Loire downhill continued

Thu 31st

Tours to Savigny en Veron, 40 mile Loire a Velo (LaV) version of Paris Roubais. Ooh that route planners a card! Cobbles& more cobbles, but only a few climbs today. Thankfully by this time I had learned to look at the route, the landscape & ignore certain directional instructions therefore cutting out Alp d Huez and stayed on the flat very busy (not) D roads following the river.
Savigny en Veron is in the middle of nowhere, but on the way was a handy supermarche where ee bought tea: 3 legummes in a jar (potatoes, petis pois carrots) and belly pork slices. So we boiled them up & put to 1 side covered then fried off the pork in 2 batches (there was a fair amount after cutting it up with 1st aid scissors) with onion, keeping it warm on veg pot.
For a paltry €1 the owners allowed us to charge all the electronics- 2 phone 2 garmin – in their office, nice and secure, whilst we did our T thing and then wandered around the -deserted- village

Fri 1st
Savigny en Veron to Angers, 45 miler today with cobble ambushes thrown in just to keep us alert.
Ann hit one set at quite a clip, dislodging her back pack which snapped the rear back mudguard’ holder on’ere’s & induced a slight buckle in her rear wheel. We stopped earlier at the 8 mile point -no sign of Eminem tho- and I tried bodging, but it only lasted a couple of miles, so at the bosses suggestion we used the 1st aid scissors to trim the rear mudguard  & zipp tyes the lose fixers to the ones further up…I’ve not described this too well…so see picture:-

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All bodged up

Altho this sorted the mudguard issue the buckle was getting worse note to self….I must learn to “true” a wheel & carry the tool reqd…..
Ann was noticing the buckle because as her tyre is the biggest we could fit ( fatties don’t fit fine) it was rubbing against her frame. ….the sun shines on the righteous tho, cos literally just after I said we’d have to find a bike shop which are fee and far between. …low and behold up popped cycle obsession of Gennes, velos-reparations-location the proprietors of whom were just finishing lunch al fresco outside their fine and much appreciated establishment.
With scoff polidhed off the very nice velo mechanic “trued” Anns wheel, whilst I browsed the extensive merchandise. ..only buying some chain lube.
20 mins & €22 later wheels straight, chains lubricated and tyres inflated we’re off again.
The campsite we found wasn’t actually in Angers but to the SWest at Camping de L’Ille  du Chateau,  les Ponts de Ce. A tad expensive at €19, with no bog role or yogi bear tables….still needs must!
The bar was the only place we could charge the electronics, and the odd beer may have been drunk whilst watching highlights of Wales woman’s rugby team being given a right good stuffing by their french counterparts. Vive l’French!

Sat 2nd Aug

A biggy today;  60 miles or so to just short of Nantes.
Turned out to be an excellent route with much to see, including some sculptures in both stone and wood spread along the route

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Not a sculpture!

The LaV route planner managed to fit in 2 savage climbs, and I mean savage!

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Ann cresting LaV version of Mont von Tu!

Happily for us the worst climb was going up river. It was very long and steeper than a steep thang! To be fair to LaV tho it was a diversion whilst the flat bit was under repair. Ooh it was steep, everyone we encountered was using their lowest gear (walking).
We stopped en route for a café au lait that turned into café au lait and cheese n ham toasties next to a rather interesting sculpture

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Oh she's a big lass & a canny lass & I like her Rear....

Petes pants were also represented

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Tonight’s campsite is Camping Belle Riviere just outside Thouare-Sur-Loire.  Absolutely brilliant little place, I’d say just about the best we’ve stayed in on the Loire Velo route both this year & last! €14 per night, all normal facilities plus a marquee dining area with microwave,  1 yogi bear table between 2 tents, comfy bog role very nice kids play area and only 1k from large supermarche and 8miles to center of Nantes along cycle route.
Turned out a 63 mile day in total. ..Well impressed with the Boss, she’s carrying hslf our total load at present,  but that’s going to change. I had a good think & have worked out a way to lighten her load and help me burn more calories ‘cos according to my garmin I’ve only spent 25800 since Hoo…..not enough!
We’re having a rest day Sun, then an unladen trip to St Nazaire on Mon before heading on again. Route not finalised, but probably train to Anfers then tread north to intersect Paris- Mon St Michel route…from there who knows?

90 miles to Paris

A wonderful nights sleep for me, but everyone else seemed to be kept up by dog fights, cat fights, dog & cat fights and the trundle of the harvest being gathered all thru the night. Excellent! Less chance of me being droped on the 90 miles into Versailles.
After little more than 5 miles I had another rear blowout, again blowing the tyre off, at the bottom of a steep hill……me thinks I could be over inflating. Whilst liaising with the van to bring the spare tyre – as I reckoned mine was shot – as well as gathering some more spare inner tubes, a very sprightly old gentleman emerged from the adjacent farm, showed us his ID proclaiming him to be in the 90’s and then showed us a hole used by the resistance in WW2. Not sure if he was involved but wow! How lucky was that?

