Balkan ADV

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by LethPhaos, Jul 31, 2013.

  1. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    A couple days ago I returned from a 6 week trip through the Balkans (former Yugoslavia) and Eastern Europe. This concept was new to me in many ways.
    The longest trip I had ever done before this one had been 3 weeks, and I wasn’t alone then, and not on a bike either. This was my first solo trip, and my first trip by motorbike. I went camping for 1 night to test my loadout,, but apart from that I had never taken the bike camping. I had only camped illegaly/wild one time before, by car. I had never done roadside repairs before. The list goes on, let’s suffice it to say I was a rookie on pretty much every possible level.


    My steed was an RD04 (1990) Honda Africa Twin. The bike was new to me, I bought her before winter, and she immediately died on me. I managed to fix her only a few weeks before I left on the trip. These few weeks allowed me to do a short trip into the German Eifel region. I managed to ride 1000km, so she got slightly tested, but there was no way of knowing if she would keep going for the expected 10000 to 15000 km. As for spares, I didn’t bring the usual fuel pump or rectifier. I preferred to keep the money in my pocket for other purposes (fuel, food, whatever). I didn’t get breakdown cover/roadside assistance. I checked a few companies but I strongly disliked their policies, so I decided if a problem arises, I’d find a way myself.


    [​IMG]

    Over the course of about 6 months (probably longer) I scraped together all and any info I could find about motorcycle traveling and the countries I was planning to visit. In the end I had a huge checklist of items to bring (everyone has different ideas, and I had no idea what would work for me) and a ton of waypoints for the GPS. I decided not to plan anything in advance, and figure out my route on the way. That way I could slow down or speed up where or when I wanted. Looking at my waypoints, I expected a route somewhat like this, but I knew this would change.



    [​IMG]

    I considered the checklist and made a subset of what I thought I needed. I ordered everything I didn’t have yet (quite a lot) and I was ready to go.
    I ended up doing 12000-something km (about 7500 miles).


    How all this went, you’ll be able to read over the coming days/weeks. I need to scrape these posts together from memory, limited notes, my pictures/videos and the track logs, so it might be a post a day, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. We'll see.



    I'll try to make it worth your while :d



    [​IMG]
    (this picture will come back later in better quality, this is just a preview)

    I will be keeping track of various statistics. I will update them below as the report progresses.

    Bike dropped - 3
    Africa Twins spotted - 20
    Rained upon - 1
    (Roadside) repairs - 2
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    #1
  2. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    As a kid we spent most holidays traveling around in a motorhome/RV. That's probably when I started to love traveling. When I started working, I used my company car for roadtrips, and loved it. I never considered traveling long distance by bike. But then I discovered ADVRider.

    I started reading ride reports pretty much on a daily basis for almost a year. Like many, I was hoping to do a RTW one day. But after a while it dawned on me (thanks to Paul and Noah for helping me see this through their ride reports): I should live now, not later. So that was it. Just like that I had decided to do a big trip, by motorbike.

    I warned work I'd be taking a longer time off (luckily they allowed me to), bought gear, tried preparing myself for what was coming. But really, I had no idea. In the beginning it looked like a friend might be joining me, but that never really took shape, so I was always keeping in mind I'd probably be traveling alone. Could I do that, be alone, no friends, for an extended time? No idea.

    It's day 0, the day before I leave. I'm excited, and at the same time I can barely comprehend what I'm getting myself into. It took me about 2 hours to get everything ready. By midnight I went to bed.

    In the morning, my dad would be joining me, we would ride the first 2 days together. The bike now has 51671 km (32107 miles) on the clock.

    [​IMG]
    #2
  3. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    The first day. While I wait for my dad to arrive, I shoot a few pictures.

    [​IMG]
    My previous travel companion and the current one. The king is dead. All hail the king! :wink:

    [​IMG]
    This is how I packed all the crap I was carrying. Yes, I was carrying way too much. I know better now. We all had to start somewhere :deal
    The cases I got with the bike, I didn't buy them separately. That's why I used them, otherwise I'd have gone for soft luggage. But it was an easy way to stretch the budget.

    [​IMG]
    Bacon would be traveling with me. On the left my dad, who had just arrived.

