DK > South East: the Homesick tour

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by lucsali, Sep 1, 2019.

  1. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Picture this - 24 hours to departure.
    Two people, who deeply care for each other, locked in an embrace. Shakes and trembles running across our bodies, warm tears and a knot in the back of my head, like a headache.
    The strong desire to make my girl feel cared for, because she is, to console her and make our last moments together feel important, making her feel like she matters.
    Meanwhile - a MOUNTAIN of gear and equipment on the sofa, and all over the floor. Two tactical piles, the YES pile, and the MAYBE pile. The humongous task of choosing what comes and what stays. While making my girl feel important.

    My brain running in overclock, half pragmatic, half emotional, with a pinch of afraid and a fuckton of excited.

    This was yesterday. Today, I hit the road.

    Thoughts and images explode in my mind as I prepare for the 5 weeks that come ahead, but truth be told, I feel like the hardest part has already passed - leaving home.
    From now on, every step I take brings me closer to the girl I love, who waits back home, at the end of a round-trip journey that will see me off-roading in Romania, experiencing new cultures and ways of life in rural Turkey, getting amazed at monument-like mountains in Northern Greece, exploring war thorn Bosnia and heading back up across beautiful Croatia and mountaneous Austria.

    I can't wait for that which I can't foresee, which surely waits at the next crossroad. As of now, I'll just hit the sack and hope the tent will smell better tomorrow, after it has a chance to vent out.

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    #1
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  2. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    This sounds good.
    #2
  3. BillUA

    BillUA Las Vegas, NV

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    In!
    #3
  4. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Day 2: Hassel (DE) > Mala Skala (CZ) 640km

    Another day of pushing on the German highway, today. In the past taking the highway had been a bit of a no-no, for me, as you miss most of what you travel across. Gas station fuel and gas station food are quite the same here as everywhere close to home, so that doesn't really add much to the experience.
    What did add something to the day are a couple of chance encounters with people that came over to have a chat: Sitting by my bike, eating a croassaint in the morning, the thought in my head was "I have a bike full of gear and equipment, but what I really miss is a cup of coffee". Out of the blue a man walks by, an invitation for coffee. Hell-to-the-yeash. Turns out the camping neighbor I had mentally frowned upon, yesterday night, due to the big dog that started barking at me, is actually traveling around with his wife, on a little camper van whose olive color matched my tent. Maybe when I grow old I'll follow his footsteps.
    We drink coffee, meet and greet his wife, and learn about how the previously big scary dog is actually adorable, if handled properly, and only was afraid of people wearing helmets.
    And smart too! After a moment of stillness outside of the van, we heard some rattling at the door, just to see the dog come in with a breakfast bag (bread left by the camping owner at someone's else's camp). Smart doggo, you "bought" breakfast!

    The conversation per se was enjoyable, but what really struck me was the timing of this offer. Makes me think of that pilgrims saying - "the Camino provides", or of a book I'm reading about a motorcycle traveler exploring Africa, talking about the concept of Ubuntu.

    After all today's highway I managed to cover good distance, and I feel comfortable starting to slow down to savor my surroundings. I'm fairly close to Saxon Switzerland, and although I already know some nearby spots due to previous trips, I have a few spots I marked during the day that I plan on checking out.
    A salt mine, a large cave, a beautiful mountain range aaaand.. Auschwitz.
    I always avoided the last one, the thought being "I know that humankind made some horrible things, I don't need to scar my mind by seeing those things", but as it lays so very close to my path south, I think time has come.

    Early to bed, early to rise.

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    #4
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  5. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    take a well used something of hers n use it for your pillow.
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  6. Don T

    Don T Bike Addict

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    I'm looking forward to this one Lucas - and hope for more pictures as you slow down and leave the Autobahn behind :-)

    Bon Voyage.
    #6
  7. Samanjo

    Samanjo Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to the rest of the trip
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  8. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Well, slow down it did.

    Day 3 - Mala Skala (CZ) > Klokočí (CZ) > Bozkov (CZ) > Harrachov (CZ) > Vernérovice (CZ) 167km

    Speaking of slowing down, today was all about finding rythm. I notice I spend a whole lot of time packing / unpacking gear, trying to make the whole lot fit in the little space I have available. Those good looking side cases from my V-Strom are terrible IMO in terms of capacity, due to the fact that the open from the side.
    It always takes me a few days at the start of a trip to refine what goes where, but it's such a satisfaction when things start working out and I can stop wrestling stuff into place.

    Delays aside, today was a day of nature sightseeing. Starting by Klokočí. Left the bike and went for a short walk to check out the - quote - "Bohemian Paradise".
    I'm not new to the sight of those big boulders, similar to those of Saxon Switzerland in East Germany, where I've been hiking before. These were like the awkward little cousin, not nearly as impressive. Maybe though it would have gotten better had I gotten deeper into the tracks, but as I was carrying helmet, gear and armor I wasn't really up for a long walk.

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    On the way up I took ONE picture with a small gorilla tripod. That much it took for me to drop it and loose it (facepalm).
    The return to the bike, sorry for the Bohemian Paradise, was spent looking at the ground for the little tripod, which I did eventually find.
    Curiously enough, a couple of meters late, I did also find a familiar object.. my motorcycle keys (triple Uber facepalm with a backflip).
    Already found a more safe way to put them aside, but damn, close call!

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    On another practical thought, I need to find the courage to leave my gear on the bike rather than carrying it everywhere. At least the armor, maybe the jacket. I carry a backpack rain cover that could help covering it, out of sight out of mind. For the more curious ones, the flimsy wire lock could detain them. Even if yes, anyone determined enough would be able to easily snatch the while lot.

    Onwards to the next destination, the dolomiti caves at Bozkov. From the scorching 1pm sun to the refreshing underground 7 degrees C.
    A beautiful cave system, visited in a nice small group of 3. Me being the only English speaker, I got a remote-like audio guide, where I was supposed to enter numbers in sequence to listen to the correct track.
    "..Wait, are we at 14 or 15? The Elephant Ears cave? Wasn't it that weird looking rock a couple of Chambers back?"

