Welcome to Lach Fergusson's
TRANS-AFRICA OVERLAND ADVENTURE!



DATE: September 29, 2005
CURRENT LOCATION: Island of Samos, Greece - Pythagoras Hotel
GPS COORDINATES: GPS unit is broken

Oh dear.

I have to admit now that I'm not yet much of an adventure traveler. It has taken me 12 DAYS to try and motorcycle as fast as I can to get out of Europe - and then I was stuck in Europe for another 2 days… So two weeks. TWO WEEKS. And this is all with me leaving a week later than I originally planned damnit. I should be ashamed at my lack of progress, but am just really BORED and ANXIOUS instead.

(Note: You will also notice that I have not sent any pictures yet! What few I have are trapped on my very expensive batteryless camera or I was just unable to take any - see further under 'equipment failures')

I didn't exactly take the most direct or swiftest route from London. My trial run, with bike returned from shop and affixed with all of my gear, was Saturday, 17 Sept. A three-hour jaunt out to the Seddlescomb Golf Club just before Hastings on the English coast (1066-country, where and when England was forced to embrace baguette and smelly French cheese) to meet Amanda who was enjoying an antipodean golfing birthday weekend with friends. I was supposed to leave each subsequent day earlier that week, but little bits and pieces held me back - a socket wrench needed there, an afternoon here to finish up with work, searching out a few too many extra maps perhaps, and an endless search for that final bit of kit for my GPS (which has since broken - see 'equipment failure'). Then I had to put all of my worldly goods away in the loft and file away documents and burn the 20GB iPod limit of my cd collection - have to have the right riding tunes for the Nubian desert.

Well, the trial run also just happened to be the very exact same day as the Day-1 Official Disembarkation Date… Hey! How about that for planning ahead? After a late night boozing with Aussies who were planning a bicycle around the Mediterranean Sea, after what was sure to be my last proper breakfast for quite sometime, and after one last teary squeeze good-bye Sunday afternoon with Mandy, I trundled down the English country road to Dover for my ferry to Calais and began the real real start of things.

Not bad going in the end.

You will see eventually that I have to literally climb aboard Mario (the bike, he's originally from Italy…) the kit is so overwhelming. Mario is a little precarious when on the stand, however. If not on a flat surface, it needs to be placed so the left side is leaning down hill. I discovered on the first loading that a breath too much to the right sends it toppling over and forces me to scrum off with Mario like he was the New Zealand All Black front five. This situation now necessitates a little reconnaissance on the lay of the land for any stop where I throw it up on the stand. This often involves some silly back and forth antics (i.e. Austin Powers 87-point turn) in gas stations and on ferries much to everyone's enjoyment. And I thought I was actually being good about packing light! Well, I've seen worse and more on bikes in all the book. I am just one guy who has to carry all his own stuff and not part of a larger outfit that can share things around. In any case, the European leg is meant to get us through all the teething and determine what's really necessary or not (do I really need the Neutrogena deep cleansing wipes..?) and will post whatever is not back to London at a safe port of call I expect on the Turkish coast (friends of Mandy's family).

In any case, I didn't fall off or drop the bike in the first block. I think that's quite commendable. I only got my biking license in July 2004 and have just been commuting part time to work when I'm in London and not traveling for work. So, in reality, I'm just a wobbly-novice rider. Unsurprisingly, I compound this shortcoming with extensively little mechanical knowledge of motorcycles or any real affinity for tools. Against this context, I lure myself into false confidence, believing that I make these weaknesses up with my wide-ranging global travels working for international organizations in dodgy places and a general smug worldliness. Hey, anybody can bash a tire back on the rim or change zee oil, but does the average biker hack know the subtle intricacies of bribing recalcitrant Cameroon Police roadblocks? Huh? Ok, ok - I know when I've broken down in the Ogaden of Ethiopia staring in complete dumbness at my lifeless bike while the hyenas are circling I'd damn well wish I knew how to swing that socket wrench and just tighten the carbovalvedistributorthingwiththething and get rolling again. And ok, ok - I won't have the overwhelming apparatus of the United Nations or Commonwealth Secretariat to back me if I get in trouble. But I've still got my wiles, which are wily. Very wily.

Rolling off the ferry in Calais I headed for Paris to rendezvous with my good friend Spencer. I made good time but my confidence got the best of me (no map check) and lost track of the signs that should have led me into central Paris. I was then lost in the dark in suburbs and without any bearings. Lo and behold I spotted the sparkling Eiffel tower off in the distance!! See, check those orientation skills. Following the roads over in the direction of this beacon I got back on track and laced through Sunday night traffic in crazy Paris. Just narrowly avoiding the Place de Deathtrap- errrr, Concorde, I clipped past the sex shops and Tex-Mex restaurants of Place de Cliché and did 4 circles around the Sacre-Coeur before I headed down the right road to their charming little Montmartre apartment. …yes, after humping all my things up five-Parisian-flights I really do think some things will have to go sooner rather than later.

I spent a few extra unplanned nights in Paris in the fine hospitality of Spencer and his lovely wife Sabine. What's a guy to do? Good friends. Good food. Mais, c'est Paris!! Spencer was kind enough to send me these pics of me as I left.









Also got to meet their new wee daughter Jane, who's 3 months old. You smell the fountain of youth on that kid's head.



After leaving Paris last Wednesday, spent the evening out in the French countryside, Fontette (near Vezelay). Thursday was in Avignon - holy walled medieval city of the popes!! Then alllll the way to Florence for a night and last weekend in belle Roma to do some wash and enjoy some fine gelatti. Rome was the first time I arrived anywhere with daylight, so it was nice to have a real shower and relax. But I was behind schedule and made for a lighting dash to Turkey: riding all day from Rome for the Monday evening ferry to Greece from Brindisi (I swear they closed the hatch behind me); then on arrival Tuesday morning, sprinted to Athens for the night boat to Samos; and SHOULD have been on the boat minutes after arrival in Samos in Wednesday for Kusadasi Turkey, but… the first boat that takes vehicles isn't until Friday (tomorrow)… yay. Again, terrifically well planned Fergusson.

And now, here is where I lay in wait.

Yes, now my 'equipment failures'. The back zip pocket on my jacket is stuck shut, trapping in my nice pair of glasses. My camera battery fell out of the charger, which was charging through the cigarette lighter as I barrelled down the highway somewhere in southern France. And my bike can only seem to go 100km a go before needing to fuel up again as the reserve tank seems to have induced an air bubble in the fuel line which blocks the fuel from coming down through the main tank. This essentially caused me a dozen or so abrupt out of fuel stops at anywhere from 90-120kmh on motorways over 3 days until I figured it out. Now frequent stops are still the norm - but at gas stations as opposed to on highway shoulders as heavily laden trucks zoom by. Aha ha ha!! No worries, I'm still here :)

But I am getting the hang of tents and campsites and verrrrry long biking days - I think I covered 750km from Avignon to Florence. Back and knees are sore, and strangely have lost a little feeling in my hands. Ears ring a little (time to use the earplugs). And sometimes, when it's quiet, I can still feel the rumble of the highway on my bottom. Oh, and GOOD GOD... my crotch hurts.

I'm not kidding.
it really does...

=)

no really, it does.

lots of love to you all,
Lachie