We had a few chores to complete before setting off on our European Adventure …collect the sleeping bag and Vince’s liners for his riding pants from the Drycleaner and Alterations place….have breakfast at the local cafe (Eggs Hollandaise)…top up our fuel and make our way to Vines Guildford to pick up a replacement bolt and circlip which came off somewhere in Wales. Keith Ackroyd fitted them for us ….he’s very found of the Animal. Whilst this was going on I was approached by a father and young son who were fascinated by the ANIMAL and I gave the young boy one of our stickers. We scooted down the M25 towards Folkestone and a few miles short it started to rain so we pulled off and put on our wet weather gear wishing to avoid another drenching!

Arriving early, checking in at Eurotunnel was simple and we were able to take advantage of their offer to take a train two hours ahead of schedule (2.20pm) at no additional cost (saving us around 40 pounds) – Bonus! At passport control we told the Inspector we were Australians and followed that up with a rousing rendition of Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi …when we told him we are travelling home on the bike his response was “You’re Crazy!” and he waved us through without us even needing to show our passports. We boarded the “Johnathon Linton” along with other vehicles including a motorbike belonging to Chris and Dave …a lovely English couple whom we chatted to on the half hour journey. Vince was approached by Jocke, a Fin, he and his fiancé have BMW F800s and dream of doing what we are doing but with two bikes. He saw the ANIMAL on the platform, Googled our website from our stickers and came down for a chat. He is a HU member and asked to take our photo to put up onto the HU Facebook page (which he later emailed to us – very kind). The journey was uneventful and although getting off was a bit slippery it was all good!

In Callais we stopped at the first petrol station so Vince could get his bearings and program the GPS. We were also hungry as we hadn’t had lunch and it was a bit after 3.00pm but all we could find were coke and mars bars – the riders staple diet! A tour bus had also stopped and we found ourselves swamped by Indian tourists from Mumbai. Photo’s, handshakes and a million questions all at once! The ANIMAL sure attracts attention wherever she goes and we were treated like superstars.

We made our way to Ypes ( pronounce Ips) via Dunkirk and the cross winds were ferocious at times. We slipped across the boarder into Belgium without fanfare – as the boarder was unmanned. We made our way to the Jaeger Stadion Campsite passing many Military cemeteries and tiny chapels along the way. At the campsite the sign on the barrier gate said full! The Manager however, was able to point us to the tent area where there was still some space and it only cost us 11 Euros – another Bargain! Ammenities were more than adequate with toilets, showers and a wash up kitchen area. We quickly pitched our tent and made our way on foot into town (10 minutes) along a country path that passed through two gates either side of a cow (with horns!) paddock….In town we quickly realised that we had arrived the day after VE Day (8th May) and celebrations were still in progress with Military bands playing, a music concert and fireworks. In contrast, everywhere you looked there were things to do with cats …posters, paper mâché models, sculptures, toys, chocolates etc and people dressed up as cats, wearing ears and face painting. I asked one of the shopkeepers, Karol, what it was all about and he explained that tomorrow would be the 44th Kattenstoet where the town celebrates the history of cats being brought in to solve a mouse infestation and then they became a problem and were thrown from the clocktower. We subsequently found out they also celebrate burning witches….this is all reenacted throughout the day. We decided to stay an extra day here so we could see it.

Walking back to our campground after dinner, we stopped at the Menin Gate and listened to the Last Post. Through the city arch and across the moat we were stopped by the Town Cryer and his friends, they insisted we stop whilst they proclaimed the opening of the festival….so entering into the spirit of things, we did!

Saturday morning here in grey but dry London. We should be on the Eurotunnel train this afternoon for a 16:20 departure and a 35-minute trip to Calais. The weather forecast for the next week looks quite promising for camping, so the plan is to camp out as much as we can as we make our way to the Horizons Unlimited meeting in Germany over May 14th – 17th. We may not have too much wifi time over the next week or so, but we’ll be back blogging when we can okay 🙂

Today is a chores day ….not off to a good start …the 2L of milk we bought has only 250ml left in it …someone obviously decided to help themselves in the communal fridge/kitchen ….NOT HAPPY!

Picked up our laundry and Vince’s mending (total 25 pounds) we dropped off yesterday and dropped in a sleeping bag (20 pounds) …that although now dry really smells from being wet so needs proper cleaning! We also had to go back as they missed a seam in his pants lining that had ripped. Will both be ready tomorrow.

We took the tube into Hanwell to send 11 kg of stuff home …we are so overloaded…it count us 149 pounds to post ….ridiculous ….costs almost as much as the gear is worth …but we want it home – sentimental! Hard Lesson Learned!