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    After the caves, off to Poland!
    A bit surprised by the Czech/Polish border: I was promised drunk truck drivers, thieves at every corner, and so much more.
    I stead, nothing but nice flowing forest Twisties, and just slightly more agile drivers.
    I'm not a fast rider. Especially now that I'm carrying way more weight than normal, I won't push it, until I get used to how the bike handles turns. But so far I found drivers predictable, even when breaking rules. I normally drive very defensively, so that helps. And for the occasional tailgater, making a clear swerve to make room for their overtake at a safe time has earned me a couple of thank you blinkers.
    Maybe it's gonna get worse as I head south. Maybe I'll get used to it by the time I get there.
    Btw, no wonder Polish drivers are said not to follow driving rules. Have you seen the chart of speed limits? You need a PHD just to understand it, not to mention grasping the whole thing while riding past the border.

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    I'm taking a beating from the potholed asphalt. Feels like I should start riding standing of the footpegs to go easy on my spinal cord.

    Last note, polish kids are the best.
    Dunno if it's an uncommon sight an adventure bike in their villages, but on multiple occasions they greeted and made signs to rev it upon passing by. Uhh the grins on their faces when I let that throttle roar

    Hoping to get more photo opportunities tomorrow. I tried wearing the GoPro for a while, but I felt very cospicuous and out of place. One day I'll invest on a camera that does not look like a camera, like one of those comm systems with video capabilities.

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  9. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Day 4: Vernérovice (CZ) > Bela pod Pradedem (CZ) > Oswiecim (PL) > Wadowice (PL) - 400km

    What a nice and diverse day!
    Woke up in a camping, one of those chosen at random when the clock hits 7pm, that turned out to be really cozy. A cute old couple looking after the place, warm water, peaceful campsite and even a big kitchen space where I cooked myself a ultrafeast, having skipped breakfast and lunch.
    This morning a few of the people who stayed there too dropped by for a few words, one by one. Chatted to a man who had just pensioned, and was trying to spend one week traveling per month. Interestingly, the conversation turned at choosing a base camp and exploring and area for a few days, compared to going for a long itinerary like the one I'm going for.
    I don't dislike the former, but on the last long trip I did I felt bored, halfway through, due to having to "wait" in an area for an event to happen. In this trip I sure won't feel like I have time to kill.
    I'm keeping an eye on the mileage I manage to cover while still feeling like I experienced something of worth. Too early to draw conclusions, but the whole itinerary in my head is a wish, given the fact that nothing is booked. I really hope I'll be able to stick to the plan, though, but not if it comes at the cost of the experience itself. So far it hasn't.

    So. Woken up at the camping, started packing the mattress, the sleepin-- POUNF!
    Great way to start the day, with the bike falling on it's side from the centerstand, unable to keep it upright. No damage done, apart from completely emptying the top case I had just finished organizing.

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    I start riding and a few hours go by, and all of a sudden I look down and think to myself.. "Oh, look! I don't have a tank bag anymore!". Guess what, I did start the trip with one. An empty one, more like a magnetic folder, to store eventual maps or battery chargers as they charged.
    I could probably blame someone for stealing it, but it's more likely that I'm a dumbass, removed it at some gas station, and forgot to pick it up. The way I found out it was missing was so funny I can't even say I'm mad about it..

    The goal for today was getting to the Auschwitz camp. I plotted a route passing through what looked like relief, and was rewarded with a fast mountain pass with some switchbacks and little traffic.
    I'm starting to feel much more comfortable with the handling of the bike.
    Imagine riding in this weather, playing the soundtrack of Pirates of the Carebbeans.
    "Hoist the colors! ☠️" - exits the corner and revvs it..

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    After getting back to flat lands, I hit the polish highway for a while to cover some distance. Damn they ride fast. But had no problem managing.

    I got to the Auschwitz camp late in the day, a few hours before closing time. At first I rode to the wrong camp, but at a second attempt I found the museum.
    It was very nice visiting so late - the exhibition was not crowded, and the fresh air made the somber mood less bearing.
    The museum was interesting. Much I already knew, but I gotta admit some things were new. I think it was good to visit the museum alone, in my own thoughts, at my own pace. It gave me time to immerse in the narrative.

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    By the time the visit was over, it was starting to get dark. Today I felt like enjoying a comfortable hotel night, and although I went for the cheapest on my way south, I ended up finding a good place for NO money! And, to my surprise, the little hotel room hid something more than I expected..

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    Yes. You could change colors.
    Yes. You can set it to full epilepsy mode.

    Tomorrow, those famous salt mines!
    #9
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  10. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Day 5: Wadowice (PL) > Wielicza (PL) > Zakopane (PL) - 238 km

    The night spent at the hotel gave me a good start. The last few nights I have been sleeping quite terribly, due to the fact that I brought a summer sleeping bag, but I'm still camping at mountain sites. One day I'll invest in a better sleeping mattress, one where I don't have to stand still like spaghetti to avoid rolling to the side, off from it, into the cold nothingness.

    After a filling breakfast at the hotel, aiming to make that both my breakfast and lunch, I set off for the salt mines of Wielicza.
    Lots of city traffic and interesting roads to get there, but it gave me a chance to see how poles drive. The little courtesies they do to each other, making room to pass, nodding me in, etc. It doesn't match with the negative view I had when thinking about riding here. Again - tailgaters, but then again, they live here and they know the roads better than I do, so I am the obstacle.

    The salt mines were not really what I was hoping for. It's a very touristic place, and the crowds were immense. We got a tour with 40 people, FML.
    In this 3 hours tour (T.H.R.E.E. H.O.U.R.S.) I had a chance to study my fellow tourists as much as to study the place I came to visit. From the surfer dude really Keen on giving his own background commentary to every statement of the guide, to the man who thought it to be a brilliant idea to use the flash once, twice, and so on, during a multimedia presentation made of athmosferic lights and shadows..
    I hate tourists. I said it. But I got myself into this, and so I had to endure it.

