BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter in Faro, Portugal

Friday 29/3/13

Happy Easter everyone.


It's a conspiracy against us I'm sure. There wasn't a spot of sunshine today, and it was cold with no wind. Not what you'd call ideal drying weather for wet clothes.


We bludged around the club today and did a little bit of preparation for our departure. After ten months I'm still refining the packing, and trying to get rid of stuff we don't need. You would think I'd have it sorted by now wouldn't you? Being a hoarder has it's downfalls. On a positive note, I found a space blanket that we "could" have used when we were stuck in the snow in Morocco. Suzanne didn't look that impressed. We now have another parcel to post home.


On a sour note, I bought some Australian flag stickers over with me to put on the bike and they were OK, but faded badly after a few months. I ordered some more from Australia. The description said "vinyl" stickers. OK, for all the sticker manufacturers out there, vinyl means plastic, not paper with a thin laminate of plastic on top. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get the left over paper and glue off clear motorcycle screens without scratching them? Not happy.


Tonight's dinner at the club was a delectable pork dish with chips and salad. The guys here at the club do such a great job. We ate alone because Frank and Lisa bailed on us again. I think they are getting old. (Love you guys.)


Later I was working on the blog when Farense decided he would like to help me.



I appreciated Farense's help, but he was typing in Portuguese.

Suzanne toddled off to bed and I stayed for another drink. Then I heard "So you're the infamous Aussie" in an genuine Australian accent. Paulo introduced himself. He grew up in Sydney and now works all over the place but is based in Portugal. We enjoyed a few beers and reminisced about the Castrol 6 Hour, Easter bike races at Bathurst, old bikes, and old racers. It was a good way to spend the night, and ignited a few foggy memories from a distant time. Am I really that old?


We're nearly ready to go but the wet weather may delay our departure from Faro. If I'm going riding in the mountains, I want to enjoy the mountain roads, and if it's raining, or the roads are wet, then it won't be much fun. I'd rather hold off for some good weather. The forecast says partly sunny Sunday, with bright sunshine on Monday. Monday might be the go. We'll see.

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Another huge lunch in Faro, Portugal.

Thursday 28/3/13

So the plan today was to get up at eight am, Suzanne would cut my hair, then we would finish our preparations for our departure tomorrow morning. All we'd have to do on Friday morning was wash our bedding and towels and once they are dry, put them away and bolt.


I did say that "was" the plan.


I woke up at eight am OK, but had a horrible headache. No, it wasn't altitude sickness again, I must have slept with my neck crooked, or Suzanne beat me with a big stick while I was asleep. Suzanne fed me a Panadol and I went back to sleep, only to wake up at eleven thirty! Half the day was wasted. At least my headache was gone.


Suzanne got out the clippers and gave me a quick trim, then we rode into town to meet up with Frank and Lisa for lunch.


They took us to a different restaurant today. Sabores do Churrasco. This place had a big buffet with a large selection of vegetables (I remember them) which was help yourself. Then the waiter came around and served our meat at the table. He presented a long skewer packed with meat that had been rotating over a grill and proceeded to carve thin slices of meat onto our plates. There was a huge range of meats which were all very nice but my favourite was the chicken stuffed with cheese. Drool.



A small sample of the meat presented to us.

Lisa and i both avoiding the very, very, sharp knife the waiter was using.

More about Sabores do Churrasco can be found here:
http://www.saboresdochurrasco.pt/

OK, here's a side note. I bought a belt in France way before Christmas and it was a little large so the assistant put an extra hole in it for me, so I had a spare. I got down to that hole pretty quickly so I had two more put in when we were in Seville. Now I'm down to the last hole again. Either the belt is stretching or I'm losing weight. Explain that to me. I'm eating lots of horrendously fattening food every day and drinking way too much beer, bourbon, and coke...and I'm losing weight. The new Euro diet.

All the food was delicious and every time we finished a serve of meat the waiter came back with another serve. Yes, it was all you can eat meat. Desert consisted of roasted pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon. Yes, a pineapple was roasted on a rotisserie and sliced and served at the table. That was new to us. I'm not a big fan of pineapple, but this was perfect and not too sweet. We finished off with a shot of local fire water. We didn't need dinner back at the club I can tell you.


After lunch it was back to Frank and Lisa's hotel for a quick drink where the guys presented us with some gifts, which was very kind. Once again I had a sore jaw from laughing so much. Thank you again guys. It was an absolute pleasure, and a lot of fun meeting you.

