Varadero International Meeting
held 28th to 30th May 2004
Campo de Geres, Northern Portugal
Jess and Theresa's Pictures and Comment
Sadly, the tragic death of Rob Densum
'One of us'
overshadowed the events of this VIM.
We share our experiences with you.
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Killed in Spain on his way home from VIM
ferry with (from left to
right), Rob Densum, Mickey, Paul (BMW), hree ladies from Plymouth, Dessie (Gingerchin),
Theresa. travelled separately most of the way,
with John and Judy Price, Rob Densum, John, Paul, Dessie,
Theresa, Mickey. The NI on the back of the Beemer
we learned meant 'Not Interested'. greeted by John in
yellow. fitted to a Varadero. The sidecar is hinged, leaving the bike free to
lean. at base camp. with Theresa, Merlin, Nugget,
Mr Hinged Sidecar Man, Barry
T. for the Saturday morning run out,
starting with a Guinness world record attempt. Like a dog with two willies he was!
Like he always is - at a
VIM. Bernard Two Plugs and Sandro from
Italy. filling up with
petrol! a bit of dancing after our
meal. and the camp. We met up with
the Ulstermen on their way home
and got this
picture. in Porto, the only one we saw.
Where are you now
Diarmid? Only one drink, as we had to
ride back down the mountain
afterwards. This was our hotel lobby, a superb place to stay. The Hotel
ferry with (from left to right),
Rob Densum, Mickey,
hree ladies from Plymouth,
Dessie (Gingerchin), Theresa.
travelled separately most of the way,
with John and Judy Price,
Rob Densum, John, Paul, Dessie,
The NI on the back of the Beemer
we learned meant
greeted by John in yellow.
fitted to a Varadero.
The sidecar is hinged,
leaving the bike free to lean.
at base camp.
with Theresa, Merlin, Nugget,
Mr Hinged Sidecar Man, Barry T.
for the Saturday morning run out,
starting with a Guinness
world record attempt.
Like a dog with two willies he was!
Like he always is - at a VIM.
Bernard Two Plugs and Sandro from Italy.
filling up with petrol!
a bit of dancing after our meal.
and the camp. We met up with
the Ulstermen on their way home
and got this picture.
in Porto, the only one we saw.
Where are you now Diarmid?
Only one drink, as we had to
ride back down the
This was our hotel lobby,
a superb place to stay.
The Hotel Universal.
260504 Wednesday - We got up early, loaded the bike and set off at 7.05am. With appalling traffic on the M25 as per usual, we arrived in Exeter at 12.05pm and cruised into Plymouth at 12.50pm, 280 miles on the clock, 451km. Didn't see any other Varadero's on the quay and were soon boarded and installed in our tiny cabin. The boat sailed at 2.00pm, a nice day and calm water. A venture to the bar and we were soon spotted by Rob Densum, an old mate from previous Varadero events. We later met up with the Northern Ireland contingent, Ulstermen Dessie, John, Mickey and Paul, all well into a few bottles of red wine. These guys are party animals! We also met up with John and Judy Price from Cornwall. A smooth crossing to Santander ensued.
270504 Thursday - We were called at 6.30am and up and packed and to breakfast. The ship must have been quite new as it was very clean and tidy. The crew was excellent, as were the catering facilities. We were held up for a long time and when we eventually got off, all the others had gone. We settled for the trip to Portugal on our own, quite pleased about that really as we could set our own pace. Sun shining, warm, slight breeze, we took the coast road to Oviedo, then south to Leon, through a spectacular mountain region with several impressive tunnels. 3.90 and 5.90 Euro tolls on this section of the A66. Surprised not see any sheep. We stopped at a café at 1189 metres altitude and had a chat with some old buffers riding Harley Davidsons. We had seen many Harleys and learned that they were having a big get together in Spain somewhere. South to Benavente and west to Pueblo de Sanabria on the impressive N52. Very little traffic and we travelling at 140-150kph on motorways. Took C622 south across the border into Portugal, being stopped by the police and our documents checked. Possibly looking for football hooligans as a big event is coming up soon. Very twisty road but little traffic. Drove to Braganca, called at the tourist office and went and found a hotel. The Hotel Tulipa was our choice, although no English was spoken, only French or German. So that was fun, using our French to the young girl there and German to the lady of the place. Parked the 'Bel Moto' in the back yard, a nice room, a shower. 882km cumulative on GPS, although we probably missed 100km as the batteries were out for a while. Max speed 174kph. 603m altitude. Arrived at 6.00pm so approx 9 hours on the road. Enjoyed a nice meal in the restaurant. Ham and olives and bread for appetisers. Two beers and a meal called Lombo something which was a large sirloin steak on a sizzling skillet.. Salad and potatoes. More French and German chat. Welcome to Portugal! We went for a wander around this old city and were surprised when we spied John and Judy in a restaurant. We invited ourselves to join them for a drink and to share our experiences of the trip down. John is a meticulous man, a great thinker, someone who likes to plan. He had got the trip all figured out. We agreed to travel together the next day for the last leg of our journey, some 150kms (or are they clicks John?)? Very warm evening, the streets busy with mainly men. Nothing rowdy, just pleasant atmosphere.
