BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Sunday, 29 July 2012

More mountains, more winding roads, more cliffs, and more bends on the road to Montenegro.


Dubrovnik's greatest feature in the old walled city. OK, it's worth a visit and a look, but it's not really a historical visit as it's like giant shopping centre aimed at tourists inside. The architecture is beautiful and worth seeing, but the shops? Suzanne had said the day before how good it was that we hadn't visited any retail "stitch 'em up" shops for ages. Well, we covered that today. There were highlights though.

A small sample of the large area of the walled city.

Suzanne sharing her water with a new friend.

One poignant moment for me was standing outside what used to be someone's home and reading how it was destroyed during the war by mortar fire and how he had to carry his elderly mother to safety. I understand that we sometimes need to defend ourselves, and occasionally we need to help others that can't help themselves. I also wholeheartedly support anyone who gives their time and serves in the armed forces. These people do a fantastic job and I'll stand by them and support them any time. But. What pisses me off is that just about every war is started by someone who wants something for their own benefit, be it religious, racial, financial, or whatever. Then the average bloke in the street like you or me has to fight the fight and suffer for it. The bottom line is that Simon in Perth, or Ivan in Bosnia, or Nedalco in Croatia all want to just live their lives in peace and get on with their day to day struggle of looking after their family and see their kids grow up happy. I hope one day that we'll realise the futility of it all and get our act together as the human race. OK, sermon over.

We wandered out of the old city and sat down to a beautiful lunch on the ocean's edge. It was very pleasant and relaxing. Then we hit the road. It was too late to go to a Post office, so now we'll lug our extra gear to Greece, where we "might" post it. Let's hope so.

Our aim today was to make Bar in Montenegro. This way tomorrow we can bolt through Albania and into Greece if we need to. Stories about Albania are that it's dangerous and all the usual hype that goes with travelling. We've found absolutely no problems anywhere along our trek, and I'm expecting the same in Albania.

We left Dubrovnik and had to travel a hundred kilometres to our first scheduled stop. The sat nav said this would take two hours and we knew what that meant. We immediately hit the mountain roads that were the standard "on the edge of a cliff" variety. I'm starting to get used to these, but the ones where I can see nothing but sky as I'm leaned over in a corner still scare the crap out of me. Suzanne loves these roads. NOT!!!!!!!!!! So an hour later we pulled up and had a few much needed refreshments. Water and orange juice, nothing stronger, even though I could have done some serious damage to a bottle of bourbon right there and then. Nerves? My left hand had gone totally numb from hanging on to the bars so tight and my right hand hurt like hell from using the brakes. But do you know what? I wouldn't swap this for the world. It's so many new experiences in one day that it's just amazing.

We then jumped a ferry across a small stretch of water between Bejela and Lepetani saving us about forty kilometres off the trip. The ferry cost two Euros. Yes, two Euros for both of us and the bike. Bargain of the day.

Then it was another hour and a half of much the same. Mountains, bends, cliffs, and so on. Nothing unusual apart from the section of road that was ripped up and being resealed just before the Montenegro border. Half a tonne of bike on a rough dirt road wasn't my idea of fun, especially going slowly and being stuck behind cars. Once again I adopted the locals way of thinking. I pulled out onto the wrong side of the road and went for it. Much better. Dirt bike rule number one - if in doubt or trouble gas it. It works. 

The border crossing was interesting. The border guard didn't even look in our passports. He just peeled back a corner, stamped them, and handed them back to us. Um, casual? Yes. Then, in Montenegro we hit a beautiful, winding, newly sealed section of road with overtaking lanes on the up hills. All of a sudden the cliffs disappeared (in my mind) and it was fun time. Absolutely brilliant riding, I even think Suzanne enjoyed it. Maybe.

I think the longest stretch of straight road I've ridden in the last three days is probably about a kilometre long. No exaggeration. This could be the first motorcycle tyre I replace because it's worn out all over, not just in the centre. I checked the chicken strips the other day and even amazed myself. I MUST be having fun.

We rolled down the hill into Bar and Suzanne found us a great place to stay.

