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

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 91

    Castles in the Sky

    My knowledge of Greece is limited pretty much to one thing; Ancient Greek fairytales. I could tell you all about the slaying of Medusa, or the burden of Atlas to carry the skies, but I couldn't really tell you anything meaningful about Greece's history or it's culture. So it was a good thing that we bumped into Paul.

    Paul is a friendly and very well travelled Australian guy who was midway through a fairly long Eastern European trip in a rented German motorhome. We crossed paths as we were headed North, and himself South, to explore the much less tourist oriented central Greece. Fresh in his mind, he gave us a laundry list of interesting places to see on the way North, the highlight of which was a place called Meteora.

    The route North drifted away from the coastline and felt very much more like 'real' Greece. The big give-away was that we weren't being heckled to buy a 'This. Is. Sparta!' T-shirt every 8 minutes. Yet ironically, when we did arrive at Meteora, it was in fact heaving with tourists. Thankfully Meteora itself more than made up for it.

    Meteora is about as close as real life allows to a fantasy Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones style sacred city hidden amongst the mountain tops. Imagine a maze of rough, stony, hand-built monastaries, chapels and other sacred dwellings built, or rather; balanced, atop 500 foot cliffs. Note, when I say 'built on a cliff', I don't mean they simply have a nice hilltop view... These buildings, of which I have to remind myself are dated in the hundreds of years, overhang the cliff faces to the very limits that physics will allow. Another inch and they would come tearing away from the rockface. It's one of those places that no photo, nor video, will ever do justice.

    With the bikes parked up, we spent around 3-4 hours hiking around the mountains and trails around the Meteora site, we found the further you hiked up the trail,not only did you get further from the busloads of day tours, but the better views you got of the site itself. Win-Win!

    That night we camped up at the local Meteora campsite where kyla made immediate close friends with a local cat. Very close friends in fact. Kyla fell asleep next to the bike, not an unusual site, but the cat decided to nuzzle in and fell asleep right on top of her. Unfortunately I woke them up in the process of getting some photos.

    After a good nights cat-free sleep we packed up early and enthusiastically to hit the road. We had a long days ride through some perfect sun beaten Greek mountains... Or so we thought... Instead we were treated to some of the heaviest rain, and darkest clouds, that we have had not only on the trip; but in fact have ever experienced in all our lives. The deep grey clouds drove the rain into us for a whole day. Oh, and just to twist the knife, Mother Nature decided to allow the tempreture to drop from 30 Deg to 15, only to then half it again over most of the mountain passes. The storm followed us every inch of our ride from Meteora in Central Greece all the way to the North East.

    Every. Single. Inch.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Visibility : 10 feet
    BillUA and mbanzi like this.
  2. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Week 11 in Photos

    From the South coast of Turkey, we skirted across the islands of the Aegean via a 12 hour ferry, stopping only at Kos, to find ourselves in Athens.

    Love,
    Brucie

    Week 11 FaceBook Gallery
  3. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 93

    Punctures, Breakdowns and Expired Documents

    I warn you now that this is a LOOONG one... But I really need to write it out whilst it's still fresh in my mind. Days like this are really what make an adventure worthy of being even called 'An Adventure'

    It seems that it wasn't just an one off day that we got caught in the storm. Ever since we got soaked like drowned rats the tempretures have actually stayed quite low. I don't know what I expected the climate to be like as we headed inland really... I just assumed that we are in Southern Europe in September, so it must be Summer right?

    I guess not. But hey, at least we haven't had any more rain. The cold weather gear was dug out from the deepest corners of our panniers for the first time since the Glaciers in Norway waaaay back in May.

    The last few days haven't been the be smoothest sailing. Remember last week when I mentioned Kylas bike wouldn't start? Well that was all fine, because we were at a campsite in Athens, a huge city with every possible resource you could ever need to fix the problem. Easy.

    Now picture this is you will. We are riding over the Olympus Mountain Range in Northern Greece. It's cold, it's getting dark, you are hungry, but spirits are high because your days end destination is only 40 miles away. Once there you will find a campsite, good nights sleep, hot food, and even a Yamaha Dealer who has our part. Simple! All you have to do is keep on riding. See Kylas fuel pump doesn't like to stop once it's running, the air flow of thse colder days is actually a blessing in disguise as it keeps the bike cooler and the pump wont sieze. Like I said; Just keep on riding.

    But what if you see an unmissable photo oportunity? What, if for example, as you are passing Mount Olympus and you see, by complete chance, a construction crane stack 5 huge concrete cyclinders in the exact formation of the Olympic Rings, with Mount Olympus in the background? One in a million chance! So I took the risk and pulled over for a photo... Then everything that could have possibly went wrong did. Here's how it played out;

    Firstly, my camera battery decided, right now, to be dead so I had to use my phone camera. Secondly, the construction area wasn't actually accesible from the side that you could see both the rings and the mountain in the same shot. Thirdly, the photo I eventually got with my phone is inevitably now a crap photo. Fourth, you guessed it, Kyla's bike cut off and the fuel pump would now no longer prime. And finally; The city of Katerini, with all of it's hot food, affordable campsites and Yamaha dealers is now just 40 miles away, yet you cannot reach it because you are stuck with a broken fuel pump, freezing, with a sad girlfriend, in an unpronouncable village the size of a tennis court, in the mountains, that has only two things in it; A tiny cafe that sells salty Greek sausages and microwavable chips, and some stray dogs.

