Day 1: October Fest

After a very short night, in which we finalized our visa application forms and accompanying documents, we got up at 05:00 to prepare for departure. About two hours pass before we are ready (as far as one can be fully prepared) to start our adventure on a cold and wet morning. The first two hours we got pretty soaked. A quick stop and some extra layers of clothing fixed the cold problem and luckily it remained dry until the evening. The afternoon was quite uneventful. We both rode at reasonable speeds of 100-120 kilometers while getting a feel for the motorcycle. Especially the heavy weight and the more restricted sitting area due to the extra luggage sacks on the passenger seat took some getting used to. We also started logging the fuel consumption (roughly 1 liter for every 20 kilometers) to avoid running out of fuel between fuel pumps. For those not aware: motorcycles usually don’t have a fuel light or fuel indicator.

The goal was to reach Northern Italy; a place called Lago di Levico. It’s a beautiful lake located between two mountains with a lot of First World War history close by. Sadly, around 18:00 we were only around Munchen in Southern Germany. After some fiddling on our navigation devices we found a camp ground not very far away and decided to check it out. We arrived at a very crowded camping site and at first we didn’t know why. Our first impressions were some motorcycle treffen (meeting) because of the heavy-set, bald, black bomber jacket wearing guy stopping us at the entrance asking us why we were there….. Luckily for us it wasn’t an exclusive Harley Davidson party, but the annual October fest held in Munchen. We were surrounded by British, Australian and New Zealanders among others.

Setting up the tent in the twilight and rainfall (which conveniently just started) was a disaster. We bought the tent only recently and we haven’t set it up before… and darkness, fatique and our hurry to remain dry was not a good combination. The tarp, the inner-tent as well as both sides of the outer-tent were wet….. and I haven’t even described in what shape the tent was standing in our effort to put it up quickly. It worked… kinda. We joined the party people and had some snacks (pasta and pizza) before calling it a night. The short previous night and the long and cold ride didn’t allow us to experience the camping life during the October fests to the fulliest. Judging from the people throwing up around us and/ or making last minute tent adjustments… it wasn’t such bad decision.

 

Day 2: Bled Lake, Slovenia

We woke up to a bright sky, a sun slowly starting to appear and a lot of activity all around us. Some party-goers were leaving again and others were already putting up their tents at 07:30 in the morning (!?).Now the scale of the camping site became clear to us. There were more than a dozen of touring cars and hundreds of little 2-second tents from various tour operators all around us. We got up at 08:30 and devoted the next two and half hours to drying the tent, packing up and washing ourselves. Not a good start to get the miles down, but it had to be done!

Bled Lake

Our drive towards our first real stop during our Journey (Istanbul, Turkey) commenced around 11:00, but never really got going. It seemed like the kilometers weren’t adding up today. In the afternoon we reached Slovenia and Ben noticed the town of Bled on the sign posts. Bled is famous because of its beautiful location near Bled Lake which has a little island with a church in the middle. It attracts a lot of tourists judging from the countless of hotels, guest houses, super markets and restaurants we saw. We quickly rode to the lake to get a nice picture before sunset. Sadly it became cloudy again and the perfect photo opportunity was lost. This night we slept in a guest house for 17 Euros per night. It was important for us to get a good night’s sleep and a stress less evening today. The guest house was about 200 meters from the lake and was surprisingly nice. Our room was really tide and the bathroom was also very clean. Of course it isn’t hotel quality, but it was definitely value for money. In the evening we started our mission to find some cheap food. After about 5 failures (= too expensive restaurants) we found a pizzeria close to the local ice hockey field. For about 5 euros we ate a huge pizza (of which we took half with us in a doggy bag for breakfast) before going back to the guest house to check out the photos and videos we made that day.