We met the van a few miles on and I swapped the tyres, then  we headed onwards. This was quite a challenging day with a number of steep & long climbs, hats off to Bob who struggled on manfully with his limited gear selection until at yet another steep little number caused his chain to commit hari kari by throwing itself into the gap between rear cassette and the wheel, snapping 2 spokes in the process. Thank goodness. ….a rest for all whilst the support team of Leslie, Bernie, Joc & Ann, which we had not long left after lunch in a small market town square. …literally, a selection of ribs n chicken bought from the market stalls and consumed on the steps of the town hall, which I don’t think was quite what they were expecting when we arranged to meet for lunch!

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"Bill" pose post Mkt square scoff

Anyway, with a few extra tools Nobby was able to bodge – with much verbal assistance from the rest of us – Bobs wheel back together with a couple more gears and so onwards we went.

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This was the last 25 mile push into Versailles, Dave the Map brought us in around the outskirts of Paris by a most excellent route…thanks once again for all your work mate!

Then suddenly. …another blow out, only this time it was Bobs front tyre being blown off and spreading green slime allez uber! I think your bikes trying to tell you something Bob.
Fate however was smiling down on us as only 10yds up the hill was a cool shaded pool/washhouse that you find spotted around, so we all- except Bob – took shelter from the blistering sun and dipped our feet in the cool waters….Bliss!
Dave had explored somewhat further up the street and had found a small bar where he got a round of coke in, and they also happened to be showing the last 13ks of that days tour (the one with the big crash 2-3ks out) won finally by a french chappie….vive le french!
Once we were all suitably refreshed we restarted our tour into Versailles. Dave somehow managed to bring us in via cycle paths, green lanes and royal parks right to the RV in the Palace gardens next to the Waldorf hotel where we met the “cherie’s” and Jennie and Clare….Pete’s (the dastardly front wheel knocking out from under buggers) wife and daughter. Oh…did I forgot to mention how Pete…..after having accepted my last fruit pastel, then despicably contrived to do a 90° turn to the left directly in front of me from the rhs causing me to fall in front of a rapidly approaching juggernaut (ok I made that bit up). And he wouldn’t return my pastel. …I’m sure he’d only been sucking it for a minute or two!

So Hoo to Paris completed, a number of incidents but no casualties and a fine time was had by all!

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Our planned accommodation for the next few days was to be the campsite we had stayed at last year….but it was gone! So we stayed at the Ibis in St Cyr along with Dave. 1st night on the 2nd floor, which was a bit of a mare with the bikes, next 2 in the disabled room on the ground floor (yes yes, thank you,  but please try and refrain from any so called humorous comments. ..thank you!) which was excellent.

Sat 26th – Sun 27th

On Saturday me n the boss went shopping in Versailles- spare tubes, Co2 regulator and bulbs…I am converted! and another tyre to match the rear one (from Bob) now fully treaded out with Schwalbe Marathons plus….which is my 1st choice of tyre. The only reason they weren’t fitted is I was using what was already on the Surly.
Then seeing as we’d done Versailles last year we went around the more remote parts of the gardens

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on our bikes before meeting up with everyone in the German restaurant of the Hotel Paris Versailles……what?
Still an exceptional traditional German bit of scoff

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-altho the staff were typically french, no lederhosen to be seen- followed by a small medal presentation and a very bright pair of shorts for Pete I can’t remember exactly what they were for, but Pete with great regret (sic) declined them and allowed me to commandeer them for various photo opportunities around Europe,
Petes pants

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so here’s me in the “Bill” pose (as taught to us all by Bill…..apparently it makes you look….thinner?)

Sun

The colonials, along with Dave & Nobby took an early start so as to cycle, into on and back from, the Champs Elysee before the tour arrived. Me n the boss declined on account of having to put the bikes and gear together into ‘touring’ mode. This also allowed us a cheeky lay in!
The plan, as agreed the night before, was to RV at the Arc d Triumph at 1400hrs, but because they dithered and gushed so much they didn’t actually make it back to Versailles until 1330. Still…we were there and were very happy to ogle

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C no hear no...bugger not enough hands

and take in the woman’s race- won by Marion Voss, quelle surprise!

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Lizzy Armistead fell quite heavily.
Then we soaked up the atmosphere. …which was electric

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The closest the English came to cycling Champs E

Next year we’re going to bring, hire or buy step ladders so as to see more of the action

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Once Mr Nibili had been crowned victorious we declined going to a Parisian restaurant with the guys as we needed to get an early start, Dave joined us as his Paris transport map skills were sadly lacking and we headed back to St Cyr, stopping off in the St Cyr station Kebabery for 3 very good burger and chips avec coke total cost €18.
Then back to the Ibis to finish packing and hand off the now unwanted gear to Dave who would pass it on to Nobby -lighter is better! – for collection from Hoo at a later date. Everything packed n loaded it was off to bed!