    Whilst sitting eating our salty sausages and floppy chips, we pondered what to do. My decicion making ability was, clearly, quite crap so I let Kyla take the lead. She suggests that we wait it out, let the fuel pump cool, reset itself and we continue over the pass. The sunset over the mountain was incredible, but we couldn't fully enjoy it, as instead it served as our sand timer, sinking ever-so-slowly and plunging us into darkness. The problem is passing the mountain trails by night is treacherous and camping wild in these little towns isn't much fun either.

    Ten times, at 15 minute intervals, we tried to spark the bike into life, with nothing but perplexed looks from the local elders to show for it. I had visions of us roughing it here in the village for the night and flagging down a van or truck to take the bike into the city the next day. The eleventh try however, well, would you believe that little Yamaha, already battered when we got it, that has been bashed about mountain trails, dropped, bumped and broken, jumped into life like nothing was ever wrong. We looked at each other in disbelief for a moment.

    I can't remember exactly what was said. The memory is hazy, but something along the lines of "oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, go, go, GO, GO, GO". Kyla hopped on the bike and took off over the pass. I scrambled our bits and pieces together and followed a few minutes later, eventually catching up to the red tail light in the ever fading light. We were on edge the whole way into the city. If the bike broke down again we would be stuck roadside, in the cold and dark, hungry, with no food or water 'til the next morning. Sure, not life-threatening in this part of the world, but still massively unpleasant.

    But the bike did make it. Just fine in fact. Riding into the city at night was like having someone poke at an exposed nerve in your tooth. We had just come over a dark desolate mountain pass, and were now negotiating a noisy and agitating city. There was such a heavy contrast from our ride in. The moonlight was traded for traffic lights, the mosquitoes had become pizza delivery scooters and our dodging of cracks and obstacles on the mountain pass was now splitting between buses and frustrated red-faced taxi drivers. Katerini is not a huge city by any means, but it felt enormous to us that night.

    After passing through the city, with our heads burst, we emerged from the other side, and were once again in darkness, this time following a short 6 mile ride to the Aegean Coast where the campsites lay. It was too dark to see the water, but you could hear and smell the sea's presence.

    The first campsite we arrived at greeted us with a huge metal gate and a padlock, behind which two guard dogs barked at us. The place was clearly closed down. No problem, this area is littered with campspots. The second campsite, just 1 mile down the road was completely unsignposted and when we passed we saw no lights or any human presence. The third was the same, as was the fourth. Finally we stopped at one of the last campsites on the map, again sealed by a metal gate and a rusty padlock. By this point I was now as confused as I was annoyed. Surely all the campsites can't have ceased business? Perhaps closed for the season? "It's only September!" I scowled at the gates. Shining a torch at the derelict reception shed showed that the site inspection stickers seemed to stop in 2014. I guess it was closed after all... Greek financial crisis perhaps? Who knows.

    It was this night that we camped in perhaps our most ironic spot yet. Trying to be as stealthy as possible, and for once using the pitch-darkness to our advantage, we pitched the tent right under the front gates of the campground, directly under the faded 20 foot sign that read simply; 'CAMPING'.

    In the morning, after a goods nights sleep and feeling blessed by the returning sunlight, we could see that the site was completely deserted. Trashed caravans and empty buildings sat on an otherwise perfect spot by the beach. Quite Sad.

    Our 'to-do' list today was simple. Get back into the city and get the part from Yamaha, from there we could everything else ourselves and be on our way. Things were looking up finally after a rough few days. Whislt trying to sneakily pack up the tent under our hilariously large CAMPING sign I was hit ith my first blow of this new day. I remember our Insurance documents that we have been sweet-talking our way around Europe with were now truly expired. We had read that the Balkan nations were notoriously thorough when checking vehicle permits and Insurance Green Cards, so this city is our last opportunity to fix it.

    As stated before we simply can't get a Green Card. UK Insurers just wouldn't issue one to us. After banging our heads against the wall for a few hours I come to a conclusion. Screw it. I'll make my own. 4 hours on the laptop and I had created my star-child. A set of completely bogus insurance Green Cards to go along with our seemingly now pointless, yet valid, insurance we got back home. A quick scurry about the city led us to an internet cafe called The Web, a dark gaming PC lounge filled mostly with greasy 13 year olds drinking Monster energy drinks and playing Starcraft, but it also offered a printing service. We printed off our creations for a grand total of just 0.20 cents per sheet. You know how sometimes in life, when you do something, you just know it's gonna have a story all on it's own one day? That's how I feel about this Green Card. Mostly because these ones are not even green.

    I almost had the audacity to feel a tiny bit more upbeat again we went back to the bikes.

    I kid you not... within 20 seconds of riding towards the dealer, which was now 2 miles away after all the too-ing and fro-ing, I feel the front wheel start to wash out. The steering feels off and the bike corners like i'm riding on marbles. Riding slow I pushed on regardless, the bike seemed to stabilise, and after another inter-city dash we made it to the street marked on the map and parked up close to the supposed Yamaha Dealer. I hopped off the bike, mentally preparing the speech I would give the Yamaha Service Desk when the blunt realisation cloaks me. There is in fact no Dealer to be found here... Is the Yamaha website wrong? Did it close down? Did it move? I have no wi-fi to double check, and the phone battery is about to die, and I still haven't eaten, and... But then I hear it behind me... The metaphorical dagger in my back... Kyla's voice delivers to me, almost trepidly, the final blow.

