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To Greece We Go! Oops, detour.

Leaving Horizon’s Unlimited we decided to ride around Tuscany and then head to Greece. We had already had enough of the big cities and thought we can do Rome and the Amalfi coast another time. Some friends that we would see in a couple days were there and hating all the tourists.

The riding toward San Marino was fantastic as the roads leaving HU were perfect motorbike roads. Perfect tarmac with endless curves and elevation changes always led to a pass. As it was Sunday, at the pass there was always a large group of motorcycles with riders in full gear. Parked at the top of the pass at a small cafe, they grouped around the bikes, sipping Espressos and Cappuccinos. and watching as other bikes zoomed around the corners at the top. It’s so great being a motorcycle rider.

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We stopped in San Marino briefly, camped, and got out the next morning. Nothing excited me, even the campground and the rude people there. BYE.

The next day we rode toward the coast where we would be catching up with Australian friends. We stopped at a place we had seen on their FB page called La Casdade Saturnia in southern Tuscany. This is a series of thermal pools cascading down the hills into other pools. It was a fun thing to see and do but the popularity led to way too many tourists all with the same idea. Saturnia is a spa town in Tuscany in north-central Italy that has been inhabited since ancient times. Near the village, 800 L/s of sulphurous water at 37 °C gushes over a waterfall and down into a cascade of natural pools formed by the deposition of calcareous rock from evaporation of the water. It was a cool place but the popularity of this FREE attraction made it overcrowded with tourists.

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After a quick dip and a change behind the bike, it’s Italy, we headed to the coast to meet up with Paul Knibbs and Maryna Matthew, a couple on a RTW trip from Australia. They have been on the road for about 18 months. We arrived at Australia/USA Glamp and had a fantastic evening. We cooked up a fitting meal together, drank too much beer and wine (hangover), and told brilliant lies about friends and time on the road. All too quickly, as it is on the road, our time together was up. We will meet again somewhere in the world. Ride safe, our friends.

After leaving in the morning we headed to the ferry port in Bari, two days away. We chose to ride through back roads along the edge of a couple National Forests on the east side of the country, across from Rome. The riding was fantastic and we were surprised by several places that we came across.

Riding through the national parks there was very little traffic and great roads. As we rounded a corner there was this beautiful lake, Lago del Salto. Above the lake and terraced into the mountain was the village of Borgo San Pietro. It was breathtaking! We stopped at a local cafe overlooking the lake and, of course, ordered a cappuccino. Such is the way of wandering on a motorcycle, great surprises when least expected.

That night we came across a McDonalds and stopped in. It was raining and we needed a place to get internet. After ordering a beer off the menu (yep!) with my cheeseburger we found a place to stay at the base of a ski resort. We got an second floor suite with wood beamed ceilings. There was an inner courtyard so I was able to pull our bike in and lock it at the base of our stairs, covered and secure.

 

The next day we hightailed it to Bari, Italy to catch the ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece. We found out we had some more friends from OZ that we could catch up with in Macedonia.

First we had to go to Albania again. We missed a sight the last time through that we were very near now. A friend of ours, Carla King, had told us not to miss it this time. This is the triangle fortress of Butrint. This area has been inhabited for over 50,000 years up to the 19th century. Riding to the complex you first see the triangular fortress standing guard over the narrow water passage. Not very impressive, one is almost tempted to turn around and go back, but an interesting wooden platform ferry ride, drawn by cables, beckons.

Once across, the entrance to Butrint is hidden, just across the river. From 800 BC until the Romans it was influenced by Greek culture. For almost 2000 years it has been controlled by several distinct cultures, all adding to the different styles of construction. The most interesting ancient Greek monument is the theatre which is well preserved.

After exploring we decided to head just a bit further into Albania and find a nice place on the beach to relax. We were exhausted after the overnight ferry ride with not much sleep. We found a great place overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea and Monastery Beach. Not exceeding our budget we had access to the beach, a nice restaurant on the cliff and great hosts. The young host had many questions about travel, motorcycles and the world. After talking for an hour the original glint in his eye was fully engulfed in flames. The stories we pass and the lives we influence. The journey is not always about you as a traveler, but of the people you meet.IMG_20180920_134347871

The next morning we headed to Macedonia. But first we would detour back into Greece. We wanted to see the Vikos Gorge.

“The Vikos Gorge is a gorge in the Pindis Mountains of northern Greece. It lies on the southern slopes of Mount Tymfi , with a length of about 20 km, depth ranging from 120 to 490 m, and a width ranging from 400 m to only a few meters at its narrowest part.

