3 Weeks Solo through the Balkans

Discussion in 'EMEA' started by VanDT, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    Hey guys, I am a 24 year old student who is about to start his biggest adventure so far.
    Wow, that sound a bit too dramatic, so let´s put it into perspective.

    This is a dream of mine since i saw the first season of @Pyndon ´s Races to Places in 2014.

    I got lucky and got my hands on an an old BMW F 650 in early 2015.
    She only had 12tsd KM on the clock, but standing in the back of some shed for around 10 years took it´s toll. So i spent the better half of 2015 and early 2016 with fixing her whenever I came back to my hometown. After getting a bike, I had to get a licence.
    So I worked the summer of 2016 to raise money and finally was able to take the test in the fall.
    Now i had a bike and was kind of able to ride it. But i didn´t have any time. My final year of university had started, and taking a month off was simply no possible - I had some more waiting to do.

    But now, finally it is about to happen, my own personal places-project is getting real, a dream of almost 4 years is becoming reality. It´s not quite the Road of Bones to Magadan, but i am still excited nevertheless! My final university exams start in around two weeks, right after I will go on a three to four weeks trip trough the balkans. Maybe a little further, maybe a little longer.

    Now two weeks before the probably hardest and most important 10 days of my life time is still scarce, but a little bit of distraction is also desperately needed.
    Thats one reason why I am writing this post, the other one is, I am sure the adv-family will have some invaluable ideas, tipps and tricks for a youngtimer like me.

    I will be riding solo on my 20 Year old BMW F 650 for the most part. I am trying to get a good mix of camping and sleeping in hostels and hotels. So i can stretch my money as far as possible, but also don´t have to relinquish all comfort and luxury every day.

    So while I have the preliminary route already mapped out (heavily inspired by @Darel ´s Heart of Europe Trips, thanks!) I am still very much open for changes and suggestions.

    Especially regarding tent spaces, cheap accommodations, and beautiful spots.

    [​IMG]

    In terms of gear is have:

    Luggage:
    • Selfmade Waterproof-Ammobox-Panniers (lockable)
    • 3 Dry Bags
    • One Daypack
    Camping:
    • Lightweight 2 Person Trekking-Tent (1.6 KG)
    • McKinley self inflatable sleeping pad (800 gr)
    • Down Sleeping Bag (probably too warm, but that shouldn´t be a big issue) (1.2 KG)
    • Gasstove
    • Aluminium Pot + Pan + Cup
    • Petzl Flashlight (Head-Mountable)
    • Tarp ? (not sure if i need one, tbh.)
    • Some Paracord
    Clothes and Stuff:
    • 3 T-Shirts
    • 3 1 Longsleeve shirts
    • 1 Polo-Shirt
    • Boxershorts
    • Socks
    • Swimshorts
    • Trailrunnning shoes
    • down-jacket (super light, super small, super warm)
    • Ridingboots
    • touring suite
    • Riding hoodie
    • Riding jeans
    • Sunglasses
    • 2 Microfiber fast drying towels (big and small)
    • Contacts/Toothbrush/Razor/etc.
    • Sunscreen
    • Wetwipes
    • Toiletpaper
    • Lighter
    • Chapstick
    Bike:
    • Tools
    • compressor+"tire slime"
    • Spare parts (wires, fuses, shrink tubes, grease, electronics, oil, tubes ? (not really necessary, are they? standard tubes should be widely available?) , cable ties, tapes)
    • med-kit
    Documents:
    • Drivers license
    • International drivers license
    • Insurance documents for the bike
    • Health and travle insurance
    • Credit cards
    • ID card
    • Passport
    • Copys of all the above

    Misc:
    • Notepad/dayplanner
    • Lamy2000 w` iroshizuku kon peki (pen + ink)
    • Action cam
    • Cam stuff
    • Cables + Chargers + Batteries
    • One or Two Books
    • Bottle of Rum or Whiskey
    • Divingknive + Divingglasses
    • Resistance bands for full body workout

    So, since this is the first time going on anything longer than a daytrip, i am not really sure if i got everything i need or if i am way overpacking.
    Please feel free to rip my list into shreds and tell me my rookie mistakes.

    Also any input towards my route is highly appreciated, as well as any toughts on my endeavour in general.

    If you happen to be somewhere in the area during september and early october, and want to meet up for a few beers or some food, just let me know!