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    Some of the rooms in this mine were impressive. It was interesting to see the creative side of the miners, carving art not for the sake of being artists. The size of some of the underground Chambers, like the one in the picture, also had me wow.

    For the second half of the tour I completely lost interest in the experience, and plotted in my head a day of casual riding across the Slovakian mountains, tomorrow, without any must-see stop. Just me, the bike, and the general direction towards the Romanian border.
    Slovakia and Hungary will be countries of transit, as I wanna spend a lot of time exploring Romania.

    Had a mishap, today!
    A car in front of me had to turn, and to avoid slowing to a full stop I decided to ride onto the hard pack dirt that lay beside the asphalt.
    In my impatience, I didn't notice that due to construction works, the asphalt had been stripped at the edge, and when I tried to come back up the result was disastrous. I flew off the bike, which kept going and somehow ended facing the wrong way.
    Stupid move and lesson learned. I'm a bit bruised, but the gear did it job and took all impact where it was designed to. ATGATT.

    Just got a slight road rash on the arm, and my chest hurts a bit.
    The bike earned a few battlescars, but all in all nothing major. The side box and barkbuster took the slide. They look scarred, but the important thing is that the lever is fine. I do carry a spare brake lever, but the clutch one would had been a problem had it broken.

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    As this happened on a trafficked road a man quickly came by to help me raise the bike. Two words and a thanks, the man was gone, the queue had dispersed.
    The thought in my head remained, though, that now I'm starting to be far from home. Had this been more serious, it would not have been as simple as walking into the local emergency room, asking for a fix-me-up.
    I gotta remind myself that, this being my second riding season ever, I lack experience, and because of that, judgement.
    Funnily enough, twenty minutes after I was back on the bike, the same situation happened. This time I stayed and waited, the car moved, I rode by.

    Found a nice river spot to have a break, drink smth with sugar, and ensure I was fine after the adrenaline had worn off.

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    Still feeling bruised, both physically but most importantly mentally, I rode off towards Slovakia. The views!
    Mountains are starting to appear at the horizon, and tomorrow I'll set out into them.

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    As it was getting dark I tried finding a camping. Miss - the camp was there, but no owner. I booked the closest accomodation to avoid riding in darkness - a backpackers hostel.
    I wonder how this last minute accomodation lookups will work, as I approach Turkey. I wonder if it's gonna be so simple, so digital, or if it will require more time, and more talking to people. It definitely will change, as I can already feel it's starting to.

    Tomorrow is another day, hopefully a better one. A nice call back home surely helped restoring peace of mind, preparing for what comes ahead.
    #10
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  11. Don T

    Don T Bike Addict

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    A word of advice: Don't tell people back home about crashes until you have returned safely. They are worried enough as it is, especially when you are riding solo.
    It's good to hear that you got off lightly and have learned the lesson that it only take one small misjudgement to ruin a trip. Travelling far from home is a whole other story than playing around in your backyard.

    Keep the stories and pictures coming.
    #11
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  12. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Good advise. I'll have to think about it.
    #12
  13. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Day.. 6? Zakopane (PL) > Hrabusice (SK) - 283 km

    Today was mindfullness day. As in - a day with loose goals and no concrete plans.

    Having been awakened by the rest of the firm's folks at the backpackers hostel, I had an early start of the day.
    After miraculously finding a lost earplug, the day was looking promising, although the weather forecast promised the opposite. Rain, rain, rain.
    I finished gearing up, still feeling groggy from yesterday's fall, and stopped at a gas station for breakfast and to check the tires' pressure.
    I wanted to make sure the tires were good after yesterday, and in the last couple of days I felt the bike being very wobbly in the back, as if the rear tire was loosing pressure.
    The gauge of the station claimed the opposite. In fact, it claimed the tires were over inflated! One day I'll invest on a reliably calibrated pressure gauge. Everytime I check it's complete random.
    But yes, no flat tire, nor on the way to be. Good for the day's twisties.
    The wobbly feeling might be too soft suspension in the rear - tomorrow I'll try to reduce the spring preload and see if that helps.

    Unsure as to what would be a good way to cross the Tatras mountain range (which for some reason in my head is stuck as "the Chachas") I plotted a route that did a kind of U shape, allowing me to ride over two separate crossings. It might be a shot in the dark, but at least I would have had two goes at it.

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    The first half of the ride was quite uneventful, but for good reason.
    After yesterday I felt like I needed to take it easy, to regain confidence with the bike. The lack of traffic, and the slower pace due to the very many potholes, helped, and after the first couple of hours I was feeling very much connected with the bike.
    That bike, when climbing hills, sounds to me like a Spitfire engine. A constant healthy rumble, not the loudest, but powerful nevertheless.

    I took some time today to stop playing with the drone. I like the different perspective it gives, especially when riding solo, forced to that first person view and with no subject to capture in the picture. In lack of a better one, I shall be the subject!

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    The riding today was therapeutic. Long distance, slow pace, listening to music, lost in thoughts, and with a beautiful scenery to witness.

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    Today I'll be staying at a unfortunately too crowded camping. I do not feel social at all, and truth be told I just wanna lay and rest my back. I wanna be back in full force by the time I get to the start of the ACT trail in Romania - it would be unwise to get on with it while still feeling chest pain, especially if (when) I'll have to lift the bike alone with full luggage. When that time comes I can't find myself doubting.
    So yea. Doctor Lucas (me, btw) says this evening is to be spent laying on the uncomfortably small inflatable mattress, closed in a tiny tent waiting for the night to settle and tomorrow to come, surrounded by caravans and noisy / nosy people.

    On a positive note, I'm halfway to the border with Turkey! Which still feels so far away, with Romania towering tall and proud, a peak to conquer, to get there.
    #13
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  14. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

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    Day 7: Hrabusice (SK) > Dombrád (HUN) - 168 km

    Today I had a tough call to make.
    With the chest pain still going strong, I could ignore the warning my body was giving me, keep pushing towards Romania, and hope for the best, or I could have the rib looked that, for a dreaded confirmation of the state of it.
    Had it been a fissure (like, not fully cracked, but weakened), I would have had to wish goodbye the plan of riding the ACT trail in Romania, to avoid causing real damage.
    I heard an episode of Adventure Rider Radio, the other day, where a lady, struck by an accident at the start of her trip, refered at it as a change in circumstances, rather than a problem.
    I like that outlook, and had that been the case I would have tried to cheer up and console myself with the many miles of enjoyable tarmac that still separate me from Turkey, and back. Off-roading or not.