    [​IMG]
    Somewhere in the South of Belgium. We'd try to reach France, close to the Swiss border today. I had traveled some parts of France before so we'd 'rush' it. I wasn't planning on doing any highway during the trip though, so we didn't take any that day either.

    [​IMG]
    Both steeds, only just getting warmed up.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    A good soldier eats and sleeps when he can :rofl

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    I locked this picture on my camera SD card, so it wouldn't be removed. If someone took my camera while I leave it on a tripod for a while I could try and prove it was mine this way.

    [​IMG]
    Still clearly in the civilized world, where fun is forbidden :puke1

    We slept in a house, my last bed/luxury for a while, I didn't know for how long.

    I spent 61,91EUR (80USD) on fuel, and covered 611km in 12 hours (including stops).

    ---

    That's it for today, more to follow tomorrow!
    #3
  4. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    Oh yeah, one more thing: we had been riding for one day only, but I already had 3 near accidents:
    - An Alpha Romeo tried to ram me off a roundabout
    - A pedestrian decided it was a good idea to try and jump under the big flashy yellow GS
    - I stopped for some traffic situation and my dad couldn't stop in time. Result: a black rubber marking on my right side case.

    Off to a good start :clap
    #4
  5. Rango

    Rango Phaneropter

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,201
    Location:
    Kingdom of Belgium
    Looking very promising.
    You're a good soldier. :D
    :1drink
    #5
  6. alainmax

    alainmax ca vaut le detour !!

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2008
    Oddometer:
    621
    Location:
    Portland, Weird
    Haha oui c est vrai ca.

    Nice RD 04.

    Have fun guys, France is beautiful and i miss riding there
    ( but from Belgium myself)
    #6
  7. Gliga

    Gliga Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    118
    Location:
    Serbia
    I'm in for this one :ricky
    #7
  8. Mr&MrsErnbo

    Mr&MrsErnbo ...

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    1,315
    Location:
    Sandbox
    Good luck on your trip and I wish you fair weather and easy access through the region.
    I will watch your journey and look forward to your reports.:clap
    #8
  9. Belgian Waffles

    Belgian Waffles Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 25, 2008
    Oddometer:
    874
    Location:
    Green. Wet. Oregon.
    Merci pour le reportage! Say hello to Kortrijk for me if you go near.
    #9
  10. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    1) My primary language is dutch/flemish (but I understand/speak french as well)
    2) The trip is over, sadly, but thanks for the wishes, I'll keep them in reserve so I can use them next trip :D

    Next day report coming up!
    #10
  11. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    I took the opportunity to give all my electronics a good charge overnight, with the luxury of socketed electricity and all.
    We got up at 08:00. My first real route would take me over le Chasseral (Switzerland) and further southeast, didn't matter how far. I was hoping for some Alpine passes.

    It looked like we would have great weather. And indeed, by noon it had warmed up quite well. Only a short ride later we were over the border. There is a checkpoint where we crossed, but it wasn't manned, it was Sunday. This picture was taken on Swiss territory, looking back at a tip of France, across the meandering river Doubs which is the border line.

    [​IMG]

    Looking around from the same spot:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Trying the full range of the camera, from macro-ish to 30x zoom. I didn't buy an allround camera for nothing :evil

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    By the time we had reached Le Chasseral I was already sick of the weight of the bike, and I decided to give some stuff to my dad, who would be returning home from there. Since I still didn't know what I would be needing, I could only loose 1 or 2 kg, but every bit helps.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    See the Alps in the distance? The camera didn't capture them as well as our eyes did, but you can still see them.

    [​IMG]

    There was a supermoto track down there, I must remember that for next time I take my KTM there :eek1

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This guy was Swiss, not farm from home at the time. But the decals on his topcase were clear: he travels that thing. He told me he would be leaving the country soon after to go to a big meeting, I don't remember where it was. Germany or Belgium, I think. Tip of the hat to you, kind sir!

    We had a picknick with a great view, and around 14:00 we parted ways. It felt weird to be heading off on my own, but in a good way. I was excited and looking forward to things to come.

