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Spain Trip Report (very long)


Throttlemeister

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Throttlemeister

This is a report on a trip a friend and I just made in Spain. It is a long report and I may multiple posts, so please don't reply untill I am done.

 

After travelling for a day and spending the night in the middle of France, it was time to move on so I could be in Barcelona on time to meet John, my travel companion. But before I could get there, a few more miles had to be covered. And you cannot travel the south of France without visiting the Millau bridge. One of the tallest bridges in the world, spanning the full distance between two mountain tops.

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It is quite a marvel of engineering

 

After spending another night in some cheap roadside motel, the morning took me to the Pyrinees to get to the Spanish border. Just before the border, there was a sign to a sideroad for a fortress and since I was ahead of schedule I decided to have a peak.

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It was closed, but quite impressive nonetheless. The gate says "Porte Du France", which means as much as "Gate to France"

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The view from the site was even more impressive, and offered a nice glimpse of the snowy caps on the highest peaks of the Pyrinees. Something we would not see again untill the end of the trip.

 

Having made it Barcelona I made a wrong turn and ended up crossing through the entire city to get to my hotel. Not fun. But the hotel was nice, located in a small suburb of Barcelona called Villamar.

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Rooms were pretty good and the food excellent. I already came to figure out there are very few Spanish speaking English. THis was going to be a challange!

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Throttlemeister

Churches are everywere in Spain as we were to find out, and our hostel had one right next door.

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After an uneventful day relaxing and allowing John to get rid of his LA jetlag, we set off on our trip. At some point in the middle of nowhere, we saw this sign that had us puzzling for a bit untill we realized what it was about. We pulled over and had a look.

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We were crossing the Greenwich Meridian. We had not realized the GMT line crosses through Spain, but it obviously does.

 

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There are numerous little bitty town in Spain and on our route and the all look very nice and very different from other places I have visited in Europe.

 

But little bitty towns are not all there is to find. The roads are excellent and plenty twisties to be found.

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And once you reach the high plains, there are endless vistas to gaze over.

 

But we couldn't stop for too long and it was getting late, so we had to find a hotel. We found one in Teruel, which happened to be a very nice city. We were in the middle of the old center.

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As in a lot of places in Spain, you will see lots of Morish influences. Like on this city gate.

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Or on the city walls.

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But we had a long day behind us, hadn't eaten yet and we are thirsty. Time for beer, and where to better find one than on one of the city squares?

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Just before turning in, I had to stop and take this of the boulevard in front of our hotel.

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Throttlemeister

After a good nights sleep, we pressed on and nearing the end of the day we hit the Sierra de Segura. A really beautiful National Park with awesome views and even better roads.

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Yeah, it really sucked to be us at that point.

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Coming down a mountain we came across a sign saying Hotel 3km -> that way. Well, we did 6km and never saw anything. Hmmmz. Ok, we went a little further and there it was. Hotel Baños. Nobody speaking English. Us being the only guests. But great people. We got the park our bikes in the garage of the owner, an old man who we didn't understand and who didn't understand us, but found it wonderful we wanted to stay in his place. How much better can it get?

 

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Oh, and the S was begging for a glamour shot now that the light was right and it was still somewhat clean. smile.gif

 

Next day its on the road again...

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And boy did it suck!

 

This park is really nice. Roads like they are made for bikers and hardly anyone there. Apparently in high summer it is very crowded with people excaping the hot cities in the lower regions and relax in the cooler altitudes. But in May, there is barely anyone there and the temps are just about perfect to ride a bike in full gear. But, do not [censored] up a turn. If you do, you are either going to die, you are dying or you are dead as there are only 2 options: off the cliff or splatter in the wall. No guardrails here.

 

Out of the park and into the open heading south we came across one of many resevoir lakes.

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Spain uses a lot of hydro powerplants, and you will see all sorts of them all over the place.

 

Heading further south, we get our first glimpse of the Sierra Nevada.

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No roads going over them unfortunately, but the Sierra Nevada would be our companion on the left side for most of the day. Very nice view indeed.

