Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bikes Cleaned and Packed - Heading for Home

Genoa is a great city! People are friendly, food is delicious; restaurants, cafes and bars abound and prices are reasonable. It has a long history and, amongst other things, is the home of Christopher Columbus, discoverer of the new world. It is home to one of the oldest banks in the world - Bank of St George - which was founded in 1407. This port city has fabulous architecture, numerous galleries cathedrals, palaces and museums. Well worth a few days visit on the next trip to Europe.

Genoa panorama - courtesy of Wikipedia

Yesterday was spent washing the bikes, spares and gear at a local self-service car wash. All bikes have to be in a spotless condition to satisfy Australian quarantine requirements so all traces of soil, plant material, dirt, grime, etc, had to be removed. Things were going well and we nearly got all seventeen bikes cleaned up before the facility owner came along and went ballistic at the amount of oil, grease and other "material" going into his drains. The job was completed at a rival business down the road. (He did make a few bucks out of us though so it's hard to feel sorry for him.)

Robert about to insert yet more "gettoni's" into the high pressure cleaning machine

Warwick on the job with the high pressure hose

Myles kisses good-bye to his bike
(Sold to John - or rather to his partner, Jan)

Weather was some of the worst we've had since the trip began - it bucketed with rain all day! So it was a long, cold, wet job and a cold wet wait for the shipping company to let us in to their secure storage facility at about 3.00 pm. But, by the end of the day all bikes were clean and locked up in the warehouse. Everyone looked forward to hot showers, hot food and something "sustaining" to drink.

Sparkling clean bikes on the waterfront at Genoa

Clean bikes - Graham in his transparent miniskirt

Today we fronted up to the shipping company at 11.00 am to pack the bikes. Sue and Ivan's bikes were packed into a 20 foot container for shipping to New Zealand and the rest were loaded into two 40 footers for shipment to Brisbane. Spare wheels were taken off to allow the bikes to be loaded transversely across the container and with a bit of pushing and shoving all were made to fit in.

Sean with bikes in container no. 2

John and Dave - ready to load

Lang , Bev and Graham - waiting to load

No. 6 with the owner - last bike to load in container no. 1

Sean, John, Lang, Marcel, Graham and Robert - loading up

Brian, Robert, Lang and Warwick loading container no. 2

Group shot after last bike loaded!
Philip, Sean, Warwick, Graham, Brian, Stuart, Jim, Robert, Bev, Marcel, John, Lang

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Arrival Genoa!

We've arrived at Genoa - end point of the adventure! 

The facade of Roman Emperor Diocletian's palace at Split

Jim at the statue of Croatian priest Frane Bulic who introduced the vernacular to the mass

The author in the old city inside Diocletian's palace, Split

After Split we rode to Zadar in Croatia to take the ferry to Ancona in Italy. Our arrival in Split coincided with a Harley Davidson motorbike rally and about 5,000 Harleys from all over Europe (and overseas) congregated in Croatia. We shared the ferry with about a hundred of them! The strange thing about Split was the numerous bars/caffe's which served alcohol and coffee and the very few restaurants or other establishments that served food!

Planning the route - Lang and Bev at Split

Graham relaxing; Sasha on the job at Split

Sasha on the job again - fitting Marcel's new gearbox

Warwick, Stuart, Hub, Sasha and Dave at the Lada "workshop" van, Split

The ferry trip from Zadar to Ancona went off without a hitch. Most people managed to sleep on couches or chairs pushed together (no cabins available) and the galley served up an adequate dinner and breakfast. Flat seas meant no upset tummies.

Sidecars have more than one use - waiting to load at Zadar

Lined up with the Harley Davidsons at Zadar wharf

Different styles!

John and Marcel enjoying the cruise - about to arrive at Ancona

After arriving at Ancona we rode to Urbino, a beautiful town in the Tuscan highlands, where our campsite offered a fabulous view of the town. It's a university town now so there were plenty of young people about.

The campsite at Urbino

View of Urbino from the campsite

Typical Tuscan countryside enroute to Urbino

From Urbino it was another beautiful trip through the Tuscan mountain passes to Poppi, a small  village in another fabulous location. The woman who ran the camping ground could not have been more helpful or friendly. Major breakdowns with some of the bikes meant we spent a bonus second night there while Sasha's bike underwent an engine change and Sue's bike had a new differential fitted. Most other people explored the historic medieval castle in the town.

The neighbours at Poppi, Tuscany.
Typical fine stonework used in house construction.

Ivan contemplating the balustrade in the castle at Poppi

The bells in the castle tower, Poppi

Interesting sculpture in the castle garden.
(We weren't far from the vast marble deposits at Carrara)

The delightful campsite at Poppi

The river at Poppi with the castle in the background

Pisa was the next destination and the campsite was just down the road from the famous leaning tower (which is probably the most exciting thing to see in Pisa). We all made the pilgrimage to the tower and took the obligatory pictures. Camping was pretty basic but there is usually a bit of interaction with other campers who want to know what the story is with our group of vintage sidecars.

