August 02, 2009 GMT
Turkey/NotThe Black Sea

Hı team İt has been a few days since İ made an entry on the blog but İ have done some hard riding getting a few Km,s under my belt. İ ended up going in the complete opposite direction İ had initially planned to go. Fröm Doguhayazt İ headed down to Lake Van (323km) A very scenic ride especıally once İ got to the lake side, Thıs lake is huge and the water a very pretty lıght blue, great riding as the road followed the shoreline for over 200km, deserts? what deserts. İ stayed the night on the far western edge at Tatvan. The next day İ planned to leave early but mısplaced my keys and İ spent over an hour searching for them. İ do have a spare set hıdden on the bike but still didn,t want to abandon them, turns out İ had locked them in one of the panniers (padlocked) First time this has happened. Anyway dıd another long day in the saddle (570km) to Gazıantep a very nice progressive city (saıd to be like Barcelona). Thıs was a long hard ride as their was a lot of road works and dıd a lot of miles on gravel which the bike handled quite easily, just got in the rıght gear and used the power to keep her on a straight line. İ have to say İ really enjoyed it as it was the first long distance on gravel İ,ve done, the only problem was the dust and İ was losing about 30km every hour. Thıs part of the country ıs home of the Kurds and in the wınter is snowbound hence repairıng all the roads in the summer. Slept easily in Gaziantep then today İ rode another 517km to Göreme ın Cappadocia (do try and google it) Thıs small town is the reason for the bıg push west, İ have been searching for a place to rest up for a few days and this is it. Göreme, what an amazıng magical place. İt really is a shame İ can,t download pıctures for you. (to repeat myself: İ am usıng a small HD digital camcorder which also takes still pictures but trying to seperate the vıdeo from the stills takes a huge amount of time and İ got better things to do in the evenings, like sleeping!) Anyway Göreme ıs a small village (town) pop.2100 and ıs surrounded by thıs volcanıc lunar type landscape wıth towerıng faırytype chımneys and honeycomb clıffs. A lot of the hotels here have cave rooms dug out of the clıffs, (not mine, İ,ve gone slighty more modern, and got a great deal, my bargaining skills have come good) İt is hard to describe but it is a stunning place and İ intend to chill out here for a few days.
Clıck 'more'

Now for a few ramblings, some of the thıngs İ thınk about while riding.
Petrol!! bloody hell ıts expensıve İ,ve spent over 300 dollars NZ already ıt works out like 3.50 NZ per litre. After all the tıme ın muslim countrıes and no drınking my fırst beer ın Turkey was a bit of a disapointment didn,t really enjoy it at all, not a very nice taste and not game to get into the Raki just yet or the wine for that matter.
Road condıtıons (surface) İran so far takes first prize for excellent tarmac. As expected India gets the wooden spoon, mınd you some of the new roads they are buildıng are 1st class and they are investing a lot. But İ will never forget the bike breaking potholed roads İ encountered nor will my body for that matter.
İ forgot to mentıon that while travelling through Iran there was a cresent moon for the most part seemed very fitting at the time.
Most useful things İ brought wıth me or thıngs İ couldn,t do wıthout: 1) ipod 2) palm throttle device which lets me rest throttle hand sort of cruise control 3) ear plugs, allows me sleep through early morning call to prayer.
Most useless things İ brought with me or was going to bring: 1) GPS in the end didn,t buy 2) cool/wet weather riding gear doh! (did bring) 3) camel bak (water backpack) dıdn,t buy would have been too heavy and uncomfortable to wear use bottled water.
Wıshed I had brought : 1) the wıfe 2) more money 3) A 1000 decıbel horn, actually İ asked the bıke shop to fıt an extra 2 horns but they didn,t. bastards.
Kia Kaha

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:56 PM GMT
August 06, 2009 GMT
Turkey / Antalya

