September 02, 2004 GMT

Heading east along Spains northern coast we began to encounter the August hordes of marauding European tourists and every point of interest was incredibly crowded, so we kept a steady pase to the Picos De Europa- a small mountain range west of the Pyrenees mountain range. The roads were narrow and windey in the Picos and were surprisingly void of crowds. We love pointing out to each other all the roman built roads, bridges and buildings.

The Pyranees mountains seemed to attract more people as the roads are wider and we began to see many big touring bikes loaded with panniers and pillion.

Next stop was Toulouse, France where we got a custom made seat for our tired bums. From there we visited Nick and Lorna, HU Community members in the winery country in Southern France. Next day we were treated to an escorted tour with their new Triumph Tiger towards Gorges Du Tarn. This is France's Grand Canyon and most of France was there!! Traffic line ups were over 10km long, moving at a snails pace, so we passed them all as only a motorcycle can!!Travelling along the white line with oncoming traffic simply moving over to make room for us!! This manouvre is very acceptable in Europe. Passing like this in Australia or North America might receive much flashing of lights and honking of horns from oncoming traffic.

The search for accomodation began at 3pm and after about 40 enquiries we finally found a vacancy at 8pm and surprisingly it was only 22, but in an older hotel. We loved the winding roads of the French Alps and found the ancient town of Annecy, next to a large mountain lake. It is within an easy ride to Mont Blanc, which is France's highest mountain with glaciers flowing down all sides. The ski resorts looked numerous and fabulous from the back of our motorcycle.

The next 2 nights in Italy were equally difficult to find accommodation, but we utilised local people that we bumped into to reccommend little hidden away hotels with great results. The Italians were very helpful, either making phone calls for us or escorting us directly to our hotel!!! Cant complain about that!

All accommodation was charging peak season rates and we were told that even fuel prices go up in August! France was 1.15/litre, Italy jumped up to 1.24/litre. All this pushed us on towards Slovenia as quickly as we could go as the has not hit there yet and was supposedly a lot cheaper.

Still in Italy, we lingered in Verona to see the houses of 'Romeo and Juliette', it truly was the most beautiful European city we had seen with very old stylish architecture as well as a 3 level Roman theatre. There was a 20km traffic line up into town moving so slow that the passengers were walking faster than the traffic. We think the Italians would look forward to the end of Aug when they could reduce their stress levels at work!! We werent surprised at all to find the town 'complete'
or full, so we pressed on towards Slovenia.

Arriving late to Slovenias Triglavski National Park we stayed in Bovec paying 30 for a fully serviced apartment owned by the nicest Slovenian family. Belinda opted for a glorious sunset paraglide off a nearby mountain in the Alps and came down to the grassy landing point with shaky knees, but totally exhuberant.

All the next day we spent circumnavigating the entire National Park taking any small exploratory roads that we could find. Where the scenery was beautiful and the roads wide and windey we would see litterally hundreds of big touring bikes, but once off these main roads we didnt see any, even though the small roads were in great condition. This has got to be one of the best bike rides in the world!!

All bikies would give a friendly wave with hand or leg as we passed, but would seldom go out of their way when stopped to make convesation. Once approached they opened up a bit. We never really knew what language they would respond with and most conversations were brief unless they could speak English or Spanish.

On to Croatia to visit Darko Gregurek, the HU member in Zagreb and to find a new rear tyre. We ordered one to be sent to the island of Krk where we were to meet up with Nicola Mrakovcic, the HU member there. Darko was kind enough to escort us through the rolling countryside with lunch at a Croatian ski resrt, with no snow!! Darko handed us over to Nicola at the bridge leading to the island of Krk. After being hosted by Nicolas gratious family for 2 days we ferried it to the island of Cres for 2 more days of exploring the fishing and resort towns.

We just had to stay in 'The worlds smallest town'- Hum with a post office having the smallest number of post boxes. It was an ancient walled town and took 5 minutes to explore and it only had one room available for tourists. The only restaurant had the best sauerkraut and great views.

Both Croatian border crossings were informal with no customs or immigration offices and only a policeman to casually examine our passports. There was no interest given to the motorcycle crossing the border.

Back in Slovenia, not far west was the picturesque coastal towns of Portoroz and Piran to chill out in the sun and the sand and wait for the August crowds to disperse.

On our way back to Italy we stopped in to see the famous cave with a train ride through and the castle in the cave- amazing. We then drove to the capital of Slovenia to have dinner with Benka- what a woman, check out her website... The website is fantastic and gives an insight into this amazing womans 5.5 year motorcycle journey throughout the world. We had many laughs and shared many stories, as you can imagine!

We really feel like we are on a magic carpet ride and are thoroughly enjoying every minute of every day and wouldnt want to be doing anything else. The scenery changes so much every day from the mountains to the beaches, the food changes in every country. The people and their customs are always different, all so neatly packaged into a small area. For an Australian and Canadian its amazing how small some of these European countries really are.

Stay tuned for our Italian adventures during the month of September.

Posted by Patrick Peck at September 02, 2004 03:31 PM GMT
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