BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Thursday, 31 January 2013

Today we WILL get to Granada.


We are struggling. Every time we set a target for the next day, we find somewhere along the way that we like and makes us want to stay for a day or two. Almeria was an unplanned overnight stop because the wind was so bad, but it was a great place and it turned into a four day stay.

This morning looked promising. The wind had died right down, the temperatures had gone up, and we were ready to go. As I was packing the bike outside the hotel they guys from the taverna came out and said goodbye, which I thought was nice.

On the way out of town Suzanne spotted a parrot sitting off to one side of the road and said how colourful it was. A parrot? In Spain? So I turned the bike around to go and have a good look. It turned out to be this...

I'm not a parrot, I'm a pigeon.

Now that's something I've never seen before. A normal, everyday pigeon, with pink wings? Punk? Gay? Hippy? Desigual? I don't know, but it was pretty cool.

On the main road out of town we passed the Wild West Park. It's made up from old movie sets and is a theme park type set up where guys have gunfights and so on. It wasn't really our cup of tea so we rode on.

I can't get over the standard of roads here. For a country that is in a financial crisis the roads are fantastic. The surfaces are perfect and every main road we've travelled on between towns has been dual carriageway, and the drivers know how to use them. Here's a message to all Australian drivers - KEEP LEFT UNLESS YOU ARE OVERTAKING."  It's very simple, makes the traffic flow so much faster, and it's safer.

We rode through the Tabernas Desert and the terrain was different and interesting. I couldn't say it's pretty, but it certainly makes an impact.

Why build something when you can just hollow out a rock?

It was a bit hazy as we said goodbye to Almeria.

I imagine it could get pretty harsh out here in summer.

Enduro course terrain?

I see mountains in our future.

A little village off to the side of the road called Gergal was our stop for lunch (breakfast). We've worked out that buying food at the roadhouses on the main road is a huge rip off. I paid fifteen euro for a very ordinary burger and a coke at one stop, so now we pull off the main drag into little towns for anything we need. It saves us a fortune and probably helps the village a little. 

Hunting and gathering in Gergal.

We found a little tavern and enjoyed two delicious Tapas each, and a large, freshly squeezed orange juice, for a total of six euros. I felt a little guilty only paying six euros, but every little bit it does help the village economy I suppose.

Back on the road we found an interesting road sign...

We couldn't decide what it meant: Synchronised stoppies? Motorcycle ballet practice area? Cars reversing without notice? Whatever, it's nice that someone is thinking about us. 

Then it was over the mountains again. The pass was only about 1,300 metres high so the snow wasn't thick on the ground. The wind off the higher, snow covered mountains on the sides did make it a little cold though.

Oh oh, we didn't wear our thermals today.

Then the weirdest thing happened. We crested the mountain in glorious sunshine then rode straight into clouds. It was thick and very cold. Eventually we dropped altitude and we were out of the clouds. It was a bit strange though.

Then the landscape changed again. It was like a cross between The Flintstones, the wild west, and the Road Runner cartoons. I expected to see Road Runner, Wile E Coyote, an anvil, and an Acme rocket along the side of the road.

Is that Wile E Coyote on top of that rock?

It was here that that camera battery went flat, so the pick above is he only one we have of these strange rock formations.

Then it was hello Granada. We rode in through a dingy part of the city, but once we were in the central part it proved to  be very nice. We found a little restaurant and sat down to a big feed. The soup was a winner. Chicken, ham, and boiled egg. It was a big bowl full of chunks of meat and egg. We'll be back there tomorrow for lunch. Then I had a veal cutlet and Suzanne demolished a paella.

What we do in a new town is find somewhere to have a feed or a drink that has Wifi. Then we log onto the net and find accommodation that is close by, and CHEAP. We found a cheap little one star hotel close by and went for a look. The Hotel Veracruz turned out to be a real bargain for twenty five euro a night.

I was parked on the footpath on the corner waiting for Suzanne's yes or no on the hotel and a Police car pulled up next to me. Oh, oh. There were about five cars banked up behind him and he wound down his window and gave me the thumbs up sign. I said "Yes, I'm OK thanks." but that's not what he meant. He pointed at the bike and said "Good" smiled a big smile, and gave me another thumbs up before driving off. Here I was thinking I was in trouble for parking on the footpath and all he wanted to do was have a look at the bike and say hi. It's like that here. No one makes a hassle out of anything. I love Spain.

