Three Days in Three Hours
If you woke up this morning (Wednesday) at 2:15am to the sound of strange shouts and you don’t know why – it was me from Spain. I am on the Internet again. After spending 10 Euros at an Internet café that did not work and desperately trying to read Internet Explorer in Spanish, for another 50 Euros I bought a new subscription to the Internet which is now injected directly into my veins. But, because it is after 1:00am here, and I y have another long day tomorrow, I am sorry if the summary for the last three days will be condensed. What I will be able to complete in three hours will be posted. The rest will not. I have a wake up call at 8:00am… so let’s go.
Lets say that you found yourself in Toronto. You did not get SARS. You did not get the West Nile virus either, nor mad cow disease and all the other madness. Suddenly someone approaches you and says ‘hey, I have a present for you. A free ticket with SATA airlines from Toronto to Lisbon, free!’ and he even added ‘it cost me more’. If you ask me (and you better ask me!), smile politely and…. RUN before it’s too late. Excluding Zambia Airlines that I tried years ago, SATA has no competition. After they changed my flight (without notice) from Saturday night to Sunday morning, and delayed it again, and again and again, the pilot got the order to depart at 1:00pm. And that he did, on the clock. The passengers are standing in the aisles waiting to be seated and he pushes back. They try to hold on but he is speeding. He is on the runway as we are being pushed into their seats. Seats that fit (maybe) very, VERY short people. Angry (real angry) flight attendants (that’s what they called – they only attend the flight). And people shouting, and when they are not shouting, they stand in the line to the washrooms which are locked at the rear of the plane because the flight attendant seats are close to the washrooms, and they are busy talking, so they don’t want people around them. I have flown a few times (to say the least) in the past. People who know me will testify that I always say that the flight could have been worse and don’t complain (usually). Well, I am not sure how it could have been worse. I warned you.
We landed at 1:00am. Hot. Humid. But we are here. Taking money from the cash machine, take a taxi to the hotel and if the driver is any indication as to what might come next, we have a problem.
Breakfast and we are going to get the motorbikes. Each one of us has a bag, which weighs about 10-15 kg. We take a taxi to the address we have and where we were told the bikes would be. He drops us by the roadside and we start to walk in the heat and sweat. I said ‘we thought’, didn’t I? Well, it’s an office. We stepped in and there are six people. They ignore us. I ask Gidion, can YOU see me? He does. After raising my voice someone comes with our forms and asks for 40 Euros. What for? Handling fees. Handling what? Handling the forms of the handling fees. Credit cards? You wish. Ok, I have cash, right? I told you it would come in handy, but this is not the time for it yet. I ask “Where is the bike”? In building 17, I am told. Where is building 17? There and there and there. Will I have to pay? Yes, about 5 Euros for forms. Approximately. So we went there and there and there. Building 17 wasn’t there. Then I learned that when you say in Portuguese “right”, it’s actually the other right. Must be. (Be grateful that I am giving you the short version). We find the building and it’s at the top of a ramp. Three stories tall… no sidewalk… You have to walk on the road. Now, the drivers are not nice (and I am really, really nice right now!). After 10 minutes of constant climbing, I see Gidion behind me, and he doesn’t look all that well. Can I help you? Should I carry your bag? Yes, please. What an idiot I am. What is it? The ‘Mr. Nice guy competition?’. For you the dead wood ones, I am just kidding. We arrive excited and breathless to our beloved bikes. Sweating, we take off our riding jackets and the chaos begins. 3 desks. First one – show passport and get a form to the second one. Second one – show passport and they ask for the bike licenses. I decided to check something and give them some green paper in Dutch that explains the insurance. He looks at it, he is sure it’s English, says ‘good’ and takes a copy of it. Now go to desk three. They want 67 Euros. Well, it’s about 5, isn’t it? Why do they want it you ask? Because. Gidion, who can see that I am starting to ‘boil’, says ‘let me pay it’. I already learned the principal of things here. No credit cards. I don’t have enough cash. They don’t want anything but cash or checks. I have had enough. I had to walk all the way to the airport terminal (in case you don’t know where building 17 and the terminal are, they are far apart, especially when its hot), came back, climb the ramp and – at last to the warehouse. Wait, we have to show passports. Nobody speaks English but they all know how to say ‘passport’. I see the bike. I kiss my bike. We begin to take them apart (again), installing the battery and re-packing. And then I find that there IS a guy in Portugal that speaks English. And he rides a bike too. And he works in Customs. And he is very nice guy! We talk and become friends (yeah, yeah, I know you doubt it but you see, when I really to want I can!), and he rides with us to show us the exit from there (only after I lied and told him that we signed the ‘blue form’). He recommends a route that is different from what I had planned. And from this moment on, I was appointed as the journey’s navigator (which I do with love), but my GPS, may he rest in peace, is in the Garmin haven now, and I will talk about it later when I am less upset. From there, I drive to buy a phone and immediately I learn that driving in Lisbon is something out of this world. In Lisbon, every driver has a maximum of 1-year experience. It is just impossible that they can longer than a year on the