RTW on a H.A.T. In the slow lane.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by gperkins, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Katrina and I were last in Portugal in 2002 with our two sons when we drove our crappy old diesel Peugeot 405 towing a folding poptop camper around Europe for about 4 months or so. If I had to be honest, I'd have to admit that I was less than impressed with Portugal. I guess on two counts, 1 it was bloody difficult to navigate around back in the day, pre smart phones and GPS's. Secondly whilst camped in a camp ground just out of Lisbon Katrina & I had both our expensive push bikes nicked. I was pissed, I mean really pissed and it just left a sour taste in our mouths. I was glad to leave Portugal behind and cross over to Spain.

    But here we are 16 years later and we just love it. Navigation has got so much better, the weather and landscape is superb. The people as always have been great and it so damn cheap. Hows 1:20 Euro for a beer, 0:60 Euro for a coffee a plate of quality cheeses cold meats, olives and bread for 2 for 3:50 Euro. Even our accommodation, which is about the best we have had is only 15 Euro a night. Whats not to like? It just goes to show how 2 people can have totally opposite experiences and hence opinions about a the same place. But in our case the same people, but 16 years apart and we see the country in a totally different light.

    We are in the little village of Melo, just chilling, taking walks around the village and out to the small farms. Although today we rode one of the best roads of the entire journey through the National park of Serra da Estrela to the little hillside village of Piodao. But all around and for most of todays riding was the evidence of last years catastrophic fires in both Portugal and NW Spain. They started on the 13th Oct and run for 5 days. Forty eight people perished, most in Portugal. Katrina and I being born and bread in SE Australia are intimately acquainted to the risks and horrors of bush/forrest/wild fires, call them what you will. Only this last February, not more than 35 klms from our home in Australia the small coastal town of Tathra was devastated by fires. Seventy two homes were lost, but fortunately on this occasion no one lost their life. In a slightly unusual way too, today hit home as we passed through the devastated areas. Portugal, like many parts of the world has planted vast swathes of gum or eucalyptus trees. With just a little imagination we felt very comfortable with all these eucalypts about. They are perfectly adapted to this Mediterranean climate, they grow relatively fast and are a high value tree if managed well, especially for pulp. But, in a massive wild fire these trees are like throwing petrol on the fire. But magically just a few weeks after the embers are extinguished the eucalypts reamerge with new growth sprouting from the trunks and limbs. Most will survive a fire, unlike the pines that are also prevalent here, they are all essentially dead. Where as many species of gum tree actually need fire to regenerate the seed pods open and germinate once exposed to fire.

    The top left hand half of this building is our home for 4 nights, above a pizza and beer emporium, all for 15 Euro a night. I tell you Portugal is like heaven.
    [​IMG]

    View from our window over the Melo town square.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I'd never seen a device like this before. It's for immobilising horses and other stock for shoeing. My father had horses all his life and used to shoe horses for a little extra money, but his technique was the old fashioned way. Bend over reach for the horses hock, raise, place between your legs or rest on your thigh and get on with it.
    [​IMG]

    Of course very few European villages are complete without a ruin or two. This one is religious of course the best kind of ruin. :hide
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Piodoa, Portugal. It looks lovely and it is, but man it would be a nightmare to live in. No cars can pass through, not even a scooter.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It may not be immediately obvious, but the hillsides are covered in ancient terraces. How old I have no idea. But they are literally everywhere. The effort and man power to construct these terraces must have been immense, but most now have run into disrepair and are abandoned. The fires of last year have in many instances stripped away the vegetation and exposed these terraces, which would otherwise be hidden from view.
    [​IMG]
    Yannick, yokesman, LadyDraco and 8 others like this.
  2. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,290
    Location:
    Meridian, Idaho
    As far as potatoes, as they cant be seen it would make for a very boring ride looking for them, agriculture is being taken over by buildgs of many types here.
    Looking at the map, the stans via the Caspian sea from turkey or the Ukraine , Mongolia then use your 30 visa to pickup the highway to vlad., japan isles, Korea then? Sorry only about 2000 miles of Russia on that route.
    gperkins likes this.
  3. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Ahhh, no can do on the above plan. Reason being you need to cross a little bit of Russia to get from Kazakstan to Mongolia and that will use your (our) 30 day tourist visa to achieve. There is no common border between Kazakstan and Mongolia which essentially creates much of the problem.

