In Which We Ride... A Scot and South African go Long Haul

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by SuperSonicRocketship, Aug 20, 2016.

  1. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Every now and again you take a photo that needs a whole update, all on it's own.

    I honestly felt like i'd taken a wrong turn and ended up in Jurassic Park.

    Wow.

    Geiranger Fjord, Norway.

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    #21
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  2. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 17

    We are still in the process of soaking up the rather eyecatching Helsinki, plus working on something that came as a bit of a surprise even to us! So i'll get to a full report on that in a few days.

    In the mean time I want to go over the bikes themselves. More specifialy their capabilities for the road ahead. See we are still in Europe just now, where the roads are smooth, the tarmac is grippy and the traffic is, for the most part, predictable.

    Almost a year ago, when first working on this entire project we had to come to a decision as to what bikes to take. What brand, what size, what age etc.

    We settled on these two gorgeous F800GS's, then we got to work, the were stripped, re-inforced, upgraded and put back together again. We have modifications to: the electrical systems, charging systems, fuel systems, suspension, electricals, frame, lighting, protection and luggage but to name a few.

    They are as ready as ready can be for trip. Or at least for this first European leg (and of cpurse others). I have often wondered how such a heavy, and planted, machine will hold up on the battered roads of Mongolia, or perhaps in the drenched jungles of Central America?

    We don't know... we've never done it.

    During our route through Sweden and Norway we took a few oportunities to test this theory out. We broke away from the tarmac and headed into the rutted gravel roads of the Norwegian Nature Reserves and onto the sandy stretches that line the Swedish lakes. We threw these 200+kg machines about and had plenty fun.

    But that was just a few hours on a pleasant few days in Scandanavia. I wonder how such an experience would be for hundreds of miles in stifling heat in the middle of nowhere?

    Who knows.

    We have always been open to the idea of taking a second set of much smaller bikes through the more remote and challenging regions. The topic has popped up again today between Kyla and myself.

    So maybe I can put this page to some good use and ask you guys... what you think?

    Look into taking a few dual sports for some sections of the trip?

    Thoughts?

    Love,
    Brucie


    Here's a photo of me slithering about the sand at one of Swedens billions of perfect lakes:

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    The bike feels great unloaded... Support truck anyone?
    #22
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  3. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 19

    Mother Russia

    Sooo a slight deviation from the plan has saw us ditch the bikes for week or so whilst we head into Russia as backpackers.

    A 72 hour visa free trip to St Petersburg has given us an insight as for what's to come. I feel like I've fast-forwarded a bit though, Russia shouldn't have been for almost 3 months still. Like when I used to enter a cheat code and skip to the next level in Super Mario.

    Russia awaits.

    Full road report coming soon!

    Love,
    Brucie


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    #23
  4. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 20

    Following blue skies and +25C weather, we made it to Helsinki on Monday, after making our way down the central Finnish flatlands. Don't worry its not as boring as it sounds! The country is almost more water than land. Lakes everywhere. Now I know I said that about Sweden, but a quick look over a map of Finland shows who wears the trousers in the world of... well having amazing lakes I suppose.

    We parked the bikes up at camp in the neighbouring suburb of Rastila, the nice weather made strolling around the Helsinki waterfront markets a welcome break from the saddle. Picture seafood stalls, souvenir markets and polite Finnish street vendors trying to sell discounts on boat cruises.

    In the end we crumbled and bought a ticket for a short hop boat cuise over to the Helsinki Fortress Island of Suomenlinna. They guns still point East from the ramparts towards Russia for... well... many reasons actually.

    After 2 days in the pavement cracking sun we remembered that, somehow, we bumped in to 2 dundonians on a stretch of Norways desolate Atlantic Coast who told us that just maybe, we could get into Russia from Helsinki, without breaching our current Russian Visa rules...

    ...an Adventure within an adventure.

    (cont...)
    #24
  5. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    ... Mother Russia is strict.