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Throttlemeister

We keep pressing on, as we need to get the Granada to visit the Alhambra. We got there around 2pm. The place is beautiful.

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Unfortunately we could not get into the palace, which is the most of beautiful thing on the site as we had a slot for 7pm. They only allow so many people in at the same time, so they create slots. Ours was so late we couldn't stay. We still had to get out of the city and find a hotel for the night. Next time.

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But there was still plenty to see outside.

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Someone had waaaay too much time with a cizel and a rock.

 

We found our hotel in Alhama de Granada (no spelling error), a nice little town build along a deep gorge.

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Unfortunately, depth is always a bit hard in pictures.

 

The next day it was time to get on the road again and head towards Ronda. Ronda is in the heart of Andalusia, and the roads around it are motorcycle heaven. It lays in the Sierra de Las Nieves and particularly the road coming from the north into Ronda is used by the local bikerboys for curve practise. It is a 30km track of grippy surface with all sorts of turns. There was 1 guy on a black VFR we saw 3 or 4 times.

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Ronda itself is also pretty nice and we stopped there for lunch.

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Our final destination for the day was to be The Rock. No, not Alcatraz, the other Rock.

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Gibraltar.

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Gibraltar is actually pretty nice, and very English. It was a delight to actually be able to talk to people for a change, without having to use arms and legs. smile.gif

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Throttlemeister

Of course dinner proved to be a problem. In Spain you cannot get any dinner anywhere before 9pm. In Gibralter we found, you cannot get any dinner after 9pm. Well shit. But fortunately the oldest pub in Gibraltar was still open and serving, so we had an good English beer together with Fish 'n Chips. How much more traditional can you get?

 

In the morning we drove around to the southern tip to see if we could get some shots before heading back to the route. This was a bit unplanned, but we were glad we did.

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There are some nice fortifications on there we had not seen before. When you get down to the tip, the first thing you notice is this huge Morish mosk.

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It is outside the walls and all white, very impressive to see indeed. Turning around, you notice the old lighthouse.

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But then your eyes get drawn to something really special. The realization that you cannot go further south on the European continent really sicks in when you glance over the water and see the coast of Africa in the distance.

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You'll have to have been there to understand the feeling.

 

We're off again, heading west along the coast for a splash and dash into Cadiz. It's a very commercial beach town, but it has a nice wall around the old city.

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One thing you will notice in Spain is that motorcycles are completely accepted and often the best parking spots are for bikes.

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But we have to press on, we have to be in Avila in 2 days to have a well deserved one day pause. We pass Jerez and Sevilla but aren't stopping as we are pressed for time. At the end of the day and in the middle of the Extremadura, we have to make a decision. We are running out of gas and we need a place to stay. We haven't seen either for hours.

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There is an awful lot of nothingness out here. We decide to deviate from the route and head to Merida. It is about 50km away and the largest city in the area within a distance we can make with the gas left in the tank and it will have both.

 

Merida turns out to be a gem. It was build by the Romans and it is all around you. They have an amfitheater.

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Roman baths

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These things had cold and hot running water.

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Of course the bull fighting arena has to be in every self respecting Spanish city.

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Defensive walls.

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Nice little squares.

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And the longest Roman bridge ever built outside of Italy, and it is still in use.

 

But we have to go again. There is so much to see. Like I said, it is like one giant open air museum.

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Every little town has something interesting.

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Be it just nice looking buildings, or old churches.

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Or old midevil castles.

 

Getting close to Avila, our stop for two nights we stop on a pass. The road is nice and winding and we really enjoy it, for the most part if we aren't stuck behind some semi.

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Next to our road, there's another road which is more interesting.

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Not to ride on, but it is the old Roman build pass towards the valley in which Avila is located. It is currently being restored and the only one of its kind I have seen. It is pretty amazing to stand on a road 2000 years old.

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Throttlemeister

We continue to Avila, our home for the next two days. The walls of the city show up in the distance and it is a very impressive site indeed.

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Avila is home of Santa Teresa and of the real highlights of the trip. After dinner we make a small tour around the city, and as every historic site is lit it is a very nice walk indeed.

