09.14.09

A(AAAArrrrrrghhhhh)zerbaijan

Posted in Azerbaijan, The journey journal at 2:42 pm by Administrator

So we’re stuck for another 24 hours at least in Azerbaijan and we’re uber disappointed to say the least. The delay looks like its going to cost about 1500 bucks at least. The scamming buggers that we booked the ticket through (don’t use airfare.com they suck!!!!) decided that after much correspondence back and forth about me travelling at the moment that they’d tell me that they issued an eticket and then book a paper ticket and not send it to me. So we turned up to the airport brimming with confidence that we’d be out of this nexus of corruption in no time but, oh no, we’re not lucky enough for that. No paper ticket = no fly. Especially when you have a few blokes behind you waiting for empty seats to appear and sporting a much larger bankroll than us. So needless to say we got screwed and weren’t allowed to fly. Argh. Then it was fighting with ripoff merchant taxi drivers to get back into the city and sort things out because it seems impossible to book flights at an airport. MORONS! Anyway we got into the city and found internet and dumped our stuff back at the hostel. (some of the very limited number of nice people in the country)
After a bit of research it seems that we can get a turkish airlines flight (heaps better than uzbek air anyway) leaving tomorrow morning. I also happened to notice that a business class ticket was only a few euros more each and so snapped it up and we get to live the posh life of luxury tomorrow even though we are that lot bit closer to being stone cold broke. So tonight we’re gunna sleep at the airport (thanks to the every reliable info on www.sleepinginairports.net) and head of in the morning (oh great god of optimism please don’t fail me now).

Bye for now and hopefully my next installment will be typed with a mouthful of delicious curry.

Tc and Nic

09.12.09

Baku

Posted in Azerbaijan, The journey journal at 12:02 pm by Administrator

So we are now in the Azeri capital of Baku. We had to bus over from Tbilisi because with my sickness and the morons at the Azeri consulate in Istanbul stuffing up our visas twice we didn’t have time to ride. Now that we’ve done the trip we are sooo glad that we didn’t ride that leg. The bus ride from Tbilisi is 556 km and it took us 15 hours to complete on the bus. They have decided that the highway needed to be upgraded and doubled and so they’ve just spend the last few years turning the main highway into a dirt road so that they can rebuild it. Never mind doing small sections at a time. The whole 500 Plus km has been torn up and as a consequence the bus averaged 30 km/h and was extremely bumpy. It was cheap (about 25 dollars) but we’re not sure if it was worth it. Add to this that the guys that worked on and around the bus, about 5 of them. Decided that they’d try to make a fast buck from us and charge us for loading the bikes. Luckily the scam was slow to spread around them so they loaded our gear before trying to charge us. We insisted that we didn’t have dollars, only a few lari (the georgia currency). I always only carry a small amount of cash in my wallet for just such reasons and so as each one took his turn in trying a different excuse for why we should give them 20 dollars I was able to show a nearly empty wallet and so they gave up. It was a kind of half hearted rip off though. They never really enforced it and so we never paid. A weaker traveller may have gone for it but we’ve seen this junk before and told them where to go. I get the impression that this kind of thing is everywhere in azerbaijan and it is a competing force with the hospitality of teh locals. The bus journey was made great by meeting a local guy on the bus that spoke a bit of english and wanted to practice with us and so kind of adopted us. He took us for a meal at one of the many stops along the road (azerbaijani barbeque is delicious) and handed us fruit whenever he had any. A really great guy and saved our first encounter with the people of this country from being negative.