    Getting in to Russia isn't all that easy, and taking 2 motorcycles is even harder. In order to get our initial Visas we had to give finger prints, bank statements, details of route through Russia, details of previous emplyment, attain an invitation document and then apply in person in Edinburgh.

    So the thought of getting to see St Petersburg without a visa was too good to miss. After all the must-see city wasn't on our route. The process to book the ferry was simple, and before we know we it we had 2 tickets to Russia, wooo! Easy right?

    Then I remembered... the first set of visa documents are firmly affixed to page 1 in our passports. (We actually are travelling on multiple passports but that's another story). Unfortunately I remembered this fact while standing in the queue for Russian Border Control. Too late to turn back now. Hopefully the visa-free visit was still valid for those who actually have valid future visa?!

    When I was called forward to the control desk I was met with the most stern looking Russian authority figure you could imagine. Picture for me if you will; shaved head, sharp features, in almost military dress.

    I handed my passport over with the Arrival Card holding it open at the photo page in the hopes that he wouldn't look through the other pages and thus discover my simply unmissable Russian Auto Visa sticker taking up all of page 1.

    No such luck, he leafed through every page, stopping dead on the Visa page. He looked down at it with intent. He read every word and section very closely, I could tell from the way he was slightly squinting his eyes to read it under the desk light.

    He looked back up to me and said one word.

    "Motorcycle?"

    I froze for a second, only to spurt out something along the lines of "eemmm no, well yes, but not til August" He looked back down at the Passport for a while, then it slid to the left of the desk, lifted himself from his seat and reached into his back pocket. This hadn't happened for anyone else in the queue... I know this, becuase I'd been watching very closely.

    I didn't quite catch what he'd taken from his pocket, and I certainly couldn't see without leaning way over the desk, such an intrusion would surely land me in jail for a million years in such a strict nation?

    Thoughts of breaching visa policy and immigration rules raced through my mind. Up to this point I was a tad worried... Now, I was truly panicking.

    After what seemed like forever, he eventually placed the item from his pocket on to the desk. It was an iPhone...

    He slid it towards me and nodded for me to look. I can tell you, I have NEVER been so glad to see what I did.

    A photo, of my ultra-serious border control officer, standing in beach shorts and t-shirt, with helmet underarm, standing in front of a Suzuki GSXR 750.

    Confused I glanced back up to see my ultra serious border officer in and new light. Grinning like a 7 year old, showing off his pride and joy. I breathed a sigh of relief and we spoke for a few minutes in very broken English about the Russian leg of the trip. I feel he insisted the GSXR was better than the BMW800 as indicated on the Visa paper.

    He brushed over the Visa papers and waved on to the next guard to let us through. A little green light flashed over the gate to signal we had made it.

    Who needs friends in high places when you have a motorcycle?

    A sneak preview of Russia. That sense of Adventure has reached a new height.

    Love,
    Brucie
    #25
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  6. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Quick Snaps of St Petersburg

    Sadly we chose not to take the DSLR camera to St Petersburg on reports of pickpockets and thefts. Plus we wanted to travel ultra light.

    Unfortunately we did hear reports of things being stolen whilst here. Mostly phones and cameras. We have been fine so far, we are quite self aware of our belongings when we move about the big cities.

    All the photos are from the phone so perhaps not the greatest quality. But hey, it's something to look at :)

    Enjoy!

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    Russian Ladoga Rally Highlight

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    Cyrillic Snickers

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    Russians in their natural habitat

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    MaKAOHanHc indeed... I love cyrillic

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    Everyone is rich in Russia. The Ruble was coming in at 103 to the pound!

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    #26
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  7. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Week 3 in Photos

    Week 3 took us from Vaasa in the North of Finland, down through the central lake region, to the capital Helsinki. A last minute booking saw us board the overnight ship to Russia for a sneak peak of the East.