280504 Friday - A good night's sleep and a bill of 84.50 Euros. All loaded up and we said our obrigado's to our hosts, meeting J and J outside their hotel above the cinema. A good run to Mirandela, then on to Chaves and then along the N105 to Geres. We stopped for petrol somewhere and were joined by the Ulstermen and Rob Densum, who had all travelled together. Now we were seven bikes, 6 Vara's and one BMW GS1150 (Paul). Great laughs about them getting Rob to lean over more on bends and scratch his footpegs. So we were one again - but only for a short while. Mickey in the lead, took a turn up a dirt track, believing it to be the right way and we held back knowing it to be so obviously wrong. As they didn't come back again, we, J and J and Rob set off without the other four. A very twisty road, something that we would come to expect in Portugal before too long. Took the 308 and a long descent to the lake and then across the bridge and up the other side ascending to Campo de Geres via Terra de Bouros. It was great to get there at last. A nice welcome and friendly signing in. Met up with Bernard the Big Man, Jan Willem, Uwe, Mike the Mad Swede, Martin du Toit, Barbara Timmerman and Wolfgang; and many other old 'friends'. We were keen to find our hotel so we set off across a narrow mountain road, absolutely bowled over by the beauty of the location. The rock formations quite amazing, just as if they had been built up on each other using a crane, rather than the obvious formation of millions of years. Approx 14km to the Hotel Universal in Vila de Geres which turned out to be superb. We even had a BBC channel! Unpacked and a shower and then back to the campsite for our meal which turned out to be roast pig in a roll with some salad. T a beer, J and coke. Everybody getting to know each other it true VIM tradition! Back to the hotel in the dark with T quite nervous due to the road type, sheer drops, etc. We had a couple of beers in the bar and a long chat with a Portuguese couple and the barman who once worked in England.
290504 Saturday - Breakfast at 7.30am, overcast and misty, although probably only low cloud. Down the valley to fill up with fuel and then back again and across the mountain road to Campo de Geres. We found everybody massing to set off, an attempt for a Guinness World Record being made if we could get enough bikes together of the same make and model. The string of bikes stretched a long way and J counted 124. We ended up with 136 Varadero's in total, with us at 76 and a few extra non-Varadero's sent to the back. We eventually (things don't seem to happen on time in Portugal) set off up the mountain roads, passing through some beautiful valleys and through small communities of peasant folk. We headed off to the NW corner of Portugal, stopping briefly at Melgaco for a wine tasting and then on to Moncao for a late lunch. An amazing 5 course meal was enjoyed by us and the Greeks did a bit of dancing. Very entertaining! It would never happen in England. We were impressed and amazed by the way the organisers blocked the roads to enable the 150 odd bikes to travel in convoy. An amazing sight, watching as we could the head of the convoy far off on a mountain road and distantly on main roads. No car driver seemed to be upset by the delay and all seemed content to watch the amazing sight. We ended up in Terras de Boura where a further meal and entertainment was being prepared. We were tired and headed back to the hotel, leaving the others to enjoy the evening's fun.
300504 Sunday - Up at our leisure and down to breakfast. When we eventually got to Campo, expecting everybody to have left at 8.30am as the programme (joke!), most were still there and getting ready to leave at 10.00am. We joined a small group of around 12 bikes, for a trip to the city of Porto. A nice sunny day. 18490 odo when we left Campo. We met up en masse with all the others in Porto, a car park pre arranged for our use. This was by the river and we could see all the advertising signs across the river for the various brands of Port wine that Porto is famous for. We walked to a nearby museum and tasted some port wine. It was very warm in our leathers. The people of Porto were obviously anticipating the forthcoming football event with FC Porto banners all over the place. We were less bikes today than yesterday, with many preferring to do their own thing rather than follow in convoy at what they compalined was at 'slow speed'. We thought they had missed the point. Our view was that we were here to be a part of VIM and that we would have plenty of time to do our own thing on the way home. Next we were taken to a restaurant were we enjoyed a nice meal with water and wine. Amazed that they could serve so much wine and later, whisky and liquers, when we were all driving. The Greeks did some more dancing and then we had the presentations for all sorts of categories. Our table was the English speaking table with John and Judy and a lad Diarmid? who had arrived late on his 125cc Varadero. There must have been 100 people dining. The Portuguese certainly know how to wine and dine! The meals have been fantastic. Missing from our table were the Ulstermen who had to set off for home. Earlier in the morning we had encountered them on the Geres road when we stopped to take some photographs (see above). Martin du Toit had set off for home with Italians Luca and Sandro. Rob had headed off alone for Marseilles to meet a lady. Then on to a large square (with a monument to somebody called Garrett outside), for a mass photo shoot. Then back in convoy through Porto, Barga, Terras de Bouro and to the camp. Had a chat with those remaining and then said our goodbyes before heading off for the last time across our beautiful mountain road to our hotel in Vila de Geres. It was 9.00pm by then. A shower and a snack and a beer at the bar. A brilliant day!
