Friday, 27 May 2011

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Kasem, Andropoulos and on to Bavaria

                                                             Goodbye to Turkey

Saturday May 21 - After a bit of a sleep in we pack everything onto Martin's bike and head back to the servo where my bike is parked about 2km out of Kasem. Brian & Robert have phoned to say that they are coming to tow my bike back to the group for spares, so we meet them at the servo. I'll have to accompany the bike across the border with them so that the paperwork tallies up.

We ride the 40 or so km to the Greek border and get through with minimal fuss.Robert & I push the bike through much of the crossing, Brians on the tow bike. There's a Turkish guy on a smick Honda Varadeo (has a sticker with his name & blood group on the tank) behind us as my bike gets towed through - I'm sure he's thinking "what a piece of rubbish" and I'm wishing for a reliable machine like his.

Lang meets us on the Greek side with the van and it will take over towing duty.

Martin & I ride 2 up through some beautiful countryside to Alexandropoulis - we stop at the airport to enquire about tickets onward but it's closed & we can't get in.

Eventually fine the Erika Hotel near the waterfront & organise room .Alexandropoulis is a lively town on the water with ferries leaving for the Greek Isles. The hotel receptionist tells us to park the bike on the footpath ( our friend from the border on the Varadeo is parked there coincidentally) but we decline. Martin parks on the street - next morning the Dnyper has dutifully dropped a 30cm diameter oil slick on the ground.

Sunday 22nd May - We ride to the local airport and abandon Martin's bike in the carpark. He has told Sean from the group that he can have his bike if he wants it and leaves the papers, keys and a bill of sale in the sidecar. Martin leaves note reminding Sean to check all the oils before he rides off.

                                            Abandoning "Black Bess" at the airport

We have a short flight to Athens, a 2 hour wait then a flight to Munich. Flying between EU nations is so easy - we flash our passport at Munich & we're through. Peter from Bike Bavaria meets us and we're soon in his van and on our way.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Gallipoli onward - almost to Greece

                                              Roadside Gallipoli Peninsula

May 20th  My birthday today and the first half of the day delivers more of the same depressing unreliability that has flowed from the poor "on the fly" preparation that has typified this trip.
Plan is to ride from Gallipoli to the Greek border and then on to Alexandropoulis.
Good run for about 100km then climb into low rolling hills. In spite of moderate riding my bike overheats, R motor seems to be running poorly. We pull over in small service station and take R carburetttor apart. On trying to start bike motor is jammed!

                                           Lunch - cheese, salami & biscuits while broken down yet again!

                                            Local scrap metal dealer's truck - pulled into servo while we were broken   down - a much more reliable vehicle than our Dneprs

We wait for Lang who manages to lever the fly wheel and unjam a probable stuck piston.Ride on for few kms but bike is running poorly. Change L carby, multiple attempts at restart, eventually Lang tows me to servo 2km from Kasen. Another bike is already being towed by the truck so we're on our own.

Sitting at the servo we go over our bikes from front wheel to rear and realise that about the only thing that hasn't broken on either bike is the rear foot peg! We leave my bike at the servo and double up to Kasen on Martin's bike. Find a hotel, contemplate where to go from here and have a beautiful seafood dinner in the hotel's downstairs restaurant.

This is almost certainly the end of our participation in the GSA. For me it's mild disappointment mixed with relief at escaping the endless torture of daily breakdowns. We wish the rest of the team good luck for the rest of the trip. We've met some great people and thoroughly enjoyed their company and comradeship. Particular thanks to Hub, Lang, Brian, Robert & Graham for their mechanical help.
Myles & Lee for their humour, wittiness , always stopping when we were in trouble and for just being great guys. Sean for his humour, perceptiveness and support through tough times.John for his quiet mechanical expertise and his constant optimism & laughs.

Thanks to everyone on the trip for your company and assistance. Hope you all get to Genoa.
Hope Sasha & Nadia get to you soon!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Canakalle & Gallipoli

Hub & Lang at work 

May18 - Most of us get up a bit late, then spend the morning scouring Canakalle for bike parts, tools, spark plugs, etc. Lang & Hub are hard at work in the car park getting Lang's bike fixed.
A few of the boys have had haircuts at local barbers.