Baku itself is nothing like the rest of azerbaijan. The oil money flowing into the country sems to have solely effected Baku and as a result there is an emense amount of new development here. The old town is pretty much still entact and is a welcome break from the streets full of gucci and burrberry stores. The prices can get ridiculous here if you’re not careful where you buy and its reputed that you can pay upto 15 manat (equivalent to 15euros or 25 dollars) for a pot of tea. I however have discovered (much to Nic’s disgust) that great oily kebabs can be bought from small shop windows next to designer fashion stores for under 2 manat. The fruit here is also relatively cheap and so that makes Nic happy.
At the moment she seems to have caught a milder version of what I got in Georgia. She never seems to get as sick as I do but if she gets sick then it takes ages to shake. This is not good as I can’t imagine that having a stomache bug is the thing that you want to have as you head to india. Or maybe the curry will clear it up.
Speaking of food. Azeri food seems much more influenced by the turks and so kebabs are everywhere. We’re yet to see much more but have a few days to sample some more. We were still really impressed with Georgian food and actually found it much cheaper to eat at restaurants there than buying groceries and cooking ourselves. We’ve noticed that while canned food or pre-prepared sauces are the cheaper options at home they are teh really expensive and posh versions over here. Thats not good when you are camp cooking on the road s we can’t take loads of fresh vegies with us and paying 7dollars for a tiny bottle of pasta sause or 4.50 for a small can of tuna is a bit silly. Still we’re managing and with a new bit of the world about to hit we’ll have to learn all new ways again and get used to that.
Things are also coming along for the trip through the himalaya with our future guide Surendra in constant contact to try to make sure that things run smoothly in Kathmandu.
Also on of my friends from Uni, Cam will be joining us for the weeks from Kathmandu to Lhasa and it’ll be great to have someone else to share that part of the journey with.
We’ll also have to pick up some extra cold weather gear in Kathmandu as the average nightly temps in the mountains drop below 0 in November and there will be snow along the path. Yay for snow.
Anyway time to go bt will add more when we get to Delhi on Tuesday.

Tc

09.09.09

The Stats to Tbilisi

Posted in The journey journal, Uncategorized, tips and repairs at 8:12 am by Administrator

Countries visited = 15
Total Km = 6878.0
Total elevation gain = 51753 m
total days = 116
cycling days = 84
Highest point = 1864 masl
Days of rain = 30
Days with head wind = 36.5
Day with tail wind = 25
Injuries
-Trent = 10
-Nic = 3
-Christal = 3
-Road Kill = 1 poor little snake
Flats = 14
Repairs
- 2 chain breaks
- 1 new hub
- 2 new tyre
- 2 new sets of brakes
- 1 bag clip
Co riders = 9
Side trips = 6
Visas required = 1
Visas gained = 3
Passes 1000 m plus = 8
Passes 2000m plus = 0
Longest day = 148 km
Fastest speeds
-Tc = 68.8km/h
-Nic = 62.1km/h
Average time on bike per day = 4.5 hrs
Steepest grade
-official 11%
-unofficial 15%
Hottest day = 42 deg C in Greece
Coldest day max = 16 deg C in UK
Longest time without shower = 6 days
Days of free camping = 53
Days of hospitality accomm = 19
Wedding proposals = 2
Average km per cycling day = 81.88 km
Average km per day = 59.29 km

