Gibraltar Or Bust


Up and away, up through the Pyrenees towards Andorra. More breathtaking views and the air was so cool and clear.


We tootled on up the mountain through tunnels and winding our way ever higher and, in no time found ourselves in Andorra. The town is full of duty free shops and garages full of cheap fuel. Shame we filled up last night when we asked for directions! We stopped in a Truck Stop for a “Bagette Breakfast”.

On up through the mountain. More breathtaking views. Then, a fork in the road and a choice of "tunnel" or “over the top”? No contest. We went left and upwards. Climbing on and on, all three bikes coping without question. This seems to be just what they were designed for.




We reached the summit and sat there for a few minutes, feeling so chuffed with ourselves. Taking in the views and breathing in the clean crisp mountain air. I felt such achievement that all three bikes had held up so well and that they were coping with the mountain passes admirably. Then around the corner from the north side of the mountain came a gaggle of French cyclists. They’d made it all the way up from the French side without the benefit of any horsepower! Chuffed – no more!




The run down the other side was just as exhilarating. We eventually ran into a French town called Ax Les Thermes. As we climbed out of the far side of the town, zig zaging up the hair pin bends, I realised that Bill and Henry were no longer behind me. I turned around and went back to look for them.

Bill had come to a junction and was not sure which way to go. It was on a steep incline and he had tried to hold this bike on the front brake.

That’s where it happened…..

Twin leading shoe brakes don’t do “backwards” and so Bill decided that going over the side was preferable to going back down the mountain backwards. Henry tried to save him from toppling and he went over as a gesture of solidarity. So, we have the junction of three roads with two motorcyclists stranded on their sides in the middle. What do you think the French motorist does in this situation?

“’Pas de problem monsieur, we treat zem as if zey were zee mini roundabout, n’est pas?”

Not one of them stopped to help.

Once we were all vertical again, we decided that it was time for a cuppa. It seems to cure all. Henry sparked up his thermo nuclear device and we brewed up. Another hour or two’s riding and we stopped for lunch.


Bill kept watch for the Gendarmes while Henry and I did a little light shoplifting. Not the truth, of course, but the words do seem to fit the picture, don’t they? We tore apart a cooked chicken and it went down well with some French bread and yet another brew.

Restored, we headed across country to Carcassonne then picked up the Motorway east to Narbonne. We stopped in yet another services for some agua and fuel. The bikes were parked in front of the shop and a gaggle of French bikers on "plastic rockets" drew up. The usual gestures of friendship were exchanged and they gathered around our bikes pointing and talking amongst themselves, our languages deviding us. One of the French rideers had full multicolour leathers on complete with knee "sliders". Bill approached him and pointed to his outfit.

"Monsiurre, this" he said indicating the fine garment. "I have one just like this at home in England. Your's is very nice."

They all seemed to understand and their facial expressions indicated that they were either impressed, or maybe a little sceptical.

"The only difference is that these,- " said Bill, pointing out the sliders "On my suit, they are worn away to nothing - gone" Bill further explained by mimicing getting his knee down, first one side then the other, then back again.

They all realised that they had been teased and roared with laughter. British humour. Next year - Germany.

Before long, we were speeding (on Enfields?) north towards the next goal, The Millau Bridge, but before that, we needed another nights rest. We turned West off the autoroute and asked directions for “le camping”. We followed the grunts and gestures and found a delightful municipal site on the shores of Lac de Salagou. We were all soon fully erect on our pitch and headed over to the local bar.

When we found out that the beer equated to over £3.00 per pint, we decided that tonight was going to be a dry night. Being a municipal site it had no camp shop so we were stuck! Henry was almost in tears. Here we were, in the middle of the French Langadoc region, renowned for its abundance of cheap plonc and he was having none of it!

We went back to our pitch and set about getting some scram going. Chicken and mushrooms with pasta. We must have moaned a little too loud about the price of the beer and lack of wine as the chap in the next pitch appeared with a bottle of half tidy plonk rouge. It turned out that red wine didn’t agree with him and he couldn’t bear to see us in tears any longer. He then appeared with another.


We got chatting and, although I’d never met him, he was from Newport, about 15 miles from me in South Wales. It turned out that Mike had worked in the same industry as me before he retired and we had many friends in common. Small world. The wine soon disappeared and so did Mike. He returned with a case of beers and the evening went into a spiral dive from that moment on. We ended up in front of their friend’s caravan having a merry old time, drinking their beer all night.

When we realised that everyone else had gone to bed (but not asleep, thanks to us) we said our goodbyes, thanked them for their hospitality and retired for the night.

240 miles Oliana – Lac de Salagou
3041 miles in total
Average 217 miles per day