The owner of the hotel was a funny little old lady who spoke no English. She and Suzanne worked out that we had a Moto to park, so LOL (Little Old Lady was out the front, motioning me to ride down the footpath to the parking garage. She then walked down three floors to show me where to park. Back to the hotel and she indicated for us to follow her. LOL was off and we had trouble keeping up. Our room was around the back, off another street, and upstairs. Gee she was fast. So fast that Suzanne and I had trouble keeping up. Anyway, she got us settled in showing us how everything in the room worked, then disappeared.

Our Granada discovery was a little bar about twenty five metres from the hotel. It was another bar that offered the one free Tapa for each drink you buy deal, and The Tapas were nice. That was dinner taken care of.

Tomorrow we have tickets booked to go and see The Alhambra. We've been told it's a must see by quite a few people, so we're looking forward to it.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

It's Australia Day, and we're still in Almeria.


First of all...Happy Australia Day to all our Aussie mates.

The wind was up again today, and we were both dog tired (This holidaying caper can wear a person out),so we had a very quiet day. We made a move in the afternoon to find somewhere to have lunch. On our wander we saw this little guy.

He wasn't tied to anything, he was just patiently waiting for his mum to come out of the shop.

After going to two bars that only served drinks and no food, we made a move back to old faithful, the taverna downstairs at the hotel.

It wasn't open so Suzanne had a seat outside while I went upstairs to get something from our room. There were also some off the staff from the taverna waiting to go to work. While Suzanne was sitting there one of staff came over and said a whole heap of stuff in Spanish to her. Now the Spanish are very passionate when they speak, so Suzanne had no idea if he was angry, or upset, or happy. She didn't have a clue. Ten minutes later another waiter came over and said "Last night, you pay too much. You paid this, and you should pay this" and he put two receipts on the table. "So this is yours" he said as he put seven euros on the table. OK, firstly I can't believe this happened, and secondly, I can't believe they remembered us even though we hadn't spoken a word. I can appreciate that once they heard us speaking they would recognise us as the Aussies, but really. Thanks very much guys. The people are like this everywhere we've been. Friendly, honest, and fantastic.

Our favourite place for a feed. A free Tapa with every drink.

These are in every cafe, restaurant, and bar, we went into.
There were about ten hanging up around the bar.

We think we've seen enough of Almeria and as nice as it is we must move on. Tomorrow, even if it's hailing, snowing, or a cyclone, we WILL go to Granada.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

We visit the house where John Lennon lived.


It was a full day today. Our first stop was Casa del Cine. Unfortunately it was closed and didn't open again til five pm. No problem, we'll go and find somewhere to have lunch then come back.

We had a little sightseeing ride around town for a while. We were actually trying to find the shopping centre that had a Desigual shop in it, but had no luck whatsoever and gave up. Luckily we spotted some more graffiti that Suzanne liked...

What the?

We then stopped at a nice looking cafe. With a bit of sign language, and our limited Spanish (very limited), we spoke to the waiter and ordered Paella for lunch. It was very enjoyable and we managed to eat it all, even though they were large serves. Then our waiter friend appeared with two more plates. These had three slices of crumbed veal and chips, on each one. We obviously need to work on our Spanish. We had a bit of a nibble, and packed the rest away for a late night snack back at the hotel.

Weighing a little bit more than we did this morning, we made out way to Alcazaba de Almeria fortress. I'm so glad we did. We could have easily written it off as just another castle, but it was really interesting. Here's a link to a web site about it:

 Me at the entrance, probably thinking "Hurry up Suzanne".

The gardens were amazing, and well tended.

 Wouldn't this make a great backyard?

 This reminded me of Fishladder Falls
near Harvey in Western Australia.

 As you can see, we had the place almost to ourselves.

 Another part we couldn't explore.

 Suzanne reckoned this sign meant No Zombies"
and demonstrated.

 The bell of Santa Maria la Mayor church,
cast in 1763.

 The older part of the fortress.

 For some reason I just liked these doors.

 What a great barbecue area.

 Stonemason's art.

 These were pointed inland. Obviously they were more worried about attack by land than by sea.

 A little bit of creative paving.

The fortress offered a good vista of the city.

We spent hours wandering around here and it was a very peaceful place. Mind you, there were more cats there than people while we were there. So many cats I thought we might have been in a "cat"acombe. Chuckle, chuckle. At first I thought the cats were wild, but when we got close to one I could see it was very healthy and in good condition. Then it came over for a pat. Definitely not wild.

 Security cat.
"Yes, you can come in."

