Welcome to the journal of our Gap Year - at 60 years of age (hence the title). We are travelling on a BMW 1150 GS.
Some people think we are unique but we think that's a posh term for "slightly nuts."
A little background for you. Colin is a semi-retired clock maker and I am a retired nurse. We live in the west country of England.
We have been planning the trip for 2 years and are now ready 'for the off'.
We plan to be away about a year and will start from Poole to Cherbourg on the ferry, drive through France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India and overfly Burma to Thailand. Then to Malasia, airfreight to Perth, travel across the Nulabor Plain, up to Alice springs and Ayers Rock and so to Brisbane where we will have some (well deserved) R&R. Airfreight to Los Angeles, travel down Mexico on the west coast and up the east coast. back through USA (route depends on the time of year that we get there). Fly back to Europe from Boston and so to home.-- sounds easy when it's put like that- but I am sure it won't be.
We plan to do approx 200 miles per day for 4/5 days and then have a rest day.
Loads of mods have been done to the bike, packing kept to a minimum ( going on the theory that you can buy what you want on the way round), visas obtained and we are finally on our way at the end of this week.
More to follow---
Left UK 3rd march and landed in Cherbourg after a good crossing. Within an hour the weather had deteriated to snow showers. We made it to Tours, France and then it started as a blizzard for the whole of the next day.-
We stayed put in the hotel and slept, read and ate for 2 days and it probably did us a world of good to have a complete rest. It had been a hectic build up to the leave.
Roads were clear by the Monday and we were off. Bike is not like a Christmas
tree yet. Bet it will be later on ( ie. heavily laden ).
Travelled through France and along the Cote d'Azur. Stunning scenery and warm.
Have mixed the routes with some Auto route, as well. It does give Colin some respite from heavy town traffic.
Snow still on the tops of the mountains and the driving there has been cold but quiet with traffic.
Now in Pisa and have done our first touristy bit -as you do- and been up the Tower. ( I can confirm that it does lean !). It has been great
so far and as for the bet in the pub-- we have not fallen out yet !
Next on to Pompeii --to get all cultured out .
Left Pisa 13/03/06 to Tarquinia which is a medi-evil walled city. Very windy- this is called 'The Montana' and lasts either 1 or 3 days. It was day 2 when we got there. Normally I am not keen on high winds on the back of the Bike but she felt very stable and comfortable.
Colin has been very pleased with the very last 'mod' that he did before leaving UK. That was to fit handle bar muffs. They have been very succesful. I'm OK with the heated jacket and gloves.
From Pisa to Tarquinia, we diverted of the Autosrada to do the coastal route but it was'nt worth it, as it was very Industrial. Colin had been concerned about negotiating the ring roads around Rome and Naples but it turned out to be easy. Naples was worse than Rome, as it turned out.
Went on to Pompeii and intended to have 2 days off. The first day Pompeii was shut- due to a strike for more money. After meetings it was stated that it would open at 10.30am. This came and went and the next rumour was that it would open at 1 pm. There were loads of tourists waiting and we decided to hop on the train to Herculanium, so as not to waste time. This also opened at 1pm and we had a good look around.
Next day Pompeii was open at 8.30 am and we got in for 10 euro each. We thought it was busy but the Guide told us that there were 2000 tourists there that day and in summer they have 12,000. Loads of stray dogs around who will attatch themselves to the groups of people going around.
A fascinating place but in retrospect we need not have done both sites. Sadly, Vesuvius was 'shut' also , due to ice on the road. It is ominous in the background of the beautiful, bustling new town of Pompeii.
Drivers in Italy are manic but courteous to other road users. Petrol is 1.25 Euro. Drinks in cafes slightly cheaper than UK. Alot of police around and we were parked in a pull off one day and a blue light screeched in behind us, stopped and Policeman said' are you OK" , 'Fine' was the reply and he said' have a good trip' and was gone.
Beware of the Autosrada payments- some you get a ticket and pay at the end of the section and some you just pay a statuary toll by throwing the money in the bin.
I am reliably informed the the girls in Italy are ravishing !
Then on to Bari and the night feery for Greece on The Bluestar line. The ticket girl asked shyly' how old are you?' and we got Concessionary fares weithout asking for them. We were able to board early and were shown to our cabin on deck 8. (now that's a first ). We were assured that there would be' no roll' but we tied the bike down as best we could.
Colin spent a happy hour watching the lorry drivers reversing in a small space , in order to reverse on. One would be backing in whilst another lorry turned around- hardly space for a cigarette paper between them. Pedestrians and cars also in the same area. Health and Safety eat your heart out.
It was a 10 hour crossing and we had a very polite phone call at 5am to ensure we were awake. Now we are on Greek time which is 2 hours ahead of UK. Total mileage so far is 1,937.
Disembarkedat 6.30 am at Igoumenitsa and we were short of fuel. Managed to find some in the Port area and we were on th Autostrada immediately. It was a good job that Colin had done this as we then did'nt see any petrol stations or pull off's for miles. This turned out to be 139 miles of very demanding driving. At first it was dark, the roads wet and as we climbed into the mountains, it was low cloud with visibility of 50/ 100 feet , in places. Loose shale on the road, hair pin bends with sheer drops. We climbed to the Katalan pass and reached 14,000 feet. The snow line was here and on the roadside was 3 metres deep, although the roads were clear due to the 3 Snow plough/ blower stations that were there.
We reached the other side and the temperature was 13 degrees- positively balmy. On to Meteora where there are some fantastic rock formations made by wave action millions of years ago.
Then on to Thessolonika, the second largest city in Greece. Totally different terrain here , flat and marshy. All the shops seem to stay open here and there are loads of bikes and scooters. Drivers smoking as they are driving, no crash helmets and the pillion reading the paper .
Food is cheap here, petrol is 0.93 euro and rolling tobacco is 50 grams for 3 Euro. We managed to get new tyres and Colin was impressed at the care taken. About the same price as UK. The guy said it was a good job we had them changed in Thessolonika as in Istanbul the wait would be 3/5 days. He had not seen Ultraseal before or the tyre pressure caps.
Everyone has been so helpful- some speak good English. All the roadsigns are in Greek first , followed by a sign in English. The taxi drivers will pick up more than one fare at a time.
Now in Alexandroupholi and next stop will be Turkey tomorrow. More to come.
Left Thessolonýka 21/3/06 for Alexandroupolý. The 2 hour týme dýfference and seeýng a road sýgn for Yugoslavýa and Bulgarýa brýgs home how far we are away- but ýt does,nt seem very long sýnce we started.
The shops are stýll open at 9pm and the chýldren out wýth theýr parents. There ýs no graffýttý and everywhere ýs clean. Concrete houses of 2 storeys each wýth verandas.
We have been doýng an average of 200 mýles per dayýn approx 5 hours.Thatþs allowýng for 2 stops. Leave around 10am and hotel found by 4pm latest.Dual carrýageway, long straýght roads wýth very lýttle traffýc out of towns.
We have had a couple of fast food meals as most of the restaurants seem to do prepared food and keep ýt hot ýn steam tables throughout the day. Goýng on the adage - ýf you see ýt beýng cooked- we have opted out of that.
Colýn cleaned the býke as the Fýns on the engýne were encrusted wýth drýed salt and mud- not so good for the engýne coolýng.
Next on to Turkey-----
We entered turkey on 22 march hav1ng driven past the 50 lorries wa1ting to cross the border. We had to buy vusas for 20 euro and insurance for 17 euro because despite what the RAC and insurance compan1es say - you still need the Green card.
The crossing took 2 hours and the Customs were more 1nterested in the bike ane where we were going than looking for controband.
Rural Turkey was like stepping back in time. Chickens- sheppards w1th their sheep or goats ( and if cold wearing a goat skin cape )- dogs barking at and sometimes chasing the bike. This is all just by the side of the road. Donkey or pony and cart. Flat marshy land. Dead stra1ght roads and 5 cars was a traff1c jam. 20 degrees.
The hotel in Ecreabat was a gem w1th laundry facilities- book swap and a bar with a balcony that overlooked The dardenalles where we saw the Dolph1ns jumping later in the day.
Had a day off to v1ew the Gall1poli sites . Anzac beach 1s desolate and a place for quiet reflection despite the hoards of coaches coming in.
Took the feerry to Cannacale on the 24th. to go to Banderma. The whole idea was to leave the bike in Banderma and go to istanbul as foot passengers. This d1d not happen as despite all the research ther is one ferry on a saturday and 2 on a Sunday. Crossing time is 2 hours each wat- so that d1d not leave much t1me and not worth it. So we binned that idea.
When we left for the ferry ther was no indication of what was to come. The wind got up and was gusting at 50 knots. it got so bad at one stage that i thought Colin would turn round - but we ploughed SLOWLY on and got to Banderma. We were so relieved to be secure_ warm and safe 1n the hotel that we failed to see the mosque 50 yards away and for the next 2 days enjoyed the early call to prayer at 4 am.
Somewhere along the line here i lost the 1nterconnect1ng lead for the intercom. it had never come apart in the 2 years that we have had the system and now when we need it the most .......
We had a d1scussion and Colin decided that we would try to find the parts to make it up here. The follow1ng morning we traipsed from shop to shopa and eventually found a guy who had the correct connections and w1re. He put 2 core w1re doubled. Sat and made 1t wh1st we waiwed and drank complentary tea. All for the cost of £4 .67. We are now talking afin and the lead 1s black taped on and i am on pain of s1vorce to lose it again !
So on to Man1sa ( izmir) where we threw the boat out and stayed 1n a 4 star hotel for the n1ght. Normally the cost 1s £30 per n1ght 1ncluding breakgast- but th1s was double that.
Then to Pammekale where The Travertine pools are. We avo1ded the 3 k walk and i was taken on what i was assured wasa short cut and we cl1mbed up the Roman wall. The sav1ng grace 1s the the calc1um format1on is totally non sl1ppery. Had a very expensive swim in the Roman spa but it was worth every penny. Warm and buoyant looking up to thr clear blue sky and palm trees.
Eg1d1r on the 28 march to stay on an island surrounded by snow capped mountains . A really good place to relax in 20 degrees.
29 march and we on route to cappodocia and the total eclipse of the sun happened. We knew that 1t was to happen on wednesday but had no idea of the time. 1.55 1t gradually got darker. Colin pulled over- iy got dark_ cold- the street l1ghts came on- b1rds stopped singing and them totally dark for one and half minutes.it was magic. People have been plann1ng to be hear for a year to see this and we just happened to be in the right place at the r1ght t1me.
30 march and we are now in Cappodocia w1th the starling formations of tuffa wh1ch is a volcanic rock. We are staying in a cave hotel and have visited the under ground city of 7 levels. The interior is like a rabbit warren and goes underground to 50 metrs. Glad i did it - but never again !
Turkey has been full of suprises- you never know what is round the next corner could be valleys lush w1th fertile fields tended by 2people. Or mountains w1th Alp1ne scenery.
Petrol is same as UK. Draught beer is 82 p. Kebaba are delicious - warm macaroons and Turk1sh Delight to die for !
Note to other travellers- do a Commando training course before you embark on a trip like this - we have been mountain goats_ troglodites and long distance walkers ! more to come .....
Cappodoc1a was a surreal place . The underground c1ty was l1ke Swiss cheese w1th a maize of tunnels interconnecting. Very claustrophobic- as it went down 40 metres. The columns of tuffa that have been formed from the lava rock are amazing with the biggest phallyx symbols in the world. In the early morning there must have been at least 10 hot air balloons over the area. Apparantly it is one of the best places to do this (expensive ).
Had several wonderful evenings in Turk1sh restaurants where you took your shoes off and sat on cushions on the floor. The meals are really good and cheap. Soup is a speciality and the kebabs are delicious. D1d see a Belly dance too !
They are a very soc1al people. The band will be playing and slowly the audience will join in. A great atmosphere. Very polite also. Wherever you go the door is held open for you and a cologne essence sprinkled on your hands as you are leaving. All very helpful. The men seem to congrgate 1n the cafes.
The road signs are in english which has been a bonus. Roads are tarmac but can degenerate very quickly to pot holes or broken up tarmac.
petrol is sl1ghtly dearer than UK. We have had several free g1fts from the garages- key fobs_ tissues and a peaked cap.
As we drive past the men will gawp at the bike- the children wave madly and the women totally ignore you.
Houses are 2 storey concrete pa1nted often 1n pink- blue or yellow ochre. Alot have solar panals. in towns the flats are usually 6 storeys h1gh.
As we have come further South the scenery has changed all the time. Spring is coming - the flowers are just starting to bloom. Swifts and storks are arriving. The almond- apple and apricot trees are 1n bloom. There are miles of vines and all types of agriculture- a very lush land. Huge bunches of mistletoe in the trees. They burn the stubble from the fields.
Loads of tourists around for the Ecl1pse .
Onto Malatya on 1 April. it was an eerie ride. M1les and miles of flat road unwinding ahead of you. This is a bustling city.
2 Apr1l we went on to Diyarbikir. This was the first day of rain that we have had. As we drove further South it became bleaker- austere and more and more barren. The rural areas are gradually looking poorer. Very mountainous area and at times you feel you are the only person in the world!
The Pass between Elazig and Diyarbikir was guarded and there are alot of militia 1n the c1ty due to the riots last week. We have just had our boots cleaned for £1. We decided to stay here today as well as it is pouring with rain.
We are now 1n Messopotania and crossed the Euphrates yesterday and tomorrow will cross the Tigris. i now feel more comfortable wearing a headscarf but am still in jeans. Will have to buy different clothes very soon.
Next on to Van wh1ch will be the last big place before entering iran. This will probably be on Thurday 6 April.
Turkey has been an amaz1ng country full of contradictions- wonderful scenery and helpful people. You never know what is around the next corner. Driving has been manic at times and then totally boring. you need your wits about you.
Total miles : 3959
We ended up staying inDiyarbikir for 2 days due to the weather. managed to have a look around but did not walk the city walls , (whých are the second býggest after the Great Wall of China) due to the warnings that you may be robbed.-- Discretion was the better part of valour. There are huge underground shopping malls here.
On 4th April we went onto Tatvan, on the West coast of Lake Van. Near to Bitlis. The ride was interesting to say the least. The first part was through huge lush plains and then into mountanous country. ( Colin now wishes he had fitted an Altimetre- perhaps ýt' good that he dýd'nt .)
The road from Býtlis deteriorated to pure rubble that was still wet from the previous 2 days rain. We had 50 k of enforced 'off road' ride. It started to hail to add to the misery.There were huge snow frifts to the side of the road and only lorries seemed to be on the road- no cars at all. The lorries slowed us down and several times Colim had to pull back to allow space to get up a good run.
I was thinking ' stay loose and go with the bike '. A bit difficult when you can feel the back wheel sliding.
Colin says that this ride is firmly imprinted in his mind. There were alot of military checks as this is definitely Frontier country. The road blocks just waved us through. It made Colin's day when he saw a tank with a big plastic bag over the barrell to stop the rain from going inside !
Got to the hotel and the bike was parked in the back foyer. Had to wiggle the handlebars through 2 doorways and then park it on a marble floor. Such dedication- the bike was as warm as we were and had a wash as we were all caked with mud.
Next day we woke up and it was pouring with rain and intermýttent snow. So we had another 2 days off and set off to Van on 7th April- full of trepidation as to what the road would be like. however it was, thankfully OK.
We were pulled back by a road block and had to turn around thinking ' here we go'.- but all they wanted to do was look at the bike, give us tea and talk. The highest Pass was 7450 feet and Van is 5700 feet with an enormous alkaline lake which was clear ice blue. It took 3 hours to do 100 miles.
Van is renowned for white fluffy cats with one yellow and one blue eye. A very busy place.
Today (8th ) we are in Dogubayazit- about 40 k from the border. The ride was on good roads although we had several mountain dogs that chased the býke- and they really do mean business. You have to put opn the power just to get away from them. the temperature here is 20 degrees- bliss.
The best road signs that we have seen is a car sliding with an umbrella up ! Another with tortoises crossing the road. Most of the town traffic lights have a countdown for the change from red to green- or the other way. Every one sits and revs up on the count off 4 seconds !
All the children have a school unýform. There are no ýnner safety doors on the lifts so you must remember not to lean towards the door. The fast food places are delivering food at all times of the day to other shop keepers.
Internet is cheap at 45 pence per hour.
We weighed ourselves yesterday with some kiddies who had a pair of scales (? borrowed from mum ) and they were doing a roaring trade and making a few pence.-- Life goes on the same wherever you are. It's amazing to thýnk that we left 5 weeks and 3 days ago and here we are on the Iranian border and we have had 13 days off in that time. Total mileage : 4330
We waved byebye to Mount Arrarat, the mountain guide who had 14 children ( and had promised his mother to have 20 !) and 3 English lads who were cycling from London to Bejing.
The hip flask was drained and a book swap managed ( very important ).
We changed money to Rials and ,for once in our life were millionaires, as there are 16000 rials to 1GBP.
Colin went into the Iran weather on the Net and was very impressed- as you can get the weather for the actual piece of road you are travelling.
We had got the Iran visa before leaving UK. First you have to get a number from Tehrain and when this is issued you get the visa. We were granted 30 days in a period of 3 months.
We crossed the border on Sunday 9th April. It took 2 hours to go through and we were told to take a seat whilst the formalties were done. The bike was disinfected and we were told not to travel North of Tehrain due to Bird Flu.
There was no baggage check. The carnet was stamped and perused over and over again.( This is the Insurance that you do nt sell the vehicle whilst in the country- and costs mega bucks !)
Immediately the temperature was 20 degrees and we went onto Maku, which is definitely a frontier town. It is in a deep gorge which traps the pollution nicely. We ended up in a right doss house of a hotel (shared stinking squat loo amd shower) but the bed was clean and at 4GBP- what could you expect ?
We learnt from this to stick out for the hotel that you want- despite what the locals say. The bike was safe- driven down a tyre width ramp into the foyer and 2 guys helped Colin push it up the next day.
Onto Tabriz on 10th. A large city and traffic unbelivable. Every one thinks they have right of way. There are no traffic lights- or a few that are constantly flashing red or amber and do not change at all. People go the wrong way around roundabouts, up one way streets the wrong way or back up if they have taken a wrong turn.
We were shown to the hotel by a policeman who stopped all the traffic on a one way road, guided us across the road and up onto the pavement to the hotel !
Onto Zanjan next day. all the lorries will wave and beep as they pass. The tarmac is good and all major road signs in English. At each petrol station there are queues for diesel but the Benzine is readily available and for 11 litres ( 1/2 tank) is .....50 pence. Water is dearer. Meal out is 7GBP. Hotels about 18GBP per night.
There are' cardboard cut outs' for police cars on the side of the road and people can be picnicing, or selling their wares. Tolls for the Freeway but we do not pay.
Alot of 1950/60 trucks that do not help the pollution that seems to hang over all towns amd woe betide you if you are right behind one on the open road,. 125 mopeds and the record (so far) is 6 on one bike- mum,dad and 4 kids!
Alot of police checks but we have o nly been stopped once on the road and in one hotel were seen by the Police whilst we were having dinner - 'why were we visiting Iran and describe Iran '.
Karaj on 13 th where we had arranged to have the bike serviced at the BMW place. ( phoned ahead ) We thought that this would mean a trip into Tehran but luckily for us the workshop was at karaj- about 17 K away. Colin was very relieved that he did not have to drive in Tehran.
We turned up for the service at 9am. given tea and cakes. 10.30am- banana and orange each and at 12.45pm- lunch was served ! and all for the price of 45GBP. it was unelievable hospitality.
And so on to Kashan(15th) , Yazd and Kerman where we are having a day off (17th).
All the towns have big boulevards on entry with Evergreen trees that are carefully nurtured. A huge flower arrangement in the central square with statues.
Huge shopping malls with alot of Western clothes.
Shops closed Friday and Sunday apart from a few food shops. there is a mixture of clothes. Some wearing full chadda but we have only seen one with the full face grille. Alot of the younger girls have jeans on under the ch adda and are wearing makeup.
Crossing the road is a definite art form and you literally dodge the traffic. At that point I always hold on to colin's hand despite the etiquette.
We have passed through flat lush country, huge salt flats and are now in desert scrub land . it is getting up to 32 degrees- and that is when we are travelling. We are now wearing the Camel packs for water and they are good.
Yesterday we were offered bread and water as cars pulled up beside us. We have had loads of photos taken of the bikeand everyone has been very kind. Alot speak English or enough to get by.
I pull the headscarf down for travelling and pull it up as son as the helmet is off- and no one as complained.next onto Bam and real desert country........
Colin has found that the non- alcholic beer is perfectlly acceptable ! The people have been so friendly and helpful. The further South we went and into the hotter weather, we were offered bread and water from passing cars.
You must be very wary of the Speed bumps that are suddenly there- I have not come off the back - yet ! There are alot of mosques on the side of the road and all hotel rooms have an arrow on the ceiling pointing to Mecca.
The shops stay open till 10pm and it is heaving with people, closed 2-5pm.Most of the towns have all clothing shops in one street, electric supplies together etc.
