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Mogs Travels: September 2009

Mogs Travels

Monday, September 28, 2009


We had a lovely time yesterday in Primosten. It was a good move, arriving about 1.00pm then having the afternoon on the beach. The town really came alive in the evening though when all the yachties mo ored up.

Today we had the best ride of the whole trip heading north along the coast but first the road went through some built up resorts and then headed inland. At one point we reached a large village where we saw the only significant evidence of the war in Croatia. Collapsed, ruined or empty shrapnel pitted buildings greatly outnumbered those that were inhabited. The streets were empty and nearby were the warning signs outlining a minefield. What had happened to the people here. Had they fled? Are they dead? How many mothers lost their sons and husbands? It reminded me that we've seen few middle aged men here. There's plenty of old & young but men in there 40's & 50's are thin on the ground.

An hour or so further on and were came to a wonderful stretch of tarmac which went on for about 80 miles. Small narrow coves separated by the shoulders of mountains with the road following close to the water level and new grippy tarmac gave perfect biking conditions. It would have been ideal on a sportsbike but I got my little GS to lean over more than its ever done. Fantastic!!

We're now in a B&B in the seaside town of Crikvenica. The Tourist Agency ( or Tourist Biro as they're known here - disappointingly I didn't get a free pen!) suggested this place and rang the owner who came on his scooter to show us the way. His build and gait remind me of Fred Flinstone though he's in shorts and t shirt not skins. He's a large man who appeared on a little scooter wearing a workman's red hard hat perched on his head with no chin strap. The whole time were following him he rode with one hand as he was busy talking into his mobile phone with the other! Berto's Motorrad Pansion is great. we have a clean spacious room with balcony overlooking the sea, with breakfast for €30 again. Great! this evening's meal was also half the price we've paid elsewhere.

Tomorrow we return to the EU, crossing Slovenia and up into the Dolomites of Italy

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Ok, have wifi now so I'll jump back a bit to Mostar. After the depressingly busy stop in Neum the day got better! Interestingly Neum is Bosnia's only coastal town, splitting Croatia into two parts. It's Bosnian because the Republic of Dubrovnik sold it to the Turks a few hundred years ago in order to save it from being destroyed by them! It's remained a part of Muslim Bosnia since.

Anyway after driving up a green fertile valley full of fruit trees, olives and vines we started seeing shrapnel damage on buildings and ruins together with new builds. The shrapnel damage became more intense as we entered the city in sharp contrast to the normal everyday life going on there. Although the old town & bridge is famous, it's only a tiny part of Mostar which is a modern city. Not far under the surface however it remains a troubled place. This main thoroughfare with traffic lights, alongside a heavily shelled ruin, was the front line during the war and still divides the city. The Catholic Croats live on one side of it, the Muslim Bosniaks on the other.

According to our guide the economy of the city has collapsed and many of the former industries are no more. Tourism is now a major source of income. One of the old industries that still thrives is winemaking from all those vineyards we passed. The Muslim Bosniaks make the wine and also drink it, except perhaps during Ramadan. They seem to have a very relaxed version of Islam here! The hour long guided tour through the old Turkish town and of course over the bridge was was full of interest. It wasn't hard to see how vulnerable the town was to the overlooking hills but I hadn't realised the destruction of the old bridge was purely a show of strength as it had little military advantage. The big question however wasn't asked, or answered. How can friends and neighbours kill each other and how can they live together afterwards? The fact that the city is divided suggests an uneasy truce and one wonders how long the peace can be maintained.


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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Going North

Well here we are about 180 miles north of Dubrovnik. Not quite sure of the name of the place but it's very pretty. Arrived just after lunch, found a nice apartment for €30 for the night & spent the afternoon on the beach. Lovely meal this evening and are now pretty chilled! Had a great day yesterday in Mostar. Will tell you all about it when we get some internet access. For now I'm limited to the phone so will cut it short for now. Chris

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

Trip to Mostar

For some reason we decided to take an organised bus tour to Mostar rather than riding there. It seems well organised but unfortunately the are a huge number of coaches and minibuses on the road so here is the scene at our first stop. Chaos! Well, organised chaos. With so many tourists the logistics of transporting, feeding and toiletting everyone is complex but is efficiently undertaken. In Dubrovnik old town the scale of supplying all the restaurants where no motor vehicles are allowed, and so many are up narrow alleys, is mind boggling.

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Friday, September 25, 2009


Yesterday we had another great ride through fabulous mountain scenery. Decided to keep inland and drive through part of Bosnia but felt rather hard done by when they charged us €21 each for insurance compared to €10 in Montenegro and it was only for three days!