    This may get a little complicated and I'll try and keep it as succinct as is possible, so as to avoid confusion. Some bullet points worth remembering.

    1 You must get your Russian visa in your home country, = Australia
    2 As Australians we can only get a 30 day single entry tourist visa (normally)
    3 You cannot get 2 x 30 day concurrent tourist visas. ( even if you could, you run into problems with point 4 )
    4 The tourist visa has 3 month or 90 day validity. That is you have 90 days to enter Russia from the day of issue of the visa.
    5 Business visas of 1 year, unlimited entry are possible. But they are north of $1000 ea and technically illegal for us, seeing as we would have to fabricate a story to get it. But, this is the approach many overlander's take.
    6 There is a humanitarian visa option that gives you more flexibility. We know of a Kiwi couple that used this visa, beyond that we know very little. But I'm sure it is also complicated and difficult to get needing a fabricated story to get.
    7 The one exception to getting a visa in your home country is getting a transit visa in Mongolia for 5 to 10 days.

    This map may help explain.
    [​IMG]

    Route 1:- Enter Russia from Georgia on a 30 day tourist visa and stay in Russia all the way to Vladivostok.
    Pros :- Simplest option
    :- Cheapest option
    Cons :- Direct route with no deviations is approximately 10,500 klms. Realistically you could easily add 50% to that. Of course that means doing upwards of
    500 klms a day, every day for the trip. Obviously very little sightseeing and just crunching out the klm's.
    :- No Mongolia.

    Route 2:- Enter Russia from Georgia as above and then cut down to Mongolia on the 30 day tourist visa. The map is an indication only. But route would take
    you all the way to Lake Baikal and Irkutsk, fully utilising the 30 day visa before entering Mongolia. Stop in Mongolia for a number of weeks and
    organise the 10 day transit visa to get us to Vlad and out of Russia.
    Pros :- Reasonably simple to organise the one caveat being we are actually issued 10 day transit visas in Mongolia, not 5 day transit visas.
    :- Unlike route 1 there is time to do a little exploring, but you would have to be selective. IE Russian Caucusus, Volgograd, Altai mountains, Lake Baikal.
    :- Cost of visas is still manageable
    Cons :- Still a little rushed

    Route 3:- Essentially retrace our route through the "Stans" but with a little variation and in reverse. No Iran and Turkmenistan and this time through Kazakstan.
    Pros :- We love Central Asia and any excuse to go back is worth considering.
    :- 30 day Russian visa only required. So reasonably cheap and simple.
    Cons :- Forgo a good chunk of Russia, also Mongolia.
    :- 90 day visa rule could be an issue. Presumably we would be issued our Russian visa's in late March in Australia prior to our return to Europe.That
    would give us until late June to enter Russia. Of course 3 months to cross southern Europe, Turkey, Azerbaijan, wait for the notoriously unreliable
    ferry to cross the Caspian, then knock out Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and back to Kazakstan before hitting Russia before our
    Russian visas expired. All doable, but it's not how we like to travel and if there were a hiccup of some kind, we'd then be under the pump for time.
    :- This plan would have us into the Pamir's no later than very early June, a little early ideally, but if the weather gods are with you it would be OK. None
    the less, still a risk.

    Route 4:- As per route 3, but dropping into Mongolia.
    Pros :- Not too many that I can see. The 30 day tourist visa would commence on arrival in Russia. So there is a choice to be made. Sacrifice a good chunk
    of that time and be in Mongolia quickly. You could however spend a decent amount of time in the high Altai mountains of Russia. Or take up all your
    30 days exploring this region of Russia, back tracking here and there between the Altai and lake Baikal. Probably the best option I guess.
    Cons :- Potential transit visa issues again. From all reports though once you enter Siberia from Mongolia and you are presumably on the trans Siberian hwy
    all you want to do is smash out the klm's.

    This may all seem overly complicated, but they are the sort of things that need to be considered when crossing this part of the world. It does make the 5th option somewhat tempting. That is revisit Turkey in April & May which we love, then back track to the Balkans, which we never made this summer, back over the Alps and ship to the east coast of Canada mid to late summer. :hmmmmm
    SmilinJoe, Yannick, LadyDraco and 5 others like this.
  4. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Love my Tranny Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    9,184
    Location:
    New Zealand
    the trials and tribulations of planning, paper work and approvals. This part of rtw travelling would drive me insane. I hate forms.