Vikos is listed as the deepest gorge in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.” Wikipedia  

 

It was an incredible sight. We rode down to the bottom of the gorge where people were white water rafting. Back at the top of the gorge, we sat at an old structure/coffee shop and enjoyed the views. An old man saw our bike from the USA and kept yelling out the different cities he had visited during his long life. “New York” he would yell from across the street, “New Orleans”, “Philadelphia”, and on and on. A father and his two children from Israel were seated next to us and the kids were very curious about our travels and what were in the dry bags on the motorcycle. Dad spoke great English and the kids were just learning in school, so they practiced with questions. In the end, both wanted to sit on the bike and get a picture taken.

The young boy had that gleam…

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Italy, VStrom | Leave a comment

Headed to HU Italia

A quick flight from Iceland to Frankfurt and we were at Stefan’s to pick up our bike.

What do you say, Stefan? NO CLUTCH!!!!

No worries. A leak in the slave cylinder resulted in the fluid draining out and no pressure. A quick replacement and brake line flush, followed by an oil change, and we were ready to go.

A few other riders were also getting their own bikes ready to ride. That night we all went out to eat and to drink a few beers while telling traveler stories.

A couple German riders, Frank and Klaus, that we had met on the road were home and came over to say hi. We have met them on two and three continents, respectively. It was great seeing them and getting to spend some time with them in Heidelberg.

 

We left the following morning and headed to France, bypassing the expense of riding through Switzerland. In the mountains it was cold but we found great campsites and fantastic roads to ride.

The next day we stopped for the night at an AirBNB. They were travelers that are still in the midst of their RTW trip in a custom-built fire truck and are home recharging and saving again. We had a fun night talking about where we have been and where we all wanted to go. They even had a yurt in their backyard for guests to stay in that had come back with them from Mongolia, even the door.

Based on their recommendations we detoured to a site that was amazing, Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace. This man spent 30 years of his life building this amazingly hideous palace. One day in 1879 while out walking, he tripped on a stone that had an inspiring shape to it. While out on his daily 20 mile route through very rough terrain he would empty his wheelbarrow of mail and fill it on the return trip with rocks. Quite a labour of love, or just crazy?

That night we stopped in to see Ted Simon. He rode a motorcycle around the world in 1973 he rode his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 , “Jupiter”, RTW over four years and returned to write “Jupiter’s Travels”.  He has written many books including another about his second RTW trip 25 years later, “Return to Jupiter”. Many adventure seeking motorcycle travelers, including myself, throughout the world look up to him and consider him their inspiration for adventure motorcycling and international travel. img_20180907_202223832408845126.jpg

He has now moved from California to the south of France and has his home there. It is also a writer retreat and backed by the Friends of Aspiran. We feel very fortunate to be able to call Ted a friend and enjoyed our night out on the town at his favorite restaurant in the village, just around the corner. His journalistic nature and questions always have a way of making you look just a little deeper for your answer.

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From Ted’s we cut across southern France and into Italy and stopped for an espresso in the port city of Genoa.  We also wanted to see Florence while we riding around Tuscany. We found a great AirBNB with a super great couple on the bus route about an hour outside of the city. The next day we rode the bus and train into the city and did the Hop-on/hop-off bus tour and it was great. Those tours are always an inexpensive way to see big cities.  We next hit Pisa and did the leaning tower thing then headed to HU Italia.

Camping along the Mediterranean

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Florence

Pisa

We finally made it to the HU Travellers meeting Italy, held in the Tuscany region. The meeting was held in a fantastic area with the roads all around some of the best we have ever ridden, ALL directions. The facilities were once the home of a monastery and was now a beautiful equestrian center. The meeting was very well run and the hosts did a great job for their first meeting.

We met many fellow travelers and made some bonds with people who I hope will last many years and through many meetings on the road.

On to Greece…

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, France, Horizons Unlimited, Italy, Ted Simon, VStrom | Leave a comment

Iceland

Iceland. The land of fire and ice. It didn’t disappoint.

Also the land of wind, cold and rain. And waterfalls.

We landed in Iceland on a four day layover, courtesy of Iceland Air. On our way to Germany to pick up our bike for a couple month ride we decided to stop in Iceland and drive the ring road, the Golden Circle. This road, which is mostly paved or smooth gravel, is where you can drive a normal rental vehicle. Any of the interior road require a 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle for the difficult, rocky roads and river crossings. Since we had our camping and cooking kit along we decided to rent a small van and camp around the island and mostly cook for ourselves to see how much money we could save over what the horror stories are.