The plan is for everyone to catch the ferry across the Dardanelles to Eceabat and then run across the peninsular to the Kum ground/hotel. Martin & I catch the ferry late afternoon and then run to Anzac Cove - it's sunny and the water is a brilliant blue.

                                             Martin & Paul in front of The Sphinx near Anzac Cove

We meet John & Simon from the Gallipoli Association ( - they are keen to get more members so look up the website if interested.

We head to Hotel Kum - a bit down at heal but comfortable and reasonable food.Close to the beach and with the usual empty swimming pool.

May 19th  We ride to Anzac Cove with Myles & Lee. Move on to Shrapnel Valley and climb up to Plugge's Plateau. Back down to the bikes and Martin's throttle cable is completely disconnected. I tow him back to the hotel. We both get on my bike to go to town to get parts repaired - about 2 km along and my rear diff starts to come apart - we limp back to the hotel.
Fix Martin's throttle and spend the rest of the day going to town, get tyre repaired, have lunch at waterfront and do a loop of the peninsula visiting numerous war cemeteries, both Allied & Turkish.

Many of the Turkish monuments are strikingly impressive - many large statues of Kamal Ataturk.

Finish the day a Lone Pine as the sun is creeping down.

                                                           Lone Pine War Cemetery

 Some General Comments: The bikes remain a big disappointment. We accept that they are old technology and need to be nursed along, but they are a constant headache. Hub & Lang are working hard to keep the show rolling and we appreciate their efforts.Everyone has had to pitch in and do their best with maintaining the bikes. Brian, Robert and Graham deserve particular praise for their mechanical skills and their willingness to help the rest of the group.

There are constant breakdowns and bits fall off with regularity.

The Ukranians who "restored" the bikes using Chinese parts (many of the air filter covers fell off the first day) would seem to be responsible for much of this unhappiness. Our head Ukranian mechanic is yet to join us after last being seen at the Ukranian border.

Sooner or later some bikes will be unfixable and will probably have to be left on the side of the road!

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Turkey -Kirklarelli, Istanbul & beyond

                                           Working on bikes - Kirklarelli - Warwick deep in Zen meditation

15 May – After breakfast in our very Turkish “Grand Sampiyon” Hotel in Kirklarelli  - peeling paint in the bathrooms-we set off for the trip to Istanbul. A reasonably long day mostly running on major highways. We come into Istanbul along the southern coastal approach. The traffic becomes increasingly frantic as we get further in – Sean kicks a car door in an out of character incident of road rage.

My group (Graham, Warwick, Jim & myself) get a bit lost as we close in on Sultanamet where our hotel is – then we see the Blue Mosque in the distance and use it to close in. The streets of Sultanamet are surprisingly steep & narrow. A number of bikes struggle to get up to the hotel (? fear of burnt out clutches) and then we struggle to find a park.

                                                          Blue Mosque

The Daphne hotel is compact but has a great rooftop balcony with spectacular views over the Sea of Marmara. Martin, Catherine & Catherine's sister Margaret walk to the Daphne from the Crown Plaza and we have a late rooftop lunch. Martin ahs arrived in Istanbul 2 days earlier after a marathon ride from Bulgaria involving toll card scammers, kicking a car door or 2 and 3 hours of crawl through Istanbul traffic. 

                                           Sean & Myles Daphne Hotel Rooftop

Myles & Lee get in around 6.30-7.00pm after a late start (bike repairs in Kirkarelee) and are both pretty cheesed off. Lang is towed the whole distance by Bev in the white van.

I share a room with the unflappable Graham. A few partners have arrived for Istanbul – Jim Campbells wife and Jan, John Campbell's wife both meet the group.

                                                    Graham getting down & dirty under his machine

16th May – a day of exploring Istanbul .A group of us hire a small bus and get a vague tour of the inner city. We get to cross the Bosphorus into Asia and back again. Dropped off at the Spice Market we start exploring – a fantastic mix of Turkish shops & stalls. I spend 20 minutes in the New Mosque soaking up it's cool calmness and wash my feet at the mosque water stalls.

                                            New Mosque, Istanbul

We split up & I wander to Dokhapi Palace. The ticket queue is huge so I lie down on the beautiful grass area outside the palace until the crowds subside a bit. Pay my 20 Turkish lire and go inside to explore the treasures on display including an 86 carat diamond! To me the real beauty is the palace structure itself with it's amazing mosaics and it's setting with a spectacular view of the Bosphorus and across to Asian Turkey. Walk in to the Blue Mosque – impressive interior but I prefer the feel of the New Mosque.