    I feel you pain. For my trip last year just the Russian access paperwork alone required more effort than the rest of the ride planning put together.

    It was worth the effort in the end, but didn't seem like it at the time.
  5. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Seems you and I are similar in that respect then MrKiwi. But that is one of the great advantages of travelling as a team instead of solo, you can share the work load. Katrina is fantastic at researching the bureaucratic labyrinth that often presents when traveling. As I've said before she has far more patience than I have. But i think that is fairly typical for woman as opposed to us blokes.

    The thing is though, today with information literally a mouse click away, there really is little excuse for not having the knowledge to pass from one country to the next as painlessly as is possible. Ok, requirements and regulations do change and sometimes things slip through the cracks. But we have met numerous fellow travellers that are bereft of even the most basic of knowledge, or at least some general knowledge. There is no point making your journey any more difficult than it has to be. It does take time and effort, but it's well worth it in the end. Whenever traveling through Asia you do have to have a plan "B", but that is always a fall back. With good preparation usually plan "A" will see you through.
  6. black top bob

    black top bob gray goat

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2013
    Oddometer:
    298
    Location:
    appalachian mountaintop
    Just found the thread. I'm in. I'm gonna spend some time following along. Love it so far, although your beginning days were rough. Be safe.
    LadyDraco, gperkins and MrKiwi like this.
  7. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Hey black top bob, it's always great to see new faces around here and I'm glad you've enjoyed it so far. Yeah I've got to admit the start was a bit rough thats for sure. My first accident of any note after pretty much 38 years continuous accident free riding on the road and some years before that in the paddock. You just never know thats for sure.

    We are currently in Madrid chilling with some other long distance riders and gathering some interesting information which may come into play next year. By Wednesday we'll be back on the move looking for some warmth. Man the weather has changed, it's fecking freezing here. The sun is mostly out, but the temps have dropped to single figures, even the locals are saying this is highly unusual for this time of year.
    911timo, LadyDraco and MrKiwi like this.
  8. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,290
    Location:
    Meridian, Idaho
    Looks like the weather is back on track, seems much like our weather here in Idaho, did the changes help in your travel planning.?
    Enjoying your pics and info on cultural Europe.
    gperkins likes this.
  9. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Summer is now but a distant memory yokesman. For a few days now we've been seeing temps sub zero to low teens. When we left Portugal for Madrid, half of the 480 klms that day was at about 4-7 degs C and to make matters worse my right heated grip packed it in a few weeks prior, damn it was cold. Our time in Madrid was brief, but we did manage to squeeze in a little culture. :0-0
    911timo and MrKiwi like this.
  10. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    On the fringe of Madrid we stayed with fellow extensive travellers Anna & Roberto. Roberto had even left a bike in Sth America for 5 years to which he flew back and forth, to travel on when his work allowed. In any case we got talking about our next years plans or more accurately lack there of. When explaining our Russian visa problem, Roberto couldn't understand, because he was sure we could get Russian tourist visas in Spain. This surprised us, but it needed further investigation. So the following day Katrina & I visited the private agency in Madrid that handles all visas for Russia. Guess what, we were assured that we could indeed get our Russian visas here in Spain, either Madrid or Barcelona, but only on our Australian passports, not our UK passports. Now we really do need to decide what to do next year. What was shaping up as most probably an exit from the old world to the new via an Air Canada flight out of Europe to Toronto is now very much in doubt. For getting our Russian visas in Barcelona would make a trip across central Asia and vast mother Russia a lot more appealing. :hmmmmm

    Anyways we thoroughly enjoyed time with both Anna & Roberto. I got to give the bike an oil change and fortunately Katrina spotted some very affordable Oxford heated grips in a shop, so that allowed me to replace the stuffed right side grip. Also whilst in the city of Madrid we found a couple of free hours to visit thehttps://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/collection/artwork/guernica The scale of Picasso's, Guernica blew me away. It sure is one powerful piece of art. For those that are unaware, Picasso did this epic work after the dictator Franco with Hitlers assistance bombed and blitzkrieged his way through the northern small city of Guernica. Seen by Franco as being particularly hostile to his dictatorship. Nearly all the victims were woman, children and the aged, for most men were away fighting against Franco's regime.

