride, especially for Luis. We made it all the way to Barcelona the next day to meet up with some more bikers who showed us the town. They ended up taking Luis to a biker bar on the edge of town. We didn’t see him again until the next morning at breakfast nursing a cup of coffee and headache.
From Barcelona we traced a route north west through Spain and into France heading towards Grenoble. On our way we stopped in Arles to visit the Camargue, a unique and extensive wetland habitat that hosts 300 species of migratory bird as well as resident Flamingos. Having spent two days in the area (managing to catch the FA cup final, too) we had to leave to make it to Grenoble and then the Alps.
We entered the Alps via Aosta, staying in a really sweet B&B with massive rooms and a great restaurant attached where Pro ‘unwittingly’ ordered the most food ever ordered by man. The view we had of the mountains from our rooms was really special, as it was our first real experience of the Alpine scenery and roads. The next day we hit St Bernards pass, a hugely famous and popular pass bridging Italy and Switzerland with some of the windiest roads imaginable. Obviously, we took full advantage and made Luis ride them for pretty much 5 hours straight and used every camera we brought with us.
After a solid 5 days in the Alps amongst the most stunning scenery and landscapes, drinking from freshwater springs and getting caught in thunderstorms, we were all a bit done with the windy roads. Even Luis. It pretty much wiped us all out for about 24 hours in the Dolomites, in an eerie, pretty much deserted town at the bottom of a mountain. Their local supermarket was a prefabricated hut, similar to those secondary school tuck shops that sold wham bars and discos.
We’re now on our way to the south of Italy and on to Croatia via Montenegro. We’ve had a few setbacks along the way but we’ve also had some incredible moments, too. Having Luis for the whole time has been such a pleasure as well, its like having a 5th member of the crew. Even if he seems to be having a nap every time we let him get off the bike.