Travelling Africa on a KLR

Author: Kirk (Page 3 of 4)

Marrakech, High Atlas, Heading North

2016-10-07

Ride in to Marrakech from Essaouira is fairly uneventful. Traffic in Marrakech is pretty heavy. Relax at hotel the rest of the day.

2016-10-08

Head downtown to see the sights. The cab hits a motorcycle on the way in, this is treated like nothing here. The downtown  is another Moroccan tourist trap filled with fake guides though not quite as bad as Fes. These big cities really aren’t my thing.

Walled Medina

Walled Medina

Field Gun

Field Gun

Koutoubia Minaret

Koutoubia Minaret

2016-10-09

I head out to Jbel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa. Today I am the motorcyclist that gets hit by a cab. Fortunately it is just a bump at a red light. Both myself and the bike are fine. The jerry can has a black scuff on it but isn’t damaged. At a construction zone near Tahnaout a water truck has flipped into the ditch. I stop and get out my first aid kit but the driver is alright and climbing out of the cab by the time I get back so it is not necessary. Snow is already at the peak and even in Imlil the temperature is cooler and my ear drums tell me the altitude is quite a bit higher than Marrakech.

Scenic Valley

Scenic Valley

Toubkal

Toubkal

2016-10-10

Today I ride the notorious N9 highway from Marrakech  to Ourzazette. They are currently re-working the road through the high pass and have created wide highways with proper passing lanes. This is likely due to the route having a reputation as being dangerous but it looks like the new road will be much safer. I arrive in Ourzazette around two o’clock and decide to ride to Demnat on R307. The Moroccan national highway system is pretty good, consistent with the Trans-Canada Highway for the most part. The regional and provincial highways however can  be decent two lane highways to single lane with intermittent gravel. R307 is the latter. About an hour into the ride I finally figure out what the squeaking noise coming from the bike this afternoon is. The right pannier rack top bolt has come loose and is rubbing against the spacer. I spend about 45 minutes trying to get the rack lined back up but end up strapping it in place as I can’t get the bolt holes lined up on the side of the road. When I finally do get it fixed later it requires disassembling both sides of the rack and a lot of swearing. The ride takes me through a number of small villages and over a few high >2200 m mountain passes. I arrive in to Demnat at night due to the rack and worse than expected road conditions. I can’t find a reasonably priced hotel room and end up playing the GPS hotel chase in the dark which I don’t like as the roads aren’t good and people and animals are on the road. I finally find a truck stop hotel at 10:00 and settle in to my sleeping bag liner for the night.

Sorry there are limited pictures from today I was running  the action cam in video mode which is too much hassle to upload.

High Atlas Near Demnat

High Atlas Near Demnat

2015-10-11

Long ride to Tangier by Casablanca and Rabat.

2015-10-12

It is raining today so I go buy my ferry ticket to Spain, and get the Moroccan mud hosed off the bike.

2015-10-13

Rainy ferry ride to Spain and stay in Estepona.

 

Anti-Atlas Mountains, Agadir, Essaouira

2016-10-03

I leave Tata an head out on P1805 which takes me through a number of small villages in a valley before beginning a massive mountain climb. The scenery is gorgeous and the villagers wave at me friendlily as I ride through.

Valley in the Anti-Atlas

Valley in the Anti-Atlas

After coming down from the mountains around Taroudant it is hot, extremely hot. The kind of heat that sweating doesn’t help. Fortunately I am headed to Agadir where the cool ocean breezes make the climate much more comfortable.

2016-10-04

I kick around Agadir for the day to take a break (this vacation is exhausting)

Port of Agadir

Port of Agadir

2016-10-05

I ride to Essaouira today. The first part of the trip is right along the ocean and very nice riding which turns to fairly boring highway riding the rest of the way.

Beach Near Agadir

Beach Near Agadir

Also Near Agadir

Also Near Agadir

I go to a restaurant that night an order a fish dish. When the waiter brings my food he says be careful it is hot while pointing at my dish. Thinking he is referring to the temperature of the plate I say okay and proceed to begin my meal. Halfway through my meal I decide I will eat the last cherry tomato on the plate. After popping the whole “tomato” in my mouth I suddenly realize this “tomato” is not like the others. It is a pepper, an insanely hot pepper. Realizing the advice of my waiter was not properly followed I search out anything to numb the pain pulsing through my tongue. The best I can do is bread as my Flag Special isn’t helping at all.

