Week 11 – Italy Nth – Pt2

Sunday 9th to Saturday 15th June

Orvieto, Cortona, Florence, LeVanto, Aosta

Sunday 09/06/19 – Lay Day; Orvieto

Well it appears we’ve arrived in town on the biggest weekend of the year.¬† The place is packed. We had a bo-peep around town.

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And descended and ascended to 500 steps of the old water cistern.

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The event is Orvieto in Fiore (Orvieto in bloom) and finishes with the Palombella holiday celebration, when the city is filled with flowers and horticultural exhibits and local craftsman booths. It seems everyone decorates their properties.

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They have bands playing and much noise and celebrations, culminating with a pageant in the Piazza 20m from our room. It’s a medieval re-enactment of some sort with costumes and dancing then finishing with a cross bow competition. Those guys were pretty accurate from 30m with those old weapons.

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Monday 10/06/19 – Ride Day; Orvieto to Cortona

After another ‘all day’ breakfast we were on the road early. And it was a gorgeous day to be traveling Tuscany’s hidden back roads with spectacular views and a steady parade of hill top and valley towns. Viceno, Centeno, Abbadia San Salvatore, Pescina and Piagge all tempted us.

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before we stopped to lunch on a huge punnet of fresh strawberries in Montalcino.

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Then it was on through more wonderful vistas via Pienza to Montepulciano where we got gloriously lost and ended up as far as the road and lanes went, but which didn’t go far enough so we did a U turn and retraced our track. I’ve got the video of it ūüė® Norma’s laughing about it now,¬† but …..

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And so to Cortona which is my pick of the hill top towns we’ve stayed at. You can walk from one wall to the other in under 10 minutes if you don’t get delayed by some charm or another.

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We bought panini and dined sitting on the high church steps while remembering other places and times. I could go back there.

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This was a good day among a lot of other good days. 175klms.

Day 39 175k

Tuesday 11/06/19 – Ride Day; Cortona to Florence

Another tranquil Tuscan day that was threatening to heat up so we were on the road early.

First stop was Arezzo where we’d been told to visit the Piazza Grande. What we hadn’t been told was the hazard of getting there through a maze of one way streets that seemed to get ever narrower, steeper and rougher before spitting us out into this.

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And we had it all to ourselves, which is understandable considering how difficult it was to find.¬†We spent a quiet hour here before moving on to meet the Melbourne Blackmores via Skype at Bibbiena. It’s always great to talk to family. “When are you coming home? You’ve been gone FOREVER”.

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So on to our Agriturismo 4klms outside of Florence.

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It had been a leisurely 120klms for the day.

Day 40 125k

Wednesday 12/06/19 – Lay Day; Florence

After an entertaining and sumptuous breakfast complete with liqueur ‘for the day ahead’ according to Giuseppe our host, we caught the #23 bus into Florence, where we came across what seemed like most of the rest of Europe. It was Florence Fashion Week. Good timing. We did what tourists do.

First of all we climbed all those steps to get the best views of town. Mmm, too much cake.

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Then joined the crowds. Not that these pics show too many people because if you wait for the right shot…

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Now here’s where I have a pet beef. Why is it that people take forever to take a picture on their mobile phone and then stand right THERE and look at it, right in the middle of the footpath, road, gutter or wherever else they’ve taken the space, time and picture from. Completely oblivious to anyone else. MOVE ON. Admire it, edit it, critique it somewhere else.¬† Good grief.

Florence is quite impressive although we didn’t join the cues.

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Thursday 13/06/19 – Ride Day; Florence to LeVanto

A long hot day chasing the roads less travelled over the mountains. We could have used the freeway but that twisted tarmac is so inviting. Besides which there was hardly a vehicle on the roads we rode, but so many cyclists. We stopped occasionally to hydrate and carbonate ūüėĬ†And took a couple of pics of the glorious surrounds.

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We stopped at Lucca for lunch and had a gander at this church. That bloke in the glass case is St Davido (I think) and he’s been dead for something like 1100 years. Makes me wonder.

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265klms for the day which is a long day on those roads through that country in over 30c.

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Day 41 265k

Friday 14/06/19 – Lay Day; LeVanto

We caught the boat to Monterosso to buy Roman’s present and have a coffee overlooking the beach. 5 down, 1 to go. Who’s idea was it to buy presents for Grandies? We’ve spent the entire trip looking for things that are small enough to carry yet are significant enough to matter, not to mention the cost. The saddest part is that I’m the one mainly at fault. We should wait until we get home and just visit Myers ūüėā

Monterosso

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We then caught the train back to LeVanto which is through a tunnel the entire way.

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We spent the afternoon on the beach, and in the evening joined the locals as they danced in the town square. Oh, and it’s Friday, and we know what that means.

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Saturday 15/06/19 – Ride Day; LeVanto Aosta

Today was a 330klm day and a lot of that climbing from the sea level to the higher plains so for the first time we’ve taken to the freeways in a big way, 200klms and cost ‚ā¨22 in tolls, but worth it. The final 40klms we did on a B road and it was a lovely ride as we entered the southern part of the Italian, Swiss or French Alps, and they are spectacular.

No pics today but right now there’s a war of thunder happening in the mountains up behind where we’re staying. Tomorrow we start the final stage of this wonderful journey.

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Week 10 – Croatia to Italy

Saturday 1st to Saturday 8th June

Makarska,  Ancona, Norcia, Orvieto

Saturday 01/06 to Wednesday 05/06/19 – Lay Days; Makarska

We’ve been on the road for 9 weeks and it’s time for an extended break, so what better place to do so than in Makarska. This place has some significance for me as my Dida, my Mum’s father, was born and raised in the hills behind here before immigrating to New Zealand in the early 1900s.

