I am writing this on the ferry to Paros where I intend to rest up for a few days and get things ready for the next phase, Turkey to Russia. This is a far more serious undertaking and I want to be 100 percent sure I am ready before I start it. I definitely need to get the weight of the bike down or I will never get through Siberia. At the moment I am considering ditching the hard panniers and quite a bit of other stuff that was nice to bring, but not essential.
I also need to get hold of some water purification kit and a bike pump. I can’t believe I forgot to get these as they were on my list for weeks. Anyway, the last seven days have been tiring but I have also had some great riding and experiences. I could write about 10 pages but I will keep it fairly brief but will probably have to split it into 2 entries.
By the time I reached Piraeus (Athens port) at midday today I had covered 2,590 miles and been in 10 countries, not including England, in 7 days. Not a bad start but the route to Athens across the Balkans took a couple of days longer than I expected. Mountains, mountains, mountains….
Friday 4 May, Day 1 – England - France
What a first day! Despite being up at 7am packing, I didn’t get away until late. First I had to go to Chester to finish of sorting out my apartment. Then I had to go to Altrincham to pick up an insurance green card for Albania, Montenegro, Turkey and Russia from Carole Nash Insurance Agents. The first one they sent was incorrect. Then on the M56 I discovered the hard way that my petrol indicator light was faulty. Then on the way back from Altrincham I remembered that I had left my online banking gadget at my Dads so went back to get it. Just as well I remembered.
So I eventually got away about 1 o’clock in the afternoon and made my way down to Dover. Caught the 8.30 crossing from Dover to Calais and then aimed for St Omer.
By about 10.30pm I was pretty tired and decided to find a free camp site. I found a likely spot at the end of a farm track and settled down for a night under the stars. Sods law it started raining and I got soaked during the night. I decided to pack up and leave about 5.30 am but I found the track was a now a quagmire due to the rain and I dropped the bike trying to extricate myself. There was no way I could pick it up fully loaded, so off came the luggage. A lot of swearing, and cursing, along with a fair physical effort got us back on the road. I started to realise that the weight of the bike with the luggage on was a real issue.
Saturday 5 May, Day 2 – France
It rained all day and I was getting pretty fed up to tell the truth. This was not how I had planned things! I tried to stay off the toll roads as much as possible but eventually gave in and used the motorway to get to Reims. I then cut across country towards Bresancon, this made progress a bit slow and I had only just reached the base of the Alps by 7pm. I definitely wanted to cross the Alps in daylight and good conditions so I could enjoy it, so I found a campsite in a town called Pontarlier and bedded down for the night.
Suday 6 May, Day 3 – France – Switzerland – ItalyMade an early start and had a great ride through the Alps to Lusanne, Montreux, and then aimed for Verbier and on in to Italy and the Aosta valley. I started having trouble with my side stand which appears to have been bent by the guy on the ferry ratcheting the bike down too hard. You can see in one of the pictures that I have lent the bike against a wall to support it rather than use the stand.
On Mont Blanc at St Bernard I took the turning for the Col rather than the tunnel and was gutted to find that the Col was still blocked with snow. I had to turn round and pay to use the Gd St Bernard tunnel.
I had to lean the bike against the tunnel wall to take this photo because of my side stand issues and then only got 200 metres up the Col to find it was still blocked with snow.
Rode through the night across northern Italy, grabbing a little sleep at the services here and there. My headlights packed in near Venice and I had to ride on sidelights for a fair stretch till I could pull in to the services. This was an absolute nightmare and pretty scary. Both bulbs were blown and I am not sure yet what had caused this. I am fairly sure they were alright before I left. It took me a while to get them replaced and get moving again.
Monday 7 May, Day 4 – Italy – Slovenia – Croatia
Crossed the border into Slovenia and tried to get onto the road to Rijeka in Croatia without going on the toll road. This proved difficult and I gave up and hopped on the motorway. I pulled up to the first toll booth expecting to pay only to find the booths empty but a policeman waving people down. The upshot was I got stung for a 300 Euro fine for not having a motorway permit. This was a new one on me and I was not best pleased to say the least. The nice man did however offer to halve the fine if I paid straight away. I considered taking the full fine and ignoring it when it arrived but decided that would probably be the end of my driving in Slovenia so it was best to pay up.
This is the pesky permit I needed. You live and learn!
Using the Autoroute, for which I now had a permit, I soon crossed into Croatia and through the port of Rijeka on to the coast road. The weather was terrible with rain and high winds making it quite treacherous. By late afternoon the weather had cleared up and I had some wonderful riding down the coast road. This has got to be one of the best roads in Europe, trust me.
I stopped for fuel just north of Stanisgrad and as I was about to stop for the night I asked the pump attendant whether he knew a mechanic who could look at my side stand. He made a phone call and told me there was a guy in the house behind the petrol station called Davor who would help. I rode round to his house and Davor came out and before long was straightening the stand using a scaffold pole with the stand braced in the towbar of his truck. This helped but was still not ideal and he got out his angle grinder and welding gear. The result is better but I am still not happy. I paid Davor 10 Euros for his help. He was a good guy and it is people like him that you rely on when you are on the road on your own.
Found a fantastic campsite for 10 euros, right on the edge of the Adriatic (my tent was literally 5 yards from the sea) and fell asleep to the sound of the ocean lapping up on the shore. Superb!