It's the first floor of an old home overlooking the water and it's about a two minute walk to the main entertainment area. No garage for the bike here though, so the owner opened up one of the rooms and we put it inside. Our bike has it's own room, I hope it sleeps well. It's been working hard and deserved a good rest. Bar isn't a tourist destination, it's the locals holiday destination, and it's just great. No one speaks English which is what I've been waiting for. It means we're really travelling now. We went to a seafood restaurant for dinner and with lots of sign language ordered the "Seafood Special", we think. This is what came out...

OMG. What a feed. This, along with all the drinks for the night came to just over sixty Euros, about $72 AUD. I don't think I'll eat tomorrow.

Then it was back to our unit and we listened to the music from the local nightclub. It wasn't my choice in music, but at least the sound was clear, and it was loud. All good.

Oh yes, there are about six cats that live here, so everyone is happy.

Tomorrow, do we bolt straight through Albania like all the doom merchants say we should, or do we spend some time, and a night and get to know a few of the locals? What do you think will happen?

Where's Rex's Buff?

The lovely Angel. Angel and Christos run Moto Discoveries  in Greece. More great people.

Friday, 27 July 2012

We split form Split.


Today we went to check out and pay our bill at the hostel. No, I'm sorry Simon, we don't accept credit cards, only cash. We have a habit of not carrying too much cash with us, especially when it's Croatian Kunas as they are no good anywhere else. In fact we had none at all.

There was a cash machine about four kilometres down the road so I jumped on the bike and took of to raid the machine. So there I was, solo, a pocket full of cash, and a bike that was pointed south. Oh so tempting. The I realised Suzanne had my passport. Trapped again!

Back at the hostel we settled the bill, mounted up, and headed toward Dubrovnik. It's only a couple of hundred Ks away, so we should do that in a few hours. I was still thinking Australian roads.

This was the ultimate motorcycle road. It was a serpentine beauty that went up and down through the mountains as well. If you're a moto head, Google map the road along the coast from Split to Dubrovnik. Wow! The bits that ran along the edge of the high cliffs were a little disconcerting, but I'm starting to get used to them. Another twelve months of this and I should be right. Of course there is always a downside. It was 33 degrees, and then it rained. Yes, it was humid. After about an hour I was exhausted. We pulled into a little village called Grdac and found a very nice hotel for lunch. Hotel Saudade overlooked the beach and we enjoyed a very pleasant three course lunch.

The BM wanted to check in.
Lunch view.
Waiting for lunch. Checkout the cool (no pun intended) way the serve your wine. It's in a small carafe which is in turn placed in an ice water filled glass bucket. Excellent.

Back on the road to Dubrovnik and more of the same. More bends, more mountains, more fun. We rounded on bend and thought we had run into a toll booth. It turned out to be the Bosnian border checkpoint. They were stopping all he cars and checking passports but, get this, they waved us straight through on the bike. We crossed a very small section of Bosnia and then we went another border check, again unchecked, back into Croatia. No one even looked at our passports. What the? Another hour or so of biking heaven and we were in Dubrovnik.

A quick ride around and sticky beak and we found a room right across the road from the old city walls entrance. We can go in and explore tomorrow.

We had dinner in a pizza bar downstairs and met Anna, from Campbelltown, who is here on holidays. Sorry Anna, the photos Suzanne took didn't turn out. We hope you enjoy the rest of your trip.

That was a big day. Tomorrow the old city, then onward to somewhere in Montenegro. Probably Bar. It has a nice ring to it's name.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Meet Taz, another motorcycle riding traveller. She and her husband Joel are riding around Europe on a couple of Kawasaki Super Sherpas (KLR250). You can ride anything around the world.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Zadar to Split, the quick way.


We were very successful in culling gear from our load. We removed the equivalent of one full bag of stuff from the bike. That's a lot of Kilos gone. We headed off to the Post Office to send the stuff home, and it was closed. I was not a happy chappy. Now we'll carry all the excess gear to Dubrovnik and post it from there.