09.06.09

Into the Caucus region

Posted in Georgia, The journey journal at 11:45 am by Administrator

So we have crossed out of Turkey after a solid amount of time and have been having some grand adventures in Georgia. This is a truely intersting country. Not always comfortable but really interesting. We’re in the capital Tblisi at the moment and have been here a week and a bit. That is a little longer than we had planned as I went and got myself some kind of nasty virus that knocked me around a bit and so we had to spend a few days holed up in a hotel in the town of Stalin’s birth, Gori. The country itself is pretty poor and the infrastructure is severly lacking but the people are relatively happy with the world and so feircely proud of being Georgian that its crazy. All the tourist liturature here is calling georgia the place tha europe starts but they keep failing to realise that gerorgia isn’t really anywhere near europe. There is a kind of europe a hundred years ago feel to it but no matter what the feel its not in the same geographical region. Another few things that a lot of georgians seem to think which condradicts a lot of what we’ve been taught is that, Stalin was a great guy (hmmm I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t all that nice), that georgians invented wine, that viruses couldn’t happen in a country as advanced as georgia, that bubbly water is heaps better than still water, that its fine to set up a butchers shop out of teh back of your car on the side of teh highway and that load limits and seatbelts are for pussies.
The driving here hasn’t been terrible so far. The emisions are terrible but the Georgians seem to be aware of their brakes and some indicators. The only problem is that they drive way too fast on bad roads that are literally covered with cows. There are a scary number of cars driving around with a completely smashed in front end, a missing rear bumper bar and two head shaped smash marks in each wind screen. Yes thats right, after a horrific smash where both driver and passenger try to put their head through the windscreen they con’t bother to fix the car, they just keep driving. Also I’m pretty sure that there is a job vacancy for a mechanic that actually knows how to tune and engine here as none of teh cars that I’ve seen so far have been tuned right and as a result breathing in the towns is somewhat difficult. Also it seems that the rishest man in georgia is the guy who was the Ford Transit van salesman in the mid nineties. Three quarters of the world’s transits of that era are here and none have been sold here since 2000.
Our second day in the country saw us wanting a short day and as it was shower time we thought that we’d stop in the regional centre of Ozgureti. After some quick groceries we asked a few people if they knew of a hotel around. The first few couldn’t help as it seems that Ozgureti doesn’t have a hotel but teh last guy that we asked just happened to be best mates with a bloke that was trying to open a guest house and kickstart regional tourism. (if you want any tips on georgia we can put you in touch). So his family adopted us for the evening and if we had have stayed I’m sure they would have leagally taken us into the family. They fed us, got us drunk (ok just me but I still managed to avoid the breakfast shots of homemade grape vodka) washed our clothes, sang for us, gave us a bed and taught us about the region and the accepted georgian version of history. They also sent us off with a gigantic care package that I’m lucky that I specified as “small” or we wouldn’t have been able to carry it. That is a typical example of georgian hospitality. Some days we have to hide from people so that they don’t keep giving us too much food that we can’t carry it all. I mean just out of tblisi a random car pulled over in front of us on teh motorway and flag us down. In typical georgian style it was ridiculously overloaded with fruit on the way to market and a guy jumped out of teh car and proceded to overload us with apples and peaches and other stuff. Nic had to balance the fruit in 2 bags across the back of her bike just to get it to camp that day.
We also had the great fun of having to do a hospital dash while in the mniddle of teh country. I decided that I needed to get a bad stomache virus as far away from civilisation as possible one night in camp. I got a nice fever out of it and a bit of spewing and so it wasn’t going to be possible to ride the next day. So Nic packed up camp whie nursing me in my Man-Flu affected state and then flagged down a van going the way that we though was best to find a doctor. I passed out in the back with the bikes and lugguage on me while Nic had an interesting adventure in the front seat with the driver. You have to wonder about a guy that offers a sick bloke a ride to hospital and then tries to pick up his missus on the way. I mean, it wasn’t even terminal. but yay to Nic for sorting it out and putting up with the crap and getting me to the ‘Legally low persons and modern military hospital of Gori’. I spent the day there and then we spent 3 nights in a hotel while I got some strength back. After recovering we also found out that gori is the birthplace of stalin and they have built a park around his birth home and then built a marble pedistal over the top of it. Hilarious stuff.
Gori also has a great example of the history available in georgia that is undisturbed by tourism. The fortress over the town with its giant bronze 1st crusade knights around it was ace.
Anyway nearly time to head off but I also should point out that the scenery here is awesome and the mountains and valleys are great. The war, political and religeous history is amazing and the people are unique and great. I’d recommend that people come here as part of a new frontier, if you want to get away from the tourist hordes and still see cool stuff then here would be a good place to do it.
We’re in Tblisi a few days and then we have to bus (because of my sicky delay and stupid azerbaijani consular officials) to Baku.