The most interesting thing about Pisa 

The next most interesting thing about Pisa

From Pisa to Lavento in the "Cinque Terres/ Rivierai di Levante" the scenery was nothing short of spectacular. It was a test of  bikes and riders to navigate the steep cliff climbs (and descents), curves, bends and switchbacks. Lavento is a small resort town on the coast and the camping ground was within walking distance of the beach. Marcel and I went "mountain climbing" to justify a tasty meal with a bottle of wine in a local hotel.

On the "Riviera di Levante", villages perched on cliffs and hilltops

The spectacular blue of the "Mare Ligure"/Gulf of Genoa

Terraced farms along the coast road to Lavento

Hillside farms near Lavento

The beach at Lavento

Marcel leading the mountain walk along a very dubious path

Today was a relatively easy run from Lavento to Genoa - most of it on the motorway, It's really a series of tunnels and viaducts and it seemed like we "tunnelled" all the way to Genoa which is an impressive city built on a series of hills and was a one-time rival to Venice.

Tonight we're booked in to a local seafood restaurant for a final dinner together. It's great that we've all made it here OK and enjoyed ourselves on the way - despite mechanical problems and other setbacks. Even today the bikes played up and some riders waited at Lavento for a couple of hours before setting off so Sasha could fix the problems. 

But we're here !! And in one piece !!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

From Thassos, Greece to Albania, Montenegro, Croatia

Bikes in their pyjamas, outside Hotel Logis in Florina, Greece

From Thassos we caught the ferry to Kavala on the Greek mainland and headed to Thessalonika. Didn't see much of the city as we were in a hotel on the outskirts. Arrived next day at Florina in northern Greece, near the Albanian border. Florina seemed to be full of Melbourne Greeks! Good food in Florina and very friendly people!

The next day (Wednesday 25 May) we climbed an incredibly steep range north of Florina and sampled some spectacular alpine scenery as we crossed into Albania. Our destination was Pogradec on the shores of Lake Ohrig.

Albanian fishermen netting in Lake Ohrig, Pogradec
(A couple of hours work yielded an ice cream container full of sardines)

From Pogradec we descended through the mountains to the Albanian coast and spent a night at the port city of Durres. The most interesting thing about Durres is its Roman amphitheatre and King Zog's villa that he built in the 1920's. It's derelict now and closed to the public but by bribing the guard we got through the razor wire.

"Hub" leaving Pogradec, Lake Ohrig in the background.

Albanian countryside - after leaving Pogradec

The Roman amphitheatre at Durres, Albania

Mosaics at the Roman amphitheatre

Brian in King Zog's Villa, Durres, Albania

King Zog's Villa

From Durres, Albania, we rode to Tivan on the "Montenegro Riviera". The scenery and architecture changed dramatically once we crossed the border into Montenegro. What a beautiful country and such a contrast to Albania! Marcel and I decided to lash out and eat at a quality restaurant adjacent to our hotel and enjoyed  first class Macedonian and Slovenian wines with our Adriatic seafood platter and Venison casserole. Quince brandy accompanied the coffee!

Private motor yachts at Tivan, Montenegro

John, Myles, Marcel and Dave - in front of our hotel

Our hotel at Tivan

Today we had a long ride of over 300 km from Tivan in Montenegro to Split in Croatia. It involved three border crossings! (Montenegro/Croatia/Bosnia Herzegovina/Croatia). Scenery was spectacular the whole way and there was the bonus of a modern motorway on the final run into Split.

On the ferry in Montenegro. (It took 50 km off the drive.)

Dubrovnik with its fabulous bridge and port
(We rode past it)

John and Myles admiring the bridge at Dubrovnik

Major breakdowns still occur with the bikes and diff changes, gearbox changes, head changes are a daily routine. My bike has generally been running OK but it won't idle and it's hard to start when hot. This means that I hold up the queue at border crossings and toll booths when it cuts out and I jump on the kick start in a frustrating attempt to get going again. The toll booth attendant at Split helped me push the machine out of the way today to let all the other (impatient) traffic through......

Our numbers are down to seventeen out of the original twenty riders. So far three have pulled out but, on a brighter note, our Ukrainian mechanic, Sasha, and his wife, Nadia, have joined us after three frustrating weeks of being turned back at borders, having ferries cancelled, etc. Sasha has already put in long night time hours doing major work on some bikes....

As I write, half the team are still to make it to Split. A major breakdown made it easier to put up in a hotel between Dubrovnik and Split rather than ride in the dark.

We'll have two days here at Split then drive to Zador to take the overnight ferry to Ancona in Italy.