    Still on my dreaded mini inflatable mattress, I used some time reading up on how the EU health insurance card grants you free health care in it's members countries. Free healthcare, no hard borders, often a shared currency.. roadtripping really does make you appreciate all of that.

    Then came the search for a public hospital. It was a strange feeling. It was kinda a mundane task riding to that hospital, like going to a shop or to buy groceries would be. It added a sense of normality that is hard to achieve while on the road. Although yea, I was looking for a emergency room to get an X-ray for a bike crash.

    Getting to the hospital was easy, but getting aknowledged by the staff wasn't. With the information staffer unable to speak English, I was just pointed to take a seat and wait. I didn't know who I was waiting for, nor if I was somehow registered in the system.
    An emergency room is not really a place to hold conversation, IMO. I didn't feel like asking people with their own problems (by the looks, more serious than mine) for an intro course in how-to-hospital.
    Eventually an opportunity arises, and between my non-existent Slovakian and their tentative English, with a whole lotta miming, they understood what I meant, and guided me on the to-do. I would still be waiting, otherwise.

    Once registered, the wait went faster.
    I noticed that the people in the hospital were curious. Rather than averting my gaze, they held on to it, just long enough for a quick smile or an acknowledgment. This is one thing that really bothered me about Baltic countries, the cultural (in my experience) cold gaze that I sometimes misunderstood for annoyance. Coming from a Danish background, where a smile costs nothing (although it's not always as genuine) and with an Italian upbringing, when all these things mix I find myself quite confused.
    In any case. Curious eyes - that I DO like.

    The doctors spoke English, so that went fast an easy. They ordered an X-ray, which was executed in minutes. A bit alarming when they point the machine to your back, and place some kind of shield plate over your butt. I guess a few spermatozoi earned super powers, today.

    Excellent news. No rib damage, only muscular strain. That I can live with, just gotta suck it up and push through. (Not exactly the doctor's words).

    Once that was sorted, I hit the road towards Romania. I was hoping to push until it's border, but a cold night at the camp, plus the long wait at the hospital, plus the rain, and not to be forgotten the last 7 days of riding, I got just about half as far as I wanted to get to.
    I will soon hold a tactical rest day, I need to recharge a bit before to push on.

    On the way, I stopped at a bikers eating place.
    It was disappointing.
    Maybe a popular destination, people were just showing up in pairs or small groups, and doing their own thing. No eye contact, not even a speck of interest. I ate my pizza in silence and moved on.

    I ride to speed limits, when I remember what they are for the country I'm in, which is getting harder to. All of a sudden, a guy on a sportsbike appeared at the horizon, closed the gap in a moment, made signs to me to step on it, and flew onwards, leaving me to smell the exhaust from it's engine.
    Realizing I was too tired to play along, I let him go (as if I could have kept up), and stopped at the first parking to have a break, a walk, and awaken my drowsy brain.

    Here he was, horned helmet, 69 sticker, duct-taped fairing and leather race suit.
    We had a coffee and a laugh, in some mix of languages.
    An introvert at heart, I feel like I need one good conversation a day to make the day worth it. This was it, and it really improved my mood from the biker hang spot I had lunch at.

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    Crossed a border, today. I thought it would be Hungary, but whoever wrote the sign thought different, or had a stroke while writing it down.

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    I'll be staying indoors today, hoping a bed and a good night's sleep will help recovering energies and with the chest pain.
    Upon arriving, I kinda landed like an alien in a group of locals having a chat.
    Pulled a one-to-many nod, returned by many, and checked in with the same mix of English and miming that I had luck with, so far.
    The local drunk at the bar promptly asked, seeing my outfit: "Ninja?".
    A tired look, and a smirk, raising the helmet - "Astronaut."

    Having been shown a safe place to keep the bike, all that remains is to rest and recover, preparing for tomorrow. Had a chat with a group of old men in the premises. No matter the language barrier, places are called similarly across lands, and we manage to tell each other's stories, be it riding from Denmark to the twisties of the Tatras mountains, with the rain and the long flat stretches that came after, or being the old toothless man who came from Ukraine with his two playful dogs.

    The environment is changing. More than just flat or mountaneous horizons.
    For the first time I rode through some really poor looking neighborhoods in Slovakia, and started seeing a sudden difference in people's looks.
    I'm also starting to say farewell to the assumption of using English as a given common language, relying more and more on gestures.
    #14
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  15. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
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    Denmark
    Day 7: Dombrád (HUN) > Bistrita (RO) 162 km

    Day 8: Bistrita (RO) > Subcetate (RO) 234 km

    I finally reached the first milestone of this trip - Romania!

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    This was the first border where my and my bike's paperwork was actually checked. I didn't really know what to expect, but luckily everything went smoothly and after a short queue I got processed in minutes. It seemed like the inspection was just a formality, as even when investigating the cargo of minivans none of the officials really put much effort into looking for things.

    As for Poland, I was expecting the driving style to immediately worsen once the border had been crossed.
    After spending a couple of days in Romania now, both in countryside and across bigger towns, I can definitely see how a few individuals have no self-preservation instincts, pulling crazy overtakes. But the rest, the grand majority, seem like very considerate drivers. Maybe had I teleported from Denmark straight here I would find it harder to navigate the traffic, but with the gradual approach, I find that with a bit of attitude and initiative I have had no problem nor concerns, so far.

    I can finally feel that I got in syncn with my bike, and that all the pieces are falling into place. The rythm, the ergonomics of the baggage, the ventilation of the gear.
    I moved luggage around and find it now easy both the looking for and the storing of stuff.