Then we went to the Fox (pub) for a meal with Vince’s relatives as we leave London tomorrow for Belgium.

We had a sleep in this morning and caught the tube to Vince’s relatives in Hanwell…where we left some of our gear we need to sort out. We then went back to our Guest House and dropped stuff off before catching the train again to Parcel Force in Acton to pay Customs Duty ( on prescription medication sent from Australia) and collect my parcel! They are the most expensive drugs I’ve ever bought….the cost to purchase in Austalia – $73 to post from Australia and (40 pounds) around $100 for VAT and UK Handling! Seems there’s no point in trying to do the right thing ….when I could just get it FREE on the NHS here!

I found a place to put in our washing, get Vince’s Motorcycle pant linings mended (they have ripped along the seams and crutch) and his sox mended ….all for 25 pounds. I have also booked into a hairdressers for tomorrow morning as my hair is crazy!

The afternoon was spend sorting through our mountain of stuff……we badly need to reduce weight and also deal with the stuff we left behind on the shakedown riding in the UK ….we have way too much stuff and we need to donate some to charity and send other stuff home ….Shipping, even by sea, is very expensive!!!!!

The bike has lost a bolt from t)33 windscreen, one of the rubber lugs has broken off the top box, my connection wire for my electric vest really needs to be extended and we need to solve the problem of leaking panniers! So a Trip to BMW at Guildford might be in order…otherwise when we get to Germany!

We did some shopping at Sainsburys for cereal, milk, frozen meals for breakfast and dinner etc…and spent time drying out stuff and going over the medicines in our Adventure Kit…that the boxes have fallen apart from the water…to record what they are for and dosages….the adventure never stops!

… and Vince says … “Saw a fox in the back yard of our B&B here in South Ealing, and it was really cool. Yesterday they mowed the grass here, and this afternoon I’d gone downstairs and out the back to put some of my wet riding gear in the sun to help it dry out, and the fox was in the yard – a beautiful reddish-brown colour with a white tip on its tail. I called out to Karen upstairs through the open window and she caught a glimpse of it as it slipped through a gap in the wooden fence. Our B&B host came outside and pointed out a hole in the yard that leads to the fox’s den, and said that the fox raises its babies there. Later in the afternoon I saw the fox back in the yard, head down inside its burrow – maybe it was checking on its offspring…..

After a great breakfast we reluctantly left our salubrious dwellings in Bath and headed off in the intermittent rain for London. We are booked into Aron Guest House in South Ealing for 65 pounds per night – one of the cheapest we could find. We will be staying 3 nights as we have some chores to do before crossing th channel into Europe.

Enroute we stopped off at Stonehenge and astonishingly …our English Heritage card was accepted ( saving use 19 pound each and 2 pound each for the audio guide) …so it cost us about 89 pounds from memory and we have been able to use it in three places altogether – so maybe we covered costs.

It was Vince’s first time at Stonehenge and he was impressed. I found out afterwards that like Bath, it’s another place he’s wanted to go for a very long time but missed out on his earlier UK visits….so it is very special that we can share these places together on our honeymoon.

There is a majesty about the place, and although you can’t go inside the circle or touch the stones, the sense of history is palpable and we were humbled in the atmosphere. It has changed since I was there in 2007 – now  you park a long way away and you get on a curtesy bus to the actual site. Although it rained and we had to carry our helmets around it was still very enjoyable.

As as we left Stonehenge it really started to bucket down …we didn’t have our wet weather gear on so we got completely soaked and again some water in the panniers! I’m so over rain!

When we checked in to our Guest House around 2.30pm …it felt like I was checking into The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel …if you’ve seen the film I’m sure you get the picture!

We had hot showers and got into dry clothes and caught the tube into London. We looked around London for a while and then went to collect our tickets from the Apollo in Victoria to see Wicked. That done we slipped into a little Italian place across the road and had dinner before the show at 7.30pm. Wicked was fantastic and we both really enjoyed it. The train journey home felt long as we were both exhausted….we didn’t get to bed until midnight …well past our bedtime! An amazing day!

