October 16, 2009 GMT
Italy, Rossi Fever & a Floating City

Day 29 11-07-09 - Outside Florence

As is fast becoming the norm we did not get up very early but at least we had a plan. And that was to see Florence and then to be in Valentino’s home town that night, as soon as we found out exactly where it was that is. As it was a Sunday and Sundays had been good to us in the past in big cities we decided to ride in fully loaded, park up and walk about in our Merrells. We made the mistake in letting the GPS take us to the Tourist Info and after a fun (read between the lines) trip around various back streets and other interesting places we found the centre of town and the tourist info. Parked up, locked up and we were off around this beautiful city. We saw the copy of the statue of David as the queue to see the real thing was 1-2 hours long. We accidentally ( I promise) had pizza for lunch again and walked up to the best view point of Florence. We also witnessed first hand, an attempted pickpocket. The first crime of the trip. We left about 3-4 o’clock with the idea of being in Tavulla Rossi‘s home town (the name gained from a local taxi driver) that night or at the nearest campsite. Little did we know that the “quickest” route was along some of the twisty-est roads I have been along. The divvy was not the bike for the job and the many sports bikes passing us along the way proved that to be the truth. After seriously considering a hotel for the only the second time on the trip (yes I can hear you real campers saying just pull over by the side of the road) we stopped at a kind of fruit stall come bar and asked in very bad basic Italian if there was a campground near by. No, was the answer but there are about 20 on the coast near Rimini about 15 mins east. Sorted. Off we went found what had to be the family campsite in the area and set up shop for the night.

Day 29 13-07-09 - Rossi Fever

Today we are excited to say the least, we are going to Valentino Rossi’s home town, Tavulla. It has to be one of the quicker pack-ups and we are off, hoping but not too much that we see the G.O.A.T (Greatest of all time) at a bar or just walking down the street. We arrive full of silly thoughts, like having a beer with Vale or him posing for a photo with our bike. The town has yellow and the number 46 flags in all the shop windows, tasteful but gets the message across. This is Vale territory ! We drive past, the official Valentino Rossi fan club and the Rossi memorabilia shop to stop at a café suitably called “Valentino Café, the bar of Champions”. We are greeted by a wall of Rossi’s career as a motorcycle rider. After trying to digest all the photos and information we get told that he is in town but normally pops in at night for a beer. As it was 2:30 in the afternoon we didn’t think we could say that long. To cut a long and sorry (sorry for us) story short, a French couple that was at the café at the same time as us left for a while and it turned out saw him and followed him got a photo and came back. The good news is that his father did pop in while we were there and we got a photo with him. With heavy hearts we left Tavulla and Vale to go to Venice or as close as possible. After passing a few bike shops and remembering that Irish man's words “change the oil every 3000-4000 miles and everything will be ok” we decided to stay near one and change it in the morning.

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Jo and Graziano Rossi

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Me and Graziano Rossi

Day 30 14-07-09- Oil & an Aussie

I will stop saying it now but here we go for the last time. Yet another lazy morning, just couldn’t seem to get going. But in the end we pulled up at the bike garage and after a bit of sign language and what not, the head mechanic informed me ever so politely that even if I was going to buy some oil from him I could not change it there or around the corner or anywhere but back at a campsite. This would have to be the first time a fellow biker had not helped as much as they could. Perhaps I was expecting to much.. A bit further down the road we found another shop and great bunch that did everything they could for us short of changing the oil. Perhaps my sign language was not the best at the garage before ?? On to a campsite just 15mins ferry ride from Venice and 27 euros poorer. Great site though, lots of shade and a view of the sun setting on Venice across the water. There we met two fellow travellers, one from England and one from Australia, it’s funny how we keep bumping people in the same position with us, the travelling, the visa applications and all. They were very nice people and we joined then for a few drinks in their palace of a tent. We stayed there till about 1.30am until the campers next door to us yelled at us for being to noisy! I would like to say in our defence, we were the quietest people there speaking barely over a whisper, but hey…… So we decided to go sit on the pier until we realised it was other wise occupied and the two people already on the pier wouldn’t appreciate us joining in if you catch my drift. We finally parted company at about 2.30am still thinking that we could get up and catch the first ferry into Venice.