    [​IMG]

    The GPS decided to send me through Bern instead of around it (a tendency it would keep the rest of the trip, if a major city was on my route, I'd be riding through it). All in all it wasn't too bad, there's lots of nature in the city, it was modern and clean. Somehow it didn't feel like a break from the surrounding farmlands, it fit in nicely.

    There was a lot of american muscle driving around, the Swiss seem to like nice stuff :)
    At 15:30 I noticed it was 26°C (79°F), which was awesome, as I had left behind weeks of questionable rainy weather at home.

    Somewhere after Bern I saw a kid riding passenger on an old tractor, which was cutting grass. It reminded me of how I used to spend the holidays in France (exactly the same, riding passenger with a farmer, and in later years behind the wheel myself), so I regret not stopping for a picture. It was a very peaceful scene.

    The bike was performing well, no issues so far. The only 'problem' I noticed was due to the luggage rack bending under the weight of the panniers. The uneven load would make it wobble left and right. After a few days I learned to balance the weight in the mornings, but there's only so much you can do. Over the course of the day food and drink consumption would make it uneven again anyway. I learned to live with it, as the bike didn't seem to mind it at all.

    I got sent through Zurich, which is a very picturesque town. Which is why I don't have any pictures :huh. After Zürich, I got fuel. It was pretty expensive with the VISA overhead, over 2€/liter.... :puke1

    This is the Thunersee :eek1

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    On the way to Grindelwald:

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    Autostitch messed up the bottom part a bit, but the part that matters worked out fine:

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    It must be awesome to parasail in a location like this. Álmost as awesome as riding in a location like this :D

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    To give you an idea of what you can do with 30x zoom. A nondescript building:
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    The same building without zoom
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    Still so clean :eek1

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    A common sight...

    This is an airstrip:
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    The only example of muscle I have a photo off:
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    The guy waved shortly after, appreciating the interest in his car :clap

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    After I had to backtrack 2 times due to traffic signs forbidding me to go somewhere, I decided to find a camping spot. I didn't even mind the backtracking, the Alps hadn't really started yet but the roads and views were heavenly already.

    By 21:15 I had made camp, my first illegal/wild campsite of the trip (which is the correct/common word to describe such a place?). I wasn't really hungry, but I made a travellunch anyway. I messed up (really, how hard can it be... add boiling water and let sit. I didn't master the procedure till the end of the trip :norton), and didn't finish the bag, it tasted bad and as I wasn't hungry I couldn't shove it in.

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    It got dark soon after, and the mosquitos came out to play. The bottle of 40% Deet was working fine, so apart from their annoying noises, I wasn't bothered too much.

    I spent some time playing with the camera, trying to capture the moon while it was evading me behind the treeline. Meanwhile I noticed my bike was sitting there pretty visibly due to all the reflecting decals I had sticked on it, so I covered them up as well as I could. I didn't think I'd be bothered though, I was on a dead end logging road, with no signs of recent activity.
    I was surprised I was allowed to ride in there, no sign for once. Pretty much every road is closed for motorized access.

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    I think I picked the perfect time to visit the Alps, there were waterfalls everywhere. Way too many to photograph them all. Also a lot of Asian tourism, you could see a lot of them and their cameras walking around in the more famous towns :D
    Well, I assume the towns are famous, I never researched them. I'm more a nature kinda guy. And nature was beautiful, very beautiful.

    I think I barely rode over 50 or 60 km/h (40 mph), towns are littered over the valleys, having great backdrops of the mountains around. Even if the road was straight, I was never bored.

    I covered 281 km that day, with about 7 hours of seat time.
    I spent 15€ (about 20USD) that day, on fuel.

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    #11
  12. petkostas

    petkostas n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Greece
    Keep them coming :D
    #12
  13. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    Setting up camp for the first time, only the second time ever I pitched this tent. The first time was a test, a few months earlier, at home, in a spare room of the house. Later attempts were a bit quicker every time, by the end of the trip I don't think I needed much more than 20 minutes to go from packed to settled.

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    I thought I had some footage of me and my father parting ways but I seem to have misplaced that :(
    #13
  14. Treadless

    Treadless seeking adventure

    Joined:
    May 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    5,406
    Location:
    Santa Barbara Ca

    Wild is most common and doesn't have negative overtones :deal.