    Greetings from Germany,
    Van


    PS.: Apologies for my gibberish, obviously english isn´t my first language, and it´s getting pretty late here.
    #1
  2. Mark Manley

    Mark Manley Long timer

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    It is a great trip you have planned, I have been that way a couple of times and there is a lot to see. Your packing list sounds about right to me, I would suggest packing the bike and going away for a night or two locally to see how it all fits and how the bike handles, you will find your packing will sort itself out over the first few days. It is also a good time to be there as most of the tourists will of left but places will still be open.
    I would recommend using Michelin maps which have scenic routes marked in green and follow these wherever possible. There is plenty of camping and accommodation along the way, if you get there I can recommend Saranda backpackers in Albania.
    If your German insurance does not cover you local cover is available at all borders but it will be cheaper if you can extend your own cover.
    Don't worry about the quality of your English, it is better than most people speak a second language and will serve you well on this trip.
    #2
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  3. robxxx

    robxxx Adventurer

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    Looks like a great trip. Enjoy.
    I can't tell which way round your doing the route, and i'm sure you may already be aware, but which way are you entering, exiting Kosovo/Serbia. Remember you wont be able to exit Kosovo to Serbia if you entered via a third country. I'm als not sure about some of those northern Kosovo border crossings, there were problems last year with protests/violence. So were pretty much closed. Situation may have improved now though.
    My 2 pence worth, don't bother with Mostar. Too much of a tourist trap for my liking. If you want to see the bridge, budget a couple of hours tops and go see. We were there mid/late September and it was still a bit of a crush. Could not wait to get out.
    #3
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  4. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    I know how the bike handles fully loaded, since i´ve used it to commute between my home town and university a few times. Not with the same gear, but pretty much with the same luggage fully packed. So i guess i will be alright.

    Thanks for the Saranda tip, the hostel looks great! Will definitely check it out, if i will get that far down south.
    #4
  5. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    I will start inland going south and ride back on the coast. my reasoning behind this is that it will probably stay warm longer at the coast, doing the mountains of serbia, Montenegro and kosovo in the first two weeks should make for a little bit of better weather.

    I am all read up on the border situation and took it into account.

    Thanks for the heads up regarding mostar. I honestly didn´t expect it to be that bad - especially in late september - but now that i know i will probably just skip it... depending on my mood that day. I am not a touristy person in general, and seeing the bridge isn´t that important to me.

    My insurance covers pretty much everything but montenegro i think, but getting it at the border shoud not be a problem.
    #5
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  6. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Perhaps, but this is YOUR adventure - and is worth more to you than someone else's ride somewhere else.

    I've been riding since somewhere around 1961 (details are hazy at this distance), and I still get excited when setting off on a long ride.

    Your English is excellent. And orders of magnitude better than my German.

    Oh yeah - good luck on your exams. :D
    #6
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  7. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    All the best for the great tour, I'm full of envy. Regarding tour tips, have a look here, where I collect my Balkan experiences:
    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/exploring-the-balkans-and-a-bit-of-turkey.926839/

    Regarding luggage: I never had much use for a tarp in the Balkans. What do you do with 6 shirts? Boxershorts / swim shorts are redundant.

    A 21" tube can be used both in the front and back. If you know how to change tires, you should bring one and 2 tire irons. If not, watch some youtube videos ... Watch for nails on wodden bridges.

    If you're German, an international driver's license is unnecessary. Make sure the green card lists all Balkan countries (You get Kosovo insurance directly at the border). Scan your documents and upload them somewhere, so you can download them if needed.

    I'm looking forward to your journal / ride report!

    Pip
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  8. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    thx for the kind words!
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  9. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    Yeah, i´ll probably leave the tarp, thx! Since i got the time i am planning on staying on nice spots for a day or two.. and for a day on the beach (or even just in town) swim shorts beat boxers every time. But 6 shirts really do seem kind of excessive, will probably take less.


    Since i am bringing the electric airpump and "tire slime" aka tube sealant, i was thinking i could get around taking tire irons and tubes with me, because i could just drive to the nearest shop and have them do it. i am just not sure wether i can expect every shop to have tubes. especially car places probably won´t have 21" tubes.

    You are right, i won´t need an international license, for the most part. according to our "state department" i will need it for Albania... and since it´s only 14€ i got one a few weeks ago.

    Scanning the documents in addition to copys is a great idea, wouldn´t have thought of that! Thank you!

    i don´t know if i will write a full-fledged ride report, tho. But i will definitely share my journey on instagram and let pictures speak.

