A Travellerspoint blog

Day 40

Ioannina
Phew... Well we made it to Greece. One of our toughest days yet on some absolutely crazy Alabanian roads!
More detail to follow as we have just sat down for some food and it's 01.30!
244miles covered. (a lot of it off road!)
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Posted by EdAndJames 16:35 Comments (0)

Day 39

Tiranë

sunny 12 °C

The plan was to reach Tiranë in Albania today which involved crossing a few borders. A lot of people we have spoken to have expressed concern/caution regarding Albania and advised against traveling in the dark. My guidebook said otherwise, but still we thought it prudent to to leave early, make sure the radios were working, stick together and get there in the sunlight. So we got up and had a quick breakfast in the sun at our apartment in Dubrovnik and admired the stunning view with our host Mario. It was less than 10 steps from bed to sea and we were a little disappointed that the snow had meant losing our day off here as taking a small boat around the nearby islands for the day would have been fantastic. Next time, eh.

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We left at 11 (we were aiming for 10 and are at a loss as to where that hour went) and took the road South which twisted past the airport and up around the cliffs and mountains but we soon left the familiarity of those surrounds and reached the border with Montenegro. We had to purchase some more motorbike insurance there, but it was no problem. As I waited for Ed to re-emerge from the building a border official told me to stop looking at my atlas for some reason. Very odd.

The Montenegrin people appeared very happy as we rode through - lots of waves and smiles - and the scenery was stunning too. Shortly in we took our first ferry a matter of a kilometer or so to avoid a long out and back. 1 Euro 50 each, not bad!

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Stopped for lunch at a cafe with a friendly woman blasting out soft rock classics and said hello to a passing German motorbiker who had just come from Albania and gave us some tips. The roads after that were hard going - lots of regeneration work meant that at times our side of the road was just 6 inches of tarmac and 10 foot of gravel!

Around Ulcinj near the border with Albania we had trouble finding the correct road across. It turns out the road on our map doesn't exist anymore, but we asked some help from a guy digging up the pavement and got pointed in the right direction. The few clouds in the air looked like extensions of the mountains against the peachy sky - very nice but getting late!

The tiny road to the border was pretty desolate, felt like it was going to end any minute and was rather uncomfortable really as we knew we had the hassle of the border plus another 130 kms or so. We finally reached the Montenegrin exit barrier and the guards were very jovial. They liked our bikes and got us to rev them a bit. They even wanted us to tear through the border as fast as possible, so we took a little run up and obligingly gave them a show!

Then followed 20 metres or so of gravel road. Thankfully this was just the no-man's-land between the two countries and the Albanian entry border was quick to pass. Our first impressions - no streetlights! Pitch black with people wandering about on the side of the road and flat intercom batteries, great!

Despite this we made good progress at one point passing over a rickety old wooden bridge that wouldn't look out of place in an Indiana Jones film. Albania was (I understand) an isolated communist country until the mid 90's and only party officials had cars really. This means most people have been driving for 10 or 15 years and let's just say that the driving standard is quite a sight. Everyone was wandering across the central line, blindly pulling out, flashing all the time as well, half the time for policemen with speed guns who lurk in the shadows in the dark at the side of the road.

We got to Tiranë safely though and the road up on the outskirts was pothole-arama, but we got to the centre of the city and met up with a relative of Ed's workmate and his friends - Zylfi and Burel - who took us to a hotel and out for some food. We followed their cab to our hotel and the first thing it did was go up a one way street the wrong way!!

244 miles then and we're bushed.

Posted by EdAndJames 02:49 Archived in Albania Comments (1)

Day 38

Dubrovnik

all seasons in one day 10 °C

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We left Zadar later than we had hoped and did a quick tour of the town. It had an amazing sea organ which used waves to force sea water into cleverly engineered steps at the waters edge, this generated a mixture of organ sounding notes. The bigger the wave, the bigger the noise that came out.

We then picked up the coast road south, enjoying the scenery as we had done the day before. Stunning views of some of the 1000 islands within close proximity of the shore line. The weather was a bit overcast and we then hit a number of small towns which delayed our progress somewhat.

Lunch was at an odd restaurant we found on the side of the road which had an eccentric Croatian guy serving us. The food was not great and as we were the only customers in there we sort of got the idea most of the rest of the local community avoid it for that reason also! We stepped back outside into the pouring rain which unfortunately then followed us for a good few hours, it was 4pm by this stage and the rain only delayed our progress further!

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As it started to get dark we still had a daunting 100miles of twisting mountain roads left before getting to the cheap off season holiday apartment we had booked!

We eventually arrived at the apartment at around 10pm and were greeted by an extremely helpful guy called Mario. He showed us around and then booked us a taxi (as we were a bit out of town) to take us to see the end of the Champions League matches be played that evening. We managed to get a lovely pizza and catch the last 20mins plus extra time and penalties in the Arsenal/Roma game.

Then it was back to the apartment for a well earned sleep!

255miles covered today.

Posted by EdAndJames 15:55 Archived in Croatia Comments (0)

Day 37

Zadar

sunny 12 °C

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The Chief made us a great breakfast and now that the sun was shining we set off for the coast. We called past Damir for another cuppa on our way through and thanked him for all his help yesterday evening. There were still piles of snow everywhere and plenty in the surrounding fields and hills, but the roads were clear and salted.

Right after leaving Damir's coffee stop we entered a 6 km tunnel through the mountainside. After that we left the main road and made for the coast through some beautiful sweeping mountain roads. We were descending for about half an hour, so must have been quite high yesterday!

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We hit the coast at Serj and the sea was stunning - flat as anything with the road running just a couple of feet away from the waters edge.

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This road continued for almost exactly 100 miles to Zadar, our stop for the night. We've been looking forward to the Croatian coast (it looks stunning from the air and is definitely in our top 5 most looked forward to areas) and it didn't disappoint.

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We stopped for lunch at Jablenka, a picturesque town with a ferry service to a nearby island. The waitress didn't speak a word of English, but didn't appear to speak a word of anything else either and was highly amused by us for some reason!

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We continued on in the sun with a great road surface, hardly any traffic and stunning views of the sea to the right and the mountains to the left. Definitely our best road yet.

Made it to Zadar today and found our apartment okay which is backing on to the lapping shoreline. Anyone want to go quids-in on a little Croatian place?!?

155 miles today..

Posted by EdAndJames 15:50 Archived in Croatia Comments (3)

Day 36

Ogulin

snow -1 °C

We rose from our from beds early and headed in different directions, James to a Yamaha shop to look for new clothes and me to a hardware store to look for the right sized allen key!

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The oil was changed on Roger fairly quickly and James returned back with lots of lovely new kit to keep him warm.

We had a quick bite of lunch in the breakfast room of our hotel, then got packed up and headed for the A1 south towards Zadar, where we were booked in for the night.

It was lashing down with rain so we were in full wet weather gear and we then noticed the temperature dropping as we motored further on! All of a sudden we noticed sleet falling and then James came in over the radio saying "Mate is it snowing?" The more we drove on the larger and heavier the flakes became and our speed dropped from 70mph down to 50mph. We then decided to pull off and wait as it was getting a tad hairy!

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We found a small service stop and a very helpful guy who offered to call us a van that we could put our bikes into and take us to non-slippy roads! This chap turned up and we loaded, with some difficulty, the bikes into his VW Transporter! We went back to his village where he'd booked us a Motel for the night, run by The Chief! We had a lovely meal and talked about our strategy for tomorrow.

Look at the size of that shot glass!

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Only 75miles knocked out today.

Posted by EdAndJames 02:35 Archived in Croatia Comments (1)

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