We scored a win with our accommodation and settled in for 6 nights. We’d hoped for fine weather but had a lose there as it was overcast and rainy for our whole stay,¬† but never mind, we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

There were a couple of things on the agenda and 1 was to meet a second cousin who we’d missed seeing last time we were here in 2016 as his father was seriously ill. But we caught up this time and had a delightful time.

The second thing was to visit the now apparently abandoned village of Socic where my Dida came from. I mentioned in my 2016 blog that I’d always thought of him as a little hard, not that I had any right to as he never mistreated me. But visiting the place of his upbringing was certainly an eye opener, as to eke out a living from those rocks you’d have to have real strength.

Sadly the place is even more overgrown than on our last visit but the views on the way up the range were just as amazing.

The other thing about Makarska that stuck us was the increase in the number of tourists. We’re here in the shoulder season and it’s busy enough, but the locals tell me it’s crazy in the full summer.

Says me the touristy traveler. We took lots of pictures of the various nooks and crannys.

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And the harbour, of course. There was a constant stream of arrivals and departures, mostly out of my pocket range but enjoyable none the less.

We took a ferry across to Sumartin for coffee and heart stopping cake.

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Watched some sunsets.

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And took a small boat cruise to Podgora with a local in a converted life boat. It was good to be able to talk small boats with someone again.

Thanks Makarska, we loved every minute of it.

Thursday 06/06/19 – Ride Day; Ancona via Trogir and Split

On the road again. In terms of road klms it was a mere 120klms, but we added around another 260klms taking the ferry from Split to Ancona.

To start with we took a leisurely ride north and dropped in on a few coastal villages on the way. I’ve lost the pics somehow ūüė¶ Except this GoPro Grab

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Trogir is 25klms west of Split and well worth a visit we were told. So we did,  and spent most of the afternoon there. We checked out its back streets.

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It’s waterways.

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And some of its other buildings

Before riding back to Split and catching our ferry to Ancona.

Day 36 120k

Friday 07/06/19 – Ride Day; Ancona to Norcia

We landed at 7am and had no problems with customs, but we did have problems getting out of the port area and on the road where we followed the road south through Italy’s Le Marche region on a glorious morning before stopping at Sirolo for breakfast with the locals. There’s just something about these small towns early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

We continued on south following the coast past what seemed like a million beach deck chairs/umbrellas to Porto Recanati where we turned inland and stopped at Loreto and visited the Basilica della Santa Casa which has an interesting if totally unbelievable history.

Then on to Macerata where we stopped and had a Skype call with our Adelaide family which is always a lot of fun.

From Macerata our plan had been to visit the devastated hill town of Castelluccia where we’d spent a few days back in 2016, just 2 nights prior to the earthquake that virtually destroyed the whole region. We rode in from the north to within 13klms of the town before coming to a gate that informed us the road was closed ahead. At least this time we had plenty of fuel so turning around wasn’t a problem as we took another remote road that skirted the hills into Norcia, our stay for the night.

It was heart wrenching to see the destruction and devastation left behind those earthquakes as witnessed by the vibrant towns we’d ridden through in 2016 now being virtually ghost towns.

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And Norcia had fared no better than the rest.

You’d have to ask the question regarding the point of trying to do anything in way of resurrecting some of those buildings, what’s still standing is only there by the grace of good scaffolding. Indeed entire areas are condemned and shut off.

There were still some pleasant scenes.

It was a bitter sweet day of 180klms.

Day 37 180k

Saturday 08/06/19 – Ride Day; Norcia to Orvieto

Today we were on the road early because we wanted to backtrack and visit Castelluccia via the south road, and secondly because it promised to be a hot day.

The views climbing the escarpment were just as beautiful as 3 years ago.

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And the view looking across the plain to Castelluccia was just as breathtaking.

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But that’s where it ended. The town was a virtual ruin.

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We paid homage, took the pics, had a coffee, and left via the east road which led through some amazing country, but also town upon town of destroyed dreams, past, present and future.

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Everything changed once we joined the SS4 at Arquata Del Tronto and rode its joyous twists and curves all the way to Rieti where we stopped and wandered through their preparations for a sports festival – all pretty laid back. We took our pics

and then hustled along the lovely SS79 to Terni. There is some truly amazing scenery through here, which is the norm as we were about to find out.

We stopped at Terni for an hour as the day was becoming hot and heavy.

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Now we were in Umbria and hay making was in full swing with much other evidence of cultivation going on. It seemed that there was a steady stream of classical Italian hilltop towns

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interspersed with the rolling hills and occasional small range just to make the riding amazing and the scenery,  well the scenery;

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We arrived into Orvieto and navigated our way to our B&B right in the heart of town. We accomplished this in spite of the finger wagging and stern looks that said we shouldn’t be doing that, but that’s why we ride a red and white Italian motorcycle, which says in return ‘I can and I don’t care’. In actual fact I do care a bit, I just don’t know how else to get where we’re going. Works for me.

It turns out our reasonable B&B is in an old convent and still run by Nuns. We were pretty tired by the time we arrived as it’d been a hot and fairly long day for us.¬† 260klms.

Day 38 260k

And so we continue.

Week 9 – Romania, Serbia, Bosnia & Croatia

Sunday 26th to Friday 31st of May

Turda – Sebes – Orsova – Belgrade – Sarajevo – Makarska

Sunday 26/05/2019 – Ride Day; Turda to Sebes

We woke up to a fine day so got on the road with a view having a look at Cheile Turzil  natural reserve which we missed yesterday. What little we saw on a short walk was impressive.

