One girl, one XT250, many kilometers from Australia to The Netherlands, Chick on the Chook Chaser

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Chick on the Chook, Feb 18, 2016.

  1. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Happy 2017 everyone! My apologies for being a little absent. It was so good to spend time with family and friends. But I didn't forget about you! So here the second to last week of the trip. I saw the views of the ride report went over 50,000 now. Wow! When I started sharing the trip here I had no idea of the impact! I want to thank you all so much for your interest, continued support and kind words! Enjoy!!!

    December 6 and 7 2016

    The ferry docks early morning. The view of the Italian coast by sunrise is promising. Once the paperwork formalities are over I find myself heading for the highway to Venice. A frosty 170 kilometers of perfectly paved toll roads lead through the Italian country side. Riding in Italy is like navigating the menu of a pizza restaurant. On the signs I spot place names like Bologna, famous for its pasta sauce, and Prosecco, Italy’s version of champagne. My lively imagination for food combined with the cold make me extremely hungry. Once I arrive in Venice I easily find the campsite. My Dad drove down from Holland to meet here and visit Venice together. When I spot the little campervan the first thing I notice is the sign on the window, bright yellow and with a thumb up it states “G’day mate”. A throwback to Australia where more than two years ago this adventure started, also with my Dad. Inside the van I find Dad and fresh coffee. It’s good to see each other again after almost 7 months (my parents came to visit when I was in Nepal). After catching up on the latest bike, travel and home news we take the ferry to the old city in the middle of the lagoon. It’s cold, but the sky is clear blue and the sun sparkles on the water. Once we set foot on the island of Venice we are immediately greeted by a group of cheerful buskers playing typically Italian songs. This is exactly the Italy of the magazines. We enjoy strolling through the beautiful old city. The squares, bridges and buildings. It all breaths a certain grandeur, like at any moment the tourists could be replaced with 16th century barons and women in corseted dresses on their way to a Masked Ball. After sunset we take the ferry back to the campsite. In the van I’m so delighted to have a stove and I cook a risotto. (The Italians would be furious if they would find me use that word for a simple rice & veg mix, but hey, they didn’t know). After a cold night with temperatures well below freezing we wake up to a perfectly white world. The mist has frozen solid onto everything, even the Chook Chaser is covered in a layer of white. My poor bike! We head for the ferry to enjoy another day in the magical city of Venice. Getting lost in the beautiful little streets, drinking perfect Italian coffee and eating fabulous pizza, it’s such a gift to share this with my Dad!

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    December 8

    Time to hit the road. Last night was again super cold. During breakfast the thermometer displays -3°C, with a meagre 0.3° increase by the time we are ready to leave Venice. It’s foggy and cloudy, not much sun to make the conditions more pleasant. After only 30 kilometers my fingers are totally numb. At the first fuel stop I struggle to hold the nozzle, my hands simply refuse cooperation. The rest of the day plays out roughly the same. But it’s amazing having Dad and the van there. At the stops I can sit in a warm environment for a while, hug my hands around a hot cup of tea before running a few laps around the fuel station to heat my toes up. Today’s destination is the most western part of Italy. A couple we met in Kathmandu invited us to their home. It was a challenging 470km, of which the last hour was completed in the dark. The address wasn’t on the map, so we stopped a few times to ask. Being in a civilized Western European country I’d expected someone would be able to direct us there, in English. But nothing was further from the truth. However, with a combination of body language, broken French, improvised Spanish and a sprinkle of English we finally found the house. They had just moved here, and the house was still under construction. But their reception was fabulous, wonderful company, a hot stove, hot tea, and beautiful food. Thank you so much for the lovely evening!

