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  #16  
Old 21 Oct 2011
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Originally Posted by thunderstick View Post
What is it with this shatnav of yours? It seems determined to lead you to your doom. Maybe it needs compromising with: it gets you in the general direction in which you wish to ride and you allow it to feed from the power cells on your beast. Or the bike. If you're in the mood to, share some details about the grub you're on..this will be interesting when you get to the deserts and mountains of Nowhereistan. Are you listening to your 3-track random player?

The satnav has one of two possible problems. It works fine at home and only screws up on long trips so my guess is it's either suffering from the cold or the vibrations. Tonight I'm going to stick on a movie and strip it down. It can't make it any worse and just freeing up the internals might reset the fault. The screen doesn't register touches properly and if I squeeze the casing hard it shows a button press so something inside is fouling or touching. As I said, i can't make it worse.
Today no MP3s as I forgot to charge the player but the wind-howl would have blocked it out anyway. Slower from here on in so music is a definite maybe.
No thoughts on food so far because basically I haven't had any. Lunch was a musili bar on the polish border and slowly working my way through a bottle of fizzy water. This evening I was late, in the middle of nothing so I just got some bits from the local Tesco and will grab something before I crash which will be early. Tomorrow breakfast is free so I'll eat something before I leave, I will actually blog while I eat so you'll get the live experience. My only issue is identifying things. I don't speak a word of Polish and it's quite different. I can muddle through in most of Europe but here I have no idea what I'm ordering and everything is deep fried in breadcrumbs.
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  #17  
Old 21 Oct 2011
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I feel for you .. I did a trip to Spain this time last year and the drive thru France was bl**dy cold !!

Was in Poland this year... lovely country .. meant to stay for a couple of days and ended up staying for 6 ! even met James Blunt (blagged his autograph and got into his concert for free!)

I have a Tomtom rider and throw a clear plastic bag over it during the damp wet moments.... or it too locks up (and there supposed to be waterproof lol)

I also keep a little notepad and use google translate to write down the important words when Im in a new country... works marvels for getting the right things for breakfast etc

Well I hope you have a good trip

Keep up the reports
Cheers
Geordie aka Will
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  #18  
Old 22 Oct 2011
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I didn't bother with google translates. I can scratch by in Europe, I know enough to communicate basic needs. I was meant to be meeting up with my Polish mate straight away so I thought we'd be ok but I've been delayed a bit by the cold.
I reckon I've narrowed down the problem with the Garmin. It's crap. Actually a google search shows mine is a common fault, my screen is peeling after being the rain and it looks like some dirt or moisture has got through the gaskit and is touching somewhere around the edge. Mine is only about 6 months old but I don't have the receipt so nothing i can do out here except regret buying the bloody thing.
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  #19  
Old 23 Oct 2011
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Wa gwan cold bean? PC been testing my patience...made veggie lasagne tonight and was ok, but lacked that certain weasely something. You should have taken my shatnav. Kind of relieved to hear the KTM is off the road -- it brings truth to your warnings...
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  #20  
Old 23 Oct 2011
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the fun of sat navs and KTM's, not a got mixture. have you bough some winter gloves yet tho? if it helps, its meant to be 17 degrees here today...
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  #21  
Old 23 Oct 2011
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Meant to be 17 indeed, but surely t'was pushing the boundaries of 20. This must help...or perhaps we can FedEx a Hawaiian shirt to you?
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  #22  
Old 25 Oct 2011
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Godd pics, not exactly bright and sunny -- yet! Nice poncho too...good job you can't see it. You're racking up the miles, and it doesn't sound like you're being left stranded. I think you should blog it at a regular pace...after every pint make an entry and set yourself a target of at least 10 entries. Zooming off tomorrow, or got a lay in?
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  #23  
Old 26 Oct 2011
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So this morning found us in Budapest. I went out fairly early in the search for SD cards as someone stole the one out my camera and i choose to blame my girlfriend and for rubber hose because my fuel line had collapsed. I went for a ride to a mall I spotted on the way in and found a different one on our doorstep so went there instead. I found a Euronics store which could provide for my SD needs but nothing on the rubber hose front, rather disappointingly. I waited for the store to open and asked random strangers about a length of rubber hose. Nobody spoke English at all which I found a little surprising. In the end I drew a blank. I got my SD cards after considerable difficulty and my bike was running like a sack of shit. I assumed I had done bad things to her by fitting her with a petrol line that had gone hard and then melted. She wouldn't stay running at all which was reminiscent of the troubles I had with the spark plugs before. Then I got back, packed up and hoped for the best. It was raining when we left so i expected another day of abject misery. I stuck one of the SD cards in my GPS and mostly it started magically working as if Harry potter himself had rubbed his magic wand on it. We plodded on and I noticed that the engine stayed running. We stopped at a little alley with dozens of bike shops so I could get some hose but all were closed. We found an open scooter shop thing and they apologised that they could not accept cards and didn’t have rubber hose, all they had was proper fuel lines. They offered me a length of perfect stuff but the price was just under 2 euros and all I had was 5. I told them to keep the change which made them slightly excited and they accepted my terms. In England that hose cost me over £15.