Seeing as today was going to be a rather short day we decided to do a few roads that I doubt too many travelers have ever seen, and they certainly beat the main road even if a little slower and less maintained. The first loop took us well west of the highway.

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This brought us out at the town of Aiud where we had a coffee sans cake, and listened to the church bells competing before running down the highway to Alba Iulia where we stopped at the¬† Cetatea BastionarńÉ Alba Carolina¬†which is well worth a visit. We spent a pleasant hour over lunch.

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We then took a loop eastward through some lovely farmland.

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We arrived in Sebes in the mid afternoon and booked into our 5 star hotel. Well¬† not exactly 5 star, but it was for us considering a couple of our immediate previous lodgings. It’s certainly a bit of a lottery when it comes to doing accommodation on a budget because you never really know what you’ll get in spite of the reviews and pics posted on booking.com which is what we’ve been using as a rule. Mostly they’re pretty good, but there’s been a few that haven’t been. Sebes was great with dedicated secure motorcycle parking.

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There’s actually not much to see in Sebes, it just happens to be a convenient jump off point for the Transalpina Highway, which remains closed until 30th June. 135k for the day.

Monday 27/05/2019 – Ride Day; Sebes to Orsova (Iron Gates)

With conflicting reports on whether or not the Transalpina was open we decided on the side of caution and took the western road which in itself turned out to be a great ride.

But first we ran even further west to see the¬†Fortress of Deva¬†which is pretty spectacular, by all accounts anyway, because when we got there we couldn’t see 50 metres in front of ourselves because of fog. This is what we should have seen, but didn’t.

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So we turned around and retraced the road to the E79 and south. There was snow on the peaks and it became quite cool as we wound our way down and ever down to emerge at Targu Jiu where we took a break.

And so we arrived in Drobeta-Turnu Severin where we played tourists on a motorcycle.

 

We passed the famous Iron Gate I Hydroelectric Power Station  which is the largest dam on the Danube river and one of the largest hydro power plants in Europe. It is located on the Iron Gate gorge, between Romania and Serbia.

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It was becoming a long day as we headed west towards Orsova and our lodgings in what was once a communist era apartment block. Not a lot has changed and this one was marked as a ‘miss’ in the lottery. You pays your money ….¬† 335klms today which is one of our longest on this trip to date.

Day 32 335k

Tuesday 28/05/2019 – Lay Day; Orsova (Iron Gates)

Today we played tourists in a leaky boat as we joined 10 other game souls in what could well have been a communist era bath tub with a Johnson outboard on the back. For A$15 each we got to see the Iron Gate Gorge first hand while our tour guide gave us a running Romanian commentary. Luckily we were seated next to a bloke who spoke far better English than we understood Romanian.

The Danube River is not Blue, but it is big at 2,850klms long and passing through 10 countries.

Wednesday 29/05/2019 – Ride Day; Orsova to Belgrade

Today I thought it prudent to take a major border crossing from Romania into Serbia. This is because of the third party property insurance, or Green Card, that we carry and the uncertainty with its acceptance in Serbia even though there is a footnote (in German) to say that it is. I’d gone through the trouble of getting said footnote translated and hoped that Google Translate wasn’t telling fibs.

So we headed back and crossed the dam wall at Iron Gates. Did we have any trouble? Yes we did, but on the Romanian side which insisted we wouldn’t be able to enter Serbia with the above mentioned Green Card, not that it mattered to them really. I’m thinking they were just feeling extra bureaucratical that early in the morning and once I showed them the screenshot of the translated text they merely shrugged their shoulders as if to say ‘be it on your own head fool’.

So what happened on the Serbian side you ask. Absolutely nothing. They didn’t even look at the bike papers, just stamped our passports, smiled and said ‘welcome to Serbia’. You just never know. Let’s see what happens when we enter Bosnia tomorrow where we’ll have the same issue we had entering Turkey.

We counted our blessings and followed the mighty Danube for 130klms. We got to see some of the sights we’d seen yesterday.

 

And passed a few other sights before stopping for a brew.

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Belgrade seemed to be in turmoil when we arrived with traffic jams at every turn, but we finally found our ex communist/dictatorship era apartment block ‘miss’ for the night just before a torrential thunderstorm. The thing is with these places is that they can be very nice inside, as this one actually was, but a total mess otherwise.

After the rainstorm we played tourists for a couple of hours.

It had been a good day of 260klms.

Day 33 260k

Thursday 30/05/2019 – Ride Day; Belgrade to Sarajevo

I’d originally planned on spending 2 nights in both Belgrade and Sarajevo as well as a night in a place called Mokra Gora but extended threatening bad weather and an obscure border crossing into Bosnia helped me decide to take a quick and easy run to Croatia and a 5 day rest period in Makarska.

The threat of inclement weather had us togged up in our wets for an early ‘beat the traffic’ start out of Belgrade. Total fail, but eventually we got out of town and rode through Serbia’s heartland, stopping in a small village where we brewed our coffee in the local park before heading for the Bosnian border.

You can just never predict how these border crossings will turn out. Exiting Serbia with perfect paperwork was a bit of a drama. Entering Bosnia was a ‘stamp your passport, not interested in your moto, see you later’ 30 second anticlimax.

We headed into the foothills of what I think are the Balkan Mountains, and it started to rain. But these were virtually perfect roads so the riding was really good. That was until we got towards the top of the ranges where we ran into dense fog/cloud before breaking through into clear skies over the top then the reverse on the way down. Still, hills and great roads, short sweepers and a powerful motorcycle make for an enjoyable time, even if it’s cold and raining. We stopped for fuel and a much needed comfort stop 40klms from Sarajevo and hot chocolate tasted just fine.