After crossing our second border of the day we were in Croatia and descended from the cool, peaceful emptiness of the mountains to the heat & crowds of Dubrovnik. We spent today in the old town, which is beautiful. It would be fun exploring if there weren't so many people there! There are two huge cruiseliners in the port and large streams of their passengers on guided walking tours. I'm glad to have seen the place and learnt a little of the history but it's probably my least favourite part of the whole trip.


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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Crno Jezero

No biking today but not as lazy one either. We took a walk to one of the largest glacial lakes here in the Durmitor National Park, known as Crno Jezero or black Lake. It was about 5-6 mile round trip and fairly rough going around the lake itself. there are actually two lakes, the small one above and the large one alongside. As you see the water level wasn't high but nonetheless the place was beautiful and serene. There were few people there no traffic and silence apart from the cawing of crows and the splash of fish as they leapt sometimes a couple of feet in the air. The colours were intense. The bright green of the marsh grass, dark green of the pine forests, turqoise water and blue sky. When we arrived there was no wind so the forests were perfectly reflected in the lake. It was a very peaceful place to spend a couple of hours.

Tomorrow we head back to touristland in the form of Dubrovnik


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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Road to Durmitor

Today has, without doubt been the best day's riding we've ever had. We are both stunned by the beauty of this place. If you get a chance come to Montenegro in the next couple of years before the Eurohoardes arrive. If you can do it on a bike, all the better. We set off today over the mountain above Kotor. 27 hairpins to the top where the whole bay was visible, with all its twists and turns together with the coast to the south. Over the pass we were in a hidden valley with houses, farms and churches then a few more hairpins to crest another hill. Now, in front of us, range after range of mountains, to the horizon. We dropped down into the valley and took the modern A road, fast & twisty to Podgorica, the capital. Next the road narrowed and followed the river, increasingly below us in a limestone gorge. The road was cut into the edge of the rocky mountainside with frequent short tunnels.

Next a left turn along the Tara River. Now it was green and agricultural.. Each house had its fields with small hayricks and the people were out digging their potatoes and selling them by the roadside. A side valley had no bridge so we detoured a couple of miles up it and then back to the main valley. The hillsides were then covered in woodland as the road rose higher above the river. Eventually we reached the famous Tara River Bridge with views up the valley.

After another 22 km of twisty ut flat terrain we arrived in Zabljak. There's not much to this town but it's in the centre of the national park which we'll have a brief look at tomorrow. Have already met a delightful Italian couple who have been here a couple of days, exploring two up on a 1200 GS and part of a group of 15 British hikers. It's amazing how much company there is in the middle of nowhere!


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Monday, September 21, 2009

A Bunker & A Border

ok I'm jumping about a bit here but we've discovered the b&b has free wifi & as i'm sheltering indoors from the mid-day sun it seemed a good opportunity to fill in some bits I've skipped. Also I've had a special request for bunker photos

It was only an hour from our last Albanian stop in Shkoder to the border. About a hundred yards before reaching the border post I spotted a concrete bunker in a carpark next to a hand carwash. I'd been wanting to get up close to a bunker as all the others we'd seen had been too far from the road. Also the bikes were filthy so this was a perfect spot. LB washed the bikes while I pratted around with the camera taking photos of the bunker!.An excellent division of labour!

The bunker was tiny. You had to stoop to enter it & inside it was only about 5'10" high. I could just touch opposing walls with my finger tips. It's walls were double skinned concrete with quite a big gap between.

We didn't see quite as any of them as expected. There were lots at the Greek border, some on mountain passes and others on beaches. The rest of the countryside seemed clear of them.

With clean bikes we then headed for Montenegro. The border post was modern with a joint building between Albania & Montenegro. A road for cars and pavement for pedetrians went either side of the four, in-line, offices of passport & customs for each country. Very civilised. We were pleasantly surprised to be beckoned from the back of the queue of cars to ride up the pavement and go through the empty & narrow pedestrian side. Great fun! We've had no problems at all at the borders. We bought another €10 each bike insurance from another office next to customs & were all set to go.

Just down the road we stopped at this little shop for a cold drink. The owner who you see here sat down with us, chatted in Albian, pointed out the route on the map and gave us a load of figs off the tree in his garden. Wonderful hospitality!


