The Balkan trip in a few numbers

The total amount of kilometres according to the trip-log was 7474km in 18 days, just over 500 pictures and about 280Gb footage from the GoPro’s and 20 border crossings to enter 16,5 different countries.
…. Wait a minute…. 16 and a HALVE????

There was an unexpected border-crossing into a country called Transnistria. I had to Google it and it turned out it is only recognised by three other countries which are also not recognised, in essence it’s a non existing country but i had to cross a border so i count it as a halve 😎

When i started uploading the GoPro footage to the computer i ran out of storage space and also the NAS was at the limit so i had to order some new HDD’s. The first is now being installed and tomorrow the second will be done.
After that i can slowly start sorting everything out and try to put it in some 15 to 20 minute movies.
It will take some time to get it all done as normal life already started 2 days ago.
For the VFR club i have to get started on the calendar for next year (has to be done halve-way November) and depending on the Covid restrictions of new freedoms i need to work on the safety department of the Christmas Truckrun.
I hope i can make a episode every few weeks.
To end with some numbers as well….

Last leg

Walking in the mountains is not like the walking i do at work every day, i knew that but the morning after the walk around the lakes i was not to subtle reminded of that but it was worth it.
Next stop is Bled, Slovenia.

These last days had a bad timing for the pictures, about every place i came the sun was just in the wrong spot and i couldn’t find a spot to get the item with the sun in my back.

Plan was to spend the night there but from the coast of Croatia the rest of my destinations where overloaded with people who waited the corona out or didn’t had the vaccination earlier (that would be all the Dutch people there).
I checked the prices somewhere in March for this time of year and now i was there they turned out about 4 to 5 times higher and the campsite was also fully booked that evening.
After some searching i found a guest-house 2 hours away somewhere in the direction my track was going just across the border into Italy in the middle of nowhere.
Nowhere as in almost no cellphone coverage and a data plan for Internet over satellite but out of data and not to forget the road up there, or what should go for a road.
Glad that there was i sign at the turn off from the main road the guest-house was that way.
But the host was friendly and it came with breakfast.

The next morning i get down the outer side which was a lot better with mostly new asphalt (i wonder how bad that was making them do that site first) and an hour to get back to the track just before the next goal, the view on Monte Chiavals from a dead end road you can enter in Aupa, Udine.
I don’t have pictures from that view, as i said i had a bad timing with the sun and this the best i could do there but you just have to go there when you’re in the neighbourhood.

From there i was going to the Passo Rombo (Timmelsjoch) and past the Passo Giovo (Jaufenpas) to get there.

Time to find a place to stay and because i’m well in time i might split the last section i planned to do just like day 1 on the autobahn in two and take small roads after all.

Nope, just like last year Austria screwed my plans up. Prices here where even worse than Bled and the German part of Tirol was just as bad.
At 19:00h i decided to get something to eat, learned from my mistake last year and tried to find a campsite when i sat there but no luck and in the mean time it went dark in the blink of an eye.
As i was not tired at all and it was just another 6 hours riding i decided to keep on riding.
After 700km, 2 stops to fuel up and a detour due to the extended damage mother nature caused in Germany a few months ago i arrived back home at 3:30.
Thinking positive, now i have a few days extra to get used to the regular life again but.

Thing learned for the next trip? Check my options a bit earlier (but not committing to it at that point) so i can change my plans over a bigger area. In this case maybe Switzerland.
Am i happy to be home? A small part yes, the rest is already thinking about the trip to North Cape in July 2022.

I’m a bad vacationer

Don’t know if that’s a word but if not now it is. I just can’t take it easy.

Due to the European corona status of Macedonia and Kosovo i decided to cross them both in one day. It was not a big distance and therefore it already was in the original sections but with messing up my schedule it could change also.

Biggest challenge was not 1, not 2 but 3 border crossings. Luckily in this part of Europe it is common for motorcyclists to pass the line, otherwise i was not able to do this. All in all it took me less than 2 hours for all 3 crossings. Macedonia was okay but not real special, but i only saw a small part and didn’t had the time to give it a chance. Kosovo had 2 options for my route and the secondary road was a nice road but also no time to see a lot of the country.