Zadar is known for it's Sea Organ. Don't be rude! This is a sort of an organ that is "played" by the movement of sea water. It gives off a haunting sound as you walk along the foreshore and it's very soothing to just sit, have a drink, and listen to. You can read more about Zadar's Sea Organ here:


The foreshore where the Sea organ can be found.

Winner winner, chicken dinner. An award winning musical instrument.

This is one thing I would like to see on the Perth foreshore. I reckon the river would have enough movement to make it work. If not Perth, then somewhere in Fremantle, just don't forget the free motorcycle parking, OK?

We decided to take the quick way to Split and headed for the Motorway. The speed limit on the Motorway is 130 kph, I was doing around 150, and cars were passing me all the way there. I don't know why they even bother making speed signs here, they could save a heap on money by not bothering. It was a pretty uninteresting ride with the terrain much like outback Australia in parts. Pretty barren, but with a few hills.

When we got to Split there was a huge long line of cars in a traffic jam, so I adopted the local way of dealing with it. I just crossed over the unbroken white line and rode down the wrong side of the winding road. Whenever a car came the other way, I just pulled back into the slow moving traffic. People move over, or make a space, and let motorcycles in.

Motorcyclists are treated so differently here in Europe. Everywhere we've been car drivers make room for us, even when splitting lanes in a traffic jam. You can see their wheels turn as they part and make room. I feel like Moses parting the cars. When it comes to parking, you can pretty much park where you like. We pulled into the car park at the Plitvice Lakes National Park and stopped a the boom gate to get a ticket. The attendant rushed over and told us it was free for motos. He then motioned for us to ride around the boom and park wherever we liked. There are signs all over the place out the front of bars and accommodation offering "Discount for bikers" and signs like "Bikers, please come in" and "Bikers Welcome". Anyone would think they were trying to encourage, or even reward those who choose to ride a motorcycle. Bloody good job.

We had a few problems finding our hostel - again. We've decided not to pre book from now on, we'll just roll up and find somewhere when we get there. There is accommodation available everywhere, in fact there are even people on the side of the road hawking accommodation. Yes, it's competitive. Anyway, once we found the hostel they had no record of our booking. I stuffed up and had booked the following Saturday (I blame a web site glitch) and they were fully booked. Sonya was super helpful and said she'd sort something out for us. Fifteen minutes later we were shown to our room. The funny thing was all the robes and drawers in the room were full. This is a family run hostel, from Grandma down to the grand kids and I think we stole one of the older sons rooms. I hope he didn't mind too much. Oh yes, free breakfast, free Wi Fi, and they insisted I put my bike in the garage. I could get used to this.

We then met some of the hostels cats, there are seven of them. They were all very cute, and not at all backward in trying to steal our food. They even jumped up on the table and tried to steal it off of our plates.

Suzanne out side our hostel. Two of the cats are under the table, which is about ten feet from the Adriatic sea.

Suzanne really liked having the cats around and was feeding them. Big surprise! Later on they were playing under her seat and one got a good claw hold on Suzanne's dress, and her butt. I didn't laugh much. I decided to call the cat Claude. : )  The next morning Claude scored another victim. This time a young American girl who shrieked when he struck.

Claude also had a very cool cat toy. A crab which he played with for ages.

Claude's cat toy.

Suzanne had put on a load of washing and was waiting to hang it out to dry when Sonja, who "found" us a room, came down and told us she would hang out our washing for us if that was OK. Ah, YES. Thanks for everything Sonja.

So to finish off, here are a few pics from our hostel taken at about 9.30 pm.

And one from our back door the next morning.

Next stop, Dubrovnik.

Where's Rex's Buff?

They just keep comin' Rexy.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Zadar, and another rest day.


We decided to have another rest day today in Zadar. Suzanne spent the day in bed and I started culling some gear from our stockpile on the bike. The only thing of interest today was breakfast.

Our digs for the night.

We went downstairs and sat down. The waitress came over and asked what we would like: ham and eggs, cheese and ham, cake (yes, cake), bread and jam, omelette? We both said yes to an omelette. She then asked if we wanted ham and cheese to which we replied yes.