We arrived back at the club at around six pm. Yes, we'd had a five hour lunch! Suzanne crashed in bed and I spent an hour or so planning our route north through Portugal. Looking at the number of places we have to see, and going by our current progress, we should be out of Portugal by about 2016. Oh well, this trip was never about covering as many kilometres as we could, or even about visiting as many countries as we could. It is about wandering around and getting to know places and people. We've achieved that.


Our new plan is tomorrow we will do what we should have done today. Then we'll head north on Saturday...


..maybe.


We have a huge number of Portuguese people reading the blog each day at the moment. We intend riding to the northern border of Portugal with many stops along the way. If anyone would like to meet up for a beer or coffee along the way, please email us at mykolajenko@hotmail.com.


We love meeting new people.
We will leave Faro...one day...soon...

Wednesday 27/3/13

Our neighbour Vitali (from Russia) in the next room is very tidy and organised. My sort of guy. This morning we were discussing how neat and tidy he is when Suzanne said:


"You should see the way he's folded the tea towel in the kitchen."


My reply was: 


"Um, Suzanne, that was me."


Just like home.


Our mate from Perth has a full schedule while he's in Faro and is off to the Portimao race circuit tomorrow so unfortunately we won't be able to catch up. Such is the life of a jet setting moto journalist. We'll have to have that coffee back home Trev.


What's he up to in Portugal? Well, it involves a major tyre manufacturer and all will be revealed on mcnews.com.au very soon.




We did nothing much else today so with some time on our hands we started our preparations for leaving. We (Suzanne) did a load of washing, but there's not much sun around so drying it could be a problem. We'll finish off tomorrow and be on the road Friday.


Hard to believe isn't it?
Pasta, painting, and pot in Portugal.

Tuesday 26/3/13

Our planned ride fell through today so Suzanne and I went for a little ride around Faro by ourselves. It was a bit wet, but not cold so it wasn't a problem.


We went into town and searched for La Boheme, a restaurant we saw on our second day here. We found it, but they weren't serving meals, only snacks. That's OK because a snack here is like a meal to us. We sat outside and did some people, stork, and dog watching while we snacked away.


After lunch we rode over to the hotel to see Frank and Lisa, but they weren't there. I think they were hiding from us in the back room after the results from our last couple of get togethers.


We headed out on the road again and did a tour past the airport, along the back roads around the estuary. It's amazing what you find when you go wandering. There are little cafes and bars everywhere here, even in the middle of nowhere.


Feeling like a bit of home cooking tonight, we went home via the supermarket and stocked up on the necessities to make spaghetti bolognese. It's very funny shopping for ingredients when you can't read any of the packets on the shelf. We left with what we though we needed.


The fish section caught my eye today. I saw a couple of eels sitting on ice, one still with a large hook in it's mouth. They were BIG!


After a very nice dinner (thank you Suzanne) Suzanne challenged me to a game of pool. We played five games, and I won three. That's a first, she usually thrashes me.


It was about then that one of Suzanne's little offsiders rolled up and wanted to be painted. While Suzanne was getting her paints Ines and I played pool. She didn't use a cue, and she didn't care what balls she was sinking, but she was having a lot of fun.



Even Ines wants to tell me what to do.

Suzanne painted Ines, then Ines wanted to paint Suzanne. here are the results. Not bad really.



Two different languages trying to work out what Ines wanted to be painted as.

Ines's arm painting on Suzanne...

...and her face painting.
That paint in the eye has got to hurt.

This is where the night came to an end. Suzanne went to the ladies to wash the paint off her face (out of her eyes) and scrounged a cigarette from a girl while she was in there. She then came out and said "I feel really funny and I need to go to bed right now." We found out later that it's common practise in Portugal to lace your smokes with hash. Good one Suzanne. 

A friend from home will be in Faro tomorrow so we're going to hang around until he arrives. He's pretty busy working but if he can get a break we'll catch up for a coffee and a chat.


Then we'll head north Thursday.


Yes, we'll be leaving Faro.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Seafood extravaganza in Olhao, Portugal.

Monday 25/3/13

We had our planned ride for today postponed until tomorrow, so Suzanne and I jumped on the bike and made our way to Olhao for lunch.


Mario had recommended a couple of restaurants there and said we had to try the local speciality, Cataplana De Marisco. Who are we to argue?


We walked into Cervejaria Ria Formosa and once we'd settled in we ordered our meal, not having a clue what we were going to get. Not long after, out came a huge bowl of seafood. It was chock a block full of crab, prawns, scampi, mussels, cockles  with capsicum, tomatoes, and onion. Oh, and a little bit of garlic. This was accompanied by a very large plate of chips.



