Dolomites, Greece, Balkan: 8 countries in 15 days

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Andy G, Apr 11, 2009.

  1. Andy G

    Andy G 2wheeled alpinist

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    eastern Munich outback, Bavaria, Germany
    Through the Dolomites (I) to Ancona (I), with the ferry to Igoumenitsa (Gr), some days on the Pelopones (Gr), home through the Balkan, Albania and the Kroatian Coast...

    [​IMG]

    Munich (D) - Dolomites (I) - Ancona (I) - Ferry to Igoumenitsa (Gr) - Patras (Gr) - Xylokastro (Gr) - Patras (Gr) - Sarande (Al) - Durres (Al) - Shkoder (Al) - Stari Bar (SRB) - Petrovac (SRB) - Dubrovnik (HR) - Split (HR) - Maslenica (HR) - Karlobag (HR) - Senj (HR) - Rijeka (HR) - Postojna (SLO) - Ljubljana (SLO) - Loiblpass (A) - Villach (A) - Salzburg (A) - Munich (D)

    2 weeks, 3.800 km, a 91' Transalp, a 03' F650GS, great landscape, roads, tracks, people...

    So this is how it started:
    We (that is my ex-GF Anita and me) originally planned to leave Munich together and take the direct way to Ancona in Italy, get the ferry to Greece, spend some days at a Buddhist retreat place near Xylocastro and then have a relaxed trip through the Balkan back home. But at T-48h Anita got the opportunity of a big job. She's a violin maker, self employed and she couldn't reject it. At T+24h, with no end of the job in sight, I decided to start alone. I said I'll go to the Dolomites (part of the Italian Alps), enjoy the twisties and passes and wait for her there. Soon it became clear that she would need two more days to finish the job, so I went on to Greece where we finally met again. Due to the delay and an addtional relaxing day in Greece the "relaxed trip through the Balkan" became some sort of rallye...

    More to come...

    Cheers, Andy
    #1
  2. MichaelJ

    MichaelJ Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2003
    Oddometer:
    2,883
    Location:
    Sterling, Virginia, USA
    Well...

    Don't stop now :D

    On another subject - How much fuel does that tank hold?
    #2
  3. locorider

    locorider Loco, pero no estúpido!

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Puerto Rico, U.S.A.
    Well Andy, Nice to hear from you! Bring all those pictures and experiences here!!!

    Thanks for sharingand keep it coming!:clap
    #3
  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    61,133
    Bring it on Andy! :thumb

    :lurk
    #4
  5. Andy G

    Andy G 2wheeled alpinist

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    eastern Munich outback, Bavaria, Germany
    It is sold as a 34l tank, but I never managed to squeeze more than 32l in. This makes a range of 400 to 600km on the Transalp, depending on load and road surface. The tank is made of fibreglass by Boano, Italy and sold in Germany via African Queens.

    Cheers, Andy
    #5
  6. Direktor

    Direktor Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
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    605
    Location:
    Karlovac, Croatia
    :lurk
    #6
  7. Andy G

    Andy G 2wheeled alpinist

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    eastern Munich outback, Bavaria, Germany
    Day 1:
    As I already told, Anita still had to work so I advanced to the Dolomites to enjoy some twisties. Near Wolkenstein:

    [​IMG]

    Did some more passes that day: Sellajoch, Passo di Fedaia, Passo di Falzarego and Passo di Giau. Shortly after Passo di Giau I stayed for the night in a nameless village in a rather spooky but pretty cheap hostel. When I'm travelling alone I don't like to stop too often so there are not so many pics of this day. Anyway the weather wasn't so nice. In the evening I phoned Anita and we agreed to try to meet on the Karapass in two days.