Spent 3 wonderful day's in middle earth (goreme) and was then wanting to get back on the road.
Yesterday I had the most glorious ride (617km) from Goreme to Antalya, beautiful plains and to finish a fantastic mountain crossing down to the south coast. The mountain section especially was great as there were a lot of sweeping corners (twisties) to throw the bike into. About time I wore out some of that rubber on the edges of my tires as they are getting "squared" off by all the long straight roads in Iran. I was thinking as I was riding (wow multi-tasking) that back home I would look forward for days to a 300km ride on the Triumph and here I have been doing it every day (almost) for the weeks. Apart from the few hassles it has been heaven. I have had to put in the big Km's here as the country is so large, but when you have such wonderful scenery it's no chore. I really noticed the rise in temp. as I came off the mountain section, back up into the mid 30'sC. My objective now is to go along the coast (300km) then bypass Izmir and try to make Istanbul on Sunday,(today's Thursday)early morning to try a beat the normal chaos of that city. I really hate going into big cities on the bike as I am trying to navigate a new city and trying to keep myself safe from the other traffic at the same time.
A quick word on Antalya, I'm staying in the old city, very nice but rip off hotel prices and expensive food. Saying that it is beautiful but more of a package deal type of place. Only staying one night.
I have met another biker here at last!! (wow only took over 11,000km) He is from Portugal and we are going to ride together today and maybe part of tomorrow as he is going to Cesme to catch the ferry to Athens.
I think I talked him to death last night as I've had very little contact with Europeans since this trip started (there are a lot more tourists now I'm in the south again). Saying that he hasn't appeared so far this morning so maybe he's hoping I leave without him..... surely not!

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 07:54 AM GMT
August 07, 2009 GMT
Turkey /Olympos/Kas

As I saıd previously İ only stayed one nıght ın Antalya but Luıs (the bıker I met from Portugal) and I decıded to take a easy rıde up the coast to Olympos only an hour away. It was great rıdıng wıth someone else after all thıs tıme but I soon realısed why I was adamant from the begınıng that I was goıng to do thıs trıp alone. After a late nıght prevıous we had arranged to meet at breakfast and leave at a perfectly cıvıl tıme of around 10.30am. This is quite unusual for me as I try to set off early around 6 or 7am especially if I intend to ride a long distance. I woke as normal around 5am so I went for a walk along the sea front and watched the sunrise. At 8am I had breakfast and at around 10.am Luis surfaced for his breakfast as well. Well at 1pm we were still there at the hotel while he dithered around, having a shower, sending an email & packing. He's just that sort of guy!
Surprising though was that fact that I was more amused rather than agitated by his lack of urgentcy. Anyway we did have a great ride so much so that we missed the turnoff for Olympos and we had gone an extra 20km before we realised (Luis was guiding using his GPS unit) so we had to back track.
Olympos was quite surprising, a lot more people than I thought there would be. after lunch we headed to the beach (pebble) for a swim (my first in ages) and stayed until almost sunset. We then got or accommodation which was unusual as all the rooms were log cabin or tree houses. The place was crammed full with packpackers and I knew that my ear plugs would come in handy that night!
The next morning (mid-morning) we headed to Kas where we spent today. A very beautiful laid back coastal town. Again we missed a couple of turns (GPS) on the way, but after arriving we sorted out our hotel, had some lunch, and then went for another swim. I guess it sounds like I am having a real lazy holiday but really these sort of days are very rare, and it all changes tomorrow as I have to make some big km's towards Istanbul. We shall have a farewell dinner tonight before going our seperate ways as Luis goes to Cesme to catch a ferry to Greece. He has invited me to ride with him to Portugal but I will be taking a different route.
A quick note: I stated in a previous blog entry that one of the things I'm glad I didn't bring was a GPS, unless you have excellent maps (like from "smellybiker.com") they can be next to useless. I do better with my map and compass!. aye captain!
Big day tomorrow, another long day behind the bars
Kia Kaha

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:27 PM GMT
August 10, 2009 GMT
Turkey / Foca

I had a late night farewell diner with Luis as we were going or separate ways in the morning. We ended up having a few beers to many and as a result I left far too late to make the 7-800km ride to Istanbul. As a result I only did about 350km and headed for a little town on the coast Foca which is just north of Izmir.
A very picturesque fishing village which has turned itself over to tourism like most of their type in Turkey. A very scenic ride once off the main highway. It was quite relaxing walking along the shoreline after dinner taking in the cooler air.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 07:32 PM GMT
Turkey / Not Istanbul

