Varadero International Meeting
held 31st May to 3rd June 2007
Ballycastle, Northern Ireland
Jess and Theresa's Pictures and Comment
We share our experiences with you.
30th May 2007 - Wednesday. Our VIM9 started early for us with the arrival of Mr Trey Hall from the US of A. We had been in internet contact with him for some time and he had purchesed a Varadero in England, in advance of his trip to England, with a view to shipping it back home. As planned, Trey arrived at our house in the evening and we took him off to the Shoulder of Mutton pub in Fordham for a meal and to meet up with Barry and Brenda Tinson. Barry is a VIM veteran; much respected by us all as 'Father of VIM'. Due to ill health, Barry could not make it to VIM this year and so it was good to meet up with him before we went off ourselves.
31st May 2007 - Thursday. We set off from home in Fordham near Colchester at 10.00am, taking the A120, then the M11 north, then A1 via Peterborough, Doncaster, Scotch Corner. Then a brief stop and onto the A66 to Barnard Castle, B6278 to Eggleston, Stanhope, A669 to Alston, Slaggyford, Milton, A6071 to Brampton, Longtown, Carlisle and ending up at Todhills. We stayed at a Travelodge that didn't have a restaurant, nor was it near any form of civilisation as we know it. We settled for the Little Chef next door which, as we soon discovered, had a low stock of beer. After a very mediocre meal and the last of the Budweiser beer that they had, we went back to our rooms to watch some television and to get some sleep. The weather had been excellent, the riding good.
1st June 2007 - We set off on our second day and visited Gretna Green, which was swarming with tourists - mainly oriental types, each with cameras. Gretna Green is famous as a place where young lovers used to run away to to get married. It is the nearest place to London, just over the border into Scotland, where marriages could be performed legally at 16 without the parent's consent. Blacksmiths used to conduct the marriage ceremony over their anvils. The law was changed over a 100 years ago but the romance of the place has been maintained for the sake of tourism. Having seen enough, we headed west on the A74/A75 for Dumfries, then the A76 for Holywood and B729 to Kirkland Moniaive. The countryside was lovely and we decided to take a small track (a byway) across the Southern Upland Way. It was a beautiful scenic detour and we stopped for a while to take some photographs of the landscape and the sheep. Back onto the B729 to Knowehead, the A713 to Carsphairn, turning off at Patna to Kirkmichael to Maybole. We took the A77 to Stranraer and it was a good road all the way. The weather excellent and we met up with many other VIM attendees gathering for the boat crossing at Stranraer. It was a good crossing to Larne. We lost Trey in Belfast and made the last stage of the journey, via Ballymena (Mr Paisley country), on our own to Ballycastle. We enjoyed the greeting that we always seem to get when we arrive at a VIM. The usual suspects were already there, Short Alex, Two Plugs, Nugget, Karinda - and, of course, the organisers Mickey, John, Paul, Dessie, etc. We had got to know those guys well from Portugal. Trey turned up a short while later with that big smile of his. A beer and something to eat and it was like being back in the fold again with the people that we have come to love as kindred spirits. That is the way that a VIM is for us! We then left to find our digs at the nearby Marine Hotel on the waterfront. Very comfortable! We walked back to the VIM site to enjoy a beer or three with our friends.
2nd June 2007 - Saturday. The weather had turned for the worse with drizzling rain to greet our day. We had a good breakfast and got our gear on and went to the VIM base camp. We joined Dessie's group of 12 bikes for the day's tour, mainly Brits and Poles. We rode to the famous NW200 race circuit which is on public roads and then on to the Giants Causeway. The sight of what seemed like hundreds of Varaderos in the car park was impressive. We walked down to the causeway with all the others and achieved a life ambition to visit the place. The story behind the formation of the stones made us all laugh when we heard it told in the interpretation centre afterwards. We then rode on to Ferry Point at Magilligan for lunch and to try and get warm and dry again! An excellent lunch had been laid on for us and there was room enough for us all. The ferry wasn't working due to the bad weather so we rode to the city of Londonderry, parking our bikes in front of the city hall. We took a tour of the tower with Trey Hall and learned some of the history of the city and its importance in the troubled times that Ireland has experienced. It was very windy day and the ride back to base was made on major roads rather than the planned scenic route. The weather improved later and we were able to sit outside to eat our meal and to have a few drinks. We were quite damp and so we decided on an early return to our hotel, hoping for a better day's weather tomorrow.
3rd June 2007 - Sunday. Wet! Wet! Wet! All dressed up we joined the mass ride to Belfast in the heavy rain, along the coast road and stopping to have a look around Carrickfergus Castle - in the rain! Then we rode on to Belfast, parking our bikes in the semicurcular roadway in front of City Hall, all organised by the VIM team. There were even marquees there that we were able to shelter from the rain underneath. We took a walk around the city with Trey and settled for a cup of coffee and a roll. The weather was so bad that the organisers decided to call a halt to our Belkfast visit and to head back to camp, rather than take the planned stop at Stormont Castle. We both got in the bath when we got back, to warm ourselves. We then walked to the VIM site at Silvercliffs and proceeded to enjoy a thoroughly good evening with all our fellow Varaderoists in the bar. There were various presentations made for longest this, shortest that, the Hungarians told us about VIM10 in Hungary and the Turkish folk asked to hold VIM11 in Turkey. Patrick Bradley sang for us and there was quite a bit of Irish dancing and general tomfoolery. We were back in bed by 1.00am.