Cheers for now

Tc and Nic

09.02.09

The last of Turkey

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:56 am by Administrator

So we are now in Georgia but more about that latter. For now I’ll fill in the gaps on the last few days in Turkey. Thankfullly the road along the black sea is flat pretty much all of teh way from Samsun to the border which is hundreds of Ks and thats awesome. The winds were variable but ever present. Some in front and some (yes) were behind. After trabzon and the hundreds of km of passing through hazelnut areas it was nice to pass through the tea growing regions. The terraced hills of tea are so beautiful. We dropped in and visited a mine that I worked at a bunch of years ago and apart from upgrading the road in there not much has changed. We got free Cay in Cayeli which was cool and had some nice free camping along the way. We met a polish cycle tourist near the georgia border and he gave us his map of the country which was awesome.
One thing I will say about Turky is that after 5 odd weeks the drivers of the country have really started to wear on me. Their constant use of the horn is excrutiating. They seem to have mastered 2 opperations of their vehicles only. Those are the accelerator and the horn. I mean why use indicators when you have a horn. Why use brakes when you have a horn, why use the radio when you can’t hear it over the horn, why use mirrors when everyone else (except cyclists, but they don’t matter) has a horn. They even took great pride at tooting at us while travelling through tunnels to let us know that they were there (idiots!!!) The turkish driving is pretty appauling. Not nearly as bad as the kosovans and a differewnt bad from the Australians but still bad. (I still rate the drivers of Australia in the worst 3 in the world) One Turkish example of great driving was that as we were cruising along a double highway, with not a car in sight in either direction, in good light and good road conditions we both jumped out of our skin as we heard behind us a skretch of brakes. We looked to see a car vear from the left lane across the right and hit the gutter and then roll over and slide down the road towards us. It happened about 200 m behind us and the guy couldn’t have been travelling at more than 80 kmph. I mean, how can you roll your car in perfect conditions travelling at 80. The thing that scared us was that if he had have done it 2 seconds latter he would have taken us out. The tool crawled out of the car ok and got straight on the phone to his family (bugger the police). We left when the crowd of onlookers and finger pointers blocked off the whole road and so that we knew that we’d be safe riding for a few hours.
Anyway gotta head but have fun and I’ll write about our georgia adventures (and wowo they’ve been adventuresa so far) soon.

Tc and Nic

08.25.09

100 days

Posted in The journey journal, Turkey at 12:42 pm by Administrator

So yesterday was our 100th day of travellıng. Woohoo. only 5000 to go. We spent the nıght ın Trabzon, Turkey and I had a few beers to celebrate. We also rocked down to the local Ramadan festıval to see what the locals get upto durıng thıs ımportant tıme of year. basıcally ramadan means that muslıms can’t eat or drınk between sunrıse and sunset of a month. Also they are supposed to pray more and be extra nıce to people and the prophet wıll record ıt for theır entry ınto paradıse. Well thats the really sımplıfıed lamans versıon but ıts harder than I could do. At 7:17 pm a huge fıre work went off and the entıre cıty of trabzon (and the whole muslım world) commenced a huge feast. All sorts of poeple and groups shareıng food ın homes and streets and shops. Pretty ınterestıng. I thınk that we mıssed most of the poınt of the festıval as ıt maınly consısted of people on stage remonstratıng a cheerıng crowd ın deafenıng turkısh so we dıdn’t stay untıl the grand fınale.

Tc and Nıc

08.23.09

onward through Turkey

Posted in The journey journal, Turkey at 7:48 am by Administrator

So far we have fıgured out that four thıngs seem to characterıse the turks.
boundless hospıtalıty.
ınfınıte generosıty
overwhelmıng curıosıty
and a undenıable ınabılıty to drıve between the lınes.

We’re now travellıng along the black sea coast of turkey on the way to Georgıa.

We’ve done 2 cool sıde trıps whıle here ın Turkey. 1 to Troy and Galıpollı and the other to Cappadocıa. Both were great but meant long long hours on buses. Also due to our now tıght schedule to get to Baku ın tıme for our flıghts we had to bus a small sectıon through central turkey. The headwınds were slowıng us down too much and the prospect of several 1000 m passes dıdn’t bode well so we cruısed through to Samsun and got on the coast from there. We’ve been rıdıng through the hazel nut fıelds for days now. Turkey produces 70% of the worlds hazelnut supply and belıeve me thats a lot. Its also amazıng that all of them are stıll pıcked, cleaned and prepared by hand. Every sıngle house has a huge carpet of Fındık (thats hazelnut ın turkısh) laıd out ın theır front yard. Also the people around samsun were spectacularly frıendly, even for the turks and ıt was really encouragıng rıdıng through that area of countrısıde.
Thıngs are holdıng up well and we’re doıng well. The wınd ıs beıng our frıend at the moment and hopefully ıt stays that way.
I’d also lıke to appologıse for the mıssıng dots on the i’s of the posts ın Turkey. There are 2 dıfferent i’s ın the turkısh alphabet and they put the one wıth no dot ın the place of the englısh i and so I could type paınfully slowly or just not bother wıth the dots.
The fırst clıp on one of the pannıers has now broken and I had to replace my rear hub ın Istanbul so there gear ıs startıng to feel the straın of the trıp.
Now ıts lunch tıme and we’ve got a few more K’s today so off we head.