2016-10-06

Essaouira is a small town that was built by the French to be a naval port and the Medina is different than other Moroccan cities as it has been planned instead of organically built.

Essaouira Port

Essaouira Port

Medina

Medina

Mogadir Island

Mogadir Island

I also get my riding suit laundered as riding around in rain has done nothing for its cleanliness and riding in the desert has not improved it’s smell.

Sahara

2016-10-01 and 2016-10-2

Sorry for the long delay between posts, I only have one excuse: laziness.

I meet my guide in the afternoon and we head toward the Sahara from Zagora. We ride to Tagounite and pick up supplies, water, pringles and Mirinda (knock-off Fanta,) then head into the desert. For the first bit it is piste that is rocky but fairly easy to ride. After about 45 minutes we are starting to go through some pretty deep sand. I have never ridden in sand before so this is an exhausting exercise for me. Jawad my guide hops on the bike to show me some tricks for riding in the sand, he makes it look easy in sandals. Over the next two days I do not get to his level of expertise but at least I see some improvement.

Sahara

Sahara

Saharan Super Highway

Saharan Super Highway

Jawad and I in the Sahara

Jawad and I in the Sahara

Jawad on the Moto

Jawad on the Moto

We stay the night in a Berber camp set up on the edge of Erg Cheggaga, which are the high dunes. There are some permanent buildings for the washroom (who needs a shower in the desert) and kitchen. The rooms are tents with beds set up in them. Shortly after I drop my gear in my tent, two tourists from Italy show up and it is time for our camel rides into the high dunes for sunset then back to camp for dinner. Ab is originally from Morocco and Eva from Germany. They work at a university in Northern Italy.

Berber Camp

Berber Camp

Non-Mechanical Camels

Non-Mechanical Camels

 

Ab and Eva on Camels

Ab and Eva on Camels

Desert Hot Water Tank

Desert Hot Water Tank

Sunset on the Dunes

Sunset on the Dunes

Camels on the Dunes at Sunrise

French Riders on KTM 250's

French Riders on KTM’s

I ran into these KTM riders later in the day in Tata at the hotel. They look to be having a lot more fun on their 250’s than I am on my KLR. The high speed sections are the only place where I can keep up to them. On the sand I am just too inexperienced and afraid of breaking myself. The guy I spoke to said they thought there was too much sand that morning also so I don’t feel as bad about my skills or lack thereof.

Once we pass through the military checkpoint (due to the proximity to the Algerian border) at Foum Z’guid, my guides lead me to the nearest gas station and we part ways. At the gas station I meet Ruben Maxtral http://www.rubenmaxtral.com who is riding solo on a BMW G650GS. He is heading to the desert the next day but is heading the same direction as me this afternoon, so we ride together for an hour and exchange contact information, I will try to meet up with him when I am in Madrid later in the month.

Ruben

Ruben

Errachidia, Kelaat M’gouna, Zagora

2016-09-28

Leaving Fes I head towards Errachidia which involves going through the Middle Atlas Mountain Range which is beautiful.

Afterwards I go through Ziz gorge where if the I had the camera setup properly you would see wonderful shots of the gorge and palm trees, but instead you can see the out of focus photos taken from the bike when I get back.

Ziz Gorge

Ziz Gorge

Once in Errachidia I find a hotel and the owner brings me to a local restaurant for chicken.

2016-09-29

In the morning I have to use a squatty potty for the first time. I manage to successfully use it but I still prefer western toilets.

Today it is raining, leave it to the guy from Vancouver to bring rain to the desert. I am not 1 km down the road when I reach a washout in the highway. Truck traffic is still passing but scooters and motorcycles seem to be turning back. I ask the police if there is an alternative route around. They decide it is easier for one of them to escort me through town rather than explaining it so a police car escorts me through town. Once I am on the other side the police have now stopped all traffic.

Hoping the water is subsiding I carry on south towards Zagora. About 30 km out of town I come to a large section of highway that now has a river running over it. I watch a few cars go through and it isn’t that deep but it looks fast. As I am sitting there debating whether to cross or not a guy on a scooter shows up. We discuss what I have observed and he hops off his scooter, turns it off and proceeds to walk his scooter through in his keds and jeans.

After observing this I decide I look like an idiot and ride through as the water isn’t that fast.