Wow! what an enormous feast.

The bowl was enormous and as we looked at it we both said that there is no way we could eat it all. We were wrong. We did have to leave some of the vegetables and chips though. It was superb.


We timed our visit just right because as we were leaving the entire place was packed, and there were a lot of bowls full of seafood on the tables. If the locals are ordering it, it must be OK.


After lunch we needed to work off some calories. We went for a stroll along the foreshore and checked out the fishing boats, the fish market, and shops that were there.


 All the boats were back in...

...but there is always work to be done. 

The gulls here are enormous. They could carry away small children in their talons...if they had talons.

There was a real estate agent so we stopped and looked in the window at the properties for sale, as you do when you're on holidays. All I can say is we could live like royalty if we moved here.


Back on the bike we went for a wander just following the roads to see where they went. Suzanne did her usual "take photos of street art" thing as we went down little side streets to look around.




I like the guy painted on the door way on the left.




We found our way out of town and went for a cruise on some back roads. It's so pleasant riding around here, just cruising and checking out the scenery. It was getting on time wise so we jumped on the motorway back into town.



As usual, Farense was happy to see Suzanne...

...but not as happy as he was to see food.

Dinner at the club tonight was...seafood. We enjoyed some tasty squid with chips, and salad. As usual there was so much we couldn't eat it all.




I was still tired from the weekends activities, but do you think I could go to sleep when I got into bed? No way. Suzanne introduced me to movies on You Tube, so I stayed awake until four thirty watching movies. I wonder why my eyes are burning?
Nothing to see here. Move along please.

Sunday 24/3/13

There is nothing to say about today. I stayed in bed until four thirty in the afternoon, suffering badly from altitude sickness again. It couldn't possibly have been the alcohol last night. Could it? Or not going to bed until the wee small hours.


We...must...escape...Faro.


NOTE TO LINDA, OUR DOCTOR: Please skip the next papgraph.


We had dinner down stairs and it was something new for us. We were presented with a small bowl with alcohol in the bottom and a grill on top. A reasonably large chorizo type sausage was put on the grill and the alcohol was set alight. A bit like a mini barbecue. Every now and then we had to take the sausage off the grill and squash it between two pieces of bread. The oil from the sausage was soaked up by the bread.



Poor quality image from the web cam, but you get the idea.
You get to burn your own food at the table.

The sausage was delicious  and the bread was pretty good too, after being soaked in the oil from the sausage. I'm sure it was all very healthy. We did try and make up for this by having some pumpkin soup as well.


Eating dinner used up the tiny bit of energy I had left, so it was off to bed. Sooooo tired.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013


23/3/13

Down to the beach for a great lunch, then rockin' all night at Moto Clube Faro.

Saturday 23/3/13

The heavy rain that was forecast didn't show today. There was a bit of a thunderstorm during the night, but this morning is just overcast. Let's go for a ride and clear out the cobwebs.


We grabbed our gear to go downstairs, then realised that we'd left our helmets down there yesterday when we got back. They were locked up in the bar. Oh well. We grabbed a drink and some chips from the petrol station next door and played with Farense until the guys arrived and opened up.


With our compliment of safety gear complete we took off toward the beach. We got a bit wet in a light shower on the way but when we got there we found a great beach. Nice, clean, white sand, and it seemed to go forever in both directions. The surf was pretty choppy but I reckon on a good day it would be a great body surfing beach.


We rode across a long causeway that crossed the estuary and there were some very nice houses on the banks. 



That will do nicely thanks.

Or the top floor unit.

They like their boats around here. They're everywhere.

Moto Clube Faro is held in very high regard here, it's not surprising though. They hold an event that brings forty to fifty thousand people into the town every year. Imagine what that does to boost to the local economy that week. The club has a wall full of awards, certificates, and plaques from various tourism organisations and there are tributes all over town. Like this one from another Portuguese club.



Not what you'd find on the beach front in Australia. 


Not a bad little spot eh?

The fishing here is great.

Honest officer, it was this big. Across!

A little aside about the Police here. They actually have a presence out and about where people see them, and know they are around. They don't hide in cars behind bushes waiting to book motorists who are travelling at two kilometres per hour over the speed limit.

I made a sand angel.
It was about as successful as my snow angel.

The clouds were pretty impressive today.