Tc and Nıc

08.17.09

We’re ınto Asıa now

Posted in The journey journal, Turkey at 8:23 am by Administrator

So after 4 days pushıng head wınds and avoıdıng packs of vıscıous dogs ın western (european) turkey and then a two week lay over ın ıstanbul we crossed the bosphorous and headed off ınto asıa. Thats one whole contınent crossed and 2 to go.
The head wınd hasn’t abated at all and we’re stıll pushıng ıt. That ıs goıng to serıously delay us and there ıs a very good chance that we won’t make ıt to Baku on tıme ıf the wınd doesn’t turn. The reason that we now have a deadlıne ın Baku ıs that we decıded to fly over Iran and Pakıstan and straıght ınto ındıa. It was a heart breakıng decısıon for me as I really wanted to keep thıs flıght free but cırcumstances conspıred to force our hand. Fırstly we’ve met a few cyclısts on the road that have had vısas knocked back for pakıstan and ıran recently due to the unrest ın both countrıes and also the stress on our parents would be a bıt much. Also we can’t go north around the countrıes because by the tıme the vısas came through and we got there ıt would be too close to wınter ın some really remote terrıtory and too dangerous to attemp ın those condıtıons. Also there ıs unrest ın that part of Chına as well and so they wouldn’t be keen on lettıng us through. At least ın tıbet we can get through because we have a guıde. So we’re cuttıng a month off of the journey and hıttıng delhı ın the mıddle of september.
As a result of the azerbaıjanı embassy contaınıng some exceedıngly stupıd people and the flıght bookıng company beıng dodgy we have 30 days to do 2100 km. Thats not goıng to be fun wıth a head wınd. I’ll wrıte about teh vısa fun ın a dıfferent post but I2ll wrıte a bıt about western turkey and ıstanbul.
The turks are so frıend that ıts amazıng. You can’t stop on the roadsıde for more than 5 seconds wıthout someone brıngıng you tea or coffee or somethıng. Also stoppıng to fıx your bıke ıs a no no as you’ll have 17 people come over to try to help, even ıf they have no ıdea what the problem ıs. Its a great gesture but bloody annoyıng when you’ve got 3 people pokıng fıngers at the tyre patch that you’ve just applıed and need to let dry ın peace. Crossıng western turkey was pretty hard on the bıkes. The terraın ıs low and undulatıng wıth hılls havıng a 5km frequency and rısıng and fallıng 200m each. Then there was the head wınd and the sheep dogs as bıg as small horses that don’t lıke cyclısts. We haven’t been bıtten yet but ıts close and I’ve started carryıng my lock wıthın easy reach.
The last 20 km ınto ıstanbul took about 4 hours as I had worn through my rear tyre and replaced ıt wıth one of lower qualıty. We’d run out of tubes and patches and so I had to stop and pump ıt up every 2 km. Nasty. Also my back hub has gıven up the ghost and was gıvıng me grıef. If anyone has contacts at shımano please let them know that I’m less than happy that theır products have dıed so early.
The 2 weeks ın ıstanbul were awesome. We spent 1 nıght ın a hotel and then stayed wıth 2 couchsurfers. Murat for 1 week and Asye for 4 days. They were both great and showed us a sıde of ıstanbul that we couldn’t have seen otherwıse. There ıs plenty more to wrıte but ıt’ll take longer than I have. Needless to say we love those guys and were really ımpressed by ıstanbul.
We also caught up wıth Lukey and Robs from home on our last day ın town and ıt was cool to see famılıar faces. We also got our vısas for Azerbaıjan and Indıa and rested up, put on a lıttle (needed) weıght, healed our aches and paıns and got soft.