We proceed to the next wash which isn’t very far down the road. After crossing that one I see he is shivering vigorously. He is wearing soaking wet jeans, canvas shoes, a thin jacket and a helmet. I am dry in my suit and so I ask him where he is going, the next town, and offer him my insulated jacket and spare gloves. He asks if I have any rain pants or boots but I unfortunately don’t have spares of those. Together we head off and battle our way through the rain and rivers toward Goulmina. Shortly before we arrive he turns off the road, I assume he lives on this turnoff but there doesn’t appear to be anything out here. A couple hundred metres down the road I can see why he has brought me here. We are at the top of the plateau that drops off to the city.

My Rain Friend

My Rain Friend

Goat Herd

Goat Herd

We chat about my motorcycle and where I am going. Then we head in to the city and grab a coffee. When it stops raining I decide to head out again. Within twenty minutes it is pouring rain again. When I reach Tinghir the police tell me the road to Zagora is closed. I change paths and head towards Ourzazate. By the time I reach Kelaat M’gouna I am cold and tired and find a hotel for the night.

2016-09-30

I wake up and my gear is still wet. The rain has stopped though so I head out and the gear will air dry on me. I ride to the top of a table mountain and decide to stop and take a photo as there is a shoulder on the road here. I pull off the road and the shoulder gives way causing a low speed fall over. A scooter is thirty seconds behind and he helps me right the bike. The mirror and the handguard have been knocked loose in the accident and will need to be tightened. The right pannier has also received some bruising in this fall over.Ten kilometres down the road I stop at a gas station and tighten the mirror and replace the handguard bolt. Shortly after Ourzazate a man with a broken down car flags me down for a ride to the next town. The road is being widened and is in bad shape, I don’t think we would get away with the unsafe conditions seen here in Canada. We cross a mountain range and arrive in Agdz where I have a tea with the man.

Mountain Pass on the way to Agdz

Mountain Pass on the way to Agdz

I arrive in Zagora later and setup my travel to the Sahara the next day.

2016-10-01

Before I head to the Sahara I take in some sights around town such as the Date Palm plantations and Jewish Kasbah.

Date Palm Plantation

Date Palm Plantation

Zagora Synagogue

Zagora Synagogue

Fes

2016-09-26

I leave Chefchaouen on my way to Fes. Shortly after I leave town road construction begins the road has already be paved but they are chip sealing the surface so I get to ride on loose gravel which is always “fun.” Fortunately the road work only lasts about 15 km.

Along the way I am flagged down by a cyclist. He is from Khenifra, Morocco and is bicycling all of Morocco, Mauritania, and Senegal. He asks where I am going and where I have been. We wish each other good travels and I am back on the road.

Lake on the Way to Fes

Lake on the Way to Fes

Once I get in to Fes I realize my hotel is in the Medina so I cannot bring my motorcycle to the hotel despite my best efforts people stop me and make me find parking.

Once checked in I book an official tour guide for the Medina for the next day.

2016-09-27

Abdul, my guide, meets me in the morning. He shows me the Blue Gate near my hotel which is the main entrance to the Medina. Afterwards we visit the place where Maimonides lived and where the water clock he designed is located.

Blue Gate

Blue Gate

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Maimonides Water Clock Building

Our next stop is the Madrasa, a school built in the twelfth century. It contains architectural elements from the time and is largely original. While at the Madras, Abdul and I have a discussion on the current state of education in Morocco which is very interesting and informative.

Minaret at the Madrasa

Minaret at the Madrasa

We then proceed to the carpet makers, tannery, and weavers. These all include ultra aggressive high pressure salesmen and are thoroughly unenjoyable for a guy who orders everything from Amazon so he does not have to deal with sales people.

Restored Door

Restored Door

Carpet Maker

Carpet Maker

Tanneries in Fes

Tanneries in Fes

 

Tangier, Chefchouen

2016-09-22 to 2016-09-24

Continuing on from the last post. I cross from Tarifa, Spain to Tangier, Morocco. I ride up to the ferry line, buy my ticket, pass through security and board the ferry. The ferry is of the “fast cat” type which will probably only make sense to my friends who are from BC. It is an aluminum catamaran ferry capable of carrying passengers and vehicles that travels much quicker than traditional ferries. On board I fill out my entry declaration for Moroccan passport control on the boat. Waiting in the line in front of me are four Canadians travelling to Morocco, they are from Toronto and have travelled from Madrid by car roughly taking the route I will when I return. The crossing takes about 35 minutes but all in about an hour as the crew won’t allow people on the car deck until the boat has landed.