    Day 2:
    Because I know the northern Dolomite rather well I decided to roam around further south. So I didn't take any of the famous passes today but stuck to smallest country roads. Selva, Zoldo Alto, Forno, Logarone, Ponte, Pieve, Farra, Col Brombolo, Vittorio Veneto, Valdobbiadene, Broso and Monte Grappa were my stations today. From Monte Grappa I went to Grigno in the Brenta valley which I wanted to see for a long time. It is really impressive, narrow valley, high mountains. Also I had to turn north again if I wanted to reach Karerpass tomorrow night. In Grigno I climbed up the Passo di Brocon to Castello where I found a pretty Hostel and called it a day. I phoned Anita and she told me she won't make it to Karerpass tomorrow but will need two more days. During the evening with a great pizza with locally collected mushrooms, speck and a cold beer I decided to go to Greece tomorrow.

    Valle di Zoldo between Forno and Longarone:
    [​IMG]

    somewhere in Bosco del Cansiglia (Bosco means forest AFAIK)
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    I even found a gravel road that was not explicetly forbidden:
    [​IMG]

    Ascending Monte Grappa:
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    Viewpoint on the ascend. Monte Grappa played some role in both world wars and is the highest peak in the Vicentinian Alps. I didn't visit the memorial site on top, it started raining and was pretty cold. Instead I had a coffee and a chocolate bar at the Refugio Bassano at the peak at 1742m altitude (Refugio = mountain hut, sometimes with food / lodging)

    [​IMG]

    approaching the Brenta valley:
    [​IMG]

    view from my hostel in Castello:
    [​IMG]

    Day 3:
    today I had to speed up a bit to get my ferry at Ancona at 4.00pm. But I didn't want to miss the Passo di Brocon. Early morning on the pass:
    [​IMG]

    Made it just in time... went to the port (I still had the coordinates on my GPS from beeing there the last time), parked directly in front of the ticket office, ran in, bought a ticket (the girl at the counter just said hurry up) and rode on the ferry immedeatly (no waiting this time :D ). I was still unloading and bonding the tranny when the ferry took off. I wanted to check out a sleeping place I discovered last time: in the main stair case under the lowest stairs. With carpet, rather quiet, dry and halfway dark. Hmm, I slept better on other places, in the end it was to light and uneasy. Next time I'll sleep outside on the deck again.

    Insertion for those who don't know the Greece-ferries:
    The trip takes about 20h. The cabins are really pricey (> 300€) and the seats are :puke1 (I can sleep everywhere, but not while sitting). Third possibility is to just buy the passage and find a sleeping place somewhere on the ship, meaning no cabin, no seat. It's the cheapest and for me its the permission to do what I want...
    end of insertion

    on the vessel, leaving Italy:
    [​IMG]

    We arrived at Igoumenitsa at 0600 in the morning. I didn't want to stay on the ship till Patra this time (same price) but ride along the coast. It was absolutely woth it!!! After season, almost no traffic and in any case more exciting than beeing on the ferry for another 5h.
    [​IMG]

    Greek coast:
    [​IMG]

    My private breakfast beach. After being caged on the ferry for almost 24h I first had a swim and then a nice big breakfast. There was nobody except me, maybe it was to early for the Greeks...
    [​IMG]

    Around noon I got real hunger. And as I was still standing on the rather deserted main road of small fishers village thinking of what to do about it the door of the Taverna next to me opend and the Chef asked if I'm hungry :clap... so I had a nice steak with Greek salad. Later a Greek family joined in the restaurant, but there were absolutely no tourists!
    [​IMG]

    The ascend to the Buddhist retreat center "Karma Berchen Ling". 15km from the next permanently inhabited village, 10km of it gravel road, the last 500m depending on how the last winter was rather tricky (I dumped bike, GF, me and equipment there some years ago while trying to get there two up in the night while raining).
    [​IMG]

    more to come...

    Cheers, Andy
    #7
  8. DRglidarn

    DRglidarn Panzer pilot

    Joined:
    May 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    494
    Location:
    Trollhättan, Sweden
    Thanks for sharing your trip with us! Your Transalp looks like a great ride too!

    :lurk
    #8
  9. picoda

    picoda Dalmatia

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Croatia
    waiting for more :thumb
    #9
  10. Andy G

    Andy G 2wheeled alpinist

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    eastern Munich outback, Bavaria, Germany
    Thanks! After owning it since 1995 and modifiying it in 2005 I still like it! Almost 150.000km across Europe, and she still makes me smile.