    We have nothing but sunshine and a gentle breeze for week 3. Fingers crossed it continues.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [Far too many photos to upload here into the thread] See the following link:

    FaceBook Week 3 Gallery
    #27
  8. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Here's 2 photos that best sum up my Russian experience.

    The old busted up car here was parked on the pavement right outside the beautiful statues and fountains of the Summer Gardens in St Petersburg centre. Estimated value : £20

    The split new Lamborghini you see here was parked 30 feet away from the grubbiest, poorest and most insecure, feeling section of the city you could possibly imagine. Estimated value: £240,000

    But I loved the old Russian cars and trucks that sat about the city. The parking was terrible, the cars were mostly terrible and the driving was... terrible! Russia is awesome in its own very Russian way. And just think, people say St Petersburg is the least Russian part of Russia...

    Love,
    Brucie

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    #28
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  9. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 26

    Be careful what you wish for.

    We prayed to the bike gods (a close relation to the traffic light gods) for more blue skies and sunshine... oh boy did they answer.

    We boarded the ferry from Helsinki to Tallin in 29 deg heat. Now that wasn't so bad, the ferry crossing was nice and we sat in the ship deck and made some diary entries.

    When we got off the ship however we were met with 33-35 deg, plus full riding gear, heat from the engine between your legs and not a whisper of a breeze.

    It was horrendous! Whilst losing about a billion litres of sweat, we made our route around the Estonia coastline and double backed on ourselves to visit the capital, Tallin.

    It was sad to see the old capital so draped in touristy tat. People dressed in medieval tunics trying to sell you plastic swords and shields. Being stopped every 2 seconds to be sold something, or offered offered a leaflet for the tour bus.

    I'm sure Tallin does have something to offer the overland traveller, but we certainly couldn't find it.

    The rest of the nation is quite interesting. Although the landscape is flat as you can ever get, the scenery is pleasing. There are actually quite a few small off road tracks to be explored. We found a few that seem to cut through the forest and between the cultivated land.

    But the main talking point this week has been the heat. The temperature has dropped a little to the high 20's again and is more tolerable now, but mid day is tough riding on the back roads. The road surface is really quite bad too.

    Onwards to Latvia!

    Here's Kyla eating a whole watermelon to herself, in the shade, near the Latvian Border in a poor attempt to cool down!

    Love,
    Brucie

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    #29
  10. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Week 4 in Photos

    Not many photos to show...

    Sure, the Baltic States are not blessed with breath taking natural scenery, but they have their charms. The national parks aren't showstopping mountain ranges or sweeping valleys, but they are free from tourists, camper vans and, most importantly, those massive groups of people with thousands of pounds worth of top end mountaineering gear to go hiking over flat surfaces with walking poles.

    Nope none of that.

    In fact all we seen were real people. Genuine Estonians and authentic Latvians. My impression of them is that they are quite an enthusiastic nation(s). Proud to show their little country off to the rest of the world as they adopt the Euro and reap the benefits of EU membership for tourism purposes.

    The roads however are crap. The paved ones are flat and boring, the city roads are horribly maintained and the fun roads in the forest are too demanding for our gigantic machines, we just dont have the ground clearance!

    Onward to Lithuania!

    Love,
    Brucie

    FaceBook Week 4 Gallery
    #30
  11. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 34

    HOMEWARD BOUND

    Well now, to cut a long story short, we have hit a micro-disaster in our travels. That's why things have been quite quiet on the page the last 6 days or so.

    As it turns out, Kylas dual-nationality SHOULD have been declared to the Visa Procurement services for the Russian, Mongolian and Kazakhi Embassies. Even though we were HEAVILY REASSURED that it wont matter.

    Soooo after exploring every possible avenue, we have come to the reeeeaaaally annoying conclusion that Kyla must fly home to the UK to re-apply for some of the Visas. They simply can't be applied for on the road.

    So bikes parked up safely, Kyla (or possibly both of us) will catch a cheap flight into either London or Edinburgh (plenty available) to sort the problem out - about turn - and head back out to continue the trip!

