Moto Adventures

Sunday, October 28, 2007

From Crete to rain

Mama goat guards the door where she has her little kid.

Lissos, a Roman and Minoan site, do you think our homes will still be standing in 2000 to 4000 years?

A small church made from Roman ruins at Lissos.

All over Crete the olives they are preparing for a bumper crop of olives.

Our only look at Albania, soon after this shot the rain started falling.

Don't let the sign fool you, I think these are the minimum speeds allowed on the roads in Italy.

The weather riding up thru Italy to Austria was not the very best.

Georg and Christine, our Austrian friends we met at Buck Lake, took us on a great hike up to the top of a ski hill near Innsbruck.

Well that last dip into the Mediterranean never did happen. When I emerged from the Internet cafe the skies had clouded over and the wind had started to blow, the locals were busy getting ready for gail force winds and rain. And it did arrive! That night I slept with one eye open while listening to the wind howling and the rain hitting the walls of the hotel. I had images of the bike flowing down stream to the sea or lying on the street, Ken says I have much too active an imagination! The next two days we spent time waiting for the skies to clear and the rain to stop long enough for us to head out on the road again.
The weather happened to clear long enough on one afternoon, before we left, for us to take a hike to Lissos, an archaeological site. The buildings there are 2000 to 4000 years old and still in pretty good shape, on some of the floors there is still intricate tile work and on some of the walls Roman writing. We got caught in a short rainstorm on the way back to our hotel, but we are not made of sugar(ha, ha).
We decided to make a run for the north coast of the island and by midnight on the 23rd we were on the Olympic Champion ship headed for Athens. The trip from Crete to Athens is only 6 hours (from midnight to 6 am) so we opted for the deck seats...I think we got about 2 hours of sleep curled up on the floor of the lounge. Needless to say, the 33 hour trip (11pm Oct 23 to 8:30 am Oct 25) from Greece to Italy was spent on a boat with a cabin and beds to ourselves. The first morning as we sailed past Albania I was a little upset because the weather had cleared and it was a beautiful sunny day, I kept thinking we should be riding, but within a few hours the rain was falling and I was very happy to be dry on board the ship and not on the back of a motorcycle.
Italy was wet, very wet, so we got off the boat and headed north to Austria and to our friends Christine and Georg's house in Innsbruck. The weather was not exactly warm there, 3-8 degrees in town, but they took us on hike up a local ski hill where the sun was shining and the temperature was fine. The view from 2000 metres was amazing, a sea of clouds below and mountain tops everywhere, we didn't even mind the snow on the ground.
Neither Ken nor I am looking forward to leaving Innsbruck tomorrow and heading north again but we have changed our tickets home from Frankfurt to Nov 4th so we must head out...long johns, riding gear and rain gear all on and hopefully warm enough.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Greece, or should we say Crete?

We crossed into Greece with rain hot on our tails,

Our first town on the water.

Crete is an island of rock, olives, goats, and beautiful coastline.

A trip to Greece wouldn't be complete without Greek ruins. Here is Phaistos.

On a day hike along the E4 we found a remote bay we could call our own for a swim and to soak up a few rays.

Sweetwater beach, a beach with fresh water springs all along the sand a few meters from the water. We went for a quick swim and moved on, those darn Europeans just can't leave their clothes on.

You always have to look out for these guys on the road as you go. What a view,

Chora Skafion in the distance.

We took a little climb into a cave near Kato Zakros, we forgot our flashlight so it was a good thing Norbert and Andrea from Bonn came along with one.

A lovely little boat anchored in front of our room.

A beautiful moonscape.

Just a warning before you start your decent into the Samaria Gorge, no high heels or old people with canes who have been drinking.

Looking down a part of the gorge.

The roughed landscape along the E4 trail near Sougia.

