August 22, 2009 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
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:52 PM
August 24, 2009 GMT
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.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 05:18 PM
August 26, 2009 GMT
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 itīs 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 KMīs I reckoned that fate had stepped in and I couldnīt 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 donīt 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.
Posted by Ross MacDonald at 04:21 PM
August 30, 2009 GMT
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
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
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