Mon 28th. Start of “Our” Tour

A very quiet breakfast sans the gang at the Ibis, cheese but no ham, they’re budgeting! then down to St Cyr station for the journey into Paris Mont something or other.  Oh the joy of heaving the bikes up stairs to the platform. …it was a bit of a bugger getting them onto the train too cos the train was leaning away from the platform on a quite steep adverse camber….at least 2ft step…..hey ho!
Once we got to central Paris it was a gentle 2 mile bimble to Gar d Austerlitz, a 10min Q for our tickets to Orleans ‘avec velo’ then a quickish jog to platform 21 where after another brief struggle loading we settled comfortably before departure for Orleans. …our start point. (Again as we did last year)

We’ve changed our plans a number of times (and to be honest they’ll keep changing) but for the moment we’re now going to cycle down the Loire to St Nazaire then up towards the Hook of Holland, altho we still haven’t decided how/which route to take from St N.)
So….back to Olivet, 11ks south of Orleans apprez a quick tour of Orleans centre ville

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(very European) for a bit of grocery shopping & a drop of fuel before the big off tomorrow.

Tue 29th

Whilst in the campsite I found a brochure; A Loire a Velo that advertised an App….so lazy bugger that I am I thought I’d download it to save on some map reading, route planning campsite finding etc & blow me down but it works….& is even in English.
The only downside is the lack of gradient indicators on the route map…..which has earned it a stern talking to by the boss! Now cycling down the Loire you’d kind of expect to be going downhill. ….however I think the french Loire a Velo (LaV) route planner has a great respect for the TdF chap and in his honour has followed his lead by adding a few category climbs (and they’re definitely category climbs if you happen to be loaded down with luggage, children and trailers) each stage.
Our daily target is 40 ish miles per day give or take, so not quite trusting the LaV app & in truth not having fully investigated all its glory, I used Google maps & we headed of to Blois to a campsite at the top of a hill that doesn’t actually exist. The silver lining was a Carrfor supermarche where Ann did the shopping whilst I guarded the bikes and hastily investigated the ‘points of interest’ function that pinpointed an existing campsite at a grand total of only 55 miles for the day!
It was a large sprawling campsite “go where you wish” with all the facilities, right by the river and only €8.40. WIFI by the office & not too bad really

Pete’s Pants

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Oops...wrong leg forward

I cooked scoff whilst Ann preped the next days cheese n ham roles…..we just got pitched and settled in before it started raining

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Eye of newt etc etc

We’ve now gone back to the 10-12 miles before breakfast routine which works for us!

Wed 30th

Chaumount sur Loire to Tours via Amboise. A short day today in lieu of the extra miles yesterday and so we can do a bit of sightseeing in Tours. That was the plan soon fubar’d by a late ish start but horrifically compounded by a mountain stage by the LaV route planner.
Seriously, altho the route is on the quietest of roads, if its taking you away from the Loire then by definition you’re going to be doing some climbing. …and the sad thing is there’s no need cos the D roads running along the Loire are so busy NOT! I’m not sure if its cos of the time of year, but after 20 miles of a few deviations into ‘them thar hills’ I ignored the Col d Up a Hill sign and stayed on the roads where, if we were lucky we were passed by 20 vehs per hour.

Point of interest function found us a very nice camp for €13, again the facilities. …with Yogi bear tables to hand were very good including loo role wifi and a bar. The beer was a tad expensive at €9 for 1 large & 1 small…but hey…..only 28 miles covered (including trip to Le Clerc Supermarche) but metres climbed….lots!

Hoo to Paris with some Colonials

Mon 21st

Today was final prep day, including Van collection a walk around Hoo but before all that a trip to Evans cycles in Maidstone with Dave the Map & Nobby to buy another garmin as I had misplaced my last one. I’ve been informed this is the last one!
We browsed the shop for other shiny bits, Dave was drooling over some bike or other, as was Nobby, but seeing as he has 7 in his lean to at present he decided he probably has enough to be going on with.

That evening we RV’d with Sandy & Marion and had an excellent curry (more carb loading!) the Pink Paprika in Hoo whilst catching up and shooting the breeze. The down side to all this liquid carb loading and (this time) a completely deflated comedy bed was another poor nights sleep for Ann. Another early start so as to be back at Bob & Leslie’s for a 7 o’clock start didn’t help!

So here’s the gang from left to right

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Bob, Pete (with the lightest bike ever) Dave the Map, Bill the hill, Moi, Nobby, Ann & Leslie (taking a photo). This photo was taken by Bernie, Bills much better half!

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Not forgetting Joc the Van driver, Nobbys better half.

