What’s next?

The Balkan travel blog is finished so what’s up next to keep the blog alive?

I started the new year with a nice exploratory ride with Sporherre on the veru forst day of the year.
Still had to do some editing for episode 5 but the weather was too nice to not start the year with a ride.
First started with the standard long way home in the opposite direction but 1 part i didn’t do this way before and took a wrong turn, instead of turning around i just looked at the GPS for dotted lines which indicate unpaved roads but not if they open for motorcycles or not so i just had to find out.
Did find some new tracks and eventually got on the “normal” side of a part i wanted to ride. Did that in the way i knew but at the end i turned left instead of right to get back on track in the opposite way because i wanted to go on another way home to check if that was already reopened after the floods this summer.

It was still closed but i could pass with the bike but it was full of steel plates for heavy equipment from the clean up. They started right away with turning that area into a run out for when the river Maas would overflow again to safe the village i just passed through.
In the next town i decided to go right at the first roundabout instead of straight ahead. I didn’t want to go home yet so lets explore some new terrain.
The area was not new, i’ve spent many kilometres there but all paved and now i’m going to look for the unpaved and i can say that was a success which will get a sequel.

After a few roads with the dreaded signs saying i’m not allowed to have fun i spotted multiple roads where i was allowed to enter.
Couldn’t check them all at that moment but that means i have something to do in the future.
For this moment i just followed as much dirt in the right? direction towards my home, i still have to do some editing.
These double track dirt roads where not meant to be used as normal roads so there where no signs with directions but also no signs telling me it was a dead end.
Didn’t really want to turn around but a probably deep (more than a meter, most likely a couple metres) and no slope did stop me but on the right it looked like a single track.
No sign that i was not allowed to enter so let’s hope i don’t get myself in (too much) trouble and just go for it.
That was a nice track. Slippery with those wet leaves going downhill but Sporherre just feels like i can handle him anywhere and i had a lot of fun that day.

As i said, there is more to explore in that area so i will get back there soon.
Since then it rained a lot but that doesn’t change my commute home.
On Mondays i have to work late and in the dark i only take 2 offroad sections, these are in the open and not obscured by trees and reasonably predictable. Not saying that i’m on both tracks not been lucky when it didn’t was that predictable at all….
One part goes through the woods on a strange swamp like surface where it is deep mud in some places and bouncy peat soil on other, both covert in a thick layer of wet leaves and a lot of wildlife like deer, foxes, buzzards and rabbits.
The rabbits and the deer are moving around a lot in that time of the day so i leave that when it’s light and the other part…

Well… that’s also not the best place to ride in the dark when it’s not necessary

Didn’t had days off and the Balkan blog took most of the weekend time but you see i also try to have fun on my way home.
Still waiting for my new handlebar (supply chain issues) and i think i will have another order in tomorrow. Had a package announced but can’t see where it’s from but i think its the passenger handles so i think next Saturday i will build my luggage/crashbars on the back to strap the R80 set on.
Also bought myself a protection vest to be a bit better protected now i’m feeling more at home in the dirt noticing i’m also going a bit faster in some places plus i can use this with an MX jersey when it gets hot again and i don’t have to switch the back protector between the jackets any more.

This spring i will do the Belgium TET, probably somewhere in March and like to do another weekend offroading and at the same time checking the setup for the North Cape trip which has been upgraded with the Mosko Moto Hood tankbag and the VFROC Fred Schoenmakers Weekend in the ascending day weekend.
More plans… A new attempt to sell Ecstasy starting end of February. Fall is not a good time for selling a motorcycle so he’s parked in my living room, nice and clean.
I was planning on selling Ragnarok as well but having second thoughts about that. Probably putting him up for sale but i’m afraid he will not sell for the price i have in mind.
As i’m relying on my bikes alone i do have the need for a back up bike and if i don’t sell Ragnarok for a good price due to the kilometres on the odo it’s not very useful having to buy another bike leaving me with next to nothing to put in my savings account.
And on the selling and buying part. I’m also going to buy another Hero 8 to replace the 3+ for better footage from the bike and when i have it i also look for better mounting positions for more diverse footage.

For next week i hope i can tell a bit more about my plans for the North Cape trip i call the ScanBaltic trip.
There been some changes, not only that i’ll take Sporherre with me on this trip but i also did some re-routing. Partially to put in more offroad because i’m taking Sporherre but let’s say i will have to get 2 visa…
Until next week and have a splendid weekend!

Mega Balkan trip 2021, episode 7

This is it, the final episode of this for me epic journey.
It supposed to be my first big trip but corona made me change my plans and maybe even for the best.
I learned some things on my first trip like starting and ending with a sacrifice by putting in a lot of kilometres on mainly highway and main roads.
Why? Well, everything you would have seen going over nice country roads you probably have seen before or you can go see it in a weekend trip. Going that way you will cover the same distance in 3 days and doing the same on the way home you’ll save 4 days to spend in places you might not visit again.
That goes for me anyway because i like to spend my free time to explore new places.

i always thought i had the right mindset and the first trip proved that so i don’t had to worry about that and i figured out that solo travelling might fit me more. Still had to experience a full trip alone but i started with a good feeling going by myself.
And as i expected, riding alone does not say you are alone. On the ride it’s actually quite nice not having to keep track of others, you can ride your own way and make decisions on the fly. You can’t hurt someone’s feeling including your own.
Of course you will have to make sacrifices when you have limited time but you choose what that will be.

Now back to the trip where i was ended up in Jezerce, Plitvice and at the end of this episode i’ll be back home.
You might have noticed that some things i write here i also say in the video, that’s because i don’t expect everybody to read all of this and also not everybody who does reed this will watch the video.
So, like i also mention in de video is that when i lost my camelback i also lost a backpack and i didn’t want to walk all day with a handheld bag i just took my phone and a bottle of water on my walk in the Plitvice national park.
The park is 296,8km² with 16 lakes and 90 waterfalls. The part that’s dedicated for visiting has 4 walking routes which can partially can be done by road train and/or boats.
I took the 18km route starting on the other side of the lake from entrance 2 but that part was just a couple hundred meters by boat.
First i went to the upper lake and when i got back i took about a kilometre on a boat to start the walk to the lower lake and after that i also walked back to the entrance. Between the guest-house and the entrance was about 2km i also walked, i didn’t want start the bike for that and also not hassle with my gear.
I never took this much pictures and i added a bunch to start the video due to lack of video footage, here’s a little taste as well with different pictures as in the video.

