The last couple of years has turned the world upside down in more ways than one. With the COVID19 pandemic bringing the world to its knees and governments globally forcing their populations into mandatory lockdowns, closing borders and blocking all travel it became impossible to even think about adventure motorcycle trips overseas yet alone actually under take such a venture.
With the Russian government now completely destabilising the region with the war in Ukraine, Scandinavian countries applying for NATO membership and the threat of nuclear apocalypse things are only getting worse, not better.
As if it wasn’t bad enough already, the border conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan doesn’t look like it’ll end any time soon. The withdrawal of coalition troops from Afghanistan resulted in the Taliban taking control of the Afghan/Tajik border making it impossible to ride along some of the most challenging and beautiful parts of the region.
Many governments have shown their true colour during the pandemic with some even becoming totalitarian and turning against the very people that put them in power. I was appalled at how the supposed liberal government in Canada treated people during the protests over unnecessary mandatory vaccinations. Whatever happened to freedom of choice?
The last two years have certainly impacted everyones lives one way or another.
Throughout the pandemic I’ve kept in touch with contacts in Russia and Mongolia and have received regular updates on travel restrictions and border closures. We’re now in April 2022 and the Mongolian borders are still closed to tourism, as are the Russian borders.
When I retired in October 2019 I was ready to go on my trip, all visas were sorted, ferry off this little island of ours was booked and I was kitted up ready to go. I’d been waiting for this moment for years and it was finally coming or so I thought.
I’m now beginning to wonder whether it will ever be possible to ride through central Asia and experience the open plains of Mongolia freely. It’s certainly not going to happen this year (2022) and as for next year, who knows!
Since the Mongolia trip is well and truly on the back burner until further notice I started looking at other options. South America has always fascinated me but, many of the borders are still closed and their death rates are still high, it’s going to be some time before this is viable again.
Australia has now opened it’s borders and so perhaps this is now my only option?
I’ve always wanted to ride across the outback and ride the coast road around Oz so perhaps this should now be my focus. Shipping coasts due the pandemic are ridiculously high so I’d need to consider selling the bike in the UK and buying a bike in Australia for the trip.
Fortunately my wife’s nephew lives in Australia and so we have a contact there to get information about purchasing and insuring a bike.
The shape of travel has certainly changed over the last two years and not for the better. I’m not convinced it will ever go back to how it used to be but, we must strive to find ways around government restrictions so that we can experience this beautiful planet to the full.
I’ve been to Scotland many times in my life but, not once have I ridden the North Coast 500 (NC500) in it’s entirety. Since we’re not able to travel internationally at the moment due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic that is still causing havoc globally I decided to travel closer to home.
Scotland is a good 800 miles or more from home by road and since I’m retired there’s no rush to get there so I decided to take the scenic route.
I didn’t want to book any campsites or lodgings as I felt I needed the ability to just travel freely without time restraint or restriction, to just wander wherever I wanted for as long as I wanted, whenever I wanted.
I invited a friend of mine Ben Jackson to come along as we’re planning on the doing the Mongolia trip together and so it would be a good idea to try a trip together here in the U.K. Ben was of course up for this and had his holiday booked with work in no time at all. (Yes he still works unlike me!)
I decided to head off a few days before Ben just to take in some of the sights enroute and we agreed to meet up in the Yorkshire Dales a few days later. This left me lots of time to wander around Lincolnshire and the North York Moors on my own riding the small single track lanes as much as possible.
I’ve ridden and camped in the Lincolnshire Wolds before but, it’s a lovely part of the world and I was happy to head back there again. I had a great ride up from Suffolk taking the slow route over the Humber bridge and then north into the Wolds.
I decided to take my big tent with me on this trip as I was expecting rain in Scotland and it’s extremely useful to have a separate area to store wet riding gear whilst keeping the sleeping area dry. I’ve had my Coleman 3 Man tent for a number of years now and it’s lasting well.
The next day I took a slow ride up into the North York Moors. This is a lovely part of the world and I’ve not been back there for many a year so, it was great to just get out onto the moors and enjoy the views again.
Whilst riding the tiny lanes around the moors I stumbled across a great little farm campsite. It’s beautifully situated on the side of a hill overlooking the valley below and gets the most amazing sunsets.