All towns display large posters of the military who have lost their lives in the recent wars.
18th april we went from Kerman to Bam through mountainous desert ares at 27- 30 degrees.Alot of Abobe houses here.
Bam is a city that was devastated by an eartquake 2 1/2 years ago and thousands died. people are still living in tents, corrugated buildings and part concrete areas. you can still see the houses with cracks up the sides and front. It is like a huge building site with construction people brought in from all over. Some houses have been rebuilt in concrete but now the foundations are 10- 12 feet deep with reinforced steel concrete.
Shops are selling their wares from Shipping containers- row upon row of them. One proudly had about 20 handbags hanging from hooks in the internal wall .
It is still a bustling and thriving city and a credit to the people , who have literally, tried to rebuild their lives from the rubble- and are succeeding. A tribute to human endeavour.
The Citadel ( the old walled city ) is completely flattened. The houses here were made of mud and clay. It is open to the public- and suprisingly, there is no charge. It is a place of tranquility and reflection on the power of nature.
The lady who had a teahouse just on the entry to the old city and was very proud that she was mentioned in Lonely Planet has now set up under some trees and still offers hospitality to the thirsty visitor.
We stayed at Akabar's Tourist Guest house ( the only place in town ). He told us that the quake happened at 5.15 am on boxing day and that they were living on the streets for 6 days.He still has tears in his eyes when he speaks of it. It took him a year to clear the rubble but he was offering a bed to the traveller within 5 months of the quake.
He now has 2 shower, loo and wash basin in a steel container and 3 double bedrooms in a concrete corrugated roof building. The family sleep in the courtyard on steel framed cots. he is rebuilding the Guest house along side the original. It will have 14 rooms and a restaurant .
Akbar lost many members of his family and a visiting motor cyclist from UK was killed. Akbar still has his bike and says he will always keep it.
The attitude of all the people is of great resiliance-- it has happened and now we must rebuils- and make Bam better than it was.
19th April from Bam to Zahadan. This is the Special Economic Zone area ( disputed tribal areas ) and Balluchistan . It was here that we had a police escort to the hotel and told not to go out by ourselves . Later that evening we had an armed police escort to go and buy fruit and water.
20th and onto Taftan. We had armed police escort out of town and they handed us over to the next check point.There are many Police checks and you have to be careful of the metal spikes recessed in the road and operated on a lever system. At each check we had to wait for the escort to drive back from the next checkpoint up the road and then escort us on wards. This process took at least an hour each time and there were 3 of them ! Sometimes we were able to wait tin the shade and others- not.( A very hot and demanding couple of days.)
200 K of sand duned desert at 40 degrees. At each stop we were shown the water tap to wash. The escort left us after the 1st pakistan check post and we went into "No Mans land ". Then onto Iran exit and that was a joke, as they told you to go here there and everywhere- and none of it was signposted ! And so into Pakistan where it was very efficient and we were through on 3 1/2 hours. We gained 1 1/2 hours at the border and are now 4 hours in advance of UK. Total miles 6078
. 20th april and Taftan. 100 yards down the road there is one hotel here- the Pakistan tourist.(1.41 GBP !)were glad to see it - it wasa bed and out of the dust storm that was blowing., we were covered in a fine layer of white film.
As we entered there was a film crew there filming some musicians and they advised us not to go our intended route of Lorreli and DG Khan as this was terrorist area but to go through the Bolan pass and Sibi, as it was safer ( but hotter ).
21st on to Dalbandi across the desert/ sand dunes/ very little traffic and very lonely. Goat herdsand Wild camels scratching against the telegraph poles . 32 degrees. We are filling up with petrol from swollen plastic cans that are on the side of the road. It's dearer than Iran at 20 litres for 6GBP. It is poured into the tank through a cut off litre water bottle with a muslin sieve over the top.
Through this area ( until Quetta)we only stopped at the police or Military check points- never on the open road. At each check area you have to get off the bike , fill in passport details in a paper covered school evercise book and get back on again- very time consuming.It appears to be deserted but when you do stop 20/30 people materialise from nowhere.
We followed the railway line. The train goes once a week to Quetta and takes 24 hours. This is great as the people use the line to sit on to watch the inevitable cricket ( match ) that is going on in each village. We got to Dalbandin- a long dusty street with donkeys, carts, dogs,mopeds , 25 standing in the back of a Pick up truck and cattle wandering everywhere. Thunder and lightening and it poured down for about 10 minutes- and then stopped.
Food is cheap 1GBP for a meal. Electricity will go off at specified times of the day and intermittent power cuts as well. You must have a torch handy, at all times.
Very few women about and i am scrutenised all the time. We were interviewd by Military intelligence here - he sat on the end of my bed and asked loads of questions- including "what do we think of pakistan " and "what is the difference between P and england "?
22nd and what we knew was going to be a hard drive toQuetta at 35 degrees, no shade and nowhere to stop.30 K of good road and then to single lane where colin had to pull off on to the rubble side for every lorry. The lorries are beautifully decorated- some that you wonder how they manage to see out of the windscreen. Even the wheel hubs are decorated. Alot are over loaded with cargoe, people running for the buses and a place on top or hanging onto the side of the bus
.A cyclist will be holding on to the back of a lorry for a free ride. Every one waves madly and blows their horn. Lorries and buses have claxons of all sounds and will keep their hand on it- all the time it seems. Our poor little beep is hardly heard ! When the lorries break down- which they do with regular monotony , the driver will lay stones around it as a guard.
At a small town called Nushka the road was blocked by a protest ( we never found out what for ). We were told by the police to park in the shade and to enter a commandeered building. There were police and commandoes everywhere- all with AAK 47's or sawn off shotguns ( we have seen so many everywhere we have been that it is the norm now ).
A Commando guard was stood over the bike and we were given a seat and tea. Thank goodness there wasa fan in the ceiling. This was at noon and we were told that the dispute would finish at 3pm ! A load of men came through- shook hands with us and then dissappeared into the back room and started talking . Voices raised and shouting at times . we never did see the going of these men but, sure enough at 3pm when all the truck and bus drivers were jumping up and down, we were told we could be on our way.
And so on to Quetta where we had 2 days off in the cool and in a good hotel.
25th onto Jacobadad and the hottest day yet. It reached 50 degrees and the road surface was diabolical. You can be bowling along and it will suddenly be --- rubble- and miles of it.
Not good driving at all withcolin saying : oh the tyres, oh the suspension".This was across the desert and much worse than the Iran desert. No where to stop, no shade . We had been through the Bolan pass with the names still marked in the rock- "windy corner and "Fred's Folly". A sad memory of the soldiers who had marched here, in the heat ( or cold) in their red tunics.
26th Rahimyarkhan and 27th to multan where we rested for 2 days. this is a hard unforgiving country that throws all the odds at the people. They are friendly and as helpful as possible but it is a country that assaults your senses , in every sense of the word.
They try so hard with roses and flowers - but it is an uphill struggle.
Oxen and children bathing in the same water, ladies riding side saddle on mopeds- with flip flop dangling , camels pullong carts, a small town with very little in it- followed by at least 3 petrol stations that are open 24 hours.All cattle an oxen totally unconcerned re the traffic going past- they just plod slowly on and ignore it all.
There are alot of brick making places and then you are into fertile areas where the harvest is done with a scythe, the grain stored in a pile in the middle of the field and then bagged by shovel. the women will then collect the bales and put them on their head and walk with ram rad straight backs- wonderful deportment.
People will sit in any little shade that is available, as will the animals. They even let the camels rest at noon. Be aware of the man hole covers that are open !
we are away now by 7am and aim to stop by 1pm- it is too hot to carry on after that. Alot of the hotels have not been good- but it has been a place to sleep.
And so onto Sahiwal on 29th ( through a swarm of bees at one stage )and were due to stop at Lahore on the 30th. we were there early and saw the huge pall of pollution hanging overe the city and we decided to press straight on to the india border at Wagah. There was no way that we could put up with that dust.
Pakistan has been an endurance test from beginning to end. The people have been great but the country itself is so harsh, roads are really good or REALLY BAD, the heat has been trying to say the least. Apparantly we have been to the 3 hottest places in the Punjab- trust us. The town roads are non existant and you are on rubble all the way.
Colin says every day " thank god for the GS' It had been very tiring for him and he will deserve his first beer for 3 weeks when we get to india. You do not even see non-alcholic beer in Pakistan
30th April and exited Pakistan where the crossing was very efficient and on to the Indian border control-( who go to lunch between 1pm and 1.30pm)-- so we had our picnic too--much to everyone's amusement.
We the only europeans there and and very few others crossing either. The bike was scrutenised here and the luggage checked before the Carnet was stamped.
We gained 1/2 hour and are now 4 1/2 hours ahead of UK.
Entering India was a revelation: immediately less heat, a cooling breeze, birds singing, trees and TARMAC. We carried onto Amritzar where we stayed for 1st and 2nd May. We are both very tired and need a break.
We luxurated in clean sheets, swimming pool, comfort, beer and salutes from the Sikh guard as you enter or exit the hotel and computers that work (cheap at 25p per hour but 2GBP in the hotels ). A 4* hotel is 40 GBP per night - and worth every penny. We have decided that even if it cuts the timing of the trip down ( due to finances - or lack of finances !) we have to retain our sanity by staying in the best hotel we can afford. Pakistan has really taken it's toll on us.
In Amritzar we met up with an Indian guy who took us to see The Golden Temple at night- by chauffer driven car with VIP plates. ( Here the different catagories of status is shown on the colour of the number plate- taxis are one colour and private cars or Government another). The Temple was truely beautiful.
Next day we hired a taxi to take us back to the border to see the closing ceremony of the border between India and Pakistan. This is done every evening at sunset and is well attended (on both sides of the border )and is a well orchestrated piece of theatre. The guards are strutting their stuff, in complete unison, the crowds are yelling for their own country and it is a good spectacle. The guards on the Indian side are the tallest men I have ever seen.
The taxi driver waited for us and picked us out of the crowd at the end and the round trip for 70 K was 10GBP.
3rd May and on to Chandighar on beautiful tarmac road, hectic traffic and you really have to watch for the cars, lorries or buses that have a death wish on overtaking. The drivers just do not seem to see us- despite the fact that we are big. headlight on and hand on horn !-- I want a horn for the back - so that i can klaxon to everyone, as well.!
We left early and by midday it was 40- 45 degrees travelling. At least we have a breeze as we are bowling along. It's when you stop that the heat hits you.
There are cows in the central reservation, amongst the bourgonvillia that is prolific. It was on this section that we saw a Mc Donald's- but it was on the wrong side of a dual carriageway-- we could have cried !
We then went up to Shimla which is at the base of the Himilayas and cooler. It was a long hard drive behind lorries belching out fumes and a very busy winding , twisting road . It took 4 1/2 hours to do 76 miles. Cows in the road and monkeys scampering around.
Shimla was a huge disapointment- very touristy ( including the candy floss ) and there were loads of visitors there ( no Europeans) and was basically like a seaside town in the summer-( but no sea.)
The day did not start off well when Colin was expected to leave the bike on the lower road in an unguarded carpark and the bags would be carried up by porters.The road to the hotel was 'sealed' and after alot of arguement and Police blowing whistles , Colin lost his cool ( for the first time in the trip ) and told the Police that he was going to drive to the hotel( about 200 yards up the road ) like it or lump it and then drove off.
That evening we walked around Shimla and saw the English houses . took the walk along "The mall" and generally saw the sights and were out at 7am to drive back to Chandrigar. This drive was actually one of the best of the trip- it was cool, you were going down hill, the monkeys were dopey and the cows half asleep.
So now we are having days off ( till 9th may ) to arrange the air freight from Delhi to Bangkok. The original plan had been to drive to calcutta and air freight from there but we have been advised by many people not to drive through the areas of Bihar and Jahark due to internal troubles and very bad roads. We then thought about putting the bike and us on to a train from Delhi to calcutta but on further reflection we thought -" why have the bother of 2 lots of indian beurocrocy when 1 will do". So we hope to do the airfreight in one hop- got to negotiate our way through Delhi first !
At least here there are road signs- not like Pakistan where you had to ask for each turning. Petrol is 76 pence per litre, food is cheap (but we have not eaten any meat since we entered pakistan.) Driving is manic with rickshaws weaving in and out of the traffic. We dont know the price of ther beer as it has just been put on the bill and we will pay whatever for it at the end ! Colin desrves each one that he has. There is heavy security everywhere with guards in each shop and on every level in the hotel. we had the explosive sniffer dog at the hotel one evenng as there wasa big "do" going on.
The Punjab is basking ina heatwave - the hottest it has been for 5 years. Daytime temperature is 40- 45 degrees. Trust us !
India is a contradiction - wealth, poverty, noise, pollution and beauty. Next on to delhi and we will see if we remain sane after the arranging of the air freight.........
Back to Chandrighar on 6th May where we were due to arrange the air freight of the bike and us to Bangkok, Thailand.
We had intended to spend 3/4 days in Simla as R and R but it was not what we wanted at all. Also we suffered from the altitude, although the Lonely planets says that it is 8000 feet, it seemed much higher.The ride down from Shimla was lovely and amusing to see the moped drivers free-wheeling down the hill- or cyclists hanging on to the back of a lorry. The amount of lorries was unbelievable- all belching out smoke which we were inhaling !
Colin managed to drive straight to the hotel in Chandrighar and they were pleased to see us back and delighted when we said we wanted the R and R with them in peace and quiet.
Chandrighar is a modern city, laid out in a grid pattern. When you get to know the different Sections it does make sense- but that takes a while. The hotel cost 50 GBP per night and other goods are cheap. Labour is cheap- a gardener for a MONTH is 6.25 GBP and a live in maid is 18.75 GBP.
It is the hottest heatwave here for 5 years and the temperature in the afternoon is knocking on 50 degrees- too hot even to swim.
Through the Travel Agent in the hotel (8th may )and having sat in his office for 2 hours morning and 2 hours afternoon , we managed to arrange a Shipper in Delhi to arrange the airfreight of the bike to Bangkok. We have to go the Agents office when we arrive in Delhi and us and the bike will fly out on the same aircraft on 13th. The travel agent also arranged a hotel for us to stay in Delhi- sadly right in the centre- but there you go!
It will take 2/3 days for the paper work for the bike to be processed- so we are on a fairly tight schedule. At 5pm we still had no definite confirmation on anything- Indian beurocracy to the fore.
The visa for Thailand can be obtained on arrival.
We were milling around wasting time while the confirmations came through and the Travel guy phoned us and asked if we would mind being interviewed by the press. He filtered who we were to see and ended up being interviewed, and photographs taken, for the 'Times of India 'and the' Hindustani Times.' One interview was done whilst we were having dinner(which had to be held back whilst the photos were taken).They were both published the next day and we had the papers delivered to our room.
9th May and we left for Delhi at 7am- initially starting of at 27 degrees. There had been a huge thunder and lightening storm during the night and it had caused trees to blow over and electric lines were blown down. The roads were full of debris. A ride of 170 miles to Delhi and the ride was not too bad- but the heat gradually got hotter and hotter and by the time we got to Delhi at---- noon ( worst time going ) it was up to 50 degrees.
The thermostat on the bike was registering 8 bars which is 2 bars over normal- Colin had never seen it so high ( not even through the deserts we have done ).
We had intended to hail a rickshaw and then follow it from the outskirts of Delhi--- but, just like London- you can never find one when you want one !
We were stop, start, the traffic lights were really longwinded with a wait of 4 minutes at a time, we had to stop to ask for directions to the hotel and were directed wrongly, as it turned out. The traffic is manic with rickshaw drivers weaving in and out of the buses, cars and lorries. By this time we were well hot and I had got to the stage of easing my helmet up when we stopped.
Suddenly we both felt really ill at the same time. Colin said to me " i don't know what to do now - or where to go" (very unusual for him, as he is very decisive ) and at the same time I said" you have got to pull over to the shade as I can't carry on". He managed to get off on to a small side road , in the shade . Luckily he stopped by a telegraph pole that I had to hang on too when i got off. Head was swimming, unable to focus, unable to stand up, shaking from head to toe, nothing in your mind at all-- very scarey.
We staggered to the kerb and sat down, peeling off helmets and jackets and leaving them strewn over the pavement. Managed to get the top box open and get the extra 3 litres of water out (this was not enough.) We drank and drank and poured the water over our heads and down our backs. Remember that we also had used the Camelbacks with 2 litres of water each and that was nearly gone during the drive to Delhi.
Eventually we began to feel marginally better and a rickshaw driver pulled up with the Indian family he was carrying. They realised what was happening and got another rickshaw driver to take us to the hotel with Colin following. I went in the rickshaw with all the kit and that allowed Colin to drive without his jacket. I had my hand waving out the top of the rickshaw as i was worried that Colin would end up following the wrong one - all we needed at that stage.
It was about a 1/2 hour drive away and I was so worried for colin- he stuck right behind us- a marvel in that traffic. Later he said he had his hand on the
horn all the time and glared at every other driver.
We arrived outside the hotel, Colin managed to get the bike on the side stand alone ( not the centre stand) and literally staggered into the hotel foyer. I walked into the coffee shop and said" I want bottled water right now" ( the Indians are not the quickest to react ) and sat Colin in a chair. He was unable to pour the water himself (with the shakes )and it was then that the waiters realised what was happening and were very kind and helpful.
We slowly recovered after a tepid shower, salts and loads of drinks - but continued to feel very weak for days. It was at that stage that we said " what are we doing here? the locals are dying in this heatwave and we have been warned how quickly things can get really rough and life threatening ". All we wanted was-----out.
At breakfast next day we decided that we would skip Thailand as there was the same heatwave there and fly, with the bike, direct to Brisbane. That decision was made when Colin said to me " where would you really like to be now " and the reply was " with Colin and Judy , safe and sound, in a cocoon with no responsibilities for a while". ( These are the friends that the whole trip was about- we wanted to ride to see them in Australia.) We still think that the decision was the correct one.
So onto the Shipping agent who was not concerned re the alteration in destination. We went there in an Airconditoned car and back by rickshaw. Colin had to disconnect the battery and lower the screen and the Packers arrived at 1pm to load the bike into a van. They nearly had heart failure when they saw the size of the bike but there were plenty of volunteers to push it around to the front of the hotel where the level of the back of the van was the same as the garden. It was pushed in over the flower beds by sheer man power. All of this in 50 degrees.
We packed up the boots, helmets and clothing for insertion into the same crate ( more of that later ).We took the panniers as luggage.
In the meantime I had had to go to a HSBC Bank as the shippers wanted cash for the payment-( 1179GBP). Naturally,I was unable to get that amount out from the ATM and had to get it on credit card, as the Bank had no facilities to check the balance in the current account . The hotel offered to send a Security man with me but I went by car and he waited.
I also enquired about the cancellation of the air tickets to Bangkok. The previous hotel travel agents were happy to cancel these for us but were unable to do a Bank transfer with the money. It was sent out as cash the next day, by car. We lost about 170GBP on that- what with paying for the taxes that could not be reimbursed, the Agent's fee and the price of the car. However, we both thought ourselves lucky that we had anything in return, at all.
Colin went off 11th, with the Agent, to the airport and to Customs. ( 1 1/2 hours away ) The Agent advised that I should not go.They had alot of paper work to sign and the Customs guy was less than helpful. You sat in front of his desk for 5 hours and he did nothing-chatted, drank coffee and then disaapeared for lunch or took 45 minutes to change the refill in his pen.There was no Aircon, no one wearing a uniform or name badge and all milling around with files in their hands and doing nothing ( or so it appeared)
Rajeesh ( the Agent ) made numerous phone calls and finally tracked down the Customs guy and managed to get him in the car to see the bike in the Godown. Colin saw the bike crated and bubble wrapped. Then back to the Customs office where he started to look at the Carnet. he did not believe that the bike had been driven to India (" that is impossible" )and had come through pakistan -"it would never have been allowed through the border to India". They sorted that out and then it was " you have altered the chassis numbers on the bike", "this is the wrong Carnet'- you name it all the accusations were thrown. At one stage the Customs guy literally flung all tha paperwork on the floor and walked off in a huff. Colin said he literally did not seem to know what he should be doing. Rajeesh kept on pointing to the places he wanted a signature.
Colin finally returned to the hotel at 7pm , having got a rickshaw back and had monkeys inside with him. The driver had said at a traffic light stop " hold on to all your possessions and take off your glasses, or they will be stolen by the monkeys" With that 4 scampered in, sat beside Colin and demanded nuts ( which the driver gave him ).He saw people with leprosy and extreme poverty in this area.
It turned out the Rajeesh had returned home at midnight and had had one chapatti all day. You most certainly could not do the Shipping without an Agent- and whatever they cost it is worth it. Loads of bribes changed hands, we know.
I sat at the travel desk all day arranging flights for us to go to Brisbane. We will now go on a seperate flight to the bike and will leave delhi on 12 may. ( tomorrow ). Since 9/11 the airlines will not allow you to take a single ticket anywhere and you have to take a return flight to your Departure point- or an Onward ticket. We even phoned the British embassy to see if we could get Oneway as we were UK citizens. So we have booked the Onward flight to UK- at least that can be altered , if necessary ,but the flight is paid for. It was all confirmed 6pm and i was ecxtatic.
