Just a quick update, we have not died and we are not still in croatia.We are in Nukus Uzbekistan and just about to hit five days of deserts! wish us luck! oh and I have decided to start a new low water diet to try and become even more efficient. I will try and drink under one litre of water a day from now on (joking).
We all woke up pretty early and packed up our stuff before having some breakfast. Vincent gave me some coffee, which was the best start to the day. I have realised that I am completely and utterly dependent on coffee and that it would be almost impossible to give up, lucky its not opium.
After the bikes were packed and loaded up, we all got set to go our different ways. Richard had been cycling for about a year and half and was just going around wherever he felt like going, so he was in no particular rush. Vincent was waiting for his girlfriend in Montenegro, so he was heading inland to the mountains to kill some time. I was thinking that it was still a long way to Istanbul and that it wasn’t too long until josh and luke came to see us, so I thought I better push on.
That morning ride to Kotor was probably one of the best yet. It wasn’t too hot yet and it was perfect blue sky. The road was pretty flat and quiet so you could get some good speed. The road just went along the bottom of the lake, so that you had the mountains on one side and calm water on the other. I would suggest looking at photos on google as they will be much better than any of the ones I took.
The first 20 miles went really quick but it started to get seriously hot and steep again. The road clung to the coast and it felt like I was going up and downhill constantly.
The views were fairly ridiculous all day and I seemed to be making quite good time, I stopped after about 60 miles for some lunch and got going again at about 3pm, I still had most of the day so I decided I could probably make it to the Albanian border and try and find somewhere to camp before crossing into Albania. I thought I had planned a really good short cut, which would take off some time , but a policedude stopped me and said it was extremely hilly and that it was a bad road to go on. I thought about going for it anyway but decided I would be quicker on a better road.
I kept going until about 6 or so before stopping for a coke to give me a bit of sugar rush. the last 15 miles to the border were pretty tough, as some mountains seemed to appear out of nowhere, I was getting a bit tired so I listened to queen to try and get motivated. It was lucky there were not many people about as apparently I am gifted enough to sing Flash Gordon by myself. My earphones fell out at one stage and when I heard my voice it was fairly terrible. I could not fault myself for the amount of effort I put in…but it sounded horrific.
Although some bits of the day were a bit tough I was really enjoying pushing it and was having a great time just listening to music and chattering to myself, so I carried on to the border and still had some daylight so I headed towards the Albanian town closest to the border, Shokder.
It was a little bit crazy heading into town, I didn’t really understand how the roads worked, it seemed like you could pretty much just do what you wanted. This is very well if you are in a car but I felt a bit exposed on a bike. Having said that there were loads of people cycling so I decided to follow somebody and just do waht they did. I chose to follow and old man on his bike because I thought he would be fairly safe. I stalked him at a distance so as not to alarm him. I followed him until we got close to the city centre. At this point he started to cycling towards oncoming traffic so I ditched him.and followed someone else for a while. I am aware that this may have made me seem slightly strange to follow elderly people at a distance, it is a habit I am probably going to give up in the future, but for the time being it worked pretty well.
I found a hostel to stay in for the night and got some food pretty quick, I was seriosuly hungry. I think I cycled about 110-120 miles that day and it didn’t take long to fall asleep. It was a bit of a shame to go through a country so quickly but I will definitely come back to Montenegro and spend some days cycling inland in the future hopefully.
Had my passport checked by border guards, they laugh at me when I told them my destination, then went back on the bike and paddle quickly to get out the border after they return my passport, but heard a noise and stopped, turns out a guard with machine gun shout at me and told me come back, apparently I only went through custom control, still need to go through passpoet control. Lucky that I stopped.
Cycled a few more hours after ceossing the border, the wind start to pick up, was getting really dark and tired, but the city still a bit far, saw a church and slept alone outside the church without a tent in the first night in Greece. Didn’t get any sleep at all, always thought someone come to get me, had dream about someone try to kill me and I was screaming for help, but I just can’t make any sounds out of my mounth!
Woke up early because I didn’t have any sleep, the only people up are farmers. Was good to cycle around a lake very early in the morning. Met another cyclists from Germany and they bought me tea.