Once off the ferry I head to customs to fill out my D16 Ter form which will allow me to temporarily import my motorcycle into Morocco. It is slightly confusing and I am sent upstairs with the instructions “a la droite, room with computers, hand them your passport and they know what to do.” I must look lost to an employee so he brings me to the room with the computers. No one is in there so he tells me to wait a couple minutes and leaves me. Twenty minutes later the police officer on security for the ferry passengers takes pity on me and brings me to a police officer elsewhere to register my passport as it is my first visit to Morocco so it can be associated with my motorcycle. I head back down to the bike and speak to the customs officer who can now stamp my forms and let me go.

I am staying at a nice resort on the beach in Tangier as a treat to myself. Even though there is underground parking the staff has me park at the front door so they can keep an eye on it from the front desk. That afternoon I stock up on critical supplies like drinking water, Pringles, and Orange Fanta (which I have become addicted to this trip.)

The next day I walk to the Medina and wander around trying to avoid the numerous con-artists.

Tangier Port

Tangier Port

Camels on the Beach in Tangier

Camels on the Beach in Tangier

Tangier Medina

Tangier Medina

Tangier Beach

Tangier Beach

The day after I ride the bike out to the Caves of Hercules. The roads in and around Tangier are very good and not too confusing or crowded. The caves are located west of town so I ride the bike there and park out front. The cave existed naturally but the Phoenicians carved  an entrance from the sea in the shape of Africa. The caves were later expanded to make grain mills which I believe (there were no tour guides or information available) is the reason for the circular patterns carved into the wall in the cave.

Once I am done exploring the cave I head back. The man cleaning the street at the cave is very interested in the bike and keeps fawning over it and my jacket in Arabic. Hoping he can understand some French (as this conversation is well beyond my means in Arabic) I tell him I am traveling around Morocco on the bike. He shakes my hand and says “God Bless” and carries on with his day.

Africa Entrance to the Cave Carved by Phoenicians

Africa Entrance to the Cave Carved by Phoenicians

View from Above the Cave

View from Above the Cave

Hercules Cave

Hercules Cave

2016-09-25

I head out of Tangiers towards Mzoura Stone Circle which is a megalith dating from 3000 BC. From the research I have done it could be a tomb or used as a part of spiritual rituals.

I miss the initial turn off and carry on to the next intersection. There I end up in a town where some guy offers to guide me there as it is “very difficile.” I have the coordinates programmed in the GPS and think I can make it there on my own so I refuse his “help.”

I leave town and drive ~10 km and come to a sand road where the GPS tells me to go. I turn off the road and begin driving down a sand road. All of a sudden three guys are shouting at me to stop. Fortunately one of them speaks French and he tells me that the route has changed and shows me a picture on his phone of the pointer stone to confirm that is where I want to go. He lets me know I can drive on the main road for 4 more km and don’t have to take the sand road the whole way in. I thank them for their help and leave them to tend to there work. For every scammer you run into thankfully there are nice guys like this who are genuinely helpful and kind.

At Mzoura the guardian opens the gate and lets me walk around. In no time I have a young boy following me around the site who poses for a picture of the “Pointer.”

Mzoura Stone Circle and follower

Mzoura Stone Circle and follower

After Mzoura I head west towards Chefchaouen. The area around Mzoura is gently rolling farmlands where they are growing hay, watermelons, and lumpy orange melons. As you head farther west the terrain becomes more mountainous and the land is being used as pasture. As I am driving down the road an elderly goat herder flags me down on the road. I stop and figure out his water bottle has run out. It is quite warm in the valley (over 30 C) so it isn’t surprising. He doesn’t speak French so we have a conversation of gestures. I fill up his water bottle from my water bladder. Given the small number of vehicles traveling on the road and the fact that it doesn’t appear anyone else has stopped he is very appreciative and numerous blessings are said. Once he is topped up, he thanks’ me and heads off to his goats.

I continue my ride through the mountains to Chefchaouen and find a hotel room for the night. Chefchaouen is painted blue and looks quite beautiful. The hotel has a couple Turkeys in the compound that make noisy neighbours along with the numerous barking dogs that keep me up most of the night.