A few minutes later out came breakfast consisting of all of the above, except an omelette.

Oh well, we didn't want appear to be rude, so we cleaned up nearly everything.

One thing I've noticed is that Croatians know how to put on a good feed. Every BBQ I've seen has been stacked high with meat, even if it's just for two people, and every meal is a "generous" serve. Another thing they indulge in here is unfair advertising. We were riding along the road when all of a sudden we caught the aroma of roast pork. Then on the side of the road we saw a pig in a spit, golden brown, and calling us in. It's not fair I tell you.

Here's a sample of what we see and smell on the sides of the road. This was outside our hotel. A couple of pigs and a few dozen chickens on spits.

Tomorrow we'll have a look around Zadar, then it's on to Split.

Where's Rex's Buff?

The girls were fighting over this Rex.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Plitvice lakes - then a night in Zadar.


It was another late start today as we needed to have a little rest after yesterday's effort.

Suzanne went downstairs and painted the girls as promised. In a lot of small places like this the kids have never been painted, but the best part is Suzanne lets them have a play with her paint and paint each other. You would be amazed at how good some kids are after a little tuition.

Suzanne's handiwork evaluating some new test paint for a manufacturer. Sisters Ana Maria & Katarina.

Insert Suzanne here : " Helloooo everyone, I rarely get to use the computer! I have to say here, for all my painty friends, this is the new range Kryolan are developing. It is very different to anything I have used. I adore the original Kryolan range, so I was very keen to try this out. It is highly pigmented, they are trying to compete with the other brands in terms of linework. Yes the white covers black!!!! I am trying it out in different countries/conditions. So far it is a challenge using it in windy conditions, it dries soooooo quickly, you have to be super speedy to get a clean crisp line no matter how much water is used. I haven't had much of a go blending as it's drying too quick. I will let you all know how it goes further on .  . cheers". Suzanne out.

Future face painter at work. Katarina trying her hand at body art.

Insert Suzanne again: "Katarina showed me her art folio the previous night, she loves drawing and is quite good, so I made a mental note to let her paint the next morning. I couldn't follow what she was saying but she was babbling away in obvious excitement. This is the part of face & body painting I love, seeing young people discover it and enjoy it." Suzanne out.

After a quick ride we were at the entrance to Plitvice lakes. This is a layered system of lakes that have formed by karst hydrography. Short version, the water contains contaminants that build up and create walls and waterfalls. The result is a system of lakes connected by waterfalls and it's spectacular. Check out if you want to know more. A photo speaks a thousand words so...

Yes, we walked all the way down there, and climbed back up again in our motorcycle boots and pants.

No, it's not an aquarium, this is the lake. Crystal clear water and an abundance of fish and wild life.

It's a good work out walking around the lakes. The longest lake walk was between six and eight hours.

So they have Unimog road train buses to transport you from one end to the other...

...and ferries to carry you across the large lakes. 

We spent hours walking around here, it's truly beautiful. The colour of the water (OK, I know the water is clear etc., etc.) is the most amazing blue in some areas while it's green in others. It made my eyes happy! We had to laugh, this is a National Park and we noticed the following:
  • You can take your dog there, and lots of people do.
  • There are no railings on the paths along the cliff tops.
  • You can buy a beer and walk around drinking it.
  • The paths are made of bits of tree branches cut and nailed in a rough line, complete with gaps in between, as are the small bridges over the lakes - and they have no handrails.
How dangerous is all of that? It would never happen in Australia.

Plitvice Lakes are well worth a visit if you are anywhere near there on your travels. Get there early in the morning as they deserve a full day to do them justice.

So after about an hour and a half ride we arrive in Zadar, Croatia. On the way to our hostel we saw a supermarket and decided to buy a few supplies for the night. We walked in the front door of the supermarket and there was a bar there! Yes, a bar in the supermarket. We were both pretty tired and definitely thirsty, so we sat down and has a drink. Because we only had a few hundred yards to go to get to our hostel I weakened and had a beer (a standard 500 ml stubbie) and Suzanne had a G&T, for under $5 AUD. Then the fun began.