So we rode off, my bike now running fine. We stopped at a petrol station for some food. I had a small cheese pasty, Marcin ate... pretty much everything. They didn’t understand us well enough to get the order right which was again, slightly strange. We had two choices on how to proceed. Romania or Serbia. Romania was my choice, someone on the HUBB had said he was scammed for insurance in Serbia and that was the opposite choice of Marcin after the advice of a man we met in a bar. So with no reliable information and google just toying with us I did the most reasonable thing possible, I asked some lorry drivers figuring they did this trip and knew best. They sided with the man in the pub, Serbia was safer, faster and easier. We were sold. An hour later we crossed the border. In all it took 15 minutes, it was very straightforward. We offered our passports, got the back and moved on to customs. Customs looked at the passports and we were free to enter. Simple. The roads were indeed pretty decent but in a fairly bad state of repair. It was interesting how unfinished lengths of road were already collapsing and telling of the economy that stretches of motorway are open with cones along miles of length and already having a patchwork quilt or repaired sections before even being completed. Driving here was actually pretty decent. The roads may be poor but there was none of the rampant arrogance of other drivers in Europe. These people might have simple tastes but accidently killing bikers wasn’t one of them.

We made it into Belgrade after being lashed by winds for several hundred miles. It was a charming town and spirits were high. Here we were after our first proper border crossing into a strange, non European country. The city was huge, vast in fact and the architecture was interesting but slightly lacklustre compared to some we’ve seen. The outskirts range from ploughed dirty fields with Russian cars being used as tractors to little alcoves of chavs running amok.

We stopped off a few times to take some pictures, after all, how often do you ride through Serbia? We were stuck in traffic which is understandable considering the sheer size of the place. A lot of people still paid attention to the bikes but we’re getting used to that. Once we were in the centre we got stuck in traffic because with our gear we can’t filter thorough. We heard a beep and a young lad on the back of a scooter was waving to us. Even when we stopped to take pictures people came up to us to offer to take one of us both. Despite the preconceptions this is a pretty decent place with very warm and friendly people.

Once into Belgrade all was good but Marcin wanted to plod on for a few more miles. I didn’t mind but when we left I just couldn’t keep up. It was dark by now and we were doing 70mph and he was pulling away. I had repaired my fuse problem but can’t go to full beam so had no way to flash him and at that speed I couldn’t over-take and let him know I just couldn’t keep up.

Eventually I just slowed down to 50 and let him catch on that I wasn’t there. Then he slowed down and I overtook and took us to a motel. He was hoping to do 90 miles, we made another 50 and I said we needed to talk. He is burning rubber to get to Sydney by Christmas but my plans are different. I don’t see any way an extra day more or less here makes much difference. Through Turkey there are no motorways past Anchorage, Iran has a poor road system and then Pakistan we have to wait for escorts and India is a joke of international proportions. We chatted briefly about it. I really like Marcin and we’re happy riding together so we put it behind us and tomorrow we’ll compromise, we’ll slow the pace so my little single can keep up and we’ll leave earlier and ride longer. That way we all get what we want.

The hotel/motel is just this side of good and at a price Europe can't compete with. The waiter had a real sense of purpose and brought us plate of plate of local delicacies and drinks which we still cheaper than eating out in France.


