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Mogs Travels: October 2009

Mogs Travels

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Balkans Holiday Revisited - last days

Homeward Bound

On leaving Berto we were presented with a string of dried figs from his garden. It's a bit like string beans, if you grow them you have a glut and give them away to all and sundry. No problems with the bowels this holiday!

After a slow start through Rijeka's rush hour we soon left the Adriatic Coast and crossed into the green wooded valleys of Slovenia. By mid-day we'd reached Italy and headed up into the Dolomities. We finished the day with the rather nice Falzarego & Valparola Passes before finding a B&B in the ski town of La Villa. The next day we rode over 200 miles to travel about 65 milesto take in plenty of passes.

First the lovely open Gardena Pass

Then the green Mendel Pass

The Tonale Pass came next, followed by the surprise - the Gavia Pass! This didn't show on our maps and was quite a shock, steep, very narrow, tight hairpins, rough tarmac and no barriers! At 2600m it was a big one! We didn't manage to stop on the way up, it was too scary! This nice lake was at the top though.

Next was the main object of the day - the Stelvio. This was a doddle after the Gavia. We stopped to take the classic views looking up and down the north side.

We overnighted in nearby Silandro & the following morning did our final pass, the Timmelsjoch into Austria. We'd struggled with this a few years back when new to biking but yesterdays practice paid off & we found it easy. It was rather foggy at the top which limited photo opportunities but we managed a few

Finally saying goodbye to the mountains we crossed Austria & into Germany to to Stuttgart to stay overnight with relatives. The D roads of France provided our final rather chilly route home.

Altogether a great trip with a wide variety of different roads, fabulous scenery and interesting new cultures. We can heartily recommend it to anyone considering venturing in that direction & would be happy to share advise with anyone who wants it.


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Balkans Holiday Revisited - Day 17 & 18

Days 17 & 18 up the Croatian Coast

We were glad to get back on the bikes and head north along the coast road of Croatia. This is a lovely road particularly the more northerly half and runs alongside several National Parks which sadly, we didn't really have time to visit. Along most of the route the mountains come down to the sea and the road winds around alternating small coves and headlands. The tarmac is perfect and all the bends are beautifully cambered. Even if you don't venture further into the Balkans this is a road not to miss either on a GS or sports bike.

At times the road headed inland. We rode through one village where the number of ruins and abandoned, shrapnel marked houses way outnumbered the inhabited ones. The streets seemed empty though there was some new building going on. Neaby were the warning signs of a minefield. This was the only significant evidence of the war that we saw in Croatia but really brought home the terror of living through it, if you survived. Having read up on the Croatian war I think this was the site of the Skabrnja Massacre A very sobering place to come across.

Anyway we didn't push too hard on this part of the trip and pulled over in the old town of Primosten in time for a few hours on the beach & a swim in the sea. One word of warning if you're heading this way - you need beach shoes. There's no sand, no nice round pebbles just sharp grit! Our entry into the sea was not elegant!

Our apartment here cost us €30 for the night and included a bowl of fresh grapes and figs from the owners garden

Later spent an hour taking photos of the sunset before a nice meal in one of the many restaurants

For our second night along this coast we stopped at the large seaside resort of Crikvenica. The Tourist Office suggested a small hotel and rang the owner to show us the way. Berto was wonderful, a large cheerful man riding a small red scooter and wearing a red builders hat as a lid. ( He also owned an Aprilia RSV Mille ) The whole time we followed him he rode one handed while talking into his mobile! Berto's Motorrad Pansion was lovely, with a balcony & sea views, a small bar and cost.....yes €30 ( there's a bit of a theme here!)



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Balkans Holiday Revisited - Day15 & 16

Days 15 & 16,Dubrovnik & Mostar

Dubrovnik has been described as the Pearl of the Adriatic and there's no doubt it's a beautiful city. Unfortunately, it was difficult to see for the crowds!

We were staying in a cramped B&B in the seaside suburb of Lapad and took the 10 minute bus ride into the old town for the day. Unfortunately there were two huge cruise ships moored in the port. They had disgorged thousands of passengers each all of whom were all being led around the town in crocodiles folowing their tour guides.

To be honest after a walk around and a nice lunch in one of the quieter streets we were glad to head back to our bilious green room on the top floor of the Villia Micika.

Next day we went to Mostar. We considered going on the bikes though our insurance would run out mid-day and we begrudged buying more so we took a minibus tour. This had the benefit of providing a tour guide and we could go in shorts not our bike gear.

Mostar is very thought provoking. The old Turkish part of town & the bridge has been a tourist destination for centuries. Now there is the added interest of the recent war, evidence of which can be seen everywhere.