Than i entered Albania. The first 20-ish km was highway because the other border-crossings where too much of the route but the first option i got off. Then it took a while to get to the mountains but when i turned on to the SH5…. Oh boy. That road is crazy. Most mountain roads are 10 – 20km long but this one kept going and after each corner a new view.

Problem for not expecting how long this road was going on was my fuel. Getting into “the zone” at some point was also not helping and when the computer said i had only 17km left he decided to give me the finger (– on the display). And then, i guess another 5 – 6 km further there was a gas station. Somehow i keep doing that to myself and having 2 litres extra in the fuel bottles only gives me about 30km extra when i keep it on the safe side.

That gas station was at the end of 5he SH5 but the next part was still nice and inly the last bit was a bit boring. Time to find a place to stay. I ended up just outside of Shkodër not far from the Montenegrin border, just what i hoped for to reach as Montenegro also is red on the European corona map and this might give me the chance to cross that also in one day.

I didn’t. When you like adventure you have to love Montenegro. I’ve been there once with my ex on a fly and drive vacation and she was not happy with every road i choose. This trip i’ve managed to make it worse and it started the first right turn after entering Montenegro. That was not the best road for the early morning but i got up, not without breaking a sweat though. Then i got on a familiar road from the fly and drive vacation which i wanted to do with the bike. This is one of the views why. Further on i met some French bikers, first one but he was waiting for his friends who got behind. That was also the first moment in a long time i saw more than an occasional biker.

after that i got on a nice high speed road through the mountains to the coast ending up in Kotor for a lunch to get some energy for the Kotor serpentine road. But before i got there the XT (not Ecstasy but the GPS) messed up a section. As if he was thinking “you like a challenge? Here you have one). The road of the first right turn but worse.Had to put it in first gear or he wouldn’t stay there, and that was the flattest point.

I ended up spending the night not far from Zbaljak, the doorway to Durmitor national park. But really, Montenegro is too much for this “on the road” blogging. To bring this update to an end, i crossed Bosnia spending the night just before the border with Croatia where i went to the coast to follow the coastal road for a while and i ended up next to the Plitvice lakes where i will taking the day off from riding and trade it for a day hiking. I just end with a few pictures of Durmitor national park…

Plans overboard

When i left Odessa the plan was to stay in Galati, Romania but unlike the roads going to Odessa over Moldova these roads where mostly perfect. I didn’t have much options for a scenic route which made this trip go much faster than anticipated.

On the way i saw a group of bikers beside the road and like i always do i stopped to ask if everything is okay. It was not because one of the bikes broke down but with smoke coming out of the headers there was nothing i could do either and a van was on it’s was already. After a short chat i went on.

There was a little detour i planned but no matter what i tried the route wouldn’t follow the track at one point and i don’t know why but for some reason i did go with the Garmin for a change and i think it was the only right thing to do. In that same section even Garmin got it wrong and send me to a border crossing where i was send back. I was back into Moldova and this border was going to Ukraine again but there was no customs and no exit from Moldova but why exactly i still don’t know. No one there spoke any English what so ever.

even with the back tracking with no clear directions and the detour i was in Galati way to early and after a day off i was not ready to stop so i started the next section, as i said it was not a hard plan but just for reverence. After a nice lunch it was time to take the ferry to cross the Danube where a nice curvy road waited for me.

The weather was great so i kept going and going until i came another group of bikers standing in a strange place to rest. They where okay, just waiting for a friend who fell behind. After the usely where you from and the “alone?” Question the where you going and staying questions came up. I could answer the first as i had the route but the second was unclear to me also. I could follow the if i wanted because on my route i would miss out on a beautiful place not far away so i did. Getting such information from locals is gold and this was no exception. Out of the blue a beautiful rock-formation popped out of the overall glowing terrain. It was already better than i anticipated going on the streetview pictures but this was a real nice surprise.

They also gave a tip for a nice town to stay, Vama Veche. A coastal town but without the usual prices that come with it. It was still a long way to go but i’ll see as i still didn’t feel like stopping. We already said goodbye and went on towards Constanta where they live and i could pick up my track (Vama Veche was on my route anyway).

i did end up in that place and it was cheap and the day kept on being crazy but i like crazy and had a great day which eventually ended up 55 minutes before the end of the section planned for the next day making me change my plans and maybe for the good. The section after this was a long one ending in Sofia but that is a big city and i don’t like big city’s. Just over halve of that trip was Motocamp Bulgaria almost on my route, the long section divided in halve plus the 55 mins was a good new day section and that was the new plan for now.

