Tyndrum to Tuzla – Part 2
I know, I’ve been home for weeks. I had the most marvellous holiday and sadly, all holidays must come to an end. It’s over a month since I came home, landing with a firm bump coming back to work. It was all good though. It’s so nice to know that we can go away for the best part of 2 1/2 weeks and come back to: 1) The world still spinning on its axis; 2) the business still in one piece; 3) no issues or problems to sort out and 4) a happy spoiled cat. Great.
I thought I would use this blog to summarise what was an ace holiday, which is realistically never to be repeated. There are parts of the journey though that will remain imprinted in my memory. Some drop dead gorgeous and other memories that were quite sad.
The total mileage for the holiday was the best part of 3,762 mile from Tyndrum to Tuzla and back, well, actually, Serbia! Countries that we visited / passed through included: England (!), France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Holland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia. I don’t think I’ve missed any!
I guess the real start of the holiday was from Düsseldorf when we had to load the bikes on the train. Destination Villach. I think the hardest, most challenging part was 1) loading your bike. It was really low on the bottom level of the transporter. Be warned, for a novice rider, it might be too daunting to ride on the transporter, keeping your head down whilst not losing control of the bike on the numerous metal sheets / connectors that you had to ride over. 2) Best advice; take as little as possible on the train with you. Water / snacks / toothbrush / spare pants. Cost of the train: £120. That feeling of relief when you stop your bike, leave it in gear, pop the side stand down, swing your leg over then proceed to smack your helmet off the roof of the transporter: Priceless.
Of all the border controls we experienced, Luxembourg was the biggest nightmare which involved a queue of traffic about 4 miles long. Blame the trucks. They were pulling all of them. The dodgiest border crossing was going into Bosnia from Croatia. We knew we needed a ‘Green Card’ which is basically an additional cover for your insurance. You apparently do need it, especially if you break down. Luckily none of us had to test it out it was a pretty close run thing with Ed’s puncture though.
The reason it was ‘dodgy’ was the unofficial looking guy at the border control who was collecting our money in exchange for our ‘green card’ – by the way, there was nothing remotely ‘green’ about it. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt was the first dodgy part, the second, when we attempted to cross into Bosnia. The border guard didn’t seem convinced that the paperwork we had was a proper green card. Money had only swapped hands 20 yards earlier. A lot of gesticulating later, we all passed through. Phew. Were we convinced what we had was the ‘proper job’? Yes. I think it was the border guards who were looking for an easy Euro or twenty and hoped that we would fall for it.
Upon our return from our holiday, and I was getting my third service of the year done for my (frankly exhausted) Smoggy and I was telling David about visiting Serbia. One thing I hadn’t thought about was the consequences of anything happening when we were there. David asked that question. My answer? I would have pushed my bike back into Bosnia! Sometimes you don’t really go through that thought process: Right, day trip to Serbia. Non-EU country. No recovery. No insurance cover (probably). Dangerous? Don’t know. Did we stop and think about it? No. Ed just looked at the map and we went. Simple….. or was it down right stupid? Well, we made it in one piece, so wasn’t that bad! (Breathes a sigh of relief.) I would probably recommend stopping and thinking about it first though!
That day also provided the ‘sad memories’. The poverty that still exists in Bosnia was really evident that day. Houses unfinished, no windows, no doors. Washing hanging outside the houses made you wonder if they had electricity, never mind a washing machine. Bullet holes on houses and mortar marks on roads and churches. Unfinished roads, mine fields with the occasional ‘memorial’ for lost soldiers. I realise now the possible reason for the unfinished roads were the mine fields. It seems I survived that one too; wipes sweaty brow!
Poverty or not, we met some lovely friendly people and most of them spoke English. The most important word we learned was ‘hvala’ – thank you. Making the effort to learn that one word was so appreciated by the locals. The motorbikes in Bosnia were a rare sight. The only bikes we saw were tourists like us, the bikes did get some looks that’s for sure. There were a lot of second hand VW Golf s on the road, they must have got a ‘job lot’. I wonder if this war-torn country will every truly recover? For me, one visit to Bosnia Herzegovina was enough. It was an experience though. Accommodation was fairly cheap, food was good and beer (according to the boys) was mega cheap. The wine was pretty acceptable, the best tasting wine was the night we got home late after our trip to Serbia. That’s when I hailed the taxi to find my way back to the hotel. When I arrived back at the Hotel Michele, the owner of the hotel was on duty, she knew we were ‘missing’, and when I arrived she did appreciate that all I needed was a glass of wine. She disappeared and came back with a mini bottle and a glass. That was by far, the most deserved wine of the holiday. She didn’t even charge me for it!
All in all, we were pretty darn lucky with our accommodation. Ulm was the most last minute / most expensive. Given it was the town centre, it was no surprise, however, it was one of those ‘will we ever find accommodation’ moments. I was talking to a friend today who was frankly amazed that Ed and I start to look for accommodation at about 4pm if we are touring. I held up my hand and said, “Hold on.” I explained that planning to stop for accommodation is one thing. Finding it some days is challenging. It’s all well and good if you have a pre-planned route or using a base for touring. If you are venturing up and down mountain passes, dealing with altitude, having to contend with switch-back bends, by 5pm you’re knackered. I want wine by 6pm, followed by a hot shower and a decent meal. In that order. Sod this riding around until nightfall wondering if we will ever find a room. I want to be able to do things like this:
Take a really good map with you. If you are venturing to Bosnia, not all sat navs are up to date. Andy’s was about as near as damn it to an accurate map. The paper variety? As we discovered, they are only as good as the paper they are printed on! Be prepared not to have the accuracy of your sat nav in the big cities.
If you are going for an early ferry / train and have to get accommodation before, make sure you book it in advance. Unless of course you take a tent. Then you don’t have to worry. If you take a tent, you won’t be going on holiday with me. Ever. I have my standards. They are quite simple, I only camp once a year, if I have to; at the Caledonia Harley Club rally in Stirling. The rest of the time I point blank refuse.
In general, I loved all the riding. There was only one stretch where I was bored rigid. That was the last stint back to Calais. It was a long motorway day. I managed to keep myself entertained by playing my music on my sat nav. I don’t normally listen to my music, my audio plugs make my ears ache a bit, however, it was a few hundred miles we had to cover. The best track for sure had to be Boogy Wonderland. That really got me going. Foot tapping, shoulder swaying, head noddingly great. I got so carried away, I played it twice. Alongside me was a Belgian ‘workie’s’ van. It seemed I entertained them with my disco moves and got a massive thumbs up from them. All the while doing this I was concentrating on my riding, really, I was. I can multi-task!
The advantage of the Chunnel is the convenience. You can miss your time slot and get on the next train, that’s not quite so easy when you are standing on a dock, watching your ferry pull away from the harbour. The disadvantage? The long motorway journey to get to it. It is cheap, however, there’s always a price to pay. Unless you’re a crap sailor, then the train journey is really, really attractive.
Before we knew it, we were back on British soil. Andy and Paul headed straight home and Ed and I went to visit friends in Oxford. I had the IAM conference on the way home at Warwick University. That extended my holiday by a few days! I was away from home for 18 days and 3,762 miles in total, 14 of them on the continent. It was an education in many ways, we saw fabulous scenery and rode some marvellous roads. The bummer was Austria where the weather wasn’t really that great, however, we did visit Lermoos, and the Loisach Hotel, a family favourite. Lovely.
I’ve already asked Ed what’s next. I can’t wait.
In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite pictures.