Next day ( 12th) back to the Customs to collect the bike paperwork, which had been carefully filed in a red polythene bag overnight !. We sat and sat and the Customs guy never turned up. Rajeesh did alot of phonecalls again and, finally, at 1pm the due Official arrived at his desk. Rajeesh piled the papers in front of him, told him where to sign, we got Colin's passport back and all the docuements and legged it quickly. I had said to Colin 'do you want me to do a dying swan act'- to try and hurry things up. 'No' came the reply"you may end up in a Delhi hospital'.
In the meantime we were told that the clothing was not to go in the same crate as the bike, as it was not on the Carnet. So we had to arrange a seperate Airfreight for that- at more cost.
Onto the plane that night and so onto Brisbane. We are very sad to have missed Thailand as it was the one place we were really looking forward too- but health and safety come first. We can always return at a later date. The whole episode in Delhi really frightened us and 'knocked your confidence'- I'm not sure that confidence is the right word - but it knocks the stuffing out of you and you begin to doubt your ability to cope.all we wanted was a safe haven and no decisions for a while.
We are now recovering and will get the bike back and travel around Oz at our leisure and decide what we are to do then. Alot will depend on finances, of course.
In retrospect I think it was a culmination in Delhi- definitely the heat, I think we were both more tired than we thought ( it's not until you stop that you realise just how tired you are- even though we had had 25 days off. ), we have both lost weight- Colin 11 Kilos,( which is alot ) me 5 Kilos,I think we picked up a tummy bug in pakistan that was rumbling around- not dire- but night sweats and loose stools.
If I had realised that our diet was to be so meagre ( no meat, chicken or fish due to lack of fridges, extensive Bird flu in each country and too far away from the sea to trust fish) I would have gone more into taking vitamin supplements and finally taken more water wherever you are and have the Rehydration powders on my person- and not in the front pannier. You are just too weak to start opening panniers-- you lives and learns--- and that was one very big learning curve.-- more to follow from 'Down under.'.... Total miles: 7917
We landed in Oz on 13th May and 12 days later the bike was cleared of Customs and Quarantine. We had arranged for an Agent to do all the necessary dealings with them and the total bill came to 615GB , which was money well spent as far as we were concerned.
Customs, appparantly, threw up theit hands in horror when they saw the state of the bike and it had to be steam cleaned twice. Then they saw that the wood on the crate had bark on it , so it had to go off for stripping of that. The clothes were fumigated and since arrival here , we have hosed them off with a high pressure hose !
All in all it was great that we had someone to do all the running around for us and when you consider tthe cost of staying for 12 days in one place, it probably worked out to be 'cost effective'. The Agent was very good and kept us informed of all that was going on.
The Agent E mailed the paper work to us and we couriered it back to him- along with the bike docs and Carnet. Later we went to Brisbane by car with the key for the Topbox (so that Customs could inspect the contents) and the second lot of paper work for the clothing (this had come on a different flight and a later date and we had left Delhi without any trace numbers--'no worries 'as we were able to pick this up on the net.)
Quarantine in Oz is very tight ( and so it should be- they don't want any 'nasties' imported in.) You are not allowed to bring in any foodstuff - not even sealed bottles of water and loads of other goods.
The bike duly arrived on a Crane truck (along with the clothing , that by now was in the same crate)and looked pristine ! It was still in the crate and all we had lost was one tyre pressure guage and a chamois leather .
Then it was getting Insurance- 6 months for 57GBP and registering the bike for Oz. Initially we were told that we would need Oz plates but after 3 girls had been on the Computer to look up the regulations- it was decided that we did'nt. The comment was ' we don't have many of these to do'.
So we are now road legal and on the first voyage out broke the 2 Golden rules -' no more dirt roads and no travelling at night'-( due to the kangaroos that can have you off as quick as lightening ).
Petrol is 54p per litre, food about the same as UK. It's up to 25 degrees during the day and falls to 16/18 degrees at night. You need sheepskin slippers to keep your feet warm on the tiles !
In the country they rely on rain water to fill the underground tanks. If they run low on water then it has to be bought. The amount of roos everywhere is so true , also kookaburras and parrots.. yet to see a koala. It's the space that is amazing and everyone seems to really make the most of the outdoor living.
We still think that we made the right decision about coming to Oz- we later heard that the schools in the Punjab had been closed early due to the heatwave.
We still have Indian rupees to change and the Banks will not do this , so we wait till we get to a Money Exchange to do this. What we should have done was to charge the Indian men that were lining up in the Agents place in Delhi , in order to see the bike !
So now we are to travel around Australia, probably North and South of Brisbane. We are looking into extending the visas-( make the most of it whilst you are here.)
No definite plans yet as to the return but I don't think we will go to America - probably freight back to Europe and ride from there. I'll keep you posted with the trips around Oz........ perhaps the Blog should be called "Wrinklies on Winter Walkabout" now !!!
Colin and Judy's house is absoltely idyllic- set in 6 acres of woodland and is virtually like having your own nature reserve. The kangaroos will come up to the edge of the decking to feed nightly and when you drive down the gravel road to get to the house, you must look out for them on the side. The swimming pool is in the front and at the back is the wide river where you can walk along the shore.
Kookaburrows, parrokeets and loads ofother birds abound and at dawn, you get a lovely dawn chorus. In the summer, this is apparantly at 4am (!)- a little later now.
Water is the biggest worry here.The under ground tanks are filled with rain water and if you run low, water must be bought by the tank load. It makes you realise just how much water we waste in the UK.Whilst waiting for the shower to get to temperature ,you can save nearly 1/2 bucket and use it for other things.
Noosa is surrounded by water- either sea or rivers. A tourist area for the Aussies as well, of course and you see loads of caravans / motor homes with Victoria plates on them. They have come up for the sun from South, where I am assured ,it is cold at present .
So we recovered in wonderful relaxed surroundings and started to do day trips out and about. -
"The Ettamuga Pub" at Aussie world, of course (which is spacious and full of cartoons on the walls and sells delicious bar meals !), Underwater World and saw the sharks,otters and seals and had a steam train ride on 'The valley Rattler' that took you through undulating countryside and introduced you to quiet rural towns.
The road signs are great- 'Please drive carefully, we live here too' and a picture of a koala and a roo underneath or 'Koalas for next 3 k'.
We sorted out the Medicare and RAC cards, who both have a reciprocal agreement with UK for health and breakdown of the bike . It's nice to know that you have got back up and there was no charge for either. I am very impressed with the Medical facilities here. Most major areas have a walk-in service and you can see a Doctor immediately during the day.
So by the 7th June we were ready for the 'off' again. We planned to ride nearly the length of The Bruce highway from Noosa to Cairns. The Bruce starts at Brisbane (100 K from Noosa ) and is 2000K in length.(1250 miles ). It takes you through major towns of Hervey Bay, Bundanberg, Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Innisfail to Cairns and is tarmac the whole way with very little traffic. It does reduce to one lane fairly quicklyand the locals reckon on travelling 100k(62 miles) per hour. Mostly it is an hour between towns that can vary in size from bustling with all amenities to a place that has one shop and a bar.
The nice thing was that we were able to leave the thermal gear behind and packing the panniers was so much easier.
Hervey Bay is famous for the whale sightings, who come to let the calves rest in the warm waters before going onto the Antarctic. Sadly, they were not in sight when we were there.
9th and we were at 1770- a VERY quiet coastal resort with a restaurant and a pub combined. This is where captain Cook did his second landing in Australia and subsequently ,the founding of Queensland. As at Noosa, here the house prices are going up fast and soon it will be another tourist area. The coast line is spectacular- as good as the south of France.
Here we had a boat trip out to the Great Barrier reef for the day. It was rough going out and took about 1 3/4 hours. They were on the border line for going that day, as the swells were 2.5 metre in height with a 25/30 knot wind! Alot were sea sick but I excelled myself by taking a Kwell, put my wrist bands on - and slept he whole way . When you got to the lagoon it was totally calm, of course and we were able to snorkel, have a walk on Lady Musgrove island ( so named after a Diplomats wife who gave wonderful tea parties in Sydney years ago ) and go out on the glass bottom boat to see the coral, turtles and exotic fish.
The island is coral of 300 acres set within a deep water lagoon. Sadly it was too rough for the fishing part of the trip . Fishing within the lagoon is banned.
There is no light pollution here and the stars show up so well ( different near a big city, I suspect ). It gets dark at 5.30pm quite suddenly, it seems. Everyone eats early in the evening and the bars are closed by 8.30pm as everyone has gone home. In most rural places you see no one out at night and only the odd truck on the highway. You do not buy beer from the Supermarket but from a Licquer shop and these are, more often than not, a drive through. Colin was impressed with that !
10 th and we were on the way to Yeppoon and it deluged with rain ( temp was still 22 degrees ). We had our wet gear on but i was still wet through to my knickers (good job they are the quick drying type !) and when Colin got off the bike the water was pouring out from the INSIDE of his helmet !
We found a nice chalet just across the road from the beach and took 2 days to dry out. Every thing was hanging over the shower to dry. The facilities in the motels and chalets is great- all have kettle, toaster , fridge ,microwave, hob and utensils. Alot have iron and board in the room - or at least one in the laundry area where the commercial washers and dryers are quick and cheap to use. The cost per night is around 29 GBP. Most have a restaurant on site with a bar but if you want to have alchol with your meal you take your own.The car park is directly outside your room and you can order breakfast to be delivered to your room.
From there we went to the Capricorn Caves, which are above ground but as you get deeper inside you can see the tree roots going from the top of the caves to the bottom in order to find water- huge , wide roots. We stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment chalet there that was in the woods and was so quiet at night. It was also cold (got no sun during the day) and we were in bed at 9pm- in order to keep warm !
From hereon in we were passing through sugar cane country.It is a vast business with it's own railway line weaving in and out of the roads. It is harvested between July and december, the contractcutting machines work night and day. Each farmer is allocated his slot for the harvest so that the cane delivery to the refinery is spread out. It is then processed and sent out by ship. The longest jetty in the world is at a place called Lucinda. The cane has to be replanted each year and they allow a paddock to lay fallow about every 3 years.
Up North the cane was badly damaged by the cyclone that went through in March. It has righted itself to the upright position but as then cane has been snapped the sugar will ooze out and they only expect to get 30% of it's worth. The banana prices here are astronomical also due to the cyclone that devastated the crop.
13 th and we stayed in a very secluded beach chalet at Serena beach. The veranda doors opened out to a grass area that had coconut palm trees growing ( complete with a plastic guard at the top of the trunk that caught the coconuts - before they fell on your head !). From the grass area you were able to walk directly onto the very fine sandy beach and the volcanic rocks further up. A really serene place ( hence the name ).
Then onto Lucinda where i paddled in the sea and then found a large notice saying 'Crocodiles and Jellyfish live in these waters- do not paddle or swim'. On the first aid points along the coast up here they have bottles of vinegar for putting on to jelly fish stings and huge notices with first Aid instructions.
Up here there are alot of creeks ( all dry at present ) and they are all named.Some names are poignant- like 'Gentle Annie's Creek'- it gets you to thinking who gentle annie was and the history behind the naming. Some are more forthright: 'Alligator or Crocodile creek'.
Here we met a guy that used to drive the Road trains 20 years ago. At that time they had no restriction on the length, there were 2 drivers and they changed drivers on the go. It took 6 miles to get up to speed and 22 miles to stop on the gravel. No wonder they had the reputation for stopping for noone or anything.
Now the road trains are restricted to the length and weight of each container they are pulling but average 3/4 containers. They have 'Road train' written in bold letters on the front and the back. They still weigh 150 tons.
The long distance lorry drivers here can legally drive 12 hours at a time - but as it takes 13 1/2 hours to drive from Brisbane to Sydney the Government brought in a 'Fatigue Managment course' that lasts 2 hours and if you do this and get the piece of paper you are then allowed to drive 14 hours legally. Basically it tells yopu to open the window if you are tired and stop and have a break !
16th and we arrived in Cairns through Innisfail and the area that was hit by the cyclone. Alot of roofs still covered by tarpauline, banana crops broken and they have had 70 days contiuous rain since the cyclone, which has made it hard to dry stuff out and to replace roofs. One girl we were talking too said they had 3 days notice to prepare.It started to get windy at 4am and ended at 9am.They sat in the hall with mattresses over their heads, opened up the windows at the end that the wind was coming and then reversed it after the eye had been through. She said it sounded like a jet plane.
We found a motel and arranged the trip to Kuranda village the next day. You go up by train (into the hills) and down by Skyrail ( like a cable car). Kuranda was an amazing place- various 'zoos' you could visit and I cuddled a Koala. They are much heavier than you anticipate and really cuddly. These are reared when they leave the mother's pouch to be handled by humans.They are only allowed to have 1/2 hour cuddle per day. Saw crocodiles, hand fed kangaroos and wallabees, went into the dangerous species zoo where they are doing alot of research into medicines to help arthtitis, glaucoma and trying to make a bullet proof vest from the spiders web. The bird place was so colourful- parrots etc that were so used to humans that they would sit on your shoulder and be really inquisitive. the noise in there was just 'something else'.
So you had the cultural bit and then there was plenty for the tourist to buy and browse around. the Aboriginal history and musical show was good and colin got to throw a spear and boomerang. My efforts were extemely poor- I'd obviously starve !
19 th we drove up the Captain Cook highway via port douglas to Danetree where the tarmac road runs out- then you are into 4 wheel drive country. so, we turned around and started back through the inland route of Mareba, Atherton and Yungaburrow to get through to the Tablelands. This area is rain forest and mangrove swamps , Colin saw crocdiles on the edge of a river. The coastal road isstunning with therain forest literally going down to the edge of the sea and so then to the climb up to the Tablelands and huge termite mounds- some 6 foot tall. Rolling vast fields and alot of cattle here. Had a walk through the Rain forest on the walkways and saw the Fig tree that is 800 years old and has eaten away the host tree and is now free-standing.
For some unknown reason we had the first row of the trip here- don't know what started it- something very trivial, no doubt. we spent a couple of hours sulking and then decided 'this is ridiculous' and made up !
At Yungaburrow we stayed at an old Colonial hotel with wide verandas, huge sitting areas upstairs and rooms with louvred slats for windows and no glass. All this to attract as much wind flow as possible. In the summer here it can get up to 40 degrees.The house was made of Eucalytus and mahogony and had a really long bar. This is a heritage site and alot of old Queensland buildings that are built on stilts, are one storey ( to allow the flow of air ) and are very spacious. the stilts also allow for any flooding that may occur. Nearly every road has signs telling you that it is prone to flooding and will give markers as to the height- some up to 3 metres.
We then went on to the old Bruce highway that in parts is one car width only and found a place called Paronella park. This was built by a Spanish guy and his dream had been to have a castle- so he built one with tennis courts made from termite hills and peaceful walks called 'Lovers lane' leading to the Tunnel of Love that is now home to bats. i never thought that i would call bats 'sweet' but when you see them asleep on the roof- they are. You could swim in the pool under the waterfall and the changing rooms are still there. You could hand feed the fish and eels here. The fish would leap out of the water and fight for the food.
Back through Mission beach and Prosperine and Serena beach , having got a new back tyre in Mackay. you drive through some areas of volcanic rock here and it is an area rich in coal. Good money to be earnt in the mines apparantly. they do a 4 day 12 hour shift and then have 4 days off.
From here you have a long drive through the hinterland mainly following the railway. They have a double header pulling and then 2 engines in the middle of the train. The road is dead straight with undulating parts at which you think' this has got to be the end'- and still it goes on dead straight.
On to Rubyvale on the 24th where we went down the mine for sapphires and were able to fossic. we actually managed to fossic a sapphire big enough to mount in a ring- so whose a lucky girl then !
This is on the Tropic of Capricorn with one small sign to mark it. Rubyvale got piped water 4 years ago and electricity a few years before that. Out here there is one shop only in the towns and we were the lowest on petrol that we have ever been on the whole of the trip- when we filled up there was 3 litres in the tank !
On through Monto and at a place called Dingo we stopped in a 24 hour roadhouse- they sold everything that you could possibly want, served food and had accomodation. The area marked 'laundromat' was a washing machine and tumble dryer that were under the awning at the back in the open air.We saw wild camels in this area as well. Most of the cafes offer free' driver reviver'- ie tea and coffee.
Back to Noosa on 26th. Since being in Oz we have increased our mileage per day- you can easily travel 400 K without getting too tired.
It has been a lovely trip and a real eye opener . The old adage of 'no worries, mate' really holds true. The stress levels appears to be non existant, the rural towns definitely make ther own fun- play cards, arrange competions, make local crafts for sale and many areas have the feel of the 1960's and I am not being detremental when I say that. Music is country and Western. We have not heard any 'pop' music.The shops close saturday afternoon till Monday.
Colin is now doing a service on the bike having got all the bits from the BMW dealer here and these have worked out well expensive- but hey ho, what can you do? When you are in your own country you know where to go for cheaper deals and I am sure there are some here too- but it's finding them. The back tyre had not done badly at 8210 miles travel.
This trip from Noosa to just above Cairns and back has been 3066 miles which is equivalent of driving from UK to Pammukale , in the middle of Turkey. it gives you some idea of how vast the country is.
Our total miles for the whole trip is :11,450. More later------
Colin has completed the service on the bike which was a major one. Gaskets, plugs , oil change, brackets and brake pads. The parts cost 151 GBP.
Then we took the bike to the BMW dealer for the day and they replaced the oil seal on the Drive shaft & needle roller bearings on the drive pinion. This cost 145GBP. They let us have a brand new ST 1200 for the day- and that proved to be very fast- could loose your licence very easily, if you were'nt careful! It also made you realise how comfortable the GS is- we are spoilt with our air cushions !
In between this we have been out and about- here, there and everywhere- Ausralia zoo ( where we saw wombats and these are as cute as the koalas. The only thing we have not seen is platypus), a Ginger farm( around here is a good area for the growth of ginger and it's amazing what you can add it to for flavouring ),an Opal farm ( I did refrain from buying here!).Apparantly opals are only found in Oz and Mexico.
Seen the Glass mountains and the hinterland around this area is so lush with green fields- very reminiscent of UK and totally different from the coastal areas and up North. Captain Cook named these when he saw them , as they reminded him of the pottery kilns in Lancashire.
When you were on top of the plain you could see for miles around with clear blue sky that seemed to go on for ever and was totally surrounding you- quite spectacular.
In the valley here was a large lake with the steepest hill going down that i have ever seen. You swung around the corner and there was this amazing view. Colin said 'take a picture'. Wheels of the bike pointing downwards at an alarming angle, me perched on the back, holding on tightly ( for a change )- 'no way am I getting the camera out of my pocket at this angle' came the reply. So we went down to the bottom, turned around and Colin took it from the top. 'How are you going to turn around now' I asked-- and made him go down to the bottom and do a return trip ! I am beginning to know what angles are safe or not---- been there done that- and fallen off !( in the past ).
Colin has had a day's fishing in the salt water river off a boat and caught 17 fish- all sadly too small to take home. They are strict on the weight sizes that you are allowed to keep. it was a nice relaxing day and i went to sleep on the bottom of the boat ! The bait was prawns or worm, rods were' thrown in' with the hire deal and Colin caught bream and a toad fish - this he did'nt mess about with and put it back immediately !
Went bondue bashing in a 4 wheel drive along the Coloured sands. There is a beach 40 k long and the sand colours range from bright red, orange, yellow to white. All you have to do is move the top layer of sand to see the different colours. Here also there are sand sculptures, deep red in colour and the shape of these is constantly changing with the wind erosion. The coastline alters with the erosion also but the sand will build up again in a different area.The cyclone altered the shore line too.
This trip was incorporated in with an Everglades trip on a boat and took you through spectacular rain forests that go right down to the water edge- along with the mangroves, of course.
There's loads of surfers wherever you go on the coast, it seems- although they obviously pick and chose their favorite beaches. It is quite common place to see them stripping off , by their car, to don the wet suit or dry off. Quite alot of the tourists are going in for a swim- not me, it's not warm enough (at 25 degrees during the day, she says !)
The professional catchers of worms drag a fish behind them from their belt and this will entice the worm to the surface to be used as bait. These can be up to 3 feet long.
Everyone has been very friendly and alot say they have relatives in UK.Alot of interest shown in the bike- especially with the Uk plates on it.
This area of Queensland seems to be fond of murals and painting on telegraph poles. The traditional ,one storey ,houses are made of wood and are on stilts to prevent the termites from eating the wood and to prevent the houses from being flooded but you are seeing more brick built houses in the urban areas.
There are some really old Colonial type hotels with the verandas going right the way around, mainly 2 storeys. The bedrooms are upstairs on the outer part of the house with large sitting areas within the internal area. The one we stayed in had no glass for the windows- only wooden louvres that you could pull down for privacy. This is all to ensure that the air flow is good for the heat in the summer.It will get to 40 degrees here then.