The last picture is a view over the park from the road i took when i moved on the next day.
It’s one of the view roads through the national park and i think this might be the only spot to oversee the fastness of the park.

From that point it was about 150 – 175km to the Slovenian border.
Didn’t knew what to expect and i only added Bled to the route because the church in the middle of a lake is probably the most photographed item in Slovenia so let’s see it for myself when i’m here anyway.
After passing the border i was afraid it would be a boring ride, straight and flat with mediocre curves. It was like that for about 50km but then it seemed to going up a bit and i saw mountains in the distance.
From there it got interesting again with a nice surprise at some point, i think lot’s of riders would not be happy.

The asphalt ended. I see i made a mistake in the video, i thought it was at 1400m altitude but here i see it was 1040 but it kept going up for quite a while.
I fact, this was the single longest stretch of unpaved i came across on this trip and a few times i stopped to check if i the track was actually getting somewhere.
This went on for more than halve an hour with mostly a nice surface like in the picture but it had some bad sections and not all in the most ideal places.

After this it was a nice ride to Bled where i planned to stay the night.
I checked prices somewhere in March but the Dutch postponed their holidays and looking at the licence plates it also was the case in Germany raising prices 3 to 5 times than normal in this period.
Good thing i also have a tent with me and there is a campsite but that turned out to be fully booked for that evening.
Not planning on paying €80 for a night or €35 for a bunk-bed in a hostel with 11 others in a dorm room i sat down at a restaurant at the gate of the campsite with a view on the lake with the church in it. (restaurant was a little further down the road).

I parked Ragnarok next to a French Yamaha T7 and sat down for a coffee when the owner came back and we had a nice conversation and looking at the bike it got me interested… you know where that has lead…
Back to the coffee it was time to get online to fine an affordable place to stay the night.
Knowing this region would be completely out of range for what i was willing to pay i broadened my surge further along my route.
I don’t mind getting a couple of hours out of the way but it makes no sense to go in a direction where you end up in the same region the next day.
There where 2 more places i wanted to go where i had to think about when looking for a place and the first was Aupa, Udine where i could see the rugged peaks of Monte Chiavals/Cjavals.

I ended up in Taipana, Italy. At least that’s what the address said but it is in the middle of nowhere and if there wasn’t a sign where i thought i had to go up the road i had never found it.
The road was very bad and it was starting to get dark after a nice ride from Bled avoiding toll roads which had me back tracking for about halve an hour and then a couple of hours through the mountains.
Besides it was bad (close to offroad) the GPS and Google maps telling me the road was somewhere else, sometimes to the left and other moments to the right but not where i was following the actual road.
Cellphone service was bad to nothing so i also could not call. Without the sign i think i would have turned around but in the end the GPS met the road at the point where the guest house was.
I had i nice and friendly welcome with some home made lemonade and a short difficult conversation. She tried and was very kind but her English was next to noting just like my Italian.

I was the only guest, too late for summer holidays and too early for winter sports and with nothing close by it’s not the first place you would go but that also kept the price low.
The only restaurant was about halve an hour back down that bad road and not sure it was open. I have some emergency food so i don’t risk that road in the dark and just stay put.
This was one of the, actually the only moment i was alone and with no wifi because they finished the data on the satellite card (no other connection)
With my last minute booking no possibility to get a new card and bad reception i just managed to see the Itchy Boots episode for that night and then it got cold fast so back inside for an early night.
The next day the hostess made me a special breakfast. Normally Italians tend to have a sweet breakfast but she made me eggs from their own chickens with home made pancetta making up for missing out on diner the night before.
When it was time to leave she gave me a wooden good luck medallion they had out to all their guests and i started what turned out to be the final ride of this trip.

I was bout an hour out of the track but i think it would be about 2,5 hours to get to that point if i stayed in Bled and followed my initial route.
Not long after getting back on track i got to Cascata Aupa, the dead end road to a great view on Monte Chiavals.

This is just a glimp, because of the sun i could not make a picture but you’ll get an idea of the view when you watch the video.
After that the next and final goal of the trip was the Timmelsjoch, a high alpine road and to get there i had several mountain passes to get there.

Final night was planned on a campsite in Huben, a little town after the Timmelsjoch.
When i got there it turned out the restaurant was closed and i was not planning to pay way too much for a single person tracking tent and a bike on a campsite with no views and no facility’s. Same goes for hotels/pensions/B&B’s which started at €80 also without restaurants.
It was Austria 2020 all over, only this time plenty of choice but also for plenty of cash.
Frome here on the plan was already to take the highway home but just to check i plotted the fastest way home.
Took one detour not too far along the road just to check if there might be an affordable place but no luck.

As i told i learned from last year and i stopped for diner at a reasonable time and still tried to find a place to spent the night.
I hoped to find something after all and split the rest of the trip up in two days over country roads and almost willing to pay the €80 but the hotel where i ate was also fully booked.
I found a campsite but could not book online and it was already dark and i didn’t feel like going south again on a north bound trip on a wild goose hunt.
Had an early night the day before, a good breakfast and a nice meal so i had my mind set on going back to the highway set the cruise control, put on some music and just head home.
At that point i had about 700km to go and it was about 20:15 – 20:30 when i started the last leg.

I had to stop a couple of time for fuel where i also took care of myself having coffee and a snack.
In the last hour and a halve i ran into some resistance. The highway was closed and it looked like the detour was way out of my direction so i turned around and at the intersection where i had to take the detour i got on to the smaller main road along the highway.
Plan was to follow that road almost next to the highway until i could get back after the closed section.
When i found it i only could follow the highway for a few kilometres to the next exit because after that it was closed again.
It turned out this section was still under construction after the floods a few months before wiping out a large chunk of the highway.
Now plotting a proper detour discovering the first detour was not bad after all. Probably about 5 minutes but being a smart-ass i extended that by another 30 minutes.
I arrived back home at 3:33 according to the log files of the GPS.
Time to go to bed and use the couple of days left to put everything back in it’s place and get used to the regular life again.

Now this travel blog has come to an end i will get you up to speed what went on the last weeks and what the plans are for the near future.

