If proof were needed that you can’t take a moped that’s been festering in a back garden for years, chop it in half, weld it back together (badly), paint it (badly) and expect it to go the length of France and Spain without a hiccup – this was it.
That day we’d had a couple of punctures, a points failure, and discovered that not only were Greg’s forks out of line (by such a margin that the front and back wheel could be on opposite sides of the road at the same time) but his petrol tank had also been breached when we’d welded it to the frame so he could only fill it halfway or else petrol leaked all over his gentleman’s parts. After a tough morning we reached a beautiful town, parked up the bikes and went for lunch.
We returned to find a Spanish Police 4×4 parked up alongside our bikes. Had they noticed that our home made forks weren’t EU type approved? Were they upset that we’d left a trail of gearbox oil the length and breadth of the pristine cobbled square? Actually no, we’d parked in a taxi rank. PC large moustache gesticulated and suggested we park on the pavement. PC even larger moustache climbed out of the vehicle to gesticulate some more…and suggests we park on the pavement.
We had other ambitions however, Salamanca to be precise, a Spanish city of immense beauty where storks circle overhead and food and drink flows in to the early hours. With that image in our heads we pushed hard that day. In blazing sunshine we covered over 200 kms and only missed out on reaching Salamanca by a mere 250 kms. We went to Plan B.
Plan B was a campsite, or more accurately, a field. After bending the final tent peg in to the sun-baked ground we set up up in time to watch as the sun dropped off the horizon leaving a spectacular orange pink sky. Tired and aching but happy, we ate, drank, and drank some more, until the campfire dwindled to embers. In the morning after an unusually trouble free start, we headed west.
In the wilderness of Portuguese national parks we were free to ride as we pleased. The hustle and bustle of normal life was left behind. The traffic dwindled to nothing and the roads turned to tracks. Off-roading on an 8ft long moped with no front suspension is not recommended for contact lens wearers or those that wish to father children.
The vibration through the handlebars was enough to make our hands go numb and nuts and bolts were coming loose at an alarming rate but fortunately they only affected non- essential items like wheel spindles and exhaust mountings.
In such a demanding and dusty environment maintenance was essential. But not so essential that we bothered. We almost changed the engine oil before we left but decided that would be a sign of weakness. Obviously when there was a real emergency like a crate of beer threatened to come loose then it was all hands on deck.
At one point we completely lost our bearings and went up a winding mountain road. Over two hours later we came to a dead end. The summit was topped by a towering statue of Jesus. It must be true what they say. When lost, you naturally turn to Jesus. We briefly answered the call of nature, asked for forgiveness and headed back the way we came.
You get the chance to see a lot of scenery at 50 kmh and Portugal had it by the bucket load. Occasionally on a long open stretch we wished the bikes had 3 more gears and 150 more horsepower but somehow there was something very soothing knowing that you couldn’t get done for speeding no matter how hard you tried. Only fleeting glances to check the fork welds detracted from the feeling of total well-being.
Up ahead we saw billowing clouds of grey smoke. Convinced that one of the bikes had finally seized we raced on to catch up and almost ploughed into a forest fire. After some Benny Hill style back-peddling we retreated and went another route. The forest fires turned out to be widespread and planes circled overhead dumping tonnes of water to dampen down the flames. At least the smell of burning wood from the trees temporarily masked the smell of burning oil from our bikes.
We pressed on and began the long meander down towards the Algarve and our ultimate destination, the Moto Faro Rally.