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    December 9 & 10

    After all the border crossings I went through on this trip it is so funny to be in Europe. Borders don’t mean anything here. Today we drove up one side of a beautiful snowy mountain in Italy, went through a 1 km tunnel and came out on the other side of the mountain in France. We continued roughly 40 kilometer to then find ourselves on the Italian coast again. No checks, stops, or stamps. The only thing giving away that you entered a different country are the words on the signs and shop windows. I loved the ease of Europe, until we entered a fuel station/rest area just across the border on the French Auto Route. I turned in to talk to my Dad, it was getting late. How much further should we continue? We decided that I would fuel up once more and ride for another hour or so before finding a suitable place to spend the night.

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    When I turned the bike around to go back to the pump there was only a narrow, one-lane, one-way road to go back to the pump. After a year in Asia my interpretation of these kind of obstacles has slightly changed. There was no one coming the other way so I quickly, against all advises from the multitude of road signs, went to the pump. With a full tank I met with Dad again. He waved me in front: “Just stop when you feel like you found a good spot” But before we even made it back to the highway I was in serious trouble. A year in Asia and I almost always found my way, but here, on this French rest stop there were so many road signs, back-turning lanes, one-ways and no-entries it took me 5 minutes to find the entrance to the highway. I quickly realised the down side of Europe, the over-organisation of this place! We found a good rest stop to spend the night and the next day we continued on the bureaucracy filled French roads. Toll booth here, toll booth 2 km later, grab a ticket, pay 5 minutes later, toll booth again. The most challenging part of it? It’s all so-called automatic. Which means it displays the fare for a car, and there is no human to either confirm, deny or correct that fare... It took me a fair bit of frustration before I found out that a motorbike was classified as a category 5 vehicle and that there is an assistance button. From that point onwards at every toll booth I push the red button, waited for the lady to answer and then cheerfully yelled out: “Bonjour, je suis une moto!” (“Hello I am a motorbike!”) When we turned off the highway the landscape spread out before us and my frustrations disappeared instantly. The smell of the grass, the forest. The last 100 km to my aunt and uncle’s house were enjoyable, yet still cold. When we arrived at the bottom of the hill where they live, we were welcomed with a Dutch flag. Yellow and green balloons (signifying Australia, the starting country) led all the way up the driveway to the house. Right outside the house was even a sign “You did it (almost)” was dressed up with shiny Xmas decoration and twinkling little lights. Wow, this is amazing! For a second I got all emotional, but there was little time for that. My Aunt and Uncle came out and we were welcomed with big hugs. Inside awaited a warm stove and a celebratory bottle of excellent champagne. We hadn’t seen each other for over 4 years, what a way to almost be home!

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    spokester, Foiler, juno and 11 others like this.
  2. Ruud109

    Ruud109 Dutch in Barcelona

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Oddometer:
    380
    Location:
    Barcelona, Spain
    Awesome report, welcome home!
    10ecjed likes this.
  3. Orgnoi1

    Orgnoi1 Uber-Noob

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2005
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    Location:
    Upstate NY
    About time you caught us up... ;)
  4. TheNetworker

    TheNetworker Been here awhile Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2014
    Oddometer:
    274
    Location:
    Germany, Lower Saxony
    Thanks for taking us to the finish line.
    Great adventure - what is comming next?

    Best wishes fot the cold north of Germany.
  5. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
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    1,031
    Holy mother of God, you look COLD! May warmer times await you.
  6. ricochetrider

    ricochetrider MotoMojo

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2011
    Oddometer:
    3,132
    Location:
    Out There Somewhere
    :clap Excellent! ALMOST home.
    Happy new year and thank you for posting.

    PS the pix of Venice REALLY make me want to go there to visit. :thumb
  7. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Totally forgot about the extra pics! So here they are :) And before I forget, thanks for the tips to keep my fingers warm. I rode with winter gloves and covers (made from old rain pants) over the handle bars. It is ok, but next time I'm so going for heated grips!