Mega Balkan trip 2021, episode 6

The end is near with this second last episode.
In this episode i leave Shkoder cross Montenegro and Bosnia to end up in Jezerce, a little village on the edge of Plitvice national park in Croatia.

From Shkoder to the border with Montenegro is just shy of 20 minutes. At the border i pulled up behind the cars because it’s just a few cars but i got waved by the border police to the walkway.
They made a ramp so cyclist and motorbikes can also pull up on that side of the window.
After finishing the paperwork for the car he was already working on it was my turn making this crossing again a quick one.

I’ve been here before with my ex on a fly and drive holiday and passed this border in both ways by car.
This time i take the same road along lake Skadar but use a shortcut to get up the mountain.
With the car we had to turn around a few time because it was too sketchy for my ex but also one time for me, or more for the car. I had a perfect record of returning rentals without damage and i was not planning on changing that.
This was the shortcut looking up to the destination and down on it.

Once up there it was a short ride to the lake.
On the map it looks like the road is on level with the lake but it was definitely not the case, i knew this from the first time i got here so this time there was no disappointment. Back then the idea was to check the swamp area down and by the time we got to that level it was too late to take some tour.
I really loved that road so now i could enjoy it even more.

This lake is 5500km² with about 62% here in Montenegro (rest in Albania) giving you an idea why it took so long to get down.
Along the way there are some ways that seem to go down but we were not sure and only at the far side we could get on an excursion.
On this road i came across the first other bikers since the 2 i saw in Albania and the first i spoke to since Motocamp Bulgaria.
Again someone who had to wait for the friends who fell behind, something you don’t have when riding alone. These guys where from France.

From the lake i went to the coast to Petrovac via Budva to the harbor town of Kotor.
In the initial plan i was going to stay the night there in the hidden old town but as you know after Odessa the plan went overboard and will not be resumed until Plitvice.
Kotor may not be a place to stay but i’m there in the perfect time for lunch.

After lunch i’m heading for the reason to go here, the Kotor serpentine road where you rise 423 meter over a stretch of 8,3km and 16 hairpin turns.
But to get there my GPS threw in a surprise.
I followed the route but i didn’t noticed that it didn’t followed the track which is the real planned route. Sometimes i go in a different direction if i spot something or i got some tips i want to check out and in that case the GPS recalculate the route and might take a different route between 2 points to get back on track just like in this case.
When i noticed it was too late to turn around as i was in a tunnel and the other way was a traffic jam which is not safe to pass in a tunnel so i went along with her choice.
After the tunnel i had to take a left turn and there it got interesting…
The shortcut in the beginning was about a 60% incline (30 degrees) but this was close to a 100% (45).

The bike was in fist gear and i had to let it bump into the gear real slow, otherwise the gear was not able to hold him in place.
I had to pee real bad and i couldn’t use the distraction here but it was also not the smartest move to stop here. When i continued i had a hard time keeping the front wheel on the ground and at that post you can see just in front was the next very tight hairpin turn.
That post is also where you can get a little idea of the incline and this part was very close to my and also Ragnarok’s limit. He had the power and torque but any steeper and i had to mount wheely bars.

I didn’t get to a point where i could make a picture of the serpentine so i hope this borrowed picture won’t get me in trouble but i just had to show why i wanted to go there with a bike.
Back then i went down and was stuck behind a bus for a big part, now i went up as it is nicer to ride when the bike pulls.

P1, a narrow serpentine road from Cetinje to Kotor

From here on i went north for my next destination, Durmitor national park.
Of course i took the small roads for the most and yet again it got me almost without fuel.
Big parts of road where missing, not closed but a new road was being constructed and they probably thought that when they had the machines there to dig out the base of the new road they also could take away the old road already.
No problem and also not unexpected as i experienced it on the first trip there and al over the Balkans.
What was unexpected was the distance between petrol stations but on the last trip we took more main roads.
The next trip i think i have to plan the fuel better because Norway is less populated and way bigger.

It was all very beautiful and remote. Until i got back to the more main road i drove about 2 hours and saw about 2 or 3 cars.
The first 3 are about halve way between Kotor and Niksic (also a good Montenegrin beer), the other 2 are the front and rear view of the hotel for that night.
There i had diner with a Finnish motorcycle traveller who spends several moths per year on the bike, he went on to a cheaper place after diner but when you spent that much time you have to save as much as you can.

Now it was time to find out if i made the right choice to take another road through the park then most people do.
I don’t plan too much but i do check Google maps and YouTube if it’s worth my time or that i gamble on the unknown and this time i gambled the unknown based on a few pictures over a Streetview covered road and part of many video’s.
The R-14 (or P14 in Google maps) is going left from the mountain you look at in the front view picture at the hotel which is south.
I went more north to Zabljak and then west/north-west meeting up with the P14 at Trsa and i think i made the right decision.

At Trsa you’re about to leave Durmitor national park towards lake Piva where you descent and then follow the lake north where it turns into a river and also the border between Montenegro and Bosnia.
After crossing the border over the Tara river i went south again following the Drina river through Sutjeska national park towards Gacko and on to Mostar.
According to pictures Mostar had to be a small old town and i was thinking to stay the night there but it was far form that.
It was a big metropolis and within minutes i had burning eyes from the smog, this is why you never should go on the brochure.
I passed it anyway and that’s why i didn’t check it out on forehand, it was not a destination so it was a bit of a bummer but not a disappointment.
It was still early enough to keep going, i didn’t book a hotel yet so stick to the plan of ride until i don’t feel like it or it gets too late.

I went to the Trebizat waterfall but it had an entrance fee and it was too late for something i had to pay for and have no time to spend some time.
It was all dry and desert like over there and there was also not much for overnighting. I saw i motel on Google maps but i was not sure about that until i passed it.
It turned out to be like an oasis so i turned around, another good choice.
Friendly staff, nice and cheap room plus good food. This was my view during breakfast.

Again i was close to the border, this time the border with Croatia which was another plus because at the motel i could switch to the Croatian network which is covered on my cellphone data plan giving me free internet without the need of wifi.