    Edit: just clicked on the Balkan RR in your signature... big mistake. now i want to start right away :hmmmmm:D
    #9
  10. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    It doesn't matter since you already have the license ... but where did you find that? The Auswaertiges Amt only recommends updating to the EU-license for Albania if your driver's license is pre-1998.
    Well, I need to finish the last section before I forget the details. Maybe I find some time today.
    :mully
    #10
  11. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    Slime and compressor are probably a good strategy. The problem with 21" tubes is that most local bikes have smaller wheels. Don't expose the slime to heat (from sun or the exhaust) if it's compressed. In one case, the can went through a car's floor ...
    #11
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  12. motoreiter

    motoreiter Long timer

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    Hey man I might be in the area then, look out for the guy on the fully-loaded GSA :-0
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  13. pip_muenster

    pip_muenster curious

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    Off topic: What happened to the XC, did it ever get TueV approval?
    #13
  14. motoreiter

    motoreiter Long timer

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    Actually, eventually both my GS and XC got TUV approval:
    1) For the GS, the BMW dealer said that it would be impossible; I found a guy, who knew a guy, who gave me the documents I needed right away...
    2) For the XC, I think I mentioned that the BMW dealer told me that most of the parts I'd installed (including a bash plate, clutch levers (which I hadn't even changed), etc) would have to be changed, for $$$$. I told them that was crazy...and they came back and agreed. But there were major paperwork hassles--it took them 9 months (!?!) to get it sorted, but eventually I was able to get German plates after fixing a bad head bearing, replacing the tires, and paying customs...
    #14
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  15. Rudl

    Rudl Panthera tigris alpina

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    Great travel plan and something to look forward after your exams, so wish you all the best for both!

    Regarding luggage, I think you got it pretty spot on and the rest is personal preference, so no further comment.

    A few suggestions on your route:
    - At your southernmost part, I really liked the Albanian route via Korca -> Leskovar -> Vjosa valley -> Permet, (hot springs for the battered traveller) then on to Girokastra and then via the Blue Hole to the coast. The road from Saranda to Vlores is also great with the final highlight of the Llogara Pass to which you get more or less from sea level.
    - At the Croatian coast, I would consider to also use ferries and go to some of the islands, e.g. Korcula and Hvar or Dugi Otok.
    - Istria is nice, but also go inland. Motovun and Groznjan are obvious choices.
    #15
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  16. Jersey87

    Jersey87 Been here awhile

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    Hi

    Can't tell exactly from your map where you're crossing from BiH into Montenegro but when I went a few years back I crossed on the M18 (south of Foca, BiH) which turns into the E762 and goes around Pivsko Jezero. There's then a left turn onto the P14 which leads up and into Durmitor National Park which I really enjoyed (snow banked 3m high beside the road when it was 32C down at the lake!).

    The P14 turn is a little way before the bridge across the lake. I went past the turn on purpose when I was there though to make sure to get fuel and food at the town of Pluzine before heading for the national park.

    The village of Lukomir in BiH is also worth a visit if you have time (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lukomir). Nice easy trails up there too (my avatar photo was taken on the way back from there).
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  17. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    Thank you for the tips, I will definitely try to incorporate to them if I get in the area...

    i just got an invitation to Thessaloniki, so the most southern part of my route is probably going to change quite a bit.

    But I will go for one of the islands for sure!
    I already know Istria, so I won’t spend too much time there... just visit some friends. I think my priorities are on the Dalmatian coast in the southern part of Croatia. The coastal road is supposed to be magnificent.
    #17
  18. VanDT

    VanDT Adventurer

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    Sounds great, I’ve seen pictures of the durmitor park in other RRs already and was stunned by the scenerie... I will make sure to check it out and change my route accordingly as soon as I have the time.


    Thank you for the detailed description, first hand reports help out a lot.
    #18
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  19. slowriding

    slowriding Dopeless Hope Fiend

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    I am just finishing a 2 week ride of the Balkans, sitting at Dooby's place, Lobagola in Zagreb, great place to stay if your in the area. Not going to suggest where or what, your trip is yours alone and no matter how much you try you won't get to see but a small fraction of what is here. I made it as far south as Turkey but was turned away due to an issue with a rental bike I was using while my own bike is being repaired. Jumping to the front of very long passport check/stamp lines at the borders and lane splitting are new to this American but those were very handy when traffic is bad. I hope you have as good a time as I did in the Balkans. One thing I have noticed, the farther south I traveled the drivers were a lot less interested in staying in their own lane. I escaped one head on with a car that was passing in my lane on a blind corner and a rear end collision when traffic stopped on another corner and a BMW sedan that was following me did swerve off, his front bumper was about inline with the middle of my bike and less than 1 meter away. All I could do was laugh and give the driver a thumbs up for not killing me.
    #19
  20. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

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    Always a positive thing - the not dying part. I highly recommend it.
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