Across the Balkans

25 April — Croatia – Montenegro – Albania, 245 miles

Still racing to get out of Europe… and another fairly long day. “Only” 245 miles (plus the extras when I went a little off-route into central Tirana) – but two border crossings, and a ferry.

~24 miles of “just get there” roads to Croatia-Montenegro border – where I got the first actual passport stamp
~75 miles to ride across Montenegro, plus a wee ferry ride. Some stunning coastal views, and not-so-stunning inner-countryside
Entered Albania – where the locals seemed confused we were lining up with the other vehicles… “just ride down the pedestrain aisle” – seemed to be what the sign language was saying – so yeah, sure
~145 miles of riding amongst Albanian drivers. All I can say is… good practice for when we get to Asia, I guess… a nice little sneak peek for those who have never seen Chinese driving.

My introduction to Albania was coming around the very first bend, and seeing a reasonably (dangerously) sizable rock in the middle of my lane. So, I veer slightly to one side. Then see the rock is still right in my path. Realise it’s a turtle (or tortoise) – crossing the road, and veer slightly more to avoid.
A very nice twisty pass over a range for the last part of the ride, before we settled into our hotel in Pogradec, on the coast of Lake Ohrid – another World Heritage Site ticked off, I believe.

Last view of Old Dubrovnik
Fleeting visit to Montenegro
Albania

Into the Western Balkans

24 April — Croatia – Bosnia&Herzegovina – Croatia, 147 miles

A shorter day – with a wee sleep-in, on the bike by 8:30, for some more coastal roads, a pass-through Bosnia & Herzegovina (which bisects Croatia) – before returning to Croatia, to spend the evening in the rather impressive Dubrovnik. The old town of Dubrovnik is rather spectacular… I believe it is also known as King’s Landing – for those who watch TV.
NB: Of all the border crossings I’ve done thus far – not once have I been asked to take off my (full face) helmet… but today the Croatian border guard – refused to even look at my passport – just opened the barrier as I rode up to the window.

~106 miles of Croatian coast road
~6 miles of crossing over the section of Bosnia&Herzegovina which reaches out to the coast
And then another ~35 miles of Croatian coast

Leaving Trogir
Adriatic Coast
“Selfie”
Panorama
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Some random Croatian town
Dubrovnik – the boring new parts

Adriatic Coast

23 April — Slovenia – Croatia, 310 miles

Sleeping slightly better, finally realising I’m in this, whatever concerns I may have.
First day of adverse weather – rain in the morning, scary winds in the evening.

~85 miles of boring Slovenian motorways, in the rain… took me a while to gather up some speed.
~25 miles of boring Croatian motorways
~112 miles of awesome coastal roads
~44 miles of Croatian motorway in terrifying winds
Before the decision to leave the motorway, and do the final ~44 miles on some more coast, but mostly stuck behind traffic, and too tired to enjoy

Arrived in Trogir fairly late, which was a shame – as it seems an awesome inner city to walk around (lost… perpetually lost, in one of those old, old cities within the old walls with alleyways and semi-alleyways that just baffle one’s directional sense). Another UNESCO site off the list, but, albeit without full appreciation.

Finally plastered some stickers on the bike

Out of Western Europe

22 April — Germany, straight across Austria – Slovenia, 328 miles

A little more sleep last night – 4 hours before I woke up thinking over-and-over about stuff, mostly just useless stuff.

~175 miles of boring German motorway (Autobahn, but never really going over a standard 80mph)
~124 miles of Austrian motorway – some boring, but some spectacular views leading up into the Alps (when not in the tunnels)
– it’s illegal to record video while riding in Austria, so couldn’t get a video… luckily one of my memory cards had some preloaded stock footage of a Triumph Tiger riding up towards the Alps… so will get that cleaned up and made available sometime
~22 miles of Slovenian motorway – about half of that underground
And a final 7 or 8 miles of Slovenian country roads, including some off-road/farm-tracks
– Did get some video of that, will need to check it, clean it up, etc

Getting Ready for Day 3
Slovenia

Trying to leave Europe

21 April — France – Germany, 347 miles

Second day – after almost zero sleep. Despite (/because of?) how exhausted I was yesterday – simply couldn’t sleep. [Edited to remove (a bit of) the self-pity]… but, plenty of self-doubt clouding the mind over the night, but mostly nonsense… and I’ve since figured out a few other guys have had the same.
One day at a time from here on in… and hopefully some decent nights’ sleeps.

Today’s riding – very long
~220 miles on boring French motorways
~40 miles of very, very nice twisty roads through the Black Forest
And then ~87 miles of reasonable German roads to get to the hotel

Still not really any photos or the such… I did take some video of riding through the Black Forest… but will need to have a look at how that turned out.

Journey’s Beginning

20 April — London – Reims, 293 miles

So – first day done.
Breakfast at the Ace Cafe,
Photos, speeches, some dignitaries along to get their own photo ops’,
Then finally started riding.