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So, photos taken, last minute delays avoided of we set to Canterbury, a mere 62 miles down the old A2 and othrr assorted byways.

I’d forgotten how hilly Kent is! However the ride was thoroughly enjoyable with added moments such as Dave taking us the long way around Canterbury for the duty Cathedral shot

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Well organised! But the highlight was the fording prowess of Bob & Bill, lets say Bob took an early bath and Bill, not to be outdone (and having nowhere else to go) belly flopped onto Bobs bike, buggering the derailleur and tattooing a half chainring onto his belly. Nobody was drowned or hurt but Bob was left with only 4 gears.

Post Canterbury bathing the route to Dover was very hilly. Dave Ann & I went on whilst Bob, with Bill Pete & Nobby’s help, tried to find some more gears. Needless to say we didn’t meet up again until the ferry port, having missed our planned ferry! But no worries we simply got on the next one with nary a wait.
‘Cos we were rushing Dave Ann & I took the A2 down into Dover port- 39mph without peddling for 2 whole miles!

As mentioned a short ferry trip to France where we RV’d with the support team in Calais then another very undulating 23 miles to Boulogne where we were accommodated in an F1. Aslight shock to the system for some, but me and Ann were well at home.
Joc had found a restaurant called Crocodile. Quite good really, there are 3 menus to choose from:-
Basic: main meal plus all the beeer wine or pop you can drink
Middle:main & appetiser or dessert eith all you can drink
Expensive: appetiser, Main & dessert with all you can drink.
We were all too knackered to do the menu justice, a very good business model for France but I don’t think it would work in Uk?

Wed 23rd
Only a short 55miler today from Boulogne to Gapennes via Etapes: this is a WW1 commonwealth war cemetery, which was collocated with military field hospitals where over 10700 from the commonwealth were buried. It was positioned on a rail line that allowed access from both the northern & southern battlefields so the injured were shunted in. Towards the end of the war there were over 2500 women in various roles from nurses, auxiliaries & YMCA volunteers.
There are also 660 German soldiers buried here.

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Another seriously hilly day, Bob struggling with a lack of gears and Ann strugged due to 4 nights sleep deprivation, her broken wrist and lower levels of tetesterone than all us blokes! By the end of the day she was completely wrung out from giving 100% for the last 3 days.
That nights accommodation was a very nice Gite,

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With a very welcome spa/farty bath big enough for 6…..or me Bob, Bill n Nobby!
There were a surfeit of knick knacks allez uber but apparently my Rolf Harris impersonation wasn’t in good taste

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In my defence I was actually trying to take the mick out of Terri.
Joc, Bernie and Leslie welcomed us in with chilled Smiths smoothflow which smoothly flowed diwn some very parched throats.
Dinner was in a small french country pub  which had plenty of mussels for everyone. ….except Leslie who somehow ended up with a piece of very dry chicken.  She wasn’t best impressed when an extra (very large) bowl of mussels turned up somewhat later…..& very nice they were too!
By dessert, even with Leslies frosty stares, it was just too hot to stay in the restaurant, so we decamped outside to enjoy our various dishes before jumping into the van for our return to a very welcome bed.

Thu 24th

With Ann deciding (very wisely, but not very happily) to stop riding, I thought it best to strip all the unnecessary weight from the Surly so as not to get dropped out of the back of the old man peleton like Richie Port.

So we were down to just the men now

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Gapennes to Sourdon via the Australian war cemetery (at the top of the hill)…only 56 miles….easy! Not!

Bob qualified for his bus pass today, and with the hills and his lack of gears I’m sure he could’ve done with it!
With Ann in the Van the tetesterone lecels were boiling over and much banter abiut lite bikes, wheel sucking and 34 tooth rear cassettes was bandied about along with a somewhat raised tempo!
Not far from the cemetery we were descending one of the many hills at a fair clip when Bob caught a wasp or Bee in his helmet. ..which with nowhere to go stung him! We all stopped ti offer sympathy. ….to the Bee & extract the eniru from Bob. After a few minutes of rest we set off again, topping 35mph + no problem; just as we slowed considerably to enter the village at the bottom of the hill due to a X roads there was an almighty BANG! which turned out to be my inner tube exploding and blowing my tyre completely of the Rim. I’d have been buggered if it hsd happened 1 or 2 mins earlier!
Fortunately I was carrying a spare and with the help of Petes Co2 cannister (I’ve got to get me one if them!) we were off again.
Amongst the banter of the day a challenge. .nay gauntlet had been thrown down re who would get to Villes Breton cemetery 1st- it being at the top of a rather steep hill- Bill was the favourite in my eyes, but due to some roadworks & a diversion at the bottom of the hill I managed to steal a couple of 100 yds on him. He chased me dow, but fortunately I had enough reserves…and gears to hold him off….Result! The fact that he may have beaten me up every other climb of the day……or week…is of absolutely no consequence!