It was an easy ride into our ‘win’ lodgings in Sarajevo which even had heated floors in the bathroom much to Norma’s delight. It was a definite win for her after a different and probable uncomfortable day – I am blessed man to have such a willing partner. We had a shower and had a quick look around the Turkish Bazaar like old town before an early night. Another decent 290klms for the day.

Friday 31/05/2019 – Ride Day; Sarajevo to Makarska

I managed to coax Norma into her wets and away from those heated bathroom floors and we were on the road by 8am through some of the most delightful riding we have done so far. Perfect roads, amazing views, lots of corners and little traffic; what more can a man ask for?

We generally like to stop for morning tea around 10am and that requires finding a convenient stopping place preferably with a table and chairs for our aging bodies. Today we had to settle for AMCO for seating, but the scenery didn’t disappoint.

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We continued on our way to Mostar specifically to see the reconstructed Mostar Bridge.

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We joined the throng of tourists, took our pictures, and left town via the high road on our way to Croatia where we had no border issues. We chased the new tollway along the mountains before dropping down to the coast through a tunnel.

 

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And so to Makarska where we found a car wash on the way in and spruced the Guzzi up a bit before finding our winwin accommodation right in the heart of town.

We had stopped here in 2016 and it was a little like coming home although there are a whole lot more tourists around. We enjoyed dinner overlooking the beach as the sun set.

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255klms today and time for a well deserved break. See you next week.

Day 35 255k

Week 8 – Bulgaria & Romania

Sunday 19th to Saturday 25th May

Edirne – MotoCamp Bulgaria – Corbi Ami – Bran Castle – Targus Mure – Turda

Sunday 19/05/19 – Ride Day: Edirne to MotoCamp Bulgaria

It’s goodbye to Turkey this quiet Sunday morning as we get away early after aother ‘day long’ breakfast and head west for the border to enter the EU once again. This was a bit of a baffling experience as we negotiated no less than 6 border control booths with each one of them going over the same paperwork with the same “These are your registration papers, where are your moto papers?” “In Australia they are one and the same” “No, you must have different papers” and around and around we’d go. We got through eventually. And headed north west.

Now the reason we’ve headed in that direction and not due west for Plovdiv as planned, is because¬† our trusty Moto Guzzi has developed an annoying oil leak/weep from up in behind the left hand cylinder, not bad but just enough to be messy. I have a fair idea that the problem is a weeping oil pressure sensor unit and I’m not impressed as it’s been a recurring issue with the big block Guzzis since 2001, SO WHY HAVEN’T THEY FIXED IT? So we’re going to MotoCamp Bulgaria where they have a workshop I can use and accommodation we can stay at.

MotoCamp Bulgaria  is located in the village of Idilevo, about 35 km north of central most Bulgarian town of Gabrovo. Hidden in the heart of the Balkan Mountains, far from the madness of the modern world, Idilevo has less than 100 residents who happily live in a village that time has forgotten. MotoCamp Bulgaria is a motorbike centric establishment that offers all sorts of services to travelers such as us.

So that’s the plan for today. Pretty much immediately we encountered what has become the norm for these ex-communist countries, and that is that the roads leave a whole lot to be desired unless you’re on a freeway, and I don’t like travelling on freeways very much because I find them boring. So we put up with the patches on the patches on the patch, or played dodge the pothole while traveling through some of the most beautiful countryside I’ve ever seen, and that includes New Zealand.Sorry Kiwis but it’s true.

We rode Shipka Pass which ¬†is a scenic mountain pass through the¬†Balkan Mountains¬†and is famous for the¬†Battle Of Shipka Pass that took place in the late 1800’s between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. We¬†stopped halfway up for a coffee brew and enjoyed the scenery.

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Before continuing on to the top of the Pass where we visited Shipka Monument that commemorates those who fought and died in the above mentioned battles.

Then on to MotoCamp Bulgaria.

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I pulled the tank off the bike and moved the air box out of the way. Just as I thought, a leaking oil pressure sensor. It actually leaks from around the terminal shroud so I devised a fix with JB Weld on the inside and epoxy glue on the outside, then let it set hard overnight.

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It had been a big day and so it was thoroughly enjoyable to bask in the quiet of this out of the way place.

245klms for the day.

Day 26 245k

Monday 20/05/19 – Lay Day: MotoCamp Bulgaria

Today I put everything back together but only time will tell if my fix has worked. I’m a little skeptical as it’s not easy to thoroughly clean an oily anything so I’m not sure if the glues will hold well enough to properly seal the leak.¬†I carry a reasonable tool kit so had all the tools I needed except for a 21mm open end spanner.

The rest of the day was spent doing nothing.

Tuesday 21/05/19 – Ride Day: MotoCamp Bulgaria to Corbi Ami

After a lovely breakfast and goodbyes to Ivo and Polley we headed east through Veliko Tarnovo to have a quick look at their famous fortifications.

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Then onto Popovo for leisurely 30 minutes sitting with the locals and watching the world go by before heading north for Ruse and the crossing into Romania. The roads hadn’t improved any.

The border crossing at Ruse was the usual which I’ve come to expect because of our one paper ownership/registration. The customs / passport control to leave Bulgaria is shared with the¬†customs / passport control to enter Romania with the 2 officials seated in the same booth but each with their own window 1 meter apart.¬† It didn’t stop the Romanian guy being totally confused even though he’d just watched and heard the Bulgarian guy go through it all. Some people eh.

