Lets not meet in a dark alley.
Six weeks before the trip we’d received an email “This is Moto Clube Faro – we are interested in your trip – we would like to meet”. After the initial interest it dawned on us that perhaps on the other end of the email were ten massive chain-wielding bikers who had taken exception to our blatant piss-taking and attempt to gatecrash their party – the Moto Faro Rally – Europe’s biggest biker festival.
It transpired that one of their high-ranking members was an ex-pat living in Portugal and was visiting England to see family. We were reassured when he mentioned family as this meant that he hadn’t previously killed them and fled the country. After agreeing a meeting point with plenty of escape routes, “Stan the Man” appeared.
With goatee beard, cut off denim and wall to wall tattoos, he certainly looked the part. The broken wrist he was sporting was due to a bike crash he’d had two weeks earlier. After tea and biscuits it soon became clear that the Moto Clube Faro had a sense of humour and, had a few plans up their sleeve, quite what, we didn’t know yet. The Club he assured us, would welcome us with open arms.
Back on the road in Portugal the mission continued. We were on track. It was a record breaking summer in much of Europe, the temperature was up in the mid 30’s and by now forest fires were a common sight. We had no particular route to follow. We just cruised, feet up styley, looking cool, except for when occasionally one of the riders would get in to a speed wobble and start shaking their head from side to side. We knew this meant a bee or a fly had just flown inside the helmet lining. It had happened to all of us.
On journeys like this you make your own luck. Never knowing where you’ll stay each night or what is up ahead is part of the adventure. One afternoon we rolled in to a sleepy hillside village. The church bell tolled, some donkeys brayed and a group of old men on a bench puffing on pipes, stared as we rolled in to town.
From the look on their faces maybe they were expecting trouble from these strange looking bikers. They looked less concerned when we came out of the local shop clutching ice creams. As we sat by the village fountain a few locals came up. The village was having a bit of a party and did we want to join them…
The “bit of a party” turned out to be quite a lot of a party. The villagers seemed to be on a mission to remove any trace of alcohol within a 20 mile radius. After sending the donkey off for replacement crates of beer on 2 occasions the village was eventually declared dry at 3am and we were allowed the honour of sleeping in the graveyard on account of an inability to walk any further.
The next evening we found ourselves on a campsite by a lake. The night before had taken its toll as it took until 4am to declare the bar dry. Bleary-eyed from dust, flies and alcohol we again crashed in a drunken slumber. At least it stopped the mosquito bites itching.
The day dawned to blue skies and sunshine and a groggy start. Jim refused to get up so we had to pack the tent away with him still in it. Unfortunately we had some problems strapping him to the bike so we had to use shock tactics. We placed him and the tent under the full gaze of the sun which soon had him wriggling for fear he might get shrink-wrapped.
Later that day we reached the Atlantic coast. The trip was suddenly going far too smoothly. Never a good sign.