Now ıs tıme to hıt the road agaın and see what the rest of turkey has to offer.

Tc

08.12.09

Turkish delight

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:26 pm by Administrator

Just had one of those great moments where you look around you and then think to yourself, “damn, I’m happy with my life”. It was as I was sitting in the seventh story window of a very interesting club in istanbul. The band on stage was playing a punk cover version of “I kissed a Girl”. On my level and above and below were some of the hundreds of roof top bars that blanket the upper portions of every building around the Taksim square region of Istanbul. The roofs were seething with life. Below a snake of people slithered its way along the laneway between cafe tables and the harleys of the local bikie gang. The crowd of the bar bopped around me and I felt like a separate entity from the world. Looking out over a city of 15 million people and feeling part of it and not is amazing.

07.29.09

11 weeks in

Posted in Gear that We use, Hints at 10:37 am by Administrator

bikes
- the overall bikes are holding up well. I have had to change my front tyre to the back to avoid over wear but the frames are in good order, no broken spokes and the gears are still ok but in need of adjustment.
tent
- the tent broke a pole in slovenia in the middle of one night. Thankfully it comes with two repair peices but we were dissappointed to have to use one so early. Its also a little annoying that it isn’t free standing and is required to be pegged down. Thats not so great in some rocky areas or italian campgrounds that are all concrete. It did handle the wind really well and isn’t too hot at night if we leave it all open.
chairs
- we’re on our second set of cheap stools. Its great having them along and thats why we are persevering. Still what can you expect for $8 at big W.
mats
- the mats went flat after 2 weeks but they have some cushioning in them and are great insulaters from the ground. We haven’t found a patch kit that works on them and the holes are bloody hard to find anyway. I’d go a different brand next time.
brakes on the bike
- the set up of teh brake levers on the bikes is giving Nic some troubles. She’s the only person in history to need breaks going down hill. The reach is too far for her hands and so they are cramping. We’ll try some adjusting but we’ll have to see how that goes.
panniers
- the panniers are starting to deteriorate. Some of the less important seams are separating. We were warned that the clips that attach them to thte bike may be dodgy but they have been ok so far. Mine now have some cool holes where they hit the tarmac in the bulgarian tunnel so that one is now the bag for the wet gear. The size has proved to be good enough and now that Nic got rid of her front bags the weight is good for her. Any more weight and the bike would be too heavy for her.
cooking pots
- the cooking pots are now looking pretty battered. They have lost their nonstickyness but I don’t know if we’ll get anything better. They get some serious use. They are 3 l and 2l and that has proved a good size unless I do the shopping while really hungry.
stove
- This has been a little winner so far. The fact that it runs on unleaded or diesel is great. The only prob is that you need to warm the jet up before cooking and that creates about 2 minutes of large flame and black smoke. That often gives us away and got su kicked out of a campground in France. Doh! I’m getting better at limiting the amounts of smoke and so its not beena problem for a while. I’ve had to clean it twice now and that wasn’t too hard.
water filter
- has prooved quite useful in remote areas. The filter needs a fair amount of cleaning if the water is a little dirty but I’d rather clean the filter than have the runs a lot. It does leak a bit and the seals are hard to maintain so there is a fair bit of pumping inefficiency. That will need to be looked at.
tarp
- cheap tarp but great to have. Whether to cover teh bikes at night to hide them or for somewhere to stretch or have lunch on. A thin tarp is good to have with you.
bungie cords
- These are the way to go for tying things on. Dan used ratchet straps but the bungies came through as the better choice.
racks
- we’ve had no issues with the racks. they are holding up well.
bike seats
My seat that I stole off of my specialized racer is doing ok. I’m only just starting to get the beginings of a bumsore after 11 weeks. We had to get Nic another seat in Slovenia. This time we went for a much more upright position and lifted her handle bars to suit. It has proven as the way to go and it loads better than the more racve positioned mountainbike seat that she had done the previous 7 weeks on.