Arriving in Iceland at 0430 we went directly to the rental agency and picked up our van. We were out of the airport and past Reykjavik before the sun had been up an hour.

Headed north, our destination for the day was Dynjandi waterfalls on the north side of the island. Stopping at as many waterfalls and sights as we could get to we ended up on dirt roads as we rode to coastline on the way north. The track is built so at times you are directly above the edge of the water, sometimes as much as 100 meters below you, without a guard rail. It’s usually not too bad unless you have a Mario barreling at you way too fast, at times taking up most of your portion of the road also.

Dynjandi waterfalls are a tourist destination and we could see why once we were there. The falls are multi-tiered and cascade down to the fjord from the main falls at the top of the cliff. The main falls are like a multitude of chandeliers as they mix together during to the upper pools. Absolutely beautiful.

We back tracked about 30 kms to a campground on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Choosing a great pitch overlooking the bay we quickly set up camp before walking to the cliffs and a hidden hot springs tucked romantically into the rocks. A young couple from Israel shared the water and views with us. The night temperatures got down to 3°C, from a high of 7 degrees. It was windy and misty all night leaving to a very chilly night and morning packing up camp.

The Golden Road runs around the perimeter of Iceland. The interior road, or F roads, are off limits to small rental vehicles because of the rocky terrain and multiple water crossings.

Driving to the geothermal area of Myvatn we don’t the night in the view of several volcanoes. There is a blue springs there also. And like the more famous Blue Lagoon, it is very expensive and very crowded. We choose instead on old hot springs that the locals have been using for many years, the Secret Lagoon. It was less than 100 kms from Reykjavik, inexpensive and not crowded at all.

The day before we got to the springs, and back to Reykjavik, we stopped at Glacier Lagoon, at the base of the largest icefields and glacier in Europe, the Vatnajökull National Park. This icefield covers sq meters.

As the icebergs calve off the glacier they melt in the lagoon to a size that allows them to float down the river, under the bridge and out to sea. The icebergs colors varied from white to blue to dirty. The dirty ones were from high winds blowing sand from the black sand “Diamond Beach” on to the ice. It was an amazing sight to be so close to so many enormous chunks of ice.

We went to Iceland on a layover to Europe flying on Iceland Air. The stopover was free for up to seven days. Our van rental cost US$340, food $85 (we brought some food with us and split one $25 meal of not so good fish and chips), $160 lodging (1 hostel night before leaving), fuel (US$1.60/l), and extras (about $100). It is possible to see Island, the land of fire and ice, inexpensively. You just have to plan ahead.

On to Germany.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

Basecamp, New Mexico

After returning from 5 months riding through Mexico and Central America last year, we crossed the frontier back into the US and stopped for the night in Deming, New Mexico. A friend in Mexico, Dan had offered us a place to stay at his house in Deming. His neighbor Jeff, another motorcycle rider, lived next door. He opened the house and let us in to stay and welcomed us into the community.

We enjoyed a wonderful evening with he and his wife, Elaine. They showed us the place next door which was just placed on the market for sale at a super deal.

We had been basically homeless for eight years. To be able to get our meager belongings out of storage and in one central location, while giving us a base, seemed a great idea. By the next day it was ours. We spent the next 3 days there and left for 7 months.

Fast forward seven months and we finally made it back with our belongings in tow. We would be here a few weeks before our 2 month trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, and again after returning. I saw this as ample time to explore our new state of New Mexico.

Was I ever wrong!

This is such a large and diverse state to explore all it has to offer would take years. There are many biodiverse climates and altitude changes that each one needs to be explored each season.

Deming is at an altitude of about 4200 feet, high desert 30 minutes north of the Mexican border. Just 60 miles NW is an old mining town, Silver City. From Silver are several loops to ride, from paved to two track and BDR routes.

Leaving Deming you can be in beautiful pine forests at 8500 feet with incredible views. One route I ride several times was over Emory pass. Since it was winter it tried to make sure there would be dry weather as there is usually snow at the top and the temperature, even mid day, would have a difficult time topping 35-40°F. There were always deer to be avoided and twisting tarmac to pay attention to.

Just out of town you could find a dirt track to get you just about anywhere in the state. The population density in so low in this area you may ride for hours and never even see another vehicle, bliss.

Another favorite ride was NM15 north of Silver ending at the Gila Cliff dwellings. This was a fantastic paved road twisting through pine forests, heavy growth ferns and greenery lining both side of the road. Small, free campground are scattered along the road. Climbing for miles you break out above the pine forest to incredible views of mountains, valleys and forests as far as you can see in any direction. This area is so remote it is designated a dark sky area without artificial light for miles in all directions.