After RVing with the girls, walking around the cemetery & recovering

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it was a mere 12 miles to the evenings accommodation.
A very tasteful barn conversion in the middle of nowhere. Once cold beer was drunk and rooms allocated it was off for scoff at a local interesting place with a surfeit of cats but an excellent steak & chips!
Then a return to the barn conversion for cake!

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It was a big cake to get all those candles on it…..tasted good too!

A new adventure & a bit of a catch up!

Well we’re off again, this time a short hop to Paris via Stanton for a concert & BBQ at Mick & Sue’s then onwards to Hoo St Werburg to visit with Nobby Joc & Paddy the spaniel prior to joining a new group of friends I haven’t met yet (mostly Australian) for a short trip to Paris for the end of L’Tour. Altho by this point there wasn’t an Englishman left in the peleton so I was wondering why!

A quick update
So…to bring you all up to date, the last time I blogged was……oh my goodness. …24th Feb. Lordy lordy, how time flies when you don’t keep up with your admin!
Well, long story short; flew from Trivandrum to Sri Lanka for 10 days sight seeing, then fly to Bangkok, decide to hire a couple of bicycles & cycle for 5 weeks south (ish) to Vietnam then back again.
Fly back to India for a day or two then back to Blighty in time to freeze our a***s off. Sort out Caravan

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Pimped Anns bike

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And bought myself a new one

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So…all caught up?  No…..ok then, for a quick catch up in the mean time go to: twonowgopedalling and read the bosses blog & I guarantee I shall bring us all up to date, in detail, once I’ve got back to blighty & reread my notes….honest!

New Treaders; actually 1 new & 1 looking like new.

My trusty old Stirling Dawes “Stealth” treader ( so named cos it looked unremarkable but went like stink) gave up the ghost by snapping its frame. To be fair I bought it 8 years ago for £50 well used, so bearing in mind I was pushing 23st initially & probably weighed it down with at least that last summer on our 1st adventure its done remarkably well.

The question was what to replace it with & quick ‘cos we were off in less than 3 weeks time. First I went around all the 2nd hand shops looking for a suitable frame I could swap all the bits onto, but no joy. Then it was the interweb, now being an avid reader of all blogs & articles cycling, I have come across mention of the Surly Long Haul Trucker. A shop in Cambridge dealt in them and sold frame setts as well as complete bikes. A day trip to Cambridge later and somehow I came away with a complete bike. Still I got to see where the 3rd stage of L’Tour would start

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And had an amazing bit of scoff into the bargain

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This was all in, plus 2 cans of coke, freshly cooked for less than £12.

My initial enthusiasm for my shiny new toy soon paled cos of a few (in my opinion) design flaws.

1) the gear change shifters are located in the bar ends of the drops. So for those who have no idea what I just wrote, picture a set of curly racing handlebars with sharp pointy levers sticking out of the ends of the curly bits pointing back towards the bike…..at just the right height to stab yourself in both legs with when doing a Contador (dancing on the peddles whilst standing). The other issue with placing the levers at the very end of the bars is: when you go to change gear, especially from middle to large chain ring, the pressure applied at the end of the bar ‘pushes’ the steering so that you end up veering into the traffic, in England, or the kerb virtually everywhere else in the world.
2) no mud guards (sometimes called fenders) fitted as standard. The ones I wanted are all encompassing….with flaps, however I had to make do with shorties.
3) the logo on the rear A frame

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Fatties Fit fine

Mmmm, too many people I know will be extracting the Eniru me thinks, plus

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Long Haul what? Just a little adjustment for maximum embarrassment.

Anns pimping was done by Dunx Cycles in Lowestoft high street, well I say done by, they stripped it down, sent it off, sent it back again when they got the colour wrong, rebuilt serviced and replaced parts as reqd

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Ting!

A fine job, the powder coating was a very reasonable £98. So if you’re looking for a custom paint job try them out at Www.dunxcycles.com or email dunxcycles@gmail.com
The vinyl (graphics) were done- at very short notice- by Lee Ffrench at Cobb-lees on Snape Drive, Oulton, Lowestoft, so again if you want graphics try him at sales@cobb-lees.com

So…new bikes ready it was panic packing time in readiness for our 1st leg: Lowestoft to Stanton. The reason for the panic packing was Bob Monkhouse & family were also going to aforementioned concert and BBQ and had offered to take our gear and get some meat for the Barbie. Result!
In addition to that piece of laziness we also took the early train to Beccles knocking 10 miles off so we could pop in to see Sara (Ann & I had a bet on whether she would be in so early. ..0830, shop opens at 0930! I won).

Sat 19th-Tues 22nd July.