When I was planning this trip I always had in mind that I would decide on my route through Europe once I got to Istanbul. Well I aren't going to Istanbul. I made this decision yesterday after considering a number of factors. I'm happy with the decision, however there is one problem. I was going to buy all my maps and guide book for Europe once in Istanbul.... I have managed to print off some pretty scratchy one half page maps from the internet but lack any real detail. I take back what I said about GPS!
I stayed 1 night in Foca and headed for Cannakkale. It was a tough ride only around 400km but I had very strong head winds, sometimes side on which was worse as it buffered me on to the wrong side of the road at times and I was riding at a constant angle leaning into the wind direction. Then the wind would get under the peak of my helmet and snap my head back. I arrived very tired and with sore arm and neck muscles.
Stayed one night then got the ferry to the Galipolli Peninsula the next morning.
I visited Anzac Cove and other memorials, where thousands of NZ and Aus died in a futile attempt to climb up the huge cliffs and defeat the Turks. It was very emotional being there also when Turks saw from my bike that I was a Kiwi and came up and shook my hand. I must say the turks have done a great job of preserving the whole area and they treat it with a lot of respect.
Anyway... I rode on and have now crossed the border into Greece. Easy crossing except I was releaved of 100 Euro for third party insurance (1 month) bloody hell!!!
At the moment it's just a matter off heading west (and stop when I hit the sea, (Greece- Italy) and hopefully I can source some good road maps. Route may depend on them. Proposed route at this stage is Greece, Albania,Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia ..... haven't thought past there.
Also not having a guide book makes life that much harder (people like to slag off LP but they are bloody useful after a long hard ride and you just open the book and choose a hotel and check it's location) If I do find one in a shop here it will probably be in Greek, my best bet is to find a traveller who is heading to Turkey and swap for mine.
Tomorrows another day and I will have too push on, hotels expensive, petrol cheaper than Turkey, thank god.
Anyone know anything about Albania?!!!

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 08:26 PM GMT
August 11, 2009 GMT
Greece / Thessaloniki

Hi just a short update:
Entered Greece and spent the night in Alexandpoulis (check spelling) which is 40km from the border.
Got up early again and left by 6am to Thessaloniki, I had intended to ride further but I had to stop and get my rear brake pads replaced. They were almost worn down to the metal. While I was at it I had the oil filter replaced and changed the oil. All these jobs should be the last till I finish. Also brought some more chain lube as I finished my can yesterday. Whole lot came to 120 Euro!! (XXXXXX) Was going to replace front brake pads at the same time but they should last out ok, I'll keep my eye on them.
As I write It has started pouring with rain bloody unusual sight, first on my trip apart from a quick but intense downpour in India. I think I will go and jump in the puddles!!
Still heading west

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 06:18 PM GMT
August 14, 2009 GMT
Turkey / Summary

Hi all, before I update blog I just want to give a summary on Turkey
Got to say I really enjoyed the country It was a journey of contrasts from the Kurdish south eastern corner, to Cappadoccia (the real middle earth, a great highlight of the trip) to the southern coast (great beaches) and to finish it with a memorable visit to Galipolli.
I know I keep going on about it but, the only negative was the price of fuel, probably my biggest expense.
The people are friendly and no touts to hassle you. On the whole the roads were great apart from the loads of gravel in the southeast, this was mainly due to the harsh winter there and they have to repair the roads in the summer.
The scenery was amazing in parts and plenty to keep me interested, gone are the long straight desert roads of Iran.
The accommodation was pretty good as well and pretty reasonable price wise.
The food was fantastic (true for the whole trip) but did have a few to many Kebabs!
Lots of vegetables and loads of cheese. Breakfast in hotels always consisted of boiled egg, cheese, tomato and cucumber and at least a half loaf of bread. I ate far to much bread.
So yes I really enjoyed Turkey, it was a lot easier travelling than all the previous countries. It always felt that I was on the home leg and with that the realization that my trip will soon be coming to an end.....not sure I like that
Would I visit Turkey again?
Yes and next time I would make it to Istanbul.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:26 PM GMT
Greece/Meteora/Vikos Gorge

