Well where do I start, it has been a hetic last year. Planning the trip, buying a lot of parts from ebay, wondering if we have covered everything and what will and won't fail. There will be a few of you I haven't spoken too in a long time and some are family and mates of Huey. That's the beauty of working around Aus we catch up when we see each other. If not through the grapevine no dought you can tell we have started on our trip around the world. Feels good to write that ha
Anyway I hope this doesn't clog your email inbox and we understand if you take us off. (don't say down the track oh you never told me.
So here we are, four kiwi's Geoff Sheryl, Dean and Lindy, Hugh and Myself in a small arse Turkish ferry cargo room with four bunks and two sleeping bags on the ground, on our way to Russia, we have vodka, jagermeister, bread and cheese, it's 10.00pm and the rest of the group are sprawled out god knows where trying to find a place to get some rest tonight. We arrived at the docks at 3.00pm to get our rego's checked, had a cup of tea. Rode over to the other side of the wharf to get stamped out, oh no come back in an hour. Right….. Now stamped out of the country we now await our bikes to be verified out of the country…..Waiting ….. Waiting did I see Brendan (compass tour Leader) nah back waiting, oh right here we are, now to board the bikes on the boat ( I think all the dulex paint on this vessel has made it more positively buoyant for the journey) and soon enough we are underway to start another journey in another country! We all load the bikes on the ship ( Half Ferry Half Cargo Carrier) all over the joint. Some of the lads get a lock chain on each side of the bike, some don't. Me the luck w*** receives jack all, so I grab my gloves and put the headlight on and go to the toolbox and start to move my bike and tie it down. I was just complete and finished with my work and then all of a sudden an old gentleman tells me( I'm sure a nice bloke but he pushed my buttons!) to move my bike back to where he told me originally! Well by that time I have beads of sweat running down and pretty pumped so I clearly and loudly state "where are you going to strap it down then ?? Where are your anchor points?" " MY JOB! MY PROBLEM"' was his reply. "You sure will have a problem if you drop it" I was thinking, so I unlocked the steering and stepped back to watch them butcher the ratchet straps. A knot tied here and second guess there, spin it around 180, yeah put the bike on the centre stand that's it dickhead, yeah tie it down off the pannier frame oh even better tie off the crash bars don't worry about the chassis that would be the main holding point. So after shaking it and spinning the bike to show his crap job he gets another strap put on to shut me up….. Thank god this is one of the only ferries for a while I think to myself! So I walk upstairs and crouch down through the side corridor thinking to myself an oomph loompa would be the only human being to be able to stand upright and walk correctly on this ferry. ( That reminds me of the shower Hugh and I had in Istanbul which we couldn't stand in at all.. Ah the perils of traveling ha )
So where was I … right so it's day 20 out of 108 with a group that we met on the night of the 18th in London Park Royal It sure is a interesting and diverse group, more on that later when we have time. So the first week in London was bloody busy to say the least. I left Dublin on the previous Sunday after spending a hectic 5 days driving around trying to see as much sights as possible, and I arrived in Liverpool at around 2.00am and started heading for Felixstowe to meet Brendan and Filipe (Compass Expedition Employees) for a chance to pick my bike up early to arrange a quick part on my bike to be replaced before our group left that coming Sunday. So after a little power nap (half a hour) I arrive and pull up at the depot at the arranged 8.00am, I walk in the office meet Brendan and Filipe and we all walk into the shed to see our pride and joys. Betsy (Yeah my bike has a girls name) was all there strapped down and ready to be rebuilt to feel the cold English air, oh yeah sperm suit up as it is raining as well. After a good look over and seeing too with the tools she was ready to roll. I drop the wicked van off at a nearby Macca's and returned to pick the bike up and find myself a mechanic to repair the girl… Such easier thing's are said rather than done! After riding the bike to the Macca's (Great now I have two vehicles in a country that I have been in for less than 8 hours.) I find out upsettingly that all shops close on Monday as well. Guaranteed 2 days off each weekend? What the? So after a s*** load of local mechanic research I find out it is all in vain, maybe I should just get some sleep and start fresh tomorrow. I ride the bike back to the depot, ask a local trucker if there are any places I can get a sleep in the van and a shower would be even better. Turns out there is a place around 15 mile's away that is just that, a 24 hour truck stop. If only I had my wife beater and a pair of stubbie shorts with me and I would have fitted right in. I paid the 20 pound for parking, shower and look out a 8 pounds discount for a meal off the menu, not bad I thought for the middle of no where oh hang on I was near Ipswich but that's another story ha or place on this world. I woke up not too cold but the vans's air temp could have been used a cold room storage, sorry julz that's where I got the sniffles. So after driving back to the yard depot, I get on the bike ( hey no rain this could be a great day) enter the mechanic's address in my gps and head for Cannon's BMW about 45klm SSW of felixstowe. I arrive to explain to the lads my bad predicament ( I'm leaving around the world on Sunday can you fit me in at all please) , just my luck they had a no show at the moment and they could fit me in straight away. Perfect I lost all anger in time wasted on the last mechanic who said he could do it no problem then an hour later call me back to say he can't service that model and good luck! So here I am having a coffee and planning the next few days. ''Can I leave my bike here overnight at all" no props my son says the pom, so off I go I catch a bus, train then taxi to felixstowe and head into London in the wicked wabbit for an evening catching up with Julz Mayberry, when I was butchering she was hairdressing in our small country town in Numurkah and I always had plans to see here if possible before leaving.