 

Day 3: Croatia

A surprisingly short day today as we misjudged the distance that we had to cover slightly. The plan was to visit the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia today. One of only a few special stops in our itinerary before reaching Turkey and Iran. Around 15:00 we reached a camping site about 10 kilometers from the lakes. It is an old army barrack site from a couple of decades ago before the Serbians arrived and demolished it (according to two local ladies). Nowadays it is a very spacious camping ground with a lot of free standing spots (no fixed pre-determined zones). It is rather empty here, which is also why we were really confused were to put up our tent… as there was not clear indication or previous markings from tents and caravans. We stupidly ended up 3 meters away from an English elderly couple eventhough there are hundreds of square meters of empty space. Oh well, we just both want to be close to the electricity and water. So yeah… there we are!

Tomorrow we hope it is sunny, so we can see the Plitvice Lakes it all its glory and beauty!

 

Day 4: Plitvice Lakes

The thing about “a sunny day” didn’t really work out today! In fact it was quite cold the whole day: a constant 16-18 Celsius and yet many locals still walk around as if it is 30 Celsius. The day went by slowly. We hoped for nice weather in the morning, but that didn’t happen. We hoped for nice weather in the afternoon, but they didn’t happen. Although the conditions weren’t as nice as we hoped for, we still decided to check out Croatia’s famous 16 cascading turquois lakes / waterfalls known as Plitvice Lakes; a UNESCO world heritage site.

The tourist site was well organized with various boats and busses to bring less mobile tourists to the beautiful places and there were also a lot of possibilities for those wishing to walk around the many lakes. We only visited the Lower Lakes as the lady at the ticket counter told us the Upper Lakes were very dark today due to the dark rain-carrying clouds above us. Oh well, the easy-going grandma trail it is then!

Plitvice Lakes

After two cold boat rides we reached the start of various smaller and bigger waterfalls and many beautiful and amazingly clear lakes. It was clear that this would be an amazingly beautiful sight on a clear sunny day. However, we were already mentally prepared for anything less than stellar! So, in the end it was all good! And as can be seen in the pictures, it wasn’t that bad… or was it? J

In the evening we made some simple pasta and watched some television series (Survivor and Two and a Half Men in Ben’s case) and “A Map for Saturday”: a great documentary about the backpacking life and experiences for those who are curious what it is to travel for extended periods away from friends and family)!

Tomorrow we hope it is nice and dry so we can get on the road and start heading south-east; direction Istanbul!

Day 5: National field-burning day

I am not sure if it is the abnormally high temperatures in this region (the locals complain about lack of rain! Can you imagine?) or whether farmers from Croatia all the way to Bulgaria all decided to burn their field to use the ashes as fertilizer for next year’s crops. As a result we drove in a typical horror kind of movie atmosphere for the better part of one and a half day. For those we’ve seen “The Road” (2009) film with Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron… it was something like that… but then a long highway with grayish/brownish barren fields left and right of the highway. Although most highways are boring, there are definitely nice ones… but not in Serbia or East Croatia.

In the end we managed to reach Belgrade, Serbia. Since we didn’t see any camping sites signs on the highway close to 18:00 we decided to stop at a motel. Earlier in the day we saw some camping sites being advertised along the highway (quite unusual in Western Europe), but we didn’t go for those because of all the smoke from the burning fields. Furthermore, we were also very keen to stop because there was a big storm brewing above us! The prices for a double room were 5200 Serbian money for two persons (roughly 50 euros). I managed to get 2 euros discount after some praising of Serbia (not that I knew much about it apart from the “bad” things you hear in the news) and by mentioning how great Nicola Tesla was (he actually was!) as an inventor.

My impression of Serbia is that it is the first real “Eastern Europe” country. There are more older cars on the road, the faces changed to the more stereotypical Eastern European look, the capital city was rather grayish due to the smoke from factories. Overall I didn’t really make a very positive impression. The whole atmosphere was old-fashioned, cold and not very welcoming! Perhaps we should’ve seen the country on a non-smokey day.

