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Three months around Europe

morocco bound

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The first glimpse of the UK after a summer spent in New Zealand was comforting. It is, in spring; a soft land, without the intensity of light and the raw,adolescent edge of the Coromandel landscape. The spring flowers and trees blush colour against the grey overcast sky.

In a few months, the Olympics will be held in London. And like the rugby World cup's impact, there is a dulux freshness about the airports,public buildings and roads. Union Jacks, bunting, billboards, t shirts, retail outlets all proclaim their allegiance to the Olympic monetary ideal.

But despite the bread and circuses, you can still taste the recession in closed storefronts, half finished and abandoned building sites and real estate agency signs showing the rigours of a winter 's inactivity.

However, there is the hope of spring.

My first task was to get my V Strom 650 out of storage. I had charged up the battery and when I coupled it back into the bike, turned the ignition key, pulled in the clutch and hit the starter button, the bike gave a little cough and burst into life and after a minute was running sweetly at just under 1000rpm.

I had arranged to take it back to the dealer for a service, skid pan and warrant. On the winding Sussex roads, I slotted back into a comfortable groove. The contrast between the V Strom 1000 that I ride in New Zealand was apparent. Not only is the 650 more nimble but the gearing seems to suit my riding style. I do enjoy the 1000 and its power, but it is more lumpy and for me at least, the gears seem less tuned into the engine.

Insurance is always a trial in the UK, but with a year's no claim bonus and an established history I managed to get fully comprehensive for Europe, breakdown assistance, personal, legal and helmet cover for $400. In addition , the new policy gave me around 4 months continuous travel away from the UK.

On my journey around Europe last year, I took too much gear . So this year I decided to be very rigorous in my packing. Actually I was so selective that I only filled one pannier with my camping gear and clothes, so I decided to relax and added a few more t shirts and luxuries. I have also added a few more spare parts including brake and clutch cables, pump, puncture repair outfit and body surfing fins.

My plan is now to leave UK on April 19, catch the ferry to Dieppe, ride the 500km to Saint Nazaire and get the ferry to Gijon in Northern Spain. From here I will head to Algecerias in southern Spain for the boat to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Morocco .

I intend to spend all of May in Morocco, visiting the high mountains, desert and Atlantic coast. I will meet my wife in Marrakech for a few days and also visit, Fez and Casablanca before catching the ferry from Tangier to Genoa and head through Eastern Europe to Turkey.

I find it takes a week or so to get in the groove of traveling and being by yourself. My summer in the Commandeer is always busy with fishing , diving, riding, household chores and the volunteer fire force. You tend to miss company for the first week or so, then you settle down to enjoy your freedom, the new sights and culture and the people you inevitably meet as a solo rider.

Another adventure is about to begin.

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