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We stopped at what was a roadside hotel/restaurant/reception establishment for the night having covered 280klms. I had their much recommended roasted mutton for dinner. Now I enjoy mutton having been raised on the best in Otamatea County, but this was a bad mistake, it was ‘as tough as old goats knees’- I told them so as well.

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Day 27 280k

Wednesday 22/05/19 – Ride Day: Corbi Ami to Bran

No breakfast this morning so on the road by 8am towards Targoviste where we stopped for a magnificent breakfast next to this tower and park.

We headed towards the distant snow capped mountain range and passed these cooling towers, I’ve no idea what they’re for but there was enough of them, so I reckon they’ve got the formula right.

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On up into the hills and the temperature was dropping but the roads were improving as we came to the town of Sinaia with its monastery.

And Peles Castle

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And just up the road Pelisor Castle with its Knights House

And so onto Bran and the infamous¬†Bran Castle. We actually did the tour and now we know why we don’t do tours – like sheep in a dipping race. Not doing that again.

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And this pic taken from our hotel window at midnight – didn’t see any bats, nor hear any Were Wolves. A pleasant ride of 190klms with some nice corners thrown in.

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Day 28 190k

Thursday 23/05/19 – Ride Day: Bran to Targu Mures

After a fairly good breakfast we togged up in preparation for the rain that never came until the very moment we stepped into our cheap (and a little nasty – you can’t win ’em all) accommodation at Targu Mures; but we won that one.

We took the back road into Brasov which was a lovely ride on a near deserted and well made road. This took us to the 600 year old Black Church of Brasov. We took a pic or two and continued on.

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This was a good road and a pleasant ride even though there were plenty of trucks to overtake. A friend had suggested we take a slight detour and call into the hamlet of Hoghiz which I’d set into TomTom. When the turnoff came I couldn’t remember the significance of the place. I soon figured it out when I looked up, they were everywhere. These pics are ‘grabbed’ from GoPro footage.

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And so we continued on through villages and hamlets and the odd small town that were sadly all pretty rundown and dilapidated and with mostly old folk to be seen. We also passed a number of these. Once again GoPro grabs. These guys would kill for an old Ford Station Wagon.

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The kid in the bottom pic got his ear clipped for daring to turn and look at us as we passed. Come on Dad, let him dream a little.

Our next stop was the ancient town of¬†Sighisoara¬† which is quite sizable with over 28,000 people. We got lost again but managed to negotiate the narrow twisted and cobble stoned back way into the center of the old fortress town. Big heavy road bikes are not made to travel such goat tracks, but once you’re on them there’s no going back. We celebrated our hairy ride with coffee and apple and raisin pie. There were lots of tourists about. We took our pics with the rest and left by a much more sensible route albeit still narrow and cobble stoned, but reasonably straight forward.

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Only about 50klms to Targu Mures and with clouds threatening precipitation we ride past this. It’s a pity I can neither remember nor find where it was, but it was there never the less.

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And so into Targu Mures just before a rain. A pleasant ride of 208klms plus 2klms of goat track.

Day 29 210k

Friday 24/05/19 – Lay Day: Targu Mures

We started the day by finding a car wash and washing the bike, it’s the first decent wash it’s had on the trip so far – there’s no better looking bike than nice clean Moto Guzzi 1200 Sport Rosso Corsa SE ABS. Oh no there’s not, so don’t get me going ūüôā

I was thinking the cooling stacks behind looked very nuclear, but they’re not and I can’t find out what they are.

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In the afternoon we went sightseeing around the town center. There are some very nice buildings in this town. Get ready.

 

Saturday 25/05/19 – Ride Day: Targu Mures to Turda

Early breakfast, loaded and on the road. It had rained overnight and there was more promised, but we made it to Turda on a dry secondary road and managed to book into our ‚ā¨32 well appointment and immaculate 2 bedroom apartment early, before visiting the ageless¬†Salina Turda.¬†A 750m access tunnel brought us to a huge gallery that had once been a salt mine. Recently a vain attempt at turning it into a type of theme park had been undertaken. It was cheap to get into though 20Ron, about A$7.

Our intention was to visit the much talked about Cheile Turzil  natural reserve.

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But it started to bucket down so we stayed at home – after all the Guzzi is clean, and I needed to post this week’s blog. Only 110klms today

Day 30 110k

Tomorrow it’s on to Sebes at the head of the Transalpina Highway, hopefully it’s open. Stay tuned.

Week 7 – Turkey

Sunday 12th to Saturday 18th May

Lesvos and Turkey

Sunday 12/05/19 – Ride & Transit Day: Lesvos to Ayvalik

So today was the day we were going to get to Turkey, and it started out real nice, but ended on a sour note.

But it began with lovely sunshine and breakfast on the deck of the hotel watching the fishing fleet return to port.

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Then a clockwise circuit of the eastern side of the island stopping off for a brew besides this quiet bay with a small harbour nearby, and watching a couple of guys working a net in their small boat.

Before continuing on past the old fort then on to the port of Mykilini to catch the ferry.

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It’s only 1 1/2 hours to Ayvalik from Lesvos and the sea was calm as we entered Turkish waters with the mainland on our right and the sun setting over the islands to our left. Beautiful.

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But that’s about where it ended because customs stung us ‚ā¨50 each for a visa then wouldn’t release the bike because we didn’t have 3rd party insurance. Now my research had told me you can get this insurance at every entry port. But not at Ayvalik so it seemed, and they had no idea where we could get it, nor did they care.¬† I was very impressed, especially as we’d already booked a hotel 45 minutes up the road. By this time it’s 10.30pm and¬†Norma and I are walking the streets of an unknown Turkish town like a couple of homeless waifs looking for a pension for the night – found one for ‚ā¨20 with no hot water.

