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Touching Moroccon shores

May 14, 2010

It’s close to midnight and we’ve finally arrived in Fes after a pretty eventful day. It all began this morning when Randy Mamola waved us off after breakfast. The first quick blast to the ferry went without a hitch. But as soon as we arrived, the real adventure part of our trip kicked in. After a 2 ½ hour ferry trip to Tanger over choppy waters, it became obvious that Helder prefers the desert to the water; him together with few others were looking pretty green before too long . . .

Back on dry land and eager to press on into Africa, our group was met with another obstacle. Officialdom. The endless red-tape denied us access into the country for few hours, so we whittled away a few minutes guessing the nationalities of passing bikers. So, with our paperwork finally stamped and approved, our motley crew headed off towards the heart of Africa, each and every one of us utterly mesmerized by the stunning scenery all around.

Rolling hills disappeared into grey hazy silhouettes in the distance, a random man literally in the middle of no where (apparently wearing a rather smart suited jacket) waved at us as if we were old friends just passing through. He wasn’t the only one. So many of the roadside wanderers offered the universal thumbs up sign as we passed that we felt inexplicably linked to them all. Bikes are really quite special. They unite complete strangers just by their presence and though what they stand for, freedom, independence and adventure. As the day drew to a close, we pressed on in darkness towards our hotel in Fes. Huge puddles of gravel on unlit roads and stray kamikaze dogs jumped out at us from out nowhere. Thank goodness for traction control and ABS. Even if these hazards weren’t extreme enough to activate the technology on our bikes, it’s reassuring to know they have built in safety nets just in case . . .

And so we’ve arrived. Finally. The day’s been packed from dawn to dusk with surprises. And although we’re tired, cold and our brains feel like they’ve been liquidized, it was worth every mile and moment. We’re in Africa, on Super Ténérés, and we’re all bubble side up. What more can there be to life!

Ride For Life video: Day Two A ride of a lifetime

May 14, 2010

A ride of a lifetime

May 13, 2010

Lisbon seems so far away. We left the hotel around 9 this morning and with it the hustle and bustle of a busy city. The Super Teneres weaved through the traffic, munching on motorway miles as though they’d been starved of asphalt. Straight line blasts morphed into scenic twisties as we sliced through Evora’s protected landscape, picturesque lakes reflecting luscious greenery like huge mirrors. It felt like the beginning of an adventure, a real ride of a lifetime.

Aracena offered up lunch (more fish, the carnivores amongst us now keener than ever to reach Africa and the promise of some serious meat dishes.) But it was the scenery that really stoked our appetites. A perfect ribbon of the finest tarmac weaved through the countryside and although it’s hard to actually see a grin through a dark visor, nothing could disguise the fact that we all wore one.  Especially when Randy Mamola is part of the gang, popping power wheelies for the camera, eyes sparkling like a kid in a sweet shop. It doesn’t matter how many years you spend riding bikes, or how much you’ve achieved in doing so, each ride still brings new experiences, makes new friends and offers a different perspective. That’s why we love them.

Emerald green lakes flanked the road to Nerva and blood red rivers in Riotinto lined the base of huge mounds of earth that had been carved away in the mining process. Iron stained the exposed soil in great layers of oranges and golds, poisoning it with a beautiful toxic blend of minerals. It looked a Hollywood movie set of Mars from some kind of ‘Lost in Space’ episode.

The sweeping curves stretched out as we reached the motorway and the final leg to Jerez. 530km in a day is hardly a marathon, but it’s a fair old trek. But despite the distance covered, everyone in our newly formed family felt pretty fresh on arrival. Tomorrow we’ll ride the (relatively) short distance to Algeciras and from then on, the trip steps up a notch. Not because we’ll be riding flat out, we won’t. But we will be in a different continent, one that most of us have yet to explore. Africa. It’s where the Super Tenere was born, and we’re going to take it home.

Ride For Life video: Day One – Ride For Life kicks off for the lucky 7

May 13, 2010

Ride for Life kicks off for the lucky seven

May 12, 2010

Day one of the Ride for Life kicked off today for our seven participants at the Fontana Park Hotel in Lisbon. After flying in from various European countries, the lucky seven were joined by special guest star Randy Mamola.