Sure we make tentative plans or a route that we want to travel but nothing is written in stone and that is good thing because as we crossed the Greek border from Bulgaria with rain hot on our heels it didn't take us long to decide to head down into Greece now(instead of flying back in Nov.). Also after a couple of nights heading over the Greek coast the decision was easy...head for Crete now and see what the weather would do up north in a week or so. The rain had to stop sometime...didn't it?
So that night, only 24 hours after making the decision to head south we were in Athens and by 8:30 we had set sail south, headed for the Greek Islands. Here we are in Crete, possibly the cradle of western civilization, definitely the land of volcanic rock, roaming goats and sheep, olive groves that seem to cling to unimaginable hillsides and unfortunately a lot of road side garbage. All in all a beautiful rugged island with fantastic, twisty and paved roads for riding thru enchanting villages of old rock and white washed buildings. Every town has at least one quite little church if now 5 or 6 and there are many more dotting the hillsides and mountain tops.
We headed straight across the island after disembarking from our ship at 7:30 am(the boat arrived at 6 am but opted for a little more sleep in our private cabin). On the south coast we discovered the little town of Chora Sfation with a room we could call home, hiking trails to beaches, and even a pool for a little afternoon dip. Here is where we met our new Aussie friends Jenny and Ioannis, Ioannis was born on Crete and later moved to Austrailia with his family, he was a wealth of information about the past and the people of Crete. We are very thankful he was willing to share his knowledge with us, it gave us a totally different prespective. It was nice.
After a couple days of hiking and discovering we headed out to ride the south coast of the island, so many twisting, tiny roads. At this time we realized how true thankful we were that we had come to Crete now and not at the end of Nov., one night we rode into a beach town and found the only hotel that was still open and even then the owners made a point of telling us that breakfast was at 9am sharp then the doors were closing for good for the season! First thing in the morning we were off... and a good thing too,because we found another gem of a village on the far east coast, Kato Zakro.
Kato Zakros is nothing more that a few hotels and restaurants that were mostly open, a nice beach, and a few good hikes-thru a gorge and and along the coast to a cave (we did both, I love this island!). The room we found had a deck that hung over a small cliff onto the beach, a beautiful place to watch the sun rise. It was going to be had to leave this place, hopefully if was still raining up north! Guess who we ran into here? of course, Jenny and Ioannis. They made us a great Greek dinner in their villa and we watched an amazing moon set over the mountains.
Next day off we go again, off to Chania (pronounced Hania) a city in the north west of the island with the most amazing "old port" full of hotels, restaurants and shopping but that is not why we are here. Thanks to recommendations from friends and travel guides to Crete "The Reinelts" we were here to hike the Samaria Gorge, a grueling gorge hike 15km downhill with mountain sides of 2400m and at the narrowest section it is 3m wide and the walls are 300m straight up. Breathtaking, a sight we will never forget and a good thing as the camera didn't take very good pictures in the limited lighting(it couldn't have been my fault). As luck would have it we had the most beautiful weather that day, Oct 19th (the gorge officially closed on the 15th but was open day by day weather permitting) the next day rain was predicted and the gorge would be closed for the year.
The next day, under cloudy but not rainy sky's, we set out west and across to the south side of the island again. A few more days in Sougia soaking up some rays, swimming and hiking before we head to the ferry and trip north, however that looks.
Crete has a great hiking trail called the E4, it runs across the middle of the island thru the mountains or along the shoreline, either way you like. We have been lucky enough to find different sections of the trail in a few towns we've stayed in along the beach. The weather this time of year here is perfect for hiking, I don't think I would like to do it in the middle of summer.
Well it is our last afternoon here in Sougia, the sun is shining, we hiked this morning now it is time for our last dip in the Mediterranean. Huh, so sad!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Entering Bulgaria over the Danube River

The highway tunnels under the city in Veliko Tarnovo.

Life's a beach at the Black Sea, and just to note the water is very blue.

The strange alphabet makes for a bit of language barrier, which way do we go?

Ken takes a ride back in time in Shiroka Laka, as he tests his skills riding up cobblestone roads.

The landscape is beautiful, and the many trails are well marked.

We arrived in the forest at mushroom picking time, this lot brought the picker 6 dollars an average days pay for many Bulgarians.

