Friday, 3 September 2010

I just can't keep away...

Back to France for an end of summer jaunt to the Pyrenees to see what it's like on an organised motorcycle tour. I'll let you know how I get on. It will be strange as I usually prefer to travel alone and choose where and when I go.
Oh! And by the way...If you want to read the full account of the last trip to Spain, Morocco and France earlier in the year, get your hands on a copy of The Rider's Digest at the end of September 2010. Au revoir!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

France. Ah! France!

The nicest things happen to me when I’m travelling. I meet interesting people, see sights at their best and even things that go wrong turn out for the best. (Breaking my leg in Pakistan led to the experience of living with a Pakistani family and working at an English language school in Islamabad. Both turned out to be hilarious as the family were puppeteers and actors of satire; and the school led to amusing happenings such as being given a class of consular officials from Azerbaijan on my, and their, first day).

I was waiting at the Tangier ferry port to go to Sete in the south of France when a group of French people arrived with several Landrovers to embark on the same three-day voyage. One of them was Liz from Ireland who had married a Frenchman. Together they own and run the truly luxurious hotel barge “Emma” on the Canal du Midi. As a result of meeting Liz and Rene, I was invited to stay the night.

You know those people you see setting the tables and putting out the deck chairs on posh boats and outdoor restaurants on the Continent? Well that was me! I left them three weeks later, having helped to paint the boat and do skivvy-type catering work whilst a group of American ‘personal chefs’ were cruised and pampered along the Canal. Apart from enjoying the best Cordon Bleu meals and (I’ll never buy cheap plonk again) really good wine, I was having yet another ‘time of my life’.

Onward and northward bound, I left the Languedoc. Ever since the puncture episode in Morocco, I had noticed a problem with the steering on the Enfield. One day, I left a hotel and took a sharp left turn onto the road and fell off. This lack of steering precision became steadily worse and I knew exactly what it was. A good friend had suggested getting a new steering head bearing before the trip and so I'd asked my favourite mechanic to replace it. He didn’t, saying that it was not necessary. On the same day, I took the bike for its annual MOT and the tester passed it but warned me about the bearing. I couldn’t detect anything amiss at the time but I did now. It was like steering jelly. (I'd also asked the mechanic to change all the cables. He said that wasn’t necessary either, and my clutch cable snapped at the top of a mountain miles from anywhere.) An internet search showed an Enfield dealer/mechanic in Lyon so I made my way there. Parts having to be sent for from Paris meant staying locally for a few days and I was well looked after by the owner of the business and his girlfriend. The journey to their home was the scariest I have ever had in my life. They are sidecar racers and I was in the sidecar, millimetres from the road surface, staring up the exhaust pipe of the car in front, in sheer terror going at a million kms an hour for over an hour. He dodged through Lyon’s inner city dual carriageway system suddenly overtaking, weaving in and out of the traffic and didn’t hear my cries of, “I’m a grandmother, slow down, pleeeeeese!”

All went well after I left Lyon except for a sudden return to winter and some wrong turnings. I’m sure Nantes is a lovely city but I never want to see it again having gone over that enormously high bridge umpteen times already.

A week or so staying with my friend Catherine, another long-term motorcycle traveller, was fun in Brittany, involving canoeing and learning to tango. Then an unplanned stop in Morlaix on my way to the ferry at Roscoff where I stayed with friendly Sarah and enjoyed being shown the area, eating Breton crepes and drinking cider! Meanwhile Spring in the UK had started and I had a new home to move into. So after a typical farewell from France, a short strike by the ferry staff delaying me and some other two-wheeled travellers long enough to get rather merry on someone’s stash of wine, we set off for Plymouth and home. It’s going to be strange living somewhere at last that I can call ‘home’. Oh, and I now have a new favourite mechanic!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Sahara at Sixty

No, I don't mean mph!
I'd finished the last of the sherry from Spain, it was coming up to my birthday and I wanted to celebrate with something stronger than orange juice, delicious as it is. The Romans were making wine in Morocco centuries ago and desite being an Islamic country, the tradition carries on. Wine is available even if it is a little difficult to find. However, a very well-stocked supermarket in Marrakech had a good choice in addition to European cheese (and I'm not talking just "The Laughing Cow" here!)
So, armed with a bottle of red and some Brie, I set off for what I thought would be a tacky, touristy camel ride in the Sahara desert, but which turned out to be absolutely magical.
It was the lullaby-singing of the Moroccan woman who was carrying her baby on the camel in front of me as dusk fell on the dunes that did it. And the moon was full and the camels were plodding rhythmically as their keepers cooed at them soothingly. This 'just for a lark' tour became something else as the silence transformed into serenity. My wine went down a treat with freshly cooked campfire taggine. And the stars!... well, they were as bright as they could be from all up there on this clear night. The family I was with in the bedouin tent sang "Happy Birthday" to me in the morning as we slowly and majestically rode the five kilometres back to Merzouga, our starting point the previous evening.