While in Thessaloniki I managed to buy a book of maps for Europe (not a great scale) and the Lonely Planet (LP) for Mediterranean Europe (in English). LP doesn't cover all the countries I want eg Austria Switzerland Germany but does cover the Balkin countries Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia which I wanted. I may end up going through the top of Italy and France, both covered.
From Thessaloniki I rode to Meteora, an amazing place you all would have probably seen photo's of (or even seen in movies) it is where the magnificent late 14th century monasteries are perched atop enormous rocky pinnacles, it is one of Greece's most extraordinary sights (to quote LP). I agree it was absolutely stunning another highlight of my trip. I spent a few hours there before riding on to Monodendri a small village in the mountainous Zagoria region. It also just happens to be on my way to the Albanian border. The highlight here (actually there were two) is the Vikos Gorge with it's sheer limestone cliffs and it's (dry, being summer) river bed 1000 metres below another incredible sight.
The second highlight was the hotel I stayed in. Archontike Zarkada, with it's grey slate architecture was outstanding value (35Euro) for what I would class as 4 star so I decided to stay 2 nights. I had a lovely room with a balcony over looking the mountains, it was great, as was the food served in their restaurant. On the second day I got my walking boots out (first time) and went for a walk into the valley, very nice apart from the heat. I also meet a couple of nice Australians, it is possible... (brother & sister) and spent some time chatting with them in the evenings.
This came up in conversation.... It was observed that Turkish women tend to be a bit broad a beam (big bum to you) and the Greek women tend to be on the rather larger side in the breasts dept. Just to re-assure that it was not only the women we observed, we also commented on the fact that both Turkish and Greek men tend to be on the rather hairy side, actually quite an abundance of body hair it was noted.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 07:12 PM GMT
Albania

Well I didn't know anything about Albania before arriving here, and still don't know a lot except to say it's a bit like the wild west!.
I entered from Greece this morning after a few minor issues at the border(visa?, not required I said).
After getting cleared I headed off into the unknown, except I have known this before... India... shocking roads. One pot holed lane going through winding mountain passes is not fun especially when the locals consider that lane to belongs to them!
For the first 2 hours I only managed 75km so I knew I was in for a long hard day. Once through the mountains the road opened up to two lanes but with more potholes than before. I've said it before about my bike, it just keeps on taking the punishment. I'm always concerned about the suspension braking or a fork seal leaking when it takes this sort of beating, not to mention the old fellow riding.
I ended up covering 301km by the end of the day (65km to border) and are spending the night in a coastal town of Durres. I am not going to hang about in Albania, ex communist state so you can picture the bunker type architecture. I hope I can make it to the border and get into Montenegro tomorrow.
Finally the other thing in common Albania has in common with India is that every one stares at you, only their stare feels a lot more sinister. I'm not lingering.
Talk soon

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 07:34 PM GMT
August 17, 2009 GMT
Montenegro / Croatia

God it seems like ages ago since I was in Albania...
I had a interesting chat with a Albanian / Canadian guy on my last night in the country, I asked why if the country is so poor how come there are so many flash cars being driven around? The answer 2 reasons: organised crime and (related) most are stolen from other European countries. You see GB plated BMW's and Audi's everywhere the "owner" just can't take it out of Albania.
Seems ages ago since Albania
Rushed through Montenegro, 2 days, small country and quite nice. A lot more friendly and nice roads.
Have been in Croatia now for two days, and struggling. I feel quite fatigued (mentally) and just can't seem to put in the miles that I'm used to doing. I'm getting tired of the daily routine and even though I know I'm on the last leg of the trip I just don't feel motivated. Will give myself a good talking to tonight and back to normal tomorrow I'm sure.
First night in Croatia was in a small town just before Dubrovnik, nice and relaxed. Took the ferry to Dubrovnik old city (this was the problem, I was thinking on the ferry that this is the first time I was being transported and I wasn't doing anything, ie not riding, and it felt great, in fact I fell asleep. It dawned on me that for months I have been going through this routine everyday and here I was just sitting there not having to do a thing. Not very articulate I know maybe I'm starting to lose the plot.)
Anyway the old city is so beautiful, shame about all the expensive resturants and designer shops. The whole coastline is very scenic and can understand why croatia has become a big draw for tourism. I am staying tonight in a small fishing village about 50km from Split. Have to get my skates on tomorrow.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:34 PM GMT
August 18, 2009 GMT
Croatia / Zargreb