After breakfast i set sail to the Croatian coast to follow the famous coastal road until Sibenik and inland from there.
Even though i like the sea (water and mountains) i think this road is overrated. It was a nice easy ride with a nice view and i could cover some distance but only because it was after the holiday season. Maybe i should have take a right turn just after Brela and head to Serbia but i will cover that when i manage to get to South Africa, in that case it’s on my way. If not i still can go to Serbia for the TET.
I ended the day in Jezerca on the edge of Plitvice national park and that was one of the goals of the trip but that’s for the next and last episode of the Balkan blog.

Mega Balkan trip 2021, episode 5

Happy new year for everybody and may your dreams come trough.
Don’t do new year resolutions but change things you don’t like about your life or yourself when you discover it and not because it’s a new year.
Only reason to postpone things you want to do is because it cost more money than you have but don’t let those thing become a dream but make it a goal.
This episode almost was later than i wanted because yesterday it was to good to not take Sporherre for a ride, what a start of the new year that was.
But now back to the Balkan…

Motocamp Bulgaria was a great place even though there where not many guests.
It was already late in the season corona still was (and is) amongst us leaving them with limitations.
An American BMW GS was parked there, the owner shipped it there to have an European road trip but went home almost right away because he was afraid he got stuck here.
Some people from the UK moved to the little town, also motorcycle travellers who are now living there.
A Dutch elderly couple on a Honda Goldwing arrived a bit later which whom i had a nice conversation that evening and an i believe Irish guy who gave me some tips based on my direction where i could go to check out.
The eyes of God caves where the best option, not to much out of my way and the other i will visit on my way to South Africa.

When you watch the video you will be surprised about the location.
I knew about this cave but not where it was located and because i was not expecting it this close to my route i would have missed it just like i would have missed the rock formation in the last episode.
These are two great examples why you should not plan to much and leave room to adjust, not only in your time-frame but also in your mindset.

From there i rode to Kjoestendil, about 20km from the Macedonian border where i found a cheap hotel.
The hotel was not bad but the manager was a bitch and the breakfast terrible. It was the only person on my trip who was not friendly.
Wait… that’s not true. When i went for diner i stopped at a restaurant where i left because i was ignored like i was not there. Probably they didn’t need the money and could live from the locals alone so i left.
It was still early so i strolled through town ending up at a restaurant with great food and friendly staff. It was completely booked for a bit later but i still could sit down and i never had the feeling that they want me out in time for the guests who had reservations.
After desert and another beer i decided to try to find the hotel. I had a global idea where i was but wanted to take a more direct route back where i had no references from passing by on my stroll through town.
Luckily my inner compass still worked after using the GPS for a long time.

The plan for the next day is to get at least to Kosovo. At Motocamp Bulgaria the owner told me there where restrictions for coming into Bulgaria from Macedonia, even when fully vaccinated you had to have a PCR test so to avoid problems getting out of Macedonia i had a 5 hour window to get from Bulgaria to Kosovo.
It was just under 3 hours, no problem and i got into Kosovo without questions at all.

At the border i had to arrange some insurance for the bike because Kosovo is not in the EU and also not a Schengen country and therefore not covered on my green card (EU insurance coverage list).
It was not difficult because the first building after the border control said “insurance” and in just a few minutes i went out with a free insurance. For some reason i could not pay but i had the proper papers and i was good to go.
On my way i’ll have to look out for an ATM to get some Euro’s because i spent my last 20 bill at the Transnistrian border.
Kosovo is also not completely recognised, only by 97 from the 193 members of the United Nations but still enough to get them on the map unlike Transnistria who is only recognised by 3 also non recognised country’s.
Kosovo is an unofficial user of the Euro just like Montenegro and Zimbabwe, they cannot print their own version but have to buy them At the ECB (European Central Bank).

Even though the war ended in 1999 many people still think of that war when they hear the name Kosovo and that is quite sad because it’s a beautiful country.

It still was to early to stop when i was about to leave the country so i kept going and entered Albania.
This was a bigger border with lots of cars but i knew in these country’s it was normal to pass the line when you’re on a motorcycle so i squeezed through the lines. Even though it’s normal there are always a few people who don’t like it but you just have to ignore them.
Just like Ukraine for this reason it took less than halve an hour to cross instead of 2 to 3 hours making me decide to keep going, but first a coffee just passed the border.
The first 10 to 15km was highway because this was the only border within 70km or a lot more highway to get there and way out of my direction too.
Another 10 to 15km later the fun really started. A long twisty road ahead of me with pretty good asphalt, only a big bitumen filled crack in lots of places i had to avoid.

This is the SH5 and when you want to ride it don’t forget to fill your tank in Kukes when your entering from Kosovo or Vau i Dejes when you come from Montenegro.
I’m used to mountain roads where you have at least every 20 to 30 km a petrol station but this went on and on for about 75km and thinking a will come by one soon enough i was not riding very economical.
Still, or better said again out of the free use of internet data on my phone i also could not check for petrol or a hotel.
Now i refresh my memory not mixing up things for the story there where hotels along that road but not within sight so it seemed like there was nothing but i had way too much fun to stop anyway.
At some point i decided to continue to Shkoder and when i got close i stopped to check for a place to stay and ended up in a hotel just on the other side of the roundabout where i had something to drink when i went to Shkoder with my ex in 2019.
It was not in Shkoder itself but just outside along the Buna River with a few on the fortress.

This is close to the border with Montenegro but that’s for the next episode, i think there will be 2 more episodes and then i will focus on the preparations for the ScanBaltic trip and i want to do 1 or 2 weekend trips with Sporherre before the big trip.

Mega Balkan trip 2021, episode 4

With a little delay it’s time to continue the trip.
Coincidentally the trip also had a break here which i mentioned in the previous episode.
It took a bit to get out of town but after that it was completely different as the way i came in.
The roads where in almost perfect condition for the majority of this whole section.
Some long straight sections with wide views and not long into the first straight a group of bikers stood beside the road so i stopped to see if everything was fine and if not my toolkit might be of use.
They where okay but one of the bikes not and even my extended toolkit was no use. There was coming smoke out of a part of the engine where there should not be a hole but a van was already on it’s way.

They send me this picture later over mail which was very nice, they also send another with the message that the bike was fixed and it was not a cheap fix so i hope this time the bike will last a very long time.
It was nice to meet some local bikers, i did not see a lot of motorcycles after i left the Transfagarasan.

