"Even before I got the the Georgian border the landscape gave me glimpse of what was to come. The mountains started rising up and were lush with greenery. It made a lovely change from the flat Kazak and Russian Steppe, and deserts I had been riding through for the few days before.
Getting to the border was rather eventful. The line up of trucks and cars was at least 5 kilometres long. One of the great things about being on a motorbike is I could just ride around it all straight to the front. It did take some inventive ride though
😜. Thankfully the town, which again had lovely old architecture.
The next day we both rode to Batumi then over the border to Turkey.
As much as I loved Georgia and the people, the drivers are crazy and the traffic is nuts. However, as I said I would go back tomorrow if I could.
Sheldon and I even managed to get pulled over by the police for some bulls#&t thing and got a fine for apparently not stopping at a stop sign. I certainly hadn't seen any stop sign and non of traffic in front of me stopped at all. It was a complete farce and I found it kinda funny considering I was about to leave the country
This country really deserves a part 1 and 2, but I'm desperately trying to catch up with FB
🙈. So I'm going to do this in reverse order to the way I traveled, and talk about visiting the Gallipoli Peninsula first, because it was a moving experience.
As it does for any Australian, Turkey holds a special place in our hearts....our ANZAC hearts that is.
Sure I didn't get to attend a dawn commemorative service or anything as special as that, but as soon as I started riding down the peninsula I could feel it...what that is exactly I'm not sure. Perhaps it's an overawed sense the history...I don't know..... I guess you need to travel there to really understand.
Now let's not be confused, I was almost completely ignorant to fully understanding Australia's Gallipoli campaign. Sure I've seen the ANZAC day/week TV documentaries (I thought knew a little about it all), but actually going there to see it, and the futility of it, is something else. All the people (both Aussies and Turks) that lost their lives is quite unbelievable. However all the memorial site's, especially Lone Pine, give it due respect and honour.
I was lucky enough to have a guide for my visit to Gallipoli (and Istanbul). My friend Tan Berk Kurtcebe
Is a bit of an expert on it all and even published a book about the Gallipoli campaign. So thankfuly with his knowledge I was able to get a greater appreciation of the area and what the ANZAC's were up against.
Before I got to Istanbul, I had a couple of days at Cappadocia. This place IS everything it's cracked up to be....the unusual geology, the cave houses and the balloons. I even managed to get up before dawn to watch the balloons ascend out of the valley. Also while I was there I couldn't resist a horse ride through the striking landscape.
Istanbul itself is HUGE! By some stroke of luck I managed to roll in during some national holiday, so the fearsome traffic was considerably less, and the crowds were thin. Again my friend Tan graciously showed me around and I stayed at his place a couple of nights. Thanks Tan!
Another part of Turkey worth sharing is the Ottoman Era bridges I went to check out near Rize in the eastern part of the country. I'd heard about these and made a side trip to visit them. I'm glad I did because they are beautiful and clearly an engineering feat of their time.
Thank you Turkey!
Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro:
Time to catch up on FB and some of the country's I've traveled through, sorry I know this is a bit of information back tracking, but I can't leave it out
An guess unfortunate fact about my trip from the time I left Turkey was that I was time limited! But it was for a good reason. I had to get to Italy for the HardAlpitour.
It really was a crying shame to rush through a couple of beautiful countries that I would have loved to spend way more time in. Agree with it or not, it was the compromise I made. Afterall it's not everyday you get an invitation to the Hard Alpi Tour and I'm eternity grateful to the organisers.
So after leaving Turkey I went direct to the Bulgarian Capital, Sofia. I had organised BMW Bulgaria to service Pepper, and with this they took a lovely interest in my trip and even organised a photo shoot. It was good fun and the photos are great!! Thank Ivan Monev
Sadly Serbia was pretty much just transited through
😢 on my way to Montenegro.
At least I had a little more time for Montenegro and could veer off the main roads and see some of the stunning country side. I'm going to call Montenegro the country of tunnels and monastery's, both are everywhere
😂. The road I took was carved along the edge of a mountain and had loads a great tunnels. At times it felt more like riding through caves. The roads are also a road riders dream. I stayed a night in the capital Podgorica. Montenegro is a very small country, and all the action is by the sea, so the capital was more like a small town, rather than a large capital city.
The next day I leisurely wafted through the tiny mountain roads heading to the coast. Coming over the final range I was cheering in my helmet. I had arrived at the Adriatic Sea....OMG it's beautiful.
Along the main seaside road it was traffic central and packed with holiday makers.... image the Gold Coast in summer. So again when I could I got off the main road I followed my nose out to a spit of land that was a lot quieter. I had a lovely evening swimming in the warm waters of the Adriatic Sea. The next morning I headed north to Croatia.