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The cathedral next to our hotel. It is the very first Gothic cathedral in Europe, with pointed arches and very high ceilings.

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The outside walls.

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A church outside the walls. Everything is lit. Thank God I don't have to pay the electricity bill. smile.gif As it turns out, opposite of every gate there is a church. Travellers coming in late find the city gates closed already could turn to these churches and get protection and a place to sleep there untill morning. We don't have to worry about that. We sleep safe and sound inside the city walls.

 

In the morning it was time to go out exploring. No time pressure as this was our rest day, so out with the shorts and stroll about.

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The walls are as impressive by day as they are by night. At 12m high and 3m thick, they are not easily overrun. They were built by the Romans, improved by the Moors and modified by the Christians. The 3 major influences in Spain can be seen all over the place.

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The main gate is just simply awe inspriring. You'd think twice before attacking this.

 

Avila being the city of Santa Teresa de Jesus is something you will see references of all over the city. Like a very nice statue just outside the city walls.

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Or in the monestry she lived, worked and died. She came to Avila at age 14 determined to have herself killed by the Moors and become a marter, only to find out the Moors had already left. Bummer. I am not a Catholic, so I don't know what she did to become a Saint but the sites are sure impressive.

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Inside the chapel of the monestary.

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The shrine. You will have to remember, in European Catholic churches, if it looks like gold, it is gold. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the cathedral, but it was simply awesome.

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Throttlemeister

Back on the bikes again the next day, we head to the city of Salamanca.

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A university city with lots of history. Here we are allowed to take pictures in the cathedral, which we gladly complied to.

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Quite impressive from the outside.

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More so on the inside..

 

From there on, we head into Portugal for a short bit just so we can say we were there and up to Orense to stay the night.

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The style of old churches in Portugal is very different from Spain.

 

Nice curvey roads and basically just making time, cause we want to have some to spare once we hit Santiago de Compostella the next day. Santiago is the alleged burial site of the Apostal John and up to this day, it's a Christian pilgrimage. People from all over the world walk there to finish in the cathedral of Santiago.

 

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Plaza in front of the cathedral.

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Face of the cathedral against the sky. Very impressive.

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Main entrance of the cathedral.

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Throttlemeister

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Every day between noon and 1pm, a mass is held for the pilgrims that finished the journey. I didn't get much of it, as it was all Spanish but it was impressive. But the cathedral itself is even more.

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The grave of John.

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Again, all that looks gold, is gold.

 

From Santiago, it is north towards the coast for a glimpse of the Atlantic ocean.

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And then east towards the Picos de Europa. This is motorcycle heaven. Mountains, gorgious scenery, curves by the millions, grippy asphalt. What else does one need? Well, maybe good weather. The clouds were hanging so low a lot of the time we didn't see squat and things got very wet. It does produce some nice shots once in a while, but we want to ride!

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But it seemed to get better the closer we got to the Picos. The roads got even better too, so we were in hog heaven.

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Beautiful scenery.

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Great roads.

 

We stayed the night in the Picos in a little bitty town call Potes. Friendly touristy place at a great location for some wonderful trips into the Picos.

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The next day got darker and darker.

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We ended up on very nice but very technical roads, in fog and pissing rain. Since we had a schedule to keep, we opted to abort the route and get on the highway to our next destination instead of being held up by weather and not being able to make it. It sucks, but such is life. We stayed in San Sebastian, a nice city, but I didn't like it. Dirty, too many druggies, too much big city problems.

 

Weather was supposed to clear up the next day, which is good as we are about to hit the Pyrinees!

 

The day started grim.

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But as time progressed, it seemed we were heading towards to the right direction.

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Still cloudy skies as we passed into France.

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But by the time we got back into Spain, the skies clear and temperatures rapidly soared. It was actually nice to be sweaty again after a few days of cold and wet!

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Throttlemeister

The Pyrinees are cool. Very nice roads and beautiful scenery. But all over, you will find signs of the Spanish Civil war. Franco apparently didn't like the mountain people that much.

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There used to be a road and a bridge here.

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And this used to be a town.