Another great night, nice owner and some English and a Irish couple that went there once and now live in the village and later on a Dutch couple on a Goldwing stopped to spend some nights as well.

The Irish guy gave me some tips which i heard about but i thought where too far off. One was but with the halve a day i gained it was an option. That would be the Soviet era building called “the flying sorcerer” and the other “the eyes of god caves” which where not real far of the original track so that was my choice too visit. I really like the works of nature over man made structures, even though they can be impressive as well.

From there i had to make a new plan and again i have to take Covid in mind with that plan. The guy from Motocamp Bulgaria (sorry, i’m really bad with names) told me that Macedonia was red (on the European Covid map) and to get into Bulgaria from Macedonia you need a PCR test even when you’re vaccinated but he didn’t know for the other way. I checked the Dutch app with all the information and staying there might give problems but passing through could be okay, the same goes for Kosovo.

with that in mind i decided to find a place to stay as close to the border as possible and cross both countries tomorrow and try to get close to ShkodĂ«r. Albania is safe but Montenegro is also red and Bosnia is safe again. Getting close to Montenegro may give me the possibility to cross that also in one day but let’s take this day by day now the schedule is overboard anyway, it still has to be fun.

Where am i?

normally this stretch was not worth a blog. But what meant to be just main road over Moldova to Odessa did had a surprise.

the reason why i choose main roads for this part was the expectancy of the conditions and boy i was right. There where a few brand new sections and there where bad sections. How bad? Let’s say i wonder what the conditions where of the new parts why they choose that parts over the bad parts. I hope i got it on camera to use in the movies that will come with the final blogs.

The real surprise however was another border crossing into a country i had to Google as i could not understand the pronunciation of the very beautiful ladies at the checkpoint. Their English was not real bad but every time they told me the name of the country it was in their own language what was close to Russian. Also the Country sign had some Russian letters but underneath id said PMR.

When i got to my apartment and got connected i found out it was Transnistria or Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic. Which is not recognized by any country except 3 other not recognized countries. But hell… Now i can cross off a non existing county as a bonus! There is more to the story but that’s for real story.

Today i took a resting day here in Odessa and hoped to find a new camelback. I lost mine at the last part of Hungary or was it already the first part of Romania? Anyway, it was at a gas station where i filled Ragnarok up and just as i wanted to move on it started to rain so i took the bag of and put it on the duffel but forget to hang it on my shoulders … When i noticed my mistake it was already too late to turn around. Also because the roads where pretty bad, it was raining and the day turned out a bit longer than expected already.

Here in Odessa i found a shop that had the one i had and wanted again on their website but sadly didn’t had it in stock. A double shame as it was orange. I’ll keep an eye on Google maps when i get close to a big(ger) city. Maybe looking 2 days ahead and call. This shop could have it in one or 2 days so if i called the last day in Romania where i could call without extra costs it would be here today. But this is travelling life and something i learned. As far as i can see online (for what it’s worth) the temperatures gonna be nice and not real hot so i should be fine with a bottle as a back up instead of 2 litres to drink while riding.

just to add a few pictures, here’s one of my lunch in Moldova at the side of the road, my view there and me at the Black sea… Yes i am happy, just not into the selfie thing.

Leaving Romania… Shortly

I have visited the 3 reasons why i came up with this trip, the Transalpina, Transfagarasan and the Bicaz gorge. There are off course more reasons but they came along in the making of the rest of the trip as i didn’t want to just turn around. The Bicaz gorge was also added when i searched for directions.

First on the way was the Transalpina. The weather this day was great and i had so much fun riding i didn’t get much pictures but i hope the video’s will have some good footage. For now you have to do with just 1 picture.

