BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Mammoth 12 hour day on the bike in Albania, but we finally made it to Greece. 


We finally made an early start today. No shower, no breakfast, just on the bike and on the road. That turned out to be a very good thing. We left our hotel with a map, a sat nav, and directions. " Yes, Greeca, four hours". Four hours later we were told "Three hours to Greece", and that was at the border a long way from where we wanted to end the day. Am I riding in circles?

There aren't many photos from today as our camera batteries are both flat. Bad Simon.

We rode for hours and through little villages till we stopped for lunch at Pogradec. I found two large tortoise in the front yard of the cafe. Apparently they are quite common here. Who knew? A quick omelette breakfast / lunch and then we put another few hours under the wheels which included a great piece of road. It was sealed, but had a very rough surface with stones poking out of the top. The BM's suspension soaked up the bumps and I was having a ball. At one stage I forgot Suzanne was on the back and was riding it like an enduro special test. It was probably the most fun ride I've had this trip. We arrived in Korce and stopped for a drink. We checked the map then headed off, but couldn't find the road out of town we needed. We asked directions and were sent to where we had just come from. We were sure this wasn't the right road because it was just a very rough dirt track that looked like a driveway, so we turned around and asked a shop keeper for directions. He pointed at the same track. I pointed at my map and where we wanted to go again and he traced the main road on the map with his finger, then pointed at the track again. OK, it obviously gets better down the road. You'd think so, but no.

This really was a challenge. I warned Suzanne that he bike would be moving around all over the place and just to relax and not fight it. It will all be fine. I explained that I actually feel more comfortable on tracks like this than on the sealed stuff. It was pretty rough and in some spots I had to stop and take a good look for a line before I could ride on. Another two hours in the saddle and all of a sudden a road showed up on the sat nav. Up until now it had been totally blank. Then we could see the road on the other side of the river, then we saw a bridge. I was in love. We rounded a bend and the road became sealed as it led into the Albanian border check point. This was a remote post and was very different to the post we entered through. We were the only vehicle there. The funny thing is it took about twenty five minutes for them to stamp our passports. I guess they were bored.

A few minutes later and we saw a Greek flag. What a relief. We were one of only three vehicles there but it took about half an hour to get another stamp and for them to check the bike registration. Then we were in Greece. We'd soon be at our Horizons Unlimited camp site on Mount Tzoumerka. Or so we thought. We rode in on a beautiful, sealed, smooth, two lane wide road to Ioninna and stopped for a short break. It was about seven pm and I suggested that we pull the pin on riding today and book into a hotel. Suzanne said "No, let's get to the camp tonight. Then you can relax". OK, let's go. We checked the sat nav and map and headed off on our thirty minute ride.Two hours later we were riding up and down hairpin bend roads in the mountains. In the dark. We found a village and asked directions. Yes we were going the right way, down there turn left, then right, cross the bridge and you're there. At the next village I said "That's it, find a hotel, I'm done". So Suzanne sourced a lovely room and after a wonderful shower I crawled into bed at about eleven pm. We'd spent nearly twelve hours on the bike. Are we having fun yet? Oh yeah. It was a bloody tough day, but it was a blast.

I have some serious blisters and my hands feel like they've been hit with hammers, but I feel a strange sense of satisfaction. I think we're only about thirty kilometers from the camp now.

Where's Rex's Buff?

Meet Mila, a pocket rocket, hill climbing, hiking, sweetie.

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