Day 31 15/07/09 - Venice

So the alarm apparently wet off at 6.00am, I of course didn’t hear it. Rob on the other hand did and snoozed for a few times (as usual) before waking me from a very peaceful slumber at about 7am. Just as I was slowly opening my eyes a ship went past and decided to blow his fog horn, not just once or twice but four times. It scared the living day lights out of me and then I just giggled and hoped that the man in the tent who shouted at us last night had also been rudely awoken! Horrible I know but he had no reason to shout at us…So needless to say we missed the first ferry into Venice so we thought we would catch the next one which was at nine that would give us time to load pretty much every thing on the bike say our goodbyes to our new friends and go….. We missed it, by about a minute, gutted. So we made our way back to our tent with our tail between our legs. We picked up the laptop and headed for the bar area to use the wireless. We didn’t end up catching the next ferry either but fortunately for us we made the 11am ferry. Because of this we decided that we wouldn't make it back to the camp site for check out and thought we would stay another night so we could see Venice properly. The ferry ride was very pleasant but the heat was getting to me already. We took a slow wonder around Venice with no real clue of where we were going. Some one left the map at the camp but even with the lack of a map we managed to see some pretty good stuff. The buildings were amazing although the canals were not what I had expected. Still very pretty though. We didn’t do a gondola ride even though they were very spectacular to watch. We wondered around for a few more hours and made our way back to the port for the 2.30 ferry. Venice is the only place so far that we think can rival Paris’s beauty. So Venice was great if a little too hot for me. Although Rob loved it, heat and all. Back at camp we chilled out for the rest of the afternoon. We did a little map reading to try and figure out our next destination and then pretty much nothing apart from throw the ball for a lone dog that seemed to take a liking to us. After making our selves some dinner and me burning my leg on the pan, we went next door and watched a movie and then went to bed in preparation of a big days riding tomorrow. The days are getting easier and we can go for longer on the bike with out stopping, it’s just the morning that seems to be letting us down, oh well we are on holiday after all.

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Our morning alarm..kinda close huh

Posted by Rob Mott at 12:45 PM GMT
Pig on a Spit, Cheap Beer & Donald Sutherland

Day 32 - Croatia & Pig on a Spit

We are heading for Croatia today via Slovenia. It’s not that we don’t want to see Slovenia, we just don’t think that we will have time and we have so many other things to do in the time we have left.

It was another hot day, you would think we would be getting used to it by now, it’s not so bad we are moving on the bike. It’s when we stop for a break, the sweat starts rolling, very unpleasant, although all in the name of safety.

The little bit of Italy we had to go through to get to Slovenia was very nice and the roads were pretty much deserted so it made for easy riding. Slovenia was the same. They seem to follow the road rules a lot more in Slovenia than in any other country we have been to so far, which was quite nice for us, no crazy drivers screaming past us, it was a little more relaxing. Slovenia looked beautiful Very green and lush but I suppose that’s an indication as to how much rain they get. We were literally in Slovenia for all of about 20 minutes when we hit the boarder and for some reason I stared to feel nervous, I had no reason to. All the boarder control guards always seem so scary. I felt much more at ease when one of them seemed to take interest in the bike and started to have a short conversation with us. Off we went into no man's land and to the Croatian boarder where the officers seemed to take an interest in Robs passport. That nervous feeling entered my stomach again until they stamped both our passports and waved us through. Yay ! Finally a stamp in our passports, sad I know but this was the highlight of the day for me……We were heading to Rijeka or nearby to find a campsite. We had the trusty sat nav to direct us to a camp site until we saw a sign for one and decided to follow the signs instead of the sat nav, turns out that that camp site was no longer there and we were seriously low on petrol so we kept going in the same direction to find some, we got there just in time, I’m sure the bike was just running on fumes. We got to a camp site at about 7:30pm and the receptionist was very nice and helpful, the camp site was average. Nothing like large stones everywhere to make putting up the tent fun. We had an early night after a very long days riding.

Day 33 - Cheap Beer

We had yet another late start today, (your probably sick of reading that) we got up at normal time we just seemed to do everything a lot slower for some reason. We were heading down the coast today to get as close as we could to Split. Well we made it about half way, it’s slow riding through the twisty coastal road, although absolutely amazing scenery. We stopped just near Zadar, a very beautiful place just on the coast of the Adriatic sea. At a camp site reasonably early (for us), we did some washing we went for a swim in the sea to cool down. We stayed in the water for a while, that was until our stomachs told us it was dinner time. After dinner we took a walk to find a bar to have a few relaxing drinks before bad. We found a very nice little bar just up at the top of the hill and we both took a liking to the Croatian beer. It was really cheap (about 1 euro for a 500ml sized larger) and good. The bar was a really nice relaxed place with locals drifting in and out all to a great view of the shore line. I think we could get used to this Croatian life style.