… and Vince says … the wet-weather riding from Stonehenge towards London down 90km of the A3 was absolutely manic – I’ve ridden in wet-weather before but the deluge yesterday was torrential, and at times I was struggling to see where the road was. So much water was dumped onto the road that it seemed almost flooded in places, and it was nerve-wracking feeling the front tyre slipping at times – thank goodness for the TKC80’s. The weight over the rear wheel didn’t help as that was making the front-end light, and on the flooded roads it was quite skittish. I was watching cars and trucks plough past me at speed and I’m surprised some of them didn’t start aquaplaning in places. When I eventually caught up with some slow-moving traffic I dropped into their little convoy and took advantage by watching (a) their tail-lights so I could see where the road went and (b) how big the puddles were when they hit them so I had some forewarning of what was coming up, and our little convoy stuck together (nicely spaced out) and just chipped away slowly at the drive towards London. Close to London we picked up the M4 and headed towards our B&B and the sun came out and the rain slowed down, so that was good as the traffic was getting more congested and a little bit antsy in places. If you want to do some miles in the UK then I don’t think you can avoid riding in the rain, but I’d enjoy a dry day every now and then I think 🙂

A few GoPro and Olympus photos from Stonehenge…


The Roman Baths

After unloading the bike on the front footpath (it’s too far to carry the top-box from the rear parking bay) and getting a bit sorted, we walked in the wrong direction to go see the Roman Baths for about 15 minutes before I realised my mistake – silly me 🙂 We walked back to our B&B and then grabbed a bus for the quick ride into the centre of Bath, and made our way to the Roman Baths.

I’ve been keen to see the Roman Baths here in Bath for ages. Back in grade 2 primary school I’d been given a picture book on Ancient Rome and that had painted a fascinating picture. Trips to England in 2010 and 2012 didn’t lend themselves to a quick visit to Bath – having the motorbike makes it much easier to get around to places you really want to go to …

After the doormen at the Roman Baths laughed at my English Heritage discount admission card and we’d paid our full 14 quid each to get our entry ticket and hand-held audio guide to the Baths, we then spent a fascinating 2.5 hours exploring all aspects of the Baths. At 5pm, an hour before closing time, we jumped on to the last guided tour of the baths for the day, and followed James around the site as he explained various aspects and customs associated with the Baths. The engineering and construction of the baths is a technological marvel. One intriguing custom James described was how – when the fifty or sixty common folk using the baths were scraping off the olive oil and dead skin off them in the steam room prior to going through the baths for a swim and just letting the rubbish fall to the floor to be swept away by servants, the oil & dead skin combination from community leaders and celebrities would be collected and sold in the markets as a facial cream …. Yuck !!!

A few photos …


We didn’t have breakfast (as we took room only for 65 pounds (breakfast 75)…thinking we’d get away early). Our room was so delightful and the bed so comfortable at the Three Tuns Inn, we stayed later than we initially thought. As we could control the heating we also finally got my sleeping bag dry …it was still a bit wet on the edges from Dolgellau. We also stopped off in town and bought a charm for my bracelet for Wales. It was raining so wet weather gear again today! It only took us a short while to get to the Severn Bridge …the strong cross wind was a challenge for Vince…but he got us across safely. I noticed as we reached the other side that we didn’t have to pay a toll but coming the other way they did….not sure what that’s all about? We were sorry to leave Wales behind …such a beautiful and relaxing place …we both felt comfortable there…we wish we had spent less time in Ireland and more in Wales….but you don’t know these things…the benefit of hindsight!

Back in England, we headed for Unity Road Motorcycles in Keynsham (near Bristol) where John and Beverley (the owners) had ordered in a new Continental TKC80 rear tyre for us. It took around an hour so we sat in the shop and chatted with John and Bev. We got around 6000km out of our previous tyre so Vince was pleased…and I was pleased we no longer have a bald rear tyre! John did us a good deal and we are now his furtherest customers, previously it was another GS rider from Canada….Australia now leads!

Wet weather gear still need! Next we stopped off at Waitrose Cafe for some tomatoe soup whilst we checked out the address and maps for the B&B we had booked for Bath.  “2 Cresent Rd” is an old house from the early 19th Century that belonged to a Doctor. We got a room on the top floor with a big bay window and it is very stylist – at 110 pounds for the night it should be I guess ( but a big contrast to the similarly priced Zion Hall room we had in Dublin)! We also got to meet the owner’s dog,  Diggery, a black Cockerpoo, who is only 6 months old and a complete tummy rub tartbag! 

After parking the bike out the back and unpacking, we set off on foot to explore Bath and ended up at the Roman Baths. It cost us 28 pounds (14 each) to get in….as they don’t take the English Heritage Pass that Vince purchased previously when we went to Hadrian’s wall ….we have tried to use it at a few places but the answer always seems to be “No”.  The Roman Bath was fascinating …but I won’t say too much as I know Vince will be blogging about it specifically. Surfice to say I could not resist dipping my finger into the 10,000 year old thermal spring water (which you are not really allowed to do) and was a bit alarmed when it came out brown! There is a high iron content in the water. That will teach me!!!

Tonight we will just have a quiet evening as we head back to London tomorrow. I can’t wait, we moved the date of our Wicked tickets ( a whole other telephone mission story there !) when we were in Inverness ….due to me having to attend the hospital which meant we couldn’t make our original date of 20th April. It should be a magical evening…I’m really looking forward to it, and so is Vince.