    Talk about a plot twist. Jeeeese. Lesson learned... Don't listen to consular bureaucracy, go with your gut!

    Onward to.... the UK? Uuugh

    Love,
    Brucie

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    #31
  12. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    World's Most Boring Update.

    Well, since arriving home, for perhaps the most tedious reason in the history of overland travel, we have been completing a surreal series of phonecalls and visits between London, Edinburgh and even Dundee to get the paperwork amended.

    The good news is; The problem is essentially solved! Kyla's entry papers will re-issued.

    The bad news is; These things always seem to take an eon to process. Especially when you are waiting with as much anticipation as we are.

    Since we are back on the island, and must return to the Edinburgh issuing office, we may as well take the opportunity to nip up to Dundee and say hello to friends and family, it is home after all. Since we may not actually get the opportunity to do it again for a long time.

    ... Pretty sure I said that first time round. Ha!

    I expect we shall be back on the road within the coming weeks. Don't worry if the page goes a bit quiet 'til then, there really is nothing exciting to report so far. Except of course for the fact that I found out yesterday that Fanta make a Raspberry and Passionfruit flavour.

    Love,
    Brucie
    #32
  13. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    FINALLY

    Well, well, well... What do we have here.

    I'll tell you what we have; a small brown letter slid through the door with the words 'VFS-Global : Russia' stamped onto the front top-right hand side. The contents of this letter is what we have waited 6 weeks for.

    I rubbed the glorious brown paper against my cheek and released a single tear of joy.

    Not really... but it was pretty good to get it. And here's why...

    The letter essentially states that the Russian Foreign Office has finally deemed Kyla not to be a dangerous, MI5 trained spy and that she may indeed apply for a second Visa. This is good. Incidentally; I can't actually imagine anyone less spy-worthy. Kyla is the type of girl who if she was ever to actually be involved in a high pressure situation would sit on the floor, refusing to move until somebody came to pick her up. Ideally this person would have snacks.

    Hurraah.

    The process involves a mandatory 45 day activity-suspension from the Russians, which has been the main reason this has taken so long. Since the same organisation, VFS, also run some of the Mongolian and Khazak visas, we had to jump through quite a few hoops to get it all sorted.

    But now, I can finally announce, that after perhaps the most boring 48 days in the history of any known lifeform, in any realm of existence; We can now continue the trip. Since we spent most of the last 5 weeks making seemingly pointless trips to Edinburgh and London, we have decided to spend 1 week at home with our families and try to be back on the road, gobbling up the miles, on or very close to the 8th August.

    Love,
    Brucie
    #33
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  14. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Back on the Road!

    ...And to be honest... about damn time too.

    I don't even want to look at the calendar to see how long the whole debacle took in the end. Somewhere in the region of 6 and a half weeks I think. Uugh. We had planned to leave Monday, that never happened. We did get finally leave Scotland again on Wednesday. In a way, I guess it was fun to spend some unexpected time at home, but I have NEVER been so glad to be back on the trail.

    But we endured, and are back on the Continent! And with some good news.

    We do have a few exciting updates to tell. After various discussions with sponsors (and ourselves for that matter). We now have ANOTHER set of bikes on top of the originals. A second set of smaller dirt bikes to explore the more remote regions.

    POP QUIZ!

    Top Prizes to anyone can recognize the make and model?

    Answers in Comments!

    So why this move? Well as I always suspected from day 1. The type of adventure we plan to go on requires a heavy compromise in the machines we use. Through a long and complicated procedure: (sponsor opportunities) I never fully documented why we ended up with the bikes we did. But the decision was made, and we ended up with the mighty BMW F800GS. Don't get me wrong, the BMW's are the perfect machine for road touring and very light gravel tracks. However, as we discovered in Sweden and Norway that anything other than a fairly well-beaten path and the 210kg beast was just no fun. Our 800's lack the ground clearance, suspension travel and the ability to bumble over the rocks, logs, sand and mud that we ventured into in the national park trails in Scandinavia.