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Sunday, September 20, 2009


The Bay of Kotor in Montenegro. It is beautiful! It's an inlet of the sea not a lake. Mind you we worked for this photo. Our b&b is on the left hand side of the bay and , this morning, we walked from there to the fortress high on the hill above Kotor town on the right bank. The walk up from the town was hot and steep over irregular cobbles and uneven steep stone steps and took us about an hour. The view from the top was fantastic.
Kotor town is a very pretty, walled Venetian town full of tiny streets and alleyway, churches, squares, bars and tourists. We haven't really got to know the locals but have enjoyed plenty of English speaking company for the first time this trip. This afternoon we recovered from our exertions with a swim in the bay and a relax on the B&'s private beach. It's so nice we're going to stay another day.

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Saturday, September 19, 2009


Arrived today in Montenegro. Its lush and green unlike Albania. Roads are good but busy. Staying in b&b on Bay of Kotor. Here's the view from it's private concrete beach. Now drinking beer in Kotor town square people watching. No internet so short phone posts for now.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Last Day in Albania

It has been a struggle getting internet access here so excuse the bad spelling courtesy of my phone's predictive text on previous posts. Now in a 5 * star hotel in the business centre which has two computers connected to the internet but with out of date anti-virus! No photos today as I won't be plugging my sd card into this computer! I will post photos and more comments after I reach home

Albania has been an interesting experience. The people are unfailingly friendly and helpful but the infrastructure is poor. In many ways Albania reminds me of Cuba. (Bet you've not been there Mark!) Both are Western countries in poverty struggling to live a western lifestyle, although the underlying causes, though both political, are different. Here mobile phones and satellite dishes abound but rubbish lies in the street, the minor roads are rock strewn tracks and the one hospital we saw looked dire.

The roads here are an unending source of amazement. Leaving Saranda we were treated to the most glorious twisty tarmac winding around the beautiful Ionian coast & up to the the Llhogara Pass 1000m above sea level. Today on a more major road we were plagued by road works where there was just gravel and potholes. The bikes actually fared better than the cars as it was easier to pick a route around the holes. The cars are also interesting, a lot of Mercs, both beaten up old jalopies and brand new ones. There's a lot of old cars generally, a fair number of modern mid sized saloons and a surprising number of top end ultra expensive Mercs, BMW's and Audis all with blacked out windows. One wonders where there money came from.

Yesterday we stayed in Vlore, a lively port and seaside town whose tourists are mostly Albanian. In the 1990 it was famed as a centre for drug & people trafficking which was carried out quite openly. You've got to think the trade lives on but underground.

Today we're in Shkoder, a busy, cosmopolitan town & have treated ourselves to 5* luxury at 75euro for the night. Note the 5* luxury includes a bath but not a plug ( fortunately we brought our own) and we had two power cuts in the first hour here. It is very plush though. The town is again pretty lively with wide streets, lots of apartment blocks and tarmac on all the roads! Wow! Tomorrow we'll cross the border into Montenegro and have just boooked ourselves a b&b for a couple of nights on the Bay of Kotor. The scenery is apparently very beautiful there and the roads supposedly better so we hope to get up into the mountains as well as explore the coast.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Day in Butrint

Top photo taken from window of local bus we caught this morning. The scenery is beautiful but the roads are pretty bad. Local life on the bus was interesting. Standing room only, the conductress knew everyone and shouted at most, one woman was breast feeding and we transported a crate of milk contained in assorted water and pop bottles. Destination was Butrint a Greco-Roman town founded in C6th. Loads of ruins and very atmospheric.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Saranda, Albania

We're in Albania!!! Crossed the border without problems, first check out of Greece then ride through no mans land & check in to Albania. Found the place to by insurance for the bikes (13 euro each for 15 days) then changed some money. 200 pound =259,000 Leke! Greece was green & verdant, initally Albania brown & barren. Hundreds of concrete bunkers/pill boxes lined the road to the border, now derelict. Took a twisty, hair pinned road over the mountains to Saranda which is on the coast. Roads as bad as we'd been told, nice tarmac that stops without warning followed by long stretches of gravel. Glad I have the GS not the Blade.

Saranda is nice. Hotels and apartments surround a beautiful bay facing out to Corfu. Met some English daytrippers who'd come from there today. They took some persuading that we were staying here & not on their boat trip. This evening ate out on the seafront. It was very lively! Loud music, lots of people, flash cars driving up and down, fast food stalls & kiddies rides added to the atmosphere. There were definitely a strange excess of men out. Although there were family groups and couples, mostly there were single sex groups of men, young and old, out for the evening together. The women were few and far between. Anyway all's going well so far. We've a nice hotel with room with sea view and plan a day off the bikes tomorrow. We'll catch the local bus to Butrint to see the remains of the Greco Roman town there

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I didn't know Greek roads were like this! We were relieved to leave Italy but had just thought of Greece as a short hop of no consequence in the trip. Instead we had two hours of the best ever riding. Good twisty and empty tarmac. Bliss!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

leaving Italy

Here's our ferry. It's rather plush! Escalators from the bbq deal and a large double cabin. It's much nicer than similar ferry to Spain. It's full of Germans with their motorhomes. There.s also a few italians swiss & austrian. No Greeks! Also no other bikes & no Brits. Arriving Greece 9.00Am. Then straight to Albanian border. We're really excited! Elvie

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Number 46

Have never seen so many 46's! We had coffee in Tavullia this morning. The place is bedecked in yellow - doors windows railings trees and even the water pump paid homage to Rossi. .It was a nice town too

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside!