    A lighter moment with Anna & Roberto. Thanks for a great few days guys, I hope we can return the favour back in Australia some time. I'm getting my belly back, too much of the good life here in Europe, maybe we need to return to Asia?
    [​IMG]
    911timo, SmilinJoe, Yannick and 4 others like this.
  11. MrKiwi

    MrKiwi Love my Tranny Super Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    9,184
    Location:
    New Zealand
    Good news on the VISA front. Decisions to ponder and make, the best part of adventure riding apart from the riding itself.
    gperkins and DunkingBird like this.
  12. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,290
    Location:
    Meridian, Idaho
    looks like your duolingo online classes need to include the Russian alphabet, ronomoto has quite a write up on traveling into Japan from Russia.
    gperkins likes this.
  13. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,290
    Location:
    Meridian, Idaho
    looks like your language of chose has changed n the alphabet also. Roninmoto has quite a route into japan from Russia but you may want to PM him for details.
    gperkins likes this.
  14. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Not only can we get Russian visas in Spain for Russia, but with the correct supporting documents we can get a dual entry tourist visa as well. This was of course also news to me. Still from the first date of entry you need to be out of Russia within 30 days, so still pretty rushed.

    Like you said we now need to firm up our decision. I'd be lying if I said that Katrina and I are in complete agreeance. Katrina would possibly prefer to go Europe - Toronto. I would prefer to go Stans-Russia-Mongolia-Russia-Japan-Vancouver. :getiton
    911timo, Smidty and MrKiwi like this.
  15. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    Yep Roninmoto (Noah) was one I followed there a few years back and certainly gained some info. One snippet being the quirks of taking a vehicle into Japan. Normally a carnet is required, but if you come via a RoRo then there is an exemption form to sign on board the vessel prior to arrival, but you should normally take the vehicle back out of Japan via the same RoRo. I'd prefer to fly directly out of Japan to Canada which is technically not allowed, but I know people have done this. In any case it's not too difficult to return to Sth Korea to fly out of anyway.
    911timo likes this.
  16. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    1,290
    Location:
    Meridian, Idaho
    G B , going east before it is too late has some ferry rates that, well close to a space ticket ,page 19 has the route n end of the Russian portion, then Japan , korea. some ferry costs that make Air Canada costs seem like the lottery. Happy planning
    gperkins and MrKiwi like this.
  17. SOLOKLR

    SOLOKLR Back to work

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    577
    Location:
    Green Valley, AZ
    Local news showed people shoveling snow in Spain this morning. I thought about you guys, hope you stay warm. Good luck on the Russian visas. The rest of the world isn't going anywhere.
    gperkins and yokesman like this.
  18. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    We of course have to watch our spend, but it sort of gets to a stage where the cost is somewhat secondary to the desire to just go somewhere. In this case both Russia and Japan at least for me. Katrina has been working on a spread sheet of monthly costs. If & when she completes it, it maybe of interest to some.
  19. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    After this incredible summer of sunshine this side of the pond it was bound to happen. We've got maybe 5 more days of the interior of Spain, then we make a bee line to the coast where hopefully it is warmer. But maybe not, all along the Med coast there has been continuous torrential rain, devastating in some cases.

    What ever we end up doing, they are all good choices SOLOKLR.
    SOLOKLR likes this.
  20. gperkins

    gperkins graeme

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,444
    Location:
    NSW, far south coast.
    We have an engagement in Valencia in about 2 weeks, so are just mooching around the interior of Spain for the time being doing not a whole lot, other than seeking out the local tapas bar for midday drinks and nibbles. How could you not when a couple of beers, coffees, and 3 or 4 servings of tapas come in at about 7 Euro or $8 US give or take. Seems rude not to I would have thought.

    Tapas comes in a huge variety, mostly savoury, cooked, cold, meats, salads, cheeses, seafood, take your pick really. Katrina always picks coffee though, she hates beer remember. Most peculiar I know, how can anyone possibly not like beer I do not know?
    [​IMG]

    Ciudad Real main square.
    [​IMG]

    Then it was onto Almagra just down the road. It's has some pretty unusual architecture. A wealthy family from the Nederland's came here in the early 1600's and were the treasurers to the Spanish king. That of course brings money and prestige to the town and a unique achitectual style.
    [​IMG]

    Tapas time in Almagra.
    [​IMG]

    Pretty chunky old church this one in Almagra.
    [​IMG]

    This part of south central Spain is the setting for the literary classic Don Quixote. References can be found all over the place.
    [​IMG]
    911timo, SmilinJoe, DavidM1 and 6 others like this.