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    juno and 10ecjed like this.
  8. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

    Joined:
    Sep 26, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,780
    Location:
    vancouver bc
    your upbeat attitude and sheer toughness are something to behold. well done!
  9. mabupa

    mabupa Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2016
    Oddometer:
    140
    I loved reading this RR!! Killed the battery on the tablet and just plugged it in and read for another two hours!!! Thank you so much for sharing!
  10. Yannick

    Yannick Asterix the Gaul

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2011
    Oddometer:
    224
    Location:
    Brittany (BZH)
    Hello Chantal,
    I've been following your story telling with just a few months gap, and just finished it just as you were arriving back home. I didn't say a word, despite I was the most interested in your route, particularly in China, as I wanted to know how do things occur there when you want to travel with your own bike. I've got the answer now, thanks to you.
    When you crossed the Iranian border, I thought to myself there was something strange, according to what I knew, women were not entitled to ride their own motorcycle in this country. I was trying to remember the blog I read some years ago (2011) about a French girl expecting to ride her bike on the former silk road, but she was obliged to ask a friend of her to join her at the border, and she had to get on her bike as a passenger.
    Last week-end I could at last find the URL of that blog again, and I found out a recent updating on wich she was back in Iran in June 2016, and she's telling this time she was allowed to ride alone her motorcycle without being anoyed by the customs officers at the border or the policemen inside the country, despite iranian women still haven't the right to drive a motorcycle on the road (but apparently they can ride a motocross off-road), and now they also have the right to drive a car. Things are changing slowly on a living time, but on the history scale, they're changing quite rapidly, so I hope in a few years women will have the right to ride on their own too.
    I don't know if you can read french, this is the link to Melusine Mallender's blog. It's at the page about Iran.
    Congratulations for what you achieved, it was a fantastic trip, and I really enjoyed following it, reading the story here, and looking many more pictures on your fb page, thanks to the link you put on the first post.
    I hope it won't be hard to register legaly the chookchaser in The Netherlands, as the XT250 is a model wich is not imported in Europe (I believe, I may be wrong but I never saw one). I would mind twice before importing a bike (from outter Europe) in France, even an imported model ... with our super heavy bureaucracy, it could turn into a real ordeal. On a french bikers forum, I saw a guy turning mad, it took nearly 2 years. Let us know about it.

    Yannick
    juno and 10ecjed like this.
  11. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2012
    Oddometer:
    254
    Location:
    Yorkshire, England
    Brilliant report. Thoroughly enthralling reading. Many thanks for sharing and safe travels in the future !
  12. Scat Adams

    Scat Adams Ride dirt eat tacos

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2015
    Oddometer:
    31
    Location:
    San Diego
    Awesome trip, good luck down the road!
  13. prsdrat

    prsdrat Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Oddometer:
    895
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Well done. Thanks for the ride-a-long. And I like your statement "next time".
  14. enfielddnepr

    enfielddnepr Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    216
    Location:
    Assen, Netherlands
    Hey sis,
    Glad you're home in one piece...
    so, should we go search an enfield for you?
  15. thirsty 1

    thirsty 1 Rider Supporter

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2009
    Oddometer:
    3,462
    Location:
    Top Hat - Seattle Wa.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!
  16. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Here it is, the very last report of this journey. The last days were as challenging as the first ones. The incredibly low temperature made it a true endurance journey until the last gear shift! If you can't get enough of this adventure story, check out the end of this post to see what more there is to come ;)

    December 11- 13

    There was a lot to catch up on with my Aunt and Uncle. We stayed a few days, mainly talked went for walks and visited some nice places nearby. It was good to be off the bike for a change. When I was a kid we used to come here during the holidays. It was a little nostalgic seeing all these places again.