What was the last entry all about??
Sometimes I have tough days....
I got my A into G and rode over 450km to Zargreb the capital today, just what I needed.
What a great city, most tourists give the city a miss and head for the coast, which is probably why this place is so cool. Very pretty and only about 280,000 people.
Reminds me a bit like Wellington, size and feel, not the weather. Temps ever since I left Turkey have been in the 30's maybe a bit hotter on the coast.
I made an interesting entrance to the city, trams run along the side of the road and sometimes you have to follow them. Then I realised that there were no other cars around me and I was following the tram along tramlines into the centre of the city which is a no vehicle zone and ended up in the main square getting a lot of strange looks from the locals, bloody tourists!
A couple of observations: Croatian beer is probably the best I have tried, very nice. The Albainian, Montonegro, and Croatian national flags are probably the coolest around. Aren't Italians posers, Maybe it is just the tourists, there are thousands here. The woman dress like they are going to a ball in the middle of the day and the men are just as bad. They probably think Kiwi's are scruffy unshaven and lack good manners!
Tomorrow I head into Slovenia, another day another country. I have arranged to meet up with some people from Slovenia I met in Bam in Iran (god that seems like ages ago) they were travelling into Pakistan and India by 4x4 so it will be interesting to hear their experiences.
Later

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:16 PM GMT
August 22, 2009 GMT
Slovenia

Hi Team
I have had the most brillant time in Slovenia, I was very well looked after by Petra, you couldn't hope for a better host. We had lunch together and in the evening she had invited a few of her friends around for drinks. All were "overlanders" so we had a very enjoyable evening comparing stories of our experiences over a few glasses of wine. Petra asked how I was feeling riding all those km's and I told her I was fine but would like to find somewhere where I could get a massage. She happened to have a friend who does massage so she arranged for me to have one the next morning. My back has never fully recovered since Esfahan (Iran) so it was great to have an expert sort it out for me. I felt great afterwards.
After the massage I had arranged to meet with Igor, whom I had met the night before at Petra's, he also has a motorbike so he was to take me on a tour of northwest Slovenia. At this point I have to admit that I knew nothing about Slovenia, but first impressions were that it is very similar to NZ. Very green, lots of trees and farm land. This was quite a surprise since it was the first green country I had been in since I left home, (not the deserts of Iran or the rocky terrain of Turkey and Greece). The other thing is that Slovenia is motorcycling heaven, Igor took me up into the mountains, incredibly beautiful and great roads with loads of twisties. We left at 10 am and late afternoon we stopped at a river and went for a swim, then early evening we had a trout meal at a trout farm which was superb. We ended up arriving back at Petra's at 8.30pm after doing over 300km, great day but a bit of a busmans holiday.
I had the most fantastic 2 days in Slovenia thanks to Petra and Igor and would suggest to other bikers to check out Slovenia, you will love it.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:24 PM GMT
Italy / Dolomites

I forgot to mention that in Zagreb I lost my Ipod, bloody annoying as I really miss having music while riding. You may remember that I put the Ipod as the number one thing that I brought with me on this trip.
Ok so now I'm in Italy, I have decided to go to the Dolomite Mountains to play. Again motorcycling heaven, you can tell just by the amount of bikers here, loads of Italians, Austrians and Germans. Most of you will know that this region is also famous for it's ski fields. Really is stunning, the scenery is fantastic and of course you have those beautiful mountain passes with loads of hairpin bends. I had originally intended to stay my first night in Cortina d'Ampresso but the hotels were full and the ones I could get a room wanted €150 a night! so I had to backtrack to the previous village (still not cheap). I met two Swiss bikers at the hotel and we spent the evening together chatting and drinking some vino (the house red is so cheap. They gave me a copy of motorcycle routes through the Dolomites which take in all the good mountain passes and I spent the day riding as many as I could. Great, great day but I knackered. Tonight I am staying in Bozen (Bolzano) and have lashed out and brought a tent, sleeping bag and mattress as the hotels for the rest of my trip are going to be expensive. If I camp (not my forte!) for three nights it will have covered the cost of the gear so not a bad deal. Now I just have to find the campsites!. Actually the swiss bikers told me that I would meet a lot of other bikers at the sites and that they are very well equipped with showers and even food is available (I'm not into camp cooking!). So we will see how it goes.
Really enjoying this part of my travels
Kia Kaha