    "You've got a front puncture."

    Sweet Angel of Death, Take me Now.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    Uugh...
    mbanzi likes this.
  4. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 96

    Greek Ghost-Towns

    After the recent string of events, like an adult, I weighed up my options. I could knuckle down, get to work and fix my problems like a man. Or I could cry like a baby, ask the universe "Why me?!" and jump off a bridge.

    I opted to jump.

    Unfortunately we are on the Greek East Coast, at sea level, so all available bridges were around 5 feet high.

    It's amazing how things can turn around at your lower moments on the road. Through a combination of sheer good luck and with the aid of the upstanding citizens of the City of Katerini, we had the tyre sorted in half an hour for just €5 from a man called Marghariti who ran a local enduro moto shop. Which was perfect as I certainly didn't have the energy, nor will, to haul the front wheel off on a busy street just as the sun decided to re-appear and scorch the pavements.

    For our efforts, and to recover from the last 5 days or so, we treated ourselves to 2 nights stay in a friendly little place called The Ouza Hotel on the beach at the nearby resort town of Olympiaki. Bliss.

    After the best part of a week and a half of Greece, we decided to say our goodbyes and head North into the Balkans. The route through far Northern Greece took us through some surreal little towns. From talking to a local, I understand that since the financial meltdown in Greece most of the viable working population in the region had up and headed for the cities. It really was noticable, we seen a lot of boarded up shops, cafes, bars and factories. We pulled into one fairly large town somewhere close to Florina, where the ATM's had no money to dispense and the local supermarket had only foods in cans or shrink wrapping with long shelf lives. The town square had what looked like an abandoned market place and only a few people shuffled about the streets. This was 6.00pm when usually the town squares here are pulsing with life.

    It was sad to see, but I guess it's the reality of the modern financial world. When the big banks sneeze, the small townsfolk get the cold. We try our best to avoid talking politics when we travel, but sometimes it is simply unavoidable.

    Next Step; Macedonia.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]
    mbanzi likes this.
  5. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 98

    The F.Y.R.O.M

    It's confusing in Europe to try and keep tabs on what countries are friends or foes with each other. From what I can gather from speaking to the Greeks, the name Macedonia should only be used to describe the Macedonian region of Northern Greece, and not the Country across their border, which although in English we refer to as Macedonia, they scowl and tell me to only refer to it as Skopje. What's more confusing is that the capital of 'Macedonia' (the country, not the Greek Region) is in fact a city called Skopje. Other names for the little country include Republic of Macedonia, Former Yugoslavian Republis of Macedonia, F.Y.R.O.M or in Greek; the Π.Y.Δ.Μ

    I tried to keep everyone happy, but slipped up when accidently using the word Macedonia 'wrongly' at a petrol station and was scolded by the wee guy who runs out to fill the tank. We became friends in the end when he showed off his knowledge of Scotland by saying 'Whisky' and 'William Wallace' a few time.

    William Whisky Wallace indeed.

    We arrived at the Macedonian border point quite late in the day and found we were the only ones there. It's not what I had hoped for as I would have rather have had other folks about to divert the attention away from my home made Green Card. The border guard sat in his tiny delapidated police box, with an expression on his face that looked like someone who was having the longest shift of his life.

    He perked up slightly when we got to the window and he saw we it was not a domestic border crossing. I handed over my passport first, since y'know, its real, then the vehicle document and then our insurance papers. He shuffled through the papers for a bit before turning to me and saying the 2 words that I dread at every border. "Green Card". Usually it's about this time I fluster something about how we can't get a Green Card back home and have to sweet talk my way into the country by telling them how "excited we are to be here" and we have "waited all our lives to visit". But not this time. I casually handed him the least offical looking Green Card that anyone, in the history of anything vaguely related to vehicles, has ever seen.

    He read over it quite carefully for about 10 or 15 seconds before comparing the details to my other documents. I was careful to have every details match. "OK" He says, " Go to customs."

    Wow. It actually worked. The customs declaration involved me yelling "Yeeeeeh Macedooooniaaa" without stopping to a nice lady in police uniform at the roadside who smiled and waved back.

    Macedonia was our first taste of the 'real' Balkans, and I must say it has the same kind of atmosphere as The Ukraine did. I understand that the Soviet and Yugoslavian spheres of influence were felt quite firmly here and it really shows in the buildings, streets and vehicles.

    In the end we crossed Macedonia from bottom to top in just 3 days. The country is alot smaller than I anticipated. We spent a day in cosy little town of Bitula where visited roman ruins and also met a cyclist called Philip. The next day we spent lakeside at the old City of Ohrid where amazingly, by the harbour, we bumped into the very same cyclist! Philip is from London and is on a 7 week bike tour of the Balkans using only leg power. We shared stories and tales over a hot chocolate at a bar in the Old Town. It's great catching up with people on the road who share your native language. We have met many other travelers, doing amazing trips, along the way; Swedes, Danes, Germans, Dutch, Finns, and more, but nothing quite compares to being able to relax and talk freely with those who share your mother tongue. It's something you really take for granted back home. Most days the only person I hear English from is Kyla.

