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Old 06-03-2008, 08:34 AM   #1
simondippenhall OP
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A ride from London to the Red Sea (and back)

Here is a report of a 9,009 mile trip I just finished on Sunday, from my home near London, to the Red Sea South of Jordan. I enjoyed it so much that I turned around and rode back, using a different route.

Here is the bike packed up and ready to go.It is pretty grubby because I took a long ride in English snow a few weeks before, and then a half-day offroading on Salisbury Plain. I decided, being idle, it was hardly worth cleaning it before it got all dirty again.


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Old 06-03-2008, 08:36 AM   #2
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Hope there's more to come, looking forward to the report and the pictures
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:40 AM   #3
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OK let's start this!!! from 9009 miles I think you got something to write about and maybe some 9009 pictures to share!

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Old 06-03-2008, 08:41 AM   #4
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Thumb the preparations

This report is a mixture of my diary/blog notes at the time, and subsequent stuff. So if the chronology seems confusing, bear with me!



Here is the rough itinerary:



Channel Tunnel to Calais
Then boring motorway across France, Germany and Austria down to Slovenia and Zagreb .
From Zagreb down through Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania and possibly Macedonia (as in FYROM - and not sure if I have even got the order of the countries right!) and into Greece. Places like Mostar and Sarajevo, for example.
Then by way of Gallipoli and Canakkale to Turkey, bypassing Istanbul as I have been there before, and will save it perhaps for the return journey, I hope to take a Southern route via Izmir and towards Anatolia and along the coastal roads to Adana and then on to Aleppo in Syria.
Cappadocia and Konya in Turkey may have to wait for the return journey.
From Aleppo down to Damascus (possibly via Lebanon) and into Jordan where I hope to visit Petra and Wadi Rum, before turning North and heading back, this time visiting Palmyra in Eastern Syria. I am exploring whether I can ship the bike back from Aqaba in Southern Jordan, as the road home is never as exciting as the road out, just long!
I am doing my imitation of a pin-cushion in the coming weeks so I am suitably immunised.
Paperwork so far is simple (possibly because I am missing something !) :
I now have my Syrian multiple entry visa.
The word is that a carnet is not necessary for Syria or Jordan.

Only struggle has been to get a Green card (failure so far at both Devitt and Carol Nash/BMW ) so I will need to buy local insurance in the non-EU countries.




Not too long now!

March 24, 2008
It’s only about 4 weeks now until the starting day, 25th April. That’s when I hope to hop onto the GS and set off for the Channel Tunnel, early in the morning so I can get a good start.
The last few weeks have been very frustrating because in my wisdom I decided to replace the cat with a Y piece in the hope of lower weight, improved fuel consumption and performance. And in any case the cat was a dog ( ; )) after the regular doses of leaded fuel in Western Sahara a few years ago.
The cat was hard work to remove, even with Steptoe’s hard work, and the Y piece I had bought immediately melted the indicator! So had to procure another Y piece and fit that. It then threatened to melt the pannier…until a fellow GSer helped me out with an extension pipe, very generously.
So that just left a huge thirst for petrol (it seemed). Only after 3 tanks full has that (seemingly) abated. Fingers crossed.




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Old 06-03-2008, 08:48 AM   #5
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And now the Zumo has packed up!

April 3, 2008
Just noticed that the Zumo is not charging when it is on the bike. Tried it in 2 other cradles and it would not power in either one. I managed to charge it via the transformer.
A big problem for a long ride. So I turned to my technical guru, el-Tim of Fes, who gave me the obvious solution:
Send it back to Garmin. (A bit like the IT guys solution: Turn it off and then on again).
So today it went off in the post. This is the third Garmin Zumo that has failed for me in the past 10 months …and yet the units have had very little use. Maybe I will get an award!
Now I am hoping to get a brand-spanking new Zumo (with City Navigator 2008 version) in the post while I am away next week.
Following Mick’s helpful suggestion I have ordered an extra puncture repair kit on eBay (hopefully this will guarantee no punctures!). I am off after dinner to check the spark-plug circuit after some dazzling technical advice from the sage of Chesterfield (who is also the maker of the pipe-extension that has stopped my panniers and indicator melting!).
If anything is going to break on the bike, I would rather it happened in the next few weeks here in UK rather than halfway through the trip. Or at least, that is my pretext for accepting a very doubtful invitation from Nick Smith to go off-roading in the mud of Salisbury Plan last Saturday.
The usual embarrassing pictures are included in the youtube vid kindly contributed by Nick, link below. As usual I fell off rather often while Nick saved his off for a perfectly straightforward piece of track! (Something to do with the length of his legs, I think). Enjoy.