I actually planned another route but the GPS was not willing to follow that and even trying to make a route from the track was not working no matter what i tried.
Of-course i could just follow the line on the GPS (the track is just a line on the GPS and does not give directions) but for some reason i decided not to this time and when i got to the border with Ukraine again (there was still a part Moldova in between Ukraine and Romania) it confirmed that it was probably the best choice.
They didn’t let me pass and had to turn around. Unlike the other borders they didn’t spoke English, not even a little but what i could make out of it there was no customs at that border and they couldn’t tell me where the correct border was or didn’t understand, even with help of the GPS.
Only direction they tried to give me was back and left. I wanted adventure so i got it.
Even with the language barrier that caused a little frustration we all stayed friendly and it proved again that you never should go on bad story’s and unfamiliar country’s are not dangerous by definition. When there are wars going on you should stay away but only because of the situation and never because of the people, they are almost always victims of politics and/or religious believes and in the latter a bad and wrong interpretation of it by the leaders.

After about 30km i was kind of back on track, not back on route yet but on a road that should get me there just before the border with Romania and also back on the originally planned route.
Just 12km after getting back on track i arrived in Galati where i planned to stay the night but it was just 13:00h.
Change of plans. Find a place to lunch, fix the camera issue and start the next section to continue the ride as i was not ready to stop after a “resting” day.
After lunch i went to the ferry to cross the Danube river. I had to wait a bit but not very long and once on the other side i was glad i didn’t had to cross from that side, there was a line that went on for a few kilometres and even with a motorcycle it would take a long time to pass.

I really wanted to go through the mountains more west but it was too far out of the way for the connection with Bulgaria.
At the crossroads just out Sarighiol de Deal another group of bikers stood halve on and halve beside the road. They just where waiting for a friend who fell behind.
When you ride a bike full of gear and a foreign licence plate a talk always start automatically, bikers or not.
They asked me where i was going and i gave them a general direction and that i was not sure where i was going. That already seemed mind-blowing for them but when i couldn’t tell where i was going to stay the night at somewhere around 16:30h they got a bit confused.
Showing the route on the GPS they told me that there was a nicer route and they invited me to join as it was somehow in the same direction. They where from the Constanta region and my route was getting there also.

Never turn down an opportunity to get a free tour from locals and my route was a lightly glowing barren farmland, better than the pictures in Google maps made it look but still not real exciting so i had nothing to loose.
At Râmnico de Jos my route was going left but we went straight and in between Cheia and Târgusor out of the blue there was a huge rock formation.

We had a little talk there and they gave me some options for towns where i could find some cheaper accommodation as the coast mostly is a bit more expensive.
The place might be a bit too far but i told them i’ll see, we already said goodbye and i followed them to Constanta where they went to their different directions ans i got back on the original track.
I stopped to check for a place to stay and ended up in Vama Veche anyway, the town the guys mentioned.
The guest-house i picked was another win that day, i fitted in with the guests and host who also where free spirits and after diner in town we had a great evening with lots of laughs and story’s. Every day had something special but this must be just the greatest and most crazy day of the trip.

Good thing i don’t get hung over very easy because the next day i have to cross the border with Bulgaria before the tyres and engine had the change to heat up.
There was just a short line and while waiting they asked about the corona status and i showed them the QR code in the app but even though it was a European system they didn’t had a reader. Luckily i knew i could open the info also which i had to explain and i could continue but i had the idea they didn’t understand anything, welcome to the one Europe with all the same rules and regulations… oh wait… NOT.

Now i’m going towards Varna to get a final look at the Black sea and find a place where i can get some sort of breakfast/brunch.
After 50 minutes i arrived at the place where i was planning to stay this night but i screwed up my plans yesterday so take breakfast a day early and continue, the plans are just guidelines anyway and only to keep track of time so i don’t have to call my employer that i stay longer en don’t know how long.
The building on the right is where i had something to eat.

From here on i’m starting to get closer to home as i go on and timewise i’m literally halve way, a good time to start going back. The most direct route back home from this point is 2311km but i’m not taking that route.
I do start with a little section highway when i get out of Varna, that’s because the secondary road is just as straight with the same view and only about 25km before it ends into a normal 2 lane road.
A YouTube channel i follow, Nomad Sweden https://www.youtube.com/c/NomadSweden did a Balkan trip a few months before i went. They where asking the followers for tips on where to go in the region i was about to head and i gave them a few options but they where more offroad orientated like i am on the next trip.

However, the series came out just before i left and they visited Motocamp Bulgaria and i checked where it was and it turned out it was just of the road i am on now so i planned to make a short visit just like they did but with the new plans a have to make up on the fly it made sense to stay the night and i did.
A great place by bikers for bikers and when you’re in the neighbourhood just go there.
As you can see i put my sticker just under the one from Nomad Sweden in the big dining room and also close on the fridge in the self service bar.

Also got a tip from a visitor but that’s for the next episode.
Not sure where that one will end but i think it will cross Macedonia, Kosovo and i think it will end in Albania or maybe where i stayed the night in Montenegro but it depends on the video. The first 2 episodes where just a bit too long i think.

I am very ashamed

Last Friday on my way home on Ragnarok he felt wrong under braking, like the steering stem bearings had some play.
But that couldn’t be because i changed them for conical and even with my use they should last much longer.
Saturday i went looking for the cause and it was not what i expected, the front brake pads where completely gone and one to the metal.
I was not expecting this because i put new pads on just before the Balkan trip. To keep track of what i do i have an Excel sheet where i keep a log of the maintenance of the bikes and when i put in the kilometres for this change i calculated it from the last change and they lasted only 12500km!!!
Guess my kind of riding in the mountains with the full gear is a bit more aggressive on the brakes than expected.

So yes, i’m ashamed that i let it come to this…

I also didn’t wash him in those 12500km and that also showed.
But in my defence, it was only a few months so who was expecting this already?
I ordered some new pads right away and left him in the garage this week awaiting the new pads.
Always used Ferodo but this time i went for Brembo, let’s see how they will do.

It is possible that i don’t manage to get episode 4 from the Balkan trip ready this weekend also, something came up for Saturday.
As i mentioned in my introduction i’m also a volunteer traffic controller assisting the police with truckruns and other events like that.
An owner of a trucking company died last week and Saturday is his funeral and he’s going from the funeral home to the cemetery in a huge convoy which i’m helping to guide through traffic.
Today i had to fix the brakes and tomorrow i need to wash Ragnarok because i cannot attend a funeral with i bike looking like this.