Though not many other people seem to! Here we are in Rimini which is very much off season despite temperatures in the mid twenties. It has that faded desultory air of all out of season holiday resorts. We arrived at mid day after an hour spent avoiding kamikaze drivers on the motorway followed by two hours in snail slow nose to tail traffic on the roads we used to avoid the motorway.

We have spent this afternoon using up the leeway we had built into the schedule in case we had any hold ups en route to the ferry. We've walked along the beach, had a couple of beers, washed our smalls and had an afternoon nap. Very relaxing! Are off out nnow to a nice restaurant that we spotted earlier.


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Saturday, September 12, 2009


Crossed into Italy through the Mont Blanc Tunnel today. Wonderful scenery in French and Italien Alps though a bit chilly. Now in wifi-less cheap motel off motorway hence blog by phone. Temp 27deg. Rimini tomorrow. Elvie

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Friday, September 11, 2009


It was an early start this morning - very early! 1.00am to be precise, when we had a text from our son to say the alarm service had rung hi to report a mains failure. We've had a problem with our electrics at home and the electrician had spent two and a half days, last week, fixing it, or so we & he thought! After a sleepless night a flurry of phone calls resulted in the electrician picking up a key from mother-in-law and going to the house. Meanwhile LB & I set off to the Tunnel terminus by a circuitous route due to my wrongly programming the gps.
Disappointingly the first train we could get was at 10.20 about an hour later than we had hoped. It gave us chance to ring home and find the electrics were sorted and to give the alarm centre the electricians number so we won't be bothered by them again this trip. The final hitch was missing the security check & being pulled out of the queue to go back & be tested for explosives!

After the usual wait & chat to fellow biking travellers we boarded the train, reaching Calais at about 12.30.

At last we felt we were really on our way. We made a determined effort to push on, with minimal stops for fuel, drink & cereal bar & covering 400 miles. Dole was reached at about 6.00 & we booked into the Etap, not least because of the free wifi. Another long motorway trek is planned for tomorrow and then we'll be able to relax a bit . So far we're loving it, & this is supposed to be the boring bit!


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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Not an exciting start to the trip! We're staying at this Travelodge & ate at the adjacent Little Chef all of which are situated in the services no a dual carriageway. There is method in our madness as we're only 30 minutes from the Channel Tunnel Terminus & it's cheap and cheerful. Unlike last year we had an uneventful journey although made very stately progress down the M25 due to the sheer weight of traffic at five o'clock. Roll on French roads! Elvie

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mixed Messages

The panniers are packed and we're ready for our next adventure but I'm just wondering how adventurous we really are. The plan is to leave home tomorrow and stay overnight in Kent. An early train through the Chunnel on Friday will be the prelude to three days of motorway driving to the north of Italy. Monday will see us on an overnight ferry to Greece, from where we will make our way up through Albania, Montenegro,Croatia, a little bit of Bosnia and Slovenia.

The Balkans - synonymous with recent wars, land mines, ethnic cleansing and organised crime. Our bike insurance companies will not provide insurance for Albania, Montenegro or Bosnia. We apparently can buy 3rd party insurance at the border. It all sounds a bit dodgy.

The Lonely Planet Guide, however, states that the Western Balkans is slightly safer than the developed world average. In Muslim areas in particular there is less street crime due to low alcohol consumption. There is some fantastic scenery and historical sites ( and sights!) and all the countries we're visiting are keen to increase tourism. The greatest danger seems to be driving standards in Albania. So, we will have to wait and see. Watch this space!


Monday, September 7, 2009

Travellers Reunited!

One of the best things about travelling is the people we meet en route. Last year in Hungary we spent a couple of days with Joeri, a Belgian biker. He's now touring the UK and stayed a couple of days with us last week. Its the first time we've been able to offer hospitality like this & I thoroughly enjoyed it. We fed him well, plied him with alcohol, showed him some of the local sites, including Dylan Thomas's Boathouse and took him on a rideout.

Great fun! We had the obligatory group photo on his departure. Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip Joeri.

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