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Mogs Travels: March 2008

Mogs Travels

Sunday, March 30, 2008

New Bike has Arrived

Well, I picked up my new BMW650 GS twin two days ago on Friday. It was an important event as this bike is crucial to our big six week break in the summer and for future long tours. Unfortunately we had a horrible 70 mile ride home from the dealers. It was cold and wet, and we got caught in the rush hour traffic. By the time we reached home I was frozen and my clutch hand & left foot were aching. Yesterday we gave both GS's a good clean then made a few adjustments to my bike, in particular raising the gear shift which will be more comfortable for my foot. I must try to only use my index & middle fingers on the clutch as it's mostly my little & fourth fingers that causes me problems.

This morning we awoke to sunshine & blue skies so took the opportunity to go for a ride. I need to clock up 600 miles before the first service which is booked for 9 days time! We had a lovely run through Breconshire to Hereford then home via a cup of tea at Abergavenny bus station. On the way we stopped off at a farm shop/garden centre and bought some steaks for tea as well as a patio set! Needless to say the steaks came home with us but our new table, chairs and parasol were a bit big to fit on the bikes and are now awaiting delivery. I was really pleased with the bike. It's light, nimble and easy to ride. My clutch hand didn't bother me too much and I'm sure will strengthen with time. We took a couple of photo's of me and the bike when in the Brecon Beacons.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Chill

Have just got home from our Pembrokeshire idyll aka our caravan. We've had a static van there for twenty years and love the place as much now as when we first started going there. This weekend was the first weekend the site was open this year, the first weekend of spring and Easter to boot! Spring, however had deserted us as we were subjected to gale force Arctic winds and hail showers. I suppose we fared better than much of the country as at least we didn't have snow. The wonderful thing about the caravan site is the friends we have made over the years. As usual most of them turned up for the Bank Holiday so we could catch up with events overwinter, including the arrival of two new babies, S & J. The bad weather was no bar to sitting snuggly in the van chinwagging over a few glasses of vino! We braved a couple of short walks and two training sessions with our friend/fitness trainer TB. Our neighbours friends were somewhat braver as they are kite surfers. The strong winds were ideal for them although I hope they had sub zero wetsuits. I froze just taking these photos of them.


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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Countdown to Retirement

It's only three and a half weeks now until my retirement, three weeks for Mr Mogs. As Easter is next weekend it means I only have 9 more working days! Although as the date get closer I am realising what I will miss at work, the overwhelming feeling is of excitement. I really feel this is a new beginning. I have always enjoyed planning things and there's been a lot of that recently! Various financial arrangements have had to be altered in readiness for retirement day but also plans are being made for the fun side of the coming spring and summer.

Central to this is my new motorbike, a brand new BMW F650GS twin, which for those not in the know is an 800cc trailie style bike, ideal for touring. Incidentally this is a publicity photo so don't go thinking I'm the slim blond! I should be getting it at the end of March or first week in April and will need to get it kitted out with panniers etc, run in and have its first service in readiness for our forthcoming trips.

The big one, starting in June, is a 6 week camping tour of central Europe. We're hoping to start with a week in the Alps then move on through Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Czech Republic and Germany. Prior to that we need to refine our camping techniques both in the back garden and with a couple of weekends away in May. It will be quite a strenuous holiday so fitness training will be a priority once work is out of the way. We are also honing our riding skills with some advanced rider training and also taking the ROSPA advanced riding test in April. ( see here) With a wedding and my sister-in-law's birthday party the diary is as full as when I'm working! Isn't life exciting?


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Reflections from Home

Well, we have been home a week now but struggling with jet lag and work and haven't felt inspired to write.

Our last day in Sri Lanka was one of the most pleasant. Early in the morning we took a tuk tuk to the nearby fishing harbour while they were landing the last of the fish for the quayside market. It was a busy place, the water crowded with colourful boats and the quay thronged with stalls, people selling & buying the fish, fishermen mending nets & dogs scavenging the entrails which were lying around. I saw my first hammerhead shark. Unfortunately it had no body & was being eaten by a dog! We were the only Europeans there but everyone was very friendly and didn't seem to mind us wandering around watching them working.

Back at the hotel we had several hours by the pool, alternately relaxing and improving our swimming. When the temperatures eased a bit in the late afternoon we went off in the same tuk tuk to a nearby Buddhist temple which contained the largest seated Buddha in Sri Lanka. The Buddha was impressive as were the wonderful wall paintings of his life. On leaving we were amused by an elephant who was trying to take whole plates of fruit meant for the monks instead of the small bananas he was being offered.

Overall it was a wonderful holiday. It is a poor country, despite it's extensive natural resources, largely due to the war however the Sri Lankan people are immensely friendly and helpful. The countryside, temples and towns are well worth exploring.In the tourist areas we couldn't walk down the street without someone wanting to sell us something or hire us a tuk tuk but a firm no was all that was required to be left alone. The roads are bad and very slow so if I went again I would be inclined to do a tour to see more. Although it has long sandy beaches they have little shade and it wouldn't be my first choice for a beach holiday. I probably won't go back as there are so many other places to see but I'll always remember it fondly.


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Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Walk in the Garden

Visited a 'formal' garden yesterday. A well to do family that knew Prince Edward (the Duke of Windsor to be) and had peeps such as Laurence Olivier, and Vivienne Leigh to stay. The garden was very picturesque with a water feature almost Victorian in design, and in one of the pools, guess what Elvie saw. Afterwards the lady showing us round the house told us it was a rattlesnake. Later our tame naturalist Suranga confirmed it was a water snake, and not poisonous. Elvie was very brave getting so close!

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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Full Table

While out on a trip up country we stopped off at a restaurant overlooking a waterfall. The views were spectacular, but so was the food. All this for £5. There was only just room on the table, and best of all it tasted great. 2 bottles of beer cost just as much, but in fairness they were 660 ml size. Interesting comfort break when Chris was pursued into the toilet by a young boy holding a lit candle. There was a power cut!!

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Not quite like home

As a child I used to enjoy donkey rides on the beach. Here in Sri Lanka they have a different take on thing. Not shown in the photograph is a snake charmer plying his trade on unwary tourists. There's also a guy with a small monkey on a lead, who will pose for photographs.

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Sunday, March 2, 2008


Took a 3 day trip up country and amongst other things saw the tea plantations and one of the many factories. Had no idea of the scale of the plantations or the number of people involved in it. The pickers were tiny wiry women who picked a minimum of 20 Kilos a day in two shifts. Each sack they carried therefore weighed a minimum of 10 kilos often more. The bags are carried by means of a rope loop over their foreheads. I could just pick up a bag by hand but certainly couldn't have carried it any distance. I tried it over my head but my neck could not support the weight. The Tamil women who do the picking didn't reach my shoulder and were half my weight. Respect! The shame is that they are paid a pittance and have awful working and living conditions so that we can enjoy a cheap cuppa in Britain. The tea takes only 24 hours to process in the factory but it is quite labour intensive and again, all the work is done by the women. It is dried, rolled, fermented, roasted and graded before being packaged and ultimately exported to our supermarkets. It was quite an illuminating visit for us and I'll certainly appreciate my cups of tea more in future.


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Slowing Down

Finally feel as though I'm adjusting to the pace of life. As the pool photo shows someone's got to do it. It rained very heavily last night. Just like being back home, except the temperature was still in the high twenties. It was so heavy my G&T got badly diluted during the short walk from the poolside bar to the room. Still there's always another where that came from.

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