Had a quiet night in east London, Julz made an early start and fitted me in her busy schedule (thanks Julz) and I made my way to the west side to meet Hugh after his walk of Hardin's wall . Booked in, dropped my bags off and drove the van back into London to drop it off finally and return to the bike store in the north, pick up the bike ( Thanks fellas) and ride back to Royal Park and finally have one type of transportation and finalize trip preparations.
From then on the days flew, we met the Aussie lads behind the bar at the local pub thanks Dan, which made us feel at home and it was good pub meal without ripping your wallet apart. I hope you lads are still having fun and not backing off yet! Ha. Hugh got a great new helmet, I tried and tested things on the bike while Hugh met everyone and the group headed out to felixstowe to collect their bikes and meet and greet generally. That was our first night with our bikes, Hugh's tail gunner on his bike had taken a smash but for the impact it only destroyed the holding frame rather than the lock box thankfully.. So our last free day was checking things and checking into another motel until we left London for France. I ended up having quite a big night that evening an all night actually and met some great people (Bloody south Africans, you destroyed me boys ha) and stumbled into the holiday inn before our bus up north for a day of trail bike riding. I slept pretty much the whole day except for waking up to see the stone hedge go past us on the left hand side then back to sleep, I swear Don our American mate who I was sitting next too was wondering what the hell is the next 3 months going to be like.
The riding day was half full of balancing trials and the rest riding through the British army tank driving range with heaps of ruts and waist deep trenches it was awesome I fell off at least twice laughing, my gear was soaked and nothing better than riding a bike that isn't yours! Ha , I managed to put a hole in the 450 kwakka's radiator and then wreck the throttle cable on another. The boys asked me what happened. I replied 'I rode it like I stole it"' with a good sheepish grin, I then realized the pom business owner was not too happy with that reply….
Anyway we both had fun I thought it was a bit of a tiring day and our De Brief was scheduled for a quick finalization of paperwork and a brief intro of ourselves. I'll explain some of the characters later… Other from that we had dinner and Hugh said to me in the morning I was asleep about 3 seconds after I turned the light off, (It had been a hectic 24 hours!!, come on).
Rouen France 400klm's
The day was a typical British weather day, no sun and a bright grey with a little drizzle here and there. We rode together to the Ace Café in nearby Stonebridge the original home of the rockers. A lot of history there, Google it if you wish. After a brief hour or two we set off for Rouen, we rode onto the awaiting trains, what a great system! Not even half an hour and we were in France but what a shame the weather followed us east. The weather was that bad at our lunch break I had the neck balaclava and beanie on, and I just spent a year in Wonthaggi!!! All you could see around us at 13.00 was fog! The journey to Rouen went pretty uncomplicated we arrived around 6pm. Tried some French wine and had a crepe for sweets .. (So good, glad I waited until France to try one I was never the bloke to try one at a franchise in bris, it's just not what a bloke does ha) and returned to the hotel for bed. (It makes you wonder how bad the night is going to be when they supply earplugs
Flavigney-sur-ozerain France 508 Klm's
The night went well, no noise thank god but what a great feast of a breakfast I'm in Russia now on day 29 and can still remember that has to be the freshest bread and cheese I've had in my life. After the great heart starter and coffee we were off.