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:52 PM GMT
August 24, 2009 GMT
Austria

Hi team
I have just spent the most wonderful 3 days riding the mountain passes of Italy.
I did a ride today that had 39 hairpin bends as the road reached up to 2700 metres it was fantastic so much so that I rode back down and did it again!
When I planned this trip it was all about Asia, India Pakistan and Iran and I hadn't any expectations of Europe at all. I thought I would just blast through Europe and that will be that. I am so glad that I sat down and with the advise of others (Petra & Igor in Solvenia) I have taken the time to enjoy some of the most fantastic motorcycling I have ever experienced. Us Kiwi's think that NZ is a great place to ride (it is!) but wow Italy and the Dolomites with all those high mountain passes has just blown me away!!
I have had to take to camping and got a very good tent in Bozen (Bolzano) I spent my first night roughing it last night and because my mattress is only 3cm!!!! I had to take to some cheap vino to assist my sleeping.
I actually did 3 countries today Italy, Switzerland back into Italy and are now camping in Austria not a bad days riding!!!
I intend to go into Switzerland proper tomorrow before making another big push to England. Hard to do as once I hit England my great adventure will be over.
I was talking today with a journalist from an Italian motorcycle magazine (noticed my NZ plates on the bike) who wanted to know about my trip and will write an piece about my journey, had to pose for photo's (hate that) I've got his card so we will see what happens.
Later

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:18 PM GMT
August 26, 2009 GMT
Germany

Hi All
Been another great few days (well except for today...rain)
I left the mountains of Austria and headed to Switzerland where of course there are more mountains. Headed to Zurich, wow what a beautiful location on the lake. On the way I had to go through a series of tunnels with the Altberg being the longest, 14km, of course I ended up sitting behind a great big lorry all the way belching out it´s diesel fumes, I thought I was going to pass out.
I surpassed my record of entering countries in one day. I started in Austria then Liechtenstien, Switzerland, Germany, back into Swiss then back into Germany. Does doubleing? back count???
I ended up camping on the edge of the Black Forest. As I was heading for the camping ground a huge black cloud appeared right in the direction I was headed.
I got to the camp and was erecting my tent as the rain started and a German, next door, gave me a hand to get it up before I got soaked. We managed just in time as the heavens opened.
It rained all night and this morning I had to pack up tent in the rain, must have looked stupid in all my wet weather riding gear including helmet. Mind you it was early and not many people awake.
I rode through part of the forest area and by the time I got to Heidelberg I had enough of the rain and stopped for lunch at a cafe which just happened to have a hotel next door. Even though I wanted to make further KM´s I reckoned that fate had stepped in and I couldn´t resist and booked in. A bit more expensive than I would have liked, so pulled out the magic card as paying that way seems less painful.
A comment on German roads.... I know why the Autobahn has no speed limit. That is because all the other roads (well the ones I was on through the forest) had a 80km speed limit, and of course being German they stick to it. Such good roads, what a waste of good tarmac. So after riding along at such a pace you need the autobahn to release the frustration of going so slow.
A comment on German toilets.... (if you don´t want to know about my bodily functions look away now..... I bet no one has!!) Riding a bike for 8hrs or more a day plays havoc with the body. I tend to eat little during the day and try to have a good meal in the evening. Sitting on the bike for extented periods gives you a bit of wind. So when I stop to refuel or for just a break as soon as I get off the bike and walk around I feel that I need to use the toilet, this is normal I guess and was never a problem up until I arrived in Germany. The reason is that they charge you to use the loo, ok only 50cents but thats a dollar in my money, Heres the thing, I pay my money and go and sit down only to fart!! some beauties I can tell you, but technically I feel I should get a refund but who do you ask??? and did I actually use the toilet?. You could argue yes but I left no deposit so no, I was only browsing! . The other thing is the great way when you flush (why do I flush, habit I guess) a arm comes out and washes the seat. That was probably worth the 50cents the first time I saw it.
Talk soon

