I can’t believe we’re in Greece! This is Dave on his bike on the beach. Can you tell he’s quite happy to be here? Another really long day, out of albania into macedonia, getting stiffed 50 euros for insurance at the border. Pretty easy going ride. Bert the German turned up on his way greece too, and asked to ride with us as his tyre was down to canvas and if was a bit worried about making it all the way. So after being waved through the greek border we rode almost non-stop to just east of Thessaloniki, where we are now just walking along the beach for a well earned beer. 3000 miles, 9 days, 11 countries! (england, france, monaco, italy, slovenia, croatia, bosnia, monte negro, albania, macedonia, and greece.) All being well, this time tomorrow we’ll be in country number 12.
Another blast down the coast road, straight to dubrovnik and missing a chunk of our planned excursion to Bosnia, but thereby getting a whole day ahead of schedule, which will be very useful. My bike has stn perfectly so far, while dave’s falls apart, but this morning it starts sputtering and coughing due to what i think was a fuel starvation issue because of a trapped fuel pipe, and while dave blasts on down the road without noticing, i have to pull over to see what’s wrong. I find nothing, ride on, and eventually it gives one last shudder and a back fire, and then it’s fine for the rest of the day. A beer on the beach works very well, and it’s a little bit odd to be looking at buildings with shell damage from the war, in such a peaceful suburban area, buzzing with trendy (relatively!) local drinking cocktails. They take euros here but you get your change in funny money. Decide to eat in a restaurant as the shops are closed, and end up with a plate of assorted meat, including something on a stick, that proves to be about 5 times as much as we can eat between us. As i’m writing this it seems like weeks ago, but it was only yesterday, and it feels like we’ve been on the go for weeks and weeks, but it’s only been just over one week. Starting to feel the effect of travelling so far so fast, don’t even know now what the local time or currency is, whether we’re still in the EU or not, what day it is, where were we yesterday… Including england, that’s 6 countries in 7 days. Over 2000 miles.
Now in a hotel in albania, after a very long, tiring, wet, muddy and very wierd day. The shower is inches from a dodgy socket, hanging out of the wall with exposed wires. It’s nice to be inside, warm and dry, but it makes me nervous not sleeping right next to the bike. Albania has been bizarre. The road from monte negro was the worst yet, a bumpy and in parts single-track back lane, yet used by trucks and leading to an international border crossing. The crossing was much easier than i thought it might be. Just passport and V5, and we’re off. Into the worst cr@phole i’ve ever seen! Dead cats and dogs on the road, too numerous to count. Terrible road. Beat up old mercs seemingly the transport of choice for those with money, beat up old bicycles for those without. And for the first time, no other bikers. There were few in monte negro, but none here. We’re really starting to draw attention now. Kids wave, and look gleeful if you wave back. We head onto the main road to Tirane, a single carriageway of craziness. Some vehicles doing 10 mph, others 100. Overtaking where they like, when they like, never mind what’s coming. And every quarter mile or so, huge immaculate petrol stations on both sides of the road, incredibly incongruous, the only modern or new buildings to be seen. And more police speed traps than you’d see in 5 years on english roads. Amazed we escape being pulled as we’re now amongst the fastest on the roads, the opposite of italy. Then we hit the capital and it’s a crazy mass of cars and people. We seem to have arrived in the middle of a political event which has drawn the whole city on to the streets. Some kids pull alongside in a clapped out old piece of junk and start shouting. I immediately fear some kind of aggro, but when i look over, the driver / ringleader is making "rev it up" gestures. I oblige, to their great delight, and they pace me for a while wanting more. Dave does a sterling job steering us through the mayhem, and on the other side of the city it starts to rain. We find a hotel, cause a bit of a commotion with our arrival (how many english hotel managers would come out to over see your parking and direct you to park right outside the front door), finish the cheese and ham we bought for lunch, with a bottle of monte negro wine that tastes like vinegar, and call it a night. The hotel s a welcome dose of relative familiarity after the culture shock. Hard to believe this is a european country. Tomorrow, macedonia.
It was only this morning but feels like days ago. We left Croatia and had the first border crossing that required more than a passport check. Registration documents, and having to buy insurance for 10 euros. Border guard police man very friendly and helpful. It won’t always be so easy. So now we’re into country number 7 and it feels very different, not so well developed. And it’s raining. We press on to Kotor, but the views are spoiled by the weather and the rain gets in dave’s electrics and he’s broken down again. After some WD40 and when the rain clears, we’re back underway, only to find ourselves trying to squeeze down a road being dug up, with mud, gravel and big trenches everywhere, and big vans and buses coming the the other way. Some scary moments. Eventually we make it out without crashing, and follow some more scenic roads, they and riding spoiled by rain, on towards Albania, country number 8 in 8 days.
Another Croatia photo, and now the pictures match the story. After half an hour transiting Slovenia, we head onto the coast road in north eastern Croatia, along the dalmation coast. It’s amazing how often on this trip i’ve thought "this is the best road i’ve ever ridden!", and now here is really the best road in the world ever, and i still think so 3 days later. Stunning views and curves that just flow smoothly from one to the next, so that the bike is almost never upright. It’s really amazing how well these bikes handle, especially with all the kit on. It’s a brilliant time, even my back which has been really bad is not bothering me, and it’s an effortless cruise interrupted only by the countless scenic vantage points for a photo stop. The end of the day gets a bit longer than planned as we struggle to find somewhere to stay and eventually end up in a holiday apartment via isn’t much cop and i have the added disappointment of discovering that the new laptop i managed to by in italy earlier in the day, to replace the one that broke in the first few days of the trip, doesn’t actually work. I think they’ve given me the wrong charger, and it’s gutting to go from feeling really pleased about being lucky enough to find a new laptop to being cheesed off about it not working. Without it i will be without mapping for the gps for the rest of the trip. Not good.