310504 Monday - Breakfast, packed our things, paid our bill and off. Perfect clear blue sky. It had been a wonderful experience and we doubted whether we would ever return here again. It is such a beautiful place and the Clube Varadero Portugal people have been brilliant. In comparison to other VIMs this one has in terms of riding, been the absolute best. We felt a bit out of it not being on campus with them all, thus missing out on the craic. We set off for Chaves, a slow twisty run as expected. North to the Spanish border, picking up the superb N52 for a fast run east, hoping to make it as far as Pamplona. It was a long hot run, and boring for T, as we crossed the country with its wide flat landscape. We eventually arrived in Pamplona at 9.30pm and found a hotel, Hotel Husa, near the airport. Very nice and comfortable, unlike the attached restaurant bar with its frosty barstaff. We were late so it was not easy to get anything to eat. We settled for beer and toasted sandwiches. We had left Geres at 10.15am and had travelled 760km today.
010604 Tuesday - We were aware that we had to get home for our children so we were limited in what sightseeing we could do. It was a cloudy day and promised rain, so we thought. We had breakfast, a meagre affair consisting of a glass of orange a croissant and a cup of coffee. Noisy, smoky, standard practice of throwing rubbish on floor - typically Spanish? Not the best stopover experience we had had. Not spectacular scenery but an enjoyable ride through the drizzle across the border through the Pyrenees, N135 to border and D933 into France. Not wet enough for wet gear and we were bemused by all the cyclists who were about with strained faces as they ascended the hills. Why do they do it? Clearly not enjoyable! Once into France we enjoyed a lovely ride through to Bergerac, stopping briefly for a coffee and a sandwich in a town on the way. Overcast and damp all the way. We turned east to follow the Dordogne and ended up in Sarlat, finding a delightful little two star hotel called Chez Marcel. The madame had no English but we had enough French to get by. She had a petit chien (Yorkshire Terrier) called Merlin who had seemingly missed out on lessons in how to be friendly to the English. After a shower and change we wandered into the old part of the town and found a nice restaurant in a back street called the Auberge de Mirandole where we enjoyed a nice meal with two bottles of Bergerac wine. Delightful! Back by 10.00pm, finding les deux madames et le chien mechant in the foyer and eager for conversation. Merlin eager for an attack on a leg or hand or something English. Bon nuit and to bed. We watched the French version of 'Who Wants to be a Millionaire'. 453 km today, max speed 138kph, 2817 odo on GPS.
020604 Wednesday - Much snoring in the night apparently! At breakfast, we had a picture of Constable's 'The Haywain' on the wall, which seemed odd. We live only a few miles from the location in the picture. Cloudy but dry, we bid our au revoirs and set off. We headed for Limoges looking for somewhere to get oil for the Scottoiler, which had run dry. Then on to Oradour sur Glane where a Nazi war atrocity had been carried out in 1944, meeting up with three East Anglian bikers, delighted to be away from their wives, who let us have some of their oil. The site was very sombreing, quite different to the memory that J had of it when he had visited in 1988. Around 600 people, men, women and children, wiped out in one day - and for what purpose? Then on towards home, finding a nice hotel just short of Rouen, the Comfort Inn at Val de Reuil. A nice meal and some wine. More French speaking opportunities, T learning a few words and with great fun with her pronunciation. Must remember to get her to say, 'Je ne comprend pas' in a few years time! We had done 681 km today, max speed 177.5kph, 3498km odo on GPS.
030604 Thursday - Breakfast and off, headed for Calais. A good run and easy boarding on a ferry. Arrived home to the children at around 5.00pm. All was well and everybody happy. Pleased to be home after our epic week. 443km today (251km to Calais with a spooky exact reading of 20,000 miles as we got on the ferry), 3940km odo on GPS, 20114 miles odo on bike. We caught up with all the news, only to be followed by tragedy. On checking our email, discovered that Rob Densum had been killed in Bilbao on his way home, travelling alone. The whole Varadero membership is devastated by the news, rather than the exhilaration that we should all be feeling following the success of the VIM. RIP Rob. We will miss you.
On 26th June 2004, Theresa and I attended Rob's memorial in Camden Town, London, organised by his partner Christine Pennington.
We were joined by several other Varadero friends, namely John and Virgil - all the way from Portugal, Barry Tinson, Max, Phil (Arse) and Catherine, Rob and Trish.
The end of a sad chapter in VIM's history!
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