It did serve the purpose because the photos showed me that my main beam bulb had gone (possibly as a result of me throwing the bike at the scenery on that day), and the LHS rear indicator lense disappeared. It was already looking Dali-esque after the combination of new Y piece and standard can melting the indicator.
After the sale of the Pan European, I started to clear the garage as a result of which a gaucho, an adjustable Y piece, and a billet aluminium RAM mount for a Garmin i3 are likely to hit the UKGser For Sale stand soon!
It also allowed me to spot a large brown rat making its way up the garage wall to the ‘teenager space’ above. Could explain the mysteriously chewed objects around there.

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Old 06-03-2008, 08:51 AM   #6
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Old 06-03-2008, 08:55 AM   #7
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Awesome ride!!




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Old 06-03-2008, 08:59 AM   #8
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Pissed Zumo saga continues....

When I got back to UK after a short overseas trip, my replacement Garmin unit was waiting for me. (Recall this is the 4th I have had in 10 months).
Within 30 minutes of use it developed a fault, and put itself into automatic backup and shutdown. I was so incensed that I rang Garmin and said I would return it in person that afternoon (they are 36 miles away in Southampton).

Net result, I returned the unit and the guys there told me that it was a new fault they had not seen before. (Always good to know you are part of the R&D programme, when you have paid full price!). They have given me a new unit, so now I am crossing my fingers that unit number 5 does not give up during the trip.

2 days and counting…!

It’s Tuesday evening and I am now booked on the Eurotunnel on Friday morning. (Amazingly it’s £56 one way, or £23 for a day-return….!). Guess which one I went for?
This week’s revelation was that if I get to Dusseldorf by 17h30 on Friday I can take the Deutschebahn Autozug (Car-train to you and me) from there to Villach on the southern border of Austria. It gets in Saturday morning at 0926 and costs much the same as fuel and a hotel to do it by road.
Let’s hope the couchette is comfortable.
I have also booked a hotel in Zagreb, apparently a former workers’ complex and 30 minutes from Main Sq. Hoping to meet Damir for a beer Saturday evening before collapsing for a well-earned sleep.


A frantic last day:

I ended up making 2 trips to London today…got home after 3 meetings to get a call back for a follow up meeting …
I had managed to get caught in a torrential storm leaving London at 2, biked amidst deafening lightning thru Battersea and discovered that the 12 year-old Aerostich suit does not hold out a good celestial torrent any more. (No time to wash and re-proof it before I go).

So I elected to take the train for the 2nd trip to London.
As a result got home at 8pm and the packing has only just been finished now, at 11pm. Departure tomorrow at 7 am.
Bike already looks filthy as a result of today’s storm and the outing on Salisbury Plain a few weeks ago.
Everyone that I have told about the trip have been wildly enthusiastic. I think I could have sold extra seats! It turned out that 1 person I met today spent their gap-year in Jordan, and another had worked in Syria. They all had excellent memories of their time there.

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Old 06-03-2008, 09:08 AM   #9
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London to Dusseldorf

I have made it to Greece and am now installed overnight in a Greek seaside town called Asprovalta…….. Have negotiated a nice room for 25euro, and wifi thrown in. Just got back from a dinner of Greek salad and kalimari with Mythos beer…just the job after a day on the bike.
The departure from home was pretty straightforward, and when I got to the tunnel there were a lot of Hardly riders there - believe it or not, the ‘Surrey Chapter of Harley’…not sure if they were wearing Hush Puppies! I just followed them onto the train an hour or more earlier than I had booked - no-one pays attention to the code letters showing which train time you have booked, just waved us on. All the HD riders had tons of ‘just bought in the shop’ kit…so I am already concerned about my recent purchase of an Electraglide! The HD riders were off to Le Touquet to celebrate St George’s Day (!) – (for overseas viewers, this is a quaint English celebration of their patron saint who was actually Greek!)
I rolled onto the motorway and headed for Dusseldorf, with a much better margin for error now. Kept going until a desperate petrol stop after 20 miles on empty. While refuelling I got the first of many questions from other bikers about:
-where are you going? Syria, Jordan
-are you on your own? Yes
Then silence, followed by:
-why????? Harder to answer but any ADVRider knows why!