    One of the things I struggled with, in the last few days, was maintaining a good eating regime.
    When I ride I like to do long stretches, and often would end up skipping lunch, or dinner, or both.
    Moreover, the seldom times I'd buy something it would probably come from a gas station.
    I feel like that adds nothing to the experience, and in fact pushes me away from the cpu ceoes I'm visiting. I'm not here to write a journal on the culture and gastronomy of each given land, but as I ride through it, it takes little effort to get a sample.
    I'm now pushing myself to eat regularly, eat better, and eat local. It has already rewarded me with a full tummy, more energies for the day, and interesting encounters with cafe/store owners, that I would have otherwise missed, so focused I was on the riding.

    20190909075213_IMG_3952.JPG

    Speaking of riding, Romania is FANTASTIC.
    There is so much diversity in the type of roads and sceneries.
    I spent the day exploring Transilvania, riding fast perfect wide tarmac twisties, hiking, crossing a park on some road made of destroyed pavement, gravel and potholes, and much more.
    It's so rewarding having spent time in the previous countries before getting here. I feel like I can push the bike, and the technique I worked on during this riding season is really coming useful in the technical bits.
    2019_09_09_13_16_03_0.02.286.jpg
    QUIK_20190909_220816_0.11.600.jpg


    Tomorrow I'll start the first section of the ACT trail. I'm curious to see how it will go. The bike feels very, very heavy, but if I manage to play it smart and keep it upright, I'm confident on my level. Speed has always been my enemy, as any mistake or unforeseen situation is made worse by it, so I'll play is safe and slow, and see where this trail leads to. Hopefully not to a sand or mud bank, that would be trouble with my tires.

    Languages! God I'm glad to speak many languages. Although in bigger towns English comes quite useful, I'm also finding people who understands or even speak Italian. Between Italian, Spanish, English and Danish, a big flock of people I'll be able to speak to. Should probably learn a Slavic language, or Russian.

    Last thought for the day - accomodation.
    I'm really surprised at how good, affordable accomodation you can find in these countries. The price range for single rooms with private bathroom is within my budget, and it's a great way to wake up feeling clean and rested, compared to camping.
    A lot of the bulk of gear I'm carrying is for camping, but if I were to come around on a future trip, I would definitely consider if it's worth the hassle.
    #15
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  16. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Denmark
    Day 9: Subcetate (RO) > Turda (RO)

    Today I got my first taste of ACT track.
    I left the guesthouse I slept at quite late, due to a very fun breakfast while hearing all about the story of the hosts, and adding on top of that 2.5 hours of normal roads to get to the start of today's 300km ACT stage, it was nearly noon when I got started.

    In the beginning I was quite disappointed. A few gravel stretches, connecting long pavement sections. I was starting to worry that this project earned its name thanks to sponsors, and that it was a bit of a gimmick.

    Oh boy was I wrong. The very long and verybo first part of the stage must have been a liason section, because what came next made for some intense and demanding riding.
    Winding gravel roads, mountain paths, twisties, country lanes, you name it. It was a beautiful ride, one that made me know the country in a way I had not experienced yesterday, following main roads.

    20190910145605_IMG_4015.JPG

    Yesterday I crossed many wagons, pulled by horses. I wondered why were they carrying grass, who were they bringing it too, but I didn't make too much thought of it.
    Well, today I got waved down by one of those wagons, who crossed my path in the middle of nowhere.
    A rapid-fire of bad thoughts exploded in my head: "what did I do wrong? Did I scare the horse? Was I too fast? Is it the standing in the footpegs?"
    After a few words, one familiar one: "PUMPA!".
    The wagon had a flat tire, and the man was asking if I had an inflator.
    After a few words we found out we both spoke Spanish, so communication got easier.
    I was in doubt wether to bring this inflator or not, but I sure did not expect it would have gotten used like that :D

    20190910133448_IMG_4002.JPG
    20190910133833_IMG_4005.JPG

    With the little family on the way, and the good mood for this chance encounter, I spent the rest of the day following the track, being mesmerized by the scenery.
    QUIK_20190910_211527_0.15.667.jpg
    Somewhere along the track there even was a river to be crossed on a raft pulled by two kids.
    Got my first taste of haggling. I suck at negotiating, and honestly I actually dislike it. I have a feeling I'll only see more of that on my way to Turkey.

    QUIK_20190910_215120_0.20.700.jpg

    Unfortunately, maybe because of the late start, or the time I spent taking pictures, or the long normal road connection to the start, I found myself out of time, by the end of the day.
    The sun started going down, and as far as I could see, the track would not cross a mayor road for much much more.
    I decided to push through, and exit to a bigger town at the first chance, but it was a bit of a challenge.
    After a full day off-roading, my body was sore and my mind tired (that rest day... One day!).
    Aware that mistakes most often happen at the end of the day, when focus starts failing, I tried to stay concentrated and accurate in my riding.
    Ironically, the track got harder and harder, with some proper Enduro bits, at a time where I was really done for.
    QUIK_20190910_211527_0.32.767.jpg

    I got out, and was rewarded by the most intense sunset on the way down the mountain range. Booked the closest accomodation I could find, and after a short ride in darkness I checked in to a bare but cheap room.

    Tomorrow I'll try to manage my time better, but tracks like these are just a joy to stop and take in.
    Two more days of this, most likely! And then, a bit more touring, and off to Turkey!

    Attached Files:

    #16
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  17. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Denmark
    Day 10: Turda (RO) > Sacsisori (RO)

    Also today the plan to get up early and get going at the start of the morning failed miserably.
    At first I had to go to a different town to find an ATM where to pick up some cash. The traffic was congested in traffic, and curiously enough my first two attempts at finding a bank via Google Maps turned out to point to inexistent places.
    After asking a shop owner (who spoke Italian, and was so happy to be given a chance to practice it), I was pointed in the right direction.

    On the way I also decided to tank up. My bike has a small tank (12l) which makes it a bit of a problem for long riding days, as you might find yourself dry in the middle of a track.
    The only gas station nearby was a very small one. I was suspicious of the fuel type, and it was a bit of a challenge, with gestures, finding out if the green nozzle was 95 octane unleaded benzine. But with a laugh and more gestures, we understood each other.
    When she started pumping the gas she held the nozzle a bit too far off the hole, and a fountain of gasoline was sprayed all over the dashboard. What could go wrong, pouring gas over the auxiliary port..?

