Spain - France - Italy I had a wonderful time in Valencia with Carlos and his wife Alicia. They were fantastic hosts. And whats more is that they rode with me from Valencia till about halfway to Madrid. Solidarity amongst riders/bikers, is something that Ive come to really appreciate and cherish so much. It really is something special. I was really looking forward to visiting Madrid as Id be meeting up with a fellow adventurer named Alicia Sornosa. Alicia has ridden through America, from Alaska to the most southern point in South America. Through Australia and also from Egypt to Kenya. Later this year she will ride from Egypt to South Africa and we hope to meet up somewhere along the way. I arrived in Madrid in the afternoon and met up with Alicia at her place. Unloaded the bike and had a quick shower before it was time to meet some friends and accompany Alicia to her talk at the National Geographic store in central Madrid. I met so many wonderful people and made so many new friends that evening. It was absolutely wonderful. We were a group of about 12 people, all adventure bikers, who spent the night eating tapas, drinking beers and talking bikes and adventure. Absolutely in my element! The next day was spent doing some admin. Editing photos and uploading updates etc. And also getting my phone fixed as the screen was giving me trouble. Then we spent the night exploring the old city of Madrid and hopping from one café to the next sampling delicious food and beer. It was then decided that Alicia and a number of friends would accompany me the next day till about halfway to Terrassa, which is about 30km from Barcelona. Alicia and I only got home around 3am. I knew the next day would be a long one (about 600km) so headed straight for bed to get some sleep. I got up at 7:30, had a quick shower and loaded my bike. By 9:00 we were ready to hit the road. Some of the guys pulled out and we were left with only 4 riders (including myself) out of the original 6. And then, about 200km from Zaragoza, my chain broke at 120km/h on the highway. It broke at the master link and went whizzing past the 2 riders behind me. Luckily everyone steered clear of it and I also had no trouble with the chain getting caught on anything. We pulled over and assessed the damage. I have some spare links with me but I dont have a chain breaker. Either way the chain was too damaged to repair anyway. So my fellow riders all jumped on their phones and within minutes it was decided that Emilio would ride back to the nearest town where he would buy a new chain. Polo and I pushed Dax to the nearest station and the three of us (Polo, Alicia and I) had breakfast and of course some beers! Emilio returned with a new chain AND a BMW mechanic in tow! We ordered more beers and the boys went about fixing my chain problem. Within no time the problem had been resolved, I had a new chain, a full tummy and having fun with great friends. Although this had put quite a delay on the days riding and I worked out that I would probably only reach Terrassa round 9/10pm that night. We were all pretty tired but I knew I could cover the distance. About 100km from Zaragoza the rest turned back as they still had to ride all the way back to Madrid, and I carried on toward Terrassa. Another friend, Domingo, met up with me about 100km from Terrassa and rode in with me. We finally reached his place around 11:00pm. I was finished! I had a quick shower and we sat chatting a bit and sampling his fathers home-grown tomatoes and locally sourced cheese and then I hit the sack. Hard! Next morning I got up around 8:00 and got ready to get going again. I would crossing into France and staying with some dear friends in Montpellier. Domingo took me for breakfast and much needed coffee, then I filled up with fuel, checked tyre pressure and off I went again. There are so many countries I would like to return to one day and Spain is definitely on the top 5 list! Seems I have a knack for timing in terms of heat-waves. Throughout Spain and in France the weather hit 35 degrees plus. Just to get me ready for what lay ahead! I, unfortunately, mostly stuck to the highways to make up for time. Never again! Firstly, its helluva expensive. Secondly, you miss all the good stuff! Initially I wouldve stayed in France for 3 or 4 days. One night in Montpellier, one night in Marseille, one night in Nice and one night in Grenoble. But this was also where I needed to make a decision on whether Id be gunning it for Tunisia and Libya, or take the long way round and catch a boat to Egypt. I really, really wanted to visit Tunisia and so decided on taking the boat from Italy (Civitavecchia) to Tunis. I booked my ticket in Montpellier and had 4 days to get there. And with that I decided on spending an extra