Croatia - with a side trip to Bosnia;
My first stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik. It really is a remarkable old walled fortress city. I spent a couple of days here, walking around the old town, swimming in the warm ocean, and just enjoying being a tourist. I now see why it was so highly recommend. All of Croatia was stunning and the people friendly.
After a few days in Dubrovnik, time was again pressing, however instead of just riding up the coast I headed inland over the border to Bosnia. I went to Bosnia especially to visit a small town called Mostar, and particularly the Stari Most Bridge originally built in 16th century. This bridge (and the town), was subsequently bombed and destroyed during the Croat- Bosnia war in 1993. However, the reconstruction was amazing and it was hard to believe the bridge and parts of the town are only 24 Years old. Infact riding through the valley up to Mostar it was weird to think this was the front line of the war. Quite hard to imagine now.
From Bosnia I went back to the Croatian coast to a lovely little village called Pogora. Since reaching the Adriatic Coast, nice wine and good food was high on my addenda, this night was no different
🤣. From here I again wafted along back roads to Sibenik to visit the beautiful Krka National Park with its magical waterfalls. Even though it was again Tourist central, the walk to the falls was worth braving the bus loads of tour groups for.
For my final night in Croatia I even managed to find a nice camp site and enjoy a cocktail or two in the sunset on the beach. Life was feeling pretty good
The next morning I to headed back down the coast and caught the overnight ferry from Split across to Ancona in Italy.
A couple of days ago marked an important milestone in my trip and an achievement I'm a little proud of
I completed the Hard Alpi Tour (HAT)!!
A 24 hour 550km off-road event in the Italian Alps. Sanremo to Sestriere via the old military roads.
The HAT is completed as a team of three or four, but our "team" was much bigger. There were 10 of us that all rode together, helped each other, and basically had each other's back!! I hadn't actually met (in person) any of my team mates before I got to Italy, but we are all connected via Steve Hamilton
. It was Steve's friend and his former HAT team mate, Nicola De Liguori Carino
that initiated my invitation to the HAT. Nic was also one of my team mates this year, and basically the ring leader of our team.
The organisers of the event were truly amazing and extended a hospitality to me far far beyond anything I was expecting. I even received some amazing prizes for the "Longest distance traveled" award. A sweet LS2 Adventure helmet and a Nikon Coolpix Camera. A huge thank you to the organisers, for this truely was a once in a lifetime opportunity and experience. Also many of the sponsors were incredibly generous to me, to which I am very appreciative! #klim #anlastires #ls2helmets #motoperformances
The ride itself.....I won't lie ..it wasn't easy! The trails were a lot harder than I was expecting. Lots of long rocky switch-back climbs. Then of course what goes up must come down. We were in the Alps after all
What makes it hard is the fatigue, riding all through the day and night. Any one of the trails on their own wasn't that difficult, but add them all together for many hours on end (and in the dark), then throw in the fatigue factor.....I have to say, yes, I found it challenging. It was, however, an immensely rewarding experience. If you ever, ever get the chance to take part this event....do it!! You won't regret it. I loved every moment of it.
So we rolled over the start line in Sanremo at about 2pm and rode until 4am the next morning (of course throw in a few meal breaks - but that's about 15 hour of riding). At this time we grabbed a little sleep, then were back on the bikes. When I say sleep.... we layed on the wooden floor in a cafe (with about 50 other riders) still in all our motorbike gear and shut our eyes. No mat and just my back pack as a pillow. I didn't even unclip or remove my boots, just took my helmet and neck brace off. As soon as the sun was up, we hit the trails again. Later that afternoon when we rolled over the finish line in Sestriere. As you can imagine covering 550km of trails in that time required maintaining a reasonable pace, so there was no time to mess about.
There were organised meal breaks (in large mess tents) throughout the night, where we were fed well to help maintain our strength and concentration. It really was a well run event.
The crescendo to the HAT is riding Colle del Assietta, it's the final climb to Sestriere. The views are breathtaking (but believe me you DO NOT want to look down).
What makes this final section so memorable is riding in to the finish line with your team mates. For me it was like riding in with 8 new wonderful brothers. (Unfortunately we were one rider short at the end due to a small mishap, that ment he could finish the ride). Nevertheless all 9 of them looked after me and were absolute gentlemen! Thank you Nicola, Dan, Andy, Rupert, Chris, David, Gav, Marco and Marco.
Finally the most impressive part of all of this is my little BMW 310GS, Pepper. So far out of her depth, yet so capable. She really was the star. To keep up with the bigger bikes I really had to push her to her limits, and not a moment of hesitation was felt from her. 20,000km then punished as hard as she would go for the HAT. She is an absolute credit to BMW, Rally Raid and AdvWorks!!