This day was planned to end in a village just before the Transfagarasan but it was still pretty early so i decided to keep riding. But then the mountain became visible and it was hidden in a massive cloud and i stopped at a hotel just at the start hoping it would be better in the morning. When i was going for something to eat another biker came in, it turned out to be a Belgian guy from the Dutch speaking part. He was in a hurry and went on after the meal and he might have some luck. If i went on then it gotten so much worse that i couldn’t see anything but by the time he came at the restaurant some time already past and when we stood with his bike when he was about to leave the clouds moved away before our eyes, just remarkable but that behaviour of the weather is part of the mystery of the Transylvanian mountains.

I already checked in and had some beers, otherwise i might be continuing after all. The next day i was unlucky as it still (or again) rained but still lucky as the clouds stayed above the mountains and i could see everything anyway. I’m glad i cope with wet conditions pretty well making it still a good experience, something what was definitely not the case for some Czech bikers. I really felt sorry for those guys seeing them wrestling their way up.

At the bottom it slowly got better until the last hour of this days ride. It is not as dry as i hoped but certainly not as wet what i feared considering the summer we had. On the way to my endpoint of this day i also past Bran Castle but there was a line with an hour waiting time, that added to the time spend inside was a bit too much so i passed.

Today i ended up not far from the border with Moldova but before i went through the Bicaz gorge.

Kind of strange having this rock-formation when all the rest is covered with green and it is also not a long way getting through but still impressive. In my opinion not worth going for but a must see when you’re in the neighbourhood.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day with 2 border crossings into non EU countries, first into Moldova and later on into Ukraine. I heard it can take some time to cross them but i hope luck will be on my side. The total ride is about 340km so it might get to be a long day. Because of that i’m thinking to stay a day extra in Odesssa. I don’t like big city’s but it seems to be a beautiful town so i decide when i arrive.

The first reason for this trip

Let’s try to update now and then on the road…

The make up is already not working how i want on the phone but i will keep it short anyway.

The first day was mostly highway and i had a lot of rain plus a detour less than 150km from the end of that section. The hotel i planned was not available at the moment i wanted to book it and ended up in a motel on the edge of the same town. I had to walk 1.5km to a restaurant but i don’t mind a walk and i ended up at a table with some locals and had a good time.

Day 2 started dry and even some sunshine now ant then when i entered Hungary. That was the best of this day because this part of the country was not very exiting. Lake Balaton should be a highlight but most of it was obscured by trees and a railway, such a shame. Even a restaurant to have lunch with a view on the lake was not to be found. Some maybe’s but not worth turning around as they al had strange entrenches from the main road. At least there was a good restaurant just around the corner of the B&B in Szeged where i stayed.

Today i entered Romania. The first hour was a bit like Hungary but thrown even further back in time but soon the nature got better. With nature it is a good thing when you end up back in time. The roads also got nicer… not always better but at least fun. Even ended up offroadAfter this it went to brand new asphalt and after that to muddy Cley. Good thing i started with a fresh set Anakee Adventures because they would not cut it worn out and i probably still be wrestling to get out but i made it. It was unexpected and for that type of offroad i bought Ecstasy. Glad i did the courses, that gave me the confidence to just keep going at the muddy part. According to the GPS it was just a kilometre. After that i just had enough curves to clean the tyres for the start of one of the reasons to do this trip… The Transalpina. Tomorrow i’ll take on the pass but the first part a already did to get to the hotel for this night.

The Transalpina, Transfagarasan and the Bicaz gorge where the reasons to come to Romania, the rest was added when i made it into a trip.

Not out of the woods yet

Dodging the ball with the cooling system Saturday on my way to work a new problem occurred. One screw of the visors was missing and the second one was not able to keep it up on it’s own.

On the right is how it should be, also the plate went missing.
At work i right away started searching for parts as this is the helmet i was planning to use on the trip because this one has the mount for the GoPro.

Searching the www i did find the part numbers and some places to buy it but they all seemed to be located abroad so i waited until the stores opened and i called the Arai dealer where i bought the helmet and explained the situation.
They didn’t have the kits (plates and screws are 2 different kits) in stock and there was no delivery date in the system they connect to for ordering at the importer.
She could only call first thing on Tuesday, the plates they could sent me form another helmet but not the screws which i think is a bit strange. They can sell a helmet without the plates but not without screws?