Chefchaouen

Chefchaouen

Noisy Neighbour in Chefchaouen

Noisy Neighbour in Chefchaouen

Spain

2016-09-16 Barcelona

I spent the day walking around the Gothic Quarter admiring the architecture and find some empanadas to eat. After eating I head to the harbour and check out the yachts, most are registered in the Cayman Islands, I am guessing these are the Panama papers people.

Cathedral of Barcelona

Cathedral of Barcelona

Barcelona

Barcelona

Gothic Quarter

Gothic Quarter

Yachts in Barcelona

Yachts in Barcelona

Afterwards I go to the beach then head to the Arc de Triomphe.

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

At the end of a long day walking around I head to NaparBCN to enjoy some local craft beers which were pretty good then head back to the hotel.

2016-09-17  to 2016-09-18 Alicante

It is raining in Barcelona so I head towards Alicante to enjoy a couple days by the pool in the sun. Without any parking available the bike gets to come inside the compound.

Bike Sleeping in the Compound in Alicante

Bike Sleeping in the Compound in Alicante

2016-09-19 Granada

I ride to Granada and check in to my hostel. After I check in I go to find a padlock which I have forgotten to bring. This becomes slightly difficult as my Spanish is limited to please and thank you, fortunately I have looked up what a padlock is so the lady at the hardware store hauls out a wide variety of padlocks from the back and I pick one.

Alhambra at Night

Alhambra at Night

Alhambra During the Day

Alhambra During the Day

Steps to Alhambra

Steps to Alhambra

Alhambra Gate

Alhambra Gate

I have come to Granada to see Alhambra but mess up and don’t purchase my ticket the night before so I don’t get to see the inside. Maybe on the way back I can stop and better coordinate this. Driving around Grenada is quite frustrating since it is pretty much all one way streets.

2016-09-20 to 2016-09-21 Estepona

As Alhambra is a bust I carry on to Estepona. There I enjoy swimming in the Mediterranean and get the oil changed on the bike.

Estepona

Estepona

2016-09-22 Head to Morocco

I ride into Tarifa and catch the ferry to Tangier.

Spain from Tangier

Spain from Tangier

Pyrenees

2016-09-12

From Pau I drive in to the Pyrenees. A constant issue is the very poor quality of the directions provided by my GPS. It frequently leads me astray. Today it has led me up a steep mountain path. Knowing I am in the wrong place I decide that it is worth taking a look up the road anyway. I ride up the road for about ten minutes and reach a reinforced swale. It is at this point I am thinking the road is getting pretty steep and I should turn around. I make the decision to head up the road one more switchback and see how the road looks beyond. I am about half way up that segment when I lose traction in the damp soil. This combined with the bumpy road causes me to have a low speed fall over. I am fine and go to the work of getting the bike right side up. I flip the bike back up right and make the decision to resume going up the hill, I start off up the hill and it is back lying on its side in a foot. At this point I decide the ground conditions probably aren’t good enough to carry on up the road. Unfortunately the road is too steep and narrow to turn the bike around so I have to back it down the hill to the swale. After wasting a bunch of time backing the bike down the hill I head back down the hill toward the nearest town to figure out how to get where I actually want to go. On the way down the bike loses the rear brakes due to air in the lines. This causes two more low speed fall overs on the way down the mountain as no rear brake on steep rocky roads is not good. Unfortunately I smack my shin on the peg during one of these falls. This will later swell up a fair bit but I am otherwise alright.

Damage Suffered during Multiple Low Speed Topples on a Rocky Backroad in the Pyrenees

Damage Suffered during Multiple Low Speed Topples on a Rocky Backroad in the Pyrenees

After the mishaps of the morning I head down the hill to get pointed in the right direction. At this point the air seems to have worked its way out of the brakes but I will still get them bled to make sure. I end up riding with four guys from Great Britain as they seem to know where the turn off for the right road is. The rest of the day is spent riding up and down mountain passes through ski resorts.

These passes are all part of the Tour de France so numerous wannabe Lance Armstrong’s are on the road. I have gained a large amount of respect for those racers even if they are all on steroids as those are some very steep hills.

Grazing Sheep in the Pyrenees

Grazing Sheep in the Pyrenees

Sheep and cows are all over the road in the pastureland. The best part of this is the cows have bells that you can hear ringing from the road, the worst part is the ‘leavings’ all over the road.