    December 14

    There was only 1000km left to complete, yet we decided it would be best to spread it over 3 days. Riding at this time of year the days are very short, the sun comes up around 8.30 AM and disappears behind the horizon around 5 PM. Ok, you’d say, that’s still a good 8 hours to ride, times 80 km/h, you can easily do 500 km per day… However, the cold forces us to stop more and longer than usual. So a 300-something-kilometer day is already a bit of an achievement. In the morning we were pleased to find that this is the first night since our arrival in France that it didn’t freeze. However it’s still cold, so we wait until the sun makes it all a bit more pleasant. After breakfast we pack, share some big hugs, say our goodbyes and off we go. The French country side is a pleasing view for travellers, rolling green hills and cute villages. We reach the highway and prepare to really cover some ground. A monotonous cycle of riding, fuelling up and warming up sets in. Towards the evening we get off the main highway. We decided to take the “Route National”, a slightly slower, yet free and more direct option. Around 4.30PM we witness the sun slowly making its way to the horizon over the misty fields. All of a sudden the temperature drops significantly. Determined, I keep going to the spot we marked on the map. On the edge of town we find a beautiful little spot, right next to the river, to spend the night. When I get of the bike I can’t feel my toes or fingers anymore. I run a few laps around the parking lot to get my extremities back to an acceptable temperature. A highly effective heat-up strategy. In the campervan, with the comfort of a small gas heater, we cook dinner, talk and read before crawling into double sleeping bags…

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    December 15

    Through a small opening in the curtains I look outside. The world is white with frost, beautiful to look at but… Inside the van the temperature dropped to 0°C while the thermometer displays a challenging -4 outside. We fire up the heater and get ready for another day. I have to remove the frost from the seat and the handlebars of the bike before getting on. Yep, riding at this time of year was an excellent idea… It takes a while for me to get dressed in my 5-layer-leg gear and 8-layer upper body clothing, but it does keep me reasonably warm! We continue our quest North, stopping now and then for fuel and hot tea. It’s a massive advantage that Dad is there with the campervan so our stops are nice and warm inside, with the opportunity of boiling up some water. An hour or so before sundown we look at the map. There is a small city, not too far away, with a river running through it. Remembering our spot from last night we manage to find ourselves another waterfront-stopover. To celebrate the last night of this father-daughter adventure we head into town for a beautiful dinner.

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    December 16

    Whoohoo when we wake up the temperature is already above 0°C. What a luxury! This is the last day with Dad. We are heading for some other family, in the middle of Belgium. I will spend the night with them, so I have a quick easy ride “home” tomorrow. Dad will only stay for dinner and head to the Netherlands tonight. When we leave the town and enter the highway, I can’t quite see the van in my mirror… But there are a few trucks, maybe Dad is just stuck between them? I start to worry a little when I notice that the direction I’m supposed to follow isn’t on the signs anymore. My phone is useless as navigation nowadays, it turns of constantly because of the cold. So I’m doing it the old fashioned way, following signs. However it now feels like something is seriously off. I slow down and get into the emergency lane, maybe I should take an exit? Try to turn around? But I have no idea where Dad is. It seems that simply waiting here might be the best option. And indeed, not much later the van appears in the mirror. Dad explains that just after we entered the highway, we should have taken the exit again. Since there was a truck between us he thought that I’d taken the exit, and only realised that I was still happily cruising on the highway when he was well of it. Luckily we reunited again, and before we knew it exchanged France for Belgium. Crossing into this part of Belgium is the most subtle change. The language is still the same, only the quality of the road and the look of road signs changes slightly. In no time we make our way from one to the next Belgian city. Then we cross into the Dutch speaking part of the country and for the first time in 15 months I can read all the signs again, all the ads along the road, the writing on the vans. It’s dazzling how many words there are to read! Only a few cities later we reach today’s destination. Another Aunt and Uncle I haven’t seen for years! There is again a warm welcome with home-made pie and hot tea to warm my hands.

