Why the Basque Country reminds me of Wales

9-11 May 2018

Disclaimer: the picture above is not of the Spanish Basque coast; neither are we in the Basque Country. We are already in La Belle France, and there is a good reason for this, mere hours after docking at Bilbao this afternoon.

Let me explain. I love Wales dearly. Some of my best sons are half-Welsh (all three of them), and my beloved brother- and sister-in-law have made their home in Porthcawl. The thing about Wales is it’s green, mainly cos it rains there from time to time. And has industrialised valleys loomed over by towering mountains. And a language that no-one has any chance of understanding, packed with strange consonants. And every time you cross the border into Wales, it rains.Okay, that’s several things about Wales. So now let me tell you that the soul-mate of Cymru, the Welsh astral twin, the doppelgänger of the Valleys…is the Basque Country of northern Spain. Green, tick. Mountains, tick. Valleys full of industrial might, tick. A language with more “x”s, “z”s and “k”s, all consonants,  than is possible. And it didn’t take long after docking at Bilbao this morning for the rain to start.

The Pillion had dressed sensibly to begin with, but being fooled by the fleeting sunshine, took off one layer of the seven she was wearing. That’s right, the waterproof layer. There soon ensued a rapid unscheduled stop, layer seven went back on, and off we rode into the rain, heading north.

With the outliers of the snow-capped Pyrenees to our right, we dashed over the border into the French Pays Basque. Clearly a lesser version of Basque-dom, overwhelmed by French hegemony, for the rain instantly stopped, and the damp industrial valleys disappeared to be replaced by a magnificent coastline of breakers and wide golden beaches. Not to mention Biarritz, our destination for the night.
The Rider was yawning already, worn out after a whole two hours in the saddle. rider and pillionWith six weeks of hard riding ahead of us still. But Biarritz was doing sun, beach and sharp rollers in unabashed style. The wonderful Belle Époque  buildings, so much white meringue piled up into fantastic towers and roofs, dominated even the wide golden seashore and its massive breakers. The town was busy, full of designer shops holidaying from Paris for the season, together with matching slim elegant women. Turns out biker chic is very in this year. I was in my element at last, as I swanked my real biker-chick jacket along the promenade before a glass or two of rose, and a very decent dinner.

All this more than makes up for the less happy evening the Pillion spent aboard Brittany Ferries last night, crossing the Bay of Biscay in a heavy swell after leaving it rather too late to take her sea-sick pills. I shall draw a veil over that; suffice to say the Rider was suddenly left in front of both our rather nice meals in the shipboard restaurant.

Still, all that is behind me. We’re back on the Tigger, with a heatwave forecast for tomorrow – Allez les gars, as they say in these parts!

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Biarritz at dusk

From the Front Seat

So we’re off for 3-5000 miles ride to Albania – or as far as we can get in 6 weeks. And for any geeks or insomniacs who happen to be reading this blog, here is the prep I put into the riding part:
Our (my!) bike is a 2015 Triumph Tiger 800 XRx – which auto-correct appropriately changes to Triumph Tiger 800 Sex – which is pretty close to true!
My tweaks include:
– Stock silencer for a carbon fibre Scorpion job – weighing less than 1/2 the original.
– Kappa panniers and top box
– Oxford cap-lock tank bag
– crash bars (thouroughly road tested in a Cotswold hedge)
– radiator guard
– home made phone bracket cable tied to handlebars
– £10 Chinese spotlights (mounted on convincingly pro-looking home made alu brackets)
20180510_140000Non-OEM screen (having severely ‘modified’ the original while road-testing the crash bars)
– additional ‘racing style’ brake light and 3x mini l.e.d rear fog lights (I like to be seen and am not keen to be shunted from behind. Again!)
– EBC brake pads (cus I don’t shunt anyone else either)
– Replacement top quality gold chain (the sort that drives the back wheel not the sort found round Jayzee’s neck). Plus new front and rear cogs.
– Massey Ferguson plastic tool-tube cable-tied to the rear subframe
– rear hugger by R&G (why they don’t have mudguards as standard God only knows)
– Monochrome Union Jack anti-scratch sticker on the tank – cus it looks cool
– Multiple GB-EU stickers.
– Disc lock, lock and cable (for helmets and jackets), wire mesh secure net and lock (for boots and other clothes)
– Tools and fix-it-stuff hidden all over and under including insulation tape, cable ties, spanners, drivers etc. wire, air canisters, cuddly toy, chain spray, oil (in a taped up old water bottle), knife and thin rubber gloves.
– shiny new Continental TKC 70 tyres with chunky profile in anticipation of Albanian roads
I hope that by having all these, sod’s law will ensure that nothing will go wrong.
tiger behind bars
Tigger with fellow Tiger safe behind bars in Biarritz

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