The (greek) gods must be Crazy

Posted in Greece, The journey journal at 9:23 am by Administrator

Well I’ve had a bit of internet time lately so a few more blogs coming your way. Thats because we are starting each day much earlier and so having loads more time in the afternoons to muck around.
The reasons for the early start is the amazingly infernal heat that batters the land from 12pm onwards. We’ve had several days over 40 in the shade. It gets to the point where I can’t swallow the water faster than it comes out of my pores (I look like a collander, I’m sure). As a result we’re trying to be off the bikes by 1pm at the latest and hiding in a net cafe or bar through the nasty bits of the day. The heat really started around dubrovnik but the altitude helped after there. The sacrifice of this is that we need to be out of bed early and have stopped having cooked breakies to get us on the road as soon as it is light.
Also there has been a constant wind in Greece. Not always in the same dirrection but it is always blowing. The first day over the border we had a 40+degree headwind and so made it 10km before taking refuge in a cool little bar that was in a large stand of trees. They had some traditional music playing later (which is infinitely better than the bulgarian stuff) and so we had a few drinks and camped under the brigde over the nearby river. We slept well until 2am when the wind turned around and blew with impressive strength. By 4 am we gave up trying to pretend that we were going to get anymore sleep and attempted to pack up in the wind. The fact that our tent didn’t blow away is a testament to it (even though it’s caused a few difficulties in the past). We made it about 10km before having to stop at a servo and take refuge again as the wind was literally picking nic up and moving her across the road. It was teh only time that I’ve hidden from a tail wind but at least we survived. Once it abated we got in a good solid 100 km day. Once again the greek hospitality has been awesome and we were treated to watermelon and drinks by Nico who was on holidays to help his parents run their petrol station.
Now we’re back on teh mainland after taking a day off on teh island of Thassos. Really nice and chilled out island. Loved it as a great place to relax and the kind of place to take a family on holiday. We’re a few days form Turkey and onward.
Tc

07.27.09

The Bulgarian Blur

Posted in Bulgaria, The journey journal at 10:38 am by Administrator

When you have a 120 odd km downhill and a tailwind a country tends to go by in a bit of a blur. If it hadn’t have been for my serious lack of intellegence and maintenance of my bike then we would have been through the place in a day. As it happened I ignored a slowly deflating tyre until it caused a serious loss of control while going downhill through a tunnel at 45 km/h. Ouch! I lost a bit of skin from right elbow, knee and love handle. Still not as bad as Nic’s gloriously deep hole in her knee from Marseille but painful none the less. Don’t you hate it when there is no one else to blame for something but yourself? Doh! Anyway once patched up we limped another 15 km and found a really cheap but really nice hotel and stayed for the night. It gave us the oportunity to experience (wretch at) the local music. The hotel had a live duo play in their restaurant and the keyboard player and backup vocalist had an awesome habit of being able to hit two or three extra keys with each rapid stroke than he was supposed to and his voice seemed to have a range that was from just flat of teh appropriate note to lots too flat of it. I’m so glad that they finished at 11 or I would have needed to kill someone. Also I spent about half and hour laughing harder than I have for years at the bulgarian music videos. I had to turn it off in the end or I would have injured myself laughing at their impressions of how bulgarian hiphop videos should look and “blokes” that put george michael to shame. Then there were teh folk videos that were worse than the spoofs that I’ve seen comedy shows in Aus do. Just hilarious.
Thats about all we really picked up from bulgaria except that the housing and roads are generally really crap (except the main highway) but the people seem to live quite well and have nice clothes and good food and appliances.
Tc

