Karles from Fuel Motorcycles called again in early 2020. Under the motto "El Gringo – A Ride to Desert, a Doorway to Hell". Three days offroad in Tabernas, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain. Around 2,200 km from here, one way. Sounds good, of course we are there...
Why El Gringo and the Tabernas Desert? Here, in what is officially the only desert in Europe between the Sierra de Los Filabres in the north and the Sierra de Alhamilla in the south-east of Spain, almost all spaghetti westerns were filmed in the 1970s. Classics like "Play me the song of death", but also the whole Bud Spencer and Terence Hill Western were filmed around Tabernas, actors like Clint Eastwood started their careers here with filming. Bulli Herbig produced "Der Schuh des Manitou" and even Joaquin Phoenix was an actor in the film "The Sisters Brothers" a few months ago.
And now we. 32 crazy people from Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, Portugal, Belgium, Germany and Great Britain played cowboys on their scramblers, trackers and sidecar teams.
But first our Ural from the 70s had to come to southern Spain. And that was best done on a trailer. Our Chevy Van G20 in front, another Yamaha XT 500 in the back and off we went. At the Swiss border, the border guard only said dryly: "You could have chartered a plane for the fuel, right?". Well, a small plane maybe indeed.
28 hours later we arrived at Fort Bravo. One of four western film sets left. At the height of the spaghetti westerns, there were over 30 such backdrop cities. So unload, put on our ponchos and first into the saloon.
The next morning it started. After the first 100 kilometers we had tons of dust on our clothes and in the sidecar. With great difficulty we climbed the mountains of the Sierra Nevada up to 1,800 meters. The impressive landscape changed completely. Trees have been replaced by shrubs, sand and rubble by snow and mud. Unfortunately, the XT had a total failure of the gearbox early on. Too bad, it would have been the perfect bike for these 500 km.
Set up the tent in the evening, change the poncho, put on the grill, sit around the campfire and drink whiskey like real cowboys do. Except that the tough guys were so tired from the exertions and falls that many of the lights went out at 10pm. And the next day we had to make another good route.
Our Ural couldn't keep up with the scramblers when driving uphill, we only had clear advantages in winding terrain and in the snow, mainly due to our switchable sidecar drive. It went faster and faster through the scree and the woods. But of course, what comes after the high spirits? Yes, a tree. Thank god only body damage and the old lady was still driving. However, we put too much strain on the gearbox and so we made it back to the fort with difficulty in 3rd gear and in the end with a flat tire. Over on the trailer and back into the saloon. The next morning we started our journey home. 2,200 km, 8 refueling stops but otherwise driven non-stop.
Was it worth it? And how! When Karles from Fuel calls out "El Gringo" again, we're right up there. Viva El Gringo!
(c) Photos by Bad and Bold, JJ, Stuart Hamilton, Ricky Phoolka, Mario Herraiz João "Saudade1979" and Gus Galvani.