From The Netherlands to Albania and back in the summer of 2017

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jadvst, Nov 15, 2017.

  1. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Introduction
    Last September my girlfriend M. and I rode our motorcycles from our home in the eastern part of The Netherlands to Albania and back in a little less than 3 weeks. Before departure I decided it was time to share one of our trips on advrider. I've read a lot of ride reports here over the years (thanks everyone for taking the time to write those amazing reports!) and I thought it was high time to give something back. So I created an account, ordered up some decals and did my best to capture the trip on camera. Hopefully you'll enjoy the report!

    On this trip we rode our Honda Transalps, a 1991 PD06 and a 1999 PD10. Both with hard-luggage on the back (topcase and two side-cases), a handlebar bag and tank panniers for M. and a tank bag for myself on front. And yes: we carry a lot of stuff :p (even a table).

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    Before departure we only knew that we wanted to spend the majority of the trip in Albania and researched a little of the stuff we would like to see and do in Albania. We like to go on a trip, see what happens and what we feel like doing in the moment. Generally only riding highways to get somewhere fast, other than that preferably local roads and unpaved roads. We camp most of the time, but also stay in the occasional hotel or apartment.

    We rode from The Netherlands through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro to Albania. We did a loop in Albania and rode home through Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Germany to The Netherlands. I put a rough overview of our GPS tracks in the map below. In total we rode about 5300 km's (about 3300 miles).

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    #1
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  2. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 1
    From Enschede, The Netherlands
    To Beilngries, Germany
    642 KM (about 398 miles)


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    Since it was the first day of a long awaited trip, we were quite excited. Doing the last checks, locking the garage, and time to go!
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    But unfortunately the first day(s) of a trip are usually riding the more boring highway sections for us. This day was no different. We rode in stretches of about 200 km's (about 124 miles), filling up with gas and drinking some tea or coffee at the gas stations. A part from some very aggressive wasps, the stops were quite uneventful.
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    At the end of the afternoon we were fed up with highway riding and hungry, we decided to look for a place to camp. When it was getting dark we found a camp ground alongside a river in Beilngries, Germany. By the time the tent was pitched and our dinner was ready it was dark.
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    #2
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  3. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 2
    From Beilngries, Germany
    To Viskova, Croatia
    637 KM (about 396 miles)


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    In the daylight we got to wander around the camp side, which was actually pretty nice. We took it easy, the tent was very wet of dew and we decided to let it dry out in the sun.
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    After packing up we rode into town to do some shopping at a local supermarket.
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    After getting food we drove through the town. It has a nice city centre with colourful houses although it has a little touristy feel.
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    Before resuming our boring highway miles we couldn't resist taking a short two-track to stretch the legs, have some fun and enjoy the scenery.
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    But, we wanted to get to Albania so we turned to the highway. We had nice whether, not too hot, not too cold. And the roads were nice and empty.
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    Later in the day we got some more traffic and roadworks.
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    Once we were approaching Austria, the views became more and more scenic and we crossed the occasional tunnel.
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    We had to buy road tax for both Austria and Slovenia, so we decided to do this at once at a rest stop before entering.
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    After getting gas at a gas station in Slovenia we decided to look for a place to sleep. We very much wanted to reach Croatia, so I searched the net and found us an apartment in Vishova, Croatia.
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    Reaching this apartment meant riding into the night. We enjoyed the sun set and riding though the quite night.
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    Our GPS navigation guided us to the wrong house. Since it was already late we killed the engines and I went looking for the apartment on foot. The first person I came across actually spoke a little German (as do I) and he knew were we wanted to go. He pointed us to the correct house where a very friendly girl greeted us. She spoke English and showed us the apartment. We put our stuff inside and went to sleep.
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    The view from the balcony was stunning with the moon and the stars providing ample light to look around.
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    #3
  4. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 3
    From Viskova, Croatia
    To Piramatovci, Croatia
    332 KM (about 206 miles)