Back to Daphne Hotel. We have rooftop briefing by Lang at 5pm and after this we're approached by Anne from an English radio drive time program ( I volunteer to be interviewed and Susan also gives the female perspective on the the ride.

Most of the group have dinner at restaurant just up from hotel – Martin, Catherine & Margaret join Sean & myself at a table.

May 17th We all rise early for 0600hr start (call to prayer from local mosque has already woken Graham & I) to get to ferry and avoid Istanbul traffic.We all queue for the Bursa ferry and slowly advance up the line. A problem appears – although Bev showed a photo of the sidecar bikes when she booked the tickets, the ferry load master thinks there is not enough space!

                                            Susan, Jan & John in queue for the ferry

                                               Bikes on the ferry

Eventually we all manage to fit on. Easy cruise (about 1.5hr) across Sea of Marmara to ferry port at Madanya.

Unload from ferry and we start the 300 or so km ride to Cannakale.

Ride through beautiful Turkish coast with lots of climbing. About 15km into ride, my drive train is destroyed – the rubber “cush” drive that lost it's steel case in Bulgaria has self destructed. I want to push the bike over the cliff but Lang (still being towed) offers to give me the part from his bike.

Lang, Stu, Graham & I work for an hour or so to undo drive trains from both bikes & put new drive on my bike.

Eventually on road again – very long and testing ride to Cannakale and the Kanak Hotel. R side carby failure in small village - elderly Turkish gent lets us work on concrete in his shed while we fix carburettor. A group of 3 local young guys stroll by - I try to use sign language to get them to show me where we are on my map. Then one of them says in a broad Australian accent "what can I help you with mate?" - his name is Mattie and he is over from Melbourne to work on his family's olive grove. He gives us directions to the highway and we set off.

I arrive last around 7.30pm.

Martin & I have pizzas & beer on waterfront and then crash into bed. Martin comments that we could have been anywhere in Australia - Turkey is like that.

                                           Lang's bike in Cannakale - our leader now has the honour of having been towed more than 600km! His bike needs some minor work!

Turkey is a beautiful country and I think it's true that the people of Turkey have a special relationship & regard for Australians. Turkey is a bit like Asia & Europe put in a blender with a special taste coming ou tof the mix.

Tommorrow we head to Gallipoli.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Romania & beyond to Turkey

                                            Crossing the border to Bulgaria

12th May - we set off from our beautiful seaside hotel and cross the border to Bulgaria - fortunately relatively pain free. Martin & I pull into little town to get money & petrol - the bikes attract a group of elderly locals. As we pull out one says to martin " Your friend's bike is leaking oil!" - Martin shrugs and indicates that's normal for a Dnepr.
Fun ride through city of Varna but navigation help from young student hitchhiker we pick up on the road. The group destination is the resort area of Nesebar on the Bulgarian coast. Martin is keen to push on to Istabul to meet Catherine, his wife, so we push on leaving the group. A few km soth of Burgas my bike has the steel retaining ring on the rubber cushion section of the drive shaft fall apart. We ring Lang & decide to return to Nesebar. So, we backtrack about 40km.

Nice hotel on waterfront at Nesebar but the whole place reeks of the Gold Coast in Queensland.

13 th May
Martin leaves by himself at 0630 that morning to push for istanbul.
I try for 4-5 hrs to get someone to weld up my broken part - no luck.
Beautiful Bulgarian meal in local restaurant.

14th May

The group leaves and heads south through the city of Burgas with a view to reaching the Turkish border by noon. Last 48km of road from the coast to the border is very rough - my bike dies suddenly - to me something electrical has happened. Jim Campbell & I check fuses, wiring. Brian arrives & we take the front housing off motor to check engine electrics. Loose connection found by Brian on ignition switch, fixes same & bike runs. I was ready to push the thing over the side of the road!

                                               Roadside view, Southern Bulgaria

We all reach Turkish border around 1-2.00pm and then experience the streamlined Turkish system for processing vehicles - one clerk handling a queue of 30-40 people.