It seems that the majority of road users are well law abiding and stick to the 100 k (62.5 mph )rules on ordinary roads. The speed limit on the motorway is 110k( 69 mph). Colin finds this well slow !
It's strange to us to see road signs that say a distance of further than 1500K. We would be hard pushed to see these in UK.There are some wonderful town names- Coolundra,Moolulaba,Yandina,Marouchidore and Sippy Creep road.
Tomorrow we are off to try to see the whales at Byron Bay. This is in New South Wales and then travel back through the hinterland.
Sadly we are due to fly out on 20th July- this is on the prearranged ticket that we set up in India. It was proving difficult and costly to try to change the date. So we were forced, really, to stick to the original date. We are to fly to Lisbon and meet the bike there.Then we are to travel around Europe till the weather is against us- or the money runs out ! We chose Lisbon as there are alot of places that you can go too from there.
We were lucky with the pallette for the bike. When we were at the BMW place , the guy there offered us a proper BMW one ,as he had just had a delivery of a new bike. Colin has collected this and has got the sides. Now- all we have to do is get it to Brisbane for the packers. It will save some money as the original people who were to do the crating( alone ) wanted 375GBP.
So- next off to see the whales and i will update you before we leave Oz ( I hope ).
Total miles :12009. Miles in Oz :3622
Before leaving Oz we managed a trip to Byron Bay to try to see the whales Drove through Brisbane and on to the Pacific Highway.Sadly the trip in the Zodiac had to be cancelled due to inclement weather !___ would you believe that in Australia__ trust us!
We went up to Hastings Point and to the lighthouse which is the most Easterly point in Oz. The wind was so strong that it blew Colin,s helmet out from behind the windscreen. We did manage to see whales in the distance and were close enough to watch the dolphins playing and rolling in the surf.
Also saw a hawk that was hovering for his prey and stayed in the same spot for 1/2 hour _ that was amazing.
Byron Bay is a very hippie area with VW caravanettes everywhere. Definitely "peace man" and great fun.
Back through Toowoomba and the Great Dividing range of mountains.Nice swirlly roads through forests.Had difficulty filling up with petrol here, as it was Saturday afternoon. Finally found a small shop that had one pump. We got very wet as it poured with rain. The rain is badly needed as everywhere is very dry and the dams are well low.
You must be careful of the roos -especially at dawn and dusk. You can smell the road kill before you reach it! The authorities here will do controlled burns of the scrubland and you can see the smoke for miles.
One road sign that we loved was : on the exit of the motorway and facing the incoming way _"Wrong Way; Go Back".
Needless to say I have checked out numerous Dunnies - from ones that have automatic flush to a hole in the ground.
Colin rode the bike to Brisbane on 18th July to the shipper and I followed in the car. We had the pallette from BMW and he had done a practice run to tie all the kit on . He drained the fuel and disconnected the battery after driving it on to the palette. He then proceeded with the kit_Clothes were in an old suitcase , the top box and helmets were tied on. All very tidy. Paper work handed over to the Agent and the bike is to go Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong and then to Lisbon.Total cost was 1375 GBP.
We flew out later via Kula Lumpa and Delhi.
We are very sad to leave Oz. It,s been so lovely but now on to the next part of the travels.
Total miles :12769
Miles in OZ :4382
We arrived in Lisbon on the 24 July_ not too tired as we had had a break for the weekend. Colin had booked the hotel over the net and managed to get one of a chain that was Muslim and therefore "dry" of alchohol. Thought we had left that behind ! However there were many bars on the corner of the street.
The Customs agent phoned us late on 25th and said that the bike had arrived on Mon 24th but he had forgotten to update the tracking system on the net. We had checked and thought it had not arrived.
So bike was collected on Wed 26th. We got a taxi to the Agents to collect the paper work and then onto Air Cargo. It was all so efficient and within an hour the bike was through Customs. Colin rebuilt it and we were back at the hotel within 3 1/4 hours.__ Very different from Delhi and Australia.
The Agent had met us at Customs and hung around for a while and then came back to see if we were OK. Colin mentioned that we needed to get petrol and he took me to the petrol station and put 9 litres in an old water container !___ (memories of pakistan ! ) Total cost of getting the bike out was 60 GBP. How the Agent got paid we never did find out.
We chose Lisbon as it is a good central jumping off point for where ever. Definite route has not yet been planned.
It's hot at 35 degrees and we are back to doushing our head,face and neck at each stop.That,s lush when you are hot.
Left Lisbon on Thurs 27th on the N4. The houses here are pretty with the white paint and the red cupped tiles on the roofs. The storks have built their nests on top of the pylons or Church steeples.
Entered Spain and gained an hour and travelled on to Merida which is a town with numerous well preserved Roman ruins.
On to the N430/420 to Cuenca on Fri 28th. There are fields and fields of Sunflowers along this stretch and all the heads face the sun in the morning. It's well weird to see them all facing the same way without exception.The soil is deep red to chalk white, very lush and fertile. Vines,corn on the cob,all types of fruit and rice paddies.
It was on this section that the tarmac cracks in the road had melted_ just like a skating rink !
On the high plains in Spain (there was no rain!) there are many forts and fortified towns.
The shops shut mid afternoon and reopen at 7pm. Restaurants open at 8/9 pm till 11pm and all the children are out dining with the parents .
From Cuenca to Oliana which is along scrub desert areas with huge rock formations on the side of the road. It,s similar to how I picture Utah- including the cacti. Oliana is on the edge of the Pyrenees and was 35 degrees. We had a hotel with a swimming pool and that was a luxury which we made good use of !
Through the Pyrenees on Sun 30th. A good biking road and scenery of tree covered mountains and babbling brooks in the valleys.
On to the C14 (good biking road) to Andorra which is a small Principality with it's own Customs control. It's one huge shopping area with cut price petrol, booze ,tocacco (15GBP for 200 cigs) and food.
In Spain you can get a good meal for 28 GBP including bottle of wine.Petrol is 1GBP per litre.There is very little traffic on the road and there are plenty of places to stop for a drink or a meal.
And so on to France through Foix where there is a spectaculqr Castle and onto Millau.There seem to be alot of deserted houses around and due to the shutters being closed,( due to the heat,) it gives the impression of deserted towns as well. There are bars galore but you must fill up with petrol when you can.
From Foix to Millau was a good biking road with plenty of twists and turns . On one of the pull offs there was a squat loo !_ I thought I had left them behind as well.
Today (1 Aug) we have been over the Bridge above the clouds at Millau. It is very impressive and very high ! A fee of 2.75 GBP was well worth it.
We think we will route through Switzerland, Austria, Checkoslovakia, Germany, Holland and Belgium. That's plan 1 at present !
Total miles :13904
Went through the Tarn Gorge in France on 2/ 8/ 06 with tunnels of rock over the road to Vallance. The heighest point here was 1,00 metres. This is wonderful biking country and it is nice to see more bikes on the road and they acknowledge you as you pass. We have only seen one other family from England since we started on this leg -- i think we will forget how to communicate with other people soon !
25 degrees and petrol 1GBP but you really need to fill up when you can.
I must say that 3 out of the 4 meals that we had in France were some of the worst of the whole trip !-- we actually resorted to having a Mc Donalds.
Onto Sian, Chur and Piesendorf in switzerland through beautiful mountanous scenery, cows with bells around their necks, pretty 'Chocolate box' houses with flowers on the verandas , lush green fields, wonderful twisty roads , superb Engineering feets of tunnels, viaducts and bridges and water in the rivers that is grey/ green and looks very cold.
On the autoroute here the bikes pay 2.50 GBP . Petrol is 87 pence on the border but in the Passes is 93 pence. Cigarettes are 2.84 for 20 and the beer about the same as UK.
It was wet and the temperature dropped to 9 degrees. A diversion took us over a high Pass where ,in places, the road was above the clouds but prior to that the visbility had been 50 yards . Tight turns of 270 degrees, 1in 3 gradient on a camber, in the wet with diesel spillage evident--- lovely !
We were unable to see Mont Blanc as we passed- but I was assured that it was there. The amazing thing is to see the cyclists who cycle up and pass you ( freewheeling) on the way down-- now they are fit.
On to the Furrrka pass at 7,920 feet. This is the start of the River Rhone and you can walk on the Glacier at the top. temperature dropped to 2 degrees. It was here that we followed a trailor that was carrying a boat with it's brakes on fire.
Just before the second Pass which was the Oberon at 6745 feet the spoken language changed to German. Most people here speak at least 2 / 3 languages and really put us to shame.
There is the most wonderful smell of pine trees and 'warm cow '. The yellow Post Horn bus has right of way and will signal it' approach with a horn.
And so on to Liechenstan on 5th August which is a small Principality with Cusoms control but they did not bother to check the Passports.
Then through to Austria where you need to buy a Vignette Pass in order to use the Autoroutes and main roads. This cost 3.57 GBP for a minimum of 10 days.
Very little traffic and 'soft' snow capped mountains. 15 degrees.
Shops here close on a Sunday and no lorries are allowed to travel on that day.
About 100 miles before the Hungarian border the houses change to brick built instead of wood.
Gradually the Alps were left behind and we crossed the border , East of Graz, on 6th August with a cursory check of the passports, changed Euro to Forents (394 to 1 GBP) and were in flat countryside. Had a very pretty hotel on that first night at Vasszentinihaly.
Then on on to Baja through fields of Sunflowers and Corn on the Cob. Very little English is spoken here and German appears to be the second language.
Petrol is 88 pence per litre, hotel rooms range from 19 GBP to a suite of rooms at 30 GBP per night, beer is under 1GBP and a meal ( with drinks ) costs about 13 GBP.
The main roads are like are 'B' roads but slightly wider with tarmac that is wet and slippery.
8th and on to Caranslebe in Rumania through flat countryside that only seems to grow Sunflowers , sweetcorn and cabbage. Horse and cart are the order of the day, roads are very poor in places and everywhere gives the appearance of austerity. It is reminiscent of Eastern turkey or Pakistan but no laughter and few hotels. Chicken , geese and tethered cows graze on the side of the road with the fruit sellers.
The currency here is Lei or Rons and is confusing as they seem to have both on the go at the same time and you have to guess which one they are using. Petrol is 71 pence per litre, hotel room about 16 GBP. Children will wave madly as you drive past and the bike attracts alot of attention.
The houses are very secure with side gates that are locked and alot are 'run down'. On the other hand the Public buildings are grand , big and imposing. Trees grow beside the road giving the houses protection from the road.
You can see the' Babushka' doing her shopping and lots are wearing the headscarf and coat apron.
The food was very poor-( but you would not starve), greasy soup and fatty meat. After a day we had had enough. At this stage of the journey we need our creature comforts and to know that we will find a hotel relatively easily. So we returned to Baja and are here for 2 days R and R and then return to Austria.
You will have to read the next edition to found out our route from there !!-- watch this space.
Total miles : 15,577.
We left Baju, Hungary on 12 /8 /06 having enjoyed the swimming pool facilities at the hotel and meals, including drinks for 13 GBP.
IT cafes charge by the minute but the total for one hour is 83 pence .
The country is less austere than Rumania but , talking to a German girl (who had relocated from Berlin many years ago) she said that there is still a Communist style of running the country. There are Call girls blatantly standing at the cross roads or in laybvs. One of the road signs all the way through this area forbids horse and cart to go on bigger roads and tanks are restricted to 70 KPH.
The stalks are encouraged to nest on the telegraph poles with a grid placed on top for them to make their nest.
There are few places to pull off on the road but the surfaces here are reasonably good.
We had a wet ride through to Austria after a cursory glance at the passports. Through Neusiedler and Passon where there are many vines growing in flat countryside with soft rolling hills in the distance.
Hotels range from 25- 40 GbP and petrol 1GBP per litre.
This part of the trip has been more difficult without reference available to the LOnely Planets book.
Through Germany we followed the course of the Danube till swinging inland; The B roads are exellent and fir trees abound. There are numerous Wind farms lazily turning but for us it was very windy at times and maximum speed was 50 mph. There appear to be diversions everywhere for road repairs at EEC expense.
You can see the old Look out posts that boreded East and West Germany; There are areas with lots of deserted houses and shops and then you come to the beautiful city of Lubeck with its tall spires and houses with pointed roofs . Sometimes the tiles on the roof will cover all the house- presumably for extra protection in the winter.
There are miles and miles of flat straight roads with farms of Roe deer on the side.
17th and crossed border into denmark; there was no border control, just the sign saying you were in Denmark. Changed money to Kroner , petrol is just under 1GBP;
There are cyclists everywhere and they have their own cycle path to the side of the road ,which quite often is wider than the pavement. The cycles have all types of adaptions- prams on the front or back, tandems ,trailors or waist high peddles. How they find their own bike beats me when there are hundreds parked together.
So to odense and Copenhagen, which was well expensive at hotel room 100 GBP per night and beer 5GGP .
We poked our nose into Malmo, Sweden and had a cup of coffee(just to sat we had been there ); You go over 2 bridges 23 and 20 K in length. these you pay for (10 and 26 GBP ).
21 st and back through Gluckstadt and Barwinkhil Germany, through Holland which was totally flat and boring with HGVs on every road. It was here that there was the worst diesel spill of the trip which went on for miles.
We are now in Dinant, Belgium having a few days off. We were tired and needed a rest-- and it still rains !
Total miles 17810
We left Dinant, Belgium om 28 August, having had a few days rest and sightseeing.
It was around here that we had a long nail in the back tyre and were lucky to find a BMW dealer open on a Saturday afternoon with the workshop also open. Nail was removed and the puncture vulcanised for £29. We were very aware that we had no ultraseal in this tyre as we were unable to locate same in Oz when the tyre was changed last.
It was a wet and miserable ride to Arras, France. 12 degrees. Loads of roadworks with diversions everywhere and we stood in a cafe dripping water with the puddle beneath ouf feet getting bigger and bigger. To their credit the cafe owners did'nt turn a hair- just laughed at me in my all in one wet suit , the top half of which was tied around my middle.
Arras is a pretty town with Flemish design houses and the square lit at night.
Then on to Hon Fleur on 29th in monsoon type rain. Colin actually stopped , along with some lorry drivers, on the side of the Autoroute when he just could not see where he was going.
We had another day off in Hon Fleur, a quaint port town which was full of tourists and visiting boats. Then on to cherbourg through Arramanche and saw The Pegassus bridge.
And so to the ferry for Poole on 1st Sept. with a calm crossing and hey ho - we were back in UK.
I can hear you asking 'how does it feel to be back ?'-- well, initially it was just another country but when we actually got home we both had mixed emotions.
Elation that we had achieved what we set out to do ( to travel the world to see our friends in Australia) and that we had done it safely but also sad that the trip was finished and that the dream had been fulfilled.
Readjusting to the mundane way of life is coming hard- we wake in the morning and realise we have no goal other than the daily routine.-- We are already thinking where we can ride too next!
Would we do the trip again?- yes definitely ( if we had the money ! )
Total miles : 18520
Services for bike : Iran, Australia and UK on return.
Tyres: 5 ( 2 still on.)
Costs: Bike maintenence: £800.15
Flights, ferries and air freighting: £2443.10
183 days away: (26 weeks 1 day)
days of travel :98 days ( 14 weeks )
days off: 81 days ( 11 weeks 5 days )
flying: 4 days
Finally a huge thankyou to Colin for a wonderful trip, for all the planning and for driving safely.
Thanks to our son for 'giving his blessing' for our trip of a lifetime, to BMW teams in Karaj ( Iran), Caloundra and Mackay ( Australia ) and Bastoigne in Belgium.
Thanks to family and friends who kept in contact via e mail- these were a lifeline that, at times, were much needed.
Thanks to Colin and Judy for living in Australia-( if you did'nt live there we would never have thought of the trip !)
Thanks to many 'ordinary 'people , all over the world ,that helped us with forbearance, humour and understanding.
Finally- the star of the show- 'Herman' ( the bike). Every morning it was a thrill to hear it 'light up' - and we were off again.
Hi there folks. Wrinklies are off again on their travels again ,after the jaunt to Australia and back to UK last year on our 1150 GS.
Colin did a full service on return with no major faults found.
It took us a little while to settle to the hum- drum of life at home -- and even longer to get into the art of polite conversation again !
Now off on a much shorter trip for about 6 weeks. Route planned is : France, Spain, North and south Morocco and return a variation of the way out - probably via Alsace and Lorraine.
Morocco is a place we have always wanted to go and the mountains will be good !
So, we leave tomorrow from Weymouth taking the ferry to St Malo ------- more to come
We left UK on Monday 30 April via Condor ferries who were the one company that we found would give reductions for Senior Citizens ! They were good and secured bike for us.From Weymouth to St Malo and stopped quickly at Guernsey and Jersey.Arrrived 6pm to promptly get lost trying to find the hotel- road closed and diversions in place !
Through to La Rochelle on Tuesday and it was a cold and wet ride through Rennes and Nantes. A good drive though on deserted roads . Beware of filling up in France - alot of the garages will only accept French cards . We had to wait for a lady to pay on her card and we paid her cash!Petrol about the same price as UK.
La Rochelle is a lovely port area,pretty with the twin towers that guard the entrance to the harbour.All the children are still up at 9-10pm.
Stayed with some friends we had not seen for years on the Wednesday which was great.Then on to Condom on part motorway which you pay for but not expensive.This was a lovely ride in warmer weather at 14 -16 degrees. The no smoking laws are interperated differently here , in that there are areas in the bars and restaurants that you can smoke.
Condom is a medievil town and boasts a very impressive Cathedral with cobbled roads .We passed loads of vines as this is the Bordeaux district. The roads are deserted and it is a joy to be travelling.
Friday 4 May and into Spain via Tarbes and Lourdes and through to the Pyrenees.----OK then folks- who had to have 2 goes at crossing them ?!! It was cold, wet , foggy and 3 degrees and we failed to see the closed Col notice at the bottom.
Well , to be accurate, I did see it but did´nt register that it was 'our Col'! -----So, we had a lovely ride up and back down on a diversion route and Colin had no idea where he was as the map was too small a scale !Eventually ended up in Pau and traversed the Pyrenees via the tunnel! We agreed that coming down the P was more spectacular than going up- you just seem to descend for ages.Areas of no guard rails and just a vertical drop to the side.We have a lovely photo of the mountains in the fog but you can just see the snow capped areas in the background.
The other side was a different world- 20 degrees and we had a good trip to Huesko, Spain. These roads are also deserted and you can cover alot of miles in a short space of time. Petrol is 75p per litre and a bottle of beer and a Nestea is 2.07 GBP- cheap. Tourist menu of 3 courses is 13 Euro (1.4 E to 1 GBP) Hotels are about 60 Euro for the night including breakfast.Smoking is the same as in France, despite the rules ,they seem to make up their own mind which are the designated areas!
Sat 5 may and on to Requina through Zaragossa on quiet roads- even in the towns.The first part of this drive was very windy with cross winds that 'got you' on the high plains.Ther are plenty pf places to stop and eat on the side of the roads here with all amenities . Very traveller friendly.
Sunday and on to Jaen through the mountains that are spectacular on the N322 road.- Good biking road and the highest point was 3500 feet.Here you can stay on the bike as they fill up with the petrol for you!-- what an easy way of doing it! On the plains you have a panoramic view to the horizon of fields and fields of olive trees and cereal crops. Poppies are in abundance and there are no fields that lie fallow here and boy, are they self sufficient. Every house has a small vegetable plot.
Jaen is another town with cobbled streets and is old.It's lovely to sit in the square and watch the world go by - very civilised ! The restaurants don´t open till 8.30pm and often people are coming in to start eating at 10pm.We have managed to find a hotel nearly every night with secure parking as some where along the line we have lost the cover for the bike - hey ho- these things happen.
Mon 7 May and on to Ronda. It was a great ride and getting hotter by the mile !Took the 3221 which took us up through the mountains again and was a great drive - just as good as the Pyrenees.
Ronda is a lovely place with charecter and charm. Very old and is famous for the gorge. We actually got a hotel with a view right over the gorge. We were above the height of the birds flying and were able to see them nest in the rocks!The gorge is so deep you are unable to get it all into a photo.There are pavements that are marble or beautifully tiled.
Today we have seen oranges growing, so a sure sign that it is getting warmer.The roundabouts usually have a statue in the centre and the traffic lights in towns are above your head and are winking amber as you enter. If you do not slow down the flashing becomes quicker and then red.If you are first in the queue every one knows that it was you that was speeding !-- a good deterent and it really does make you slow down.
Tues 8 May and here we are at Gibralter. The first view was amazing in 30 degrees. It´s actually smaller than I had imagined.We are off to visit the sights tomorrow - our first day off since we left home.
Total miles to Gib was 1675. .
Anyway the trip from Ronda was great: through the mountains with towns and villages dotted on the side of the mountains and all the houses painted in white.
The first view of Gib was fantastic. A sheer rock face and a huge chunk of rock! The other side is full of trees.Just cannot believe that we are here in 8 days of easy travelling.Temperature is 30 degrees. We expected the traffic in La Linea de la Conception to be heavy but that was totally wrong. It was very quiet. Not as bad as a local town in UK.
