Monday, September 10, 2012

"They'll take your bike and sell your body for sex"

Montenegro -one of several cruise ships moored
Montenegro is very similar to Croatia, beautiful countryside, less affluent perhaps and some more litter. Pretty much the same and nothing much to say really.

Then I meet Wolfgang. Wolfgang is from Austria and is en-route to west coast of Greece on his BMW for a few weeks. We end up in same hotel and chat about Albania. Someone said to me "They'll take your bike and sell your body for sex", they might have referred to someone else's body but I'll go with that for now. "Maybe it's best we go together, safety in numbers and all that"! So we decide to get away early in morning and charge across this unknown land to Greece. I'm not too bothered either way but as I'm falling behind in schedule realise this might be an opportunity to catch up.
Wolfgang & his GS1200

We cross the border and the first thing we notice is deterioration in the roads. There is piles of rubbish lying around. The people don't seem to care. There are toilet smells of the dodgy tummy kind. There are cars spewing oily smoke. Hang on, this is familiar, but its not Asia its Albania.

We work out that we can reach Greece before 5pm tonight if we keep up the pace. I'm scanning hotels and towns as we travel, wondering if I had a breakdown, would i want to stay there. I don't relish the thought and prefer to think about getting out the other end today. This is not the stuff of adventurers Steven. Then I pretend to myself that it wouldn't bother me either way. Yes I'll go with this thought for now.

Petrol stations everywhere
One thing is clear here, you will never walk far to get petrol if you run out. every 1 or 2 km it seems, has a new sparkling petrol station. The petrol isn't much cheaper so it must be good business. Even in the middle of nowhere, small villages and towns have petrol stations to rival any busy motorway services in the world. Then there is the smell of oil. Is it from the truck in front, my bike is leaking? No it's the countryside. I've failed to notice that the small steel towers dotted around the place are in actual fact oil wells. This dawns on me as I pass a small lake contaminated with by products of oil, or full of oil, or full of something. It didn't smell too good.

The roads are interesting too. We have 200 kms of fast dual carriageway. Then 200 kms of small narrow winding roads, then 100 kms of fast dual carriageway etc. We have roads under construction, gravel, pot holes, puddles. Some bends have melted to form blobs, especially on the mountainous sharp hairpin corners with sheer drops to one side. Very comforting. Then there are the cars. Brand new dealerships alongside the many petrol stations, Mercedes, BMW, even Opel. There are many UK registration plates. Like an idiot I wave to several of the drivers as they must surely recognise my UK plates. They don't wave back. Why the hell not? Then I realise in my idiocy that the "Snap on" tools van registered in Bradford was not brought here to supply tools, the 5 series beemer from London was not on temporary holiday. This is the place where stolen cars get amnesty it seems. The plain faced drivers and passengers don't smile much.

Stop at petrol station for coffee
We get our first taste of off road riding. Short and gravel, but long enough to realise my Tiger is NOT an off road bike. Its OK staying up for the moment, the tyres grip enough. But the suspension is way too hard and short to take on the really rough stuff. I'm pretending its OK as Wolfgang on the more suitable agricultural GS1200 has his first off road experience and seems to like it. I just stand up, try to look as if I know what I'm doing and carry on. I will have to pick and choose my route through Pakistan very carefully or lose all nuts and bolts and equipment from my steed. (I'm thinking about softening suspension and other technical stuff now)

With one hundred kilometres to go to the border we come across gravel. This is the main route to Greece? Surely not! we must be on the wrong road. but both of us check our maps and it is indeed the main road. I don't fancy another 100 kms of this stuff. Holes, gravel, puddles and slow moving oily trucks. Horrible. We'll never get there before dark sets in. I don't relish the thought of setting up camp in one of these rubbish strewn fields surrounded by oil, car thieves and apparent sex traffickers.

Passing another petrol station

It lasted for 10 minutes and were were back on reasonable tarmac. I wasn't worried at all! Huh :)

When we enter Greece were rewarded with fast winding roads suitable for landing a 747 with room to spare. Greek man;"You drive through Albania OK, they not steal your bikes"? "Oh No of course not", we joke, "didn't believe that for a minute" we add.

We find a lovely wee hotel near a beautiful lake. Cold beer solves all, pizza for tea and I'm fast asleep before 9:30.

Greece is skint but can still afford spray paint.

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