Anyway, as the evening dinner was a whopping 25 Euros per person, we decided to make some noodles on the balcony of our motel. We thought we did all the preparations right… but some fuel leaked out on to the balcony floor and that also caught fire when we lighted the fuel burner. As a result we nearly burned down the motel (= there was a 10 second football-sized flame). Illegally cooking on a balcony is quite a challenge! Especially when you are about 10 meters away from the reception. To avoid detection we put some towels and other things around the flame (at a save enough distance) to block the light from the flames. To counter the noise of the fuel burner we maxed out the volume of our laptop which we subsequently put outside for maximum noise-masking!

In the end, all was well and a nice meal was had!

Day 6: Onwards through Bulgaria to Turkey

We got up early to get as far as possible into Bulgaria as possible in order to be able to reach our hostel in Istanbul the next day. The day started quite well. We drove through the beautiful and modern city of Sofia (Hi Danny! ) where we experienced the local cuisine (McDonalds) during brunch-time. After Sofia the highway became a long and boring endeavor again. After several hours we reached maximum zombie-mode and as a consequence we accidently missed the exit to Istanbul! Normally this is not such a problem as there are many exits and viaducts to turn around and head back towards the exit again. However, we found out the hard way that this can take more than 40 kilometers…. So, by the time we were able to turn around and head back we were already diverted by our Garmin navigation devices to take a “connecting road” to reach the highway again. Oh boy… that was quite a ride!

We had to drive through little villages that appeared to be almost forgotten… and our passing by in their villages must have been the news of the week over there. In one particular village we couldn’t find the road anymore and a random local showed us the way… we had to drive over 300 meters on loose sand to reach the road again! Once on the road again we were stuck behind a slow moving traffic jam of trucks and cars while the twilight was already setting in. After about two hours more of this we reached a decently sized city where we did some shopping and also slept that night.

In this town we ran into Libera and Albino from Italy at the Lidl supermarket about 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. The Italian couple were Jehovah witnesses and after some chit chatting about our adventure, our route and our motorcycles the topic accommodation came up. Luckily for us Libera and Albino were well connected and knew the city pretty well. They arranged a sleeping spot for us at a local pension for 6 euros per person per night. For 2 euros extra we could also eat there that night! Talk about differences in price compared with the fancy motel we stayed at the previous day!

It was quite a nice experience. The owners were quite open to us and complained about their mobster/mafia-run government and their view of Bulgaria still being a communist state that belongs to Russia. There was no democracy according to them. We continued chatting away in a mix of English, German and the international language of hand symbolism while being offered more and more beers throughout the night free of charge! Pretty much everyone we meet is extreme interested in our journey and usually shocked to hear our plans. The fact we don’t have a job and/or quit our job in order to chase our dreams is hard to fathom for them. At the same time I feel their understanding of the world is very limited and even their neighbouring countries are quite foreign to them… let alone countries such as India or those in Africa.

 

Day 7-9: Istanbul

What was supposed to be an easy day turned out to be quite a stressful day! First of all we had to find the tourist district in Istanbul without prior research online and without the help of a guidebook. The city of Istanbul with about 17 million inhabitants (we were told) was slightly bigger than we previously thought. Riding around requires a lot of attention as the locals overtake you left and right and are always trying to get their vehicles in the smallest openings to get 1 car length ahead…

Anyway, we eventually figured out that Sultanahmet district would be our best option for cheap hostels and parking possibilities. We decided to go to the International Orient hostel, which is also part of the YHA (Youth Hostel Association) – a sort of chain of hostels mainly located in Europe and Australia.