The Old Bridge was destroyed by Croat fire from the adjacent hill. You can see how vulnerable it, & the rest of the city was......and will be! The Croats now live on one side of the main thoroughfare, the Bosnian Muslims on the other. We got the impression it was an uneasy peace.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Balkans Holiday Revisited - Days 13 & 14

Day 13 & 14, Zalbjak & the on to Dubrovnik

One of the reasons for going to Zabljak was to see the Tara river canyon, only 200m less deep than the Grand Canyon. What we hadn't realised was that the only way to see it was on a one or two day raft trip We didn't fancy that ( it was too cold! - I know....we're wimps!) Instead we enjoyed a walk to the Black Lake, which is beautiful shades of blue and green!

Zabljak being a bit of a one horse town we moved on the next day, taking minor roads towards the coast. This was another fabulous days riding through more mountain scenery. The roads were narrow and a bit rough but no problem for the GS's. I wouldn't have wanted to try it on a sports bike though. Initially we crossed a high mountain plateau where the numerous small herds of cattle showed a definite preference for the roadside verges rather than the acres of grassland

The road then continued twisting and turning down river valleys, through woodland and more mountain scenery

We had hairpins down the steep valley side to the small town of Savnik then more hairpins up the other side. On to the rather more industrial Niksic where we refuelled then took the road to Bosnia past some lovely lakes

The border post was up in the mountains

This was the only border we crossed where the police were rather surly and the only one where they asked about insurance. We were marched to a back office by a gun toting policeman and were aghast to be charged €21 each for only 3 days insurance! This compares to €10 or €12 for 15 days in Montenegro & Albania, where we'd had to ask for & hunt down the offices & officials ourselves.

Anyway, insurance bought, we were allowed into Bosnia and some lovely roads to the Croatian border post in the hills above the Adriatic. This one was a border with a view!

There were minimal formalities and we were waved through with a smile. We left the peace and quiet of the mountains and were soon on the busy coast road heading for our next destination - Dubrovnik

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Balkans Holiday Revisited - Day 12

Day 12 Kotor to Zabljak

After a couple of days off the bikes we were ready to move on, and we headed off to Zabljak up in the northern part of Montenegro, in the Durmitor National Park. The first section of the route took us up this mountain on a very narrow B road round 27 hairpin bends.

The riding was a little hairy, but the views of the bay of Kotor were superb.

When we got to the top we crossed this bowl shaped plateau, which in winter can have up to 1 metre depth of snow. Truly one of those places where you can swim or ski on the same day as the temperature at sea level is often 15 degrees C in January.

Just as we started the descent from the plateau we saw these hills stretching into the distance.

From here the gentle slope down led us out of the Lovcen National Park, and on towards the capital city of Podgorica. We crossed the city without difficulty and headed up the Moraca canyon towards Mojkovac.
Here's a picture of Elvie riding up the limestone canyon.

After Mojkovac we turned right and followed the Tara river towards the Tara gorge. After just a few kilometres we were several hundred feet above the river and we came across this memorial stone to a skier.

We don't know who he was, or what he did, but the views were fantastic. This is a view down to the valley floor.

The road continued to climb as it headed for Zabljak, and we soon reached the famous Tara bridge whick marks the entry in to the Tara Gorge which at 1,300 metres deep is second only to the Grand Canyon.

From here we climbed even higher onto an upland plateau and pulled into the M B hotel in Zabljak just as the chill in the air was starting to make itself felt.

It wasn't too long until we were settled in the bar with a beer, discussing the day's ride. We both felt it was probably the best ever day we'd had on a bike.
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Balkans Holiday Revisited - Day 10-11

Day 10 & 11 Kotor

Our B&B was run by the assistant manager of the Montenegrin football team. He'd not long returned from Cardiff where they'd beaten Wales! We had a room up in the attic, there was no window over the bay but we had the whole floor to ourselves which included a kitchen/diner & free wifi for €30 again. There was a private terrace outside and the water in the bay was just beautiful for swimming in, which is what I was doing when taking this photo.

Kotor is a 10 minutes walk around the bay. Along the quayside, large yachts and small cruise ships moor up each day. Overlooking it is the fortress high on the hill above and protecting walls run down either side of the town. These are lit up and night and , with their reflections are a dramatic sight.

The first morning we walked, or should I say trudged up the steep and long path to the fortress.

It was quite a relief to have a sit down at the top. We were very glad to have taken water with us as it was a hot & sticky climb.

It was worth every step for the views. As you see it was a long way down!

but the views of the bay were magnificent

I found going back down harder than going up as it was steep and very uneven.

At the bottom we had a bit of a soft drink pub crawl. It took us a couple of litres each to feel rehydrated! Kotor is full of bars and restaurants, tucked away in little squares. It's a great place to stay though the old town itself is traffic free. There are hotels in there but if you stay the bikes would have to be parked on the quayside.

This was only our second day off the bikes in about 1500 miles & we decided to spend another day in Kotor. Our second day there was spent in total relaxation, sunbathing & swimming off the terrace, catching up with the internet & reading. Oh and eating and drinking plenty! It really was an idyllic spot.

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