    Our final day was spent crossing the country on the A2 road that bisects the nation top to bottom. Mostly the roadside sported quite good mountain views, but the road was under heavy construction most of the way and the trucks kicking up sand was tough to deal with. On the plus side I was able to rescue a small snake from the road.

    I guess in a way Macedonia was the perfect country to pass through casually on the way North. It's pleasant, it's cheap and it was s a great buffer to introduce us to the Balkans.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    ACR, BillUA and mbanzi like this.
  6. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 100

    One hundred days huh... I'm sat on a balcony just now overlooking another view of a vast mountain range dropping into the sea on a scale that makes you feel like an ant. Every day I am thankful for my opportunity to go on this trip. I also must take at least some pride in myself, and moreso Kyla, for taking the terrifying leap of faith and giving up our whole existence back home and trade it in for a life on the road. A true step into the unknown.

    I wonder if I could ever convince any one of you to do the same...?

    It is truly the greatest experience of my life, and not for one moment have I ever imagined to be doing anything else. Even through the storms, the rain, the punctures, and when the bike falls over in the mud, I still couldn't imagine being anywhere else.

    And just think, I have barely even scratched the surface of this planet.

    I urge you to all to go on an unplanned road trip at some point. It doesn't have to be for months or years, it doesn't have to be as far from home... But just pack a tiny bag and go... Go alone, or as a couple, or a group, with friends, or strangers, or take the kids, anything... Just pack your bags and hit the road.

    Do it.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]
    forgorin, BillUA and mbanzi like this.
  7. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 102

    Kosovo

    We got to Kosovo wondering how me managed to cross a whole country, Macedonia, in just 3 days. How could we be at another border so soon? Just like last time, this border came with some terms and conditions.

    The ever reliable internet tells us that Kosovo is a country. Unless you ask the Serbians, who say it's not a country, but rather a unruly part of Southern Serbia. They don't recognise Kosovan borders, they deem the entry points illegal and will often kick up fuss if you show up to Serbia with a Kosovan stamp in your passport. We are going to Serbia in a few weeks time, and the Kosovan border man just thumped 2 fresh Kosovan stamps into our passports. Hmmm. We'll see how that goes. I guess that's one of the reasons we decided to take dual passports with us in the first place. Kyla actually has 3 passports should she ever need to to be super-sneaky. The border did actually cause us some problems and running back and forth from various windows and buildings. 95% of the problems seemed to stem from the Macedonian exit side. The Kosovans seemed happy enough to welcome us to their newly declared state.

    Kosovo is tiny. It's hard to give a comparison as to it's actual size but looking over a map it's easy to miss. You will see it tucked away in the middle of Balkan Europe there amongstit's neighbours. I didn't expect much of Kosovo to be honest. When I was quite young I do remember that any time the word Kosovo was mentioned it was usually on the BBC News and it was usually very bad.

    Here on the ground however it was nothing like I imagined. The dry and cracked grounds of Southern Europe seemed to change so suddenly as soon as we crossed the border. It's so green here, and you can tell the the ground gets more moisture, and the air didn't seem to dry our throats nearly as bad as it has the last few months. The streets feel safe and the country is perfectly well developed. You'd never really know it was ravaged by war in my lifetime, or even a young whipersnapper like Kyla's lifetime for that matter.

    The mountains we saw in Macedonia seemed to follow us all the wayto Kosovo although now seemed to be in HD with the a new depth of colour that the different climate brought with it. The country was small enough that we blindly zigzagged around, passing the towns of Reke, Ferizaj and finally stopping over in Prizren. By the way, if you ever are lucky enough to pass through Kosovo Iurge you to do everything in your power to ride, drive, walk, whatever, along the Mountain Road Route 115 in the South. We have passed through some amazing pieces of scenery so far on this expedition, but this mini mountain pass crushes in everything you could possibly want from a road trip. The smooth asphalt gos everywhare you want it to. Down deep craggy gorges with overhanging rock faces, through sweeping valleys, up tight sets of hairpin bends, or bobbypins as Kyla calls them, and all without a pothole or construction truck in sight.

    Sadly we couldnt travel too far into Kosovo as our exit point had to be into Albania to the South. We spent just 2 days in this little gem, but 2 of the most action packed and fun days we could have ever hoped to have. We even had time to do our second oil change and bike service in the hostel car park, smack bang in the city centre of Prizren.

    Every so often you find a country, usually an obscure one, that deep down you just know one day you will go back to. So far that list for me has only 2 names;

    Moldova and Kosovo.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Worst section of 'real road' yet I think
    BillUA likes this.
  8. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 105

    Albanian Mountain Crisis

    Today's Ride Report does exactly what it says on the tin. We left Kosovo and crossed into Albania mid-day into what seemed to be a quite rural and unpopulated are of the country. People had told us that Albanians were friendly and the usual bureaucracy of the Balkans didn't apply here so much. Boy were they right. This is is an exact transcript of how we got in Albania.

    "Hello. Do you need to see my passport?"... Anything else?... Green Card?". The border guard looked over my papers for about 3 seconds, he didn't even open any of the documents I gave him, then he smiled and waved me on. "Do I go to Customs now?" I asked, "Yes, Yes Customs!" He replied. I pushed the bike forward about 6 feet before realising there was no customs office. Instead there was a pleasant looking chubby man with rosy red cheeks who asked "From where are you?". "Scotland" I replied tentatively. "Haaaaa Scoootland OK, like for Whiskey Yes."