We woke up this morning, in our two single beds, in the loft of the 150 year old farmhouse to see snow on the ground….how exciting! I rushed downstairs and raced outside to take some photos. The ANIMAL was covered in snow! It was awesome…..I was like a kid in a candy shop…..I love snow! After breakfast we packed the bike got dressed in our wet-weather gear and Vince let some air out of the tyres before carefully getting the bike back down the hill to the road…I chose to walk down as we were both concerned due to the boggy nature of the land, as well as the increased challenge of the snow and ice. Once safely at the bottom, I mounted and we rode into Falstone where Vince got out the 12v compressor to pump up the tyres…all a bit of a mission but very necessary. We went to Chesters Fort – a Roman fort and bath house on the River Tyne (inc a small section of Hadrian’s Wall) not too far away and we had a good look at that. Then we rode a few miles further west and stopped at Housestead’s Fort and had a good look around that – which included a long walk (about a mile and a half) up a very, very, very steep hill from carpark to the ruins…. that was hard work with all our riding and wet weather gear on…at one point I thought I might have a heart attack! We then watched a short video on the history of Housestead’s Fort and Hadrian’s Wall before inspecting the ruins. We walked further up the hill to the actual section of Hadrian’s Wall that you can walk on….amazing….we came …we saw….we conquered!!! The weather deteriorated further when we left there and the wind had picked up making riding quite unpleasant and dangerous…I had to press my weight down on the left peg and lean over to help Vince keep the bike upright against the cross wind…..so we revised our plans, which were to go to Greenock……and just aimed to get to Gretna Green for the night instead. We were welcomed into Scotland after 1503km in England to hail, gales  and freezing cold! Welcome HOME Karen!

We left quaint little Cockermouth behind and headed for Vince’s Aunt’s home….Hill House in Falstone (Near Hexham). The original plan was to go via the Honister Pass but it was raining heavily and we had been warned the pass was not for the faint hearted at the best of times… so we took a more direct route. Just out of Hexham we turned north to Bellingham and stopped for lunch at a little cafe there – the Rocky Road. We took the longer route to Hill House – going via Falstone to avoid the gates.

Using our GPS and coordinates Vince’s brother, Ken, had given us we found the village quite easily. A friendly neighbour, Paul, had met us on the road driving his tractor and waved us down to let us know Vince’s Aunt Brenda was expecting us and gave us some local directions. Hill house was at the crest of a very steep hill with only a dirt track leading up. The rain was pelting down and the wind howled around us. We had had a job of getting our ANIMAL up the hill with the water logged land quickly turning to bog and dragging us in. At one point we slid sideways and I thought “this is it!….this will be the first time our bike goes down and I just hope neither of us brakes a leg.” But the ANIMAL did us proud, as did my new husband’s skill in keeping us upright. We skidded into the field and got bogged….but we stopped upright….amazing! I dismounted and we appraised the situation, a bit tricky to get the rear wheel out which was bogged and just spinning as Vince tried to free the bike. Between us we came up with a few solutions….Vince wanted to try to move it forward back onto the dirt road but as we tried to move her forward she was too heavy to come out of the bog. He then suggested we move her further out into the field….but my innate laziness told me that was a big job and besides the land was so water logged I thought it might only achieve a bogged situation further out….I asked if there was there any reason we couldn’t go backwards to get her back on the road and Vince thought that would work….”lets give that a crack!”  So with him on the left and me on the right we pushed the heavy-laden beast backwards, out of the bog and back onto the road. We were well pleased with ourselves! Not wanting a repeat of the situation I walked up the hill and let Vince ride her up with a bit less weight. It was still touch and go….but he made it.

We later found out that his Aunt needs 4wd to get up the track and Paul was intending for us to leave our bike at the bottom in his shed and would have driven us up in his pick up truck as he couldn’t see how we could get up there on a bike….wish we had known…LOL

The trials and tribulations of the past few days…along with fighting of colds and chest infections…saw us decide to spend an extra day in Cockermouth. We couldn’t continue to stay at the hotel as it was full for a wedding so we moved into Cockermouth itself at the Manor House on Crown St (main street). It was an effort to move everything but we had no choice. We rested up and although it was wet and cold, we spent a quiet day looking around the town taking in the birth place of William Worsworth (Daffodils).  I bought a charm for my pandora bracelet to represent our English travels in some unique way…Vince picked out a little gingerbread man….we found out that in the Lakes District gingerbread was made famous in 1854 in Grasmere by Sarah  Nelson who invented it. http://www.grasmeregingerbread.co.uk