So talking of my little single... She’s running fine but drinking fuel. With my partner in Europe my fuel system delivered 180-190 miles per tank. Now it’s giving me 135 miles. That’s a hell of a drop. Marcin says he’s noticing a similar drop in his bike too so we’re suspecting dodgy fuel. Both bikes are running fine, just delivering worse range. We’re keeping our eyes on that one....
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  #24  
Old 26 Oct 2011
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Zoom.... zoom....zooom
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  #25  
Old 26 Oct 2011
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Ha! zoom zoom? Is that a reflection on the sightseeing? Sure the monasteries and Gothic buildings are groovy, but even better blurring past at 110 per. This wouldn't happen on an Enfield -- talking of which I'm thinking of taking a trip to the Enfield museum/ gun factory to check out some SMLE's...
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  #26  
Old 27 Oct 2011
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It was a long day today, a mixture of highs and lows and animals killed at the side of the road. So... We left the motel. We agreed with some old guy to push our bikes from the front to the back so they were safer and closer. He said it was no problem but had to think about it first. Then we realised it was because we were on a toll road and that meant we avoided some of the tolls. We did it anyway and enjoyed a saving of around 20 pence.
The motel was very good, extremely warm and friendly. Small dogs wandered around playing and everyone smiles honestly back at you. Once on the road we found one of the small dogs protecting a small section of it with what used to be his spine. There was considerable more of that to follow.
The road broke from the drudgery of a motorway into a main road, a dual carriageway for the most part and the scenery grew better as we trundled along. The wind was still not going to be our friend and lashed at my little bike like an angry chav trying to get through a car window to your wallet. Even Marcin felt it today, his bike is aerodynamically designed to alleviate the pains of wind, weighs twice as much and has twice as much power but at one point we were riding pitched to 10 degrees just to hold straight. Of course, straight is subjective and I managed to barely keep between the lines and crossed them more than once. Suddenly, about 15 miles on from our start the scenery turned into.... scenery. Burnt black fields peppered the horizon as dimly apparent mountains warned us of their presence as ghosts in the far recesses of the distance. The rocky, barren land stretched on imposingly as far as we could see and while far from beautiful it was striking and impressive. The ride went on for around 100 miles and never stopped being impressive. The rolling hills blended into a barren landscape of hardship and drudgery that while it was a privilege to see in passing was a burden to be tied to. Ancient tractors moved dirt from one place to another, sometimes Russian cars were seen in distant fields and occasionally whole families tended the land in exchange for barely enough to live on. Towns gave way to rows of wooden and rock shacks, crumbling away on the horizon. There was an unmistakable Mediterranean feel to the architecture but with the unplanned, run-down look of the small, painful asian slum towns.
Finally we stopped for fuel. My range was improving. We stopped around 145 miles and I had several litres left. We grabbed some breakfast in a motorway service centre and it turned out to be excellent and cheap as well. We didn’t have enough money after he refused our card but ever that wasn’t a problem and he took what we had with a smile.
After the petrol station around Nis we headed out to follow the road and there was an instant dramatic shift as we entered the mountains. We were in a truly foreign land. Craggy peaks of rock oversaw us as we winded our way through narrow paths claimed back from the awesome natural beauty of this region. The roads were amazing, clean, clear and trustworthy and they wound through some truly amazing views. We were lucky enough to even have good weather with temperatures around 17 which were comfortable even with the winds.
Even after we passed the initial outcropping of rock the barren, rugged landscape kept us entertained for miles to come until eventually we found the Bulgarian border. We had to climb to reach it and the clouds darkened the sky. The views closed in until eventually an ugly scar of human nature blighted our view with a border crossing. Nobody seemed to care and we had to ask someone to come and check our passports. We were allowed through straight away. Between the Serbian exit and Bulgarian entrance was a no-mans-land of empty nothing where nobody had any right to be... except a small market full of shops. I guess that speaks volumes in a philosophical sense.
The entrance was pretty straight forward too. They checked our stuff and we were in Bulgaria. Suddenly the trappings of wartorn poverty were swept aside. The roads were clear and smooth and the edges were tidy and clear. We made good time towards Sofia, a large city along the way we wanted to see. From the last 10 miles we were able to see the outskirts so we knew this was going to be a big and impressive place to visit.
I could write a diatribe on my initial impressions as we crossed the border and entered the town but Marcin said it in words that surpassed anything I could imagine and eloquently summed up our thoughts and impressions. We stopped at a set of lights and he looked around at the town sprawled out before him and then he turned to me and said, “Oh dear.”
On the right was a shanty town full of an ethnic minority that had been thrown to the wolves. Tiny ramshackle huts were fully along the length of a small river as far as we could see. People, darker than the average and different looking were laying on the pavement smoking and drinking things that had no business in the human body while the passers-by locked their windows. Someone approached Marcin and made a strange gesture with his fingers over his mouth that looked as though he wanted to offer oral sex. Marcin showed remarkable restrain in not punching him but eventually the individual staggered off and collapsed and probably died somewhere. We rode into town and struggled to find something worth taking pictures of. Even when we left the bikes for an instant people began to head to them, eyeing up our stuff like vultures.