Why not taking Sporherre than you might ask?
Well one thing is that Ragnarok has a nice lighting option for this work and second he’s even worse…

Maybe Saturday evening or Sunday or at least starting with editing and finishing it later in the week… we’ll see.

Episode 4 will be for next week

I was planning to put on 1 episode each week until the trip is covered but i’m running behind on some other chores.
This weekend i’m going to design the anniversary T-shirt for the VFROC member who had participated in all the rides of the special anniversary edition.

In the mean time i discovered a problem with Sporherre.
On the test ride before i bought him i noticed the front fork was torqued, no problem as it can happen and just reported my finding when i got back.
When i decided to buy him even though i did not sold Ecstasy they confirmed i was right and they straightened it.
In the time i have Sporherre i played a bit with the positioning of the handlebar and somehow i couldn’t get it right. In every position one of the hands felt out of line and i start exploring why that was and apparently the event that torqued the front fork also bent the handlebar.

I started to look for a handlebar but they turned out more expensive than i thought so i called the shop where i bought him as i had warranty on it and explained it. Problem is that the shop is 170km form my home so i told him that i would send some pictures (those above) that should be clear about the situation.
He said they would look at them and look for a proper solution. The next day in the morning i already had an answer on the mail that they would order a new handlebar and if i agree that they send it to me and i fit it myself.
That was exactly what i hoped due to the distance as it would cost me a full tank of gas and the large part of a day. Mailing it would be cheaper for them also because they don’t need to spend the time in the workshop for replacing.

On my search i also came across a black handlebar for the T7 so i was a bit cheeky and asked if they need to order one if it was possible it would be the black one.
Already happy with the service without any hassle i became even happier because i got an answer that they ordered the black one which turns out to be the one for the T7 Rally.
Hope it comes quickly but parts supply is with lots of company’s a bit of a problem at the moment and the parcel company’s are overloaded, especially after Black Friday and Christmas on it’s way but glad the problem will be solved without any cost.

Mega Balkan trip 2021, episode 3

Last week i ended on the Transfagarasan and it’s time to leave that wet mountain.
I always try to ad a video with the blog and i do some voice over when recording audio on the road fails, most of it will be told here also but not everybody likes reading.
However, the blog tells way more so when you read it you still can enjoy the view and place the story at the places you see in the video.
The first 2 got a bit longer than i wanted but this week it’s a short one.

Getting down from the Transfagarasan it got dry and this is bear country so i really hoped to see one in the wild and i was not being disappointed. Before i left the Transfagarasan road there was one sitting in a corner, just relaxing.

Also have it on video but still not the best footage. I made some quick pictures and turned the camera on but didn’t want to waste my real life experience to get it all in high quality looking at it through a screen like most people live their life’s these days.
I do want to share it with you but not sacrifice my goals for you, I’ll try to give you something and it’s up to you to imagine how great it will be to be there. It might pushes you to go and experience it for yourself.

Next goal is the Bicaz Gorge but i discovered when i was putting the route together that i was passing not far from Bran so i made a little change to pass Bran Castle a.k.a. Dracula’s castle.
After a bit of nice weather Transylvania did what it does best, changing into rain and i had to be double careful as there where also cow’s on the road.

After those nice mountain roads i got to Bran and i’m not a touristy guy but wanted to check out the castle. It ended up to be at least an hour waiting in line to get in and as it was not a goal i turned around for a picture and continue my ride for that day.

In fact this is not the real castle of Dracula but this is the one he fled to, the real castle is a ruin somewhere on the Transfagarasan which i missed due to the weather.
But this is the one that is restored and used in the original book about Vlad III better known as Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula.
Next was to find a place to stay for the night but that was after some more riding with more changing between dry and rain.
This was another time i just stopped somewhere and asked if they have a room.

The next day was a short one through the Bicaz Gorge to Lasi, close to the Moldovan border.
Romania is a country with a great variety of mountain types. The Transalipina was rocky with a yellow brownish longer grass and moss, the Transfagarasan had green short grass and moss, then towards Bran it was a forest but on mountains and Bicaz is just big bare rock sticking out of a forest.

After Bicaz it was an easy ride, nice but not spectacular but in Lasi i had some trouble finding a cheap accommodation. I thought i found a nice place outside Lasi and getting there was quite a challenge as i had to get through a residential area but all the roads where unpaved.
Not challenging but when i got out it went downhill with deep ruts and that was on this heavy bike. It ended up being useless too as it was not even a B&B so back to Lasi where i eventually found a place on the side i entered Lasi.
Luckily it also had a restaurant so food and beer was also covered…

Time to enter the next country, Moldova.
I didn’t get any local money as i just was passing through. I was expecting some bad roads but it was a bit rough but overall not bad at all making me think if i missed out not taking back roads. I didn’t think much about it as there where not many and after that place just outside Lasi i doubted those roads where paved with possibly a huge difference to the main road.

Then i came across some checkpoints wondering if i need to stop but they waved me to keep going… strange, what is the purpose of it as the Ukraine border is still over 100km away.
Yet i run into a border?
There are 2 very nice looking ladies, one in some sort of police uniform and the other in camo, they spoke reasonable English but when i asked what country i was about to enter they said Република Молдовеняскэ Нистрянэ.
I thought i just didn’t hear it well because of my earplugs but after 3 times i gave up.
I had to buy a vignette and i could pay in Moldovan Lei, Dollars or Euro. I didn’t change any to Moldovan Lei as i explained before but i had a €20 note but that was a problem even though it was a currency they said was accepted???
It seemed to be just too large but it was all i had. Creditcard was not possible and he kept looking at his phone and was sighing but stayed friendly just like myself, it’s the best way to get things solved.
Then a local walked in and seemingly he crosses that border often, they spoke a bit and made his papers ready and then he made a gesture to come with him. He opened a glove compartment in his car and took out a big stack of 50 Moldovan Lei bills and he changed my €20 bill for 400 Lei.
Now i could pay and it was now clear that it was not his intention to let me have him the €20 because he didn’t want the change from the local currency, or it was not good enough not being €16.