The place is 130km from my work (160 from home) so no option to go there i’m afraid but i will when necessary even if it’s gonna be tight.
In the mean time i will try to put some mount on the flip helmet which is better for the first and last day on the autobahn and in the rain (which wont be bothering me too much i hope) but is not ideal for mounting a camera.
So it is not a risk for the trip when the parts are not in on time but for you it might be losing out on nice footage (if i finally stop screwing up the recordings).

Today i went to give the bike a good wash.

i took a bucket, some sponges and a cleaner which is sprayed on at this point.
I also took a chamois to dry the painted surfaces because the matte finish could end up quite stained when you let the water air dry.
There is a program to rinse it with a shine finish which is not really a product to make it shine like a polish but a product is added just like you can add to the dishwasher at home.
This product actually binds the chalk in the water letting it run off instead of drying up as stains but on a matte paint-job it still can leave marks.

The rest of the week after work i will start packing and checking all 16 countries for the latest news and rules about Covid and arranging the required additional insurance for Ukraine.
I already bought a phone and data bundle for outside the EU (7 countries) and reinstalled the booking.com app as i prefer the luxury and in these parts a hotel/B&B/hostel are often just a few euro’s more expensive than a campsite.
The idea is to take Ecstasy to work all week with the exception of Tuesday, then i need to do the last grocery’s shopping and i can fill Ragnarok up with petrol having him ready for a good first leg.

I’m all hyped for the trip and also have a strange feeling i always have when i go on a trip, even the short ones but that always go’s away within the first hour after leaving home.
I think it has something to do with some fear of forgetting things and once too far to do something about it i don’t seem to care any-more as i always check and double check the real important stuff like passport and motorcycle documents.
The tools are standard on the bike and everything else can wait until i cross a town where i can buy what i need when i really forgot something.
Just need to figure out the best spot for the spare keys now i’m solo. Last year Michel and i had each others spare keys locked under the seat but that’s not an option because when i need the spare keys i cannot unlock the seat… i still have 5 days and 6 nights to think of a place….

This isn’t… is it?…

When i was removing some covers to get to the brake lines to change as i told in my previous blog i also took one cover of which was not needed but it did draw my attention.
Behind that cover was the reservoir for the coolant (anti freeze) and it did not show any coolant and when i got to the front to change the pads i saw this dent and i thought “hell no… this can’t be happening at this point…”.
But first things first, it’s Sunday and i can’t do anything about that at this moment so fix what is broken for sure and then focus on the new possible problem.

The tyres are mounted and balanced and that means the brake pads are in as well, one of the last 2 free days before i leave so no time to waste and get Ragnarok finished.
Before i put the new pads in the calipers need a good cleaning as i am not the washing and polishing type, mostly i wash them only when they need work or when i encountered too much mud.
After the salty wintertime i also try to take time to give them a good clean and then i also do the calipers.
I do take good care of the bikes and that doesn’t show always but it does when you have to work on them. You will notice that all nuts and bolts will come loose without any afford (unless the tread is covered in sand on a hard to reach spot).
The calipers came out pretty nice with just some degreaser and a brush, just some brake dust in some edges took some extra attention.

It was a good timing to change the pads too.
It is normal with Honda’s with the DCBS (Dual Combined Braking System) that the left side wears faster than the right as the middle piston on the left calipers is connected to the rear brake.
Strange enough my right side was worn more then the left? See the difference on the left picture, on the right the difference between the better side compared to the new.

After finishing both sides and putting the wheel back in it was time for the rear of the bike.
Same story about the cleaning but a nasty surprise when i wanted to take the new pads out of the package… The wrong type…

I immediately contacted my supplier and the next day (not an opening day of the shop) he replied and admitted his mistake (mixed up some numbers) and would send me the right set that day.
For testing the other work i just putted the old pads back and will change them when the proper model is in.
Today (the next day) they where in and with these calipers i could exchange them without taking it of the bike making it a 5 minute job.