Stayed at a hostel in Thessaloniki, its very nice and big city, some bit felt like wall garden town, other bit its completely new and magnificent new town! Walked around hostel without a top and got ask be a model by a guy, I thought it will be funny and agreed, realised he is a nude painter after he took the pictures and showed me his works, lucky he didn’t ask me to get naked.
Bought a watermelon from Lidl and got to a beach that marked as tiny stretch on the map after couple hours, found a abandon parasol with two chairs on the beach, it was like poster from holiday company, had watermelon and thought might go for a drink and come back sleep on the chair after dark. Got to a bar and they said they met Sam earlier today, I helped them fixed their computers and they gave me free drinks and invited to join them for dinner. Had really good sleep on the beach with wave sound as background music, the drinks helps too!
Arrived in Xenthi and check into a hostel, saw a band played in the hostel bar, met so many female engineers, almost thought u was dreaming. Had a really good night and was really luck that people are so friendly and showed me around!
Met up with Sam again in Alexandria, was really good to see him and will be going into Turkey together, shared our stories over a few beers, then thunderstorm came, so we have to check into a hotel instead of camp.
There weren’t any shops, but was a casino before leaving Greece. Saw many military movement near the border of turkey and its the first time saw so many guards with machine guns at a border!
Was really high up on the mountains when crossing from Albania to Macedonia, so I was able to see the lake and the storms slowly moving towards a city.
Cycled around the lake to get to orchid, was a relax cool down. Fixed the broken spoke in a bike shop. Stayed at hostel and met a group of cyclists doing Istanbul to London.
The guy at hostel was very nice and told me to look around the fortrest bwfore I leave and will be insult if I don’t do that. unfortunately I left without see it, what a shame!
It seems people like to shoot at traffic signs in this country. Saw a lots of traffic signs have couple bullet holes, but there was one no overtake sign on the side of the road have dozen of them!
In Bitola a guy saw me sleeping in the park and come to talked to me, also showed me the town and told me what to eat and drink in greece, the most important advice he gave me to Aviod mosquito – get drunk and mosquito won’t bite you!
Never seen so many Mercedes on the road before – this is the spiritual home for old Mercedes! Spent only two days in Albania. Its very nice country and people are friendly which is a opposite of what others told me. Did 130 miles on the first day, because its flat from north to the capital tianrna.
Met very nice people at kebab shop, they very keen to help and bought me coffee as well! Cycled on highway because its legal and better road, saw a guy holding a rabbit in one hand and other random stuff in another hand on side of the road trying to sell them to passing cars.
Bump into an American tour cyclist veteran, he is cool and knows everything about cycling tour, pointed out what Im doing wrong, he said he met Sam couple days earlier near Macedonia, what a coincidence!
After capital Tirana are mountains, the view was amazing, but it kept going up and up. There was a choice between tunnel and the mountains, considered past experience with tunnel,so I chosen the mountain, was very ong,m there were houses with dogs and they cahsed me, bite one of the pannier, was so scaredm I have to carry a stick all night. it start to get dark but still climbing up saw a sign said 25Km away from the city I want to go to, but luckily its all downhill.
the downhill have very nice view, but no time to enjoy it, mules in the middle of the road and people walked in the middle of the road without any lights, will be more relax when its daylight etc. have to stay in a hotel at 11pm
Saw richard again next afternoon and he gave me 200 leka because I was running out of money and will be out of Albania soon. The mountains to mecodonia was very hard, took 1 hours going up hill, people on the side of the roads were suprise to see me going up on a bike!
Amazing route around the lake to Kotor, flat and treated as time trial, it was so relaxed and really enjoyed it. Saw a massive cruise ship slowing navigate out of the lake, so I waved at it and it horned back!
Kotor is very nice small town. When I was looking for the hostel in Kotor old city, there was a very nice girl offer to help me, I thought I was lucky, but turns out she works for the hostel.Talked to a really old military veteran at restaurant and told me stories from wars, he speaks 6 different languages, but was scared to learn German, and he doesn’t seems like Albania and told me to look out for myself when I’m there.
Followed the coastline of Montenegro, was really hungry at one point and have to dropped into town at sea level for food, was reluctant to do it, because I need to climb up again, but finished a massive meal and the locals were pretty impressed about it. Talked to a Serbian women when I try to get out the town, she help me find routes and told me careful in Albania.