    The customs officer gleefully paced around the bike for a moment before I asked him if he needed to speak to me. Confusingly he actually thought I was here because I wanted to speak to him about something. In the end he pointed to the road and genuinely said "You stay here if you want, but is better to go to"... then he took a deep breath... "Albaaaaaannniiiaaa!"

    We had spent the best part of the last 2 weeks exclusively in the mountains and felt it was time for a change of scenery. We found a road that took us from the Kosovan/Albanian border all the way to the city of Shkodër close to the Adriatic Coast. The road, the SH5 mountain pass, looked crazy on the map, with well over a hundred switchback bends over an unknown road quality. Well, what a way to finish our stint in the mountains, right?.

    We set off down the road quite late for such a venture. Usually we tackle these things in the morning, but it well into the afternoon when we got to the start of the road. It climbed relentlessly into a new region of terrain that seemed much more like the dryer lands to the South again, and less like the slightly more humid Kosovo. I couldn't tell you the exact altitude of the pass, but the temperatures dropped over the summits on what was otherwise a fairly hot day. That's usually a good indicator that you are up high.

    Of course it was here at near the summit of the pass that I hear the unmistakable thump of a motorcycle tyre breaking its bead and jumping off the rim. The back end of the bike kicked like a mule, I struggled to keep it upright. Somehow, I wrestled it to a stop atop this lofty mountain pass and pulled up to the roadside. It took a few minutes to let my heart rate return to normal. I was veeery lucky this time. This road is assembled almost entirely out of hairpin turns and chicanes that often have you ride less than 5 feet from the edge of the gorge. If I had had my blowout anywhere other than where I did, this update could have been very different. The tyre went on a 50 foot stretch of relatively straight road between 2 tight bends. Wow. Thank you Universe/God/Allah/Whoever.

    The perpetrator was a 2½ inch long piece of rusted steel that looked like it was once part of a longer steel rod. It was a proper puncture too. The piece of metal wasn't even sharp, yet had pushed it's way right through a tough Michelin Cross tyre, through the heavy duty 3mm inner tube and and had lodged itself up against the inside of the steel rim, leaving a neat little scar on the inside of the rim itself which needed smoothed off.

    Of all the places to have to pull out the tool kit for a tube change. At least the scenery was nice. Kyla and I were in perfectly high spirits though. Our first task was building a centre stand out of some of the huge boulders the mountain provided. Getting the wheel off and swapping out the tube only took around 40 minutes, which is not bad given the very limited toolkit we carry. Plus my handpump is for a bicycle.

    By the time we were ready to roll the sun was sitting much lower in the sky. We learned from Greece that racing over mountain passes against the setting sun is no fun, so when we came by an unexpected and expensive looking mountain lodge around half way back down the other side of the pass, we debated for a while before deciding that the €40 price tag maybe wasn't so bad afterall. Too much staying in €8 hostels and €4 campsites can make you as greedy as a tight fisted Scot... Hey wait a minute.

    We checked in, and filled ourselves to the gunnels, with food selected randomly from the Albanian menu in the lodge restaurant. Still covered mostly in axle grease, we scoffed it down to the background of Albanian pop music as chosen by the 16 year old waiter.

    What a day.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    BillUA and mbanzi like this.
  9. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 108

    Albanian Regret and Montenegro

    Suffering 2 puntures in a week isn't the only beating these little dirt bikes have endured. Kyla is still nursing a partially broken fuel pump that requires constant monitoring. On top of that we have one broken handguard, two loose tail rack mounts, a broken sump plate, broken sidestand sensor, not to mention a hundred other not-so-superficial bumps and scrapes. And to make matters worse we can't find any chain wax anywhere.

    With this laundry list of things to do we knew we needed a decent sized city to get the various parts and supplies to give the bikes the TLC they need. The map revealed that our best bet, and closest option, was in fact in Podgorica, just over the border in Montenegro. But how could we leave Albania so soon? We only just got here a day ago. It seems our entire route through Balkans follows a route Northbound, with 90% of Albania to the South of us. We thought long and hard about what to do, but came to the conclusion that the bikes being in the condition they are, it made no sense to travel hundreds of miles South into hotter climates only to have to back track again to get back to where we were.

    Regrettably we left Albania just 36 hours after we arrived. We were genuinly sad. In fact I almost felt a bit annoyed at Montenegro for luring us away so soon with it's promises of Air filter oil and decent spares. I think that one of my bigger regrets on this trip will be not having spent more time in Albania. We saw only one mountain road and one city, both of which were amazing experiences. The people here are the most accomodating we have met so far, from the moment we arrived at the border to moment we left the other side.

    Montenegro doesn't have the same charms as Albania does. The cities seem a bit too clean and the roads are too organised to call it adventurous. Also the prices have creeped up since crossing the border which is never fun for the ever starving travel purse. We made it to the capital city of Podgorica in the afternoon. It's only 20 miles or so from the border. We went in to town with high hopes, it's been a while since we saw a capital city, Athens in fact was the last, but Podgorica just didn't impresse us at all. The new town is commercialised and expensive and the so called charming old town is badly grafittid, overgrown with weeds and littered with beer cans and cigarette ends. Montenegro I think is caught between two worlds for me. Geographically it is in the heart of the Balkans, yet culturally it sits very close to home in the developed West. I'm sure it's a great place to live, or go shopping, or perhaps open a small trendy cafe. But on my battered dirt bike i'd rather be in the manic, dusty, loud, unpredictable, unreliable and unmistakable Albania any day.