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Day 34 - Outside Split

An uneventful day today, more very hot riding and long sweeping coastal roads down to Split. A very lazy day on the bike indeed. We stopped for some lunch in a very small village where there were no restaurants, only a very small shop that didn’t sell anything that was ready to eat, so we settled for Milka ice creams, a drink and got back on the road again, mmmm Milka, maybe now my favourite chocolate. We camped about 20ks outside Split (experience had taught us that the camp grounds got more expensive the closer you got) and decided that we would go in first thing tomorrow morning. We started to set up the tent when yet again one of the poles snapped so before we could do anything else we had to fix the pole. About 30mins later and two broken poles fixed we had finally got the tent up, during the repair a very nice cyclist that had arrived the same time as us asked us if we needed help or use of any of his tools, we politely refused as we were now experts at how to fix the tent. Lucky we arrived at the camp site pretty early. That night we pigged out on beer, crisps (chips for you Aussies) and chocolate on the reasoning that we deserved it after the stress of the double pole tent mishap.

Day 35 - Split, Donald Sutherland & Grappa

Ok so we managed to get up early today and we did manage to make it in to Split and back to the camp site before check out time. We might just be getting the hang of this camping travel business. Split appeared to be a beautiful coastal city although we didn’t think that there was much to see beyond the beauty. Maybe we were just being lazy and didn’t want to walk around in the heat ? So we stayed around the port for a little while and then found an internet café to do some research about the next couple days worth of travel. We got a little lost coming back out of Split but after a final pack up we started travelling inland straight up the middle towards Slovenia and Austria. It was a fairly lonely ride up the middle of Croatia and for while there we thought we might not see a sole all day. As the afternoon progressed we thought we should keep our eyes pealed for camp sites, we also wanted to try the roasted pig on a spit that we had seen outside many restaurants all the way through Croatia. After following the Sat Nav for a while and then deciding to follow some sign-age instead, we found a camp site, stopped and though we would have the pig for lunch tomorrow before we left Croatia. We pulled into this nice looking camp ground to find out that it empty. A man that looked remarkably like Donald Sutherland soon came wondering out of a shed with a huge grin on his face. He couldn’t speak English and we couldn't speak Croatian so the usual international sign language ensued. We even got some free sweets and Grappa (I can't remember the Croatian word) on arrival, although it did taste a bit like petrol it was still a great experience. We decided that this was the best camp site so far, not just because of the free alcohol but because of the kindness of the owner and the great surroundings. There was a nice bench and grill area with wood supplied, an outdoor shower (which I was determined to use until I found out how cold it was) and a nice path leading down to the river.

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Day 36 - Destination Austria

Before we left we wanted to say goodbye to the crazy owner and get a business card and a photo but unfortunately we couldn’t find him. We said goodbye to our fellow campers and left for lunch and destination Austria.

We are headed for Klagenfurt in Austria to day so it was back through Slovenia and hopefully to get our fill of pig on a spit. Just our luck. We couldn’t find any. It seemed that we had just passed through pig country.

Down the road from the camp site was a small war memorial with tanks and crashed planes which Rob took an interest in, so we stopped and had a look around and it was pretty impressive. Back on the road again we abruptly came to the boarder, both disappointed that we didn’t get to have lunch of spit roast pig. This time the boarder staff weren’t so friendly, nothing in particular, they just seemed a little agitated about us being there.

We made it through boarder control and made our way through Slovenia into Austria with out any problems. We didn’t think we would make it to Klagenfurt because of the mountains but there were a few tunnels to go though on a train instead of going over so we got to our target destination. The camp site we ended up at appeared to be another resort and a snobby one at that. We had a beer or two at the bar and things started to look brighter. The camping itself wasn’t too bad and everyone was very friendly. After our drinks we made ourselves something to eat and then headed to bed happy that we were in a country we hadn't been in before.