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    After waking up it was time to check out the apartment. There was a living room with small kitchen (which we didn't use) and the view was as nice in the sunlight as in the moonlight. We had breakfast on the balcony.
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    When we were packing up and getting ready to head out, the dog was carefully watching over us. The owners live downstairs and rent out the top floor. It was a nice house in a quiet neighbourhood.
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    The drive to the highway was nice with curvy roads and nice views.
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    Suddenly M. noticed that her speedometer wasn't working. We stopped to find out what was going on.
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    Luckily, the issue was easy to find and fix: the cable came loose from the dash panel. Unfortunately, we couldn't reach it and we had to remove a lot of plastic. We wrapped it with some tape to prevent it from turning loose again.
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    The landscape was constantly changing from mountains, to forests, to flats without much vegetation and back again.
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    Riding south through Croatia, we started to see more and more wild fires, which we continued to see throughout the trip. For us Dutch people an unfamiliar site. We came across wild fires in the past, but not as regularly as in this trip.
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    We took much needed stops to take some shelter from the sun and get some fuel into our bikes and ourselves.
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    Riding through Croatia was really a lot of fun, especially when we took the smaller roads.
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    Through an online search at one of our stops, we learned about a camping at a vineyard called Robeko that was not far. We actually got to ride through a little vineyard to get to the camping.
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    After setting up camp we went for a stroll around the grounds and took some photographs. We finally got to cool off in the pool before heating up some food and going to bed.
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    #4
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  5. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 4
    From Piramatovci, Croatia
    To Stari Bar, Montenegro
    457 KM (about 284 miles)


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    This morning we packed up and had already decided where we wanted to go: a camping in Stari Bar, Montenegro called The Olive Garden.
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    Our plan was to ride as much highway as ew could while heading for the border. It was a hot day, but the riding wind through the vents in our suits kept us cool enough. Again we were treated with stunning views and the occasional wild fire.
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    And off course the pit stops to get gas and rest a little bit.
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    Unfortunately, although it took us through stunning and interesting parts, we did not pick the easiest route. We crossed from Croatia into Bosnia, then back into Croatia, back into Bosnia again to finally cross into Montenegro.
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    The second time into Bosnia took a very long time.
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    When we finally got through we figured we should stop for gas, but we couldn't find any gas stations on the route. Below we are still smiling.
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    But the surroundings got more and more deserted, up till the point that we stopped to check our GPS and figure out the closed gas station.
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    We decided to take a 20 km (about 12 miles) one-way detour to fill up. (If you look at the map you can see our little detour to the north-east.) At that point I guess we would have paid any price for two full fuel tanks, but this would actually turn out to be the lowest price per liter fuel we paid this entire trip.
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    Another border crossing, a few changes of scenery, a ferry crossing and dinner in a supermarket parking lot later, we finally arrived in Stari bar.
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    The next challenge was finding the camping. Luckily we had GPS coordinates, but riding in the dark through unfamiliar. small, steep roads made it quite the puzzle. Somewhere in the middle of our search we were stopped by cops (I might have been speeding a little), but as soon as they spotted our license plates we were somehow free to go. When we arrived at the camping, we pitched the tent in the dark and had a very good nights sleep.
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    #5
  6. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 5
    From Stari Bar, Montenegro
    To Stari Bar, Montenegro
    280 KM (about 174 miles)