    I'm may be here with Montenegro, but Albania my darling, I am dreaming of you.

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]
    mbanzi likes this.
  10. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 111

    Technical Difficulties

    Somehow I managed to damage the charge devices for all 3 of my electronic gadgets in one fell swoop. It would seem that leaving your chargers in the rain isn't part of the maintenance schedule. So no DSLR camera, no phone and no (mini) laptop for the best part of 5 days. It was quite fun being 100% 'disconnected', for a while, though I did miss my nightly reading up on the history of the areas I was in. I did manage to pick up some cheap USB cables easy enough on the road, but my camera is an older Canon DSLR and has a some kind of ancient, mysterious and long forgotten alien technology to charge the battery.

    This all means I have essentially no photos to show for Week 12! Just a few snapshots from my phone camera. Quite devastating actually, since we saw some incredible things as we headed deeper into the Balkans...

    We were still annoyed at Montenegro not having the same charms as Albania, but we did at least manage to fully service and clean up the bikes in the capital Podgorica. Once we had them stripped down we could see that a service was well overdue. These little trail machines have knocked out just under 5,000 miles since the start of August, and much of that over rutted nonsense. Some TLC was in order.

    With shiny clean bikes glimmering in the Balkan sun, we headed to the Montenegrin coastline, on the way, whilst I was stopped roadside to check my tire pressure, a fellow biker rode past on his own adventure. A quick glance at the back of the bike alerted me to the foreign number plate and, unbelievably, a Canadian flag. Wow. Canada?.. and I thought we were far from home.

    The whole day we headed Northbound up Montenegros tiny, yet somehow never-ending, stretch of Adriatic Coast. It was stunning. Honestly, the little country made up for it's soul-less capital by laying out for us the most alluring stretch of beach and cliff-front we have maybe ever seen. There isn't much life to stop for, but we were happy to follow the tightly coiled Adriatic Road as far as it took us. On the way we were met something called the Kotor Serpentine, a series of 15 hairpin switchback turns, stacked one over another, descending down a cliff face overlooking the sea. And yes, it is exactly as dramatic as I have tried to make it sound.

    Sometimes, among the people, cities, sights and food, it's actually the roads themselves have been the highlight of this adventure.

    Around an hour into the ride we stumbled upon our aforementioned Canadian rider. He was parked up at the side of the road, simultaneously enjoying the view and a cigarette. Since he was alone, and far from home, we thought we should pull in to at least say hello. Like i've said before on this Ride Report, it's not often you meet fellow native English speaking travelers this far off the beaten path so it's worth stopping when you can.

    Brad was his name. The fairest way to described him would to be as an exceedingly friendly, 30-something, 6 foot tall, bearded lumberjack-of-a-man from Toronto (a Torontonian?) On his own 3 month long tour of Europe on a heavy duty Kawasaki KLR 650 that was painted a kind of khaki green. Basically a battle-ready Panzer Tank, but with 2 wheels and a chain. Yup, I guess they still make proper men down in Canada.

    We shared stories with Brad for a while, before discovering we were in fact on the same route for the next hundred miles or so. We saddled up and headed further along the coast together. Our goal was the gem of the Balkans; Dubrovnik, Croatia.

    With Brad on board the 3 of us headed gallantly Northbound!

    If only we knew what was in sore for us...

    Love,
    Brucie

    P.S I have used a few stock images to help illustrate the sights we saw on the way, until I can figure out my camera problem. These photos are of course used purely for recreation. All respective credit must go to their original authors/owners [​IMG]:)

    [​IMG]
    Copyright issues

    [​IMG]
    Sue me back to the Stone Age

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Lord Bardley the 1st of Torontonia

    [​IMG]
    ACR, motopoet and mbanzi like this.
  11. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 113

    Wipe Out

    We, which now included our Canadian companion Brad, reached the Croatian border within a few hours of setting off. It's not the real Croatian border of course, since Dubrovnik, the city we were headed for, is actually captured in it's own little enclave between Montenegro and Bosnia. It's not physically connected to the main Croatian state. The break up of Yugoslavia in the 90's wasn't exactly... err... the smoothest process, and it shows clearly in today's borders.

    We got to Dubrovnik mid-afternoon and pitched up at the local city campsite, which like most city camps was actually around 7 miles from the city. After building the tents, we were due to head straight into the city. Kyla however discovered a tiny black kitten on the campsite that, sadly, was not blessed with the gift of sight. She spent the best part of an hour with the little blind cat, cleaning it and offering it what little food we had in the panniers. Eventually we re-united it with it's mother and the rest of the litter. It seems no matter where we are in the world, Kyla always has time for the animals we encounter. It's a very telling trait.

