General Ramblings


Well not quite, but if you’ve found this site you’ll notice that it’s been a little while since it’s last update – that’s because I’m back from Morocco and now concentrating on the next challenge – Russia.

Once we’re back from Russia we’ll be turning this site into a all you need guide to getting to Morocco on a bike to partner with the all you need guide to getting to Russia on your bike… and so on 🙂

So from all three of us – if you’re planning a trip to Morocco – good luck! Please do join us on our own adventure to Russia.

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I don’t know if it’s just the feeling that I’m getting closer to home or if it’s the perfect weather, either way I feel like I’m walking on air. This side of Spain is wonderfully beautiful, I’ve decided to head straight up the middle via Madrid then up to the French border over the foothills of the Pyrenees and into Saint Jean de Luz.

I didn’t make it as far as France but ended up in a crappy chain hotel just south of the foothills. As I was passing 360 miles for the day on the speedo I saw a wall of raining heading for me, I watched in horror as the storm, stretching from horizon to mountains came straight for me. Seven, eight, nine streaks of lightening hitting the ground at the same time as you could feel the warm air rushing before it trying to escape the frigid cold that hid behind the hail stones.

I ducted into the nearest services (Autogrill) to wait it out, no sooner had I parked the bike under the sun shelter than it pelted down, I ran the 50 yards to the entrance of the garage and even in my bike gear was soaked to the skin. I’ve never seen anything like it. I decided there and then to book in and get dry. By the time I made it to my room the storm was in full sway. I stood on my protected balcony and watched was the biggest hail stones I’ve ever seen dented cars, vans and people alike as everyone ran for cover.

If you’re ever passing by an Autogrill, keep going, The hotel rooms are nice enough, and it was the best shower I’ve had since leaving home, but it appears they offer cheap rates to lorry drivers, who come and go all night long, shouting, laughing and drinking into the wee small hours. Even with my ear plugs in I didn’t have the best of nights.


Ver mapa más grande

http://flickr.com/photos/journeytomorocco/

Writing this in the tent. It’s very lonely here. I’m wondering how much of a good idea this was.

I will write more tomorrow when things will be better I’m sure.

Well who’d have guessed it? There are loads of people out there who think that thermarests are pretty damn cool. I have to agree – they are… but I just wanted to do some basic number crunching comparing thermarest with exped.

So – we’ll take my Exped 7 DLX as the base and then compare that with a ‘comparable’ thermarest and then the smallest thermarest.

Stats on the 7 DLX

Cost: £115
Size: 193×65 cm / 76×26“
Thickness: 7 cm / 2.8“
Weight: 1170 g / 41 oz
Packed: 30×15 cm / 12×6“

The nearest thermarest I can find is the LuxuryCamp™ XL

Cost: £104.99
Size: 196×76 cm / 77×30″ (3cm longer, 11cm wider)
Thickness: 6.3cm / 2.5″ (1cm thinner)
Weight: 2295 g / 5lbs 1 oz (a massive 1125g heavier)
Packed: 76×14 cm / 30×5.6″ (wow – this is the biggy – it’s 46cm wider but 1 cm thinner when packed)

What I can’t quite work out is that if this mat is thinner when you’re lying on it where does the extra come from when it’s packed – ahh it’s because it’s 11cm wider – but that still doesn’t account for it being nearly .5m wider than the exped – that’ll be the down at work.

In order to get a thermarest that packs to the same size as the exped you have to go for something like the ProLite 4™ (large) which packed comes in at 13×5.1in. (33x13cm) but is only 3.8 cm deep… not that comfy.

Obviously both brands have smaller and larger mats – but I just can’t get over the difference in the weight and pack size for a more comfortable mat that can also deal with a greater range of temperatures and comes with all the same bells and whistles like chair conversion kits and strap on pillows (from the pack cover).

It may not be cheap, but £115 for total sleeping comfort is worth every penny. I love camping, there’s nothing I’d rather do that get way out into the countryside in the middle of no-where and sit staring at the stars. But when I crawl into my little tent I do actually want to sleep.

There’s a glut of cheap ‘simple’ sleeping mats on the market – in fact there are also some pretty expensive ones – things like the thermarest – but does anyone else think that they’re just the biggest things ever!? I mean… who is going to pack one of those on the back of their bike?

Sure, the small one is tiny, but it’s so thin that even my little 10 month old kitten would find it uncomfortable. So enter the king of sleeping mats – the Exped 7 DLX!

The thing you have to understand of course is that this is no ordinary mat – oh no – it’s actually filled with down – and because down compresses so damn well it packs up really really tiny – much smaller in fact than the smallest thermarest. Having said all that when you inflate it – it’s wonderfully comfortable – even my large frame doesn’t touch the floor and it’s toasty warm on the coldest of nights.

It’s also quite clever – none of this just leave it inflate and then top up with your breath (which actually puts water into your mat and shortens it’s life) no! You use bag it comes in to inflate it! Amazing!

There are some funky videos and stuff over on their website over here – but I can’t link to them directly thanks to silly javascript and frame funniness.

In short this thing is amazing – and I’m beginning to feel that I’m cheating on this whole ‘roughing it’ trip.

Well I’ve now got an interactive map thingy – which you can find over on the Route page.

It shows the planned route so far, and then when I actually go it will update with news and photos from each of those locations and perhaps a few more… the theory being yellow dots are planned stops and then purple dots will be actual stops with photos / videos!

Oh the fun I’m going to have in various internet cafes!

I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it all the way to Morocco without some rubber – I mean – how is man supposed to travel all those miles, all alone, astride a vibrating 600cc motor and not want for a bit of rubber between his buttocks.

So I bought some…

Dirty naughty rubber toy

And very comfy it is too!

The thing I think I’m most looking forward to when I get up into the Atlas Mountains is the stars.

Every time I go home to Wales I’m amazed at the number of stars I can see, the way the night sky just comes to life in a way that no-where in London or the South East can match. Then I start to imagine what the night sky must be like when there’s nothing within 100 miles of you, no Cardiff or Newport spewing out watts and watts of unwarranted light into the night sky.

What treasures await me whilst I sit outside the tent, hot chocolate in hand gazing up at an unpolluted sky.

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