Pyrenees

Pyrenees

That night I stay in Saint-Lary-Soulan and enjoy a few Grimbergen Blanche’s to sooth my sore body.

2016-09-13

I have a swollen head this morning from too much self medication and get started late. I look up where the nearest motorcycle shop is and drive to Lannemezan to have the brakes bled. I turn up at the shop and it turns out it is a scooter shop and with limited French I speak to the mechanic and determine he can’t help me and he sends me to Tarbes. I find an independent shop there and get the brakes bled with the help of a local riding an R1200 who helps with the translations. Unfortunately this has cost me half a day so I only make it to Saint-Lary that night. The hotel here occupies a section of town with rooms spread around the town. It is a picturesque location with a river running through the middle of town and narrow winding roads. The wood has been stacked for winter already and you can tell by the overnight temperature that winter is coming. I have a strange dinner that night. I ordered what I thought was trout filets but end up being served what I think was pork in stomach casing, this was to say the least not to my taste but I suck it up and eat most of it while Mr. Beaning (steak tartar scene) the rest away. Then a second meal, this time trout filets, shows up so I have no idea what the deal is but I clearly don’t understand what was happening.

Bike Outside my Hotel Room in Saint-Lary

Bike Outside my Hotel Room in Saint-Lary

2016-09-14

From Saint-Lary I head east. It is raining and very cold at the top of the last pass. As I am heading to Fox I stop at the Prehistory Park. The park contains a museum with reproductions of the Magdalenian art from the Caves of Niaux. I am cold and wet so I spend a couple hours in the warmth of the museum before heading outside to view the stone tool and fire making demonstration the museum puts on.

img_20160914_131524

Lion Carving in Antler

Lion Carving in Antler

2016-09-15

I start the morning by replacing the headlight bulb which has burnt out. It involves removing the front fairing, disconnecting the electrical then replacing the bulb which is fairly easy and having watched Dad do the same task on his R1200 GSA mine appears to be easier.

I am off to Andorra today. It is more cold mountain passes. Because Andorra is not part of the European Union it acts as a tax free shopping zone and French people flock there do their shopping. I stop in El Pas de la Casa at the well equipped motorcycle store to replace the light bulb. Continuing on to Andorra la Villa I go over Envalira Pass which at 2408 m is the highest pass in the Pyrenees. In El Pas de la Casa I see a  sign that says -1 C. It is darn cold so I believe it, however, at the pass the temperature says 5 C.

Envalira Pass Temperature

Envalira Pass Temperature

Top of the Pass

Top of the Pass

I think the gas stations at the top of the pass are a bit of an odd sight but I suspect they are from before a 3 km tunnel was bored under the pass.

After Andorra I head towards Barcelona as bad weather is moving in. The highway to Barcelona takes me through Cadi tunnel a five kilometre long tunnel which is quite interesting, unfortunately the action cam batteries are dead so I don’t have any footage of it.

Bordeaux

2016-09-08

Drove to Rennes on my way to Bordeaux for a couple of days.

2016-09-09 and 2016-09-10

Long ride to Bordeaux. I decide to spend the extra money and get a room with air conditioning so I can comfortably work on my blog. No luck as the internet is like a 28 kbps modem.

Bordeaux Palace

Bordeaux Palace

Pont Neuf

Pont Neuf

Tower in Bordeaux

Tower in Bordeaux

2016-09-11

Drive to Pau, the gateway to the Pyrennes

Normandy

2016-09-05

So Monday was my first day on the road. I drove from Paris to Caen.  The highways here are excellent! The speed limit is 130 km/h which is nice ultimately too fast for the KLR  as it burns oil quite quickly at those RPM’s and the vibration of the thumper is quite annoying. The commute goes well with only one minor incident. I was scooting along at 120 km/h in traffic when all of a sudden I see something blue fly up from under the car in front of me. Being surrounded by traffic I have nowhere to go so I will bare the impact of this road debris. As I approach it I realize it is a road sign (I can see the lettering but couldn’t tell you where.) The sign hits the front light and fairing and works its way up my right arm and helmet. Thankfully it is a corrugated plastic sign and not metal so there is no damage to the bike or myself.

On the way in to Caen I divert to take a trip to Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetary where the fiancé of my great aunt is buried.