    Enjoying your efforts LP. :lurk
    #14
  15. TheBlurr

    TheBlurr Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2013
    Oddometer:
    5,588
    Location:
    Montana
    I really wish my experience in the area had been different, what an amazing experience for you, absolutely beautiful.
    #15
  16. Dickyb

    Dickyb Bewildered Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,043
    Location:
    Kas-Antalya,Turkey
    Great stuff:clap Please keep it coming.


    Cheers,


    DickyB
    #16
  17. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    sorry for the delay, I went camping with friends to help me readjust to stationary life :freaky

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    regular service will be resumed shortly :deal
    #17
  18. MeinMotorrad

    MeinMotorrad Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,624
    Location:
    UK for now.
    :clap Keep those pics coming.
    #18
  19. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
    That day was the start of the real trip - I would finally reach the first waypoints.

    I woke at 6am. I hadn't slept that well, even though I was comfortable.
    The back pain I had developed the previous days was mostly gone though. I think it has to do with how I started carrying the big bag after Chasseral. Instead of putting it wide, I started carrying it on the seat completely, with one end against my back for support. Looking back, it helped a little, but not much. My back pains never really went away until much later, after another re-arrangement of my luggage. Details with that day's post :)

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    After packing camp, around 8am. Notice the new position of the big black bag, if you will. It's not very visible in this pic, but next pictures are clearer.

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    With the sound of roaring fighter jets over my head, I start riding. First stop: a water supply I found the day before, while trying to find a wild camping spot (thanks for the clarification, Treadless :ear)

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    Nice and cold.

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    I still bothered with purifying the water, I carried a Steripen and Micropur tablets for that purpose. Since the tablets take a few hours to be effective and the Steripen is a pain in the a$$ to use, I stopped doing either. I never had any problems. When I didn't trust the water I just bought some, it wasn't too hard to find bottled water anywhere.

    On the way to Grimsel pass
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    I got fuel, about 5 litres. As my low fuel light didn't work (found out the hard way in Belgium during one of my test rides), I made sure to get fuel nice and early. When I got more confident with the range (usually because I forgot to get fuel 'in time') I started to make fuel stops less frequent to save on transaction fees. Fuel economy was around 5l/100km, which is way less than I had been expecting from the old bike.

    I just noticed I made a mistake when calculating the fuel price last time, I said over 2€ but I was lying. The price was allright, even with VISA overhead.

    Seeing heavy army machinery is uncommon in Belgium, so this was quite the spot for me:
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    I asked if I could take a picture, to prevent stepping on army toes :devildog

    Yes, that's a soldier enjoying ice cream. Just like their MPV's use regular diesel, those are regular people.
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    I have video footage of them driving away, but it's not nearly as spectacular as it was for me in reality. If you want it, just ask and I'll provide.

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    After the fuel stop it was time for my first ever Alpine pass, the Grimsel. It's a modern road, in perfect condition. It's impossible not to love Alpine passes, if you do more than a few on a day you think you've seen them all but sure enough, as soon as you ride over the next one you're impressed all over again. At least I was, every pass is different.

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    Furka pass is just around the corner, that's why it shows up on the map already

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    Down there is where the Furka starts, the road on the left is Furka pass.
    There was still a lot of snow on top, with snow banks being higher than me on my bike. Meltwater covered the road in places, and maintenance crews were cleaning the snow off the road where the banks had collapsed. This is a stark contrast with some of the other countries I'd be riding through (not even much further away).

    I have video of most of the passes, if you want to see it let me know and I'll upload the clips. I'm not a big fan of video editing so it'd be long clips of just riding (in stunning scenery). Some days I'll rely on the video to tell the story but for this day I have good notes and many pictures so I didn't take time to watch all my footage of the day, writing a post takes enough time already (all in good fun, off course) :evil

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    This is up Furka pass. It's a lot greener than Grimsel, with older pavement, and added hairpins.

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    This picture is actually taken on top of Susten pass. I'm missing some GPS logs so I have no idea anymore what my actual route was.
    I got turned around, so I took a break, ate something, before going on my merry way again. Backtracking was no punishment :D Susten pass has some sweeping corners that would be fun on a faster bike. On a slower bike like mine, they were still very fun :lol3

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    Next up: Gotthard pass.
    #19
  20. LethPhaos

    LethPhaos brb

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    605
    Location:
    Belgistan
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    On top of Gotthard, looking down into Italy (IT on the right). Or that's what I thought at the time. It's still Switzerland, but they do speak Italian.

