We stayed the night at a little campsite in San Jose. The plan was to travel to Murcia the next day and visit the cathedral there. We set off and a few hours later the trip that was supposed to take an hour came to an end, the rain had been biblical and there was no way I was trudging round a big church in that much rain. As a suitable alternative we found somewhere to eat, after which we said our farewells, Ian heading for Benidorm with three weeks to kill before the Moto GP in Valencia and me heading to Madrid.
The journey to Madrid was slow in the rain and I stopped about two hours shy of the capital, booking into a motel. I looked at the map and realised I still had a day to kill or I would be in Santander for a full day and a bit. I made the decision to book into a hostel and explore Madrid for a few days.
The Thursday morning I packed, had a late breakfast and set off for Madrid. It was a couple of hours and the hostel was in the centre of the city. I located a 24hr car park and made my way to ‘SafeStay’. It looked great, very clean with friendly staff and all the rooms airy with lockers and bedding supplied. I had taken the clean bedding to my room and was battling with the duvet cover when a text message arrived. I continued the battle and then went to the message. “Due to the impending weather due to hit the UK on Sunday your ferry crossing has been cancelled”. I checked it wasn’t anyone I know having a laugh but it looked genuine. I needed food having not eaten since breakfast. I walked to a nearby American Diner and ordered my meal whilst on hold to the ferry company.
The upshot of the call was this set of choices. There is another ferry in a week, so I have to stay a week longer. My cash was running out, I had depleted my reserves for this trip. Or there would be a ferry leaving St Malo at 10am the next morning. They had spaces available, but St Malo is 1250km (776miles) away. There was an offer of £375 to cover the disruption.
I had my hands tied financially, so I finished my meal and went back to the hostel to book out. It was 5.30pm when I pulled out of the car park. As I did so I noticed that the wheel wobble was far worse at slow speed, suggesting a far worse issue with the tyres than I had thought. I didn’t have time to stop and check it, anyway what good would it do the spare is under the bike in the back. I knew I had to book onto the ferry before 8am the next morning. The satnav said I would arrive at 5.30am, giving me a window of opportunity to grab an hours sleep somewhere, or change a tyre if necessary.
It was relatively slow progress getting out of Madrid in rush hour. Once on the open road my mind was occupied with the maths of hours and distance. You see the satnav looks at the speed limits and works out your average, allowing for the time of day and any road works etc etc. It doesn’t allow for fuel stops, re routes and the endless stopping at tolls. In the first hour of clear traffic the satnav added 12 minutes to the journey time, Dubless isn’t the fastest car and is happy at 100kph, but most of the speed limits are 110 or 120kph, the roads were clear and the satnav saw no reason why we couldn’t do the maximum speed. In ten hours the satnav would add two hours to the journey time making the arrival time 07.30am. With no stops along the way, I was in for a long night. Luckily my friend was working on his motorbike that evening and regularly text with progress updates or questions. Hands free texting meant he got some weird messages back but it kept me awake and concentrating. Soon enough the toll roads started. I was driving in my socks for comfort and each toll meant stopping, putting on shoes, walking round to the pay booth, back to the car, shoes off and carry on. That’s all well and good if its twice in a journey, but honestly every 20 minutes and it starts to get on your nerves. Each toll costing from £3 up to £12 didn’t make it any more fun. Most of them are unoccupied, so there was much cursing as I went through the routine. Each one receiving more of a lesson in English swearing and maybe even the odd kick at the silly plastic bucket you throw the money in.
It was about the twentieth toll station that broke the camels back and I lost it, it was late, I didn’t even know where I was, just another toll booth in an endless stream of money making highway robbery machines. A tirade of abuse escaped my lips as I threw the pockets full of change, I had accumulated through paying tolls with notes, into the plastic bucket. The machine spat out some and they were thrown back in, but it doesn’t take small change and I still owed 2 euro. I had a fifty euro note and got all the change in coins. There was more disgruntlement and I turned to walk back to the driver side of the car. It was at this point I noticed the 4 armed Police officers blocking my exit. This was the French border. It was too late to smile and laugh it off but I tried. In fairness they were understanding and after a few minutes of being told to calm down and drive carefully I was on my way.
I had watched the sun set and drove through the night until the sun rose again. It was a long boring journey with a few detours for road works and the like. Eventually I rocked up at St Malo ferry terminal at 8am. I had stopped three times, twice for fuel and once to get a coffee to stave off the tiredness. I joined the queue to board the ferry, switched off the engine, stuck it in first gear, let the hand brake off and laid across into the passenger seat. The next thing I knew was being woken by another gendarme who was telling me everyone else had boarded.
I had a cabin on the ferry and slept for most of the crossing which was pretty rough, waking occasionally as the ferry plummeted down the face of one wave and ploughed into another, the whole ferry shuddering at the force of impact.
Anyway I got home on the Friday evening. Its not often you buy a car and arrive back home to find the ownership document arrived before you did! In all I did 600miles on the bike, 4000 miles in the car and 7 miles on foot. The trip had not been the one I planned or even wanted but it had been the test I wanted. I had been put through the mill and come out the other side intact. I had made it to the Sahara, along the way I had met many interesting people and sampled a different culture. I will go back sometime on a bike and hopefully complete the journey I had anticipated, but for now I was home with a list of things to do before any of that could happen.
In the following weeks Dubless was graced with a new VW badge and a new front tyre as the old one had been slowly disintegrating throughout the journey, I was lucky it held out. DJ has been put into storage and I am working out the best option for her. I want to rebuild the engine, however it is an expensive option and there are other bikes out there.
The last leg of my journey had been a rush and that means there are no photos. However here are some of Dubless and DJ. I hope this journey has been an interesting read and to new adventurers, an indication that you can overcome some pretty major set backs to complete your journey.
Remember ‘The only impossible journey is the one you never start’