Slowly we all get through and then head for the town of Kirklarelli.

Lang's bike is being towed for most of the day. Myles & Lee's bikes have to be tandem towed for some distance into Kirllarelli. At least the Turkish roads are wide & smooth - Jim speculates that it's so they can mobilise military machinery to the border quickly.

No hotel booked in Kirklarelli so we all struggle to find a hotel & book  for 20 odd people +bikes. Eventually the group splits between 2 hotels. Sean shares with me - his bag is in Bev's truck because he has a car battery in his sidecar to start his bike.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Border and Beyond to Romania

                                                          T = CH

Apologies to our blog followers but have limited access to internet over last 5 days.

Anyway, to continue the next 5 days of the GSA:

Sat 7th May  We leave Cernivci in southern Ukraine, clatter the bikes over the cities cobblestones that almost shake bits off the bikes, and head to the Romanian border.
20 sidecar bikes line up at the border crossing and as we start to talk to the officials a stern woman in military style uniform (customs officer) says "20 motorcycles from Ukraine - this will be a big problem". We find that we are unable to leave Ukraine for a variety of reasons that keep changing.
Eventually an agreement of sorts is reached and we all have to pay $55 US to be processed.
We have to camp overnight at the border with no facilities and wait to be released in parties of 3-4 at a time.
                                         Martin & John picnicing at the border - note jar of Ukranian pickles

Martin is allowed to go at 4.30am on Sunday 8th and his group head to hotel just over the border. Martin has to tow Sean 10km in cold rain to the hotel .I am released at 8.30pm Sunday and when I get to my bike the clutch lever is floating in the breeze - quick repair to clutch cable bracket and head to
Romanian side. Romania is a breath of fresh air particularly after 32 hours in no mans land. A Romanian customs official with pretty good English listens to our story and says "those Ukranians are all f'ers".  4 of us ride through a rainy night to Falticeni - arrive around 12.30am - Martin is on hand late to help us park bikes and check in. Martin & I sit up until around 2.30am eating salami & cheese, drinking vodka. Bev knocks on our door at 2.00am and is wondering where the last group (including her husband and our commander,Lang, are)

Monday 9th May - Falticeni - Romania is so different to Ukraine - the people smile spontaneously, there is fresh bread, the roads are better. A long run (at 50-60 kph) to Tecuci. Martin & I lunch at a service station on our usual faire of soft cheese. local salami, bread & chips.

                                             Lunch on my bike

Arrive at Tecuci, about 1km from hotel Martin's bike back blows through air cleaner and starts to die.
Serious problem that over next 12 hours will require new intake valve on R motor.

Martin & I help Hub (our new mechanic) pull the head off his R motor - it is obvious the intake valve is stuffed & will need repair in the am.
Tecuci hotel is a shocker - tiny room, bathroom stinking of mould. One double bed & not enough rooms for 1 room each. Martin & I sleep head to tail in the double bed. Htuge meal in hotel restaurant - massive meat platter for 2 that 3 of us struggle to eat.

Tuesday 10th May - Martin's motor needs significant work. I leave him behind & set off for Tulcea.
We cross the Danube at Galati on a ferry then beautiful ride through Romanian countryside to Tulcea on the Danube Delta.

                                             Bikes on Danube Ferry

Martin, Hub & Lang fix Martin's engine and then head off late for Tulcea. Ride through wild storm with hail, sliding the sidecars through corners. We have big meal at hotel, including fishermans borsch.

Wednesday 11th May - We have a great run from Tulcea to Mangalia on the Black Sea in southern Romania. Bikes run well, some beautiful countryside. Kids wave to us on the bikes. Martin stops to get money in a little town and is hassled by gypsy kids. Lunch on the bikes in village of Sacele.
Nice hotel on waterfront at Mangalia - I go for swim in Black Sea - a little cold (maybe 16 C) but I miss the water so much that I don't care.

                                            Our lunch spot in Sacele, Southern Romania
                                                              Friendly Local

                                              "Gypsy " Cart - these are everywhere in Romania

                                             View from our hotel in Romania

Tommorow we head for the border with Bulgaria.

Romania is a beautiful country - plains & rolling hills of agricultural land, beauiful people who actually smile & wave, fresh bread & the beautiful Black Sea. I'd like to come back here again.

More soon.