2013 has been another busy year for me. Having spent Christmas 2012 in Spain, where I also saw in the New Year, I spent the first six weeks of 2013 along the Spanish coast between Alicante and Valencia, relaxing and enjoying the sunshine. Leaving the Spanish sunshine behind I headed slowly northeast through France, from where I took a ferry back to the UK, as I needed to get the motorhome MOT’d.
March 2013 in England was the coldest for fifty years the weather forecasters said, it certainly wasn’t very pleasant. While huddled up in the motorhome parked on a small farm campsite, surrounded by heavy frost laden trees and icy fields, I started thinking about the summer ahead. I needed sunshine and wanted to do something different, a break from the motorhome seemed a good idea, not that there’s anything wrong with living in the motorhome, but we all need a break sometimes.
Where the idea came from I don’t know, but I found myself thinking seriously of a long tour by bicycle. The last time I’d done any serious cycling was way back in 1992, when I cycled across a large section of America. Maybe, as well as a break from the motorhome, I subconsciously wanted to get a little fitter and loose a couple of kilo’s, maybe it was an attempt to prove to myself that I wasn’t too old and still had it in me, who knows. As the unusually cold weather turned to spring the idea grew into a plan to cycle across Europe from the UK to Italy.
I took a five day cycle maintenance course in Canterbury at the beginning of April and bought a new Koga Randonnar touring bike. I needed somewhere safe to leave the motorhome while I was cycling, expecting to be away for a few months, which worked out perfectly when friends in Rome offered to let me park it in their large rear garden alongside their own motorhome. The plan gathered momentum and within a few days I come up with the idea of leaving all my cycling equipment and the bike in the UK, then driving to Rome, where I’d spend a week with Niki, my ex-partner and friends, before flying back to the UK to be reunited with the bike and setting off on what is called the Eurovelo 5 long distance cycle route.
I set off cycling from Bedford on April 22nd making my way to Harwich where I took the ferry to the Hook Of Holland. The journey then took me through Holland, Germany, France and Switzerland before I crossed into Italy, where I followed the Via Francigena Pilgrims trail to Rome and the Vatican City, where I arrived at the beginning of June. Having cycled almost 3,000 kilometres. I stayed in pilgrims hostels while in Italy and had a pilgrims passport stamped at each one. Arriving at the Vatican City I presented the pilgrims passport to the Vatican offices where having had it checked I was awarded a beautiful certificate for completing the journey, something that I can look back on with pride.
I spent another three weeks with Niki resting and relaxing in Rome. Flushed with the success of my cycle ride I decided to make a second tour this time cycling to Germany, then following the Danube River as far as possible until the beginning of September. The ride took me through Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia and Slovenia before I returned to Italy to be reunited with my motorhome. I’d managed to cycle nearly 7,000 kilometres, I felt great after all the exercise and proud of myself for completing the rides. It goes to show your never too old if you put your mind to something.
Back on the road in the motorhome I spent some time on the west coast of Italy between Rome and Orbetello, staying for awhile in Montalto Marina.
As summer turned to autumn my thoughts turned to winter and where to go. I considered going down to Greece, but having heard and read mixed reports about the weather over the winter period decided against it. Morocco has always been a favourite destination for me, especially in the winter, since first visiting the country back in the 1990’s and made up my mind to visit Morocco once again. I had originally planned to head slowly up through Italy then down through France and Spain, setting off in October. My friends who had looked after my motorhome during the summer also planned to go to Morocco for the winter months and there was a good chance we could meet up and travel together. However plans went astray when Niki had a bad fall, with no broken bones, but badly bruised she found it difficult to get about and almost impossible to drive so I headed back to Rome to help. By the beginning of November Niki was back almost to normal so it was time to set off. Gillian & Godfredo, my motorhoming friends were almost ready to leave, but a last minute passport problem delayed their departure and I set off alone.
The weather was changing, becoming colder and wetter, I was keen to get south for the sunshine and didn’t linger for very long travelling through France and Spain. Keeping in touch by email with Gillian & Godfredo, who planned to drive quickly down to southern Spain, we agreed to meet up in Algeciras and travel together to Morocco.
We took the fast ferry to Ceuta on the north African coast and crossed the border into Morocco on December 2nd. Gillian was keen to visit the Roman ruins at Volubilis so we made our way there for our first night on Moroccan soil. We then made our way south to Agadir where we have been for the past three weeks, applying for visa extensions should we decide to stay longer than the normal three months.
With Christmas just around the corner 2013 seems to have flown by, and we look forward to the usual Christmas celebrations with others on the campsite, albeit in warm sunshine. A special end of year present for me is the fact that Niki has booked a flight to Marrakech for the 30th so we will be able to see in the New Year together and with friends. She will spend a month with me before returning home to Italy in February.
All in all a really good year with lots of memories to look back on. Looking forward to 2014, well at the moment I have no idea what I’ll be up to, but relaxing in the Moroccan sunshine will give me plenty of opportunity to make plans.
It seems I've been travelling all my life. For the past eight years I've been following a simple, nomadic lifestyle full time touring in a camper van and meeting with other like minded travellers.
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