BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy New Year everyone!


We spent our New Years Day riding from Lourdes, France to Bilbao, Spain. Luckily we had fully recovered from yesterdays "altitude sickness." 

We rode out of Lourdes at about half past ten and it was raining. We can't complain too much because we've been away for six months, including this winter and we've encountered very little rain while we've been on the road. Even in the UK we really only had one three hour ride in heavy rain.

We had about three hundred kilometres to travel so we hit the motorways. The motorways run on a toll system and I don't have a problem with that, but it's a real pain on a motorcycle. You have to stop, balance the bike, take your gloves off, get your wallet out, pay the toll, and do everything in reverse order before you ride away. It's OK if it's not busy, but I get pretty agitated when there are three of four cars behind us. It probably looks very funny from behind to see someone trying to balance five hundred kilos of bike and bodies as he leans over to pick up a dropped five euro note.

As I said, I get agitated, and flustered. That's why what happened next, happened. We'd gone through four toll booths and had just left the fifth. We got up to speed and had been riding for about five minutes, when I felt something hit my arm. At first I wondered what it was, then in a split second the thought flashed through my mind. "I didn't put my wallet away at the last toll booth. I left it sitting on top of the tank bag." 

We pulled up on the side of the motorway and a quick check revealed that I didn't have my wallet. Damn! We were both off for a walk down the motorway looking for a small, black wallet in the rain. After a bit of a walk we reached a bridge. I was hoping that the wallet hadn't gone over the side, then I saw a five euro note in the middle of the road, then another, then a ten, then a fifty, and then the jackpot. My little wallet sitting on the white line in the middle of the road, intact, complete with all the cards, license, etc. What a relief. I dodged a few cars on the bridge and quickly retrieved it. I can tell you, avoiding cars doing 130 kph plus on a motorway is a lot scarier than riding a bike. On the plus side, we saw a large stork glide into a field on the side of the road. It just floated by in slow motion very close to us and looked amazing. I checked it's beak pretty carefully, and no it wasn't carrying a baby. It must have already dropped it off somewhere else.

Something we noticed on the side of the road were white lumps of what looked like spider webs in the trees. We thought they were too big for spider webs, but didn't think a bird would build anything like it either. A bit of Google research gave us the answer.

This is what we saw.

It turns out they are Pine Processional Caterpillars nests.

 This is what they look like up close.

 This is what they do, hence their name.

...and this is what they turn into.

These things are amazing and well worth a bit of a read on Google. We also saw a lot of bird life in the fields on the sides of the road.

We rolled up at the Moon Hostel in Bilbao. We really have to start watching the budget a bit more carefully from now on. The hostel was great, but there was nowhere to park the bike. There were push bikes parked in reception, so we thought...

Meet Natalia, our bike's new friend.

Natalia was very kind and offered us a few solutions but the last one was the best. We could park the bike in reception and put all the bags in a lock up room out the back. AWESOME! Thanks Natalia.

After a quick freshen up it was off to dinner. We've worked out it's easier to take our laptop with us and if the restaurant has Wifi we can Google translate the items on the menu that we don't understand and it makes life a lot easier, especially if the restaurant is busy. Half way through typing the name of one item into the computer, this came up: 

For those with poor eyesight, here's a close up.

Hmm, not sure about that one.

A quick look around Bilbao tomorrow and we're on our way south to Salamanca.

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