We booked into a 4 star hotel at 90 Euro per night= so still cheap .
Wed 9 May and our first day off.We went up on the cable car and our first view was spectacular. The view over the sea of blue; with clear blue sky and the ocean dotted with yachts, liners and container ships. The monkeys are in abundance with plenty of young around.Playing and preening.
Gibralter town is nestled at the base of thr rock and is busy! Narrow roads .Petrol is 0.59p per litre but it could have been 0.59 Euro. Anyway its cheap! Cigarettes are 7.85 GBP for 200! It is a lovely place and a cross between a mini Hong Kong with the views and 1960 UK.
We did loads of walking about to see the sights and managed to buy a replacement cover for the bike.Next stop is Morocco.
A busy road in France at noon!
Forts at La Rochelle.
Pyrenees in cloud !
Spanish cafe on side of road.
On way to Ronda
Spanish mountain town.
Town nestled in Ronda mountains
10 May and we had an easy entry to Morocco after the ferry ride which was half an hour and cost 59 GBP.Through the formalities in about an hour with some help from 2 guys who expected a tip and got one!The customs guys picked up that we had been to Iran and Pakistan and called Colin over to quiz him about it.The entry for the locals was very different and they were being taken apart at the seams!
The smell was different as soon as you crossed.A mixture of heat, spices and drains.All the thermal kit is stowed away now and we are well loaded! Arrived Tatouan at 3pm and ended up in a 2 star hotel that was not what we would recognise as 2 star.We have had worse and the shower was a 2cm stream of water! The bar of soap in the bathroom was covered with some one elses hairs_ UGH!
We realised later that night that we had gained 2 hours and not realised.Every other shop here is a barber; patisserie, shoe shop or cafe. The men congregate in the cafes. Where do the women go.The roundabouts have chevrons that flash with the direction you must go around.
Friday 11 may and on to Azrou through the Riff mountains and it was a great ride.The scenery is spectacular but it is also like going back to Biblical times.people of all ages are riding side saddle on donkeys or the donkeys are pulling a cart.People sit on a piece of cardboard in every little bit of shade available even if it is a telegraph pole or a signpost. Kiff is being offered as you pass .
Customs checks abound but we are waved through each time.The flowers are a riot of colour with bourgonvillia and prickly pear that is in bloom.You can be in the middle of no where and you see some one walking___ where too I ask myself.The locals must walk miles.
We had a better hotel that night but the hotel was deserted of people and was like the Marie Celeste.Every thing you had to eat or drink you had to pay for it at the time.The storks were nesting with their young on top of the chimneys and chattered with their beaks. A lovely sound.
Sat 12 may and on to see the Casades near Azilal.This again was through the mountains .Lush green with alot of cereals being grown and Juniper trees .We reached the high plateau and were glad to bowl along at 70 mph as the temperature was 35 degrees. There are alot of water stand pipes around and you are free to use them to wet your head.Usuallly srrounded by tiles.
In one garage the squat loo was swilled out with water before I was able to use it.In full motor cycle kit and holding on to your helmet; it was quite a fear of endurance!We are now back to dousing our head under water and putting on the helmets with wet hair.
The hotel at the Cascades was a really lovely .Adapted from an old farm house and made from adobe which is coloured a bright red.Relaxing sitting areas with seating all the way around the room and low coffee tables. All the rooms are built around the central courtyard which had an orange tree growing.The cascades are a sight to see and are a big tourist attraction.654 steps down .
Colin had a job to park the bike here as it was parked in an enclosed garden and up 3 steps.I was having kittens but no problems at all going up_ or coming down.
The villages are one long street with shops on the road side.Petrol is 69p per litre and a small beer is 1.25 GBP for 25 cls _ expensive.Taxis are yellow with 4 in the back and 3 in the front!Peugot 103s abound and will carry 4 people with ease!
Next on to Marakesh. More to follow. Total miles 2401
Just to make sure you stop at police checks!
Unexpected lakes in the Atlas
Herman in his garden
Sun 13 and we were off to Marakesh after having had our boots cleaned for 50p,through the Atlas mountains and what a spectacular ride on deserted roads with tiny villages.They say that traversing the Atlas is one of the motor cycle 'musts ' and we tend to agree with that!
Again we were offered kif and there are pottery places every where trying to sell their wares or crystals of bright red or green. A lorry had lost 2 wheels off the axle near to the top- just avoided going over the edge !
If it's market daya you see pick up trucks with 2 horse, some sheep, goats and people piled into the back .Peugot 103's qbound with 4 being the maximum we have seen on one- so far!
There are water taps by the side of the road that are well able to be seen as they are usually surrounded by tiles. We take advantage of these to douse our heads with water.
Bourgonvillia abounds , flowers are a riot of colour and the prickly pear is in bloom.It is like going back a few centuries in time with the abobe houses, people harvesting by scythe and all using a donkey or horse as the main transport.
They sit in any bit of shade available which could be a telegraph pole or a sign post.
25 degrees when we left and again, alot of police checks. Before we left a cat ran across the road right in front of us ( and used one of it's 9 lives), a child deliberately jumped out in front of the bike and a taxi cut us up from the inside !---- All in a space of 5 miles!
The thermal kit is stowed of course and we are now wearing the camel paks for fluids on the go.
Alot of the ladies here have decorations on their hands with henna. The Morrocons love to laugh and share a joke. They are very friendly even if they do not understand my French !A good hotel is 780 drms per night ( £50 per night ) including breakfast. Meals are £7.74 each and that's for 3 courses. We bought a large packet of crisps, cheese, biscuits and toothpaste for £1.16 !
We arrived in the red walled city of Marakesh and could hardly believe that we were here. Such a romantic sounding place and traffic was'nt as bad as we thought. We took a taxi to the Jemma el Ftn square at dusk and it was great. Stalls selling every thing you can imagine, snake charmers, story tellers musicians playing,water sellers wearing traditional dress, magicians. All of theses surrounded by a huge mass of people watching-- talk about atmosphere.It gets dark about 7.30pm . Cats are every where and are tolerated even in the restaurants. Stray dogs live on the outskirts of town and are thin.
Next day we had a day off with the view of getting a new back tyre. The guy from the hotel was very helpful and took us to the garage to try to arrange this. This was at 10 am. Told to go back at 1pm. Then told to phone at 4pm-- when we were told that the tyre could be got from Casablanca - that he wanted the whole of the money up front and that with fitting it was goling to cost £295 !!!!!!------- Colin politely told him that was far too much money and demanded the deposit back ( which we grudgingly got ).
So that was virtually a day wasted but we did manage to see the souk etc.The best bit of the day for me was realising at the last minute that I could go with Colin ( thought the guy from the hotel was going to ride pillion ). I hopped on the bike wearing jeans, shirt, hat and FLIPFLOPS !!!!!!! What a great ride, definitely some thing you could'nt do in UK! The bike is parked outside the hotel which has a guard 24 hours a day and costs the massive sum of £1. 29 as the tip to the guy.
The currency here is MAD's - ie Dirhams and there are 15.5 to £.
That evening we went to a traditional Morroccan evening that included a meal of 7 courses ( one was the inevitable cous cous) and then we had a display of horse riding which was amazing. Jumping over the saddle when the horse was at full gallop, doing hand stands and picking up a hat at full gallop.What agility and fine horse manship.
Tued 15 and on to Ouzazarate still through the Atlas with the famous red soil. The girls are singing as we pass walking with fully laden donkeys. The children will wave madly and stand by the bike, very shy and hold out their hand for a bon- bon. They are in tatters of clothes and you wonder what the conditions are that they live in.There are areas here that remind you of Turkey and Iran.
On the other side of the mountain it was totally different terain and near to the Sahara we had 10 huge drops of rain !It is more sandy and stark and hot at 35 degrees whilst travelling.
The hotel here had a very nice area outside by the pool that was arranged like the Bedouin tents- very pretty and comfortable.
Wed and out to see the Atlas film studios which had film sets for many Egyptian films. The guide assured us that Hollywood films' are all an illusion'. One set took 1 year to build. The builders get 500 drms per day(£32) and the extras 150 drms (£9.67)
Thur 17 through to Tinhir at 85 degrees at 9 am. Desert scrub with areas of green oasis. We drove up through the Dades valley and went off to see the Todra gorge which is 900 feet deep. There are loads of touts about and are a pain in the neck.
Friday 18 and on to Midelt through the mid Atlas to greener areas and trees.
Sat 19 and on to Fez that turned out to be 100 degrees ! We eventually found the Ibis hotel and they were full. Our error as we should have booked ahead. Unusually for the Ibis the staff were less than helpful and we were having a deja vu of what happened in Delhi ( heat exhaustion )--- and we got out as fast as we could.So it turned out to be a long day of driving 288 miles and boy , did we know we had done it as it was all mountain riding!
We stopped at a road side cafe for a drink and there were 20 young men sat in a circle watching the TV, I asked for the loo which had no door, the Western toilet was positioned just off centre in a large room, just out of sight of the cafe! No seat, of course.
We arrived atChefehouan which had a lovely Medina and souk and it was really nice to be in the cool of the mountains.
Sun20 and onj to the ferry from Sebta to Algerciras for £57 and then back to Gibralter where we are for a few days , trying to get a tyre! This is turning out to be difficult and we are now waiting for a phone call from Spain to see if they can locate one. It's definitely thrown the budget out of the window as the hotel id £79 per night- but I can think of wordse places of being stuck ! Weather is cool and last night we had rain but Gib is lovely.
Total miles 3134
High Atlas Pass
High Atlas Pass
The Stoney desert
Not wher you think !
Hotel at Ouazazarate
shop in mountains
Over loaded or what ?!
So here we are in Gibralter for 5 days trying to get this elusive tyre.We were there from Sun 20 to Fri 25 May.On Thursday the guy eventually told told us that he was unable to get it from Spain!
We had a great time doing all the tourist sights, a trip out to see the dolphins, loads of retail therapy and up to see the monkeys again , the St michaels Caves and to visit the WWW2 tunnels . There are more roads underground than there are on top !===All made in the war.They were fully organised for a 2 year siege and had 3 hospitals and stores of food. It was an amazing place to visit and only a small part is open to the visitor.
Fri 25 and we were to off to Almira in Spain. The border crossing was a flash of the passport and a wave through.We went up the coastal route and that was great. Very little traffic and wonderful views.
We were just entering Almira and beady eyes on the back spotted a BMW place. Colin did a u turn and they fitted both tyres within 2 hours and were really good. They checked all the electrics and they did not charge for the fitting as they said that the bike had been so far last year and this year it was a credit to BMW workmanship!
We went off to see the place where the Westerns are made and enjoyed a 'shoot out' at the OK Coral== great fun!Then we had a couple of days with some friends we had not seen for ages and that was lovely .
On the road again on Wed 30 May to Requina and then through to Hueska on 31st. the high plains were cold as we have had a 20C temperature drop! Every where in Spain is so lush with , it seems , every inch being cultivated.
Fri 1 June and through the Pyrenees to Auch and this time we did the tunnel first time! The weather was grim, wet and 3C. the mountains certainly looked forbidding.
Picked up a 3 inch nail in the rear tyre and had to go to Limoges BMW who fitted another tyre, as the nail had gone through the side wall and was unretrievable!==== Just our luck. Anyway the main thing was that Colin got us there safely=== and in one piece.
We are now in better climes and taking a leisurely stroll back home. ETA Thursday 7 or Friday 8 June. Total miles so far 4455
What no beer?
last Chance saloon!
From Lemoge it was a leisurely ride to St malo where we got the return ticket to Poole even cheaper than UK prices. First call was , of course , to see Doug ( our son) .
Riding in France and Spain is so easy - very little traffic and the worst thing is trying to find an IT cafe ! All the hotels (and alot of the cafes)- are geared up for wireless- so, if you have a laptop, you are laughing.
I still find that some of the IT cafes will not accept the camera- and that is a pain! or it's me being dense.
So now we are safely back home and talking about the next trip----- which, we think will be to Scotland !- in September.It will be totally different packing- wise as we will not have to take mossie nets, spare books, electric adaptors, Lonely planets etc etc.----all that spare space, we won't know what to do with it all!
Days away :39 days off : 12
total miles :5100
ferry costs:£233.82 petrol costs:£821.72
Tyres for bike:£328.37 !!!!!
All for now---until the next journey!
Hi there folks - well, Wrinklies are off again on their trusty BMW 1150 GS. This time to meet some friends( Brendon and Tasha) who have already ridden across Canada from Halifax to Vancouver. They are then air freighting to Japan , travelling around there and then boat to Vladivostok. They are then to transit Russia and we hope to meet them somwhere past the Urals ! ----- That's the plan anyway.They are on a BMW 1200-- and 2 up.
We actaully leave UK on Sunday 6 July but we are going up to Ripley in Derbyshire this Wednesday for the Horizons Unlimited meeting (a large motor bike meet for travellers-) . So we will leave from there, go to Dover for the ferry and our first stop will be St Omer in France. We are then going through Belgium, Chech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine and so into Russia.
Our Russian visa starts on the 27th July and we have 30 days--- so the amount of travelling will be curtailed by that.
Our preparation seems to have been very 'laid back'!---- I don't know whether it's a)because we are retired and get a litle bit done every day; b)we are too relaxed and will leave some thing vital behind --- or c)we know what we are doing------ I just hope it's the last option!
More to come-----
Sunday 6 July and we were off ! We had been up at Ripley in Derbyshire at the Horizons Unlimited bike meet. It was an enjoyable 3 days- talking with like minded travellers and they gave us a good send off !
The photo shows us as we are leaving !
The journey to Dover was wet,windy and full of traffic jams. We made the ferry by the skin of our teeth! First stop St Omer in France .
Monday 7 July on to Lieges, Belgium.Still very hairey weather and Colin was really tired when we finally pulled in to the Etap hotel at 6 pm.The battering from the wind was the worst. it actually made the bike move on several occasions!
Tuesday 8 July saw us into Runkel, near Limberg in Germany. Finally the weather had improved and we were basking in 20C. It was a lovely ride through areas with spectacular Schlosses (castles), pretty houses and very little traffic. We called in to the Nuremberg ring but sadly, were not able to do a lap as it was'nt open to the public till 5 pm.
Reckon it would be good fun to do a lap for 21 Euro.
wed 9 July and on to Bamberg.Another lovely drive through small villages of timbered framed houses. It's all very rural with the vines growing on the steep sides of the mountains.There appears to be no 'terracing' for the vines. i bet they are a job to pick ! Higher up, of course, you get the sweet smell of the pine trees.
Bamberg is a beautiful medievil city with buildings made from timber and then painted.
We managed to get a meal there at an irish pub !!!!!!!----- and the owner gave Colin directions of how to get out the next day--- good job he did too. It's all a one way system and quite confusing for the uninitiated!However it was quiet with traffic and that was a big bonus.
Thursday 10 July.5 days away from home and here we are in Prague .We missed the sign for the Chech Republic and the first indication we had that we were over the border were the empty border huts. Traffic built up a bit as you neared Prague but not nearly as bad as one of our towns at school chuck out time !The villages are slightly more 'run down' - not pristine like Germany and not as bad as Romania!
We asked for directions once in Prague and found the hotel by sheer fluke. Colin stopped to get his bearings, looked over his shoulder and there was the Ibis hotel------ we were on the famous Wencelas Square.
Here we are playing with the trams in Prague ---- good game, good game !
more to come -----
Ooops,sorry - forgot to put into the last blog that we had visited the home of gliding at Wasserkruppe, Germany. Colin wanted to visit it as he has done some gliding in the past. (it's his hobby - that's why i forgot! )
Friday 11 july we had a day off in Prague and did all the normal touristy 'bits'.Took a bus trip around the city and saw the cathedral,walked over the Charles bridge and saw the astronomical clock.It is a lovely city with imposing arcitechture of all periods and cobbled streets.
It was hot- 35 degrees and the streets were being disinfected by a water bowser.
It's not cheap now . A beer and iced tea was £5.56 !!! and the garage at the hotel cost 20 Euro per night !- but worth it for piece of mind.Smoking allowed in restauants and you must only cross the road at the crossing areas.
Sat 12 july and we were off to Olomouc, the third largest city in the Czech Rep.A short day of 170 miles, as we called into see the Bedlac Ossiary ( when we eventually found it ! We were on the parralel road and Colin nearly gave up-but we found it in the end !) 40,000 skeletons were piled up outside the chapel and were bleached and made into shapes, including a coat of arms and a chandelier.It sounds very morbid but was'nt eerie at all and had been tastefully done. It all dates back to the 1400's and the time of the plague.
It steadily got hotter and then the heavens opened and we were sweating in the wet gear!All the shops seem to be closed in the afternoon and the 'ladies of the night' are waiting o the roads or at garages.The roads are quiet and we passed arable crops--with the inevitable sunflowers!We were glad to see the hotel and cool off.Beer and iced tea here is much cheaper -£1.67. Very imposing buildings again, cobbled streets ---- and another astronomical clock.
Sun 13 july - mega hot again- 25 degrees when we left and up to 35 mid afternoon.We are back to the 'wet head' syndrome at every stop! Very little traffic on the roads and what there was, colin thought was sunday morning drivers! Passed in to Slovakia at 11 am.and changed money at the garage exchange area.More fertile fields and small villages with houses on the side of the road- Some are painted in bright colours.Mountains in the distance.
Arrived in Spiss which is a stunning setting. The huge castle overlooks the village and can be seen for miles.The pension was a gem --- with a swimming pool! Really cheap at £28.57 per night, Full meal and all drinks was £10.40. Petrol is £1.28 per litre .
we found a new use for the bike ----- a washing line ! Colin reckoned it was infradig for a BMW !
Sorry these photos will have to go on next blog as i can't get it to accept them now!---- computer literate I am not !
Total mileage:1734. More to come----
Photos from last blog !
Mon 14 july saw us entering Ukraine!
The castle, first thing in the morning was shrouded in mist after a monuemental thunder storm last night with thunder and lightening directly above us !
The cover on the bike had become dislodged !
Before we left this was the temperature ---- at 9am!
We sped past an aeroplane cafe and Colin did a smart turn around for a 'look see' !What a good job he did.It was a 1950's Russian plane with the interior laid out as a restaurant---
Engines still in place!--Very novel and quite unique.
This is the picture from the bomb bay !
Again it hissed down with rain and on this slippery tarmac it leads to a slow drive!
Got to the border at 11 am and formalities were done in about an hour. One miltary guy spoke English and was helpful. We had to show the bike 'passport', let them know how long we were to be in Ukraine and see a doctor for a 'health check' ( that's a first, never had to do that before.) The doctor took one look at us and asked where we were going, said ' you are mad' and gave us the stamp we needed. There was a blood pressure monitor in the shed--- and that was about all.
A drug dog sniffed around the bike--- and we were free to go.
First sign in Russian:
The roads in town are slightly more potholed---- and all cobbled. Got to Muckachevu and booked into the 4* hotel Star at £36.80 per night ( including breakfast).photo shows the inner courtyard.
On the main roads the signs are in Cyrrilic with the 'English ' version underneath. In towns it is only the Cyrrilic --- which makes negotiating them interesting !Alot of police around and we were told by one to drive up a pedestrian pathway. The policeman at the other end was not 'an happy bunny' !We talked our way out of that one quickly!
Petrol is 73 pence per litre and beer is 62 pence for 1/2 litre.Very few want to let on that they speak English--- and most do, very well.We have resorted to the 'picture of images' book several times!
At the garages you have to pay before you are allowed to get the petrol, so you have to guess how many litres you want and convert to how much that will be in money.The first time this really caught us out but Colin managed to judge it OK-- and the tank was nearly full!
Tues 15 july and a grand total of 66 miles in 2 1/2 hours. There was another monuemntal storm last night and it continued to bucket down this morning. We waited until 10.30 am and decided to press on------- not a good idea. Through the Carthapanian mountains in deluging rain, cold at 9 degrees and Colin doing 30 mph behind lorries. At 1pm we chucked it in and headed for a roadside motel to dry out! From 40 degrees to 9---- in the space of 24hours is a shock to the system!
We have seen more accidents today than ever before - cars rolled over- and it is very sobering.
motel cost is £22.72 per night and has a cafe and bar! This place hs a security guard over night, complete with hipster gun and truncheon.Met up with a motor cycle group of 7 drivers from Hungary who were doing a large loop around in 2 weeks. They were a giggle a minute and a fair amount of vodka and beer chasers were consumed. ---- their english got better as the evening progressed!
we ate a buffet meal here--- big mistake ( but it was the only thing available and we went against all our better instints)---- I paid for it the next day !
Wed 16 and it chucked it down all day. The 'motorway' road surface is a bit bumpy and then we came off onto a 'p' road----- that was pot holed with great corrigations and Colin was weaving his way through the best path. we were going to stop at Ternopil but the hotel was SO grotty he rejected it and we went on toKamyanets- podilsky. a total of 237 miles.