Monday 13/05/19 – Ride Day: Eceabat

Back to the customs office nice and early and they direct me to a tourist agent down the road who might know what to do. The LONG and the short of it was that we were on the road by 1.30pm. Very frustrating, ain’t going back to Ayvalik even though it’s a nice looking place. So to Eceabat.

Day 23 175k

Tuesday 14/05/19 – Lay Day: Eceabat – ANZAC

For those who don’t know of it this is where Australian and New Zealand troops had their first taste of WW1 beginning on the 25th April 1915 when they attacked the western side of the Gallipoli Peninsula at what is now called ANZAC Cove.

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A little over 6 months later they evacuated without having won any of the objectives given them by the incompetent British High Command. Australia lost 8,700 dead, New Zealand 2,700. The British lost nearly 28,000 troops and the Turks lost anywhere between 150,000 to 250,000 men. The madness of war. This is the cemetery adjacent to ANZAC Cove. Private Simpson who, with his donkey, is famous for carting over 100 wounded soldiers to safety is also buried here.

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Lone Pine Cemetery

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Chunuk Bair Cemetery and remnants of trenches where New Zealanders fought and died.

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When you look at the terrain that these young men were expected to fight through you’ve got to ask yourself what idiot was in charge.

There’s a memorial to both sides on the waterfront at Eceabat with the ANZACs with their backs to the water.

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Looking around this entire area the Turks leave one in no doubt whatsoever that they won, and they did. That bit anyway. Today Turkish national pride is huge, there are Turkish flags everywhere, they must have manufactured millions of the things. Good for them.

Wednesday 15/05/19 – Ride Day: Istanbul

310klms to cover today so up, packed and an early breakfast then on the road. We did pretty well and were braving the hectic traffic of Istanbul by 2pm. Things got a bit pear shaped¬†as we got into the center of town as we got lost trying to find our hotel (not unusual) and ended up in the middle of the Blue Mosque at the prayer time – I kid you not. I have no idea how we got in there as all the roads were blocked off and there were police EVERYWHERE and they weren’t impressed. Thanks Google Maps. There must have been something very special happening because the next day at the same time there were thousands of people all over the place, roads open and few obvious police. Finally found our hotel.

Day 24 310k

Thursday 16/05/19 – Lay Day: Istanbul

We did tourist stuff. This fantastic garden / park just up the road from our hotel and below the Topkapi Palace.

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The Blue Mosque and adjacent Hagia Sophia Museum

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And the Basilica Cistern. Pretty impressive.

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Finishing the day with dinner on a cruise around the Bosphorus.

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Friday 17/05/19 – Lay Day: Istanbul

Today we beat the worst of the crowds and hit the bazaars – Spice

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and Grand. All very hectic and hassled by every store owner “Everything is half price today because it’s my birthday”, now there’s an original line. It gets very annoying after a while.

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We wandered a bit.

In the evening we took a long walk around the old city and that was Istanbul done.

Saturday 18/05/19 – Ride Day: Edirne

It seems that Istanbul doesn’t wake up early because there wasn’t a lot of traffic as we headed out of town after a huge breakfast. It was a terrific day for a ride as we rode the mainly back roads west towards the Bulgarian border.

We’ve been very impressed with how fertile and productive the countryside is, with summer crops well on the way to maturity as far as the eye can see and everything lush and green. Not that this picture shows it very well.

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So to Edirne which is close to the Bulgarian border, where we celebrated our Turkish visit with ice cream, even though it was Saturday and not Friday.

Day 25 275k

Week 6 – Athens & Greek Islands

Sunday 5th to Sunday 12th May

Athens – Santorini – Mykonos – Lesvos

SUNDAY 05/05/19 ‚Äď Lay DAY: Athens

It was a slow start to today as we’d already decided we’d leave the queuing to the million other people who were happy to do that sort of thing and pay good bucks for the pleasure.

The Acroplis is only 400m from where we’re staying so everything is pretty close.

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We did our own walking tour which was very pleasant as the day was perfect.

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MONDAY 06/05/19 ‚Äď Lay DAY: Athens

Today we did frappes on top of Lycabettus Hill overlooking EVERYTHING in Athens.

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We rode to this spot and I can honestly say that weekday traffic in Athens is truly terrible, not so much scary, just BUSY; cars stop and double park anywhere and therefore traffic is all over the place. It’s no pleasure riding a big bike here, scooter heaven though.

More tourist pics.

TUESDAY 07/05/19 ‚Äď TRANSIT DAY: Ferry To Santorini

We were up early because our ferry for Santorini was leaving at 7.30am. I don’t do late if I can possibly help it, so we pretty much had the roads to ourselves for the 8klm trip to the port. We were on the boat first, watched as pandemonium ensured the closer it got to sailing time as all the late arrivers were pushing and shoving and yelling and gesturing. We sailed 20 minutes late.

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Then dropped into and dropped off at Kithnos

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Then Serifos

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And Sifnos. (if the truth be known I’m not sure which pic belongs to which port but they’re all very picturesque)

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Until we arrived at Santorini, which was spectacular as we sailed in much to Norma’s delight. This was a very special place to my very special girl and it was all she’d hoped it would be, which was fantastic.

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We were staying at Oia which meant traversing the entire length of the island and it seemed like we were in Athens once again – so many people out and about.

We found our room which was really nice. Ours is the door to the left.

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It was the most economical I could find with a view of the Oia sunsets and still cost A$200 per night. Ain’t a cheap place to visit. But we loved it all the same.

We watched the sunset from our own personal balcony.

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The end of a very memorable day.

Day 19

WEDNESDAY 08/05/19 ‚Äst LAY DAY: Santorini

Be warned there are a heap of pics coming up.