 This guy followed us around and was our best mate.

 Nice set of book ends.

When we walked into the cafe to get a drink all the cats came running in after us. I'm guessing people with food give them treats when they are in the cafe, so the cats know that cafe, plus people, equals food.

 At one point Suzanne had seven cats around her feet.

I told you he became our best mate.
Fanta cat.

It was now time to make our second attempt at visiting Casa del Cine. Off we went. It wasn't long before we found another distraction. The Desigual shop we were looking for earlier. In we went. For those of you that don't know Desigual it's a Spanish fashion label, and they make some awesome, quirky stuff. We've already sent one jacket home for Suzanne, but a girl can never have too many jackets can she? We didn't have much joy though. There was only one jacket we really liked, but the didn't have Suzanne's size. We did find a bangle though...

Finally we made it to Casa del Cine. After a few communication problems we were let in and met a very helpful Spanish girl. From what I could gather, I think they have group visits, and change the audio visual presentations to suit different language groups. This girl (I feel so bad that I didn't get her name. If you read this please email us.) was so pleasant. She basically gave us our own private tour, setting up the English audio along the way, and filling us in on some of the details about the house. It was great.

You might recognise one or two of the people
 who have worked in Almeria.

Part of an art exhibition by Antonio Lorente
This is computer generated.

Suzie got a kick out of standing in John Lennon's bathroom.
It's still as it was when he was there.

John's bedroom.

The gates to Santa Isabel, now the Casa del Cine. These gates reminded John of Strawberry Field where he used to play as a child. 

Good night John. Sleep well.

You can read about Casa del Cine here;

We decided that the Taverna downstairs was such good value we'd go there for dinner again. They didn't let us down and we trundled off to bed exhausted from a full day, and with full bellies.

Almeria. Who knew?


Why did we come to Almeria? Fate? Destiny? Coincidence?  Who knows? We were planning on going to Grenada but snow warnings forced us to stay near the coast with a planned assault on Granada the next day. We changed plans and were going to spend a night in Motril but the winds were so severe we called an end to the day's ride once we reached Almeria.

We're found a little hotel that is a bit of the main drag and much to our surprise we discovered a statue of John Lennon outside the front door. I got down on my knees to read plaque, but of course it's in Spanish. D'oh! you dope. 

For those of you that don't know Suzanne very well,
she is a huge, huge John Lennon fan.

Why is the statue there? We asked at hotel reception and it turned out that John Lennon lived in Almeria in 1966 while he was filming "How I Won The War", a movie by Richard Lester. A little more research and we discovered Almeria has a long history of movie making. Movies shot here include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Conan, Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. and many, many more. 

Now it gets interesting. When John Lennon lived here, he wrote Strawberry Fields, and the house he lived in is now a cinematic museum called Casa del Cine. Guess where we are going tomorrow?

With the detective work out of the way I settled down in a nice spot in the sun for breakfast. A plate full of calamari, octopus, cheese, chips, and bread, topped off with a egg. Can you believe I'm actually losing weight here? All of this was enjoyed while listening to some Flamenco music. Then I just sat back, enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee, and watched the world go by.

What did I notice? Scooters! I counted fifteen scooters ride past in one five minute period. Yes I timed it. Piaggio and Vespa are by far the most popular. Scooters just make so much sense. I'm definitely getting one when I get home.

The other thing that struck me was the kid's school bags. No one lugs a heavy school bag around, they all use little wheely bags, like suitcases. No crook backs for he kids here.

We headed of for a casual walk. We had a look in a few fashion shops (They do it so well here).

Then just as I was saying "We should keep an eye out down the side streets for anything interesting" I spied a BMW dealership. We walked in and the two sales staff didn't even acknowledge us. If they were smart they would have noticed Suzanne was wearing her well worn motorcycle boots, so we were obviously riders. The 650 GS was cheap, suited Suzanne perfectly, and if they were any good at their jobs they would have had half a chance of selling us one for Suzanne to ride for he rest of our trip. I really want to contact he owner and let him know. Lazy sales people, one of my pet hates.

We chose to dine in tonight and found a supermarket to do a little shopping. We have a new winner in the quality champagne at the cheapest price...

...a bottle of Moet for 31.50 euros.

Back in the hotel we enjoyed our casual dinner while watching TV. It was a shock to hear just how bad the economic situation is here in Spain. Unemployment is currently at 26%! That's not really accurate because a lot of people have left Spain seeking work elsewhere. This compounds the problem because with less people here spending and paying taxes things just get worse. I'm starting to understand why people here look at me strangely when they find out I resigned from my job in Australia and don't expect having any problems finding another when we go home. Things don't look like improving here in a hurry either.