A thoroughly enjoyable luggage free ride covering the 1st 2 stages off last years great adventure saw us meander into Mick & Sue’s nice n early ready to be entertained. ….and so we were by the RAF Honington band & Military Wives choir who were raising money for the Honington rehabilitation unit and BLESMA.
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The evening BBQ that followed with all the Blesma chaps & chapesses was brill! Special mention must go to Lilly -Terri’s mum- who even tho we worked together for 4 years didn’t recognise me! Hello Lilly, hope you are well? Terri was in good form too pulling everyone’s leg!
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A selection of Micks leggs, all size 9

And Lo….this was the beginning of Anns sleepless nights. Surrounded by a chorus of tented snorers (when they eventually stopped yacking and went to bed)

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Every tent a snoring!

Interposed with ferocious rain, startling thunder and bright lightening!

An early start so as to catch the train from Thurston to Hoo where we were met at the station by Nobby Clark (he of hammer delivery service fame, Paris 2013) who escorted us back to chez Nobby Joc & Paddy. The comedy began early with Mr Clark locking us all in his back garden behind his 10ft gate with only a front door key…oh how we laughed!!
Bikes safely ensconced we RV’d with the colonials and Dave the Map at Bob & Leslies. Introductions all around followed by everyone using 1 finger to guage the weight of Pete’s bike -how light? Even Ann using her broken wrist hand nearly launched it thru the ceiling!!

Leslie & Bob then served up tucker from heaven. …Lamb and Pork with veg etc. I was so busy carb loading (stuffing my face) I didn’t even get a picture!

Back to chez Nobbs for a cup of T and an early night, unfortunately for Ann I had also partaken of a beer or two, and this combined with the comedy inflatable bed meant another sleepless night for her and only 7 hrs for me….quelle ‘orrer!

Munnar- Elephants, trekking Tea & Culture

3rd Jan – 16 Jan 2014

Our driver Sennan who was found thru Sylvia at Gracefulhomestay (who also beat him down to Ru2800 per day, thats £28) was an excellent investment! For the all in price per day we got him, his local knowledge of Munnar (he does this trip quite regularly) all fuel, tolls, mileage & his living expenses plus he’s at our beck & call. I’ve got to say he couldn’t do enough for us, and was quite surprised when we didn’t use him but rather walked out & about.

So making full use if Sennans knowledge we planned the next few days tourtastic adventure.

Ann & Carl wanted to do some elephant riding….seeing as I was only just back up & about I didn’t feel up to it so became the official photographer

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And feeding!

Then we went to Top Station

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How cold?

As you can see it was a tad misty & not crowded at all. Annoyingly more expensive for foreigners. ….again!

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The following day was out gallivanting in Sennans very comfortable Innova taking in the countryside, from the large plantations of eucalyptus trees (the seeds of which were smuggled into the country by the wife of a Tea plantation manager…in her stockings) still used to provide fuel for the boilers, to the never ending tea plantations themselves

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Weighing in the T leaves

Then popped into the T museum

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I’ve no idea what this concrete crocodile has to do with Tea, but it has pride of place right outside the front door!

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Maybe something to do with the Old Dodgy handshake club?

But talking of Crocodiles we also checked out the crocodile rehabilitation centre

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Then we drove for miles to a nature reserve so Carl “Grills” could have us trekked around allez uber in the mid day heat looking for wild animals……we didn’t even see a mildly upset one, other than Ann, refusing to climb the (wobbly) watchtower and still suffering with her broken arm

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To be fair it was a long way up!

Whilst out exploring around the hotel Carl had noticed some advertising for a  Quad bike experience just down the road, so early doors the next day we went & had a thrash! Brilliant fun & needless to say I thrashed his lap times!

Then that afternoon it was time for a bit of culture. ..we went to an Indian theatre to see a performance of Kathakali….a danced mimed artform performed to percussive instruments and wailing….think really long drum solos and that long wailing song from Pink Floyd!
1st the dancing with accompanied wailing

Now the drummers equaling Cozy Powell doing his 1812 overture drum solo piece (he played for Rainbow, Black Sabbeth & Whitesnake amongst others)

So after 5 hectic tourtastic days at Munnar we did the long drive back to Trivandrum, spent a last couple of days panic shopping in both Trivandrum & Kovalam….well Carl did, fitted in another trip to the Zoo, at Ru20 its just such good value, before sending Carl back to Blighty on the 0400 o my god its early plane.
Then it was a day or two at Graceful homestay prepping for the next leg…backpacking South East Asia via Sri Lanka.

The boss and I have decided to limit our baggage to One daysack each, that we can carry onto any plane; which means no sharps, no liquids over 100ml and weighing less than 7kg!

When I look back at all the gear we had…..oh boy!

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How much kit?