In the mean time i was facing a possible bigger problem which could jeopardise my trip again, but this time it wouldn’t be just changing the destination.
The ride to work on Monday was the test ride and checking the brakes was the first thing but after that i had the focus on the temperature gauge.
If i had a leak the system is empty or contains a lot of air. Empty would mean there would not appear any blocks (5 in total, 2 and 3 are normal depending on the situation) anytime soon as the sensor measures the coolant and there is nothing to measure when there is no coolant. It will get some reading at some point from the engine heat.
In case of a partially filled system the other part is air and in that case it’s disco on the dash not reading anything when the airpocket hits, a lot of heat with a small pocket of coolant and less heat in an increased volume of coolant.

The first signs are good, the first block comes at the right moment and the second as well and it stayed with two blocks showed until i got to work.
Sitting in front of the gate idling waiting for it to open the third block came up just as expected.
On the way back i picked up some coolant from the store (luckily they’re open from 9 ’till 21) and it just needed about halve a litre.
The next day another check and after 2 cycles it’s still on level meaning during the probably 97k/km but at least 78k/km halve a litre vaporised or just leaked out via the overflow in one or more of the moments Ragnarok was on his side and the dent in the radiator is just the louvres pushed in… phew…

Next step is packing and making sure i have everything, at least everything i cannot buy cheap and easily on my way but most of it sits semi organised in my spare bedroom.
I just need to check it in time to have the opportunity to buy anything i may need.

Owh yeah…
Now he’s back together it’s clear he needed some orange in the back, even if it is just this little. And yes, he still needs that proper cleaning but i’m just finished.

Preparing Ragnarok

From years to months to an alternate trip due to Covid it is finally counting down the last weeks to the Mega Balkan trip.
An important part of that countdown is preparing Ragnarok for the long trip which is according to Basecamp 7317 KM and no doubt there will be detours caused by different reasons.
Ragnarok will be fitted with a fresh set Anakee Adventures, new brake pads all around and fresh oil and filters.

I also had to change the brake-lines on the back which came with the HEL braided lines kit and this was the perfect moment to take that on as well and i think the most time consuming job. This bike rides like a dream but working on it was not on Honda’s mind when they designed it and even Honda’s need maintenance from time to time.

At this moment the K&N air filter is cleaned and oiled, the oil plus filter are changed, the brake lines are fitted en filled but it needs a bit more flushing and bleeding. For that i had to order some additional brake fluid as i used it all already.
It’s an ABS dual combined system which is besides having a larger volume also harder to bleed and i also changing the type of brake fluid for a higher spec.
It had already the DOT5.1 but even though it has an higher boiling point as the DOT4 i still had the rear boiling up in the Italian mountains last year after Michel and i went our own way.
It was on a steep inland mountain road with not the best asphalt making the front to lock up all the time which i had to compensate with the rear, but that brake is never built to be the mail brake.
As i am expecting even worse roads and i know i’ll be riding a lot of mountains again i wanted an even higher boiling point so i ended up with a DOT4 racing grade brake fluid.
Yes i know, i should take it easy but sometimes you’re just in the flow and it happens…

The tyres and brake pads where delayed until after the weekend, parcel company’s still having problems with delivery times. It was announced to be in on Saturday but it didn’t came… bummer.
Still waiting for a reaction from my tyre guy, tyres for Ecstasy i do myself but Ragnarok has tubeless and it’s easy to damage the rim so i let those to the professional.
I hope he has time in Tuesday as i have to work until 19:00h on Mondays and Wednesday i have to be somewhere for the VFROC.
When i have confirmation i’ll ask my boss if i can use a company car, otherwise i have to put the wheels back in and get the tyres from the parcel pick up point and then go to the tyre guy to take the wheels back out. Not to mention that it will be more expensive because of the extra work.

The upcoming two weeks i also have to work Saturday leaving me 2 Sundays and a few evenings to finish Ragnarok and check and pack my gear.
Hopefully the rains will end also within those next 3 weeks.
This is how Ragnarok sitting right now, waiting for the last parts…

Yes i know, i should do a better yob when i wash him but i think the wash-box ran out of soap.
Before i leave i will go back and and take a sponge and brushes with me to do it properly, than i also can get rid of the greasy fingerprints.

Can’t wait to go.
I did some bad planning for the VFROC because again there is a ride out on the first day of my vacation but this time i won’t sacrifice a day.
This time i have planned 18 sections giving me 3 free days and 2 back-up when necessary but i hope the 3 days will do giving me the 2 days to get used to be back home.