Entrance to Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetary

Entrance to Bretteville-sur-Laize Cemetary

2016-09-06

Tuesday I go to a sporting good store to try and find 1L liquid camping fuel bottles but they don’t carry them (or at least not as far as my Franglais can discern) so I end up with water bottles to replace my oil containers that despite being empty have been confiscated by Air Canada as dangerous goods for shipment. Armed with my new “oil” bottles I head over to Carrefour, which I’ve been lead to believe is like Walmart to buy oil. No luck, fortunately I meet a motorcyclist out front who points me in the direction of Mary Moto. It is a large complex of Motorcycle dealerships that has all sorts of bike brands. I find the Kawasaki dealership and manage to Franglais myself some oil and chain lube which I also needed.

On my way to the motorcycle shop I go into the historic centre of Caen to see Chateau du Caen which William the Conqueror built. It is massive an hard to take a picture that encompasses that.

Chateau du Caen

Chateau du Caen

Canon at Chateau du Caen

Canon at Chateau du Caen

Arrow Slit, the Round Part is for a Gunpowder Weapon

Arrow Slit, the Round Part is for a Gunpowder Weapon

View of the City from Chateau du Caen

View of the City from Chateau du Caen

After running around I head toward the beaches. The first one (and also as a Canadian, the most relevant) is Juno. I find out the 16:30 tours don’t run in September so I will have to come back the next day. Given this information I decide I will spend the rest of the afternoon riding the coast and around the countryside.

From Juno beach I head west along the coast. At one point I pass a cyclist and notice him waving wildly afterwards. I think to myself I didn’t pass that close what are you upset about. I pull off at the cliff above Arromanches to view what remains of the Mulberry Harbour. The Mulberry harbour was used to bring men and materials in to support the invasion of Normandy as no natural harbours were captured on D-Day.

Juno Beach

Juno Beach

British Crocodile Tank at Juno Beach

British Crocodile Tank at Juno Beach

Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches

After taking pictures and heading back to the bike, the bicyclist has now caught up to me where he explains that he saw my license plate and knew he had to talk to me as he is also from Vancouver. He was bicycling from Brest to Caen and almost at the end of his trip.

I spend the rest of the afternoon riding through the rolling farmland of Normandy. The land isn’t laid out in a grid system so the roads wind there way through the land. Even the farm access roads are paved and have a speed limit of 90km/h, they are nice to travel on as there is little traffic other than the odd tractor.

2016-09-07

On Wednesday I went to Pointe-du-Hoc and investigated what remains of the German gun emplacement. This is one of the best preserved sites in Normandy. Unlike elsewhere it has not had the bomb craters filled and looks very similar to how it would have on June 6, 1944.

Pointe-du-Hoc

Pointe-du-Hoc

on D-Day U.S. Army Rangers scaled the cliffs here to take out the gun emplacements. The guns were not in their hardened emplacements yet so the emplacements were only damaged by the naval bombardment not subsequent fighting so they are in decent condition.

Heavy Fortification for Observation of the Coastline

Heavy Fortification for Observation of the Coastline

Empty Gun Emplacement

Empty Gun Emplacement

Cratered Landscape

Cratered Landscape

The guns were later found and destroyed in the forest.

Gun That Would Have Been in Emplacements

Gun That Would Have Been in Emplacements

After Pointe-du-Hoc, I visited the Overlord Museum. It has the best collection of equipment from World War II of the museums I went to.

Sexton Tank (Manufactured in Canada)

Sexton Tank (Manufactured in Canada)

Landing Craft

Landing Craft

I then went to Juno Beach Centre which focuses on the Canadian involvement in World War II. They have dug two bunkers out from the dune (HQ and an Observation Post) and I took a tour of them at the same time.

Observation Post Bunker

Observation Post Bunker

Cramming as much into this day as possible I visit the Radar Museum last. While it is a small museum they have a number of interesting taped interviews with locals who were there during D-Day and there experiences during the occupation and liberation of Normandy.

Wurzberg Radar

Wurzberg Radar

Radar Room in the Bunkers

Radar Room in the Bunkers

2016-09-08

On Wednesday I go to the Memorial Museum in Caen. It primarily contains artifacts from World War II in general but also has exhibits on the Cold War as it focuses on using history as tool to prevent violence in the future.

Caen Memorial Non-Violence Sculpture

Caen Memorial Non-Violence Sculpture

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