Sunday, 30 April 2017

Day 9

We were all outside packing our bikes up just before 6:30am ready to strap some tyres on top for our border crossing today. Apparently the customs people don’t like all the new tyres in the van so we put them on the bikes as they then don’t question this, then cross the border and then take them off just as we get just outside of the border compound. 

Kevin Saunders lead the short 5 mile group ride down to the border where we all then took our turn to check out of Greece before going to check in to Turkey. The whole process is fairly straight forward, just a little on the slow side, but everyone got through without any issues so that was a good start to the day. Once we had crossed the Turkish border we stopped to unload the tyres from our bikes and then stood in the road under the ‘Welcome to Turkey’ sign to have a group photo taken.
The ride from the border to the hotel in Istanbul was mostly motorway again and for once David and I were the first to arrive which made us a little wary that we might have gone to the wrong hotel car park. The car park attendant assured us we were in the correct place and this was confirmed 10 minutes later when Kevin and a small group of bikes following rode into the parking area.

Once we got checked in to our rooms, got showered and changed we were ready for a short walk into town. The local park was packed with people and I couldn’t work pout if there was something special going on or whether this was normal for a Sunday afternoon.

We now have a couple of days here in Istanbul so a rest from riding and a hopefully not so early start so I can have a lie in.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Day 8

The day started off with a short ride after breakfast around the spectacular Meteora pinnacles where we went to a viewpoint for photos of these wonderful rock formations which unbelievably had monasteries built on the top of a few of them by some monks in the 14th century. After this short but amazing stop we continued our journey on towards Turkey, although we weren’t going into Turkey today as we will stay another night in Greece not too far from the border so that we can ride as a group through the border tomorrow morning.

We did some reasonable back roads then some more peg scraping twisty mountain roads which was fun but tiring before the long boring motorway part.
David has been finding it difficult to engage 2nd gear and upon looking into this in a motorway service station, I noticed that his gear lever was hitting on the engine casing. Bending it out slightly instantly cured the problem, but we are not sure why it moved in the first place so we are going to need to monitor this closely.

The hotel was excellent and the all you can eat buffet left many of us ready to burst! I had a quick stroll around the car park before going to bed as we have an early start in the morning.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Day 7

It was our last day in Albania and I still hadn’t got an ‘AL’ country sticker for my panniers. I stopped at yet another fuel station to see if I could get one but the chap inside the shop said he did not have any. Well, that is the gist of it I think. Then whilst I was back outside a couple of older gentleman were talking about my bike and pointing to it. I pointed to the Ace to Ace sticker that had the union jack on it and said that I was from the UK, then pointing to the China flag said I was going to China via the motorcycle. After a couple of attempts the taller guy with the smart jacket nodded and spoke to the other guy explaining this. I then pointed to my GB sticker saying that I wanted one for Albania. The taller guy said ‘AL’ and wrote this on the pannier over the GB. I said yes, that is what I am trying to get but cannot get one. He said, in a round about way, ‘I will get you one, follow me’ and then walked to wards his car. The other old chap said yes, follow him, so I explained this to David my riding companion and he was a bit apprehensive of this. I said I was sure it would be OK, so we followed the tall guy in his Merc up the road, down a side street where we parked up and whilst David kept a watch on the bikes I followed the chap to a shop in a back street. It was kind of like a motorist discount store like we have in the UK and sure enough, on a peg board behind the counter were some ’AL’ country oval stickers just like wat I was after. The chap behind the counter picked one up after being prompted by the tall guy. I said can I have two, holding two fingers up so he picked up another. I got my wallet out and got one of the local currency notes out, but the tall guy pushed it back into my wallet, shaking his head, say no, I get this for you. I felt bad about asking for two now, but thanked him very much. As we walked back to where he packed his car and David sat with our bikes he pointed back in the direction of the garage that we had came from. I said we had to go in the other direction so he shook my hand and I again thanked him. It is moments like these that I really enjoy on these trips, it doesn’t always matter if you speak the same language, you eventually understand each other, exchange smiles and maybe have a laugh over something and it doesn’t have to be long, just a few minutes gives good memories that will last a long time.

From there we rode towards the border where we checked out of Albania and entered Greece, which was a painless procedure and motorcycles even used a separate lane to the cars, which actually looked like a foot patch for pedestrians so we didn’t have to wait in the queue. There was a god half dozen of our group that turned up just after David and I did, and we all got through fine.

We rode some fantastic Greek mountain roads today, and opted for the longest route out of the three (2+1) route options that GlobeBusters gave us in the route notes. This made it a long ride but the roads were generally in good condition with decent amount of grip so I was a happy bunny today.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Day 6

It was a short ride of about 24 miles to the next border where we left Croatia and rode into Montenegro, with an even shorter ferry ride in between.
We were only transiting through Montenegro in order to get to the next country of Albania. The locals were all driving very slowly, or at most to the speed limit which soon became apparent,  as there was lots of police about in Montenegro with speed guns but every time I passed them they just looked disappointed with my steady speed, but I did give them a nod as I rode past!

When we got passed the Alanian border, several members of our group had gathered so we stopped to see what was occurring. Julia said that some people were inside the restaurant exchanging money so we went inside to see if we could do the same. It was not an official currency exchange and I was the last one the guy could help as he had run out of the local currency. David said afterwards that we actually got a better than normal exchange rate so that was a good start to this new country. You soon notice how much poorer Albania is than Croatia with kids begging at the border, lots of litter about and poorly maintained roads.

Not only was there lots of pot holes in the roads, but the surface was very well worn with a smooth shiny surface which gave little grip on the corners which after a couple of twitchy moments had me slowing down, which was not a bad thing as there were several police  about in this country too.
The temperature was also getting very warm and we soon started to open the vents on our suits.
The ride through ? was hectic city traffic, yet I quite enjoyed it as it proved to be an interesting challenge especially when the normal rules of the highway code seem to be ignored and it turns into a free for all from any lane and it just seems like it down to the first one there has the right of way!
Towards the end of the day, I was getting tired so let two other riders continue on whilst I pulled over for a rest when a photo opportunity arose.
Another bunch of riders from our group passed by as I was trying to make conversation with a couple of old chaps who didn’t speak English and I never spoke there language either but we seemed to chat for several minutes with me pointing to the stickers on my bike trying to show them I stated on London and was heading to Bijing in China. At the end of it I am not entirely sure they understood but we had a laugh and I think they got the impression I was a mad Englishman on a long motorcycle ride.
The rest of the journey to the hotel was a slow journey with me waving some of the crazy car drivers passed and once again I was the last to arrive at the hotel, but still in plenty of time for the meeting.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Day 5

It was another day following the wonderful Croatian costal road with not too much traffic allowing lots of wide grins as we chased the limit point bend after bend. Of course having this much fun means less stops to capture those great focal points, but that is the trade off and riding run takes priority for me.

However, there was one photo opportunity that I rode past initially, but then after a mile or so thinking about it, I road back again because it really was quite amazing. This was a small boat yard where there a fantastic old skeleton of a boat sat just waiting to be photographed. ‘How often do you see this sort of thing’ I thought to myself. I also took this stop as an ideal time to remove a layer as it was now starting to warm up.

Today also saw another border crossing, this time into Bosnia for a short while until we passed back into Croatia heading to Dubrovnik. It was very straight forward, just a matter of handing over the passport for a short while then we were off on our way again.

As it was a relatively short riding day, we had time in the afternoon to have a brief walk around the old town of Dubrovnik before our evening meeting. It was an interesting place and I managed to get some good exercise in walking up and down several flights of steps. 

The bottle was empty when I got here.