 

We ended the day in Bielsa, high up in the mountains. This town too was completely destroyed by Franco in the 30's, but is now rebuild and restored.

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The road out of Bielsa is absolutely stunning. Deep gorges, fast flowing river, lots of twisties.

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Just before Andorra, weather started playing tricks on us. Clouds were packing, rain falling. Big drops. With no place to stop, we pressed on until we got to a small town. We got out rain gear on and moved on. Not two minutes later, we ride up the mountain and around one bend, and the road is dry and the sun is shining. We quickly start to cook in all the plastic, so we stop and pull everything off again. We never saw the rain again. I guess it was natures way of saying we were lucky with the weather, but she had the final say.

 

After a fun run up and down a pass, we hit Andorra where we were to stay our last night together.

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The day after, John would go back to Barcelona to catch his flight back to LA, where I was going north to ride back home.

 

But not before we conquered one of the higher passes getting out of Andorra.

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Then it was time to say our g'bye's and head our seperate ways. A few hours later, I took a last glance back over my shoulder south to see the last glimpse of the Pyrinees.

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Then forward, to the highway north and get home.

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It was an incredible adventure shared between two friends. A sniff and a taste, a primer of Spain, never more but the list of places to go to has grown so much. You can easily pick any area we have been and spend as much time as we did for the entire trip and not be bored or see the same thing twice. Spain is an incredible country and very much worth a visit.

 

This was just a small selection of pictures; if you want to see more please visit my gallery. There are more than 900 pictures there from this trip. You can find it here: http://gallery.sport-touring.eu/list.php?exhibition=26

 

---The End!---

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I never knew Spain had so much to offer. And the country is smaller than Alberta!

 

How much was accomidation, you said motels and cheaper hotels, that's my kind of place to stay.

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Throttlemeister

Spain is pretty cheap. You can have a hotel for ~€20/night for a double, and you can have dinner for <€10. Of course, you can always make it more expensive. We've also had a room for €120 and had dinner for €80. Big cities tend to be more expensive, small towns tend to be very cheap. We stayed away from the big cities if we could for hotels, so we ended up paying a total of about €600 for hotel/food/drinks per person, and €500 of gas per person for the two weeks we toured Spain. (gas is about €1.10/l, which is cheap to EU standards) €1100 total for a two week vacation (a little more for me, as I needed another week to get to and from Spain) is not very expensive I think.

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BitScribbler

Fantastic tale TM!

 

We're heading down from Santander to Granada in 3 weeks time. Having seen your pictures I'm getting really impatient now.

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Throttlemeister
Fantastic tale TM!

 

We're heading down from Santander to Granada in 3 weeks time. Having seen your pictures I'm getting really impatient now.

Don't miss out on the Sierra de Segura, it is a bikers paradise and should still be very quiet when you get there.

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Well done - thanks for sharing. I was in Spain 2 months ago, but had to ride in the rain a bit more than expected. Great country.

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Throttlemeister

Yeah, I seem to have lucked out. They had a very wet spring, and in fact it was raining there when I left home. By the time I got there, it was dry and sunny and it stayed like that with the exception of one day. The week after I got back, they were soaking again. smile.gif

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Lovely pictures - recognised some places from my ride there 2 years ago.

I had 1 day of torrential rain (May) otherwise a really good trip too.

Good to see it again - it is a beautiful country ! wink.gif

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j4bberw0ck

Recognised several scenes from my time in Spain last year. Great pictures..... And nice to see a Deauville, too - had one before my 1150RT. Great middleweight bike - mine took me all over.

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Gary in Aus

Great photos ,many memories brought back seeing them.

 

The view across the straights at Gibraltar bring back memories and link in a tenuous way to favourite smells.

 

When my wife and I were at Gibraltar the view across was very hazy and full of dust because of wind storms.

 

You could make out the land mass but the haze affected clarity .

 

What made an enormous impact was the smell, this might sound strange but you could actually smell Africa !!!

 

Really hard to describe but once you smell it you will know what I am talking about, a dusty/musty/earthy type smell. That type of smell to this day reminds me of Africa.

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