    I'll post some thoughts about equipment / bike and the trip itself in the end...
    #10
  11. Andy G

    Andy G 2wheeled alpinist

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    eastern Munich outback, Bavaria, Germany
    So, what do good Buddhists do in retreat places? Right, they are sitting around in caves and try to meditate...
    [​IMG]

    And bad Buddhists? Sure! They go biking. Here together with a guy from Switzerland, called Markus. He came there with his 1200GS and was keen on getting his first offroad experiences:
    [​IMG]

    Greece is a Enduro paradise in Europe. Nothing is forbidden (or at least I can't read the signs and as long as you behave and don't disturb anybody I hadn't any problems yet). Just be careful with the shepherds dogs
    [​IMG]

    Still beeing on tour with Markus Anita phoned and said she arrived at Greece. I met here down in Evrostina (remeber, the nearest village, and from there up you really need to know the way. There are no signs or something) and we had great greek food at Georgios tavern. This is the best spot for food in the entire area there. They don't have a menu there. Old Georgios just asks if you are hungry and you'll get what he bought fresh in the morning. Some meet on the grill, some veggies, salad, and, self-made wine!
    [​IMG]

    The next day Anita was so generous to lend her bike to Zoli, a guy from Hungaria who now lives in London. He did some school there to become a motorbike mechanic and did some serious Enduro riding in his youth...
    [​IMG]

    So finally I got the opportunity to check out the smaller and more technical goat paths thru the mountains which I wanted to explore for a long time but was too chicken to go alone or with a beginner...
    [​IMG]

    In the evening, after a much too short time there, we had to start packing up our stuff. Due to Anitas job we were 2 days behind our schedule...
    [​IMG]

    More to come...

    Cheers, Andy
    #11
  12. Andy G

    Andy G 2wheeled alpinist

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Oddometer:
    551
    Location:
    eastern Munich outback, Bavaria, Germany
    Finally time to go on with this...

    Now we've reached the point where the actual adventure starts...

    Leaving the greek mountains, direction to Deverni

    [​IMG]

    nice tracks:
    [​IMG]

    the bridge at Patra connects the Pelepones to the greek mainland:
    [​IMG]

    tollbooth at the end of the bridge:
    [​IMG]

    having some sightseeing... an old castle:
    [​IMG]

    The perfect beach for a short swim and a coffe. Again hardly any people except us. On my Albania map there was a little border crossing thas connects Sagiada Gr with Konispol Al. Very small roads. That's what we want. The first question was if we would find some place to sleep in Sagiada. We didn't have any experience with Al so we wanted to say overnight in Greece and enter Al the next moring. And as usual, at the end of the day there was so much road left and we continued riding in the dark, randomly chased by some wild dogs. When we reached Sagiada there was nothing, everything closed and dark, except one bar where men of the village were watching a match of the European Football Championship. And here Anita did a masterpiece in organisation. After some talk to some people we were sent off to a small shop where there was still some light. There should be a lady who maybe knows somebody who maybe got a place to sleep. We found her, she made a phone call, we were asked to wait outside, sombody should come and pic us up. 15 mins later a guy with a car arrived and said we should follow him. He was leading us round some corners to a small house. It was his parents house, and now that both have died recently he thought about renting it. We got the impression that we were the first ones to try it out... anyway, we got a roof over our heads and were close to the border and even got some food left for a small dinner.

    [​IMG]

    The next moring we started the searching the border crossing. In the whole village there was no sign pointing anywhere. Only one road entering and leaving town. According to my map it was a dead end road just leading to the sea, left side water, right side mountains, some beach bums with old RVs, on the top of the hills the fence marking the border. So we turned around, direction to Igoumenitsa, maybe we didn't see the crossing yesterday in the dark.