I tried to find a cafe somewhere in the German countryside to have my first coffee of the day, which I needed badly aftre the tedium of German roads. I ended up going for miles in unsuccessful pursuit - a few sad-looking bier-kellars (closed!) and that was it.



Made it to the train fine, and it was an excellent decision to let the train take the strain….easy to get on (other than the ultra-low vehicle carriages which meant wearing a helmet while loading was essential, esp on the GS). I had a big compartment for 6 shared with 2 others…a Dutch biker and a Bosnian taxi driver, who has lived for 40 years in Germany. He looked about 60 ish but proudly announced he was 78 and looking for his 5th wife! He was a former Yugoslav officer and had all tyhe military bearing. Geography was I suspect his special subject in officer training as he described every river we crossed on our trip. I will try to attach his picture (I never learnt his name, sadly).
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Old 06-03-2008, 09:49 AM   #10
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Breaking Ride Report Thread Rules

I am already in violation of the report rules as I am now posting pictures of the train ride I took...but please forgive me Mr Mod as the bike was in the caboose, see pictures below.

There was also a good crew of bikers on the train...for some reason all my photos of them, taken in the train bar, are very blurry and partly obscured by beer bottles so I will not post them here.

There was another bike traveller near the Dusseldorf station who tok a more minimalist approach than most of us (AND he had a dog with him as well!).


There was also a group of Austrian Triumph and Austin enthusiasts preparing to travel on the train.


Here is a train load of bikes headed South.

Here is the Bosnian taxi-driver, in pretty good shape for a 78 year old man.


My other train companion was a Dutch builder. He was a little worried because he had a 3 day trip on his own until his biking buddy joined him. When he thought about what I was doing I think he became a little more relaxed about the chances of him surviving for the 3 days, and he even began to plan his itinerary a bit more adventurously!


Conditions in the Austrian Alps were looking a little cool!




And here, even trucks take the train! (En route to Turkey, or at least, Turkish registerd).
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Old 06-03-2008, 10:08 AM   #11
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From Villach (S Austria) to Zagreb (Croatia)

Train arrived in Villach close to the scheduled 0926 (but not the legendary, Germanic punctuality of hearsay) and it was a 10 minute job to unload and get on the road. I had decided that I did not want a Euro 100 fine for not having an Austrian motorway vignette but was also too tight to buy one (all of 5 Euro!). So the answer was to enter Slovenia via the Wurzenpass, altho one of the riders was muttering that he had seen on t’internet that it might be closed for snow.





So as I started uphill I checked at a petrol station who confirmed all was well and I had a good refresher on Alpine bends as I rode through the forest. The Slovenia border, at the top of a montain, was a non-event…there was no-one there!





I stopped for coffee on the way to Bled, and ignorantly asked if they would accept Euros. ‘Sir we have been using the Euro for 2 years!’. Bled castle, a little later, was very Dracula-esque on the mountain-top.









From there I went via Kranj to Ljubjlana (try spelling that after 2 beers!) where I had a Coke and a toasted sandwich while watching the crowds.

A not-so-ordinary car in main square of Ljubjlana:




Then on to Zagreb thru the mountains. I ended up following fabulous biker roads which got smaller and smaller. Puzzled, and after stopping a Slovene biker for directions, I realised that I had set the GPS preferences to avoid not just Motorways but also Highways! So it was sending me down the smallest lanes it could find in the Julian Alps. I was probably destined to end up in a haystack or farmyard somewhere!