When i could continue and passed the gates a shield said PMR, when i got to my apartment in Ukraine and established wifi i looked it up. it stands for Pridnestrovian Moldovian Republic or Transnistria for short.
It is a independent dwarf state not recognized by most country’s other than a few other country’s in a similar situation. I count it as a halve because i still had to do the whole border handling.
When i was editing the video i was not sure if my insurance was valid just as i was thinking when i arrived there but when i Googled the name (i keep forgetting what the “P” stands for) i also noticed that because it is not recognized it is just part of Moldova.

The roads here where a bit worse than in Moldova but still quite descent.
At one point a truck-driver signalled me from behind riding on the wrong side of the road making me doubting about the side of the road where i have to ride but oncoming traffic took that away. I did stop to check if i might lost something or had a broken light or so.
Nothing wrong and on to Ukraine.

At the border a friendly soldier with a big machine gun told me to pass the line and walk to the window making the crossing take about 15 to 20 minutes instead of a couple of hours.
Next challenge was to find an exchange office to get rid of the Moldovan Lei as the Moldovans and Ukrainians are not friends so accepting each others money is out of the question and in Romania where i get back to after Odessa they also have a Lei but a different one and also not keen on the Moldovans if i remember correctly.
English was a problem here and it took a few attempts to get the proper information about the whereabouts of the exchange office but i got there.
It turned out to be not at the border but the first intersection.

Because of the money issue at the border i was not convinced that plastic will be accepted at gas stations but in theory i had enough to get to Odessa and in practice it was too.
But it will be helpful if there was petrol at the gas station and there was not, only diesel and it was already getting critical but still no reason for panic having the 2 litre extra.
The next did and after that it was time to find my place to stay for the next two nights.
Reason to stay a day over is a motorcycle store who had the camelback i want on their website so in the next day i can check if they have it in stock and do a bit sightseeing at the same time and look for extra memory for the camera’s.
And here i also ticked another destination… the Black Sea.

Yes i am happy, very happy even but just not a selfie type. Welcome to the Black Sea…

Mega Balkan trip 2021, Episode 2

This episode is about the whole reason to take on this trip, the Transalpina and the Transfararasan.
Two passes next to each other with the Transfagarasan as the more known pass, partly because the guys from Top Gear named it the most beautiful driving road of Europe but i disagree, i’ll get back to that later on.

Episode 1 ended at a hotel at the bottom of the mountain where the Transalpina passes but it was still quite a ride to get there.
Not a problem because it was still a bit chilli but sunny and it was a nice road with great scenery, perfect to start the day and get into the groove.

At some point the GPS said right but it was closed by a roadworker and the sign said the Transalpina was left???
A bit confused i turned into the parking lot at the T splitting, there where some stands and i could get a coffee.
At that stand i met some bikers, a Belgium guy on his way with two locals and they told me the sign is wrong and always was.

When you go left like the sign said you never get to the Transalpina and it seems that nobody knows why it is wrong or why it never has been changed.
The closure to the right turned out not to be a problem, the roadworker had traffic duty because one halve of the road was closed for repairs and both ways had to take turns on passing so after the coffee break i could continue in the right direction.

I did got stuck behind some other riders which where difficult to pass as they went like crazy on the straight but couldn’t handle the corners but there it was not safe to pass.
Even the few corners i could oversee i could not use to overtake them as some of the riders went wide and two of them almost crashed but didn’t seem to understand that they shouldn’t go faster than they can handle.
Just hope they don’t learn the hard way after all.

At the pass i did stop a few times to take in the scenery and take some pictures leaving me with more than enough road to ride at my own speed.
And that is not even the main reason why i think this pass is a better riders road than the Transfagarasan but why it is has to wait until the story gets there… don’t get ahead of ourselves.

Along the way i came across the guys form the coffee stand quite some times and even after the pass they went the same way.
At some point after studying their riding behaviour i asked one of the locals about the rules and he said that they don’t apply for motorcycles and according to the reaction and behaviour of the people in the cars it might be true too.
I already adapted to the local riding at the first day in Romania but having it confirmed made the rest of my time in Romania even more relaxed.

On my way to the Transfagarasan i ended up at a busy road. On the map it seemed like a nice road which it was but they don’t have a lot of highways and this turned out to be a main road but there where no options in my direction.
The scenery was good but filming the back of a truck and some overtaking which would look idiotic on camera due to lack of overview was not worth the memory.
Halve way that road it started to rain as well but it kept going, a lack of traffic lights did help a lot.
It was a bit boring after the first halve of the day but not halve as bad as these kind of roads in the Netherlands.

When i got off that road on a connecting inland road to the next main road i had to make a detour. I had to cross a bridge but there was no bridge and as far as i could see there never was just like there also was no ferry and no road leading to the point where i should cross the river.
Just had to follow the only direction of the road and eventually i found a bridge.
Not much later i got to the next boring road but they where only few on this trip and a necessary evil to get to the places i wanted within the time i had.
Petrol is something that made me nervous a few times, at moments there are more than enough gas stations but when i needed them they seemed scares.
Just after the roundabout where i had to go right towards the Transfagarasan there was one. According to the cue it was one of only few and a sign that it was a smart decision to fill Ragnarok up before heading to the pass.

Next strange problem, i could not get back to where i should go?? Only one exit with one way to go and it was the wrong way.
Luckily just after 1,5km there was a side road where i could turn around.
Just after getting back on track a entered the town where the section ended but as i said, i don’t have plans but guidelines and i started the next section.
I didn’t want to stop and i felt like i could find a place after the Transfagarasan but when i came closer a big cloud started to consume the mountain top and the mountain got smaller by the minute… maybe better to find a place to stay after all.
Just at the base of the pass there was a hotel where i decided to stay the night hoping that it would be better in the morning.

It was Belgian day i guess because after walking past the shops and have a beer i went to see if the restaurant at the hotel was open and at that moment another Belgian guy came in.
He was passing through on his bike and was looking for food. He was on his way home for an important appointment but he must do the Transfagarasan.
He was a bit restless and the clouds where not helping as he was foreseeing not seeing anything at all.
We had a meal together and i went outside with him to take a look at his chain as he was a bit doubtful about the tension. It was not the best any more but i told him that if he kept some tension on it while riding it would be okay.
As we stood next to the bikes we looked up and saw the clouds disappear even faster as they came and i told him he might be one lucky bastard.
If you don’t like the weather in Transylvania you just need to wait a few minutes is what they say and it is true. Problem is when you do like the weather it can change as fast none the less so when you decide to come here prepare for the worst, hope for the best and accept what you get.