Long arse day to tell you honest, there was stop starting, confusion in gps settings and the long round way literately! We rode through the Somme county, home of the champagne region and now onto the monk cottage town of Flavigney-sur-ozerain a medieval town founded from Julius Ceaser our steve-pedia was our source of information on that one. Steve is a great man , more of it because he is a born Englishman and calls Aust home (Gotta give him that ha) his great blog is
and your more than welcome to look and comment on his blog. When we arrived dripping wet Hugh, Reece and myself we checked in a room together and weren't we glad to find plenty of drying room for our clothes and gear as it had done nothing but sorry ladies Piss Down the whole day. ( I thought it was meant to be only England that suffered this rubbish? Anyway here we are in the town of where chocolate was filmed. What a beautiful cute cottage town full of cute stone cottages and chelae's.. For dinner I had the best home made ravioli and the local rabbit, gee that first beer was nice.
Lauterbrunnen Switzerland 376Klm's
Well after a few good strong black, sweet coffee's we were off. I wish to say the weather had improved but not a chance. Sperm suit back on we head off for the land of toblorone and army knives. I get the question " DO YO WANT TO LEAD MILLSY?" Hell yeah I thought so here we are on the autobahn Hugh, Steve, Bernie, Michele and myself in our own group touring. I couldn't believe how soon you could be in another complete different part of Europe. It wasn't a bad morning but hell I was enjoying having a go at leading the pace, besides the weather it got better when we arrived at the border. At the border it was pretty simple and to be finally opened to beautiful weather and tunnels of the Switz you wouldn't be dead for quid's. After a few hours of twisting roads and beautiful scenery we arrived in the town of Lauterbrunner, what a place literally a town on the hills of base jumping, binge drinking from the traveling contiki buses and scenery. ( I'm sorry Swiss but that's how the area seems) The waterfall (270m) has to be one of the most beautiful places I've seen, I named the water fountain the fountain of youth. The water tastes so pure... As Hugh quoted " Gee's mills you would have to go to Antarctica to get more purer water than that"
So we check in and relax, the group arrived a couple of hours later and we unpack and get ready for dinner. I have to say ….Damn the Swiss know how to charge like a wounded bull too with the food prices and lifestyle but you pay for where you are I guess. We met Rebecca from California who joined us for a evening of intro's and story-telling. (Hope we didn't bore you too much Bec)
Salzburg Austria 580Klm's
Well what a day, the tunnels we rode through were at least 5klm's long sometimes, you really were looking for the light at the end of them. We continued speeding along the autobahn, they view was so beautiful winding around hills and lakes, until the ever present rain clouds gave us their worth. We got as close as around 150klm from Ulm the German town Hugh and I had the privilege to spend a few days in earlier in the month. , (hope your traveling well Stefan) When stopping over for a pit stop we found the greatly named Pissour for the toilet's, what a craic of a name, after riding through near Germany it was onto Austria. Another Vignette was paid (toll) and we made our way through another day of rain and sleet. Just when we were having enough of the rain it started to hail. I can't explain it but it made me laugh in my helmet as it felt like someone was shooting me with slug pellets, s*** they were big hail stones! Arrived at the hotel late in the evening after parking up and having dinner it was time for bed, it looked like a very cool busy city but not enough time for a look around, hopefully there's always next time.
Budapest Hungary 540Klm's
Just when we thought we could put the sperm suit away the rain clouds followed us again for another day. The scenery was quite beautiful what you could see of it but the day went quick and we had two nights now to explore Budapest. A few of the crew had to stay for repairs and the ever present bug. (hmmm who was the diseased one? Touch wood it hasn't struck myself but a few still have the cough now, Hugh had his spell of it last week) Budapest really is quite the tourist hub city, beautiful at night and plenty of streets and small lanes to explore and walk. I ventured out to the oldest pub in Budapest 1831Est the doors opened and I swear it was a mix of old school opium rooms and open areas for people to gather. From different bands to dance too and films being shown in black and white on the walls it was quite an experience. I had a couple of beers and watched the crowd, water pipes were flowing and so was the volume. I finished off the evening taking some shots of the city palace and bridges before arriving back to Huey stretching his snoring vocal cords.
Timisora Romania Klm's
Today was the day it actually felt like we were in another part of the world… People plowing the field by hand, horse and cart, hectares and hectares of harvest and fields. Quiet small villages which were very simple but beautiful it made you appreciate what we have at home. Hold ups on the roads were a frequent occurrence and we waited at the front while a crew installed a bridge pre cast beam for an overpass. . I'm guessing 25t-30t like the ones we had on the Darwin Lng wharf. Those were the days hey Dougie!