After a bit of time at the beach we went in search of Gaspar's restaurant, Wax. We found it about a hundred metres from where we parked. It's a very cool beach themed restaurant and both Suzanne and I were taken by the way it was decorated. I was done really, really well. Gaspar walked in about twenty minutes later and we asked him who decorated the restaurant. It turns out that three designers were involved. I guess if you're going to do something, you might as well do it well and truly right. Even the wall paper was cool. It turns out the wall paper is a "one of" designed by one of the designers from Vans.



Wax has a very relaxed, beachy atmosphere. I think it would be packed in Summer.

Yes, but what about the food? I hear you ask.


Wax has a great menu with a wide range of dishes to choose from. I chose the Pad Thai which was excellent, and Suzanne had spaghetti carbonara which disappeared pretty quickly. The food was excellent, and Wax is definitely another good place to go if you're ever here.



I broke my self imposed rule and had a beer with lunch.

We were pretty contented when we left Wax to ride back to the club. The clouds put on a good display for us on the way across the causeway.


On the way back we came across another dedication to the club. This one is on one of the main roads in town.


So, motorcycles are actually OK.
Wow, did you hear that Australia?

Tonight was a fundraiser with the band Iris. We walked into the bar and a lot of people said "You're still here?" and smiled. Why wouldn't we be? It's such a great place.


I met Jimmy, a mad Irishman (Is there any other kind?) and we had a few beers. Actually more than a few. We started at about four pm and he was going home after "a couple". He was still there at two am. He came to the Faro bike meeting every year for fifteen years in a row and loves Portugal. One day he thought to himself "Stuff it, I'm staying here" and he has, for five years. I can very easily understand how this could happen...



Jimmy had a head start on me.

I bumped into Marco again and he gave me some more tips on good roads to take when we eventually go north. Thanks Marco.

Iris were great, they really rocked the place and kept it up til about two thirty. I now know why they were so popular. The crowd were singing along with most of the songs they sang. And what a crowd. The place was packed, upstairs and downstairs.



Great crowd.

The band at work...

...and ripping it.

One girl asked Suzanne if she would be doing any painting, so the paint came out and it was on. Suzanne had a steady stream of people to paint all night long. I tried to get Ruy to have his head painted but he wouldn't be in it.





A face painter and a GSX powered drag bike in the same photo. Not something you see very often.

Lisa and Frank rocked up at about midnight and joined that party. It was really good to see them. Then I found Marinho and Ruy. Oh oh!



I need to avoid these two. The are a bad influence.
(How cheeky does Ruy look?)

They had their local moonshine with them, again. On the plus side Marinho gave us a couple of tips on good restaurants in Olhao to go to and try the local speciality. We've also organised a ride for Monday, so that's good.


Then Gaspar reappeared.

Meanwhile the band took a couple of minutes break and left the drummer out there by himself. Poor guy.

Drum solo time.

it's OK, they came back...

...and really got into it.

Then the band started to wind things down.

If you ever meet these two, avoid that white bottle,
at all costs.

The crowd eventually started to thin out sometime after three (I think) so it was time to find my bed. The end to another very full, very long day in a great place with an awesome bunch of people. Again, thank you everyone.

I'm not sure just how we are going to get out of here. Even Suzanne has said she could live down by the beach.
Is Faro wearing us out, or were we worn out when we got here.

Friday 22/3/13

It was another quiet day today as we are exhausted. I don't think we realised how tired we really were until we stopped here in Faro. It's been a pretty full on ten months. I've also accepted that I must have pulled a groin muscle on our Moroccan adventure, and the cold night in the snow didn't do my hip any good whatsoever. I'm hobbling around like an old man. Hang on a second...I am an old man, so I guess it's OK.


Today we just hung around the club, did a bit of washing, sorted out some mail, and I caught up on some more blogging. 


When I was downstairs I noticed that every single person that comes through the door says hello to Farense and gives him a pat. He's probably the most loved dog in the world.


I caught up with Gaspar who I met last Saturday night and he was surprised we were still here. So am I. It turns out that Gaspar owns a restaurant called Wax which is down on the beach. There was a club ride planned for tomorrow but it's been cancelled due to the forecast heavy rain, so Suzanne and I had planned on visiting the beach tomorrow instead. (Funnily enough a bit of rain doesn't worry me any more.) In a classic two birds, one stone operation, we'll go to the beach then have lunch at Wax while we are there.


While we were downstairs Suzanne played with her paint and toyed with the club logo, we just have to get Ruy to agree to having it painted on his head.