    We actually precisely calculated the full trail weight of the bikes and were quite shocked that we reached a grand total of 285kg for my bike and 275kg for Kyla's. (210kg for the bike + 25kg for bars, boxes and guards +10kg tools + 10kg spares/security + 25-35kg luggage/riding gear) And believe me when I say; It was literally quicker walking down the trails.

    So we will put them on hold for now. We will return to them for the North American/Australia sections.

    What we now have is an ultralight, ultra simple pair of mini-adventure machines. Total weight of the new steeds?Brace yourselves...

    The new bikes weigh just 166kg.... Oh but that's not even the best bit. That figure of 166kg actually includes the weight of 10ltrs of extra fuel + 2ltrs water + all the tools, all the panniers, boxes, racks, topbag, all the spares, riding gear, armour, and even boots. The only thing not on the scales that day was my helmet. The bikes themselves weighed in at a mere 128kg (wet weight)

    So I was able to shed 120kg off my trail weight... That's unreal...That's a big number in car world, never mind on a motorcycle.

    So where are we now? Well after a blast south from Northern Europe we skimmed the East of Germany, down through the Elbe Valley and I currently find myself sat in a quaint little campsite in the rather sunny Czech Republic. Kyla has went for yet another nap, bringing her nap tally up to surely around 50% of her time on this Earth.

    Full Road Report coming soon! (Probably in the next hour or so)

    Love,
    Brucie

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    #34
  15. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Jurassic Germany

    So in our 2 day rat race through Holland and Germany to get roughly as East as we were 6 weeks ago, we stumbled across this freaky landscape next to the German-Czech border.

    I vaguely knew these rock formations existed from reading about them in a Lonely Planet guide maaany years ago, but I didn't realise they were quite so striking. The sandstone pillars and gulleys absolutely do not fit with the surrounding ladscape at all. It's like a movie set for King Kong, or Jurassic Park that's been helicoptered in for the effect.

    I even give the rocks a wee squeeze to make sure they were real. Yup, story checks out.

    We spent around an hour or so at the Elbe Valley, battling through the tourists to see the landscape. Unfortunately a phantom 24 hour foot injury that seemed to pop out of nowhere cut the day short. We headed back to the bikes and nipped over the ever-so-close Czech border. After being caught in a cold-snap and quite rainshower we found ourselves at a campsite out in the Northern Czech Forest regions, where I am sat right now typing this very post. The Czech people seem friendly, the prices are agreeable and weather has finally brightened up for the first time since we left on Wednesday.

    The onward route is completely unplanned. We are about 50 miles from Prague, and we do have a few supplies to pick up... So if you see us in Prague, do say hello.

    Love,
    Brucie

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    Surreal landscape

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    A camp photo is a must-have for any adventure blog.
    #35
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  16. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Route to Date:

    5 weeks on the road, then 6 weeks homebound, then 4 days back on the road!

    Technically that's 97 days, but for fairness sake I will resume the numbering of days as of how many days on the road. So i'll simply call today 'Day 39'.

    Included are some maps for your viewing pleasure of the whole scenario.

    Here's the stats:

    If you include Scotland and England, it puts our tally at 13 countries, 14 ferries, 4,000 miles, 4 motorcycles, 2 inches of hair grown and 1 missing travel adapter!

    Love,
    Brucie

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    #36
  17. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 42

    What are Thooooose.

    Footwear seems to be never ending debate deep in the nooks and crannies of my mind. The problem with travelling by motorcycle is that you don't have any room for anything.

    Shoes are hard and annoying to pack. You can't roll them up and if you try and be clever and stuff things inside them, to use less pack space, you will find that your stuff smells like a foot.

    Excellent.

    My old approach was 3 sets of footwear. Riding boots (which are actually a pair of Ugg Event/Vibram Hiking boots) a pair of Sketchers for daily wear and then a pair of flip flops to wear at beaches/pools or whatever.