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:21 PM GMT
August 30, 2009 GMT
Germany

Had a great afternoon in Heidelburg walking around the city,very laid back and nice sights. Had a good nights sleep on soft bed, a joy after camping. The next morning headed off to make some big km's and push on towards England.
Getting out of the city was straight forward enough but I had to navigate a series of autobahn interchanges around Mannhiem to head northwest. I realised that this could be an issue so before I left I wrote down road numbers & destinations and so as not to lost. Just before Mannheim I was to turn off to avoid going through the city but on approaching none of the exit signs gave my destination and I ended up in the city. What followed ended up being the most frustrating 2 hours as I was given the wrong directions (three times), got continously caught up in the bloody stupid one way systems (everyone knows that these are a total waste of time and are only there to steer you away from where you want to go!). For the first time on this journey I was swearing out loud inside my helmet and totally losing my rag, how hard can it be... I'm here (I think...) and I need to go here!!!
One guy told me " oh its easy you do a U turn and see that overbridge you take that and you just follow the road straight". I look and see that there is no on ramp to the overbridge so I would be stuck on a dual carrage way (wrong direction) and after looking at my compass realise that even if I could get on the overbridge it would take me straight to Heidelberg! Idiot!! By using the compass and pure luck I finally managed get myself on the autobarn I was looking for. Mannheim will be for ever etched in my memory. I really can't put into words how frustrating it was.
(by the way Rose I noticed Mannheim is twinned with Swansea Wales).
Germany is the only country I have been in where I found it necessary to have to write down place names and road numbers. Their road signage defies logic (so un-german) for example if you are in England you would have a sign saying A20/M20 Folkestone Ashford London. In Germany you will get a sign saying for example Koln and then 20km up the road it will say Frankfurt and you think I haven't got to Koln yet what happened am I on the right road.
Sorry to go on, but it was annoying.
Before I knew it I was entering the Netherlands and searched for a camping sight indicated on my map in a small village. I asked at a shop if they knew where it was, I knew I was close and on the right road. The owner said he had never heard of it and was really agressive, screwed up my map and told me to go! Wow whats his problem. I carry on up the road for about 500 metres and there it is on the right. Beautiful location in orchard and the lady owner tells me to help myself to as many apples and pears as I want and also takes me into a greenhouse where she is growing grapes and gives me a huge bunch. Had a real nice night camping there in lovely surroundings.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 08:32 AM GMT
Netherlands / Belgium

Left early the next morning as I wanted to make Calais and get on a ferry to England. The weather looked not to good so put in warm liner in my jacket (first time) and it wasn't long before it started to rain so had to stop and put on wet weather gear. Rained for a couple of hours and it was definately getting cooler. The worst thing was the wind, I was heading into a southwest gale (I later found out it was the tale end of a hurracane) and it was making riding really differcult and hard on the body.
Had a quick ride through the Netherlands (easy road signage!) and entered Belgium and headed for Brugge. Wow what a beautiful city center! took loads of video and photo's. Stopped for a quick snack and headed on towards the coast. The riding really started to get hard as the wind was still picking up and it got to the stage where it was getting dangerous as I was constantly getting bufferted across the road. In fact just before the French border I met a couple of other bikers at a gas stop who were not going to go on as the riding was so hard. Here I was thinking I'd have a easy cruise to England but no, my last days ride after all those Km was turning out to be as hard as some of hardest day's I've had. Riding in those conditions is really tough on the body as you are always braceing yourself against the gusts. The worst part was sometimes a gust would get under the peak of my helmet and suddenly wrench my head back putting a huge strain on my neck. After battleing these conditions I finally made it the Calais and the ferry port. I was concerned that maybe the ferries wouldn't sail but they were and managed to purchage a ticket (€75!!) on the next crossing. The announcement on the ferry was that there was a strong gale blowing in the channel and that it would be an rough passage and so it proved to be. Quite a few people were sick so I headed up onto the top deck out side to enjoy the fresh air. After a delay of about 30 minutes waiting to dock we arrived. I had been concerned that maybe I hadn't secured the bike properly but she was still upright and so I unstrapped her and rode off the ferry into England.

Posted by Ross MacDonald at 09:33 AM GMT
 


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