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    Waking up we had a very pleasant surprise waiting for us. In the daylight the beauty of the camp site sunk in. It is situated in a olive garden alongside a hill and has a lot of little spots to kick back. Off course we had read about it (the reason we wanted to come here), but it was way better than we expected. A very nice place to stay more than one night and explore the area.
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    The owner of the camp site made us eggs with bread and coffee for breakfast. After this we were off two-up on my bike. The plan was to visit a monastery called Ostrog, ride through the national park Lovcen and visit the city of Kotor.
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    Below the lake of Skodra from the Montenegrin side. Lake Skodra is the largest freshwater lake in the Balkan measuring 368 square km's. Due to melting water in spring it can even grow to 540 square km's. Notice all the green water plants on the lake.
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    The Ostrog monastery is built against a vertical rock face of the Ostroška Greda mountain. It was constructed around 1665 within/against existing caves in the wall face. Apparently, the monastery is visited by pilgrims from a variety of different beliefs. It is very well restored and is still in use.
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    After visiting the monastery we road through the Lovcen national park towards Kotor. The roads were mostly paved, but old and not well maintained. Very nice surroundings and views, but the going was slow.
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    When approaching Kotor city from this side, you get to descent 29 hairpins down to the bay. Before doing so the views are breathtaking, naturally we stopped to enjoy the panorama and take a few photographs. When we arrived it was a bit cloudy, but soon the sun found a little way through.
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    The city of Kotor was actually founded in ancient Roman times BC, somewhere in the beginning of the middle ages it was heavily fortified. The old city of Kotor is a UNESCO world heritage site. Currently, for some reason, everywhere you look in the old city there are cats.
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    Below the Saint Tryphon cathedral in Kotor. It was originally built around 1166 and rebuilt around 1667.
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    We were told that it is becoming increasingly more visited by tourists, a lot of these tourists come by cruise ship. Below new meeting old while the sun sets.
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    Walking around in this medieval city was very nice, lots to see.
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    The old city still has walls surrounding it are going amazingly far uphill. It was not until it was completely dark that we could see the extent of this thanks to the lights.
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    We had a nice fish dinner in a restaurant directly on the water.
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    After dinner we rode back to the camp site.
    #6
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  7. pieterv10

    pieterv10 Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2012
    Oddometer:
    63
    Nice report and pics. Bedankt.
    #7
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  8. 11motos

    11motos Feral Rider

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2017
    Oddometer:
    747
    Location:
    On the Road
    Nice pics and views! Thanks for sharing!!
    #8
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  9. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    66,696
    what a great ride and lucky to have a companion who rides her own bike too! Great pics and certainly fantastic weather! Thanks for taking us along.
    #9
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  10. taranaki

    taranaki trailer trash

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,191
    Location:
    Pahrump NV & Terrebonne OR
    Nice! Now I want to make this trip. Thanks for taking the time to post your report - I enjoyed every bit.
    #10
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  11. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Thanks for the kind words! I'm still working on the rest of the 19 days, next up: day 6.
    #11
  12. crashkorolyk

    crashkorolyk just happy to ride

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Oddometer:
    164
    Location:
    vancouver island
    Brilliant R.R. and pictures,looking forward to the rest of the adventure!
    #12
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  13. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Thank you Crashkorolyk, next post is almost ready.
    #13
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  14. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 6
    From Stari Bar, Montenegro
    To Skodra resort, Albania
    59 KM (about 37 miles)


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    After packing up we briefly enjoyed the camp site once more before heading towards the old town of Bar (Stari Bar) in Montenegro.
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    In Stari Bar we parked the bikes and continued on foot through the old city heading for the oldest remaining part, which consist mainly of ruins. The first settlers of these parts actually date back to the 6th of even 7th century BC.
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    In one of the buildings that were still standing, we came across a room with fantastic acoustics. I guess - amongst other things - due to the dome ceiling. It had glass holes in the ceiling which provided very nice light (also see the glass balls on the roof of the second photograpgh below).
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    Below a little video to give an idea of the acoustics in that room. (we are no music or film pro's so bear with us)


