25 – 26 March, 2015

My very own Vuelta a Andalucia has started – it’s great to be back on the Family Truckster going south on what should be the most boring leg of the trip – Portsmouth to Bilbao.  Relatively straightforward this bit, have done it before.  The last time though I had a bit of trouble – the seas were quite rough and my motorcycle fell over and suffered some damage.  It was still ridable and everything worked out ok (click here for more details).  But that was in the opposite direction – can’t happen to me again can it?

About to depart for the Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry

The Family Truckster is ready …

And I still had to finish loading the last few things on my bike and make it down the M3 from London to Portsmouth.  The loading didn’t take too long and after some breakfast I was all ready to leave.

Ready to depart for the Portsmouth to Bilbao ferryIt’s 9am on a fine but cold Wednesday morning as I start the engine and head for the A3- right on time.  The Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry departs at 11:45 and I need to be there at least an hour before to check in and board.  London traffic will have mostly cleared so I’m not expecting any delays.  The GPS is set for this simple 70 mile, one and a quarter hour motorway slog – nothing will stop me making the ferry.  Portsmouth to Bilbao takes about 24 hours sailing time and I have after disembarking I have a four hour ride to get to the hotel I’ve booked in Segovia.  Really want to make while it’s still light especially as rain is forecast on our arrival in Bilbao.

The route from London to board the Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry

For my followers who are not so familiar with the route from London to Portmouth

I made it to the Portsmouth Ferry Port a little ahead of schedule and was the first motorcycle through check in, followed by a guy on a Massey Ferguson all loaded up also – wonder where he’s off to.  Whilst waiting at the start of the queue there was a whisper that the ferry’s arrival had been delayed and our departure time was running late by about 45 minutes.  Maybe they can make that time up overnight by giving the ferry a little more gas – provided the conditions are ok?

Paul waiting with me for the Portsmouth to Bilbao ferryAt around 10:30am, much to my surprise, were asked to go on through and wait closer to the ferry – which we duly did.  I was the first to arrive and stopped as instructed.  May as well get off the bike and stretch my legs as it looked like they were still some ways off getting the vehicles off the ferry.  I got chatting to Paul, the guy on the Massey Ferguson.

Nice bloke – on his way to Morocco for a couple of days riding with a German mate and his wife who he’ll meet in Tarifa before getting another ferry to Tangier.  Sounds like a good trip.

After what seemed like hours in a bitterly cold wind we were asked to start our engines and begin boarding.  Being up the front I was one of the first on.  Here’s what boarding Brittany Ferries Cap Finistère on a motorcycle looks like from the riders POV.

Finally we were out of the cold. Better make sure they strap it down good this time – don’t want another incident ruining my Vuelta a Andalucia before its even really started. As I unload the items I’ll take to my cabin the guy comes over.  I explain to him what happened last time but alas he is French!  Not sure how much he understood but some hand/arm gestures do the trick and make up for my total lack of foreign language skills.  I check it’s firmly secured and head upstairs to my Club Cabin to get changed and store my things.

By the time the ferry finally departs it’s got to be the best part of two hours late and I’m starving.  After changing for the long journey ahead across the Bay of Biscay, I head straight for the cafe (Le Petit Marché) and grab a sandwich – that will tide me over until dinner.  Which, by the way I’ll be taking in the Restaurant du Port at around 8pm.  Maybe I’ll find Paul in one of the bars as we’d planned and he will join me?

And that’s exactly how it worked out.  Paul was great company and it was nice to share a meal with a fellow motorcyclist who’d put thousands of miles on the clocks of several motorcycles over the years.  If all goes to plan I’m hoping to catch up with Paul when he overnights it in Malaga on his way back to the UK in a couple of weeks time.  Check out Paul’s website and blog to find out more about him and his trip.  I’ll be keeping an eye on his blog to see how he’s getting on in Morocco at every opportunity I get.

We also shared a bottle of red and the time passed all too quickly with stories of tours done and places on the hit list still to travel to – by motorcycle of course.  With the red all gone we retired to our cabins hoping the time lost by our late departure would be made up overnight.  I’d chosen to upgrade my cabin on this crossing – to a 2 berth Club Cabin.  Not much different really – only the decor and some inconsequential freebies (though I never did ask for a complimentary cocktail).  Slept the same as I would have in the plebs cabin I usually get.  Here’s my take on the Club Cabin …

Not that sure if I would go for it again but the window made it easier to get a handle on the weather conditions when I awoke in the morning.

After a light breakfast from the Le Petit Marché and an espresso from the bar, I’d heard no loudspeaker announcements requesting my attendance on Deck G to inspect my motorcycle so figured it had survived the crossing this time.  It certainly wasn’t as rough as I recall it on that last voyage back to Portsmouth so I was by this time breathing easier.

The only bad news was that we hadn’t made up any time lost due to the late departure so we were scheduled to dock in Bilbao some two hours late.  It seemed an eternity for the time to pass – I just wanted to get off the ferry and start riding to my overnight hotel in Segovia.  A few hours later, we were asked to pack and vacate our rooms – this meant we were within 30 mins of arriving.  Then our deck was called and it was time for the mad scramble down the stairs to reload everything I’d taken to the cabin yesterday and wait in line until it was clear to disembark.

With Paul’s Massey Ferguson in my mirrors we started our journeys south. Pretty soon I lost sight of him as I stuck to the toll roads hoping to make up for our late arrival. With London to Portsmouth and Portsmouth to Bilbao now done, my Vuelta a Andalucia was properly underway.

Would I get to my overnight hotel in Segovia before dark?