March 09, 2011 GMT
Year 2_Week 1

Well as promised, we’re off again. We arrived back in Sheffield just in time for Christmas, and just after the minus 15 temperatures Britain had been having. Needless to say when we arrived back all the pipes in the garage had burst, so the first two days were spent replacing those, so we had no heating and no water. Just as well we’re used to roughing it!

Once Christmas was over we made some fleeting visits to family and friends, and then started planning the next part of the trip. Africa was far too complicated to organize visas so far in advance, so we decided to do it separately from the “around the world” leg. So now came the challenging part – trying to miss out all of the dangerous parts, checking which countries had roads, which needed visas and whether they started from the day of issue, finding a route through places and getting to and from the continent without too much hassle.

We soon realized it wasn’t going to be easy – and was made worse once Tunisia threw out its government, the Egyptian people routed Mubarek, and then Libya tried to get rid of Gaddafi. We made a list of visas that needed to be bought in London, then a list of visas that could be obtained on the border, and then the remaining ones had to be bought in a previous country nearer the time.

On 14th February 2011 we went down to London for a few days to see what we could organize quickly. Sod’s Law came into play when we realized that it was the prophet Mohammed’s birthday on the 15th, and all of the embassies of Muslim countries were closed in celebration! So our preparation wasn’t quite as good as we thought. We eventually came back with visas for Egypt, Ethiopia and Syria.

It’s February 28th and we’re on our way to Dover to catch the ferry to Calais. It was all a bit last minute as we came to the conclusion that most of our visas would be collected “on the fly”, either on the border or in a previous country. Many Middle Eastern and African countries are unwilling to give you a long visa, preferring 15-30 days and starting from the date of issue which is no good to us. So we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that no-one refuses us entry, otherwise we could potentially be stuck in no-man’s land somewhere.

We stayed in a hostel in Dover overnight, and caught the ferry to Calais the next morning. Stayed in Strasbourg (France) one night then across Germany past Stuttgart and Munich and on to Salzburg (Austria) for one night at a beautiful guesthouse. It was very cold, only 1-4 degrees, and very blustery. Through the mountains to Slovenia and then onto Zagreb in Croatia. On again to Belgrade (Serbia) and had a bit of time to look around the fortress in the city which was very impressive.


Impressive fortress in Belgrade.

The journey out of Serbia and into Macedonia was horrendous – freezing fog all the way and so the landscape was completely hidden from us, and the temperature was struggling around 1 degree. We had to pay 50 euros for a Green Card for Macedonia even though we were only there 1 day. The road to Greece was also foggy but at least the temperature crept up to 3 degrees when it rained. The cost of tolls and vignettes so far across Europe has come to around 100 euros each.

In Greece we stayed near the Municipal Campground that we stayed in last year at this time – they still haven’t finished the building work they were halfway through last April! We set off for the Turkish border in driving wet snow, and still foggy weather. We bought our visa at the border for 15 euros, and had to buy a Green Card for 23 euros. The snow never let up all the way to Istanbul, and again it was really windy and we were struggling to keep the bikes on line. The next day was just as bad – heavy rain at first and then wet snow again, with snow piled up at the roadside. The last week has been incredibly difficult – challenging I think is the phrase of choice. Robert also had an ‘off’, when the chain jumped off his bike doing about 50mph, and locked up the back wheel. No real damage fortunately. His Yamaha chain seems to be stretching quite badly again – he went through three on our first trip, whereas my BMW only used one.

We got through to Bursa and looking at the weather forecast decided to stay 2 days, to give us chance to warm up – we’ve both been chilled to the bone all week ; and to try and find a new chain, if we can. We got some amazing help from a local bloke called Erhan, and it’s kindness like his that renews your faith in human nature.


Bursa, Bike, Blizzard, Buggered.

Our trip through Europe has just been a means to an end – we’ve run through it quickly, doing motorway miles to get to the Asia/Middle East area, and have had to cope with typical winter weather along the way as well as some very atypical weather. But that’s the penalty for trying to miss the rains in Africa later on in the trip. No pain, no gain.

Posted by Sheila Oldfield at March 09, 2011 08:43 AM GMT

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