At 6 pm he spotted a motel and we bowled in. They were helpful and tried hard with their limited English. A good meal was had and then off to bed. the room should have been the clue-- a double bed, 2 chairs, a poster of a half naked lady and dried flowers and net everywhere. Then the night time entertainment from the next door room started! ----- what with that and the frogs bonking and braying over night - it was all quite an education for me ! Colin reckoned that it was a place to pay for by the hour !!
thurs 17 and we sped into town and found a hotel ( which we would never have found last night in the rain) and it's newly built , nice surroundings and we are having a day off to recuperate !!!!---- hope this sun lasts, More to come---
photos from previous blog:
first the selection of bikers bikes we met at the first motel:
the infamous motel of 'oohs, aaghs, squeals, groans, creaking bed springs, snores and stilletto heels clacking out on the tiles at 6am ( ? 4 stillettos?!)
state of roads!
Going through the rural areas you are met with horse and carts, chickens and geese on the side of the road and a single cow being led off by a chain to be milked ( or walked to another pasture). One person will be ambling along the side of the road tending goats.Storks are nesting in the telegraph poles.
There are stray dogs everywhere (and in towns) and you frequently see them dead on the side of the road, having been hit by a car.People are on the side of road ( including the 'motorways' selling their wares---- apples, onions, peaches,potatoes,watermelons or rush mats, hats or brooms.
The hay is stacked in small stoops to dry and we have some with a gap in the centre to allow the goats some shade.
Side streets in the small towns are so potholed there is hardly a width's tyre space of tarmac.
In each large town , so far, we have seen alot of restoration and children will come and beg at your table ( if you are seated outside). One little lad knicked my bottle of iced tea and then hurriedly dropped it when we shouted at him. If you are in a big town the security guards will come out and chase them away and every hotel has it's own security people.
Wait for this--- a packet of 20 American cigarettes is 35 pence, full meal for 2, with drinks was £12.50 ( and that was dear, as it was in the hotel). Cost of hotel room £36 .36 (including garage and breakfast). In the motels it was 22.72 - bed only !!!!!! beer is 62 per litre and petrol is 73 per litre.
17 & 18 july were days off at Kamynates- Podilsky - very much needed. The sun coming out helped our moral alot.
Off to see the fortress which is stunning. You are allowed to clamber every where and there are signs saying 'mortal danger'.Health and safety eat you heart out !Colin also managed to get the bike washed. The tank is a commemoration to the war dead.
and the magnificent Russian Orthodox church of St Georges:
Many a conversation has been halted mid sentence by Colin as a stunning Ukrainian girl walks past-- in the shortest of shorts, the skimpiest of tops, beautifully made-up and tottering along in high heels.(how they manage to walk on the cobbles heaven alone knows !) Colin then says; "sorry, I lost my train of thought there for a minute"!
The stamps are stuck on to the cards for you and then dried with a cloth. In the
supermarket we visited you pay seperately at each counter ( ie, meat,biscuits or fruit counters).Makes for a rather long shopping trip !
Sat 19th July off to Uman and a stay at Queen Sophia's gardens and a nice quiet amble around in 30 degrees.
20th to Kherson.
The motorways seem mainly to be equivalent to our A roads -- but poorer in places. we found that the m/w from Kiev to odessa was great --- but were'nt on it long !some places have really modern facilities and then you call into a small cafe and the loo is in a brick building with , literally, a hole in the ground.Petrol ststions are frequent.
This is the 'bread bowl of Russia' with huge fields of wheat etc. It is a lush area and we saw a convoy of 15 combine harverters going down thw motorway !The road seems endless - dead straight in front of you. Some of the harvested fields are then burnt.The bike is much photographed and we are definitely a novelty !top temp was 35 degrees.
Mon 21 july and on to Sebastopol. This was a long hard drive and very hot over the plain. the road seemed to go for ever. it was 35 degrees as we were travelling and up to 40 when we stopped.We were stopped once by the traffic police and altough he was holding a speed metre- all he wanted was to look around the bike.
hazards of the motorways are bus stops, pedestrian crossings, people picnicing on the side of road, animals,and railway crossings. There are loads of flower covered crosses for drivers who have died. It is hard work for Colin and he says you cannot let your concerntration lapse for one minute.
There are cardboard cut outs of police man and car in specified danger areas.
So here we are in Sebastipol and what a stunning place.
Total mileage now is :2680.More to come------
21 july and it was a long , hard ride to Sevastopol - the road seemed to go on for ever and it was hot- 35 degrees ( but wait to see what tops that ! ). We passed through one town that had the hot water pipes that heat every building in the whole town. Imagine if that fails in the winter !
we were very glad to see the landscape change to some hills. we pulled up outside the most expensive hotel in town-- would you believe ' hotel sevastipol' and thought ' to hell with price'- we deserve some comfort at Ј96 pn but that did include free IT and breakfast!
it is a truely stunning city with the azure sea, magnificent buildings, Churches, statues and many bars on the wide prom.
This is how they sell beer to the odd passerby !
we went for a boat ride around the bay and saw the russian fleet.
and the many statues in commemoration of different wars
(Sorry - this is not a statue! Photo sequence was out of kilter !!!! Whose computer literate then ? --- You try cutting and pasting with Russian instructions !)
22 july and we were out to see the sights and went to the Panorama which is half painting and half diorama, depicting the siege of Sevastopol. it is magnificent and you walkaround it in a circle - it manages to transport you back to the day-- it is so lifelike. It's 115 metres long and 14 metres high!
next day saw us leaving and we called in at balaclava and saw the Valley of Death, which now is vines.
passed through the hills with some lovely views
Wed 23 july and on to Sudak, which is a typical seaside town, where we had another day off to see the fortress.Went up on the bike wearing jeans, shirt, shoes and helmet- definitely the way to travel !
This is how swords are wrought !
and today's temperature is :
The last few days we have found the heat very trying - have our internal thermostats been upset with the episode in Delhi, we wonder?
The ciccadias are chirping all the time and through the mountains you could actually hear them above the engine !
We are finding that getting food is a problem- plenty there but getting across what you want is difficult. The hotel we are in at present offered breakfast and dinner included in the price (Ј63). we ate it last night - grated cabbage, a dish of unknown substance ( ? chick pea and 6 pieces of lamb, mainly grisle) and 'pastries' filled with jam for pudding. It was disgusting -- and breakfast was no better. we have been to the shop and bought yogurt, cheese and bread and had a picnic in the room. hope to find somewhere tonight to get an omelette!
Other than that we have eaten a lot of crisps and snickers bars !-- glad i brought the multi vitamins !
From here on in we are 'winging it' as there are no hotels listed in the Lonely planets. having said that - every town seems to have had so much reconstuction that I am sure we will find a hotel- of some sort !Up to now we have found nice modern 'western style' hotels- lets hope it continues .
Now what do you carry in your hanbag, Dee? ' Why marmite, Deet and anti- itch cream, of course !'
Our russian visa starts on Sun 27 July, so tomorrow we are heading up country. Don't know when you will get the next blog. not all IT places have a USB port . What I have been doing is preparing the blog and then putting it on the net from the flash stick but if i do the blog from a cafe there will be no photos, as i can't resize them there !
wish us luck folks-- we've already had one day when all we wanted was to be at home - but after a beer or 2 ( for Colin ) and a good sleep things were better.i can't say that this is a trip for the feint hearted- especially in this heat and not understanding one word of the language or signs.The people, in the main, are as helpful as they can be----- some shrug their shoulders and walk off.
We are waiting to see how brendon and tasha get on--- they are now in Russia also and are having their own set of problems !
total miles :3070.----- more to come ( God willing !)
The last blog was from Sudak with the temperature at 50 degrees.
card board police motorbike on side of the road.
next day ( fri 25th july) we pressed on and got to the parting of the road - right to Russia and left back to mid Ukraine. colin stopped and said ' well, this is it- what are we to do - press on or go back? An executive decision was made to halt it there and go back------ the heat is unbearable. Colin , especially is feeling it and he has got to the stage of legs not wanting to work, intensely tired,weary,wobbly and every thing is an effort and totally pissed off.
He cannot let up with the concerntration on the roads for one minute - the surfaces are so bad -- and we cannot see any change in russia. we also know that in russsia we will have to cover vast distances in between towns to get to a hotel and Colin is'nt prepared to do that.
we have found this a strange country in many ways--- some things ultra modern with good western hotels and service and petrol stations the same. we have met some kind people who really try to help----- and on the other side of the coin, we have been refused breakfast in'russian' hotels.-only to see the locals being served 5 minutes later.
Also have been refused nourishment in motels and cafes-- at one place the police were there and tried to get us served and she nearly threw them out as well.All the time the locals are being served.
In small garages i am always sent to the loo ' around the back'-- which is a hole in the ground and once that was even too much for me to use.Roughing it I don't mind but when a perfectly good western toilet is available inside and I am told that i cannot use it, I begrudge lowering my standards!The outside ones stink to high heaven and are indiscribably filthy --- and contain aload of visible shit-literally!
we feel that alot of the time we are classed as the second class citizen. Alot have no manners at all , whilst others are nice. such a contrast ---but I fear that our abiding memory will ere on the black side .This is a place that you really do need an interpreter or speak a smattering of the lingo otherwise you are totally ignored.
Sorry but we have both 'had it' with ukraine and our thoughts were that Russia would be no better ---- may be wrong and we will find out how Brendon and Tasha get on.---- i hope better than us - at least Tasha can speak the language.
We are very sorry to let Brendon and Tasha down - but at the end of the day- health and enjoyment of the trip come first---- and we were not enjoying it--- let alone the money side of things. i don't begrudge spending hard earned cash when you are having fun- but this is'nt.We have Brendon's russian phone number but have tried several times to ring them to no avail.
So -- to continue, we decided to go back to Kherson - 7 1/2 hours to do 270 miles and man was it hot. We have been dousing our head with water at each stop but today was the day that i really felt the heat. Had got to the stage of lifting up my helmet to let the air in. I actually got off the bike and forgot to unplug the intercom lead - I was that desperate to get the helmet off! that was when i stood under the sprinkler at a garage !
Sat 26 july and on to Uman.- 265 miles.A much better temperature today but one exit too early off the motorway had us bombing off into the bondue with small villages and none listed on colin's map. we had no idea where we were and no one to ask for miles. in the end we turned around and back tracked ---- ,losing the maps which flew out of the plastic tank bag insert!So back we went to find them on the side of the road ! 63 miles later we were back to where we went wrong--- and started again!
Impounded bikes at the crimea border
passing Mig fighter !
this is not the hotel - but a block of flats!
got to the hotel to be told that the 2 restauants in town were closed as it was a saturday and ' russians don't eat out''.we can give you a simple supper of omelette----- and an omelette it was, no bread or salad and 2 forks ! Then we bought a packet of crisps each and dunked them in the marmite and i had a snickers bar.----(the other half for breakfast the next day !)------ if I don't see another snickers bar for ages - it'll still be too soon !
wheat fields being burnt off.
There was a monumental storm during the evening and over night and that has cooled every where down a bit.
Sun 27 july and back to K.P.Today we were stopped by the police. going up a hill, solid white line, no traffic in sight coming down and colin overtook a lorry. police at the top of the hill waved his baton and we were pulled over. 'docuements ---- passports,IDP and bike registration'.
he looked all through them and handed back the passports and took the IDP back to the car, on the other side of the road and then called Colin to come over. i went as well and he proceeded to go through the IDP with a fine tooth comb and started filling out a ticket very carefully and very slowly ( with halting english ) He then said 'passport' again and i trogged off to get them ( got me out of the way nicely). then he said to Colin 100 Euro, Colin said 'no' and then in perfect english he said ' 300 Grivners( £34) and you may go' colin agreed and he shook hands and tore the ticket up!----- straight into their back pocket?--- 5 minutes later they got back into the car and were gone. i said that they had gone for a vodka ( or 2 ) on us !
So we are staying here for 2 days to recoup and try to contact Brendon somehow. the mobile phone will not work here and i know that the international ban has been lifted.At least here we hve IT facilities and that is a God send.This is a large place with all facilities and the people are helpful - it helps to put a better light on things!
cardboard police car
selling wares on side of road
trolley bus in town
Total miles : 3881---- more to come
Tues 29 July and we were off again to Uzehrod.---- a gruelling 361 miles as there was 'no room at the inn' at the hotel we wanted to stay at Mukarevo!
On the way there we were stopped by the police again---- this time for speeding at 112 kph - in a 60 zone--- but there were no signs saying the reduction of speed. Apparantly the river had risen 4 metres and had taken a section of the bank and road out( on the other side of the road to us).
The young policeman jumped up and down saying 'why, why? - very dangerous, very dangerous'.Colin was then taken to sit in the police car with the papers! Apparantly he had a right telling off and suddenly the policeman said '100 Euros'. Colin said we had no euros ( true) and then the guy looked at me and said 'how long have you been married'?-- 39 years was the reply.'How old are you'- 63. ' How old is your wife-- 62. A look of utter increduality came across his face and he then said 400 grivners( £45. 54) and you may go NOW'
Colin handed over the money and it was hidden under his cigarette packet and we were told again to 'go now'!---- Heaven alone knows what would have happened if I had'nt had that amount on me!
So total police charges in Ukraine amount to 79.54!
We got to Uzeherod at 7pm to find a delightful hotel on the side of the road---- you'll never believe it---- the Hotel Sherwood !
We managed to phone Brendon and Tasha from here---we have had alot of problems with the phone till now.----- only to find that we had phoned them at 3.15 am their time------ whoops !!!!
wed 30 July and back to Spiska in Slovakia. We were about 10 minutes from the border and there were dozens and dozens of cars and lorries waiting to cross. We decided that we had better 'be good' and stay in line---- which was'nt so good for Colin as he was roasting in the sun at 39 degrees.---- i skuttled off to stand in the shade !
we were eventually processed and asked how many cigarettes we had. The guy felt the front panniers and i had to open the top box and he felt all of the contents ( but did'nt ask to see inside my handbag)-- but that was all. about 2 hours later and we were through to slovakia.( Watches back an hour )
stoops of hay
Through the gentle mountains on good roads. good signposts and good facilities at the garages !It is all so clean and tidy with well tended houses--- like a breath of fresh air!
I managed another swim with the castle looming above me !
Thurs 31 july and on to Nitra passing an old walled city--
where we had a good hotel in the middle of the square.
fri 1 aug and on to St sebastian, nr Marazelle in Austria.As soon as we had crossed into Austria we felt as if ' we were on our hols' and not travelling. The relief is noticeable in both of us. Got a vignette to allow the motorway travel at the border
Called into a roadside pension and as we were coming out there was an angle and some soft ground.---- the back wheel got stuck and over Hermie went--- with Colin stepping off VERY smartly. He managed to get the engine switched off - as it had fallen on that side, of course!
A man and a lady rushed up and we were able to get the bike upright. Colin's pride was dented and his shin grazed-- but other than that no damage. Thank heaven for the crash bars and panniers.( later on found out that one of the spare bulbs had shattered----- we can live with that!)
petrol here is £1.20 and diesel £1.29
sat 2 Aug and into St Gilgen in Germany on the 'romantic road'. The scenery is stunning with loads of twists and hair pin bends. Weather remains hot at 30 degrees! land slides are visible . The houses are pretty with flowers on the verandahs and painted in bright colours.
and the armoured guard is necessary !
it is holiday time here, of course and we called into 8 places before we managed to get a room-- but then the view was stunning---
sun 3 aug and we are at Berchtesgaden and tomorrow are off to see The Eagles Nest--- Hitler's mountain retreat. staying her for a couple of days.
we have heard that Brendon and Tasha are at Irkutz--- still got a long way to go but they have done so well. I really take my hat off to them.They say they are battered and bruised but OK. One line that Brendon said made me feel better-----'if tasha had'nt been here to speak the language. i would have given up a long time ago'.
Our total miles5225--- more to come.
Well, I have decided that the sign of a true traveller is a pocket full of loo paper in place of tissues !!!
This is truely a lovely area - the Austrian tyroll is gentle and so pretty. Alot of the men are wearing lederhosen and the waitresses all wear their national long dress with short puffy sleeves on the blouse.
We have fallen in love with the apple struedel and are in fear of returning as fat little piggies!
mon 4 Aug and we had boked to do an English tour of The Eagle's Nest-- Hitler's mountain retreat. It was expensive at 90 Euro-- but turned out to be well worth it. what a stunning place.
the brass lined lift to the castle
Tues 4 aug and a visit to the salt mine just had to be done!
firstly you went down in a train and then on to wooden slides to the other levels--- that was great fun.You had a smart push at the top and it was like a roller coaster !
The salt here is drained through big lakes of water and takes 100 years before it can be siphened off! There was a beautiful light and music display on one of the old lakes underground.
Then on for a cable car ride--
wed 8 Aug and on to Fussen
what else do you expect to see in the tyroll?
the warning signs that stop you from going down the exit side of the motorway !
fussen is a lovely medievil town with the schloss and castle that walt Disney based his castles on----
we did the grand tour on Thurs with the help of a horse drawn carriage up to the top! loads of stairs in between floors, of course and the inside of every room has beautiful paintings on the walls. ----- i now know what the turrets are for----- the interconnecting staircase between the king and queen's apartment!
Fri 8 aug and an endorced day off ---- colin went to start the bike and------ nothing. he was perplexed and then altered the handlebar position --- hey presto, lights came on ---- move the handlebars again and the lights went out !
Much scratching of heads and I had the BMW breakdown number ready---- but true to form he managed to isolate the break in the main wiring and 2 hours later we were up and running - but decided that most of the day had gone, we might as well stay put.
good job we did too or else we would have missed the truely lovely castle in town that is now a picture gallery. the outside is painted with illusionist pictures-- Ie a lady standing at a window and the windows with a 3 D effect.
the Church here was beautiful inside with paintings on the roof and domes.
One of the many paintings on the houses---
you would think this was a statue but in fact it's an actor that moves slowly to give a bow when money is put into his tin.
Sat 9 aug through to the highest mountain at feldberg (5000 feet)
and through some lovely scenery
hotel where we stayed
sun 10 aug and on to Nuits St georges in france passing this novel sidecar with trailer
the difference with the french landscape after the mountains !
we have heard from Brendon and tasha- thay are now safe in Voldograd and in a 5* hotel---- and boy do they deserve that. they have had an horrendous time, including coming off the bike at 80 kph - on wet roads and a diesel slick. Thankfully they are in one piece but very bruised and the bike pannier is tied on with string.
Total miles: 5886. we estimate to be home in about a week's time. Taking a slow meander through France and the Normandy coast----- more to come.
Mon 11 Aug and on to Briare, France
A cold start across the plain passing loads of vine growing areas. A good bit of flying by a helicopter who was spraying the crops---- what low flying and looked dangerous !
and saw the tiny tractors made to go up between the vines
noone is about- it's August and nearly everyone is on holiday, every town you drive through you are lucky to see one person and the banks are shut on Mondays - so no hope of changing US $ today.we were lucky to find one restaurant that was open and had an omelette!I'm beginning to get a phobia that a bomb has landed and noone has told us!
got chucked out of the bar in the hotel at 9.55 pm as he said he was shutiing up then!
Tues 12 aug and on to Le Mans. this is a big city but there was hardly any traffic
but it was nice to see some other people and some shops that were open! walked up to the old town area. The trams are so quiet here that they sound a siren as they approach.
Wed 13 Aug and to Port En Besson which is a bustling port and preparing for a Festival of the Sea-- all the boats are decorated, as are the streets.
the main road goes over the inlet and the bridge has to open to allow the boats to come through.
thurs 14 aug a day off and to see the Bayeaux tapestry.Bayeaux is a lovely town with a cathedral with 4 spires
went to the circular cinema and saw the wartime film and visited several museums.
Fri 15 Aug - another day off and visited a Chateaux.
sat 16 Aug- poddled along the sea road which was lovely and today the sea is calm- so bodes well for tomorrow ! Tonight we have 'flown the flag'and have attatched a Union Jack to the topbox !
Sun 17 Aug and on to the fast ferry at 11. 30 am. we were late docking in Poole but were very pleased to see mike, sue and harold who had come to meet us.--- that was great.
first sight of UK soil
last step off the bike at home !
Total miles : 6527
Petrol costs £410.83
Brendon and Tasha are now in Ukraine and are coming straight home-- they really have had a tough time and I take my hat off to them for accomplishing all that they have done. our thoughts and prayers have been with them all the way.
So that's it folks-- We are glad to be home- and back in our own bed ! I don't think we will be attempting a trip to that area again --- perhaps a coach holiday should be next !!!!!!
Hi there folks-- well Wrinklies are off again - this time through France, Switzerland, Ialy,Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosova,Serbia, Bulgaria, all round Turkey ( ?to georgia) and back through to Izmir in Turkey, Greece and ten follow the sun home ! Probably away about 8 weeks and obviously on Herman , the BMW gs 1150.
We left UK on Monday 5 Sept 2011 and through the tunnel , stopping off in Arras
Hi there folks- well, Wrinklies are off again - this time through France, Switzerland, Italy,Slovenia, Croatia,Montinego, Kosova, Serbia, Bulgaria and all round Turkey ( maybe io Georgia). Exit Turkey at Izmir to Greece and follow the sun home! We reckon to be away about 8 weeks and are, of course , on Herman the 115 GS.