The crossing into Croatia was pretty straightforward, just a passport check and no more.
Got to Zagreb safely, and to Hotel Dora - a former railway workers home of some sort and surrounded by trains in the garden, it was vastly overpriced and generally smelling of cabbage.



Charming approach to Hotel Dora in Zagreb:


Each room I was given had either unmade beds or someone else’s clothes, to the point I told the clerk to check the room out personally before he sent me off to occupy it - especially as there was no lift and it was very hot.




The hotel:

In the basement a big party was going on, with a lot of booze flowing and cheery singing of ballads - possibly a railway-workers lament for the demise of central planning?



The hotel was surrounded by lots of defunct trains...possibly a trainspotter's paradise?


Riding into Zagreb I realised the drivers were very aggressive. When I met Damir he said that beyond Zagreb the drivers were lunatics so I should be careful. (Absent Tirana, I think the Zagreb drivers were actually the worst!). I was st6arving and Damir very generously bought me dinner before we went out on a motorcycle tour of the city with his friend. It was a wet night which made an interesting combination with all the cobbled streets in the City - but no falls, fortunately.



Damir's friend tells me that Croatian bikers generally drink and drive, and the police are not too worried. Generally the trnd on this trip is that as I go South the degree of 'worrying about bikers' goes down, with the notable exception of Turkey as I discovered later!

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Old 06-03-2008, 11:37 AM   #12
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Old 06-03-2008, 12:32 PM   #13
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This is a brief update only as i am struggling with a Cyrillic keyboard which makes anything very slow! More will follow.

Today (Day 3( I have ridden from Zagreb / Croatia to Sarajevo in Bosnia Hercegovina, stopped for lunch in Banja Luka which is also in BH but is also the administrative capital of the Republic of Serbia / not to be confused with Serbia which is a separate state (and does not recognise Kosovo is a separate state!).

I made the mistake of asking to see a mosque….this is the place where they destroyed all 16 mosques during the unrest!

All clear on that now?

All has gone smoothly and the bike is runnng fine touch wood. Roads are magnificent, hardly any other bikes. Lots of Bosnian cops hiding in speed traps but I have been lucky so far.

Hope I find a more friendly keyboard soon.



Lunch was a rather pricey lasagne (8 Euro)!
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Old 06-03-2008, 01:35 PM   #14
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this was the route

that i first planned down to Turkey.

Of course the eventual route turned out different.....which is part of the fun!

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Old 06-03-2008, 01:47 PM   #15
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Leaving Zagreb

Leaving the Hotel Dora in Zagreb the next day, I felt a little more fond of it after a good breakfast with a very fresh omelette. Following Damir’s GPS trail I headed straight out of the City and onto A roads which were slow enough to enjoy everything around.



Still all was very tidy and ‘Mittel Europa’ style, a little like the Tyrol. Then at Petrinja (still Croatia) it started to get a bit more ‘Wild West’. Finally I entered Bosnia-Herzegovina at Kostunica.

Approaching Bosnia:


The border guard quizzed me about the absence of a Green Card and said: 'big problem'. He pondered a little longer, then justified inaction to himself as I was ‘just in transit to Banja Luca’ (not quite true!).



So off I rode into a fascinating new country. Or rather two, as Hercegovina is (so the signs say) ‘Republic of Serbia’ and now remarkably free of mosques..or at least, in Banja Luca. There are a lot of roadside shrines to road death victims, usually 20 something years old, complete with picture. I see more of these every mile or less, throughout the Balkan countries.






The first (but certainly not last) horse and cart of the trip:



Hard to tell from this picture but here is a lapdancing club next to a mosque!

I had an overpriced lunch of lasagne in Banja Luca which was rather stalinesque, I felt, and was keen to get on to Sarajevo. A biggish city with a 6km approach road leading into a small city cntre around the river- very appealing and lively. Zumo took me straight to the city centre address I wanted where a tout offered me a pension for 20 Eu which turned out to be fine. Bike was secure as it was parked outside the police station.







There was a feeling of crispness in the air because of the altitude - Sarajevo did, after all, host the Winter Olympics. This is probably a fonder memory fopr the citizens than the several years of siege they endured from the Serbians in the 90’s.
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