Anyway after a few interesting brief stop over's the four of us arrived in Timisora quite a beautiful town with plenty of history, a wonderful church and a shrine for the freedom fighters of the revolution of 1989, some buildings still had evidence of bullet holes, other from that plenty of young women with their sugar daddy's going out for dinner and family's enjoying the pleasant evening. I stumbled past a Irish bar while doing an afternoon walk and after dinner 5 of us decided a Guinness was a great way to toast our first night in Romania. What a shame they had no Irish beer at all, oh well welcome to eastern Europe.
There was a mix up in the room bookings from the hotel so Hugh and I got the honeymoon suite, Ha the bathroom was tiled all bright red with a spa and a lounge. Hugh had the bed while I got some remedial massage of a piece of crap fold out bed, you know it's not going to be a good nights sleep when you just lie down on it and the wooden slats start falling out. Stuff it I thought and slept in my own unpleasantness.
That's right the receptionist was just getting some rest out of her 24 hour shift when I we returned from the pub, (the only sleep she gets is when it's not busy) when we arrived back. They have to do the hours for the job here……
Sighisoara Romania 340Klm's
Well just when the rain looked like it had started to recede we got the pleasantness of another day of just miserable sleet and spitting…Come on …..I thought we had left England? There were some great hills and I've never seen so much road excavated without being filled in, I was guessing they needed clean fill for somewhere else more important. The roads weren't too bad we stopped for a photo of the DC3 road stop, a house in a quiet town where they have the plane as a café, quite a sight and after a photo stop we headed off again in the rain.
We checked in and peeled the clothes off for our first two night stay in a hotel, oh yeah might unpack the whole bag I thought. What a town full of history it is one of the most preserved medieval cities and the former home of the famous Vlad the Impaler.( We had dinner next to his house when he was a child) The day off was wet and to walk around the stone fort walls was quite a sight, pepple stone alleys (bloody slippery in thongs) and watchtowers did caste a great view for the town in Transylvania. The Men working at the hotel were a great bunch and made us feel welcome thanks again Attila!
Bucharest Romania Klm's
Rain again…. Great fun hey! Oh well off to the famous and touristy Dracula's castle in Bran, home to the royal family and the associated story of Vlad the Impaler. (Count Dracula) After a wet lunch we rode off again for Bucharest, what a interesting afternoon I don't think I'll every forget it! Hugh thought he must of needed some exercise because after a photo stop he had a practice of picking his bike up from the side you done well mate and about time you showed you were human ha. The roads were interesting with huge pothole's and wild dogs everywhere, when you did stop the gypsies were offering everything from cd's, wet wipes, to 12 volt accessories to oh yeah a Stihl chainsaw gee I laughed, if I had my 4wd it would of being a bargin and a half. I don't know what it was again but there were plenty of ladies wanting a lift home too, I didn't stop to ask but it looked as if there were plenty of gentlemen stopping to give them a lift. Is that why they sold wet ones? The drive by the prison was a sight and the smell of the tip has to be up there for the most rotten smell I've experienced, AND IT DOESN'T LEAVE YOUR HELMET IN A HURRY! Anyway we arrived for another evening of pack the bike up and have a shower, feed and bed.
Nessebar Bulgeria Klm's
Well it had to happen I guess, this day I spitted the dummy. I guess it might of being the horn, or the traffic or frustration for other things but I decided in my own accord to leave the group and meet them on the border. Hmmm it would of worked out fine if my gps picked up the new highway instead of the old counrty road! Anyway I stopped for a photo or two the first was of the horse and cart, the old gentleman must of read the AUS sticker as he inquired for if it was true, I nodded and he just kept going along on his horse, the next chap was a Sheppard tending his flock with a bag full of mushrooms. He was pretty shattered I didn't want any but he was pleased as it seemed he hadn't had some social interaction for a while.. My first bolt went AWOL that day off the panniers, more than likely shaken lose from the potholes or the huge indentures in the railroad crossings.