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Day 37 - Where Eagles dare & Mozart

Today we headed for Wefern and to the castle from the film Where Eagles dare. The ride was quite nice through the steep valleys and lush green mountain ridges. After seeing the castle from the road we pulled up locked everything to the bike and went to go in, when we got to the counter we were told that the card machine wasn’t working and that of we wanted to come in we would have to go get cash for the village just around the corner. So back to the bike we went, unlocked everything and off Rob went in search of a cash machine while I stayed back at the castle with a majority of our stuff. Success, we could finally go in, back to the unpleasant women at the counter and then to wait for the cable car to take us up to the castle. The castle form the outside was pretty amazing, unfortunately less could be said about the inside, it was very nice, just not a lot to see and most of the castle was not open to the public. Still we had to see it while we were there and the views from the castle itself were pretty spectacular. Even though there wasn’t much to see we still ended up spending a few hours there.

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We left the castle a little disappointed and very hungry so we went into Wefern search of some food. We headed into the village and came across numerous pubs and cafés, we choose one that had good food and was reasonably priced and headed in. After filling out bellies on toasted sandwiches and bratwurst sausage we decided that as it was five o clock we should start making a move, heading up through Salzburg (The birthplace of Mozart) and as close to the KTM factory as possible. It took us ages to do the 100k to Salzburg and then a little while longer to where we thought would be a good stopping spot for the KTM factory. We arrived at a camp site at about 8/830 and given the concerned look on the receptionists face, I thought she was going to say it was full. Well she did but, as we were only staying for one night she showed us a great little spot close to the edge of the lake. It was great, after we set the tent up, I was going to go for a swim until that was my toes touched the water and they practically turned to ice so I thought better of it.We had dinner and a couple of beers at the local bar, did the usual map checking and route planning and headed for bed.

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Posted by Rob Mott at 12:50 PM GMT
KTM, Ice Caves, Motoway Boredom & the kindness of strangers

Day 38 - KTM & Ice Caves

Heading to the KTM factory today which was only 15ks away, so we packed up and went on our way. Both excited that we might be able to have a look around factory. We arrived at the village, of course the factory wasn’t too hard to spot, the bright orange building gave it away. We parked up in the staff car park on the opposite side to the main factory and R&D buildings. The main reason for this that Rob though he should try to hide the fact that we rode in on a Yamaha and wore a Suzuki helmet. We went straight to the shop to have a look around and there was plenty of great things we both could of come away with, but instead we settled for a cap for Rob and headed to the reception and asked there if there were any tours available. The receptionist was extremely friendly but was the bearer of bad news. Although the tours are free they are only in Fridays and the next one wouldn’t be until September as the factory was closing for holidays. Gutted. Rob was extremely upset at this news and sulked like a two year old for some time. (Rob edit: I was more like a 5yo as there was some foot stamping invoved)

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We took a few pictures of the bikes outside and the factory and then decided that we would head back to Wefern as there was an ice cave that we had found out about and sounded interesting. Even though we had agreed we wouldn’t back track, the KTM factory had thrown our plans so we decided to go for the ice cave. It didn’t take as long to get back to Wefern and the road to the ice cave was interesting. Rob told me that at one point the oil and fuel warning lights had come on going up the hill as the road up was that steep. I did wonder why he was almost lying on the tank at one point. We parked up the bike stripped our selves of jackets, helmets and gloves, grabbed our jumpers and made our way to the ticket office. I nearly fainted when I read the sign "a 20 minute hike to the cable car, a 10 minute ride and another 20 minute hike in the cave". I felt a little worried that I may not be able to make it, I am the first to admit that I am very unhealthy. I went anyway, the first hike wasn’t too bad in fact, I was surprised to see that we were overtaking people. This made me feel a better, we got to the cable car and enjoyed to ride up, more for the break than the scenery. The hike after the cable car was a little harder than the first one, although we still seemed to do it in good time. We arrived at the cave and the cold breeze coming from it was a very welcome one. We got in the queue to go in and waited slowly cooling down.

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The wait wasn’t very long and before we knew it we were being told we had to climb an estimated 700 steps up and 700 down. My heart sunk again, I had obviously failed to read this on the sign. I was very nervous, and it was below zero degrees inside and we all know what a cold person I am. So jumpers went on and zipped all the way up. Inside the cave was amazing. We were told that no photos were allowed to be taken but we got a few sneaky ones in along the way. I loved every minute if the cave and thought it was well worth the money and the climb. After an hour in the cave, about 1400 steps later we were making our way back down the mountain to the bike.