~108 miles on boring English motorways,
The EuroTunnel/Chunnel,
~82 miles of boring French motorways,
And finally ~103 miles on some quite nice French non-motorway roads.

Group dinner in Reims,
I am bloody exhausted… and rather looking forward to trying to get some decent sleep.
As such – not much more info for now, I’ll try to upload some photos/videos when I manage to collate them from other people… didn’t really take any photos myself.

https://publicinsta.com/media/BweQBxbgt2v

Plans for 2019

So… getting very close to doing a wee spot of travel.

General Plan

  • Ride a Triumph Tiger 800 XCa from the Ace Cafe in London, to the Ace Cafe in Beijing
  • Probably head into Mongolia, ride a rather smaller Chinese Shineray 150 around the Steppe, with a tent strapped to the bike
  • 17 days in North Korea, maybe more if they find any “objectionable material” in any laptops/phones/hard-drives I take in
  • Japan, to watch some rugby
  • Then – a choice of
    • returning to the UK in winter, and looking for a job at a time of year when people are unlikely to be hiring;
    • Or – heading to NZ for summer, and chilling out while I figure out how much money I have left, and how desperately/soon I’ll be looking for a job in 2020

Some PDFs of the estimated London-Beijing route

london_beijing-1 london_beijing-2 london_beijing-3 london_beijing-4 london_beijing-5 london_beijing-6

Stuff that happened in 2018

Gigs

  • The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (only a couple of songs, as I’d double-booked, and then had to hurry onwards to the next item on the list…)
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Future Islands
  • Cat Power
  • The National
  • Nadine Shah
  • Lorde
  • The xx
  • Sylvan Esso
  • Father John Misty
  • Beck
  • Bjork
  • The National
  • The Black Lips
  • Courtney Barnett
  • St Vincent
  • Patti Smith
  • Nick Cave
  • Death Cab for Cutie
  • Low
  • The Naked and Famous
  • The Gaslight Anthem
  • Phoebe Bridgers
  • Jose Gonzalez

I also had tickets for a couple more, but missed them…
Nine Inch Nails – more than a little gutted I forgot about this until it was too late
Marlon Williams – simply couldn’t be arsed that night

Nick Cave was as good as ever… and had Kylie Minogue out for Where the Wild Roses Grow… the reaction of the british when that happened… absolutely mental. Never seen so many hipsters and the such absolutely lose their shit for a pop singer.
The Stones – I was a little underwhelmed… but never really been a big fan.

Places visited

Stuff that happened in 2017

Gigs

  • Conor Oberst
  • The Naked and Famous
  • Ladyhawke
  • The xx
  • Cat Power
  • Japandroids
  • Alt-J
  • Stone Roses
  • The Roots
  • Cold War Kids
  • Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, The Lumineers
  • Feist
  • Regina Spektor
  • Nadia Reid
  • Car Seat Headrest
  • The Libertines
  • Seasick Steve
  • Jack Bugg
  • KT Tunstall
  • Fun Lovin’ Criminals
  • Ryan Adams
  • LCD Soundsystem
  • Ghostface Killah
  • The National (x2)
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
  • The Naked and Famous
  • Dizzee Rascal
  • Lamb
  • St Vincent
  • Public Service Broadcasting
  • Katchafire
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
  • Father John Misty
  • Sylvan Esso
  • Goldfrapp
  • Run The Jewels
  • Prophets of Rage
  • Queens of the Stone Age
  • Wolf Alice
  • Gorillaz
  • P.O.S.

Can’t be bothered making notes on each, but highlights were certainly Nick Cave – turning a song like “Higgs Boson Blues” into a Stadium-Anthem absolutely filling the O2 Arena… pure class. And obviously, seeing Tom Petty before his passing.

Lowlights – Libertines, never really got the hype – seeing them live didn’t change my mind. FLC before them was fun but. And Stone Roses – glad I got to see them, but Ian Brown sounded like a drunk pub karaoke singer.

Places Visited

  • US-of-A – the-turning-40-like-an-adolescent-trip – New Orleans, Orlando (eyes lowered, shame-faced…. WrestleMania)
  • Cuba
  • Singapore
  • Morocco for Christmas/New-Year – on a BMW F650

Stuff that happened in 2016

Gigs attended (this was the year of opera)

  • La Traviata
  • Pia de Tolomei
  • Primal Scream
  • Il Trittico
  • Lucia di Lammermoor
  • Future of the Left
  • La Fanciulla
  • Bruce Springsteen (x2)
  • The Chills
  • Nabucco
  • Boheme
  • Beck
  • Il Trovatore
  • Mudhoney
  • Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros
  • Katchafire
  • Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop
  • Beth Orton
  • Ugly Kid Joe
  • Ben Harper
  • PJ Harvey
  • Low
  • Pixies

Places visited

  • Czechia
  • Italy a couple of times (Lake Como – possibly the first place I’ve seen which rivals my biased view of New Zealand being the most beautiful place on the planet)
  • Germany