(Sorry, these photos were taken with a phone, then messaged to a friend, then emailed back to me, so the resolution isn't that good).

A bar in a supermarket. Check out the stubby. 500 ml.
We walked into the supermarket and everything was so cheap. I was running around going "Sue, look at this. Sue, look at this. Sue, look at this. Sue look at these." and taking photos because I didn't think anyone would believe me. So here are the photos:

The range of fresh seafood was very tempting.

Our dinner came out of this cabinet. Chicken salad, seafood mix (delicious), anchovies, stuffed olives, and some Pringles for later.

We had Kinder Pingus for desert. I don't know if these are available in Australia yet, but go and look, today, now. They are just the best thing. Suzanne described it as "Like eating a cloud".

Now the drinks isle:

About $5 AUD for a six pack of 500 ml stubbies, and it's nice beer.

Heineken for about $1 AUD each.

Red Bull, about $1 AUD each.

We then loaded up and wobbled off to our hostel. It was now about 9.30pm and getting dark. Do you think we could find our hostel? Not a chance in the world. After about an hour we gave up and booked into the first place we saw that had a room. We dragged all our gear up into another super clean room, but his time it had air conditioning (which Suzanne has set on minus four penguins). Air conditioning is unusual over here, but with the temperature around 30 degrees we were happy. Especially Suzanne. I decided that tomorrow needs to be another rest day. We need to do some washing, and we MUST get rid of some more stuff we are carrying on the bike. It's time to get serious.

Will we be successful? Check back and find out.

If you want to tell friends about our blog the easiest way the'll find it is by Googling:

"thewrongwayround" bmw simon

Where's Rex's Buff?

This is Jarrod. Jarrod heard we were taking photos for a mate in Australia and wanted in on the fun. This is his best Blue Steel look. You'd never guess he's an Aussie would you. They're bloody everywhere.

Friday, 20 July 2012

You expect me to ride over THAT!
You've got to be joking.


We said good buy to Jess, Jesse, and Sara, along with David and Katrina our neighbours at the hostel, and a nice German couple with a baby that we'd spoken to quite a bit but never got around to swapping names. It was a baby thing. It's so good staying in hostels and meeting people.

We're on the road to Croatia. Our brother in law, Ivitsa (John. Why do we have to change people's names?), told us we have to go and see the Plitvice Lakes. Thanks mate, I wish you'd given me the Croatian spelling. We Google mapped the location and as the sat nav didn't recognise it we picked a place close by and set off. Croatia is only a small country. It couldn't be that hard could it? Well, we left at about 11 am and arrived about 8 pm. We did have a few small breaks along the way but it was by far our longest day on the bike.

We've been wearing thick winter gloves we bought in England all trip and they are bloody hot over here as it's been around 30 degrees since we left Bled. We hadn't seen a bike shop anywhere so we pressed on. It was a warm morning and I said to Suzanne we really need some lighter gloves. As we were speaking we rolled around a bend and saw a huge billboard that read "Dianese Outlet Centre - 500 Mtrs". It was like winning the lottery. We now have some beautiful new lightweight Dianese gloves to look after our hands, and two pair cost less than one pair in Australia. I could have spent about ten grand there the gear was just soooooo nice. Weight and space restrictions on the bike prevented that.

Back on the road to Croatia. We managed to sneak through the border check points for both countries. They obviously haven't heard about Suzanne here.

The terrain here is a lot more hilly (read mountainous) right on the coast so it took a while to get used to riding so high and looking down onto the towns (which means I was scared). In Slovenia all the roads were lined by trees, so if you run off the road you won't fall too far. This was a different story. Now I cope with heights OK. I don't like them but the voices inside my head tell me I'll be OK and I get through it. When the person on the back is screaming "Holy S***!" through the intercom she drowns out the voices and I find it difficult to remain calm. So when we saw this...

...and had to ride over it, it was vey "exciting". It's one (very narrow) lane wide, and I don't know how high, but it falls into the category of "BLOODY HIGH". I rode around it very, very, very slowly and I really didn't want to be there. It was probably the scariest thing I've ever done. As for Suzanne, I think she now hates me for taking her on this trip, but it got better (worse?).