    After visiting the old city we wanted to grab a bite to eat before heading towards the border. On our walk back to the bikes through a nice little street (although a little touristy), we found a nice place to eat. It was a surprisingly affordable and very good lunch.
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    The ride to the border was short and uneventful. At the border we were allowed to skip the massive line of waiting cars and use a bike lane. Once in Albania there were a lot more beggars, old and/or different vehicles and everything looked a little less maintained.
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    We were headed for a camp site called Lake Skodra resort, which is on the bank of the Skodra lake and very close to the city of Skoder. A short unpaved road brought us to our destination.
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    The camp site is a big field of grass with nice shade places on the sides. The camp site had a lot of overlanders staying there with all sorts of vehicles. We met a Dutch couple Anne and Sander travelling the world in a self made camper van and a Swiss couple travelling two-up on a BMW 1200GS.
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    Although we are usually not big fans of these kinds of resorts it was very relaxing, with nice (hot) showers and great sunsets!
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    #14
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  15. taranaki

    taranaki trailer trash

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2005
    Oddometer:
    3,191
    Location:
    Pahrump NV & Terrebonne OR
    More nice images to inspire me! A few year back I had a chance to take a ride into Montenegro but opted to pass the day in Dubrovnik instead. :dirtdog

    Tell me, if you will, about those clever camp chairs.
    #15
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  16. Blader54

    Blader54 Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2012
    Oddometer:
    1,757
    Excellent report! Looking forward to reading the next installment!
    #16
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  17. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    They are the old version of the Thermarest Treo Chair, we like them a lot. They fold in the bottom three legs to a relatively compact tubular package of 27 x 10 cm (10 x 4 inch). Their weight is just over 1 kg (around 2 pounds). The seating is a Polyester Rip Stop material.
    #17
  18. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Thanks! Working on it :-)
    #18
  19. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 7
    From Lake Shkodra Resort, Albania
    To Lake Shkodra Resort, Albania


    When we woke up it was raining pretty hard. We decided to take it easy and head into the city of Shkodër when it would stop raining. At the end of the morning it cleared up and we headed 2-up on my bike towards Shkodër. Shkodër is the biggest city in northern Albania. Surprisingly enough, there were no (obvious) places to park a bike in the city. We ended up parking the bike at a secured parking lot in the middle of town. It was full when we got there, but the owner figured that there was room enough for a bike.
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    First order of business was finding some AAA-batteries and a tiny screw that came loose off one my auxiliary lights. After some asking around we found out where we could probably obtain these items. The tricky thing following directions and using our navigation was that local authorities in Shkodër apparently rename street names constantly. The first store we eventually found had a lot of batteries, but no AAA ones. A customer who spoke a little English said he knew a place and was going to show us, so we followed him. He was riding an old scooter of some kind, but had a healthy pace. The store he brought us to had the AAA batteries. The store had a surprising selection of goods, we also bought a fresh bread. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful at finding the tiny screw here or anywhere else in the city (we gave up after 2 hours), and I rode the rest of the trip with one auxiliary light instead of two.
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    Next order of business was getting some local cash from a bank or ATM. The first three ATM's we found did not accept our cards (maestro-cards). A local told us we needed to go to the Raiffeisenbank, according to him this would be the only (or one of the only) bank in town to accepts our cards. After following his directions we found the bank pretty easy and our cards were accepted.
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    In the city centre there is a statue of Mother Therese, who Albanians claim as their own because she is of Albanian ancestry (although she was actually born in Macedonia). Every year in October on the 19th Albania celebrates Mother Theresa day.
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    On the other side of the street there is a statue of Luigj Gurakuqi (1879 - 1925), he was the Secretary of Education in the first government of an independent Albania. Amongst other things he played an important role in the development of education in Albania, such as help establish about 200 elementary schools.
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    Shkodër shows a lot of contrast between old and new, rich and poor, sophisticated and simple. Range rovers alternated horse and wagon in the traffic jams and new modern buildings adjoined old or simple ones.
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    Somehow everywhere we looked there were places to get your car washed. They called this "Lavazh", which means carwash.
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    In 1990 the Ebu Bekër or El Zamil mosque was rebuilt because the original mosque was destroyed in the 1960's by Atheists. When we were admiring the mosque from the side-walk, a caretaker asked us if we wanted to take a look inside. We were even allowed to take photographs.
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    Next, we went to the Rozafa Castle, which is a fortified structure on top of a hill a little south of Shkodër, which is said to have been fortified since Illyrian times. It was last used for military purposes in 1913 by the Ottomans. The hill provides fantastic views of the area and shows how the Castle on the hill is strategically placed between two rivers (also see the photograph of the scale model).
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    Legend has it that building the Castle was impossible since everything the builders (three brothers) built by day somehow collapsed by night. Every day one of the brother's wives would bring them lunch. An old man that one day passed by is said to have informed the brothers that to prevent the wall from collapsing at night, they had to wall in the wife that would bring them their food the next day. But, according to the old man, they had to promise not to tell their wives. The oldest brother broke his oath, as did the middle brother, but the youngest kept it to himself. The next day, naturally, the wife of the youngest brother came to bring the brothers lunch. So they told her what they had to do to be able to built the Castle. She agreed to be walled up alive as long as they would keep one eye, one hand, one breast and one foot exposed so she could continue to care for her little child. So it came to pass that the wife of the youngest brother was walled up and the Castle still stands. The moral of the tale is that a woman is able to do what a man can not do: sacrifice herself for the sake of her husband, her son and future civilization. Moreover, if half a woman in a wall can support an entire Castle for centuries, imagine what free women can accomplish.
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    At the end of the day we had a great local dinner at the restaurant on the camp site.
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    #19
  20. jadvst