day in Montpellier and then head straight for Italy. I spent two wonderful days in Montpellier with my wonderful hosts, Charles and Michele. Really exceptional people. They took me on a small tour of the city and we went to a jazz concert under the stars. It was wonderful. I really wish I couldve stayed longer but now I had a boat waiting for me. http://i837.photobucket.com/albums/zz291/jolandierust/IMG_0068_zps611c4b9d.jpg Next up Id be heading for Genova where Id meet up with the Cape Town to Dublin by Scooter boys from South Africa. We first met up in Johannesburg when they had just set out on their journey, riding through Africa on their scooters to raise funds and awareness for the Red Cross Childrens Hospital. And now wed meet up again way up north, just about on the opposite end of the world! I was very excited to meet up with the guys! Two things on my ride to Genova: 1. I have NEVER in my life ridden through so many tunnels in a single day. 101 tunnels from when you cross into Italy until you get to Genova. I counted them!! 2. Genova is probably the most confusing city Ive ever been in. It took me about and hour and a half to finally find the guys. Its a crazy, busy, noisy city operating at full steam with the hustle and bustle of people going about their business. I managed to get hold of Chris (one of the scooter boys) and he gave me a landmark to search for. Search for the big ship with a tweety bird on it. Well I eventually found the tweety bird and the guys. First thing was to buy some food and drinks for the evening. The boys were hosted by the Genova Vespa club and were kind enough to let me spend the night as well. So we all bought some pizza and beers and then headed back to the clubhouse where we had beds and showers and food. What more do you need? I spent the night catching up with the boys and we exchanged stories from our adventures. The only thing that was missing was a nice campfire! Next day I headed off to Lucca, where I would meet up with yet another old friend of mine. Though first, I would make a new friend on route. About 20km outside of Genova I noticed a bike behind me and I could sense this was someone also touring. Maybe on holiday or so. He passed me and signaled to pull over. It turned out to be a man named Rik, from Germany. He was making use of his holiday to tour around Italy a bit. We had a quick chat and decided to ride together for the day. This was also the only day I spent not riding on the highway and exploring the smaller roads a bit. It was fabulous!! I really had a fantastic time and will definitely have to return to do a proper tour of Europe someday. I said goodbye to Rik in Livorno and headed back towards Lucca to meet up with Federico. We first met up last year in Morocco between Laayoune and Agadir. I had stopped off on the side of the road to take a break and Federico had spotted me and stopped to find out whether I was okay. He was touring from Italy to Mauritania and back and we happened to bump into each other here, in the middle of nowhere and decided to ride together until Agadir. And now we got to meet up again in his hometown in Italy. It was so good to see him and I spent two very relaxed, wonderful days with him and his wife Bruna, relaxing and doing washing and bike maintenance etc. During the day I was home alone, left to sleep in and do my thing. At night we spent time together eating good Italian food, drinking good Italian wine and talking adventure. Of course. * My passport landed in the wash in Montpellier and was still wet when I got to Lucca. Oops! From Lucca I would head towards Civitavecchia to catch the boat to Tunis. But first I had to stop in Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. Getting into Pisa is easy finding the tower or parking for the tower, not so easy. It took me a good hour and lots of riding around before I finally found my way to the tower. I spotted a couple on a loaded Super Tenere and decided to follow them. We pulled into a paid-parking garage and were chased out immediately by a guy waving and just saying: No bikes, no bikes. They couple stopped a block further and so did I to chat to them. Turned out it was a couple from the UK on holiday. We promptly decided to stick together and find a place to park so we could take the obligatory photos of the tower. If need be Id look after their bike whilst they went in and theyd do the same for me. We eventually found parking close to the entrance and I spoke to the Senegalese parking attendant in French to make sure hed look after our bikes. With that we headed in, snapped a few pics, and back out again. I bid my friends farewell and off I went towards the port. I arrived at the port around 18:00, checked in and took my place in line to wait for boarding.