Wet and Miserable

I wake up in the morning and suddenly I know it is time to move on. I don’t know why, I don’t know where, just that it is time to leave this city. For some unknown reason I want to get to the UK and Ireland. Nothing logical. Just the whim of the moment.

By nightfall I find myself in Zaragoza, north-west of Barcelona. I have been trying to contact a Swinde, a German woman traveling the world on a Bicycle who I met about two years ago at the border crossing between Panama and Costa Rica. I have lost track of where she is in Spain but I figure there is still a slim chance we can meet up before I catch the ferry in Santander. So I send off an email.

Imagine my surprise when Swinde responds almost immediately saying she just arrived in Zaragoza! Most of two years since we last saw each other and we just happen to find ourselves in the same city on the same day! We spend a fun day exploring the city. But as inevitably happens, it is time to move on.

One joy of meeting other overland travelers is the suggestions on where to go. Swinde suggests Parque Natural de las Bardenas Reales for some fun dirt roads and beautiful scenery:

Spain, Parque Natural de las Bardenas Reales, Castil de Tierra
Spain, Parque Natural de las Bardenas Reales
Spain, Parque Natural de las Bardenas Reales

Ahh, what joy to get away from paved roads after so long traversing Europe by the highways!

Coming out of the park I find myself in the middle of farm land far away from any city when I feel the Phoenix stutter. Gas. Hmm, when did I fill up last? No clue but it must have been awhile ago. Flipping the switch to reserve I continue on hoping for a small town. But nothing appears. Just endless farms as far as I can see.

When the gas runs out, what am I to do? I could stand around cursing my own stupidity but that wouldn’t get me anywhere. So I flag down a tractor coming my way. I quickly explain the problem and he is glad to help but warns me he cannot return me to my motorcycle. I’m not worried, something will work out. Besides, I get to ride in a tractor! How cool is that!?!?

A few minutes later we are at the local service station. I realize how lucky I am to have found this guy in the tractor when he explains that these pumps are for the farmers only and a special card is needed! Once the bottle is full (an old water bottle scavenged from the trash can), I get ready to walk to the main road in search of a ride when a car pulls up. It is a friend of the guy who gave me a ride in the tractor, going to work…..right past my motorcycle!

Clearly the universe decided I simply needed to add “tractor” to the list of ways I’ve traveled the world!

Spain, Bilbao
Fountain in Bilbao, Spain

A few days resting in Bilbao and I am off to the ferry leaving from Santander. I could ride through France for a shorter ferry ride, but that would cost a lot of money and I don’t feel like lingering in France.

Sunset in the Bay of Biscay
Sunset in the Bay of Biscay

England. Great Brittan. The United Kingdom. It took me forever to sort those three out! But encountering enough travelers I eventually found one back in Peru that explained it to me: The United Kingdom is the country containing England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and territories around the world. Great Brittan is the island of England, Wales and Scotland. Not even everyone who lives in the country knows the difference!

Cardiff Castle Spiderweb
Cardiff Castle

When I leave the ferry I get the first taste of what I am in for in the UK: It takes me most of an hour to convince the customs official I am just a normal traveler and not a troublemaker or someone who will stay illegally in the country. I had forgotten the lesson I learned in Central America: Never tell the full unedited truth to migration officials when doing something unusual!

From the moment I leave the ferry in Portsmouth, UK, I get endless rain with only one clear day when I arrive in Cardiff. The cold seeps into my bones leaving a chill that never quite seems to leave me. My rain gear does not keep out the water and I end up wet and miserable by the end of the day. The people seem about as friendly as the weather. No rooms at hostels and no help finding something. A parking ticket for simply loading my bike at a hostel. Grumpy people at restaurants. Prices that border on the ridiculous. And I am almost certain I am getting sick from being cold and wet for days on end. I wonder….why did I come to this country?

But, first thing first: go to Manchester where I have a friend who will let me stay at his house until I can get my riding gear waterproof again.

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