Belgian Castles

Well it’s only the end of Day 2, and its already been an eventful couple of days.

The departure from Touratech was a huge buzz. Getting a send off from Austin Vince was pretty special. I like to read, watch and keep abreast of all sorts of biking trips, but for me, none come close to the 2 magnum opuses of the Brothers Vince. There is one thing that sets their projects apart from almost all others, and that’s the fact that they (too) seem to value the satisfaction of being the first to do something on a motorcycle.

I guess everybody gets what they want out of adventure biking films, but for me it’s the trailblazing spirit, the desire to do something that hasn’t been done before that makes a great adventure. Mondo Enduro and Terra Circa both set out to do what hadn’t been done before. That’s why they’re great. There were no trip reports to read to help them do the bits that no-one had done before. It was virgin motorcycle territory.

I like to think my earlier trip, the Tokyo to London Project, shared the Vince philosophy in that way. If I am able to reach some (or all) of my objectives in this current project, then I hope to build on that spirit. I still believe there are plenty of interesting roads out there yet to be ridden. It’s harder and harder to do a trailblazing adventure biking trip, but there is still potential out there.

Day 2 began for both Jonathan and myself in our respective homes in Manchester and London. The plan was to meet at Folkestone Eurotunnel terminal about 10 am. As it happens, both of us were delayed (I had to search for papers in my self storage shed near Gatwick and Jon had traffic problems) and we met at about 12:00 before rolling under La Manche to Calais. The delayed start to the day meant we were squeezed in terms of schedule as soon as we rolled off the tunnel at 2:30pm local time in France. We wound our way through the Flanders Fields around Ypres and Passchendale before realising we were far too late to make a 6pm dinner date in Tongeren on the other side of Belgium with Norbert and family. Norbert was a contact through Horizons Unlimited who I had written to of number of times but had never met. There was no other option – we had to hit the dreaded motorways for over 2 hours.

I had also arranged to meet Stijn and friends, a couple of other Belgian guys planning a ride to Siberia, Mongolia and China for next year, and to meet my 8 year old son Michael – who lives in Holland – that evening. It was going to be a rushed evening and I had no idea how I would be able to link it all together. Fortune favours the brave and the answer was apparent as we arrived at Norbert’s. He lived in an old Castle! Fantastic stuff. So thanks to the fantastic hospitality of Norbert, Francoise and Thierry, all things came to pass that evening in the Castle. After an evening speaking with Stijn and his friends, Jon and I spent the evening in the guesthouse with our motorcycles, while Michael and his mum spent the evening in the Castle itself.

A stressful day, and what was probably the longest day of the trip (about 500 km for me and probably 700 km for Jonathan) ended with dinner and wine in a fantastic castle. The Brothers Vince would have loved this one!

Day 1 – Sibirsky Extreme 2009

Jonathan 29-03-2009

Well I finally got underway and left Cheshire at 6am. I rode west and then took the A49 south towards Shropshire and beyond. I had put a predetermined route into the sat nav and enjoyed the twisties all the way down to Touratech. It was a day of sunshine and showers and generally very enjoyable riding weather with the odd rainbow thrown in.

I arrived just before lunch and the usual suspects were there. Friends from UKgser, people I’d met at last years event and the staff at Touratech.

I got the camcorder and camera setup for Walters talk on the Sibirsky Extreme project. I had intended to do one of the Touratech off road rides but I arrived a bit late and had other duties to perform.

By mid afternoon I had a realisation. I had unknowingly made a sacrificial offering to the road gods… Somewhere between Cheshire and Ystradgynlais I had lost a bag. It was a decathlon dry bag on top of my right pannier. It had my tarp, one man tent and my andystrapz in it. Not expensive kit but a pain in the arse nonetheless. I was hell bent on traveling light and so this meant I would have to go home and get my big tent (home being 200 miles north) I could have purchased a cheap tent but I had other things to sort out.

After a fine evenings entertainment from the legendary raconteur, adventure motorcyclist and male portion of team nutkin aka Austin Vince I managed to secure a bed for the night inside Touratech. Austin had also managed to gain access to Fortress Touratech for the night. He slept beside me on the floor and there was no funny business… honest Lois. There was the 5am incident though where he had nipped outside and got locked out by the self locking door. it was -3c out there and I’m not sure how long he’d been out there. Austin you owe me now 🙂

After a hearty breakfast and some fine tea we were ready for the off. The cameras were rolling and with Billy ( and Austin on the mic it was the finest send off anyone could ask for. It was a great feeling and what adventure motorcycling is all about. I recommend everyone should do it. There have to be some sacrifices but the rewards are great!

Les Wassel from joined on the ride out and he accompanied me all the way back to Cheshire. We stopped to have a brief chat and decide when we would regroup.

I felt it would be fitting to have a symbol that would reflect on the days proceedings and act as a talisman for the days and weeks on the road ahead. Walter, Myself and Les felt the first sign from the road gods just didn’t have quite the right ring about it…

So as Walter forged on alone to London it was left to Les and myself to find a better sign. 2 hours later we think we found it and with due pomp and ceremony at the roadside we stamped our seal of approval onto the talisman by furnishing it with a Sibirsky Extreme sticker 🙂

Walter, just so you know there will be no more adoration and homage to the Colebatch name once we are out on the open road. 🙂

Going where no motorcycle has been before