4th June 2007 - Monday. We had our breakfast and then checked out. We set off for the ferry taking small roads and riding the coast road again, the weather a lot better today. We met up with others at the ferry and I spotted a number plate that I recognised from VIM in Portugal. It was Owen Arnold and he was reluctant to talk to me as I had apparently been rude to him at Ballycastle. I simply didn't recognise him and I was mortified by this. Sorry Owen! We hope to see you again at a future VIM if that wife of yours lets you go. The ferry left for Stranraer at 12.30pm and the weather just got better and better. We rode back in one hit, only brief stopes for fuel, home by around 8.00pm. All was well with the children and the dogs. A great VIM for us. Thanks guys!
HERE'S SOME OF OUR PHOTOGRAPHS
Trey Hall by a burn, somewhere in Scotland.
A visit to Gretna Green.
A rest stop. Note the lovely weather!
The Fast Cat arriving at Stranraer.
Some of our fellow travellers waiting to board the ship at Stranraer.
The Giant's Causeway Car Park
The Giant's Causeway and Theresa
The rock formations are incredible.
Londonderry City Hall
Belfast City Hall
Base Camp, Ballcastle, with Mickey at the back.
The longest travellers, all the way from Venezuela.
Mickey, Loudpedal, Dessie, etc. some of the organisers.
Listening with intent!
Trey Hall from the US A, Barbara Timmermann and Wolfgang Cerha from Austria, John and Judith Price from Cornwall, Theresa Jephcott from Essex and others.
The Hungarians make their presentation for VIM10
A VIM10 banner is signed for approval.
Gina McLauchlan enjoys a Guinness
Bogdan (VIM7 organiser) takes a flute with Patrick Bradley on guitar.
Alexander Hochkugler (Short Alex) tries some Irish dancing
Jess Jephcott and Trey Hall
VIM9 ended for us a few days later, back at our home, as Barry Tinson had not been able to make it this time. So we had our own mini-VIM for him Barry at far end on the left at the Shoulderr of Mutton pub in Fordham, Essex, England with (anticlockwise from Barry) Bernard, Theresa, Harry Jephcott, Jess Jephcott, Brenda Tinson, Lidy Landlust, Karinda and Mense Landlust. Some of us had the speciality of the house, steak and kidney pie.
Karinda and Bernard and Mense and Lidy and Molly the dog at our house, before they set off for home.
Thank you Mickey, Loudpedal, Dessie and friends. We hope to see you all again some day.
Our VIM Comment.
This was our 6th VIM. Each one has been enjoyable for so many reasons.
1. Luxembourg was good because of the countryside, the castles, the roads - but bad because of the rain and the horrible damp accommodation. We were in a caravan and the bike fell over in the wet ground and our windscreen shattered.
2. Vienna was good because of the beautiful ride to get there and the impressive riding that we were shown. The guided tour of Vienna was superb. We didn't enjoy this VIM so much because we were separated from the main group due to our accommodation. We don't do tents or dormitories!
3. Germany was good because of the biker motel at Holtgast. The food was excellent (those schnitzels!) and the organisation was superb. It was bad because we were separated again by our accommodation, but Bernard and Karinda made up for it with their taxi-service. It is not Germany's fault either that there are no mountains or scenic routes in that area, making the riding a little dull.
4. Portugal was exceptional because of its location in the mountains and the beauty of the country. The riding was superb and the organisers were a great team who really knew how to guide us on the various routes. It was bad for us because our accommodation was so far away from the base camp and because we ate at restaurants away from the site, thus preventing us from enjoying the beer properly. The sun shone and we were bowled over by the beauty of the country. Despite the limitations of the base camp, this was the best VIM for us because of the sun and the excellent food and the beautiful hotel that we stayed in - and of course, the riding.
5. Poland will never be forgotten by us because we took our children with us. The base camp that was chosen was superb, the best location that we have ever experienced at a VIM. Our accommodation was comfortable and everybody was able to be together. The organisation was excellent, the food was brilliant (best breakfasts ever), the entertainment was great, the barmaids in the bar were beautiful, the area chosen was lovely to explore. But it was wet! It was the wrong time to visit Poland for us.
6. Northern Ireland was unique. We expected rain and we got rain. In fairness, we had a superb ride to the site and the first evening was sunny and warm. We felt really sorry for the organisers as they had everything planned perfectly. What they could not plan was the weather. We had a lovely time meeting our fellow Varadero friends and the sightseeing was excellent, especially the trips to Londonderry and to Carrickfergus Castle.
Northern Ireland was a cheat for us as we enjoy travelling to countries that do not have English as their first language. This was far too easy for us. Sadly, Sicily (VIM8) was too far for us to travel in the week that we had. We could not go to VIM6 in Greece for the same reason. We look forward to VIM10 in Hungary in 2008 as it will offer some beautiful riding country. We would like to see a VIM in France some day, one in northern Italy, in the Austrian Tyrol and other warmer parts of Europe. What matters is that we all meet as friends in this thing that has been created for us, and continued by, some very good people.
last updated 070108