    Once we figured out the local bus service easily enough and made it in to town just as the sun was setting. Dubrovnik has an impeccably preserved old city centre, and honestly you'd be hard pressed to find a more visually stunning city anywhere on Earth. The place, of course, is heavily commercialised. Especially more-so recently with the recent filming of Game of Thrones there. The souvenirs shops are enthusiastically cloaked in plastic House of Stark Shields and Mother of Dragons t-shirts. It's not as tacky as it sounds though, the old town is unbelievably charming. The buildings have history and character, the shops and bars are busy, the ice cream is good and Brad even treated us to Dinner. Dubrovnik, by any measure, was simply a nice place to be.

    The Dubrovnik enclave is tiny, so once leaving the city you have only a 20 minute ride and you must border hop once more, this time into Bosnia & Herzegovina. Brad was due to continue up the coast to Zadar to catch his ferry to Italy, but we asked if he perhaps would rather make a short detour and follow us to Bosnian town of Mostar. What should have been a short trip turned out to be very eventful to say the least.

    You see, you get rain. Then you get heavy rain. You even get torrential rain... and then you get the rain we got the day we crossed into Bosnia. The heavens truly opened on us. We had been on the road around over an hour and covered less then 40 miles. The road surface didn't help either, being composed mostly of glossy stone. All three of us were having plenty rear end skids and shakes with our now completely unsuitable dirt tyres. We did make some headway into Bosnia, around 25 miles or so, before the rain unbelievably started to hit a little harder and the polished roads caught up with one of us...

    Unfortunately it was Brad.

    He was riding up front, with me in the middle and Kyla at the back. He was just far enough ahead that as he took each bend he went just out of sight. It was on one of these bends, a steep and cambered right hand bend, that a loud screech pierces the air. When I caught up, I see the harrowing sight of a 15 foot long skid mark along the road, and Brad's bike overturned under a steel crashguard to the left side of the road. My heart jumped for a moment when I couldn't see Brad anywhere, I had visions of pulling his mangled corpse out of the storm drain. By the time I pulled up, Brad had cheated death and was back on his feet looking a bit perplexed at his overturned steed. He'd taken the bend slow enough to avoid any major damage to himself and the bike, although his back was badly marked and he had hurt his lower leg. When the initial adrenaline wore off, which admittedly only took the Canadian giant around 12 seconds, we got his bike back upright to inspect the damage. Then we remembered Brad rides a Kawasaki KLR, so there was in fact no damage. If anything, it looked a little better.

    If the day wasn't already a write off, it was now officially so. We took refuge in a small roadside bar/darts club and let the worst of the rain pass. We decided to backtrack to the last town of Neum, on Bosnia's minuscule strip of coastline, and check into the only hotel that seemed to still be open. After what seemed like a millennium, we were finally finished with the day.

    We have never been so glad to have a roof over our heads.

    Love,
    Brucie

    P.S Still not many photos of this section. A few stock images, thrown in with the only 2 photos we have from Kylas phone, to give you an illustration of the beauty of Dubrovnik old town.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    BillUA and mbanzi like this.
  12. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    There is a never ending stream of people who are astonished at the fact that when Kyla removes her helmet, she is in fact; a girl. Shock Horror.

    People are amazed that a girl could go on such an adventure. Or could even ride a motorcycle in some cases. People are forever praising her for the most simple tasks, like the Greek ferry worker who was shocked at her ability to ride in a straight line onto a ferry ramp, or this busload of Norwegians who flocked to ask her questions regarding the trip.

    The common theme in these conversations, is not the fact that she is riding a motorcycle around the world, but rather, that she is a female riding a motorcycle around the world.

    I can't tell if peoples expectations of girls are too low perhaps? Or if it's just an impossibly rare sighting? Although, come to think of it, we have only met one other female long haul biker on our travels when we met Rich and Nea back in Turkey.

    Either way, the people have all had good things to say, along with a few funny looks, and shocked expressions.

    Any other female bikers out there on long haul trips? Maybe some of the are keeping Blogs? Let us know!

    Love,
    Brucie

    [​IMG]
    BillUA and mbanzi like this.
  13. SuperSonicRocketship

    SuperSonicRocketship 50 Nations and Counting

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2015
    Oddometer:
    714
    Location:
    Dundee, Scotland
    Day 114

    Bosnia & Herzegovina

    Or rather Herzegovina first for us since we actually entered from the South. As we were told by locals, Bosnia actually lies further to the North they say. Nobody seemed to be able to tell us exactly where the boundary between the two lay.

    After the torrent of rain, and the abandoned attempt to make it to Mostar, we were left with a near 24 hour wait for our kit to dry. The hotel we had found in the tiny Bosnian town of Neum didn't have the industrial dryer we needed to dispel the thousand liters of rainwater our kit had absorbed in the storm. We killed the time by inspecting the damage to Brads bike from the previous days crash. A bit of scratching to the panels, a broken mirror, bent, but not broken, home welded pannier frame. Nothing indicated any any mechanical fault to the bike. It meant we could go back to the riveting job of waiting for the clothes to dry.

    It really seems that no matter how waterproof your kit claims to be, there is a limit at which it can simply no longer hold up. My boots, or at least the left one, had easily half a pint of water soaked into it's sheepskin lining, and Kyla's heavy cordura riding bottoms weighed about 10kg while soaked in rainwater.