    [​IMG]

    At the beginning of the village we finally found a new paved road leading in the desired direction. After a short ride the pavement stopped and we were on a nice gravel road and we could see a village up in the mountains ahead of us. After a few kms the track deteriorated and we recognized that the village was abandond. But the direction was good, so we went on. Till we reached some ruined houses and church, just in front of a cliff. No way to get up there on a motorbike. According to the GPS and the map the border crossing should be right in front of us :confused . And it started to get really hot.
    [​IMG]

    There was no other way than turning around. Down at sea level it was so hot the we had to get out of the jackets, Anita even out of her helmet. We wanted to try the last remaining possibility, the dead end road along the sea. It lead us parallel to the mountains, I could even see Konispol, our target in Al on the GPS, just the mountains in between. And after a short ride we really found a pretty new border crossing...
    [​IMG]

    and entered Albania without any further problems. On the border we met some truck drives, questioning me about Anitas BMW, first sign of beeing in a Muslim country, none of them asked her...
    Albania is perfect for travelling on an Enduro. Many roads are unpaved or in construction, narrow and curvy. Here a ferry across a river next to Antipatra / Butrinti
    [​IMG]

    Although the costal road between Sarande and Vlore is a big construction site it is one of the most beautiful roads i ever travelled.

    [​IMG]

    hardly any traffic except us
    [​IMG]

    somewhere we met a guy from GB on a Triumph, and it almost felt like long distance travelling... stopping, chatting, exchangeing info about the best bars and conditions of the road...
    [​IMG]

    stupid tourists not beeing ATGATT...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    many animals on the road, cows, donkey, goats. And if you ever wonder where all the old Mercedes have gone, go to Albania. You'll find a living museum of Mercedes Benz history.
    [​IMG]

    Anita made the day for many of the road construction workers... 40°+ on my temp.
    [​IMG]

    at that point the road left the cost for a short time
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Coffe break in Durres
    [​IMG]

    North of Durres the landscape wasn't that nice like in the south. And because we where on a tight schedule we took the main road via Lezhe to Shkoder. Sometimes it was like a motorway. At the entries there were signs saying no tractors, no bicycles, no horses. The first what we met in the dark was a horse with a trailer, no light, aproaching us on our lane... and on the right there was a lady selling vegetables on the motorway :eek1
    But the people were very nice. As soon as we stopped to look on the map there was immedeatly somebody around helping us with directions. Close to Sukobin we found a small border crossing to Serbia. Hard to find, no singns and a nice bridge in Shkoder. Next time I would defenitely like to spend more time in Albania.

    To be continued with Serbia / Montenegro and Kroatia.

    Cheers, Andy
    #12
  13. duncan disorderly

    duncan disorderly Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    14
    Very good pictures.
    #13
  14. ATAK

    ATAK Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    212
    Location:
    arnhem, netherlands
    Love your report, go on:clap.
    #14
  15. kuyaoli

    kuyaoli Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2008
    Oddometer:
    324
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    great ride, beautiful lady, what a pitty it's your ex-gf :D
    #15
  16. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Excellent ride ! keep it coming !
    :thumbup

    You're from Munchen but there's a D on ur license plate ? Dortmund, Dusseldorf ?
    I share your tastes for woman ;)
    /thierry
    #16
  17. Undo

    Undo Undo

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Bucharest, Romania
    Nice pics and info. We are planning a trip to Albania this autumn. In what period where you out there? Where did you get you GPS maps for Balkans, especially Albania?
    Many thanks in advance.
    #17
  18. Undo

    Undo Undo

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    Location:
    Bucharest, Romania
    One D is from Deutschland that's for sure :p
    #18
  19. SpitfireTriple

    SpitfireTriple Seek Truth

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Oddometer:
    876
    Location:
    Bristol, Britain
    Ah! All these images of Albania, especially the Sarande - Vlore stretch. I remember it from September. It really is the "Final Frontier" in Europe. But it's westernising rapidly. I'd recommend any biker in Europe ride there, and ride there NOW.
    #19
  20. kktos

    kktos on a bright side of life

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    Location:
    in front of Mare Nostrum
    :lol3
    #20