Was pretty dark when I arrive Ulcinj, on the outskirt of town there was a kid on scooter pull parallel to me and ask if I need place to stay, it was getting dark, I’m was tired and hungry, so I followed and he brought me to a apartment in a small alleyway, there was massive sounds coming from speakers that seems broadcast to whole town just after I get off my bike, I look up where I was on the map, it shown me 3 muslim cemeteries and one orthodox cemetery, and this town is near border of Albania, so I was a bit scared, turn out the speaker message was muslim’s call to pray, and the kids family is very friendly and told me be careful in Albania!
Was a good 24 Km of downhill to the seaside town called Opatija after crossed the Croatian border, the town looks amazing from high up and so good to the sea again! the sea is very calm, more like big lake.
Had really good pastries and people very friendly speaks good English and even thought I was from Germany! Had good vibe about the country and a seed of staying a bit longer in Croatia start to grow in my heart.
Had the first taste of heat wave, it was so hot that I can feel my skin start to burn, so we stopped and decided to cycled to first village near the sea, it was amazing – nice and calm sea, a round bar with straw parasol, it was like paradise!
Tooked a ferry to Pag island because someone told us Novalja is really good, the island felt like Mars when we got the ferry, it was all brown mountains, big stone and no green plants at all. but on the other side of the island its the amazing Novalja.
Novalja is a small tourist town with nice beaches, it is so good that we took the first rest day of the trip! Had whole day laid on the beach and enjoy the beaches and sun. Went out for drinks and met a group of German tourists.
I decided to spend more time in towns/cities and follow the coastline of Croatia, but Sam want to meet with others in Istanbul on schedule and go inland a bit, so we go separate route after Pag island.
Stopped at a hostel in Biograd na Moru, it’s really big and everything looks very new, but I’m the only one staying that night because the holiday season is not start yet. Had chat with the girl worked there, I don’t know how to stop her politely and she kept talking for very long time, but its good that she told me the same story of hard to find job here and people only work a few months during the summer, and young people want to go to another country etc, its good to heard other side of Croatia.
It was late evening by the time I made into Split, was hungry and picked the first hostel on the list, turns out Sam staying at the same hostel as well, it’s a coincident, because I knew Sam is in Split, but I didn’t think I’ll made into Split and I didn’t know which hostel Sam checked in. Sam left the next morning, but I took another rest day in Split, so we split again.
Split is amazing city, the old palace was amazing! wondered around and climb up the hills next to the city. Somehow part of the old city got block by Police because there was protest or something.
A day in Croatia consists of cycling, nap and swim. it felt so good to be able to swim everyday and some good food as well, it was very enjoyable and relax time!
Arrived in Dubrovnik and stayed in a hostel, the owner Anna was very friendly and I thought it was a family home or something when she show me common room area, everyone just like relaxed and very friendly, I was thirsty and she offered me a big bottle of beer, I figure I have to down it otherwise it might be a bit rude.
Dubrovnik is amazing, but Anna told us it got bombed 20 something years ago and she was having a baby during the bombing, everyone was hiding in the basement, they shared everything and look after everyone – it was very good day if there is chicken shared between 30 people!
Burried my Brooks saddle somewhere near the border of Montenegro, I recorded the GPS coordinate, maybe I’ll go back and pick it up.
This is first country that I don’t have any ideas about anything. I thought the border crossing will be really hard, but turns out the border is pretty much an abandon house with signs.
Nice mountains, all towns and cities are small and mostly on the top of hill. Food is good and a lot cheaper than Italy!
It was relatively short route in Slovenia, so we decided to camp at a town near Croatia border for a night. It was only late afternoon by the time we arrived the town, so we stopped at a pub, the beer is really cheap and start drinking from the beer list in the menu.
It was really dark by the time we had dinner, we cycled for a bit look for place to camp, but couldn’t find a good place, got a bit panic as its getting pretty late, so we just knocked on a farmer’s door and ask for camp in body language, the farmer lead to a field far away from his house and then walked away, it was so dark I didn’t have chance to look at him face to face, it was nice for him to let us camp in his field.
The roads into Italy are not well maintain as those in Switzerland, cycled through very long and dark tunnels at the bottom of the alps, felt like pedalled for my life to get out of the dangerous tunnels.