    A member of the hotel staff, an older lady, indicated to me in what I can only assume was Bosnian or Croatian that she would lend me her hairdryer to get the final spots of dampness from my riding gear. It worked a treat. Kind of. With the hairdryer cutting out every 3 mins from overheating, we had the kit dry within the hour.

    Brad decided to stick with us and make a second attempt at getting to Mostar. It would mean of course passing the same stretch of road where he had crashed just yesterday. Seeing the road, now dry and in better light, we could still clearly see the claw mark that the big KLR had left as it slid into the ditch. Funnily enough, It seemed that the first time round we had indeed missed the sign just hundred yards from the crash site that, now almost mockingly, indicated; 'Warning! Slippery Road'.

    The road to Mostar was nice enough, I think we more just happy to be back in the dry again. We followed the route North, deeper into Bosnia, and the scenery changed again back into the mountainous Central Balkans that we had got to know so well this last month.

    The rain however, was not absent for long.

    Around 30 miles from Mostar, a city which was now becoming quite elusive, we were treated to another torrent of unreasonably heavy rain. It was the kind of downpour where you can watch the puddles form around you. We took refuge in a closed down petrol station for the best part of an hour and a half waiting for it to pass. Along with the wet, it was now getting dark too. It was in this abandoned petrol station that a fourth biker pulled in, himself too seeking shelter from the storm.

    Enter Jose: a cheery Spaniard, from Madrid, on his own 30 day tour of Eastern Europe on a heavily loaded Honda Transalp 800, with the widest panniers I think I have ever seen.

    Waiting for the storm to return to depths of Hell from whence it came, I talked to Jose about his trip. Turns out he is a history buff and is extremely well versed in Ancient and Contemporary European History. He wanted to tour the Balkans to see the sights of the Balkans War in the 90's. Just like us, he was headed to Mostar for that very reason.

    Now 4 of us, we got to Mostar by nightfall, checking into a local self catering apartment block. The lady who ran the place was typically Eastern European and offered us some Balkan vodka whilst we waited for the rooms to be made-up. I swear it could have cleaned the engines with it. Whilst waiting we even briefly met a Russian couple, who had toured across Russia on a pair Suzuki DR650's a few years back. Wow, what was this place? Some kind of Moto-Adventure convention centre?!

    We spent one evening, and the next morning in Mostar. The first night gorging on a medieval style meat banquet (Me and Kyla considerably over-ordered) in the old town. The next morning all 4 of us saw the city by daylight, strolling the cobbled streets, browsing souvenir shops filled with wartime artifacts, and trying to absorb as much information about the horrors of the conflict as we could. The old Muslim populated centre was ground to dust just 23 years prior. Yet here we were enjoying our breakfast by the banks of the River Neretva. It's good to see how a place that was once deemed Hell on Earth, can recover with time. Sure, some bulletholes remains in the walls, but the only bullets seen here now are inscribed commemoratively with dates of the Bosnian War, sat neatly in bowls as keyrings in the window diplays of the gift shops. The best place for them I reckon.

    It makes me wonder if one day I will perhaps walk the streets of Aleppo, or Mosul and think the same. I hope so.

    After 4 days with Brad and one day with Jose, we realised that each of our routes now followed a different path. Brad would work his way back to the coast towards the Croatian port town of Zadar. Jose would continue North through Croatia towards Slovenia.

    We however were going to Serbia.

    Love,
    Brucie

    P.S Hopefully for the last time, I have included a few stock images as I still wasn't able to use my main camera [​IMG]:(. I have included a photo of the Mostar bridge in 1993 to show how the city has recovered.

    14858798_10209867083646472_1212666703_o.jpg

    14808000_765883590216336_862942179_o.jpg

    bosnian-genocide-1993-siege-of-mostar-in-19931.jpg

    IMGP4939.jpg
    forgorin, juno, theMISSIONARY and 2 others like this.
  14. Ruud109

    Ruud109 Dutch in Barcelona

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2009
    Oddometer:
    380
    Location:
    Barcelona, Spain
    Hi Bruce and Kyla,

    I am still following along, thanks for the write-ups and pics, i am enjoying them a lot! Whats the plan for the next few months?

    Also i am wondering what your thoughts are about your boots, as I fondly recall the whole debate during your extensive prep phase.



    Ruud
    SuperSonicRocketship likes this.
  15. ACR

    ACR 59,902

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,193
    Location:
    Algoma, ONT
    Where did the two of you end up?
  16. AllSeasonRider

    AllSeasonRider Wandering, maybe a little lost...

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,833
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    What happened here? Been a while since last contact...
    SuperSonicRocketship likes this.
  17. DMCaton

    DMCaton Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Oddometer:
    181
    Location:
    Fenton, MO
    SuperSonicRocketship likes this.
  18. AllSeasonRider

    AllSeasonRider Wandering, maybe a little lost...

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,833
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Bummer... there's no way I'm going to remember to keep checking on Facebook to follow along. And everything is in reverse order, photos are all separate, just a pain to use. Oh well.
  19. joenuclear

    joenuclear Still here....

    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2007
    Oddometer:
    10,733
    Location:
    Arkansas near Oklahoma
  20. Cameleer

    Cameleer Back to Real Life

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2012
    Oddometer:
    656
    Location:
    Asturias, Spain
    I agree. All that effort with the planning here at ADV to end up not publishing the trip. Shame really as it was very much expected in this platform and I will not get myself embroiled in facebook.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk