Ride to Greece

Richie B

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Sat 12th

Day 1

The reason , to visit the London inn , Albania . The plan, meet at Marks house ready to leave at 10.01 , why 10.01 cos it appeals to our sense of humour . Then ride to Dover for the 15.40 ferry to Calais where we have a reservation at the Victoria Hotel , really good hotel just off the square in Calais centre , with indoor parking and 2 min walk to the curry house. The reality ... Leave Marks at 10.30 get caught in traffic several times and miss the ferry, lol that's why we dont make plans ! We mange to get ourselves on a ferry an hour later get to Calais and book in at the Victoria, change and into town for curry and beer. Top evening .

Sun 13th Day 2

Today we head south east towards Reims, its a dull morning not the glorious sunshine we left in the UK. By lunchtime we have done about 150 miles , by the time we need fuel its started to rain so re fuel and put the wets on and off we go . We do about another 70 miles in the rain and decide its rain to find a campsite for the evening. A quick check with Garmin and we are 4 miles away so off we go. We arrive at a small campsite go in set up are hammocks in a couple of perfectly placed trees . Now are thoughts move to food and of coarse beer. Once again to Garmin and there is a small town 5 miles south . En route we come across a small bakery so pop in and collect croissants for the next days breakfast, a little further down the road we stumble upon a kebab shop..... Perfect kebab and beer, thankyou Garmin. With the panniers loaded with tasty kebab and 1664 we head back to our abode for an evening of simulating conversation and good night sleep before seeing what tomorrow will bring to entertain us.

Mon 14th Day 3

We wake this morning to more gray skies and rain, tho looking south it appears to be brighter so after a breakfast of yesterdays croissants and hot coffee we pack up camp and head south in search of sunshine and adventure hoping to get to verdun by lunch time and Strasbourg for dinner , there's a plan that's bound to fail , lol.

Well we must be getting better at this planning stuff!! We achieved lunch in Verdun and as I write this we are sat in a hotel in Strasbourg. Not much in the way of adventure today but wee did experience the strongest winds and heaviest rains I've ridden in for a long time , and hopefully not again for a while . So as we head off into the centre of Strasbourg in search of sustenance and entertainment ........

Tues 15th Day 4

We leave Strasbourg heading for the father land home of BMW !! Arriving in Germany we instantly notice the improved roads and weather, no more overbanding , slippery paint or rain . Lol

The funny thing is the first bike we see in Germany is a Triumph Bonneville.... We ride some great roads today long sweeping bends on tarmac that is like a race track. We stop for lunch in a small town and park our bikes with the cars and are told by a parking attendant that we have to park our bikes in the bike parking area, which is just on the opposite side of the road , really these Germans and their rules !! Then we have lunch for the second day for just 2 euros each . After lunch we head further south east towards Austria , its about 430 pm in the Bavarian hillls when we come across a Harley Davidson hotel , well that's just bound to be fun ! So in we go . We pull into the car park and are taking our kit off the bike when a gent wearing combats and supporting a huge goatie rushes out to us , can I help ? Yeah we'd like a room please , yeah sure , and beer and food ? Beer no problem! Food I will need to speak to the wife !!! Lol he rushes off soon to return with a big smile on his face , yeah and food he says . Excellent !!

After a little debate over the room price , a middle ground is found and we are shown to our room. We Order dinner for 7pm and have a walk around the village before dinner . Dinner is a fine feast and our host turns out to be a right character , an ex American army who lived in Sweden before moving to Bavaria. He now runs this hotel and builds custom trikes and ships them all over the world. He also tells us we can rent Harleys from him , now there is a plan , we tell our host we will be back this way in May next year and will stay again and hire a couple of Harleys for a day. Another top evening , tomorrow we head towards Slovakia via Austria and Italy.

Wed 16th Day 5

This morning we leave Bavaria heading south to Austria , the sun is shining and soon we are in Aples and heading for Italy and the Dolomites . At the top of a mountain pass we come across the Italian border crossing , we queue up and pay our 12 Euros, to be honest we were not really sure why we had to pay but if we hadn't we weren't coming in!! Once through the border just as if some one had turned a switch the weather changed to mist and rain with visibility now down to about 4ft we started our decent of the pass , this was definitely not for the faint hearted. After what seemed like an age we both arrived safely at the bottom and the mist cleared we headed further south towards Slovakia . By about 530pm we decided to call it a day and find a hotel for the evening. As we were still high in the Dolomite mountains it would be to cold at night to camp. So a quick search of the www and we have a lovely little B&B with the most stunning view . The village is like something from Disney , imagine Hansel & Gretel s holiday retreat !!

Thurs 17th Day 6

We set off this morning with the sun on our backs hoping to Soon be out of the mountains and heading towards the coast of Italy. If there is one thing I've learnt on this tour, well two actually .the first is the watch out for Italian postmen they a cross between Postman Pat and Fast and Furious, the second is that the weather in the mountains can Change in an instant. As we get to the top of a mountain pass the skies turn back and it RAINS , huge big dollops of rain and the temp is down by about 8 degrees . We stop for shelter in an old farm building and within 10 mins its sunny again , by the time we are back in the saddle the roads are nearly dry. We arrive the the other side of the mountains and head towards the coast of Italy , we stop for fuel and just as we do the heavens open again so wets on we push on. Within about 30 miles its stop raining and the temp has risen to 32degrees . We stop to have some lunch and shed several layers . Having full bellies and now wearing summer gear we prepare to push on when my GS has a bulb failure x2 , so jackets off again and tools out , while we are replacing the bulb we get two offers of assistance , funnily enough from an old lady and and old gent on a scooter, who offers us the us of his bike to ride to the garage just up the road...... We decline there kind offer and get the job done . We then decide to try and get to Slovakia and find a camp site. After about 3 hours we arrive in Koper , Slovakia and find a campsite by the sea.

FRI 18TH DAY 7

We leave Slovakia and cross into Croatia ,now we have to do the usual thing of sorting the currency for this country we have worked out there are about 10 to the £ so its off to a cash point to play funny money lottery, after 2 attempts we have 700 kns which we hope will last us at least a day, as per usual we are pleasantly surprised when we still have some left after 2 days. Heading along the coast towards Split. This is the most beautiful coastline I have ever ridden gorgeous clear seas with Dolphins glistening in the sunshine.we do this for 2 days along amazing roads in amazing weather with amazing views , this is why we tour !! Tonight after a long hot day we have a cool long swim in the Adriatic sea, there is no better way to cool down.

Sun 20th Day 9

During the night we had the biggest thunder and lightning storm I've ever seem, in the morning we had people asking if we were ok and how we had fared in our hammocks ? Of coarse the answer is fine thanks.

We head further along the coast hoping to make the Bosnian border before the end of the day. People from Albania had warned us to beware of missing manhole covers , today we see it for ourselves !!!

We cross the border into Bosnia and then back into Croatia with no problems at all. The views just keep on getting better and better. Tonight we camp in Dubrovnik. We dine on grilled meats , vegetables and ice cold beers, a huge improvement on the feta cheese pasties we had for lunch !!

Mon 21st Day 10

We wake this morning having had a rough night, I hadn't slept much as we had had gale force winds in the night which meant getting out and re securing guy lines, and the noise from the tarps flapping in the wind was almost as loud as the previous nights lightening.

We head further down the coast today leaving Croatia for the last time and heading into Montenegro , I have no idea what to expect from this next country ! Ever since leaving home 9 days ago people that have enquired where abouts we are heading have nearly all said the same , ah nice well at least until you leave Croatia. So who knows what today will bring , one thing for sure it will bring roads and adventure Grinning face with smiling eyes

We arrive in Montenegro with very little effort at the border crossing, we show passports and V5s get a stamp and we are in . The guard tells us its 2 hours to Albania and it will rain later. As it happens he is wrong on both counts , we decide we have had enough of riding the coast and head inland to see what's on the other side of the mountains. To do this we take a short ferry ride across a estuary, while on the ferry I get talking to a taxi driver who tells me he is a biker and we should ride the road across the mountain pass . He says its very dangerous but great fun ! As I happens its the road we had planned to use to reach our final destination of the day Podgorica . The road was 25 hairpins up one side on roads just wide enough for a coach (we passed about 12) if you meet a coach on a bend you have to let it have the outside of the bend regardless of which is the correct side of the road,fun !! . Once at the top it we descended on much more sweeping bends , but the same width. We caught up with 3 Hungarian bikes just near the top who where really struggling so they let us plucky Brits take the lead and they followed . Once at the bottom we head to podgorica and manage to stumble upon a Best Western Hotel with underground garage , result ! We book in and enjoy an evening in this busy city and a well deserved good night sleep.

Tues 22nd day 11

Today we head for Albania , we are about 80miles away and then once through we head for Tirana . We leave the busy modern buildings around our hotel and head towards the border, the closure we get the more tatty the buildings become . We arrive at the border and after about 15 mins as before a stamp in the passport and V5 logged on there computer we are though and into Albania , instantly we can see this is what at last we have come to see. The soft feel of our previous countries has now gone and we are after a little over 2000 miles in the environment we crave as adventurers . We head south east towards the capital on roads build for the GS pot holes the size of a small country missing manhand bridge bindings , troughs deep enough to hide a small child . Cars and lorries pushing and shoving all be it with an air of politeness. All of a sudden I feel proper alive . We find our way blocked by a river , there is a crossing through the river or a wooden foot bridge . We look at crossing the water but it is so dirty that we can not tell how deep it is, also we notice there are animal innards , stomach and intestines floating in the river !! So that's decided then we go over the foot bridge . With both of us over safety we are now able to push on towards Tirana . We stop in a town en route and play that game again, what's the currency and how much do we need ? We filled up both bikes and it cost 3345.00 so we need quite a few !! We find an ATM and take out 11000.00 this always makes us laugh and we always say the same , we should get better prepared !! it will never happen . As we stand watching the world go by people are saying hello as they walk by or shouting from cars as they drive by. We arrive in Tirana about 4pm and search for a hotel, this is not easy as the main square has been closed for a festival and all the road system has been changed , traffic was grit locked . We had to make a few detours across pavements through street markets , at one point we were riding down though a street mingling with pedestrians and traders . The bikes were getting very hot so we stopped to let them cool down , after we had been there about 30mins we noticed just a few yards up the road a hotel , so enquires were made and consequently we checked in. That evening we set about our search for the London Inn we had came here for. We didn't find the Inn but we did find a beer festival , so it was decided to resume our search tomorrow and enjoy the festival. At the festival food is being cooked , mainly sausage after a little browsing we find a very happy chef who is cooking pork chops , beef in cheese sauce and a local dish of spicy meat balls , we chat to him and he cooks for us a right feast . A great evening enjoying the atmosphere . Later talking to the chef he says we should visit Berat while we are here as it is a very nice heritage city. Much later we retire to our beds.

Wed 23rd Day 12

We wake this morning quite late as last night we sort of decided to have an easy day today and possibly stay here two nights . So sit at breakfast discussing possible plans for the day , one of the places we were advised to visit while here is down near the border with Greece , umm now we are both pondering , we look at each other and smile . Lol . How cool would that be ? Yeah it would . So it was decided we would ride down to Greece . We didn't get on the road until about midday with a full ride ahead of us to Himare . Today we start on busy city roads with in about 5 miles we are in rural Albania coping with pot holes , dogs , sheep, goats , cows , as well as the occasional Albanian motorist who wants your piece of road , it looks like all old Merc cars,vans,lorries come to Albania to live there last years and eventually die , there are some right wrecks being driven . We find ourselves on non tarmac roads which consist of very large well polished pebbles with large muddy puddles . This all combined adds several hours to our journey and it takes us about 6 hours to do the 120 miles to our campsite just inside the Albania border. We arrive about 630pm just as its getting dark, our host is called Dennis and he has a campsite that will in the future appear to be a figment of our imagination . I hang my hammock between two lime trees . The whole campsite is outside , toilets , showers , bar,dinning area ! We sit with the other campers at dinner 3 chaps from the Chez republic a young couple from Ireland and a young couple from Germany , a fine night of chat was had by all.

Thurs 24th Day 13

This morning we are ready for the road by about 9am. We head for the port of Igoumenitsa in Greece where will catch a night ferry to Ancona in Italy. We set off with a spring in our step as we head for another country, this always makes us smile achieving another country. Earlier in the tour we passed several signs while in the Croatia mountains , HWC question , Triangular sign , white background, red border with a picture of a wild boar ! Lol. Well this morning we see in the middle of a mountain bend the biggest , hairiest pig I've ever seen. This really makes us laugh . We leave Albania having done the customs stamp in the passport and export of the bike, ride to the Greek border wave our passports and we are in. The roads are of the same standard with lots of goats wondering the roads , the roads take us through fields of lime groves and kiwi plantations . After a while we arrive in the port find a booking office and purchase our tickets for the Ferry. We sail at 23.00hrs . Now we just need to find out what the time is now lol. We ride the sort distance to the ferry terminal and Mark wonders off the gather information , when he returns he has found out we leave from gate 12 , which opens at 1800hrs and he thinks its now 1530hrs lol. So time to kick back and relax , cos we are good at that !! As we are relaxing a huge storm erupts with thunder and lightening. So now we have entertainment as well . Our boat is late , we are informed by frequent users that this is normal, by the time we get to our cabin its midnight ish. So quick change and bar for a night cap.

Fri 25th Day 14

We wake about 11am as no rush , tho we have missed the breakfast restaurant, so have a coffee while we wait for the lunch restaurant to open. While we sit watching and listening we discover you can obtain a 50% discount and food and drink if you have a truck drivers discount card. So when the restaurant opens we go in choose our lunch of meat kebabs chips , fresh meat and a bottle of water, we go the the checkout and Mark looks to me and says have you got the drivers discount card ? I get my wallet out rummage through for a few minutes then check my pockets ..... Bugger no I think I've left it in the cabin !! There a short pause then the cashier says something in Greek and he passes us his discount card to us , result lunch for 8 euro each . We have chosen our next pin , it will be Pisa as neither of us have been to see the tower. By the time we exit the boat we probably wont have time to reach there today so we will find some where in between Ancona and Pisa . Our ferry is a huge boat with 10 decks , and very efficient loading team whole pack the all the vehicles on like sardines , in the organised shouting whistle blowing we notice the decks are very wet with what looks like a mixture of oil, diesel and rain. Noted we ride on with caution having to ride up three levels before we are ushered to our space on the deck seven .

As we are relaxing some more this morning I cant help.but wonder if anyone had bothered to lash the bikes down after we left them last night ? Tho if they hadn't its been a calm crossing and if they had toppled they would have only leaned on to a car as they are packed so tight. Land is in sight so we will soon be in Ancona and on the road again. We finally landed about 1530 hrs , so we rode about 30 miles and found a campsite as we were feeling a little weary !! Lol. We arrive in the coastal town of Marotta , we see our first migrants, sleeping in door ways and wondering the streets. Italy really does not do it for me. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better roads and views.

Sat 26th Day 15

Well the views got better but the roads certainly didn't , some of the worst road surfaces I've ever seen, along with some of the worst driving I've seen . I'm afraid Italy hasn't moved up in my rankings . We have now arrived in Pisa and tomorrow we will go and see the tower , but for now its time to see if we can find some better hospitality than we managed last night.

Success find find a great little family run pizzeria, they are happy to see us and serve us some excellent pizza and beer plus some local delicacies on the house. Another top night.

Sun 27th day 16

This morning we wake early ( by our standards) and ride into Pisa to see the tower. We arrive inside to walked city park up and take a short walk to the tower, there are rather expectantly hundreds of tourist and street sellers , we do the customary selfies and move on. Now we need to head further west hoping to make France by this eve. We ride for many hours in busy traffic and by about 1600hrs we are in the Port of Rappollo so its time to find a hotel . We find a hotel just off the main street with a sign saying garage parking. So Mark goes in and several minutes later comes out with a grin on his face , which can only mean one thing . Its one of those hotels which will seam like a weird dream once its a memory !!! Sure enough it is, we walk into reception to be greeted by a very old lady , the hotel looks like its been trapped in a time warp with decor from the 60s or even earlier . Our host is happily chatting away to us Italian stopping only for us to nod and smile at her. We are showed to our room its the same as the rest of the hotel . Brilliant, I love places like this . Places that you will never forget. That eve we wonder into the centre looking for somewhere to eat. The main part of the town is on the seafront typical rivera , big posh hotels with terraced restaurant to the front. We head in behind the esplanade and find a great little pub where we get more nibbles than we know what to do with, but we managed. Then we wonder deeper into the back street and find an excellent pizzeria that's really busy (always a good sign) we order and our food is excellent and only 24 euros inc a beer . We are getting the hang of Italy now. We have also worked out the driving , they need to take the sunglasses off then they might be able to see !!

Mon 28th day 17

Its another fine day as we sit on the balcony and was the world rush by on scooters , we are faced with a tuff decision this morning , do we head north towards top of France or West to Santander for our ferry to UK ?? We have been discussing this for several days but today is decision time. Our thought process is we want to stay in the warm Vs ferry cost , as fuel from here would be approx the same to either . The forecast for France is good. Which doesn't help !! We ride through Genoa which is a right laugh, the scooters out number the cars at least 6-1 and filtering is most defiantly the norm. Every time we stop at lights all the scooters rush to the front , the full width of the carriage way and two or three deep. When the lights turn green its just like a Moto gp start , faring bashing , knees and elbows out !! So much fun , tho all to soon we are through and the fun is over. We head NW towards Gap , along some great roads altho not great road surfaces . We enter France through the Alps, this is a bit of a climate shock down to 12degs and the threat of rain. We arrive at a town called Barcelonnette just as the skies open, just then right in from of us is a hotel ! That will do nicely . The proprietor shows us to his garage where we park our 2 scabby dirty GSs next to 2 shiny Indians from Switzerland. We are definitely on the tourist route , no 20 euro a night rooms here !!

Tues 29th Day 18

So its decided we will head west for a day or two then north towards the top of France as the forecast is good and we will save about 200 euro on ferry tickets . So we leave our hotel in the Aples and head for Gap then Valence then look for a campsite in De Puy En Velay . We have some awesome roads today long sweeping bends with short straights . We have so much fun today , like following two lorries racing up a mountain, totally mental !! I think we probably ate to well last night on our fine meal of fancy French cuisine, we are both a little , lets say not quite as relaxed as we should be. We stop for lunch which is more for the need to use the facilities than to eat. But while we are there we do eat which is a good job as we fail to find food this eve. We camp tonight under the shadow of a huge statue of some bloke high up on a mountain . Quite a sight. Tomorrow we really should go and find out who the statue is of ! St Micheal .

Wed 30th Day 19

We leave this morning wrapped up well as its 6deg on the bike and as we have been used to 36deg it feels like -6. We head NW towards limoges , and all is well in our world by about midday and the temp is up to 20deg ish , the roads are tremendous . We stop for lunch about 2pm and have a coffee and baguette sat in the sunshine . We are about an hour from tonight's pin so it should be a early finish today , what is it they say about plans ? Little had we realised today is the 30th Sept and it appears that rural France shuts on the 30th , its 6pm ish and we are still searching for an open campsite or hotel. We ask in a small village were we could find accommodation, we are told Pompadour is the only open hotel around here. Its about 30mins away so we set off. When we arrive we find the hotel , check out the rate on booking.com and book it on line. We have found this a great site to use as its generally about 20euros cheaper than just turning up and booking it in person. So a well earned shower and then we retire to the bar for beer and dinner. Looking back to we are both laughing at the moment today when we stopped in a very rural lane and my companion is answering the call of nature unknowingly that there is a donkey the other side of the hedge who just at the wrong moment lets out the loudest eh aw that I've ever heard , we both jumped about 6 ft in the air , so funny !!! Tonight we are once again treated to fine local French cuisine. This evening we begin to reflect on what we may have done differently , we agree we should learn to be more disciplined in stopping to see things that catch our eye , instead of just saying on the radio , look at that !! But then this trip is just a fact finding mission for next year. The trouble is we just are both so happy when we are riding our bikes , its hard to stop and sight see. We are probably about 3 days ride from a ferry , so its decided the next 3 days if we see something worth stopping for then we should.

Thurs 1st Oct day 20

Another sunny morning in France as we set off , our target today is Tours , we have given ourselves 3 days riding to reach a ferry port, not sure which one yet tho !! We do well.today and reach Le Man , I've been here a few times before but never into to city centre , so tonight we book a hotel right in the centre and find a India for a curry.

Fri 2nd Oct day 21

This morning over breakfast the decision is made, we book the 2300hrs ferry from Caen to Portsmouth. So today as Caen is only 2 hrs away we decide to visit some of the WW2 memorials and museums. After about 3 or 4 hours we have done several of the memorials, the Canadian graves and a.museum . We head for Caen ferry port find a restaurant , kick back until its time to board the ferry. I do enjoy the WW2 sights tho it does make me very thoughtful !!

Looking back its been a great 3 weeks , so many things to remember, the sights, smells, people and of course the laughs .

So that's 12 countries, 4 currencies , 3 times zones , and a little under 4000 miles .
 

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Few more Pics
 

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That is a great read, very interested to see what we may have achieved if we'd had more time to go further south than Croatia. Albania sound great fun.

Well done.
 
few more
 

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more pics
 

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last few pics
 

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Loved the write up and pics, a great trip.:beerjug:
 


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