Had a lovely send off by Brendon and Tasha, who came to wave bye bye !
We left UK on Monday 5 Septmber 2011 through the tunnel -- getting a day return ( but we forgot to go back !)Stopped off in Arras
Hi there folks - well Wrinklies are off again through and around Turkey. Hope to be away 8 weeks. We left UK on Monday 5 September 2011 on Herman --- our 1150 gs.
Had a great send off by Brendon and tasha who had come to wave bye bye !
img alt="home and france 001.JPG" src="http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/masters/images/home and france 001.JPG" width="640" height="480" border="0" />
Through the tunnel and stopped off in Arras
The ride to Roye was very windy but we made it about 6 pm.(192 miles)
Tues 6 Sept and on to Raimeront ((293 miles) - had a 20 mile round trip to find a garage that would take card payment !!-- It continued to be very windy across the central plain and I was tucked down behind Colin !Arrived Epinoll where we thought we were booked into the Etap - but guess who had booked the same hotel for the same night !!!-- Last night's was booked but not tonight--- Epinall had no rooms , so we went onto Rairermont - another long day.
Wed 7 and on to Pontarlier, Switzerland in mixed wind and rain - lovely ! 200miles. Still rain and wind - through the Ballon d'Alsace where i saw a marmot and that made my day ! Also saw 2 red squirrels.The weather clamped down at the top of the Pass and vibility was about 20 yards - thick clou, driving rain and cold at 8 degrees C.Then onto cross the border into Switzerland ----- swept round the corner to find a barrier across the road ! -- well, we wont be going through there then !
Had to backtrack onto a different road to get through -- by then we were at the giggling stage and thinking that we would never get out of France !
Thurs 8 Sept on to Chur through numerous Passes - including Juan
,Sustan and Oberall. 257 miles oif stnnung scenery and hairpin bends. Switzerand is very expensive -- McDonalds for 2 was £21 .38!!!
Through St Moritz and I can see why people rave over it - it's so pretty with the mountains going into a backdrop of a lake.
Friday and we were through to Italy and the De Stelvio Pass - absolutely stunning but cold at 8 degrees. The ride was magnificent and loads of bikes at the top with hair pins at a complete right angle.The pass is 9000 feet but on the Italian side the temperature was 30 degrees!
img alt="swiss,italy,part croatia 083.JPG" src="http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/masters/images/swiss,italy,part croatia 083.JPG" width="640" height="480" border="0" />
Sat 10 and we we in italy having stayed at Bolzano. Through more passes and into the Dolomites --- well it was like Picadilly Circus on a bad day !!!!!! Bikes, cars and peddle bikes all vying fr theroad ---- not enjoyable at all. The ride down was better though. Saw the glaciers---
Stayed at the Hotel Willy near Udine.--- well that had to be done, did'nt it?
img alt="swiss,italy,part croatia 223.JPG" src="http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/masters/images/swiss,italy,part croatia 223.JPG" width="480" height="640" border="0" />
Sunday and we were into Croatia overnighting at Karlobag
The coast road along to Dubrovnik is stunning, It takes you along ----- gently meandering right by the sea and then up into the hills with the sea view still there.
Nealy all speak English and travelling is a joy ------ apart from thr heat at 35 degrees in the aftenoon. I am now in jeans for travelling ! Yesterday ( Tuesday) we nearly ran out of petrol----- talk abut so called seaoned travellers !!-- there was'nt a petrol staion for miles on the coast road. When we ventually did fill up there was absolutely nothing sloshing in the tank. Colin had knocked it out of gear on the downhill parts and reckons we were travelling on air.
Overnighted in Podora on Monday night - in an apartment and arrived in Dubrovnik on Tuesday. Got a lovely apartment for 3 nights --- 50 euro per night . It's hot and we are about to have a swim!--- more to come!Total miles :nearly 2000
Just a few photos for you. We are of to Montenegro tomorrow (- Fri 16 Sept)
One of the highlights for Colin yesterday was the lady from the apartment jumping on the back of the bike and riding 3 storeys up to her garage !!!
img alt="colin dubrovnik 020.JPG" src="http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/masters/images/colin dubrovnik 020.JPG" width="640" height="480" border="0" />
img alt="colin dubrovnik 023.JPG" src="http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/masters/images/colin dubrovnik 023.JPG" width="640" height="853" border="0" />
Hope you enjoyed these --- more later- depending on the IT of course. We are going into unknown territory from here !!
Hi there again folks - hope you enjoyed the last blog - here's the latest update. It'll be a bit long as we have been without any IT support for days !
First of all -- on the last posting it should have read : ' Colin's day was made by the lady at the Dubrovnic apartment hopping on the bike and riding sidesaddle up 3 floors to the garage ' !!!!! - I left the most important bit out !
Ok - the night before we left Dubrovnik ( Thursday 15 Sept ) Colin just happened to check on the border crossing from Montenegro to Kosova. Just as well he did as it said that the border would be closed on 16 ( which was the day we intended to cross) and troops put in place.
On the news next day we saw troops, helicopters, road dug up and barriers across the border. By then we had altered our route, of course ----- going the long way round through Serbia and into Bulgaria.Put about a day and a half on the trip - but was safe.
So -- 16 th we left Dub ---- after Colin had pumped up the front tyre after someone had nicked the valve caps over night!-- and that was in a 'secure' garage ! Along the coast road and entered Montenegro about 11 am. Drove past lines of lorries waiting to cross the border- these lorry drivers must have the patience of a saint !Showed passports --- and were through - no customs control at all.Had to buy insurance for 10 Euro as we had no Green Card for Montenegro.
It was hot - 35 degrees and we are back to the wet head and T shirt syndrome. The coast road was as stunning as Croatia but covered with a thick heat haze.The heat was really sapping to our energy.
At Budva we swung inland to a National Park area through deep gorges and softer mountains.It was a slow ride and Colin did'nt get out of 4 th gear the whole way due to the traffic and roads.
The whole length of this road, - 160 miles at least there was advertising on rocks and bolders for an auto recovery firm with the telephone number ! These were at least every mile , if not more ----- how about that for advertising !
Got through to the Serbian border about 4. 30pm and were stopped at what we thought was the border queue. ----- No, it turned out that it was road works and here they just close the road for a period of time and everyone waits ----- ( in the sun ! )-- we gathered that it was due to reopen at 5. 30 pm and it did.
Through the border to Serbia - once again passport checks only and no isurance asked for.
Met up with a Polish couple who had been to Albania on their Goldwing. He said that ' there are no roads in albania and not good for the bike !'
It was nearing dusk and we pulled into the nearest motel- 17 euro per night.Thought that was good but a litle further up the road they were 10 Euro.
Next day and we were through the mountains and quiet traffic till we came to another road block and this time the wait was 2 hours ! -- The guys let us through the barriers as there was a restaurant 200 metres up the road and it would be cool there.And so we waited = but at least we were in the cool. At 1 pm the road was open and on a brand new road what should be the first thing along it --- well a horse and cart, of course!
Serbian towns were heaving--- police are everwhere and at each road junction are directing the traffic with a baton. Some parts are really run down, elderly cars , peasants with pony and traps and selling their wares on the side of the road. Then there there are areas that are ultra modern and swish brand new cars and petrol stations. Everyone is friendly and helpful. Some speak a smattering of English although it's not taught in the schools.
Signposts are in Cyrillic with English underneath. Petrol is about the same as UK but food and hotels are cheap.Road surfaces are good.
I got stung by a ???? through my jeans - boy did I jump !---- Colin wondered what on earth had happened .
Marlborough cigarettes are 1 Euro for 20 and smoking is allowed everywhere. There are many large lorry parks on the side of the road through Europe and flatbed lorries towing the same length as the lead truck.
We overnighted in Pojate in an ultra modern motel for £55 per night inc breakfast, meal and drinks.Security was tight here with a security lock on all entrances to the motel.
Sun 18 and we went on to the peage for a change and through to the Bulgarian border.Showed passports only and we were through.
We transitted Bulgaria bypassing Sofia and stopping for the night at a motel about 90 miles from the Turkish border. Bulgaria is very Russian with Cyrillic signposts and out in the country appears to be poor. People were , on the whole, helpful and would take Euro. The roads were reasonable and petrol about the same as UK. This part of Bulgaria is flat.
The babushkas sit outside the loos and collect your 50 cents.
At 5pm we stopped at a roadside motel for the night --- it turned out that they took Euro but there was no restauant ---- 'down in the village'. By this time she had our money , so we were committed to staying. It offered romms for a rest at £11 and condoms were for sale at reception ! We had to pay up front and it was 3o euro for the night, We hiked 1 kilometre for a mealto be told that they would'nt take euro. When she saw the look of horror on our faces , she relented and said 'da'. We resorted to the picture bookand had a meal of ??????? -- don't know but it filled a hole.
Coaches were calling in through the night at the motel as a loo stop.
Mon 19 Sept and we were at the border to Turkey at noon. This I will cover with the next blog. Hope this makes sense as I have had to move several times due to various reasons ! We are currently in the Ibis at Istanbul --- more to come.
Below are some photos of Bulgaria for you ----
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More to come !!!!!
Hi there again folks --- well we continue to journey and entered Turkey on Mon 19th Sept .The last part of Bulgaria was really flat and a boring ride, really, with one stop for coffee from a machine at 2 Euro each !!!!! -- boy did she us coming and then I was charged 50 cents to use the squat loo !
Arrived at the border around noon and still around 30 degrees. Showed passports and then had to buy visasa ---- he was away having lunch, so we sat on the side of the lane waiting patiently. Not too long a wait and the 2 visas were 70 lire (£26.92 ). Then on to another building to buy insurance -- Colin did this whilst I stayed with the bke in the shade. We were partially blocking the lane exit --- but the official had told us to leave it there -- so we did ! Insurance cost 120 YTL (£46.15) for 6 months. Customs contro; checked bike papers only and we were through after an hour----- good going . We thought we would be longer than that.
Went straight into Erdine and got a Caravanerie hotel which was built in the 1400's-------it has been moderised since then !!! It was very tranquil in the courtyard -- the place outside heaving with people and noise -- but inside the hotel you can't hear any of that. 180 YTL for the night (£69). The place was full of atmosphere , traditional and obviously very old with thick walls and inner courtyards. There is a particular smell to these old places -- slightly sewery and musty --- but you soon get used to it !!!
The town was heaving with people , shops open till 9 pm with some staying open longer than that.All little shops that seem to sell everything --- Colin actually got a spare panner key cut and I got a new phone charger . Both were 5 YTL ((£1.92!)
The mosques here are stunning inside - they say they are as good as The Blue Mosque in Istanbul.Huge domes inside that are painted and gold leafed. i had to cover my shoulders and wear a headscarf- and we both had to take shoes off. We were visiting the second mosque when the call to prayer came out --- so we left.
There are numerous stray cats and dogs everywhere - they look thin but not under nourished. Petrol is dear -- more than UK. Food is cheap.
Got back to the hotel and asked for 'water'- guy didn’t understand that and when I got the laptop out -- he rushed over and said ' Google translate ' ------ It's 'soda' --- so now you know! We had to laugh --- Google translate came in useful the next day too --- but you've got o wait for that!!!
That evening I had a dose of the squitts and took 2 Imodium ---- we were then down to 4 tablets, so next day I was sent off to get some more. --------Well you try to mime diarrhoea to 2 girls who don't speak English!!!! We were in fits of laughter -- then the guys came in to see what all the fun was about --- so I was playing to a crowd !---- No embarrassment though - it was all taken in good part. First of all they gave me Dulcolax (a laxative) ---- ‘No, no, the other way’!!!! Then I spotted a computer and said' Google Translate' which they did and eventually I got 2 lots of tablets for 14 YTL (£5.38).
And so we were away to Istanbul on the motorway – had to buy a KGS card for the use of the motorway. The guy asked where we were going after Istanbul and said that we needed one for all the m/w’s in Turkey -- - £19.23 .You just swipe the card at the entrance and exit .Initially the m/w was really quiet ---
The fields are harvested and the stubble being burnt off. Fields and fields of ' gone over’ sunflowers. The weather is getting cooler –now 25 degrees. We got into Istanbul at 1 pm ---- the traffic was manic to say the least. Car and, lorries cutting you up on either side. People driving down the hard shoulder, horns beeping and at the toll—cars or lorries backing up to change lanes!!------ Colin pulled into the side to let things sort out a bit and then we went for it!!!! Had to get through to the third lane --- this is not for the feint hearted and I kept VERY quiet on the back!
Then we found ourselves in the airport and at the arrivals!!!!!!! ---- At this point I said to Colin –: ‘we have got to get a taxi and follow that to the Ibis. We are rapidly getting into a Delhi situation here’. (I.e. hot and bothered and under a great deal of pressure) The taxi fare was worth every penny. It was 10 k away and we would never have found it under our own steam. The Ibis found us a room overlooking the Sea of Mamara and we are chilling nicely, thank you!!
We are having 2 days off here to see the sights and have been on a cruise of the Bospherous today ( Wed 21 Sept ) The funniest thing about that was the taxi running out of gas and we had to walk the last 1000 metres back to the hotel! ----- See, Colin’s not the only one to run low on gas --- and he did'nt rn out completely!!! Total 2956miles :
Thurs 22 and we went off to see the sights --- Sofia Museum,Cisterne Bacillicus, Topkapi and the Blue Mosque. Tomorrow we are go on to Safronbolu ---- but first we have to get out of Istanbul - which Colin is not looking forward to. ---- More to come later. Here's some photos of the sights.
Hi ya folks --- Before I start the blog Colin didn’t think a lot of the photo that I posted of the Cisterne Bacillicus (the underground water storage area) – so here goes for some better ones – and of the huge carp that are resident!
Well, we got out of Istanbul (Fri 23 Sept) – very carefully but safely – thanks to Collin! We had a great send off from the hotel – a group of about 20 Turks watched Colin pack up and then all wanted their photos taken with us! The manager came out also and there was waving and shouts of goodbye as we left!
We had waited for the rush hour to abate and hired a taxi to get us on to the right road – which the driver did the second time! First of all he took us to the Erdine turning which was where we had come from a few days earlier! Turning round was a game – but on the whole, the exit was much better than the arrival. Colin says that he will never, ever drive in Istanbul again. Even a Turkish girl said to us that it was mad to drive there! Istanbul is rather like Delhi – you need a haven to hole up in!
We drove over th Bosphurus Bridge and were offcally in Asia.
Once you got out of Istanbul the motorway was reasonably quiet –we climbed up into the mountains and it started to rain – to be more precise – it teemed down and got cold at 8 degrees!! – What a change from 35 degrees. We were soaking wet despite all the gear. We called in at a motorway stop and it was a huge Outlet village – complete with the guy washing cars outside with a broom! Next stop we were given free tea – I think the guy thought we were mad to be on the road.
We arrived at Safranbulu which is a World Heritage site and of the Ottoman period. All the houses are wood framed Ottoman style 16 and 17 century .The roads are stone block and very uneven and the hotel was also up a steep hill!! --- I baled out at the bottom and let Colin drive up. He really does pick and chose his places to stay that could be easier.
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The whole place is wonderful with markets and bazaars that are heaving with people. Everything much cheaper here, of course. Turkish Delight to die for- as are the macaroons. I think I’ll come back home as fat as a little pig! Stray cats are invariably in restaurants and then get shooed away – only to reappear in a couple of minutes. Smoking allowed everywhere.
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Hope you enjoy the piccies --- we've got a good IT connection where we are today Wed 28 and we are in Trabzon. I'll try and get the blog up to date later today or tomorrow. Cheers, Dee and Colin----- more to come !
Hiya folks – well we left Safranbolu on Sun 25 Sept. A rather late start as a German guy on a Yamaha came screaming up the road to see us when he noticed our bike. It was great to talk to another long distance traveller. He was off to Iran and Saudi for the winter! There was a Van cat in residence at this hotel--- they are famous for their one yellow and one blue eyes – quite rare and quite expensive !
Colin drove down the steep hill and I stood and saw him out and waited for a gap in the traffic!
Roads were really quiet out of town and the temperature is dropping now to about 22 degrees.—colder, of course through the mountains (but good hairpin bends!) Rurally you have to be aware of cows, sheep, hens, dogs, cats or buffalo on the side of the roads – we have even seen them on the dual carriageways! The animals are tended by a bloke or girl who always stays with them.
People are selling their wares with a small stall set up on the side of the road. The hay is drying in stoops.
Down onto the coast road by the Black Sea – and this was an experience! You could be bowling along quite happily on beautiful road surface ------ and then onto rubble, gravel and pot holes for miles. This is where they are making the new coast road – I sat very still on the back! Everywhere, it seems, are new roads going in --- courtesy of the Turkish Gov and European Union. The coast line is stunning--- totally unspoilt although you can see that lots of towns are trying to open up to the tourist trade ----- proms being built and new properties going in all over.
Great to see in one town Children’s play area on grass---complete with sheep grazing to keep the grass at bay! The road ambles right by the sea and then you are taken up into the mountains with a wonderful view of the many bays. These must be deep water as there as big ships are moored within.
All the kids wear a school uniform – usually plaid skirt for the girls and same plaid for the boy’s jumpers. Secondary school boys wear a shirt, tie and blazer. Traffic police are everywhere. The Turkish flag is flying over many businesses, Gov buildings, of course and many houses. Everyone is very polite – rose water sprinkled on to your hands when leaving shops or restaurants and they do not like handbags on the floor. --- A table or chair would always be dragged over to put it on.
Men sit in the cafes drinking tea and greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on either cheek. Every community seems to have at least one mosque. Everyone is very helpful even if they don’t speak English. Security in the towns is very tight with guards everywhere – often you have to walk- through an airport style security screens. Internet connections are very hit and miss –sometimes good and other times- just good enough to read mail but not send.
In the petrol stations the tank is filled for you and the registration number taken. Tea is free in most petrol places or a juice. We had one stop where a young lad of about 10 couldn’t stop staring at us – in the end his dad told him off, in no uncertain terms and we were left in peace! Many petrol stations have a small ‘zoo’ with hens, turkeys, grouse and rabbits- along with a play area for the kids.
Stayed that night near Sinop in a delightful seaside town---- including plastic palm trees! Went to sleep listening to the sound of the waves! Invariably the lifts have no safety door and you watch the floors go past. Taxis are always yellow and slightly cheaper than UK.
Mon 23 Sept--- 3 weeks from home and 3676 miles and on to Ordu .Rubble and hardcore again for miles and a great dust cloud behind us. Colin reckons that the hotels disappear at 4 pm (the time he starts looking for hotel) ----- 3.30 pm you pass at least 7. Come 4pm they all disappear. This is how I came to sitting on the back reading the Lonely Planet’s for about 60 k --- that’s a first too! Finally found a hotel where they wanted Colin to park on the pavement – with a 10 inch lip! – Needless to say to bike stayed on the road!
A stroll along the Black Sea – the sand is very dark and reasonably fine. Large boulders form the rocks and the mountains reach right to the sea edge in places. We had a cable car ride here at dusk – and that was great.
Tues 27 and we were off to Trabzon and 2 days R and R – felt that we needed it. Hotel is just by the sea and temperature in the afternoon – a balmy 25 degrees. That night Trabzon football team were playing France in an international match and the French team were staying at the hotel so security was extra tight with armed militia and out riders! – They must have known we were coming!
Colin had a contretemps with the hotel manager about parking the bike –no secure car park in a ‘good’ hotel. Needless to say Colin won the day and the bike is covered and parked just outside the main door!! This had to be agreed with the Head of Security, of course.
We need this time to catch up on housekeeping – Colin had the bike washed and said he wished he had taken the camera with him as it was just like a meringue and covered with foam. He is, at present, cleaning the panniers in the shower!!! --- As you do.
Yesterday we checked the Camelbaks --- and they were growing a black mould inside. – Not too healthy I hear you say. We traipsed round a 3 storey shopping Mall trying to find Milton – but no success. (This Mall was complete with Noddy Train – reckon we should suggest that to Swindon Outlet!) So we have them steeping in a strong saline solution at the moment and Colin has managed to find a bit of string and pulled that through the pipes --- honesty, the things that you do ! – Still dubious whether we use them again – need new bladders, I think.
Well, this has been an epic blog and do hope that I haven’t bored you all to tears. We feel more rested and are off again tomorrow – Friday 30 Sept. We have decided that now we will turn south and follow the sun- cut out Georgia and Armenia completely. This will give us more opportunity to see sights in the south – and stay warm for a while.
Losses up to date! ---- a pair of knickers in Chur, a washing line in Croatia and 200 cigarette that Colin forgot to pack in Erdine ------ everyone who knows me would know that I wasn’t too happy about that one!!!
More to come, cheers, Dee and Colin ----
Hiya folks ---Well we are up and running again with the Camelbaks after a kind soul read the blog and mailed us to say that we could use ‘ Anything that the Turks use to soak their teeth ‘ ! So great that people read the blog and come up with a solution--- thanks so much.