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We walked down the cliff and had a light lunch right on the water, before taking the long way home by the road.

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More pics, then a better sunset.

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THURSDAY 09/05/19 ‚Äď LAY DAY: Santorini

We took a bit of a ride around the northern coastline today and had another light lunch on what passes for a beach around here.

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Before taking a final stroll and watching a final sunset.

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FRIDAY 10/05/19 ‚Äď TRANSIT DAY: Ferry To Mykonos & Lesvos

Another early start to beat the traffic down the switchbacks to the port. Enjoyed frappes waiting for our ferry to arrive, then snapped some pics as we left port. Thank you Santorini, you made my bride very happy.

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We arrived at Mykonos at around 2.30pm and had a 7 hour wait for our ferry to Lesvos, so we had an early anniversary dinner by the water’s edge. Followed by ice-cream, because after all it is Friday.

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SATURDAY 11/05/19 ‚Äď TRANSIT DAY: Ferry Mykonos to Lesvos

Day 20

Today was supposed to be our entry to Turkey and all the way to Eceabat /Anzac Cove area. But it wasn’t to be because I’d assumed that, because it was such a short distance, there’d be regular ferries from Mitilini on Lesvos to Ayvalik in Turkey, and the idea was to catch said assumed regular ferry immediately we arrived in Mitilini. Trouble is my assumptions were incorrect as I found out yesterday on a thought that “I’d best check” RATS. Not only don’t they run regularly, they run infrequently, being tomorrow evening at 6.00pm arriving at Ayvalik at 7.30pm.

This means that we’ve got a 32 hour layover on Lesvos, which is OK but not planned for. Neither is tomorrow nights stay just north of Ayvalik, meaning we lose 2 days which we’ll have to make up. NEVER MIND.

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So tonight we stay at Plomari at the lovely Pebble Beach Hotel and tomorrow we’ll take a bit of a ride around Lesvos before catching the ferry to Turkey. Can’t wait.

Day 21-22

See you soon.

Week 5 – Greece

Monday 29th April to Saturday 4th May

Olympia/Zakharo – Kalamata – Monemvasia – Nafplio – Athens

Monday 29/04/19 – Ride Day: Proastio to Zakharo; 195klm

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It’s either feast or famine when you travel as we do, and this last few days have definitely been a feast. Breakfast this morning was no exception, even bacon and eggs which was very unusual but very much appreciated and devoured accordingly. We pilfered morning tea, paid the bill, and headed south in glorious sunshine. It doesn’t get much better than this.

We took the easy option of the highway for the first 50klm then followed the coast, dropping into the harbor of Kylinni where the local fishermen were cleaning their nets as they had for millennium. We took a break here and just sat and watched as the world went about its business.

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We dropped into Arkoydi for a look

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before moving on to Paralia where I spied this tiny harbour off to the side, so we stopped and had a brew and savoured pilfered cookies. I could spend time in an out of the way place like this, as long as I had a boat, my dive gear, and my fishing gear. That’s not too much to ask is it.

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We kept riding.

Our next stop was the famous Olympia, then it was just down the road 30klms to our room at Zakharo. This had been a very pleasant and easy day’s ride which we thoroughly enjoyed. We had Greek Salad with chips and a souvlaki pie for dinner; loving this Greek food.

Day 14 195k

Tuesday 30/04/19 – Ride Day: Zakharo to Kalamata; 180klms

I’m smiling as I write this because I’m trying to remember where today started from and it was only 12 hours ago. That’s right, it started with a cold shower, well not really because I’m not doing cold showers. Seems the thing in Greece is ‘the switch’ that turns the hot water on. Come on, what is this! Never mind, at least there were coffee pods and a machine that had a working switch, so all was good. I washed the Guzzi¬†again!¬†¬†We had breakfast, our own, packed up and left the sleepy little town of Zakharo.

Today was pretty much a coast hugging day and with cool overcast conditions it was a pleasant ride. Then the sun came out so we stopped at this quiet little fishing port and bought a coffee which came with free cake and Easter eggs. I’m liking these Greeks more and more ūüėĀ

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It was great to observe the local boat building style with one new boat being fitted out out in the open as they’d have been doing around here for centuries.

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Then further south to Pylos. What a beautiful town and harbour. Nothing small or traditional about Pylos with its modern town center and flashy boats. Still loved it.

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We kept heading south. Sooner or later I knew we’d have to do a left and go over the range but when the command came the road didn’t look very inviting. Norma said she was game so away we went. It wasn’t that bad but a definite C road and it eventually spat us out on the eastern side of the peninsula, but not before we received a wonderful Skype call from the Melbourne Blackmores. Amazing, in the middle of nowhere up some back road on a mountainside with a shepherd and his goats nearby and good old Vodafone came through,¬† I swear it gives better service over here than over there.

We continued on in increasing traffic and finally found our Pension right under the sheer cliffs just south of Kalamata.

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We dined on Greek salad and aged pork cutlets prepared in our room and eaten on the balcony overlooking an olive grove. Life is good.

Day 15 165k

Wednesday 01/05/19 – Ride Day: Kalamata to Monemvasia; 170klms

I have to say I’m loving the southern coast of Greece and today’s ride to Monemvasia was an easy saunter south and east from one perfect little fishing harbour to the next. Maybe that sort of thing isn’t your cup of tea, but I love what these places are, what they’ve seen and what they’re there for. In a former life I’d have anchored in these little places for days at a time.

First stop was Kitries with its quaint cafe’s and taverns flanking the sea wall and its tiny breakwater with small fishing boats tied up behind. Just a quick stop.