We left in a hurry. With the traffic, the grey and unpleasant buildings and even greyer and more unpleasant people the entire city was the visual equivalent of a punch to the throat. The roads in the city are polished so they look strangely like they’re wet. At one point Marcin braked and carried on for 4-5 metres after his ABS though he was lying about wanting to stop. Outside of town the roads were a mixture of ok for a few yards and like riding on an overturned truckload of spilled dildos. The bike vibed all over the place but you get used it after a while, I guess.
We motored on towards the next biggest town and Marcin insisted he wanted to do another 50 miles so as it was still light I agreed.
I had seen even better fuel economy than last time so I’m assuming now that my bike had suffered from a bout of crappy petrol. I put in some higher than usual octane gas and hoped she would be ok. There was a strange rattling noise coming from the front of my bike. I assumed it was my screen which is only held on by stupidity but it turned out to be coming from the back of the bike in front.
Like earlier as soon as we left the station the scenery changed only this time the main road became a back-street and the warnings about the Eastern part of Europe not being accurate on GPS took a pointedly apparent turn for the worst.
Long story short, we spent 3 hours riding around lost. Night crept in and darkness made navigation as much fun as sitting on a 650 single at maximum revs for hour after hour. Motels seemed more interested in ripping us off than offering any kind of service. Eventually we found a town through more luck than judgement and ended up with a half decent hotel to crash at.
The end of a long and interesting day.
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  #27  
Old 27 Oct 2011
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Originally Posted by thunderstick View Post
Ha! zoom zoom? Is that a reflection on the sightseeing? Sure the monasteries and Gothic buildings are groovy, but even better blurring past at 110 per. This wouldn't happen on an Enfield -- talking of which I'm thinking of taking a trip to the Enfield museum/ gun factory to check out some SMLE's...
Cool, get pictures and share with the Jack. Last night was a blur of crappy roads, broken English, total darkness in the middle of nowhere, Bulgarian arseholes trying to rip us off and increasing stress levels followed by and mountains of food. I ordered "something vegetarian" and Marcin had his usual "two of everything on the menu". He originally wanted a sandwich but when we got there he ordered something with chicken and we got some salad. The chicken looked pretty basic and was served with a single slice of tomato. The salad came much later but was good. Mine was a huge pile of grilled vegetables covered in cheese. Marcin also orderd "whatever those guys were having" and that was some red thing with pork (maybe) in it. All was very good and the Beer since we left Poland has been increasingly bland but the bill with 8 bottles of was still only around £17.
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  #28  
Old 27 Oct 2011
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The mornings in Bulgaria are a grim thing, mostly because all the windows here show views of Bulgaria. From the hotel window there is a scene of pealing grey banality, darkened windows and the occasional sound of a clapped out car being driven to total excess. In fact yesterday I saw a Vauxhall Kadet, the precursor of the Astra. 1980s Vauxhalls are everywhere here, usually being driven at 100mph with collapsed suspension, no windows and a patchwork quilt of different coloured panels. The driving here is, to be fair pretty decent. Most people are decent and most bikers, even on scooters are taking an interest in a friendly way. A guy on a scooter came up beside me yesterday and asked me to rev the engine then nodded in appreciation. Strange request. Most groups of people seemed more interested in stealing our stuff than anything else. We left the bikes for a moment and shabbly looking guys start heading towards them, nudging each other and looking around.
I think it’s safe to say i’ve found the worst place in Europe, even worse than Lewisham although I have heard Romania is worse.
Today we’re going for some breakfast and then an easy ride into Istanbul. When i say easy I mean we’re on an easy schedule but we’ve had to because the sat nav is no use to us here so we’re riding on blind faith, compass pointing and best guess. We’re travelling down narrow roads, sometimes with single lanes and they’re full of Turkish trucks which means we’re actually not that lost, it’s just that this country is a bit broken.
Talking of broken we had some trouble getting into the car park and Marcin clipped his side box. The boxes are massive and the pucks took quite a hit. The screws on the plastic sheered on one of the connectors and the box fell off. This morning we surgically repaired it after a trip into town. Surgery was performed by Marcin with a big spanner until the alloy was straight again and I had some nut and bolts which are probably better than the original screws so no problem. Another successful roadside repair.
The town is... different. People stare at us like we’re the outsiders that we are. They stared at us even more when we bought postcards and walked around taking pictures of them. It’s been an interesting visit but we won’t be sorry to leave Bulgaria, Europe’s dustbin. If Europe had an enema this is where they'd stick the tube. The road beckoned and now that we’re literally in the gutter we can see the stars.
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  #29  
Old 27 Oct 2011
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Shame Bulgaria isn't your cup o tea...with that 20p you saved you could be set for life there. Apparently PETA is up in arms about some theme park in America making killer whales do silly tricks. They want to get down to their local McDonalds. So -- on to the gateway to Asia? Would have been nice to spend a few more days in some of the places you've been to, but onwards and onwards it is. Almost a shame to finish with Europe, but then when you consider what's coming next, maybe not...
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  #30  
Old 27 Oct 2011
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Welre both pretty psyched that that part of the trip is over because the next part is beginning. Geographically we're about a quater to a third of the way in but now the going gets far harder. Tomorrow is literally the last ride on a motorway. Main roads from here on will simply be roads with less cows. We're pretty excited. The only problem is the lack of booze in these countries. We're working on ways to stockpile.
Bulgaria may not be my cup of tea but that's why it's more fun to visit. I wouldn't have missed it. The only shame is that you're missing it. It's awesome...
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