The next day it was dry but cloudy, as it is chilli in the morning this time of the year (this morning was the first of September) i already put on my raincoat as a wind stopper and the medium gloves so i am prepared if it changes.
To give you an idea how close at the foot the hotel was, this was 50 meters after leaving the parking lot.

This day i had less time to get into the groove and is i got close to the bit where it’s all about it was raining again but you can’t have it all.
At least the clouds stayed high and i could still enjoy the dramatic scenery and that’s where we get to what i said in the opening about this not being the better road over the Transalpina and it’s not because it rained here although it has a part in it.
I think the Transalpina does have less rain and therefore more likely to be better to ride but the road is in better shape and you can see further ahead i most places.
The scenery at the Transfagarasan does feel a bit more dramatic and you have the feeling that it is higher but as a matter of fact the Transalpina is the highest paved road in Romania at 2145 meters above sea level against 2134 for the Transfagarasan.
But have a look for yourself, i leave you with a few pictures and the video for this episode en next week we continue the trip going down the Transalpina crossing off one bucketlist thing i had no control over and just could hope it happened and on to the next destination(s).

Mega Balkan trip 2021, Episode 1

Finally i found some time to start editing the footage form the Balkan trip and i finished part 1. No idea how many parts it’s going to be but i guess 5 or 6 and i hope now i started i can post an episode every week but i don’t make any promises.

The Italian trip in 2020 was my first big trip and i loved it, but i also learned from it.
I wanted to start right at my doorstep with the nice roads but with limited time unlike the YouTube travellers like Itchy Boots and Pedro Mota it’s actually a waste of time.
Everything i see the first and last 2 days i also can see in a few weekend trips, if i not been there already on a weekend like the VFROC weekends.
This trip i kind of sacrificed 2 days to gain 4 days which made me feel more free because i didn’t needed to cut a part short if i didn’t make a section or decided to take a day of to stay over because i want to.

So, the fist day became a 885km trip over the Autobahn until the Austrian border to take on some main inland roads to somewhere not to far from the Hungarian border.
This trip and the Northern Europe trip where my initial bucketlist trips and for both i already made a rough version when my now ex and i decided i should do one of those trips.
Then it became clear it was going to be this trip and i started to work it out as a real trip and in that version it took me 3 days to get to this point instead of one.
An 885km trip is a long one on it’s own but the rain made it not any easier and when i was sure i was going to make it i took one resting moment to book the hotel i had the section ending.
The idea was that i’m behind the holiday season and therefore places are not fully booked but i was wrong.

Unlike last year when Covid resulted in early closing by some places and lots of room in the still open places this year a lot of people waited. The Dutch waited for their vaccination as we went down by age making the age group that had the most people going on a vacation be quit late.
Too late to be fully vaccinated when the season started so they postponed their holidays and went when they could which was the same time i went already for a long time to avoid the typical obnoxious holiday people and save some money at the same time.
There was a motel in the same town with a free room with breakfast for a reasonable price and i booked it. It’s good to have that sorted on such a long day even if it is not really appealing.

Once there it turned out that the restaurant was not open for diner so i unpacked what i needed and decided to break in my new hiking shoes i bought for the trip on the 1,5km walk to the nearest restaurant.
Last year i took some boat shoes as they where nice and compact, i had hiking shoes but they where a high model and that is a lot of space on a motor trip. I had plans that involved quit a hike so for this trip i bought new and low hiking shoes.
At the restaurant i ended up having a few beers with some locals and having a good time after all.

The next day the trip really started and it started still a bit grey but when i hit the Hungarian border the sun came through.
I believe Hungary is a pretty country but not this part. This part is flat and agricultural i believe but i new that while i was planning the trip but the better parts where too much out of reach within the time frame i had.
I could put some sight seeing in passing Lake Balaton but where it looked on the map as the road went along the lake it turned out to be quit far form it and/or obscured by trees and even a railroad. This was the best view i had.

I tried to find a place to lunch with a view but that was also not to be fount without turning back to the exit to the parking lots away from the main road ending up at tourist traps.
This was also quit a long section just over 500km so i kept riding but that’s what i’m about anyway.
The last quarter of this section had some bad roads but they where nicer to ride. They where more curvy and greener.
When i stopped for gas it started to rain so i took my camelback of and put it on the back of the bike on top of the duffel to put on my raincoat.
After that i paid and continued to the B&B i booked in Szeged not far from the Romanian border.
About an hour after that stop i wanted to drink and then i discovered i forgot to put the camelback back on… @#&*
Going back would mean a 2 hour loss without being sure i would get it back and missing the already too late check in at the B&B.
This also is travelling alone, no one to remind you or riding behind you to see it fall down but also another learning moment.
Never let your mind hang in the bad moment, yes it was a loss with a price to replace it but i made my choice not to go back based on the situation.
If i kept hanging in that moment i would not only have lost the camelback but also the time after that for as long i kept moaning about the loss so accept it and leave it there.

The third day went in to Romania and ended up just at the foot of the first reason to go this way.
I crossed the border at a small crossing and a few km highway after that, luckily motorbikes don’t need a vignette in Romania as this 17km stretch of highway saved me an hour on a also not appealing stretch of inland road.
After that i started to get the first mountains in sight but they still where far away.
The roads however already started to get a little curvy and greener.
Along the way a passed some villages smelling like the middle ages getting closer to the Carpathian mountains.
I was expecting to encounter some offroad and i got it on the third day. I already showed you in a short on the road blog but it needs to be in this story as well.

A little further after some almost new asphalt i ended up in a muddy dirt road.
Also shown the aftermath picture but that one i do not repost as it is better portrayed in the video down below.

Where the muddy section is cut of in the video it went on for about a kilometre and then i ended up on the curvy roads.
It didn’t took long to get the mud off the tyres and the fun could start at the end of another day.
I did check for accommodations but couldn’t find any along the way.
Off course not every place is on Booking.com or Google and that’s why i decided to just ride and see if i pass a hotel or campsite on my way to the Transalpina and i did not long after entering the curvy section.
Episode one ends where i parked Ragnarok, enjoy the video and don’t hesitate to react on the video here or on YouTube. Also when it is criticism, i only can make better video’s when i learn what’s wrong.