road. I don’t have any other way to describe it but disaster!!! At this point, I am convinced that nothing will save Portugal in my eyes… I leave the city and – BOOM – a gorgeous bridge, huge, beautiful, long, tall, modern – unreal. Where did it come from? I had no knowledge of it before and it is amazing! It must be a famous one but I didn’t know about it. No idea how and when they built it. Unfortunately, by the time I could stop to take a picture in order to catch the beauty of it, I had already gone too far, but maybe will give you an impression. Moving forward quickly, as we are a day behind already. We are taking the recommended route to a city called Beja and are on the road singing. First of all, we drive von roads covered by trees on both sides, turns that are just begging to check the handling of the tires and going through little villages and towns that look like pictures. From Beja, I pick up the map to check out our next destination and tell Gidion about it. Sivillia. Why? Because of the barber, the river and because I found a route that on the map that looks like it is just begging us to take it. And so it was. Mountains, valleys, winding roads, fields, sun, everything… Every few kilometers there is an old castle or something. Amazing views! And then, more winding roads. And here is a babies factory. Look! We are in Spain now. Sticker (you didn’t think I gave up, did you?) and arrive in Sivillia around 10:00pm. It is still light out and we are exhausted. Looking for a hotel. I find one. 164 Euros a night. I skip it. On the way I became our interpreter as well. My course from 5 years ago comes in handy because I know how to say three words. If Gidion would have believed me that I was inventing words, he probably would have given up. I found a cheaper hotel with parking (important – thieves!), unpack, sweat some more, shower and dinner. At 1:00am I try to understand the wonders of my Internet account, at 3:00am I fall asleep and at 9:00am, Gidion wakes me up. It’s a wonder I am mad first thing in the morning. Four words about the city: Beautiful. Modern. Old. Busy. Very, very nice.
We left. First destination – Granada. 256 km. Along the way we stop and I buy a more detailed road map, and I choose a route that I think will test both our and the bikes riding capabilities. So we start along a straight road with a median made of flowers. Quite boring, so we speed up. I promised Gidion that I will not write the real speed otherwise he will not be permitted to ride again… I can just say it was more the 130km/h and less than (190km/h)… We make it to Granada, which in my (and only mine) opinion, the name is bigger then the city. Because I thought we have more waiting for us, I choose another destination – Albacente. And right I was. First, we drove by hundreds (yes – 100s) of kilometers of olive trees. It’s hard to imagine if you don’t see it. Maybe the picture can give you an idea, and I took many pictures of it. Sweet little towns. Light traffic and great roads. Great weather and…. I enter a curve a at 160 km/h –oooppps, forgot something, to my beloved family members, I know you read it. Yes, yes, don’t cheat, so please scroll down to the next chapter and you will know that I made it alive and well. Back to business. 160 km/h, strong curve to the right. Slowing down beforehand , in the left lane, slight lean, counter steering, knee almost on the asphalt and…? Curve to the left. Limited visibility. Right to the end of the lane, changing seating positions and that’s how it goes again and again and again, and changing gears – up/down/up/down and the wind, and the sound of the wind. What a feeling! (Family, what did I say? Scroll down! Now!!!!). I am looking for Gidion all the time in my rearview mirror. Loosing him from time to time but the old guy is doing well (Aren’t I arrogant? It’s good thing you didn’t know my brother…). I don’t know how it feels on his ‘monster’, but I have to check it out one day. If I loose him in some of the curves its just because I love to speed in corners and pass someone in the way. In short, we feel like kids. And for one serious second – the truth is that we are VERY careful and Gidion keeps me under control (even though I insist that I am careful!) and all this madness is done after years of experience! This is a short message to my son Erez who wants a bike and didn’t get one, and to Adam who will want one… the same goes for him. Sorry kids. And to the rest of you, I don’t take responsibility and that’s the end of it.
I am cutting it short now because I still have to load the pictures and check my spelling (not me….). But two more things:
1. The city is very nice. To my surprise this is quite a big city considering the fact that only few people outside of Spain have heard of it. We arrived at 10:00pm and go to look for something to eat. And now I work. Yesterday, 414 km. Today – 620km. I will try to cover more in the future.
2. Very important to me. I know some of you been there, done that. Some of you for sure know much more than me about the experiences that I am writing about, as well as some of the places (if not all) that I am visiting. I can see some of you reading and thinking to yourself ‘what does he know? This city is nice, and this one is that’ and so on and so forth, and you may have a totally different opinion. To begin with, you’re probably right… I do know nothing. Everybody has his own impression of things. But please remember, I am not trying to write a book for tourists. For those who care to read it at all, these words are my experience about a ‘killer’ bike journey, from Edmonton, Canada to the Yarkon cemetery in Tel-Aviv, Israel. This is a private book that I am very happy that you even bother to read. I love advice but leave the ‘stings’ for some other time if it’s ok with you. I want you to know that it is really great feeling for me to know that someone reads my nonsense and I feel flattered, and I thank you.