    By the time I was done with all that and I had reached the start of the trail, the morning was well on it's way.

    Today I caught up with the last section of yesterday's stage, and I was hoping to complete the full stage, as I had more time than yesterday and was planning on riding more focused and with less stops.
    However, after a few hours I realized this was not gonna happen. ACT stages are VERY long, IMO. Annoyingly, though, there were very long pavement stretches again (most of what I did from the previous day), which makes it hard to know at what speed you are gonna ride through the remaining sections, to see how long you have got still.

    Lots of pavement, yes, but the technical sections in between were a joy to ride, and sometimes they were quite demanding!
    Managed to not drop the bike a single time, even if today was the hardest and most technical riding I ever did, where all tricks came into play.
    Downhill riding, balance, clutch control, etc.
    Here a video from today.
    Off course you can't see how steep those gradients were, but in many of the sections it was a fine dance against the ABS bleeding in, when descending.
    With TKC-70 tires at full pressure on a fully loaded Vstrom 650, I really can't complain.


    In the early afternoon I accidentally rode I to a house's driveway rather than following the main track.
    As I realized my mistake, I noticed the owner and his dog, at the end of the driveway, and made gestures to show that I was gonna back out, that it was a mistake.
    Because of the Colossus wouldn't bulge (my bike, that is), while trying to tippie toe back and forth to do a full 180 reverse, I just looked at the man that had now approached and joked about the weight of the beast.
    To my surprise, not only he took it well, but also started chatting me up.
    After a few words about where was I coming from, that I was coming solo, etc, he (in Romanian) made me understand he would like to offer me something to eat.
    I took him up on that, and was rewarded with a full meal of soup, different types of meat, tomatoes, bread me cheese, all from their animals and their garden.
    The wife and babuska grandma came by, and had fun teaching me how to pronounce the various food names, while they were explaining a bit of their own life and asking about mine.
    These shows of hospitality are heart warming. I feel like it was one of the richest experiences I had in the whole trip, so far.

    After I got back on the track, as it was getting too late to consider finishing the whole stage, to avoid yesterday's night riding I decided to call it a day and go to a nearby big town.
    To get there I passed some kind of suburbia, where kids were so excited about seeing a big bike. They would run over askinng for a high five.
    I stopped at a narrow pass to let a car through, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by kids.
    I have never experienced something like this. It's an amazing feeling.
    #17
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  18. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Denmark
    The last couple of days have been my goodbye to Romania.
    What a beat way of doing so than by riding the Transalpina, and the Transfagaras, on the same day?

    I slept at a guesthouse at the very start of the Transalpina, and started following it south.
    I had a marker on Google Maps which I believed was the highlight of this road.
    As I approached that point, I also saw street signs, with the Transalpina word.
    Ok, I have to be honest, I was disappointed.
    There were some nice twisty roads, a lake, some craggy mountain, but most of all, annoying Austrian bikers riding the road like a race track and overtaking in flocks.
    It was a stressful and unevocative ride.
    At the end of it, there was a crossroad. I chose a direction that would bring me East, where I was heading, and after a few hundred meter I stopped to set the navigation on the Transfagaras.
    At that point I noticed on the map that, not too far from where I was, there was a large group of hairpin turns, as if it was a mountain pass.
    I decided to investigate, and to my pleasure I found the best section of the Transalpina, that totally blew my mind.
    I can't believe I almost missed it. I had actually taken a turn away from it.

    The riding was great, not quite as crowded as the previous section, so I could go at my tempo focusing on braking timing, gearshifts, trajectories, etc.
    It was in equal parts a fun moment, a technical exercise and a nature outing.

    I found a gravel entrance where I stopped to take some video footage with the drone (I always try to be out of the way not to annoy people with the propellers buzzing), and overheard another biker that had arrived since then, talking to a shepherd. Apparently I was at the start of the Strada Strategica, a road I considered riding when planning this trip, and that seems to be a part of the ACT trail.

    The cross to the Transfagaras was uneventful, over busy roads with heavy traffic. The pupped strapped to my crashbars is starting to show a layer of black grime, I wonder if the same sita in my lungs.

    I arrived at the Transfagaras as the sun was starting to go down. On the way up the mountain pass, the traffic was scarce, if any, and it gave me a great opportunity to experience the road lost in my thoughts.
    When I got to the main viewpoint, I stretched my legs and went for a walk, but then decided it was time to head down to avoid being caught riding in dark was on the twisties.

    Halfway down, the sky turned of amazing colors. I didn't have the GoPro running by then, but anyways it wouldn't have been able to capture them.
    Powerful tones of blues, reds and oranges.
    I decided to turn around, get back to the too and snap a drone sunset picture.
    Now I was running against time. It was my second run to the top, and after the Transalpina earlier that day and many hours on the road, I was feeling comfortable and capable.

    After snapping the picture at the top (which will have to wait being developed until when I'm back home, as it's multiple exposures to bring out all color), I really had to get a move on.
    But first - epic soundtrack!

    Riding down that road after sunset, in the "blue hour", has been a wild experience.
    At a certain point I thought to myself if I was more excited or afraid. And in that moment I just started laughing in the helmet.
    It might have been dangerous, but I felt in wonder, and all my focus was ice sharp.

    I got well below the hardest twisty part by the time the darkness set in, and by then the auxiliary lights came into play, flooding the road with their powerful beams.

    I don't think I'll ever forget the excitement of that ride. It was mesmerizing.

    Anyways, here a short clip from other moments during the day


    Today I crossed into Bulgaria, with a ferry.
    I was planning on staying at Motocamp Bulgaria, but upon arrival at the border I discovered the ferry didn't run as often asI wanted it to.
    That meant that I would have had 2 hours of riding in Bulgarian darkness to get there tonight - pass.
    I found closer accomodation, for the night.