We left Trabzon on Fri 30 Sept after 2 days of good R and R – little did we realise w hat was in store for us! First off we went to see the Sumela Monastery which is hewn out of the side of the rock. This was up twisty roads and we did not drive up to the second car park (very steep).
Then on into the jagged, hard mountains – very cold at 10 degrees , to mellow mountains and a long flat plain where Colin got a speeding ticket for doing 104 kph as bikes are restricted to 100 kph.! It’s a land of fantastic contrasts with the plain road winding it front of you for miles. Petrol stations are few and far between and it started to snow!
Go to Erzurum which is a University town high in the mountains – we eventually found a hotel which had the sign for Mecca in the ceiling. Out for a meal—but just could not find a restaurant- had soup in one place and a plate of Donor Kebab in another.Did’nt entirely feel comfortable here for some reason. We were really tired and in bed at 8.30 pm ! –.Woke in the early hours of the morning with the 3 ‘h’s –hot, headache and hungry!
At 1 Oct and on to Elizag – met up with 2 other travellers on a GS at breakfast and talking to them was a real boost – for them as well as us, I think .They had been to Georgia and Armenia an were on their way back to Greece.
Again up into the mountains with a temperature drop to 3 degrees ---- and no road for miles – we were riding on rubble and mud - with 1 in 6 hairpin bends. --lovely. Very cold, bleak, austere and barren. Sow covered mountain tops in front of you. Horse riders, cows in the road, dust kicked up by lorries and cars. At each petrol stop we were given free tea and every stop we are immediately surrounded by men – wanting to know the cost of the bike and how old we are! Military posts abound and in every town it seems, there is a garrison. Later we were stopped a military checkpoint and a couple of times by the police and waved through.
Then the road got even worse with red thick slimy mud ---- we didn’t think that it get worse! ---- Got to the stage of thinking whether we would ever get to our destination! We are travel weary --- a measure of how weary – for 3 days I have been putting Athlete’s Foot cream onto my mosquito bites ----- well they were both in a yellow tube! Colin washed the bike 3 times with the high pressure hose that is supplied at each petrol station.
Sun 2 Oct and on to Kahta- total miles: 4459. 19 degrees on leaving and back on to rubble again for miles interspersed with thick mud (very still on the back!) – Although the sun was shining—we had had 2 good meals and felt better in ourselves!
Diyarbakir has altered beyond recognition – last time we were here you drove straight into the old black basalt walled city ----- now it is a sprawling city with new buildings going up everywhere. We got lost as there were no signposts and a great guy in a car said ‘follow me’ and he took us onto the correct road – people are so helpful.
The traffic lights all have a second countdown from 25 seconds ---- at 3 seconds the cars start to edge forwards and on 1 second someone always beeps behind you!
Across an enormous boulder plain with areas that are fertile ( low mountains in the background ) – it must have been a feat of man to get these fertile areas made – all hewn out by hand. A good road now and 22 degrees- we are edging closer to the Syrian border. People riding horses or donkeys and mules with panniers laden.
We had to cross a lake on a ferry --- arrived to see the 1.30pm ferry leaving and we were in for a 2 hour wait.---- No, in about an hour the ferry returned and the bike was put to one side --- cars, vans and a petrol tanker were allowed to reverse on first. The ferry was a tank landing craft – the last to board was a cow who had to be pushed on board and had her tail pulled. She did not want to get on at all ---- the boat was full and then Colin was motioned to get on. They wanted him to park diagonally across in front of the vehicles – but not enough room for him to turn. He ended up with his front wheel and feet on the boat – (a gap of a foot between the boat and the landing board) and his back wheel on the landing board. He was worried that his back wheel would get stuck in the gap area. You could see the lake in the gap below his feet. I was busy taking photos and we were at least 100 yards out before I realised that we were going == and was also on the landing board!
The cow accepted the situation and busily tried to eat my helmet – her head was about 1 foot away from the bike – we had visions of what would happen if she reared up – best not to think of that!
On arrival the other side the bike was pushed back over the lip of the boat / landing board and several vehicles allowed off first so that Colin had room to drive forwards and turn around. At that point the tanker driver started to reverse (!) and amongst many shouts of ‘whoa’ – the loudest being from me- he stopped just in time. Colin drove off at a great rate of knots and threw both arms in the air and shouted ‘yes’ when he reached dry land !!! - And had a coke in the shade as a celebration. Off in to Kahta which I will cover in the next blog. Temperature now 26 degrees.
The blog wont accept any more photos on ths site -- will post seperately -----
note the cow in the awning!
Here's the photos of Nemrut Dagi -- a height of 7100 feet and we had to climb the last 150 metres - nearly killed us !
Sorry about the 3 entries so quickly -- but we have a faily good IT connection here --- we are at Gaziantep - 60 k from the Syrian border. Onwards tomorrow (Thurs 6 oct ). Cheers, Dee and Colin
This is the teapot and kettle !
That's all folks till next time ------
Here we are again folks --- last time we had climbed Nemrut Dagi and I felt that we needed a T shirt saying we had done so! – The guy in the hotel offered to write it on a white T shirt, if I had one!
We were (and are) feeling very lonely – only spoken briefly to some Germans and Americans at breakfast one morning. At the hotel in Kahta there were 2 coach loads of English – great, we thought – some conversation at last. ----- Not on your Nelly: they cut us dead - it was as if we didn’t exist. So snooty it wasn’t true. As you can see they really climbed up my nose! Any contact from you is greatly appreciated !
We left Kahta on Tues 4 Oct and had a good run though to Gaziantep on a ‘B’ road that had been suggested by the driver at the hotel. What a star, he said that it would be a good road surface and, for once Colin was able to get out of third and fourth gear. It also cut out 60k from the trip. We were stopped by a Military checkpoint with a Sarasen Armoured Personnel Carrier---- all the guys were armed – but we were waved through after stopping.
Gaziantep is a large city and once again we got a taxi to follow to get to the hotel. Had a day off there and on Thurs 6 Oct onwards to Kizkalesi with the temperature rising again to 30 degrees. This was a good day’s travel on auto route with good road surface. This is a very fertile area and we passed fields and fields of cotton, bananas and pomegranates. The first view of the Mediteranan sea was invigorating, to say the least! Kizkalesi is famous for its 2 castles – one on the shore and t’other in the middle of the sea. It’s dark by 6.15 pm.
We now on the tourist strip and Colin is hoping that finding hotels is going to be easier from now on!
Fri 7 Oct and onwards to Alanya – on the south east Turkish coastline and very much a tourist area for Turks and Germans. This was again an horrendous drive through roads that were unmade, rubble and potholes. The coast road winds from being 20 feet from the sea, then up into the mountains where, more often than not, you are riding off road. No hotels or petrol stations and hard going. Colin had had enough--- we are tired and then we saw the weather forecast for the next few days ---- heavy rain and wind! ---- We are booked into the hotel here till Wed 11th and will see if the weather has improved by then. It’s an opportunity for Colin to rest as well.
We have reached the stage in the trip when it’s time to go home although we are in line with Cyprus here and St Petersburg or Sevastopol in the Crimea. So it won’t be a quick return. Colin reckons 6 more days in Turkey and then we hope to island hop from Cesme in Turkey to Chios which is a Greek Isle. Ferry from Chios to Athens. Ride across Greece to Patras and catch another ferry to Italy (either Bari or Brindisi) ------- then we are staying on the auto route to home!!!!! More to come ---
Total miles : 5012
Hiya folks, yet again ---- well it’s all been changed – but you will have to wait and see why!!
Last blog was from Alanya where we stayed for 5 days in the end. – Weather forecast was for thunder and lightning ---- and we got them from the safety of the hotel! We did manage a few touristy things including a boat trip where 2 young lads leapt into the sea and climbed up rocks (with a rope to help them), they then sped through the tunnels in the mountain to be collected the other side ---- and jumped from this cave into the sea and swam to the boat----
And went up to the castle to see the 10 kms of walled city
We left on Wed 12 Oct more refreshed than when we arrived but virtually straight into torrential rain in the mountains and we had to shelter in a garage for 1 ½ hours! Whilst we were there a disabled guy on a Mondial 150 with sidecar pulled in with his underarm crutches over the tarpaulin of the sidecar. He had done all the mods himself and made a hand operated rear brake which he pulled on. Makes you realise that you don’t have any problems at all really.
Typically the temperature in the afternoon was 22 degrees and for a change, was a good roads surface. A lovely coast road with inlets and sandy beaches. Bananas are growing in plenty and the hands are covered in polythene.
In Turkey the petrol tank is always filled for you and 20 feet away from the pumps people are openly smoking – often walking over to the pump with a lighted cigarette in one hand a cup of tea in the other! Invariably I get off the bike and some bloke will point to the loo!!
Tea is served in a small glass cups and in the towns young lads will go up and down the street with a metal holder which has about 6 insertions for the glasses. There’s a chain from the tray which he hooks over his finger and the tea is delivered unsplit!
Got into Kas which is a pretty seaside town and we actually saw English papers for sale but we didn’t see any English people. This is a fertile area of tomatoes which are planted under plastic on the edge of the beach.
How to suport your country = on the back of many lorries
Thursday 13 and we were off to Selcuk (Ephesus) – 260 miles – total miles: 5492. A bright clear day and kittens were playing around the bike as Colin packed up.
Still lovely road which meandered along a stunning and unspoilt coast line dotted with islands. We were pushing to get on and have delayed the ‘bum break’ stops as much as possible! At one stop there was a bride and groom having a meal in the restaurant—I went in and asked if she would give a twirl!
Garden ornaments for sale.
Omo for sale !
Found a hotel called ‘Jimmy’s Place’ at Selcuk and this is an absolute gem for travellers of all types. They are so helpful with any queries and definitely a place to be recommended. We had intended to visit Ephesus – but we are so tired we are going to give it a miss and get on. We really feel that we need to get home and plan to island hop. Cesme, Turkey to Chios which is 1 ½ hour trip. Then catch a Greek ferry to Athens, drive across Greece to Patros and get a ferry to Ankona in Italy. This will keep us in the sun, hopefully! It’s a tight schedule as there is only 2 hours between the arrival and departure.
At that point we asked the travel guy in the hotel to check on the ferries for us – we weren’t going to book it over the internet as we have had one card stopped already. We had booked a hotel on the card over the internet and it was that night that the fraud squad phoned and asked if we had made an airline booking for £1100!! - No, was the reply! ---- Nice to know that these things are picked up – but it makes you very wary.
Anyway – there we were trying to get the ferries and the guy said ‘no, Greece is closed’. So we looked closer into it and the upshot was that Customs and the border crossings were closed for 10 days (only open for perishable goods and entry / exit for humanitarian reasons only; Banks were closed and as ATM’s ran out of money they wouldn’t be restocked; ferries weren’t working --- and so it goes on. ------ We were dumbstruck, as you can imagine. -----Back to the drawing board for a different route back home ---- after pouring over the maps plan Z was formed------ up through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany and France. Not the way we would have elected to go at this time of year but we are strapped.
Initially I was very ‘ down’ – well, I think we both were really – we had got into the frame of mind for 2 days relaxing on the boats and Colin not having to drive those miles --- but, there’s nothing we can do about , so had better get on with it !
Friday 14 Oct and on to Eceabat- 261 miles. Total miles: 5753. Yesterday and today at breakfast we had our first conversations at length with other people --- Australians who were touring—it as great to talk in your own language freely.
Up into the mountains and it started to rain and get cold--- we made good time but it was a miserable drive. At one petrol stop we had a first ---- the windscreen and headlight were washed by the bloke. ----- I was so gobsmacked that I even failed to get the camera out!
Next coffee stop there were loads of flies about – I was sitting at a table with a red cloth and 2 flies were busy copulating! I was determined to take a photo of this and happily sat there clicking away. Colin came up and said’ what on earth are you doing? ----- My God, I definitely think it’s time for me to get you home’. This is boredom at its height! We went in to peals of laughter with tears streaming down my face --- what the physiologists would think of that episode, I dread to think!
We followed a mile long military convoy at one stage ----? Off to the Greek border.
We got to Cannukale and the ferry across the Dardanelles to Europe. We were cold, wet and miserable as can be seen in the photos – but slightly better than the last ferry crossing we did! - No odd cows about at all. That evening it was blowing an absolute hooligan (could hardly stand up against it) ---- hope that it’s better tomorrow!
It’s been 2 hard days of travel but we have done a lot of miles and are that much nearer home.
Sat 15 Oct and on to Erdine ----- still blowing hard but thought we must get on and perhaps the wind was coastal and would improve when we got into the mountains .If we keep stopping for the weather we’ll never get anywhere .It did get better in the mountains but it also got cold – 9 degrees. We managed to get Colin an extra sweater in Erdine.
He looked up the weather for Bulgaria tomorrow and snow is forecast --- great! – We are really fed up with everything, really – the emails keep us going and the thought that there are 2 pussycats waiting for us at home!--- I really don’t know how lone travellers get on – If I’m having a ‘down’ day Colin will perk me up and t’other way round. It must be very difficult by yourself. The conversation goes from route home, weather, how long it’ll take and the cost! – It’s been far more expensive than we had thought.
So--- all for this time ---tune in again for the next thrilling instalment of an absolutely horrendous drive home ----- more to come.
Colin reckons I look like a StarTrek Trooper !
In the hillside on the Europe side
What else do you expect to see on a zebra crossing---- well a pony and cart of course.
Did'nt quite them 'at it'! -- More to come
Hiya folks – here we are again for the final instalment of the 7 week journey .Last blog we were at Erdine, Turkey and had been forced to change the route home due to the Greek situation. ---- Well, we knew that it wasn’t the ideal way to get home at this time of year ---- Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, Germany, France and home. ---- But we had to go for it – little realising just how hard it would be. Here’s a synopsis of the trip -----
Driving into a hotel courtyard
And the parade they put on for us -- in the howling wind
Sun 16 Oct and we left Erdine, Turkey for Sofia in Bulgaria ( 210 miles)in 9 degrees and the forecast of snow – plus just having only bread and jam for breakfast – not good. We were 13 K from the border and got through quickly – nothing was said about the speeding fine – so we didn’t say anything either.
I, very carefully, got rid of all the coin liras before crossing to Bulgaria and went to the exchange to get some Bulgarian Lev -- didn’t check it till the first stop where we had coffee and she had given me 5 Euro of coins in Turkish lira ! ---- Needless to say I wasn’t too happy about that – luckily we just about had enough Euros to pay for the coffee! (After digging deep into my handbag) ----- Anyone going to Turkey and want some change?
Up into the mountains and it went down to 2 degrees but stayed dry, thank goodness. Of course – on all the temperatures I state you have to add on the’ wind chill’ factor.
We managed to get to Sofia at 2.30 pm – and by then Colin, especially, was very cold – I wasn’t as bad as I have heated jacket and gloves but still felt cold. Not wanting to move your head or else you get a draft down your neck- no photos taken, of course and barely seeing the scenery. My eyes seem to be glued to the tarmac and every mile is one nearer home.
Colin passed 2 airports and I was willing him to pull in and freight the bike back home – or contact James Cargo for a lift! Not a good day. We are very ‘down’- I wrote in the journal –‘ I could have cried today, cold, fed up and want to be home NOW ‘. Colin maintained that there was a certain beauty to seeing snow topped mountains shrouded in thick fog - hmm, I think not!
The motel was lovely and warm; the girl spoke good English and said that this was unusually cold for this time of year ---- a sign of what was to come for the next 9 days.
Bitterly cold at 6.30 pm and Colin went into the weather for Switzerland – and its warmer there than here! Apparently the weather is meant to be getting better – but do we trust the forecast? — I think not! It started to snow at 7 pm—so what is tomorrow going to bring?
Mon 17 Oct and on to Markovac in Serbia - 210 miles. 2 degrees on leaving and up in the mountains went down to minus 7 ---- and I barely felt the heated jacket. We were not impressed at all but thanked our lucky stars that it wasn’t snowing. We were 70 K from the border and passed through quickly. When the young lad checked the passport- he looked at Colin and said: ‘you are an old man to be doing this’ ---- didn’t do Colin’s moral a whole lot of good!
We gained an hour here. It started to warm up a bit and when it got to 9 degrees we cheered. – Colin was extremely cold and has ended up wearing one of my thick jumpers for warmth – that’s made it a bit better but still not good. We stopped at Nis for a warm meal break and he got off the bike and was literally shaking and his fingers were blue – and that was with the heated grips on.
This situation is not good at all – but we have to keep going to avoid the snow that is forecast for each day. Yesterday, after we left Sofia they had 1 foot of snow in a very short space of time. We did more miles today than Colin had reckoned and we hope to be in Croatia tomorrow.
This is not a trip to be experienced again and one that we’re not likely to forget --- let’s just hope that we get a few days of sun. The motel tonight is barely warm and no heat at all in the bathroom ---- no shower tonight – we’ll stink instead!
Tues 18 Oct and on to Zagreb in Croatia (326 miles) left in minus 2 degrees and when Colin had to top up the oil ---- it wouldn’t pour out. He had to cut the top off and it eventually came out ‘glug’ glug’. The engine was very slow to start but did after a few goes. Fog everywhere as well, so that didn’t help!
The border crossing to Croatia was a 20 minute wait in the cold due to a long queue. Later it warmed up nicely 8 – 11 degrees. 4 lots of petrol today - it was a long day but ever onwards and upwards. 3 countries in 3 days. I’ve now got to the stage of really having to think what country I am in! But we are all out to get home and beat this weather system that threatens snow each night.
Had an argument with one of the guys at the toll – we had one 10 euro note left but it was ripped and he didn’t want to take it ---- Colin did the classic shrug of his shoulders and said ‘ it’s either that or nothing’ --- he took it !
The best thing about today was finding a Chinese restaurant for dinner – first good meal for ages. A good days run and I feel better in myself today – mentally as well as physically.
Wed 19 Oct 2011 and on to Salzburg in Austria - 278 miles. Left at 9 am and no frost today – so that’s a good sign after yesterday. Onto the motorway and through to Slovenia which we were transiting. We thought motorbikes were exempt from the vignette --- do not assume – we got a fine of 150 Euro that had to be paid there and then.
Flashed passports at the Slovenian border and we were through to Austria—another country done! Weather was better today – 10 degrees. We got held up for 1 hour due to tunnel repairs so had a quick picnic from the top box. All motorways today and the tarmac just flashes before your eyes.
Thurs 20 Oct and on to Ulm in Germany – 198 miles. Cold again at 3 degrees, raining, heavy mist and cloud covering the snow capped mountains – great. Big discussion whether we should leave or not --- decision’ yes, go for it’. Europe is expensive – 3.60 Euro for a cappuccino and 70 cents to use the loo at the motorway services. Autumn colours starting to appear.
The days are a complete haze now, the tarmac is the same but every mile is 1 nearer home. We have got to the stage of: ‘its Tuesday- must be Serbia, its Thursday, must be Germany’! Still, each day, snow is forecast for the next day – let’s hope that we can out- run it still. We are tired and counting the days to home now.
Fri 21 Oct and on to Metz in France– 236 miles. Left in freezing fog and temperature dropped to minus 5 with visibility of 50 yards – miserable drive till noon. Colin had icing problem with his visor and we were pleased to see the hotel at 3pm.
Sat 22 Oct and on to St Omer in France (293 miles) – and then a hop under the channel and we’ll be home!
A long day in fog – just travelling now to cover the miles. Arrived at 4 pm and at 5 pm we were in the bar and who should walk in but friends of ours, Harold and Sue on their 850 roadster. What a fantastic surprise- we had no idea of what they had planned. Harold said:’ we’ve come to take you home’ and it was music to our ears.
It was such a great boost to our morale and next day we did indeed follow his tail light all the way home to Calne. Got stung for the tunnel fare (half term and just turned up) –‘that’ll be 114 euro, Sir’. Positively balmy when we got to England – 18 degrees in the afternoon – bliss and our watches back one hour.
The 2 cats were present and correct when we got back --- they have no idea how much they spurred us on! – Sad isn’t it?
Total miles; 7845
So, what with borders closed in Kosovo and Turkey, strikes in Greece, an earthquake in Turkey (50 K from where we were) and early snow, I don’t think that any country will allow us back!
Don’t think there will be any more long adventurous trips for us---- Europe and Gibraltar, perhaps Canada, yes. – But the next big trip will be like a snail ---- in a camper van with our home on our back in the warmth and comfort of Australia. Colin has had enough of worrying over hotels that, this time, seemed to be harder to find in certain countries.
Colin has had 11 days of driving and covered 2833 miles without a break – he was very tired when we got home but is getting better now. All thanks to him for a safe drive under extreme circumstances – it was him that got us home safely.
The bike was faultless and is need of a big service and deep clean! The back tyre that Colin thought he would have to change in Europe actually saw us home and all credit to Dunlop – the tyres have been brilliant under very difficult terrains.
( PS. He started the service on the bike yesterday – after a power wash and there was a wasp’s nest starting under the instrument panel!)
So there you have it folks – warts and all. Thanks so much for all your support and concern --- safe and happy driving to all and ------ keep those tyres on the tarmac.
Cheers for now, Colin and Dee
The motel in Bulgaria where it was minus 2 next morning
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