So we’ve gone from that to this:-

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Sick sick sick……still

2nd Jan -14th Jan 2014

On the morning of the 2nd we got an early start to the airport in order to catch our flight to Goa, good thing we went early and I’d booked in on line cos we went to the wrong terminal! In my defense it did say on the ticket that the flight was from the international terminal which I thought odd  but got the boss to check too. So a hasty transfer to the domestic terminal and we still had time (well I did) to impulse buy a nice watch and have a farewell to Mumbai beer.

The hotel in Baga Goa was excellent! We got an absolute bargain by booking early. ..check out the suite:-

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Entrance hall leading to sitting room

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Sitting room looking towards bedroom

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The bathing suite! Separate entrance to bedroom

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Bedroom, bathroom to back rear, sitting room to right

Carl rattled around his a tad…ho hum its a hard life! The mini bar prices were very reasonable -so it got abused- but as we’d gone accommodation only the breakfast buffet was a tad expensive. ….which wasn’t a problem as just up the road was an excellent little café (with free wifi) that did an amazing breakfast of epic proportions. ….huge bowl of chopped fresh fruit salad (I mean huge), followed by proper bubble n squeak, 2 fried eggs, bacon, fried tomatoes, toast tea or coffee for only £4:50 each…result!

After the 1st day we decided to hire a couple of Scoots & go exploring. All was going exceedingly fine until ‘Carl Grills’ insisted on climbing up to Chapura Fort….all went well until the decent, where on very loose soil Anns feet shot out from under her and she landed sharply on her bum….breaking her fall with her right hand, and instantly her wrist was aching like billeyO.
Now Ann’s pain threshold is up there alongside KickAss’s, so when she went white & dizzy I knew all was not well!
I gave her a big hug…very helpful I’m sure….then helped her down the rest of the hill to our Scoots, threw her on the back and hot footed to the nearest village where we loaded her in a taxi to the nearest hospital, a mere 5 min ride away. She was in Xray before I’d even finished filling in the registration form! In & out in 2 hrs fully casted up and injected with pain killers and that was with a 30 min wait for the orthopaedic surgeon to come in and resett her wrist. Only cost £50….sorted!
Off course she’s a bit gutted that it wasn’t a proper cycling crash, avoiding mad Indian buses etc etc instead of “old woman falling over syndrome”. Still ho hum!

So with Ann laid up in pain and unable to sleep very well with heavy cast throwing her off balance it was down to Carl & I to amuse ourselves…..unsupervised.
Full of good intentions we walked down to the beach to hire a couple of jet ski’s which we’d seen advertised at Ru300. Turns out its Ru300 per minute & you don’t get to drive. So binned that idea and continued Carls record of not catching a fish in any major ocean. ..ever by booking a fishing trip and…..well you know!

The following day we went to do a bit of souvenir shopping, got thirsty & dehydrated so had a beer or two or three…..actually I lost count after that, but discovered that I am no longer capable of quaffing copious amounts of Larger, and to add insult to injury still as usual after a quaff or two get the munchies!

The following morning I wasn’t feeling 100%…which was unfortunate as we were flying to Trivandrum via Bangalore, then continuing by car (a mere 10hr overnight drive) to Munnar. In my inebriated state the night before I  had remembered to collect a made to measure fleece lined leather bomber jacket I’d had made (in preparation for returning to the UK- temperature differential approx 35 to 40°- prior planning & preparation prevents frostbite & hypothermia) which was just as well ‘cos after 10 mins of sitting in Goan departure lounge I started feeling seriously unwell, nauseous and very cold to the point of shivering violently. So after 15mins I toddled off to the great white telephone to God & had a very loud and copious conversation! This seemed to help somewhat but I was still seriously cold…so on went fleece lined leather jacket. ..much to the amusement of my fellow travellers. I still firmly believe I was suffering from food poisoning not just a hangover. ..but could I convince the boss….or Carl?

Still there’s a silver lining to every cloud. ….looking pale weak and shivering whilst wearing a bulky fleece lined jacket instantly attracts a wheelchair with nice chap to push it, accompanied by you & yours, to the front of every security/boarding and ticket Q to be expressly delivered to your on going flight. Ann and Carl were delighted, I just monged in said wheelchair & gritted the old sweating back teeth!
The flight passed in a blur (for me) and we arrived in Trivandrum to be met by another nice chap with a wheelchair who wheeled me out to the carpark straight to our waiting car and driver- for the next 6 days- Sennan.

I don’t remember a great deal about the trip as I was floating in & out of compis mentis, except for brief flashes of dark road intersped with glaring headlights &  the blaring of horns, followed by climbing up on a really terrible road. I do remember thinking thank goodness its dark or Ann’ll be most unhappy (her not liking heights).
We eventuality arrived at our hotel at about 0500 only to find all the lights off, but Sennan found a receptionist asleep on a sofa in the lobby & by half past I was tucked up in bed where I remained for the rest of the day and night before finally feeling capable of showing an intrrest in anything other than the great white telephone to God

Sick sick sick!