Back to my dummy spit so since I was by myself I waited at the border for Bulgaria…..waiting…. s*** it's been an hour where is everyone? I did a quick recon of the town nah no one here surely they didn't go into another country without me, yup by the time I get over here's Huey waiting for me, w***ed if I know how we missed each other it wasn't as if I was sticking to the speed limit on the country roads. After a quick lunch and re group with the crew, the old what happened to you was asked, in brief I replied "I cracked the s***s and rode off ".. No one really replied from that now that now that I think of it……… so after another …Klm's we arrived in Nessebar.
A great evening was had on the former Roman church grounds, the lovely Iva and Yana checked our wet, smelly selves in with a smile and we had dinner overlooking our first glimpses of the black sea.
Istanbul Turkey Klm's W
Well after a late night, my fault entirely we headed for the big capital of Turkey, the last time I was there I had bleached hair and I wore my Whitsunday eagles football club shirt like it was my religion. Hmmm looking forward to seeing it in a more thoughtfulness. It finally looked as if we may have a first day without rain, as we head for the border all the lads working on the road were giving us waves and cheers even I saw a gentleman wave his hat around in the air(it was awesome). It was a good feeling plus to finally put the BMW on its side in some corners it made you appreciate where you were.
On our last fuel stop before Turkey, Hugh and I had a great experience.. As I was throwing down a can of red bull and Hugh a pack of nuts, this van pulls up next to our bikes and two gentleman get out with a briefcase and handguns on the hip and walk in to the servo shop. Oh well must be emptying the takings we think and keep pondering and winging about something. Then big lurch of a driver gets out of his van and try's to join us in conversation. His fingers when he shook my hand felt like chicken drumsticks. Him and Les Norton would of made a great bout. Anyway in broken English we explain our trip and while he lights up a smoke and gives us the thumbs up, he explains he can talk a little of everything except English., so in broken languages we communicate with him for about five minutes. Huey offered him some nuts, that was funny the poor w*** had only one tooth and he could wobble it pretty easy for our eye sight. I pulled out my leatherman and offered my services as a joke, he laugh and declined then Hugh pulled out his not seeing myself give our thoughts of our dentist tricks. He explained with pointing to the wire on our bikes that how he will do it is by the old pull out with a piece of copper wire trick. He had a laugh then gave us a wave like "have a look at this boys" sure enough next to his seat here is his Folding stock 12 gauge shotgun, ( it looked well used/ maintained) then before we could of thought for a photo the lads were in the back again and our mate had to drive. s*** that would of made the photo of the trip! Well not quite but up there ha
The Turkish border comprised of army soldier's with their 9mm sub machine guns patrolling as we went through the various checkpoints. First 30mn was an inspection that our rego and passports matched up. The next was robbery, Aussies pay $60.00 US while our Kiwi neighbors' don't pay a visa at all…Well at least one of us is a winner you sheep shagging w***s. So after paying at one booth then it's a line up at another for receipt of the payment, join another queue for insurance….. Once that's complete join another for verification of payment of insurance. About 2 hours later ( Which wasn't too bad considering our group) we headed out of the border zone and for a quick lunch stop before the pilgrimage onto Istanbul.
Well it had to rain didn't it!! Lighting the whole lot (touch wood it hasn't rained since it's been awesome ha) especially the traffic keeps you on your toes enough, they are pretty considerate but there is always an idiot so your game face is on double time. After a cruise into the city in peak hour it really was a great feeling to ride in, and we were only a short stroll from the blue mosque and Europe side CBD. After dinner I walked around and around until I got lost. ( I'm pretty stubborn and I thought my boy scout days would kick in but Istanbul you win with your seedy lanes and alleys. It was a great feeling when you are the only one walking in a alley hearing the call to prayer echo of the walls of the suburbs, I was watching my back there pretty badly but not a problem to record) I got a taxi back to the hotel and collapsed for a quick powernap.
The next day was the tourist day, visited all the relic's and had a walk around trying to retrace my steps to where I stayed and ventured when I was here 8 years ago, that itself it a great feeling to see buildings that were main hubs then, that are now ghetto wrecks. The friendly gentlemen in the internet store who would greet me with us touching our heads together has gone, my favorite street side shop has turned into a bank and the hotel looks like it has gained a few more stars in comfort but the w*** who could never charge me the same price every time is still going strong in his corner store. Looks like his son is now the main money scalper for first time tourist's. I recognized the spot where I had a photo of myself standing next to a army personnel carrier (There properly still is but back then there was riot squads and army infantry everywhere on the may day riots. They banks would have 40 personnel in front of it to prevent any damage)
More tales of fun and adventure will return soon, hope everyone is well.