Needless to say I stayed there for the second night and just absorbed the view, it was truly wonderful.
The Lawnsgate Farm Campsite was a great find, it’s a super little campsite with great facilities run by a lovely farming family. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere and everyone, including bikers are welcome. I highly recommend you stay at least one night here.
Before I stumbled across the campsite I went to the Yorkshire Cycle Hub for something to eat. This is a great little cafe and cycle shop situated in the wilds of the moors. They’ve a great selection of food available both hot and cold with plenty of seating inside and out. With a big car park out front it’s easy to park the bike up and sit and enjoy the views and some good food for an hour or so.
The following morning I packed up once more and headed west into the Yorkshire Dales, a part of the country I’ve not spent a lot of time traveling through in the past but, somewhere I dearly love.
Once again I had no plan of where to go or where to stay, just ride there and see what happens, my favourite way to travel.
Heading west through the tiny back lanes keeping clear of all the main roads, I lost myself for hours just enjoying the views and the little villages enroute.
My next notable stop was at the Ribblehead Viaduct, a famous landmark in Yorkshire that’s well known to most train spotters (not that I am one!!) and on this day it was no different.
When I arrived and parked up I was surprised to see so many people sitting on chairs with with large telephoto lenses on very expensive looking cameras in lines across the grasslands. Clearly something special was going to happen but, I had no idea what.
Making sure I had my trusty Canon 1300D DSLR camera and lenses with me I ventured over to the area where many people were waiting patiently. After a few conversations with many of the avid train spotters it was clear that a steam engine was going to cross the viaduct any time soon and that it was a special occasion that happens rarely these days. Sadly no one could tell me which steam engine it was going to be, but it was definitely going to be one worth photographing, apparently.
Within minutes of my arrival sure enough a steam engine did chuff across the viaduct slowly to the click of a thousand cameras. The viaduct itself is an engineering marvel, spanning quite some distance, its tall beautiful arches stand proudly above the valley below.
For me the viaduct was the most impressive sight, to think it was constructed in the 1870’s by 2300 workers most of whom lived in shanty towns set up near its base is incredible. After 4 years of hard labour, millions of bricks and the loss of some lives, the viaduct was finally complete.
After spending some considerable time at the viaduct it was soon time to think about finding somewhere to camp for the night. Jumping onto Google Maps I soon found a plethora of campsites but, one in particular caught my eye. A little farm campsite not far from the viaduct tucked away in the hills, it sounded idyllic.
Heading off it was only a few minutes of riding and I arrived at the Philpin Farm Campsite. This campsite turned out to be a little gem and so I decided to stay for two nights so that I could explore the area further the following day.
The Philpin Farm Campsite is a small, beautifully maintained campsite run by a small farming family, nestled gently on the side of a valley overlooking fields of sheep and cattle. The facilities are clean and tidy, there’s a barn with a cafe to hide in if the weather is really bad and free wifi in a 3/4g dead zone, absolutely perfect!
Since the cafe does breakfast daily I decided to partake of the offering, for £6.00 you get a full cooked breakfast and a cup of tea or coffee, all freshly cooked when you want. Great local produce at an incredibly cheap price, sets me up perfectly for the day.
The following day I headed out on the bike once more and ventured deeper into the Dales. The views are spectacular and I found myself stopping regularly and sitting by the side of the road just absorbing the surroundings. It’s so quiet in the Dales that you can hear people talking across the other side of the valley, it’s an incredibly peaceful place to be.
I decided to follow the route of the railway that went over the Ribblehead Viaduct to see if I could find anymore viaducts or bridges. Sure enough I soon found another, smaller viaduct tucked away in the wilds of the countryside.
The Dentdale viaduct is considerably smaller than the Ribblehead viaduct but, built using the same technique and stone. I wondered if it had actually been built by the same workers that built the Ribblehead viaduct.
I spent the rest of the day just bimbling around the back lanes of the dales for miles and miles getting completely lost without a care in the world.
Later that day I headed back to the campsite to meet Ben as I’d sent him the map location details for the Philpin Farm Campsite as it was an ideal spot to meet up to continue our trip north.