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It was then that we realised we had spent 4 hours there. Oh well as I said before it was worth every second of it. Feeling hungry after our climb we went back to the same café as yesterday for lunch and then headed back on the road again, this time we took a different route. We also decided that we would take the motorway as it would be quicker. And it was after a long day the 3 hours of riding later we got off the motorway to find a camp site. We found a little village called Leoben and got our selves checked in to a camp site where another free welcome drink was offered, of course it would have been rude to refuse, so the owner bought it over to the tent for us. We waited until he had left before we drank it. I have never tasted anything so disgusting in all my life, of course we didn’t tell the owner that, apparently it was made with some kind of nuts that were grown on the trees around us. It was like a mix a really bad coffee and something which I can’t describe, I think I preferred the petrol from the other camp!!! Yet another tent pole breakage after which we consulted the maps over a beer to see which roads we would be taking tomorrow. We threw together a dinner while it the weather turned threatening and went to bed waiting for the heavens to open on us. The storm never happened so a good night's sleep was had by both of us.

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Day 42 - Motoway Boredom & the kindness of strangers

After our reasonably good sleep we woke up due to the heat. We did our thing and hit the road, not before going to the shop to buy a toll pass for the motorway. We let out friend know that we would see him in Slovakia that night or the next day. Considering we weren’t supposed to be there until Saturday he was excited that we were going to be near enough 3 days early.We hit the road expecting it to be a long boring motorway day, but we made good distance quite quickly. Just before we came out of Austria we decided to stop at a big supermarket to get some lunch, we found some sandwiches that looked to be extremely tasty and a few treats and headed of the cash register. Ready to pay for our items the lady then informed us that we couldn’t pay by our master card so we tried with the visa and she said no to that too, really pissed of we left the supermarket and back to the bike. Threw everything on the ground and thought about our next move, I had seen a little café next to the petrol station nearby so we started to pick up our things when a big 4x4 parked up next to us and called us over. I thought oh god what does he want. Rob went over and the man in the truck handed Rob 10 euro’s. Rob just looked at him in surprise and stuttered a thank you and asked why. The very nice man replied "enjoy your time in Austria" and drove off. The man in the 4x4 was behind us in the supermarket and had seen our predicament. We just stood there in shock for what felt like about 5 minutes. Trying to take in what had just happened. We went back into the supermarket retrieved our lunch and went out to the bike to eat it. Still amazed at what just happened. It may not sound like a big deal but it was to us, it was a really nice thing to do. Stranger had bought us lunch asking for nothing in return.

We headed back on to the road and in no time at all we were crossing the Slovakian boarder. A little while before this as we were going down the motorway and a transit van decided to sit literally on our arse. This pissed Rob off so when looked back at the van, they made hand signals to go faster, Rob waved his hand at them as to signal that he couldn’t indicating the road works and only one lane. After a little way the road split back into two lanes and as the van went passed us his passenger decided to give us the finger. Rob and I have never been so quick off the mark to return the one finger salute. Welcome to Slovakia!!!!

We arrived in Romans home town of Piestany and found a Tesco where we pulled in and phoned him. It was stinking hot, close to 39degrees. Even hiding in he shade it was hot. Roman came and met us and took us back to his house and introduced us to his parents, I was a little nervous as we have no idea of the language and neither did they. Roman did a fantastic job of translating and considering ten months ago he didn’t know a word of English he is doing fantastic now. After a translated chat we Romans parents and a cold shower we were refreshed again. We spent most of the afternoon chatting away and then headed down to the local pub just on the river. Unfortunately Rob and I were knackered so decided at 11 it was time for bed. Yeah soft I know!

Posted by Rob Mott at 12:57 PM GMT
Lazy Days

Day 43/44/45/46 - Lazy Days

Ok so for the next few days we pretty much did nothing. On the Friday we went to metro which is like our Costco to get supplies for tonight’s party. Romans parents left for there holiday and the party started. Rob and I are out of practice and couldn’t survive the whole night, although we thought 5:30 in the morning was pretty good going. It carried on like this the whole weekend through till Tuesday when everyone had to work except for Rob and I.

Day 47 Monday 27/07/09 - Piestany

We actually left the house today we went into Piestany with Roman to have a look around and then for lunch or dinner as that’s what the time was. The food was absolutely delicious. I had some roasted chicken breasts, Rob had some sort of traditional pork dish and Roman had a 1.3 kilo portion of pork knee. The food was amazing and very very cheap. All was going well until we went back to the car only to realize that Roman had left his lights on. It was hilarious until we had to push start it. We got it going and made our way back to the house after a few photo stops of the surrounding area. Rob and I had an early night with full bellies.

Posted by Rob Mott at 12:59 PM GMT
 
 

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