Tunnels… to love or to hate

Posted in Hints, Uncategorized at 10:14 am by Administrator

Tunnels pose such a problem for us. If there is a tunnel on the road then it is obviously helping you avoid large steep and nasty hills or long and arduous detours, which is awesome but they are so dodgy. It helps now that we are in greece and they have started using lights in teh tunnels again but we’ve been through tunnels upto 750m long that have ZERO lighting. That’s a little harsh for a bike. We don’t ride at night and so don’t really need the lights and I’m really lucky that I’d changed the batteries in my front light the day before teh long dark tunnel (at that there was no traffic at the time) or we would have been screwed. Also my little accident 2 days ago in Bulgaria happened in a tunnel where i got a front tyre flat and lost control and a bit of skin but more about that in the bulgaria sum up. Then there was the experience in Italy just before Cinque terra where we had 10 km of one way tunnels that we had to do at 40 plus km/h to avoid the on coming traffic entering the tunnels before we left them. Wow that was scary and exhausting but it did save 30 km of riding in some seriously steep terrain. I think that overall we will cope with tunnels but could quite easily live without them.
Tc

FYROM or Macedonia

Posted in Macedonia, The journey journal at 10:07 am by Administrator

This country was an ocean of calm drivers after the fretting that we did on the roads of Kosovo. Its only 18km from the border into the capital Skpoje. The northern suburbs of teh place are generally nasty slums full of beggars and people that won’t take no for an answer. Most of teh poor here are the Roma. The have been an incredibly vilified race over the last thousand years or so but I have not come across a group of people that seems to do less to lift their terrible reputation as beggars and thieves. Its pretty bad and it took most of teh trip into the country to lift the bad taste that it left. The centre of Skopje wasn’t bad and there is definitely a well developed sense of its own fashion. I must say that I didn’t think that itwas all that hot but those wearing it seemed to think that they were the cat’s meow.
After that we headed out over the countriside, which obviously could have been the bread basket of a civilisation and no wonder that Alexander the great like the area. The generosity got more and more as we crossed the country with random strangers buying us dinner in Stip and trying to organise other riders to join us for a bit. We also started in the local news for the city of Delcevo and did an interview in front of the cameras and all. haha. I’m a bit of a whore for the spotlight but Nic really doesn’t like the public eye so much so it was funny watching her when the reporter kept putting the microphone for her comments.
I think that I’ve decided to side with the greeks on the naming of the county. The name of Macedonia belongs to a broader area and the slavs moved in much later and have now kinda stolen the name which belonged to the greek people. Its a shame because the people there have a new country that deserves a cool name and Macedonia is heaps cooler than FYROM (former yugoslav republik of Macedonia) but what can you do. Maybe they should have a cool country name competition or something. Eitherway I know that will propable offend many people from the area and they really don’t deserve that as they were awesome and really looked after us.
Well bye for now.
Tc

07.24.09

Krazy Kosovo

Posted in Kosovo, The journey journal at 6:23 pm by Administrator

DO NOT CYCLE IN KOSOVO!!! Seriously those people can not drive. I don’t care how much war and attrocity you’ve seen that is no excuse for the driving that nearly killed us a hundred times in Kosovo. The roads are pretty crap, the cars are really crap and the driving nonskills are downright appauling. The edges of Kosovo are pretty nice but the middle isn’t much at all. The hills out of Montenegro were stunning and well worth the 5 new tourist resorts that are being built there. The north bit which the serbians refuse to believe is not part of serbia is pretty nice and a billion times calmer than the main part of the country. The traffic even became survivable as we approached the southern border but the cetral section was chaos. We had an awesome meal at a local restaurant and the staff at our “by the hour” motel were really nice but the place is so disorganised that its scary and there have been no improvements since I was there 5 years ago. I was really disappointed to see that they have done relatively nothing since then. The head winds didn’t help much either but there should be a blanket ban on exporting cars to Kosovo and in 3 years there will be none left so they might appreciate the lose then. The only slightly thoughtful driving move that I saw in the entire country came from a german car. You also have to worry when you feel reassured that the car behind you is a tank because at least you know that the driver is not from kosovo. The guys there also made Nic feel really uncomfortable with the way that they looked at her and I must admit that I nearly came to blows with a few of them for that. So far it really seems that Nic’s idea that every second country is cool is holding true. Kosovo didn’t really impress either of us.
Anyway we now have to get back to enjoying a few relaxing bulgarian beers so bye for now.
Tc

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