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    December 17

    This is it, the last day, the last 100-ish kilometres of the trip. The sky is grey, it’s 8°C, there is a slight drizzle. Just like I remember the Netherlands to be, just like the place I was so eager to leave 4 years ago. But today is different, it’s the day that I’m reunited with the people I missed for such a long time. Celebrate the fact that I actually made it, in one piece, all the way from Australia to the Netherlands. For the last time I strap the panniers on, put the duffelbag across the seat and get dressed in my 15-layer-Michelin-man suit. The weird thing is, I do the same things and feel the same as I did starting the trip in East Timor. I double check if everything is properly fastened, set the navigation, say goodbye to the people I stayed with, hope I don’t get lost when the GPS gives up, stop, reset the GPS, and then find myself on a road I know will take me where I want to go. Only this time it’s a road I’ve taken dozens, if not hundreds of times. The closer I get to the village I was born, the more familiar it all becomes. Yet, I’m looking at it with new eyes, noticing the small things that changed. A new shop here, a speed bump there, there used to be big trees here but now there are only little ones… At the border between Belgium and the Netherlands I stop. As I ride the Chook Chaser onto the sidewalk, parking up right next to the border mark I can feel it. The relief, the joy, the idea that I actually did it. I take some photos of the bike (as one of my friends noticed ”your bike is having a great time, it’s taking all the selfies!”). Like model Western European citizens, the patrons of the border café watch me from the corner of their eyes. Then a man walks up to me: ”You’re the girl from the internet!” For a second I’m speechless, but then I remember the article the local newspaper did about me, it must have reached more people then I realised. I gratefully take him up on his offer to take some pictures of the bike and me at the border. We chat for a while before it’s time to finalise the last 7 kilometers. The seat, the grips, the handlebars, this bike, my little Chook Chaser, in just over two years we travelled almost 70000 kilometers together. This exquisite piece of Japanese machinery became my home, my loyal companion, my best friend. As I ride into the familiarity of the village I was born in, I notice that I am the thing that changed most. I can’t quiet see how yet, and for now this sheer flicker of insight will do. There are other things to focus my attention on.

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    There it is, the motorbike shop where my Dad would take me as a little girl. In front of it are my grandmothers, parents, brother, family, friends, people who followed my trip and some press. Clapping, filming, taking pictures. It’s an amazing warm welcome. They created a “Yamaha only parking inside, there are flags and banners and champagne. Along with all the people there, some of my friends from Australia joined by sending in a video message. When the first video opens tears roll down my face. Until then I was prepared for who would be there, I knew what to expect. But the fact that these people put in the time and effort to send a message from the other side of the world, the fact that my trip stills means that much to them although I’ve been away for so long, touches me so deeply! My former boss, colleagues, good friends and the Yamaha salesman who helped me get the bike. They all mean so much to me, and having them be part of this celebration is so special. Halfway through the videos Peter, the guy who’s bike we tried to fix on the side of a mountain in Kyrgystan, walks in (see previous reports). It’s great to see him again, someone who knows what a trip like this is really like. The rest of the afternoon is spend talking to everyone who’s there, sharing stories and catching up. It was a worthy end to a life changing journey!

    I want to thank my parents and brother for organising an amazing welcome, all the other people for being there and all of you for following this Ride Report. Your advice and support has been amazing and made a real difference for me during this trip.

    What exactly will come next I’m not sure off, but I can tell you there will be two books. One about the trip around Australia (before starting this RR) and one about the journey through Asia. The aim is to have the first one published in a few months and the second one later this year.

    If you are interested in the books, please send me an email on chantal.c.simons@gmail.com.

    To all of you, for being there along the way, FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART : THANK YOU!!!
  17. Chick on the Chook

    Chick on the Chook Adventurer

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2016
    Oddometer:
    71
    Location:
    The Netherlands
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    The grey cone-type thing is the border marker between Belgium and the Netherlands. That's it, that was the journey of the Chick on the Chook Chaser. But if you want to read more, check out what to do at the bottom of the last post.

    Happy riding my friends!!
  18. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
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    1,031
    Fantastic end to a brilliant journey. When your books are ready, just post up here, I am sure most of us will bite. Again, well done!
  19. Seba1

    Seba1 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2007
    Oddometer:
    172
    Location:
    Ljubljana,Slovenia
    Congratolations !
  20. 3 bike

    3 bike Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2016
    Oddometer:
    22
    Location:
    bristol, England
    Not only an inspiration to women, but an inspiration to all people across the world. well done and glad you are home safe and sound.