The view from ground level. Yes we rode over the piece of road in the top right of the photo. Believe me, it looks and feels a lot higher from up there.

OK, now we're down at sea level again we can enjoy ourselves. We rode along little cliffs along the coast that last month would have scared me but now I don't even notice. Then the sat nav said turn left. Interesting. We rode up this narrow winding road and into the mountains. Single lane, steep drop offs, no barriers etc. For about an hour or so we rode up into the mountains. We then rode along some nice little roads, then an hour back down the mountains. Suzanne had had enough. I was thinking that the sat nav was taking us the most direct route as I had chosen "Shortest Route" when we set off. Wrong! When we got to the bottom again we were only about thirty kilometres further along the road we were originally on in a town called Senj. It was another experience, but I'm buying a map. Another few hours riding and we were at our accommodation for the night.

We're using and it working a treat. We rode into our accommodation in Grabovac at about 8.30 pm and Ana Maria, who is about 14, checked us in as her Mum and Dad weren't there. We moved into our room which was very nice and very clean. Great value. We'd bought a few drinks with us so we went downstairs and sat outside to relax.

Nedeljko (Dad) arrived home from work, sat with us, and had a drink. When I had finished my beers Nedeljko grabbed another out of his fridge for me. Thanks Nedeljko. Marina (Mum) then arrived home and we sat and talked for quite some time. We learned a lot about Croatia and where the country is going. We also got tips on where we should go and what we should see. Local knowledge is invaluable and staying with locals is so much more enjoyable than big hotels. It really is a whole lot more personal and adds to the experience. Thanks guys.

Tomorrow morning Suzanne has promised to paint the girls then it's off to Piltvice Lakes and then a night in Zadar. Cool names eh?

Where's rex's Buff?

Incognito Buff wearer.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Recovery - Then lunch in Italy.


We were a bit slow to get going today. We saw the girls at breakfast and they were off to see Postojna Cave today. We had planned to go to Italy for lunch (just because we could) so Suzanne caught up on some sleep while I blogged for the morning. Then I went and pulled all the luggage off the bike - except the top box of course.

After a quick little ride we were over the border and in Trieste, Italy. We found a nice little out of the way bar and had a bit of a feed and a couple of drinks. What cracked me up was when I asked for a glass of white wine for Suzanne the barman put a glass under a tap on the bar and out came wine. Suzanne could fit in really well here.

Me: "Sooze, do you want to go to Italy for lunch?
Suzanne: "Why not?"

We then popped into a chemist to see about replacing some of the items from our first aid kit we had used and to get some medical crème I use. When Suzanne asked about the crème the Pharmacist pulled a box out from under the counter and handed it to her. The total cost combined with the other items was about 20 Euros. At home I have to go through the complete visit a doctor, get a prescription, go to the chemist, pay through the nose run around. It probably costs me about eight times as much at home! Why? Rant over.

We needed fuel and the price in Slovenia was about 60 cents a litre cheaper than Italy. With a 30 litre tank on the BM it made sense to fill up on the way back. It was obvious that most Italians think so as well. Just over the border the servo was full of cars with Italian number plates filling up, and buying cheap cigarettes. Why not?

We then rode back into Piran for a look around the waterfront. It's a nice little village and there are heaps of restaurants catering to tourists. We wandered around the back alleys and found a cool little place where we sat and demolished our evening meal. We've been eating well on this trip that's for sure.

Sun set in Piran

Cool little back alleys full of surprises.

The town square. They do it so well in Europe.

Then it was back to the hostel after stocking up on supplies (gin and tonic) to catch up and party quietly with Jesse, Jess, and Sara. Everyone was a bit quieter tonight. Suzanne dragged out her painting gear and the girls were into it. 

Suzanne's late night painting.

I pulled the pin at about midnight and skulked off to bed. I thin the girls went til about 1.30.

Where's Rex's Buff?
I'd just told Jesse how old I was.