There is Moto GP testing at Jerez in Spain this weekend and it's only about three hundred kilometres away. I'm considering heading across there early Sunday morning and coming back Monday, but I'm guessing Saturday night might be a biggie, so it's doubtful.

I hope nothing else big happens in Faro this week, we really need to head north. Soon.

Monday, 25 March 2013

We finally found Parque Natural da Ria Formosa in Faro, Portugal.

Thursday 21/3/13

We finally found the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa, the National park we tried to find the day we got here. We got directions from Catarina and off we went.


We initially went to the north end of the park and through some pretty swish areas full of very large houses. The Conrad Hotel looked pretty impressive as well. After a quick ride along the foreshore we rode south through Olhao and to the main area that the public visit.


The park is pretty spectacular and is home to many species of migrating birds. It also has a lot of other native animals and lots of windflowers that were easy to spot during our visit.


There is one thing we wanted to see, but couldn't find. A chameleon. Who would think they would be hard to find.


So here we go, photo time. Be warned, we had two cameras on the go, so there are lots of photos.


Birds:



Worm hunting on the mud flats.

Going fishing.

"I think I've got one."

Bird on a mission. This bloke was running flat out down the beach. I have no idea where he had to be.

Heavy footed bird.

We came across a little pond where some swallows were feeding on the insects that were there. These guys were dipping and diving and going every which way but straight. Suzanne laughed at me trying to take photos of them. Well guess who had the last laugh?

Their blue feathers flashed metallic highlights as they chased the insects.

"Oh look. it's me."

"Is that guy from National Geographic?"

These guys are so small, and so fast,
they were very hard to catch on camera.

I cheated with this one. I couldn't catch them in a tree,
or in the air.

Shellfish:



This is what it's all about. 7,000 tons of shellfish per year!


Collecting shellfish, the hard way.

These guys scratch around in the top few inches of mud and take home a bucket full of shellfish.

Yup, lots of shellfish here.

Water mill.


The water mill depends on the tide to provide power for the mill. The tide comes in and fills the estuary, as the tide goes out the miller adjusts the sluice gates to regulate the speed of the grinding wheels. It's all pretty simple, and pretty cool.  



The mill.

One of the grinding wheels.

Inside the mill.
Crabs: 


Lots of these guys, but not big enough for West Aussies.

Frogs:


The environment must be pretty healthy because there are a lot of these Princes in waiting around.

Turtles:


And lots of these.

The park is a cool place to visit. If you're in the area it's well worth dropping in. 


Learn more about the park at: http://www.formosamar.com/en/ria-formosa


On the way home we stopped off at the department store again and bought a kettle for the club. We also grabbed a couple of toys for Farense as well. We have to keep the boy happy don't we?


Guess who was waiting for us when we got back? Farense of course. He seemed to like his new toys.



Do you like Farense's chair?

We had dinner at the club and once again were served a huge bowl of food, accompanied by chips, bread, and salad. There is no way we could eat all of it, but it worked out OK because we had leftovers for breakfast.


During dinner we found out that there is a fundraiser being held here on Saturday night and there is a band called Iris playing . They are a Portuguese band that were apparently big in the eighties. It should be a fun night I think.


Speaking of bands, Moto Clube Faro organises the biggest motorcycle get together in Europe. It happens in July every year and this year will be the thirty third year it's been on. We'd love to be able to stretch our holiday out and be here for it this year, but it's just not possible. When I say get together, imagine around 40,000 (they had 50,000 at the thirtieth anniversary event) motorcyclists partying for four days in perfect weather. 


Obviously with that many people rolling up you have to provide entertainment. Have a look at some of the bands that have performed here in the past:

  • Alan Parsons
  • Deep Purple
  • Joe Cocker
  • Gary Moore
  • Billy Idol
  • Iron Maiden
The club has strong ties with Iron Maiden. Steve Harris was very good mates with a club member, Manu. Unfortunately Manu lost his fight with cancer a few years ago, and it's very obvious he's sadly missed around here. Iron Maiden played the gig here for Manu.

It's not unusual for Steve Harris to drop in for a beer every now at then and he played a gig with his other band British Lions here a few weeks ago. (I'll keep my eyes open Jo and Nick, and if I see him I will get the necessary autographs, don't worry.) 



There's a fair bit of Iron Maiden memorabilia around.


It was a big day. We'd walked a long way around the park and it was hard work. Our poor old bodies were happy to sink into the mattresses and have a rest. I wonder how sore we'll be in the morning?