    I think I'll skip it all together for this trip: it's too close to where I am now to make it a sensible option for tomorrow.
    I'll rather come back on a future trip and make it a base while I explore the surroundings.

    Speaking of the ferry - it was a great way to cross a border and enter a new land.
    As the ship crossed a big river, the sun started going down on the horizon.
    Under a red dusty sunset, we slowly approached the dock of the next land in the journey, with thoughts racing in my mind, as the ferry was getting closer and closer to it's destination.
    #18
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  19. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Denmark
    Day 15: Sarah (TR) > Istanbul (TR) 154km

    Ugh, it's already been 5 days! Time to be disciplined and log down these thoughts before they vanish.

    First of all, a few days ago I rode through Bulgaria.
    I crossed into the country via a ferry, as I thought it would be less busy than a normal border crossing.
    Less busy it was, allright, but that's because the next ferry was to be over an hour later.
    My original plan was to stop at Motocamp Bulgaria. I heard good things about that place, as a camp where adventurers come and meet on their own separate but intersecting journeys.
    The ferry change of plans meant it was no longer feasible getting there before sundown, and I did not want to ride for the first time in Bulgaria in pitch black darkness.
    Eventually I did, as my backup place to stay also turned out to be a bit away from the border.

    Crossing the border over a ferry ride was a magical experience. The sun was going down over a red hazy horizon, just as we crossed. It was quite a powerful feeling docking on the other side, a new country, one step closer to Turkey.

    Riding at night was quite eerie, though.
    People don't seem aware/didn't care about the risk of getting ran over, and in more than an occasion pedestrians were casually walking far too into the road, wearing dark clothes, in villages with no lights.
    A bit of a ghost town feeling.
    Also animals contributed to that, chasing after the bike, barking. No chance to catch up to it, but it gave a malevolent feeling.

    I didn't plan to spend time in Bulgaria. So close to the Turkish border, I preferred pushing through, leaving it for another trip to explore in depth.

    On my way south I stopped at a couple of places that interested me, among which a gigantic cave system with open roofs, which felt like a surreal place.
    Luckily I got there quite early, and the people present were decent guests.
    The party bus arrived just as I was leaving.
    Next I visited another cave, far less known.
    I was the only person there.
    This was also a large one, although far less interesting, aside from the fact that you could drive inside of it.
    I often go out in full darkness taking pictures of stars, but I have to admit stopping with no lights from any source, to get something fr the top box, I'm such a cave, was quite creepy. I did half expect to see a pair of eyes, upon turning the ignition key back online.
    Last of the Bulgarian treats was supposed to be a monument that looks like a UFO, but due to poor navigation (or carelessness, as I was enjoying the twisties that brought you up there, and missed a turn) I ended up at another popular sight.
    I realized I was at the wrong place after climbing the longest to of stairs.
    The UFO monument in the bag, and all was left was to hit the road and head south.



    I slept close to the border to leave early and cross in good time. Eventually things dragged and I ended up in queue under the midday sun, getting toasted.
    The border went smoothly, as I had the right paperwork at hand (passport, registration, green card proof of insurance).
    I was freaking out in my head about border fees. In Bulgaria I was asked to pay a small fee after processing, but now I was completely out of Euro.
    Had they asked me a symbolical 2€ fee, and I only had one big Bill (emergency fund), or a credit card.
    Luckily everything was free, so I took a big breath of relief when the last of the passport check booths let me through.

    Turkey is... Something else.
    I had heard stories about Turkish hospitality, and was wondering if I would experience it myself. There is always someone who experience those extraordinary acts of kindness or evil, and then there's the rest of us, who have a more dull day.

    I passed a village where I saw a convenient ATM. To avoid repeating the cash worries, I decided to pick up some cash, and I parked nearby. Upon doing so, a few people walked out of a house, which I greeted with a nod.
    One of them stopped to look at my plate, asked where I was from, and after asking his son to help translating, invited me to the nearby park for a drink.
    I mentioned before, my eating regime sucks. Even today breakfast is all I had and will have.
    When I got served a cold Pepsi, and , later two meatball sandwiches, from two complete strangers, I couldn't think what to say to express my gratitude.
    We sit and talked for a while, and thanks to the son speaking English I got a glimpse of their life, along with valuable hints and warnings for the road ahead.
    What struck me most, was the final greetings, with a "welcome to our village". I did feel welcome. It all happened so rapidly and so genuinely that it left me in wonder.
    Moreover: I am not a religious person, but this is the first time that the word "blessed" feels so strongly. I had a couple of people blessing me a safe journey, and I really feel they mean those words, and those words mean to me. It's as if, due to the harder nature of reality, down here, a good omen carries a more powerful meaning, cause you can actually use that good energy.

    20190915124624_MDG_4146_0.03.136.jpg

    Later that day I decided that, now that I had sprted out the money aspect, I needed mobile data. Navigation, bookings, information, etc.
    I tried going to a bigger town in search of a prepaid travel sim card, and was quickly reminded that, being a Sunday, most shops would be closed.
    I tried nevertheless, and found a shop that sold mobile chargers, covers, and some types of cards. Worth a shot.
    It looked like everything was easy to set up and straight forward, thanks to Google translate.
    However, when we started discussing money I realized the process was far too informal, with no paperwork, contract, numbers, etc. Red flag, the guy was ripping me off. Left him with a insincere apology, and tried elsewhere - supermarkets, which did have the cards but not the desire to explain, and would look at me like an alien or directly start talking to the next in line.
    Though audience.

    As I was getting downed by all of this, I decided to call it a day, regroup in a hotel, and try again the day after, a week day.

    For the first time I heard the sunset/sunrise prayers. Things are definitely changing.

    The day after (today) I had two goals: get data, and cross the Bosphorous channel to get on the other side of Istanbul.

    Things started great, going to a far more professional Telecom shop, who hooked me up with a local number in no time.
    Pumped by that good experience, I hit the road East.