I’ve noticed I managed to post my last 2 bloggs arse about face….sorrry!

27th Dec 2013- 2 jan 2014

Once we had dispatched Lee & Kirsty back to freezing Blighty, Carl Ann & I moved back into Graceful homestay-again- prior to our whistle stop tour of the west coast of India, namely Mumbai -for the new year- Baga in Goa for a bit of sun, beach and Russians- and Munnar for a decent cup of tea and serenity.
Whilst relaxing in the evening in the environs of Graceful we found a decent restaurant called the Ruby Arena Hotel which is on Medical Junction road in Trivandrum. They have 2 restaurant, one on the 2nd floor; air conditioned etc & one on the 8th floor (a roof terrace), but seeing as both Ann & Carl were being savaged by all things creepy & crawley we plumbed for the 2nd floor! It was all very tasty, but Carl especially recommends the Tandoori (full) chicken.
The days were filled with excursions to the beach (mango in salt water filled plastic bag anyone?) The zoo, at the amazing rate of Ru20 per person, and back to Kovalam beach for more gift shopping by Carl, oh and another good scoff at our favourite beach restaurant.
The night before our departure to Mumbai I foolishly partook of a cold spicy chicken takeaway snack type dish from a local Delli & of course the results were predictable. ….Delli belly! So a pocket full of Loo paper and a wary eye kept for (European style) toilets was the name of the game. (Whilst I don’t have a problem with the Eastern ‘squat & aim’ toilet -other than western men of a certain age are incapable of attaining a comfortable position- I do have an issue when it comes to the world erupting from my bottom in what can only be described as “airburst mode”)
Nevertheless I managed to maintain my dignity and arrived over the city of Mumbai accident free. The view of the massive slums that surrounds the international airport are staggering. I’m not sure of the numbers & to be honest I’m not sure anybody is…but its got to be well over 1 million & apparently the place generates close to £15million to the cities economy annually.
The previous few months of treading thru the rest of India just didn’t prepare me & the boss for the squalor & rife poverty visable on every corner and at every junction & traffic lights as various people either tried to sell you complete Tat or just outright knocked on the windows asking for money.
The hotel we had booked into was to the north of the city, although thats akin to saying Stansted is to the north of London, which was a bit of a pain cos the traffic was such that it could take up to 4hrs to get to the Gateway to India (where the Taj hotel-of shoot em up fame) is situated.
Me having a dodgy stomach meant Carl & Ann went exploring the sights & partaking of the most excellent buffet; both breakfast & dinner.
By the the evening of the 30th I was up for a bit of exploration, so off we went.
A shopping Mall, then down to the Gateway of India

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Where Carl was in much demand for photo opportunities with the indigenous population

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Should have asked for Ru100...would've creamed it in

We then negotiated a tour, which was very good value in my opinion, looking at a number of sights including the Dohbi (open air laundry) the gardens on top of the Victorian water tank

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(supplying the cities water) a temple or two

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And a burial well where the bodies are left for carrion birds to dispose of, amongst other things

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Most expensive building in the world (?) Helipad not allowed to be used

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We also made use of the causeway from the north of the city to the south-a rather excellent piece of engineering that can cut an hour of the commute, called the Bandra Worli Sea link.

Of course this was the day we got crap taxi driver, I should have realised when he “persuaded” us that the only parking available was outside a Pashmina/Antique shop just around the corner fron the Taj. Of course this necessitated us “looking around” – no obligation sir- So one Pashmina later…very good quality sir….only Ru5500. I eventually got them down to Ru1500 (£15).
A very good day otherwise, the boss & Carl not extracting the piss much….all day, until the trip back. After a couple of hours I realised we were in unexplored territory, so got out google maps and realised we were about 5 ks North of our hotel and getting further away every minute. I pointed this out to taxi driver who said no no is this way, no its bloody not says I, no understand, I’m running out of Lpg I drop you here…Ru2500 please. (Should have been 1800…to our hotel!)
The git stopped by a tuk tuk stand on the main highway & I think  said help help, forgein tourist not want to pay…or words to that effect. Carl & I were miffed enough to quite happily start laying about us with righteous fury but the boss said No! There’s a lot more of them than you -not a problem I thought- they’ll have knives and machetes- possible- and no matter if you win the police will arrest you cos your forgein & have more money for bribes/fines- very goid point!
So we paid the git and hired one of the tuk tuk to takes the remaining distance back to our hotel.

Once back a beer was needed….but it was New Years Eve. The hotel were offering a deal….all you could eat & drink for only Ru3500 per person. …now with Carl & I, normally they’d have been on a bit of a loser at that price, however the beer in the deal was Bud…yuck! And the normal buffet was more than enough anyway and was less than half the price. So a few bottles of Kingfisher each, an excellent buffet dinner and we were all in bed for 10! So much for New Years eve in Mumbai.