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Then south to Stoupa which has sandy beaches and sun umbrellas and deck¬† chairs, but it’s far from the Riviera. More of a holiday haven as there’s no fishing boats here, but it does have its breakwater with some small pleasure craft secured. They had a lovely bakery here and we succumbed to temptation and bought not one, but two custardy type pastry thingys – one would have been ample.

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South just a couple of klms to Agios Nikolaos where we hid against the sea wall and brewed a coffee and indulged in our custardy pastry thingys – two was better than one.

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It was here right next to us that an old fisherman and his granddaughter were working on the boat that he’d built 35 years ago on Crete. It was 8m long with classic local lines but with unique personal touches and was a beautiful example of a man’s love for his boat and the sea. She spoke passable English so we had a bit of a natter about such things. I was his best friend when I said it was the most beautiful boat on the south coast. It was my kind of boat, tho certainly not everyone’s idea of cruising luxury.

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Then it was winding up over the headlands with stunning views and corner cutting locals, so it was one eye on the scenery and one eye for mortality. Stopped overlooking Neo Oitylo for a quick picSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

then made our easting turn and headed up and over the peninsula and stopped at Gytheio which was all hussel and bussel and pack seaside restaurants and cars all over. I just pulled up on the harbor front. Had a chat with a bloke who was a motorcycle mechanic and was an encyclopedia on Australian motorcycle racers. And yes, that is snow just up there would you believe.

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We moved on and stopped overlooking the wreck of the Domitri, I have no idea of its history or its demise but as we were sitting there eating oranges a bloke from Port Stephens in NSW pulled up. He was now local and we had a good chat. He advised us that traffic in Athens on a motorcycle was a bit like Russian Roulette. (he’s right)

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Monemvasia was calling and we were listening so a brisk ride up through the valley that divides this peninsula to its eastern shore, then a quick run down to this jewel.

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More tomorrow.

Day 16 170k

Thursday 02/05/19 – Lay Day: Monemvasia

Today was a ‘ let’s get our act together early to beat the tourists’ day, so we had our own do-it-yourself breakfast which is pretty much always the same when breakfast isn’t provided for us. It consists of muesli, banana and yogurt with milk or fruit juice depending on weather there’s a fridge in the room. I’ll more often than not brew a coffee as well.

So that was how today started, then we walked the 1.5klm out to¬† Monemvasia’s powerful medieval¬† fortress ¬†(the Wikipedia account is a good read if you’ve got the time) which is located on a small island that is linked to the mainland by a short causeway 200m in length.

We did beat the tourist hordes, but they eventually caught up with us although we were leaving but then.

We had a good look around and it’s a pretty impressive place although it’s mostly rebuilt.

We walked back to town and had a lazy afternoon only interrupted by my having a swim which seemed like a good idea at the time but it was cold as, so we retreated to our cafe and read for a couple of hours over a freddo espresso. A lovely relaxing day in what is a place not to be missed. We went out for dinner and watched the sun set against the rock.

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Friday 03/05/19 – Ride Day: Monemvasia to Nafplio; 185klms

Today was a glorious Mediterranean day, clear skys and lovely roads. We started it with our customary breakfast then loaded the bike and left the town of Monemvasia and headed north, but not before Norma visited the bakery and bought way too much cake for morning tea. There was also a small cruise ship anchored off the town this morning, so it was a good day to leave.

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Detoured into the really small inlet village of Limenas Gerakos which was hidden away from all but the most curious of eyes and seemed like time itself had forgotten it there.

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The roads we rode today were virtually deserted as we twisted and turned our way over one headland after the other, they were in really good condition and a joy to ride with amazing views off into the distances.

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We stopped for morning tea high up over the seaside town of Poulithra with a glorious view out over the sea as we devoured our custard pastry thingy and traditional Greek biscuits washed down with coffee we still have from Barcelona. A lovely place to stop with snow on the mountains behind us.

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We continued up the coast.

Then stopped at Arkadiko Chorio for a break and walk along the waterfront. No spritz here so thought I’d try an Ouzo, I didn’t much like it back in the day and I can’t say my taste had changed.¬† Cheap though.

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So onto¬†Nafplio where we visited the old Palamidi fort. ‚ā¨8 each to enter, no concession unless you’re a local pensioner; not happy about that.¬† Anyway we clambered our way around and took the required pics before heading back down the hill to find our accommodation for the night run by a truly lovely old Greek grandmother.

We went down into town and had some dinner followed by desert because it’s Friday and Friday is ice cream day. Then we wandered along the waterfront where there were well over 100 luxury boats tied up. It appears that the Mediterranean Yacht Show is in town for the next 5 days. It is recognized as the most important show of its kind worldwide, and is where¬†super-yachts available for charter in¬†Greece¬†during the upcoming summer are showcased including a combination of motor yachts, sailing yachts, and luxury catamarans.

These things are seriously big, and truly luxurious, and ridiculously expensive to charter. 50m @ ‚ā¨145,000 per¬†week. Very¬†impressive. And this monster is 85m long, built in 2018. You can charter her for a mere ‚ā¨800,000 a week¬†PLUS¬†expenses. I kid you not.

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Tomorrow it’s on to Athens.

Day 17 185k

Saturday 04/05/19 – Ride Day: Nafplio to Athens; 175klms

Today we awoke to the pitta patta of rain on the roof. That’s not fair, but we had to ride because today is Athens. Wets on and hit the road. Pics and rain don’t happen but we did call into a number of the usual lovely and sometimes hidden away places. Finally the sun came out, well more correctly it stopped raining just as we crossed the Corinth Canal Submersible Bridge. Pic pinched from Google.