    Now, seeing as A. I don't have any room for 3 pairs of shoes and B. I can't swim; I thought it unnecessary to have a pair of dedicated flip flops.

    BUT

    What if I wanted to wade gently in the lapping shores of Croatia? Or dip my toes in the Pacific Coast in L.A?

    If only a pair of regular trainers could be persuaded to mate with a pair of flip flops and produce a hybrid child, a new species, the future of footwear for people who might get their trainers wet but don't have flip flops on hand.

    Enter these things; They are called Keen Clearwaters, and I don't care if they look stupid.

    I love them.

    Feel the breeze vaguely catch the sides of my foot. Relish the loose pebbles that jump under your heel. Get them wet and not really care, kind of.

    As you can tell, not much has happened today.

    Love,
    Brucie

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    Cankle
    #37
  18. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 42

    Thoughts about Motorcycles.

    You know with having made the switch from big bikes to little bikes, it has opened the whole debate again as to what if the best method of transport to travel with.

    Me and Kyla are essentially backpackers. We want cheap, easy and instant travel options for our trip. A motorcycle is by far the easiest way to achieve that whilst still having your own transport 100% of the time.

    You have 2,300cc cruiser/tourers right down to 50cc mopeds... So what's the smart choice?

    It's easy to get caught up in the media and marketing of the whole debate of motorcycle travel. A quick google search will tell you need a purpose built adventure motorcycle to travel on... And just when I thought I had my head wrapped around the big vs. small issue... do 2 German guys doing their own mega trip pull up next to us on these old girls.

    The exact models escape me, old Java's I am informed?

    It doesn't matter what you ride... or drive.. or fly, or cycle, or sail.

    So long as you have fun.

    Love,
    Brucie

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    Couple of older birdies

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    #38
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  19. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Day 44

    Prague to Krakow

    We had a bit of indecision as to what route to take between the 2 big Central European tourist hubs. After all there is no coast, no mountains and no real trails to ride in the region.

    We opted to study the map closely and plot a route that avoided every main road in the area. It was a great decision.

    We blasted through a 210 mile (330ish km?) ride through some of the most quaint countryside you could imagine. Picturesque towns, immaculately preserved churches, town halls and market square. Small winding roads cut satisfyingly through the Eastern Czech/Southern Polish borderlands.

    It was a awesome little surprise for a region that I honestly had very little expectations for. I guess as I passed into the former Soviet states I assumed that all I would be met with is grey blocks and crumbling agricultural machines littering the roadside. Honestly, I could have been in the Black Forest from what I had seen.

    We arrived in Krakow early yesterday, both crashing out in the tent as soon as it was built from the last few days long rides. Consecutive 200 mile days are reeeal tough out on the back roads and trails. Especially on the road quality that Poland has to offer; It really knocks the wind out your sail spending that long in the saddle with only 200 miles to show for it. More-so when you are sporting a Michelin Cross tyre on the back. Eek.

    1 and a half days sight-seeing (in the stupidly perfect Krakow) set us up for the next bit tomorrow, heading South East into the Tatras Mountains to explore Slovakia, hoping to seek out the Dukla Pass!

    Krakow Touristy Pics coming soon!

    Love,
    Brucie

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    #39
  20. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

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    Weather, Weather, Weather...

    It's talk of the town down here at In Which We Ride HQ, aka; The Tent.

    We have been hit with a strangely perfect pattern with alternating days of intense sunshine and then unseasonably heavy rain. The trend has followed us for 8 days straight now.

    Heavy rain followed by blistering heat, only to wake up to lashing sheets of monsoon downpours... then just when you have given up hope.. the next days mercury hits 28 degrees.

    Today, around 2 inches of rain fell in just a few hours.

    Tomorrow? Well... If I were a betting man, i'd stick a shiny Polish Zloty on clear blue skies.

    Of course, now I have said this, we will actually be hit with a Biblical Flood.

    Love,
    Brucie
    #40