    I stopped halfway to read if Turkey had a vignette system, and found out O would need a HGS sticker to cross the bridge, some kind of toll.
    Here the chase began. I first went to a post office (technically the right place), who was closed. Tried another, who couldn't help but pointed me to a bank. Tried the bank, who couldn't help as I wasn't their customer, but pointed me to a Shell gas station (another place where you can get them). This station couldn't help either, and pointed me to a post office, where they eventually hooked me up with the sticker.
    At each place, I had to deal with the increasingly mad traffic of Istanbul, getting closer to it's center. I had to find parking, and wait in queues, carrying all the motorcycle gear I didn't dare leave strapped to the bike. I was sweaty and tired and exhausted.

    And the traffic.. my God, is just the worst I've experienced. In the city roads it was ok. Mad, but if you just adopt a fuckall attitude and go with the flow, it was manageable. I did experience a couple of situations where bigger means precendence, me being the small guy. Vans pulling out, forcing me to an emergency stop in some occasion. But I saw it coming, so I was in control.
    At the end of the day, though, I ended up riding on some kind of very trafficked express way, which was a free for all. Scary,a extremely reckless driving. Bad experience, would not recommend.

    GOPR4899_0.00.033.jpg

    After I secured the HGS, I rode away from the city center, and booked tge cheapest accomodation I could find, at a whooping 55 euro a night. It hurts my budget, but I was done for today.

    Turkey is really the hardest traveling I have done so far, and I feel quite beaten up.
    But tomorrow is another day, tomorrow (hopefully) I cross into Asia.

    I stop thinking about this, about the significance of crossing into a new continent. Already today, seeing the Black Sea at the horizon was quite a special moment.

    DSC_0839.JPG

    All of a sudden I feel really far away from home. I think back to Poland, Czech Republic, and it feels like kids play.
    I came to Turkey looking for more challenge, and damn, challenge I am getting.

    Now rest, regroup, recover. Tomorrow we take on Asia.
    #19
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  20. lucsali

    lucsali Adventurer

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2019
    Oddometer:
    27
    Location:
    Denmark
    Day 16: Istanbul (TR) > Bolu (TR)
    Day 17: Bolu (TR) > Valla (TR) > Bolu (TR)

    I finally crossed the Bosphorous bridge!
    After all the stressing out about the HGS card, and spending a day in traffic and in offices to sort it out, upon riding through the toll booth I was informed that.. the system was down and I had to pay in cash.
    I didn't know that was possible, many websites hinted at the fact that it wasn't. But I guess the card will make for a nice souvenir, as I have no intention on riding on highways if I can avoid it, and as I won't be backtracking on that bridge, taking a ferry for the way back, instead.

    Crossing the Bosphorous was a powerful moment. The feeling of crossing into another continent struck me. I did feel a sense of achievement.
    Ironically, though, when comparing to the "far from home" feeling of some of the other days, this was a bit natural, as in the back of my mind it wasn't that big of a deal.
    Take a small step, and another one, and in time you will go a long way.

    Yesterday and today I've been enjoying quiet days. Still 6/7 hours riding, but not in a hurry and with enough time for pleasant stops.

    I found some nice beaches on the coast to the Black Sea. As I'm visiting out of season, although the infrastructure is there there's only a handful of people bathing, which makes it a bit of a paradise for the antisocial.

    20190917141438_IMG_4165.JPG

    Having found a great hotel which, for only 70 Turkish lira / 11 euro euro provided a double room with bathroom and kitchenette, I decided to stay here a day more, and use it as a base of operations while I spent the day exploring the northen area, leaving most of my luggage behind (including the GoPro, dummy).

    20190918124319_IMG_4181.JPG
    20190918120141_IMG_4176.JPG

    I had found a place on Google Maps that sounded interesting: a panoramic viewpoint among beautiful mountains. I decided to make it today's objective.
    A 3.5 hours ride later, I arrived at the final 20km stretch, a gravel road which got progressively harder and harder.
    From gravel it turned to big loose sharp rocks. When it also got steeper and with twists, I reached the limit of my skills, or of my tires. Probably a bit of both.
    I dropped the bike once, twice..
    It had been a long ride to get there, so it felt shitty the idea of turning back, but judgement was that this trail was getting too dangerous. Technical difficulty aside, what worried me the most was the isolation, as it didn't seem like a trail in use.
    I stopped to rest, drink and eat a flapjack bar, but the true difficulty started when I began the descent.
    Again I dropped the bike a couple of times, once having it fall over myself, facing down, the leg under it.
    I'm really glad I can lift the bike myself, I would never venture out with a bike I can't wrestle.
    The toe of my boots (not the foot itself) did kinda of a 180 turn. Pretty sure my foot is not supposed to do that. If I want to keep doing this it's time I invest on some proper Enduro boots with a rigid sole and protected toebox.

    20190918113115_IMG_4171.JPG
    20190918112806_IMG_4170.JPG

    I'm glad I stopped and turned around where I did. The trail only seemed to get harder, and had I taken that descent after having burned the many energies required to complete the ascent, things could have been gnarly.

    Once back on tarmac I decided to visit another scenic spot, a gorge with a waterfall and a small river.
    Interesting enough, an enjoyable sight.

    20190918135855_IMG_4200.JPG

    I had planned the day to be back at the hotel (for once) before sunset, as in the last 3 or 4 days I keep on ending up riding at night.
    Also today I failed that.
    I realized it's because, as I move South, days are getting shorter. Compared to Romania I have already lost half an hour of sun. It won't be a problem now that I can account for that, though.

    Tomorrow I'll push south towards a big salt lake. I'll try to leave early to make the most of the light hours.

    In a couple of days I'll be at Cappadocia, my goal for this trip. At that point I'll start heading back, although with some large detours to explore the areas that I'll pass on my way back to Denmark.

    I currently have about 7000km on the pair of TKC-70 tires. So far they have been the perfect choice, due to the big ratio of tarmac compared to gravel/rocks. Even in those situations, though, they were confidence inspiring, eg in the Romanian ACT trail.
    I wonder how much thread will be left for the way back. I hope not to have to change them before ending the trip, but I'm also aware I'll be riding towards countries where Autumn is setting in, with rain and leaves on the roads. We will see!

    Short recap of the last few days!

    #20
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