From the desert, which doesn't creep up on the surrounding landscape so much as plonk itself with a definite "I'm here", I went to Sidi Ifni on the Atlantic coast where I played about in the surf on a body board and slept in an unusual but strangely homely dormitory-tent construction on top of a hotel roof ("I made it myself" said the hotel owner proudly.)
Deciding that it was possible that Spring might be starting in the South of France as it was now nearly April, I made my way north, still negotiating flooded roads and plenty of lovely mud. I wasn't concentrating on the road on the last day and fell off the bike arriving at the Tangier ferry port with both me and the bike looking total wrecks. However, it's an ill wind etc. and perhaps because of the sorry state we were in, a party of French Landrover enthusiasts just back from frollicking around Morocco noticed us and so another adventure began even before we landed in France!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

It gets warmer and sunnier the further south you go doesn't it?

My flamenco-mad daughter invited me to join her at the annual flamenco festival in Jerez, Andalucia, Southern Spain at the end of February. Imagining riding off the ferry on my Enfield in warm sunshine, if not sweltering heat, I readily agreed. Allowing myself ten days for the journey down through Spain, I was wrong on both counts. Firstly, the bike wouldn't start on arrival in Santander and a kind Geordie had to do it for me when he saw me flagging, and with a "I'll help you, Pet", he got the Enfield going. Neither was it warm and sunny, but 'Hey, it'll warm up the further south I go'.
It didn't and not heeding advice to avoid mountains, over the Cantbrians I went and encountered snow.
The rain in Spain fell mostly on me all the way to Jerez and I saw Puentenansa, Medina de Rioseco, Salamanca, Merida, Seville and finally Jerez at their wettest for decades. Just to make matters worse, I was struggling with an undiagnosed problem with the bike. After much help and advice from friends via the internet I had a new ignition coil fitted in Jerez and it has done the trick. No more screaming, unhappy engine at the end of the day.
The days spent with my daughter at the flamenco festival were outstanding. Much dancing, tapas and sherry enjoyed, she flew home and I met up with Archie, my fellow motorcycling friend on his way back to the UK after a tour of Africa on his Trans Alp. More rain.
Surely in Morocco it will be warm and dry?
Not so and I got soaked daily but the day I got a puncture thanks to the sharp end of a discarded screwdriver was the worst. It was bucketing down and my luggage was all but floating away at the side of the road during the fitting of a new tube. Had it not been for the help of some lovely Moroccan chaps, I think I would have burst into tears and gone home without the bike! But I stayed in a village, dried out and cheered up due to the warmth of the people there and am now in Marrakech. The sun came out yesterday and I took one of my three jumpers off. I am happy to report that at the moment the only pouring going on is delicious fresh orange juice and mint tea as I laze on the roof terrace of a very smart cafe.

Off to the Sahara next!

Sunday, 31 January 2010

There were several occasions when the Horizons Unlimited website made life easier for me with information about necessary documentation, border-crossings etc. I got a severe case of the colliwobbles too for a couple of weeks when I arrived in Ecuador after leaving New Zealand. I found support from several people via the website who encouraged me to carry on and some even directed me to people they knew there. Once I'd learned a few words of Spanish and plucked up courage to ride away from the hotel, I was fine! As always, I met people only too keen to help everywhere I went. The website helped me to find local fellow motorcyclists through the 'Community' section and I blessed Horizons Unlimited many times. If you are contemplating a two-wheel trip, scan the website. Someone, somewhere will know the answer to your query. Or if you find something out that will help someone else, you can put the information on the website for others to read. It makes great reading even if you have no trip planned yet. Be careful, though... you might just end up packing in your job and hitting the road!

Saturday, 23 January 2010


On 14th Feb 2010, I am taking the Enfield for a trip to Spain. We are going on the ferry to Santander...
Today I took my Bullet to Henry's for a bit of a service and for him to see if anything needs doing. I've had the same rear tyre on since Panama so it probably needs changing! I took Tharikh with me so he could see what Henry does to make petrol Enfileds into diesels.