Unbeknownst to me my radiator cooling fan was already broken or broke on the way to Istanbul. I found out about this while taking a shortcut through the shopping streets of Istanbul. In other words, I stranded in a place I wasn’t even supposed to be – but I thought I could get away with it! About 2 kilometres from the hostel my motorcycle overheated and radiator fluid started spewing out (boiling hot). I turned off the motorcycle and waited about 20 minutes for it to cool down before continuing my journey to our hostel. I figured it was the slow-going in the hot afternoon that caused my motorcycle to overheat. However, shortly after my first issue… it happened again! Thus now realizing something else was going on. I wish I could tell you I knew exactly what was going on now and how to solve this… but I wasn’t sure! I observed some dents in the radiator… I figured it was that. Luckily some tourist bus drivers were also very interested in my breakdown and with their mechanical knowledge they quickly discovered my cooling fan was not working!

So, the problem is diagnosed… and now I only need someone to fix it! Luckily they bus drivers also knew where we could find a garage that would be able to resolve this issue. Sadly we didn’t find the garage they were talking about! However, we found the best garage in Istanbul! A repair mechanic that is part of one of the Turkish Dakar teams and a keen adventure riders himself quickly fixed the problem and refilled my radiator again with anti-freeze. I decided to order new tyres (Metzeler Tourance) right there as well because Istanbul would be the last stop for tyres in a while. This is because there is a trade boycot with Iran and the lack of big motorcycles in Pakistan. The next likely place for tyres would be India (New Delhli) in all likelihood!

It was almost dark when my motorcycle was fixed again. Now we had to find a hostel in the popular tourist district about 5 kilometers away! We pointed the navigation to the centre of the district and awkwardly ended up between two major tourist attractions: The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia. We were quite sure we weren’t supposed to be there…. In the middle of a big square…

A local guide us to the hostel which was about 400 meters away. I think he was trying to bring us to a hostel that would give him commission. Sadly for him we spotted the hostel and quickly asked the staff to guide us to the back so we could park our motorcycles and unload and take inside our luggage through the backdoor of the hostel.

Later in the evening we did absolutely nothing and only went outside to get something to eat. Kebab it was!

Day 2 is Istanbul

On the second day we visited all the major tourist sites is Istanbul. You can read about it yourself by clicking the following links:

Day 3 is Istanbul

The previous day we were just too late to visit the palace called Topkapi Sarayi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Topkap%C4%B1_Saray%C4%B1). We didn’t really want to go, but we were afraid to miss out on something great! It was a little bit of a letdown… but that is because we had no clue what we were looking at, the history and stories of the palace etcetera. The prices for audio guides and/or a real guide were too much for our budget. We hoped to pick up some information on the way from the various senior traveler guided tours or information signs... but the information was extremely limited and it was not really worth the money.

In the afternoon we had a meeting with Mr. Ahmet Demirtas from ATAMOTO again. This time to replace the tyres that were ordered two days ago. Thankfully my motorcycle decided to stall on me just 200 metres from his shop… so after some pushing and running we brought it back in the shop for another round of diagnosing the problem. The latest theory is that the connectors in the fuse box are a little bit corroded and by just wiggling with the fuses my motorcycle resurrected again! The owner of the shop suggested to spray the fuse box with this magical spray called WD40 once every 3-5 thousand kilometers to prevent the contacts of the fuses to go bad again.

After my bike was resurrected again it was time for my old tyres to be replaced. While the boys took my old tyres off and replaced them with newer ones the owner entertained us with some Turkish film masterpieces such as “Turkish Star Wars”. See: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cufQD5Y31ZA

With new tyres, engine oil topped off and (I hope) the fuse problem fixed… we drove off to check out the harbor area to eat some fresh fish (tuna). After seeing the prices it was quickly decided to eat Kebab for the fourth time in 3 days. The rest of the evening was spend relaxing, watching tv series and writing this travel blog.

Day 10: Cappadocia

Coming soon

Day 11: Mount Nemrut

Coming soon

Follow Us!

On Facebook you can follow the latest ride reports, photos and videos. 

On SmugMug we place the best photos and video's from our trip.

Subscribe for a RSS Feed of this site.

Our Sponsors

ATAMOTO

KERAM

MDI

Route

This is the map of how we're going to drive. Click on the map to view a larger version.

mapextendedcolor

Latest Comments