It's a wonderful country, with fantastic people, but it has it's problems right now. We'll try and inject a few more euros into he system tomorrow to help out.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Granada here we come.


Our target today was Granada, 350 kilometres away to the south. We weren't in a real hurry so we took our time getting ready and packing the bike. Not long before we were about to leave we received a phone call from Malena. She informed us she'd just heard that authorities are requiring snow chains to be fitted if you are travelling the road into Granada. Um, snow chains? That's something I didn't have on the check list for the trip. We might have to go a different way. 

We thought we'd head off anyway and see what happened. 

(A small aside. The Tom Tom sat nav wasn't talking to the headset, AGAIN. End of whinge)

Off we went. Oh my god! Talk about wind! It was blowing a gale. I immediately decided that Granada was off the list for today. I wasn't going anywhere near a mountain in these conditions. We'd head toward Motril instead. From there we could do a day trip to Ganada tomorrow if we wanted too. It was so windy we were actually blown into the next lane once, and came close quite a few times. I was battling to sit on 100 kph the wind was that strong. It was scary.

Then Suzanne yelled at me that she saw a body lying on the side of the road, with what looked like a helmet next to it. "Oh shit" I thought. With a million thoughts screaming through my head we got off the freeway, broke every speed limit we saw, made illegal turns here and there, and after a bit of messing around made our way back to where Suzanne saw him. He was moving and no it was a backpack not a helmet. We both agreed to stop and keep our distance just in case, and watched as he got up and walked the opposite way. Very odd, perhaps he just fancied a nap in the sunshine in the ditch next to freeway??? Well, that's a lot better than a lot of possible outcomes.

After my heart rate settled we continued towards Motril. The wind really was incredible. It was the worst I've ridden in by far. I did have a bit of a chuckle during my white knuckled ride though. A guy in a white Audi came up behind us in the left hand lane. He was travelling a fair bit quicker than we were and was about to pass us when he obviously noticed us weaving all over the road. He made a couple of attempts at passing us, but backed off each time. Remember, he was in his own lane, but our erratic riding was obviously scaring him (not as much as me though). Then he backed off and pulled into our lane behind us. He sat there for about five minutes till there was a lull in the wind, the he pulled out and passed us. As he went past he looked across at us smiling and shaking his head.

We saw the TV news later and there was vision of scooters lying on sides, blown over by the wind, flattened street signs, building damage, and rough seas - in the Mediterranean. And we were out riding in it. Crazy!

We found a little town that looked like a good place to have a rest, and some lunch. After a bit of searching we found a cafe and settled in for a good feed of Tapas. 

As we left our lunch stop we rounded a corner and found a mini traffic jam. It was caused by a little kitten on the road. (How do they always find us?) We stopped the bike and jumped off. Now here's a picture. Me, lying on the road in front of a stationary car, with all my riding gear on. Anyone who came around the corner would have thought the worst, but I was actually trying to get the kitten out from under the car. It was wild and wasn't coming anywhere near me. Then it ran across he road under another car. Suzanne and I were stopping all the traffic trying to catch this little thing, but with no luck. Then it was gone. The driver of the car behind was motioning to us that it was up under the car. But the car drove off, they may find it when they get home . Hope it was OK. Back to the wind again...

As we approached Almeria we could see hundreds and hundreds of plastic covered, hydroponic greenhouses. They covered miles and miles and miles. 

I was intrigued and looked them up on the web. You can read about them here:

We may have run out of fuel and had to use our emergency backup again (Hi Bert). And the trip computer may have said we have thirty five miles left in the tank! I'm not admitting anything.

We enjoyed another spectacular Spanish sun set as we rolled into Almeria. 


As we neared Almeria I decided that I'd had enough. I was exhausted from riding in the wind so we found a cafe with Wifi (pronounced like iffy with a "W" at he front), sat down with a beer, and searched the web for a cheap hotel. We ended up at Neuvo Torreluz and couldn't believe how nice it was for the price. We booked two nights. And it has a bath, so Suzanne is happy.

Downstairs in the adjoining Taverna they give you a free Tapa with every drink. We spent about twenty euros and had a really good feed along with a few drinks. It was a good finish to the day.

Maybe the day after tomorrow we'll make Granada. We'll see.