Randy’s passion for the charity he co-founded back in the late eighties was almost infectious, he could barely disguise the emotion in his voice as he explained why Riders for Health is so close to his heart. Bikes are cool, there’s no doubt about that and Randy’s made his living from them, but when you hear him describe how one motorcycle can help an African public health worker reach and tend to 20,000 people, your goose bumps get goose bumps. Riders for Health estimate that their bikes have helped more than 10.8 million people over the last twenty years and these Super Teneres are going to add to that success story.

Some parts of Africa have an obvious and persistent problem with disease, particularly HIV and AIDS. The five bikes we’ll deliver next week will go to the Chadiza District in the Eastern Province of Zambia where receiving blood test results can normally take up to four months. By then, it’s often too late. These Yamahas will speed up the process, replacing peddle power with real power saves lives. It’s hard to imagine how just five bikes can have such a staggering impact and after this morning’s presentation we’re all feeling ridiculously lucky. It’s a mixture of being humbled and excited by such a special adventure. All seven are all super keen to bag a first ride on the Super Ténéré, but the whole experience is heightened because of where we’re going and why. And now every one involved is beginning to feel it. To know it.

But after hearing Randy talk, the true potential of powered two wheelers seems far more potent. His heartfelt honesty and compassion is really infectious. These people matter and the tools we use for work and play can help them. It feels pretty darn good to be involved in such a serious subject and quite ironic that we’re almost guaranteed to have fun on route.
And there is one more surprise; Randy will join the first riding day tomorrow on a Super Ténéré. Yes, our lucky will be guided by Helder Rodrigues and Randy Mamola all the way to Jerez!

So, all the excitement is just a sleep away. Tonight over dinner we got to know each other and swapped colourful biking stories. Tonight the group-bonding began. Tomorrow, we’ll Ride for Life . . . .

Lisbon here we are

May 11, 2010

A bright sunny morning woke us up at the hotel in Serra de Estrela and the view from the window was stunning. But once more the weather had a surprise for us once we got to the top as zero degrees, snow and a thick fog were waiting. If the fog wouldn’t have been there we would have had spectacular views.

Once on the road to Piodao the fog was behind us and we enjoyed the lovely landscape of the Portuguese mornings. After 3 hours of riding and what it felt like 5000 corners, we arrived in Serta. To get here was a lot of fun as we got on a road with many fast corners and a lot of grip. Those were 60kms of pure enjoyment! The group was very happy to be leaded by Stephane Peterhansel…and they showed it to him as you can see in the image here below.

In the afternoon Lisbon waited for us with a beautiful sun and 23 degrees. This is the warmest we had so far! The city welcomed us as we crossed the majestic Vasco de Gama Bridge.

Today is the end of another stage of Ride for Life. Stéphane Peterhansel delivered the Super Tenere convoy safely and as from thursday it’s up to Helder Rodrigues together with Wolfram, Davide, Jonathan, Javier, Tijn, Yiannis and Alain to take the task over.  Want to see how they will handle it? Check out the blog for the next update!

Welcome to Portugal

May 10, 2010

This has to be the coldest place in Portugal!  Tonight we are in Serra da Estrela and we got surprised by chilling temperatures up here. On certain parts of the route we had 4 degrees and a freezing wind blowing through the valley. It’s good that we were almost at the end of our riding day; a beautiful riding day we should say.

It all started this morning in Alcala de Henares when we got out of the city traffic and headed towards the holiday area of Embalse de Bourguilho. We kept on heading west and stopped for lunch in Jerte in the Extremadura region.

After lunch we passed the Col de Honduras and reached Herbas home to the biggest classic motorcycle museum in Spain. Then, we followed the fast EX205 road towards the Portuguese border. Serra da Estrela was calling us.

Our photographers were waiting for us on the top. Despite the 2 degrees temperature and the chilling wind they were so amazed by the view that they all stood out of their cars for quite a while prior we got there. Estrela is a special place.