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    If you come from Susten, the first part towards Gotthard is very fun. Climbing more, it gets wide and fast, too fast to be fun. I didn't like it too much. The old road, still cobblestone, is still available for some parts. The fun old part however is closed for traffic :cry

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    I started experiencing a luggage problem. As I got used to the loaded bike, the panniers would scrape against the pavement in some of the corners. I tried to avoid this but it got in the way of fun a few times :wink:

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    I think after Gotthard I backtracked towards the Oberalp pass but I don't seem to have any pictures of it. After Oberalp I went for Lukmanier pass. This is after Lukmanier, so again, it seems I don't have any pictures.

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    After Lukmanier. I got down from 1000+ meters to 200 meters and it was WARM down there. I followed a valley through a city (with stop and go traffic) and overheated completely. I didn't stop for pictures untill I started ascending again. There were palm trees growing in the valley. PALM TREES IN THE ALPS. I think I shall call it Death Valley.

    I did get more fuel though. 13.20litres. 5.5l/100km, still not bad.

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    Both in the same shot
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    I was still confused, I didn't know if I was in Switzerland or Italy, pretty much since Gotthard. Looking at the map now I know I was in Italian speaking Switzerland. But the villages and nature felt more like Italian to me.

    Next up: San Bernardino pass. It was late afternoon by this time, so I was also starting to look for a wild camping spot. I had some trouble finding one, I had reached the top of the pass before I had found any viable locations. But I must admit I was enjoying the road a lot, and not looking for a spot very intensively.

    Let me just say this: San Bernardino was my instant no1 favourite road in the world. I have a new no1 since, but it remains top2. It's very technical, short turns, but corners are mostly clear, no blind entries. I must have ridden it 4 times total, just the top sections, pure awesomeness. I'd love to take my sumo there someday, it would be the perfect tool.

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    I kinda have to upload a video of the San Bernardino. I'll add it later, it's still uploading. Disclaimer: I might have enjoyed myself a bit more than I should have, you'll probably see some riding errors. What can I say, I had a long day of riding under the tires :deal

    After a while, I remembered I still had to find a campsite. So naturally, I rode the pass once more, backtracking from where I had come, to look around a bit better. I tried a few roads that were closed for traffic first, nearly got stuck on a narrow path (it started as doubletrack) and in a field, but in the end I still found a nice spot behind someones shed. I was quite tired though from wrestling the bike out of previous situations and I dropped the bike in the slippery grass.

    Bike dropped - 1
    (I'm starting a counter in the first post. see where this is heading? :rofl)

    I also added this counter
    Africa Twins spotted - 10
    So far I had been spotting many other AT's every day, I tried to keep track of their number.

    Feel free to let me know if I fail to update a counter or if you feel like I should start a new one for a specific situation/subject. I like stats :norton

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    Where I had come from. Still way up on San Bernardino, probably the closest I've slept to an actual pass.

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    I tried to lift it as is, but it was way too heavy. I took off all the luggage, and after turning the bike on the ground to point the wheels down, I lifted it with no problems. I moved the luggage to the camping spot manually and rode the bike up without luggage. I still had some wheel spin but I took it slow and kept it upright this time.

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    Panniers back on. That's fresh mountain water in a recycled bottle. Every stream had a distinct taste but it was always WAAAY better than bottled water.

    I had bent the left crash bar while trying to right the bike, it was attached with 2 bolts and one tiewrap, since the 3d bolt had broken. The bar end now came close to the radiator. I couldn't bend it away again so I decided to keep riding as is and keep an eye on it.

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    These guys could see my campsite. It didn't end up being a problem.

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    The gear I carry outside of the panniers... I need to downsize.

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    There were a few similar shacks on the same slope.
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    Distinct shape :wink:

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    Time for bed. Crickets chirping, no mosquitos, perfect!

    That day I spent 27.63EUR on fuel (about 36USD). No other expenses.
    #20