Talks and Articles

The life I had with my Enfield was so exciting and pleasurable that I want to share the experience. So I do talks and write articles about it, hoping that it may at least be entertaining but at best be a kick-start for others.

If you want to read about some of the adventures I’ve had with my Enfield, here is a list of publications I have written for:-

HIMALAYA BY BIKE. Laura Stone TRAILBLAZER 2008. As a contributor in this publication, I describe how I came to be travelling round the world on an Enfield Bullet and some of the things that made me know for sure it was the best adventure ever!

  • Motorcycle Marketplace. (New Zealand) Issue 95
  • The Classic Bike Guide. January 2008. Issue 201       

  • The Rider’s Digest. July 2009 Issue140 The Enfield Diaries "Life Begins".
  • The Rider’s Digest. Oct 2009 Issue 142 The Enfield Diaries "Have Crutches, Will Travel".
  • The Rider’s Digest. Jan 09/Dec 10 Issue 144 The Enfield Diaries Part Three.
  • The Rider's Digest Mar 2010 Issue 146 The Enfield Diaries "Festivals, Farewell and FEAR"
  • The Rider's Digest April 2010 Issue 147 Review on heated waistcoat.
  • The Rider's Digest Oct 2010 Issue 153 Enfield trip to Spain, Morocco and France Part 1
  • The Rider's Digest Nov 2010 Issue 154 " " " " " " " " " Part 2
  • The Rider's Digest. Jan/Feb 2010 Issue 156 Pyrenees Tour "Taken for a Ride"
  • The Rider's Digest April 2011 Issue 158 Wear Earplugs to Avoid deafness and TINNITUS
  • The Rider's Digest June 2011 Issue 160 My Enfield in the "Our Bikes" section.
  • The Rider's Digest July 2011 Issue 161 Tilting trikes then and now "Attack of the Tripods"
  • The Rider's Digest (online) Issue 187 "Souvenirs from India".
  • The Old Bike Mart. December 2009 Issue 294
  • The Old Bike Mart. Article about the Ariel 3 Museum in Bristol.October 2010
  • An amusing Malaysian anecdote was published in the Baptist Times Issue 8296

ACE The Official Newsletter of the ACE CAFE CLUB. Issue 48 Winter 09/10.

And one of the better ones written about the Enfield and me!

And most

I haven’t stopped being a nurse and have had a few articles published in nursing/health magazines over the years!…

  • A nursing care study for The Nursing Mirror July 1973
  • The joys of being a health visitor in the Potteries for the West Midlands Journal of Primary Care Summer 1999
  • The Nursing Standard. Being a flu jab nurse. Jan/Feb 2009 Vol. 23/Issue 21
  • The Nursing Standard. Hospice nursing in New Zealand. May 2009 Vol.23/Issue 35
  • The Nursing Standard. Importance of Health Visiting. June/July 2010 Vol.24/Issue 43

ADVENTURE MOTORCYCLING HANDBOOK A route and planning guide. Chris Scott    TRAILBLAZER 2012   

My contribution describes yet another skipper with ill-intent. This one wanted to use my Enfield as an anchor!


OVERLAND MAGAZINE...the best magazine for motorcycle travel stories written by people who have experienced what it is like to ride a motorbike in a different place for a while or for a long time, have found it an enhancing experience and want to share it. There's fun and drama but the tales also dispel negative myths about people and places which are based on fear and prejudice. 

Overland Magazine. Issue 2.
"TRAVEL IS FATAL". I tell the story of what it was like to teach English and live with a Pakistani family after breaking my leg and doing some damage to my Enfield whilst crossing the mountains near the Karakoram Highway. Not quite how you might imagine!

Overland Magazine. Issue 3.
"INDONESIAN RESCUE".  The nightmare voyage when I had to sleep with a knife under my pillow for fear of being murdered by the skipper when the Enfield and I hitched a lift from Malaysia to Indonesia on a catamaran. It had seemed like a good idea at the time!

Overland Magazine. Issue 6.
"KIDNAP AND COCAINE". Travelling on my Enfield from south to north in Colombia. After promising I wouldn't go off the safe Pan-American Highway, I did and was injured by self-harm, insects and animals rather than drugs barons. I discovered there's much more to Colombia than Shakira, coffee and cocaine.