Was easy to find place to stay in Domodossola – a guy cycle parallel to me while we were cycling around town looking for place to stay, he said follow him if we want B&B, we did and turn out to be very nice self service apartment, that’s was a quick sale!
Lake Como was beautiful, everyone dressed up very nicely and we were the but it’s surrounded by mountains, so its hard to cycle out of the city.
Camped in someone’s field once, because it was dark and we couldn’t find any other quieter places to camp, so have to sneak pass farmer’s house and camp on the corner can’t be be seen from the house. Obviously we went to the bar have a drink and wait until it’s dark to have courage to do that.
Got lost outside Bergamo and helped by an Italian cyclist, he showed us a nice and quiet route, and kept the lakes on our left, we followed a bit but somehow cycled passed a long uphill tunnel and very steep mountains, fortunately the downhill was really swift.
It was dark when we arrived in Vicenza. Saw Chinese bar, I went to talk to them and had very good food there, the owner seems pretty cool and said we can camp outside his bar after 2am. We couldn’t wait that long so we have move on after 11 and kept cycling, then a guy(Simone) on bicycle asked us where we going etc and offer us to camp on his garden, and showed us a nice and quite cycling route to next town.
Saw the sea for the first time in this trip, we abandon our bike on the beach and ran into the sea immediately after that, it felt so good to be able to swim again.
Was thinking stop at a small village for a snack, but there are very friendly locals chatted to us, we ended up drinking with them and followed the local drink rules – not sure how it works, but the idea is you have two hands and you need two drinks in hands all the time, and can’t stop drinking! From speaking to them, it seems the whole town and the near by areas are heavy relied on tourism and people only work a few months in the summer and still felt the impact from the financial crisis.
Having just crossed the border in the evening I was going to to try and go on to Kotor that night but I checked the map and it was about another 50k. So I just had a beer and some food instead, a much better plan.
I had a chat with a the guy behind the bar and he said that you could catch a ferry to Kotor. I still really wanted to get there that night so I went around looking for the ferry. I forgot to ask him the important detail of where you get the ferry from, so I just cycling towards the water and hoped for the best. Unfortunately it didn’t really work out this time but I did bump into some other guys who were cycling so I stopped and had another beer with them instead (it sounds like all I am doing is just drinking beer but its not that bad).
There was an American guy called Richard who was pretty much the veteran of cycle touring, he knew every trick out there! He gave me some pretty handy advice for cycling in the desert.
1, Put a tiny pebble or bit of grit at the front of your mouth as it keeps you salivating all day. He said not to worry about swallowing the stone as it comes out the other end anyway.
2, Don’t try and stay out the sun all day. it stays hot the whole time so just get on with it.
3, Don’t drink as much water as possible during the day as you only end up sweating it out. He said to sip water all day and then drink more at night when your body will not sweat it out.
I camped with them that night on some old sun loungers, which saved putting up the tent and all the extra hassle. I wouldn’t have had the guts to camp there myself as it was really close to the road and I thought that fishermen would be there in the morning, but richard and vincent said it was alright so no problems!
Before we went to sleep we were standing around chatting about our bikes and equipment. It became fairly obvious that I know nothing about bikes or equipment. Richard had a look at my bike and had told me that I was doing my bags up all wrong. He said there was an ortleib video online which showed you how to set up the bags properly so they all tied together, which I probably should have watched before I left. My dad suggested I watch the video before I left but I told him I knew what I was doing and that it couldn’t be too difficult! But it turns out he was right about that.
We chatted about what were the best kind of foods to eat as well and I was told that you need to eat loads of proteins and stay away from sugar drinks. So my previous cycling diet of pizza, beer, bread and cheese may have to change at some point.
Richard said that it was a really good idea to drop a couple of eggs in the pan when you cook up a pasta meal, boil the eggs and save them for later. About three weeks previously Luke had been telling me that he carried boiled eggs around as a healthy snack. I told him that it was insanse to carry eggs around and that it was not acceptable to eat whole boiled eggs in public places. I guess I was wrong about that as well and it pains me to admit it!
It was great bumping into richard and vincent as they taught me alot, which would definitely come in handy. We shared some homemade spirits richard had before going to sleep. A good day!