I can’t quite believe that after about 9 months of anticipation and planning and gathering those last pieces of kit and gadgetry, that in a week’s time I will be sitting in Portsmouth with the Santander ferry leaving the next morning. I’ve been downloading and printing maps I’ll need and copying the last documents. Putting in ‘Portsmouth Travel Lodge’ (where I will be staying) into Google unfortunately brings up a barage of complaint about this hotel. The most enthusiastic say that it is what you’d expect from a budget place. But the strong theme is dirt, followed closely by delapidation. Another popular theme is constant noise. So I am prepared for a grubby sleepless night in an uncomfortable and probably broken bed – in other words a good preparation for two weeks camping. As long as Bertha is still there in the morning with all her bits then I won’t be complaining. Speaking of Bertha, she now has a year’s MOT and a new front tyre. I’m hoping to feel totally comfortable on her by the time I get back. I will be visiting Lourdes, seeking out the shrine devoted to leg-lengthening. Another two inches on my inside leg would make riding a 1200gs so much easier.
Parking is tricky in Bury St. Edmunds on a Saturday. Everyone is driving around slowly and there are elderly wardens in yellow jackets waiting to pounce. Parking with a bike is a little more anarchic but I have not been doing it long enough to work out the do’s and dont’s. Added to this the main car park opposite the castle is on quite a slope making it problematic to park a bike – at least on the side stand. But I managed to leave the bike in the square in front of the war memorial (where the chequered flag marks the spot with accuracy) while I got myself an icecream at a nearby van. The lines below show my circling the place.
The road gets better from here by Adrian Scott. Virtualbookworm
Here’s the text of my review linked to this book at:
This is probably the best motorcycle travel book I have read. It manages this impressive feat in a number of ways. The story it tells is one of incredible toughness – both physical and mental – in the face of a serious accident on day one, the worst start any traveller on a motorcycle could imagine. Less than ten pages in and the narrator is eating a mess of his mangled food, mixed with gravel, nursing a broken ankle crouching by the side of a deserted road on the easternmost tip of Russia. What follows is the story of three months of usually gruelling riding. Also moving is the sense of humanity we get at just about every turn of the journey. Scott is taken in by generous and hospitable folk throughout, people who have unimaginably tough lives, living on very little by Western standards, with almost unbearable occupations, but who share what they have with him – and with real pride and nobility (usually).
Adrian Scott’s writing is impeccable. He must have spent hours each day with his notebooks. He describes, for example, the nuances of facial structure of the people he meets as it changes as he journeys across westward across Asia. His accounts of architecture, particularly of his extended stay in Samarkand, are vivid and detailed. He is a traveller who has done extensive research before he left (or maybe he added it afterwards – I doubt it somehow) and his book gives us detailed but readable political and social histories of many of the newly independent countries he visits. He also seems to have taken the unusual trouble to learn some Russian in preparation. His intelligent but deeply-felt engagement with the cultures and individuals he comes across puts this writing in a different class to some other authors who seem to have gathered a few superficial impressions more for merchandising reasons than to do justice to where they have been.
But the book has some oddities. First, we are told nothing about the traveller/writer. Even by the end of the story, we don’t know why he undertook his journey, what he did before he left – was he a journalist, an academic, a traveller – or how he got home? We are given absolutely no information apart from the fact that he is unnaturally tall. (As evidence of this, a small cover photo appears to show his head wedged against a ceiling somewhere.) And for the biker reader, he assiduously avoids telling us the model or make of his bike though we get plenty of fascinating detail about his relationship with his much patched together vehicle. From one of the photographs you can make out it’s a Kawasaki. And the photographs, as well as the map of the journey (the Silk Road largely) are very low quality, but strangely this adds to the believability of his story. They are often very moving, showing people in pretty grim circumstances.
So what did he do next? I have no idea. Web searches turn up nothing and the book doesn’t seem to have nurtured a cult following though in my mind it deserves to, no less than Ted Simon’s first book (OK, Ted did it thirty years before). In fact this possibly cheaply produced book (it could have done with some editing – its full of typos) is refreshingly free of celebrity endorsements. For anyone interested in travelling, biking or Asia, this is an absolute must read.