    jadvst Adventurer

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2017
    Oddometer:
    29
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Day 8
    From Lake Shkodra Resort, Albania
    To Lake Shkodra Resort, Albania


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    Goal of day 8 was to ride to the village of Theth (or Thethi). Theth is a small village in the Theth National Park, it has been a tourist resort since even before the communist period of Albania. It is in a remote area which is only accessible via unpaved mountain roads. This is said to be the reason that the Ottomans did not take the effort to try and convert the people of Theth to Islam. Although over the last years the paved road is creeping further and further towards the village. After talking to a few people on our camp site, we actually thought that the main road to Theth was already fully paved. So we figured, we would do the southern approach, which is about 70 km's (about 43 miles) of unpaved road and ride back on the paved road.

    Unfortunately, in the morning M.'s bike would not start. After two hours of trial and error with multiple helpful hands of other campers, we discovered a wiring issue with the side-stand switch. When we were finally off it was already 11 o'clock.

    The ride up to the unpaved road was very much fun and we rode through some stunning scenery.
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    Something we saw a lot in Albania was burning trash on the side of the roads, for us a very strange sight.
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    When we reached the mountains, the views became more and more stunning.
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    A traffic jam of a few donkeys, a farmer with a huge wagon of straw, a Mercedes 200D and us. These old Mercedes cars were everywhere in Albania. We were told every Albanian wants to own a Mercedes.
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    More nice views.
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    And then, around 12:30, we reached the unpaved part of our route towards Theth.
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    We met very few people on this road, apart from some locals, truckers, a very friendly German couple in a converted Unimog camper and at some point another biker shot passed us.
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    The surroundings were stunning to say the least, but the conditions of the road kept deteriorating.
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    It was a long day for M. and we met some lovely cows!
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    Riding was fun and our surroundings kept on changing, every view as beautiful as the one before.
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    When the light was running out we reached Theth!
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    But our information turned out to be incorrect, as the paved road (for our return to our camp site) did not start at Theth. Upon arriving we asked a local where the paved road was, he informed us that it was another 1,5 hour drive on a unpaved road. Unfortunately, it was getting dark already. We flicked on our auxiliary lights and rode on.
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    About half way on the ride in the dark towards the paved road and our camp site we met a few motorcycle riders who were going in the opposite direction on street-bikes without auxiliary lighting. They too were informed that the paved road would lead all the way to Theth. The first rider had hard luggage with "666" on his cases (someone from here?). We hope they all reached Theth without any problems! In the end it took us less than one hour to reach the paved part of the road. The second we hit pavement M. decided to take a breather on the ground.
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    We reached the camp site about 2 hours after hitting the pavement and got a very good nights sleep.
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    #20