At the end of the road is the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Park. These are 800 years old and was created to protect the Mogollan cliff dwellings. Archaeologists have identified 46 room in the 5 caves on Cliff Dweller Canyon.

Just 4 miles to the south of the park is the Gila Hot Springs campground. This campground offers wonderful primitive campsites along the west fork of the Gila River. The highlight of this place are the three natural hot springs in the campground just feet from the river with the cliffs on the other side of the river towering over you. For US$8 you get a place to pitch your tent and unlimited use of the hot springs, clothing optional after dark. You can also just stop by and soak in the hotsprings for US$5. Don’t miss this if you are in the area.

While in Deming we would ride down to Los Palomas, Mexico. It’s a great place to see a dentist or pick up medication, no perscription needed. Just remember to bring your passport if you go and walk across the border.

We would always stop at the Pink store. This place sells all things Mexican and related to the southwestern area. There is restaurant in the back with an extensive menu and great food. The staff will usually meet you at the door with a margarita, with refills, while you shop. They make you feel like old friends, as seems the norm in Old Mexico.

Before heading east we made it up to Overland Expo West in Flagstaff. This event never fails to disappoint. We made a presentation of our ride around New Zealand and sat in on several round table discussions. With many friends in attendance from all over the world, we had a brilliant time catching up on the rides of all there.

On the way we visited Chaco Canyon. Between AD 900 and 1150 this was a major center for the Ancient Pueblo People. The park hosts the densest and most exceptional concentration of pueblos in the American SW. Many of the Chacoan buildings may have been aligned to captured the solar and lunar cycles.

Cheers

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

Hanoi

We went back to Hanoi and the following day decided to take a tour south to Ninh Binh.

Our first stop was Hoa Lu, an ancient Capital of Vietnam and the temples of the Dinh and Le Dynasty.

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Woman with her Ox

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Melanie styling her Rice Paddy hat

Both of these temples were built to honor two revered Vietnamese rulers.

Our next stop was to Tam Coc, known as Vietnam’s “Halong Bay on Land”. We were taken down the river in small boats that would hold between 2 and 4 people. Our boat was piloted by an old woman. I felt guilty. I felt like I should be rowing her down the river.

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Foot paddling

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Once our boat was underway, she leaned back in her chair. She used her feet to row the oars in a bicycle pattern. The trip upstream would take 45 minutes, then turn around, and row all the way back. There were at least 100 boats on the river, all being propelled the same way. The ages of the people rowing ranged from probably 20 to 80, both men and women.

The river snaked through the marshes and fertile, lush green rice paddies. We were surrounded on both sides by mountains and limestone columns pushing abruptly skyward.

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As we continued down the river we came to limestone columns blocking our way. Nature had provided us a way thru the mountains. Narrow tunnels, carved by years of the waters flow. Some passages were just wide enough for two boats. It was a very memorable journey.

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Paddling through the tunnel

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Once back in Hanoi we spent our last day walking around the lake and people watching. We sat by the lake for a couple minutes watching the kids play.

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Several people came over to us and asked if we were Americans. Yes, we are. They asked us why we were there. What we thought of their country. They were from a local TV station and wanted to interview us. We loved Vietnam and had learned that the truth of the history will always remain hidden somewhere in the middle. Vietnam is a wonderful, beautiful country. They have their own problems and are still communist. But, the people are friendly and always willing to help. The wars are over and in the past. That’s the way they want it. They have peace and prosperity now. They are growing and very modern. Crime is low. We will return.

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Notice the fish in the back of the toilet

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Afternoon drinking with new friends from Belgium. Beer was US$0.30 a glass

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We finished off our trip with a visit to Hao Lo Prison. This prison was built by the French at the turn of the 20th century, in classical French prison design. This is where the French imprisoned and brutally tortured and executed Vietnamese freedom fighters.

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Guillotine

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Decapitated heads placed in baskets outside or the prison. This was done by the French as a gruesome reminder to the Vietnamese

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Now a museum,the prison was also known as the “Hanoi Hilton” during the Vietnam War as it held American POW’s. While we were there, an old Vietnamese man and woman were also there, for the celebration of his escape from this prison. He was a political prisoner of the French. He escaped by crawling out through the sewers.

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The Vietnamese man crawling through the sewers to freedom

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Political Prisoner

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Free, many years later

His gaze met ours as we passed. He slowly made his way toward us with a smile on his face and a hand of friendship extended.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, backpacking, Hanoi, SE Asia | Leave a comment

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