Traditional dress and musical instrument (a bagpipe made from sheep hide) of the country folk.

We didn't pay for much water because there were hundreds of roadside mineral water taps.

Nothing like a good hike on a fall day!

You know those vacations you take where you are looking forward to something for a long time building up an anticipation only to be let down when you finally get there? After talking to our friend Ivo (from Bulgaria) in Brazil last year we were looking forward to a week or so in Bulgaria of eating, drinking and enjoying a lot of friendly folk and we were definitely not disappointed.
Our first stop in Bulgaria was Veliko Tarnovo and the Pink Bakery (a real bakery before it bought by an Brit and renovated into a guest house) with a garden patio, and a room overlooking a town square and the gorges surrounding the city. We spent a good couple of days here wandering the city and the huge castle over looking it. While we were at V. Tarnovo it was getting geared up for the Worlds Arm Wrist Wrestling Championship. Wouldn't you know it, we ran into a few guys from the Canadian team so they and Ken swapped a few stories (you know Ken used to "pull", as they call it, back in his younger years). We also met a great Aussie couple, Val and Shane, a couple around our age doing a world travel thing for about 2 years via train, busand whatever...We had a couple of dinners and talked about our travels- past, present and future-Australia is definitely in our plans.
Next it was off to the Black Sea, where the water is really quite blue not black and is not near as salty as some. We had a bit of a dilemma here because we found an all inclusive resort offering a nights stay for 50 euros...for two, and we were spending about that much on a regular daily basis. It was very tempting to stop for a few days and over indulge but a quick rock, paper scissors settled it for us and we were off. We probably would have been to stuffed and hungover to ride for days anyway!:(
A day or two after leaving the Black Sea we stopped for lunch at the quite little town of Shiroka Laka and left two days later. Cobblestone streets patched with cow pies, awesome hiking, and on our last night we stopped at a restaurant that had a folk singer and musician playing a bag pipe. What a hoot! We ate, drank cognac (pliska) and danced a jig with the Bulgaria tourists. I guess the entertainers were actually famous and had writen and recorded their own music, one song had actually been played on a pace shuttle?!!?
Next it was south into the Perin Mountains where we spent the night in a retro 70's hotel at the summit, because it is the end of the season here we had the whole place to ourselves. The hiking was great! Bulgaria has a fantastic hiking system with thousands of trails, all well marked, and many have huts along the way in the mountains where you can spend the night or just have a meal. The room was 18 dollars, the dinner was 7.50 (including beer) and breakfast was 3, all for two people!!!Crazy!!! Even the rain that had started couldn't dampen our spirits. As we rode out of the mountains and down into Greece we looked over our shoulders and waved a fond goodbye to Bulgaria and knew we wouldn't forget it soon.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Hungary and Romania...duely noted

Crossing the Hungary border.

It never ceases to amaze me the work that goes into the churches, especially the ceiling.

View of Egar from a canon hole in the castle above.

Ken tries a little of the local wine in search of the Bull's Blood (history says the Turks were scared away during an attack after seeing the Hungarians beards stained red from the wine, thinking it was bulls blood that was being drank). The plastic bottles you see behind Ken can be bought and filled with the cellars wines, or you can bring your own bottle if you like.

Romania here we come, this border crossing is the only one that has questioned our German licence plate so far.

The cutest little towns,

with the prettiest landscape.

Did I mention the cutest little towns?

We happened upon a wedding party going down the road, complete in traditional clothes and tack.

The view from the top of the Transfragarasan pass.

We are having a heck a time finding internet facilities here so here is a condensed version of Hungary and Romania a few things that we found memorable...I don't know maybe you had to be there.. and worthy of being written down.

  1. great breakfasts, too big to eat. In Egar we had to ask for a smaller breakfast after the first day getting an omelet with 7-9 eggs!
  2. souvenirs...pens, t-shirts, calendars, cokes, cd's
  3. not quite so handsome people, you might say they haven't quite aged gracefully.
  4. an abundance of underground wine cellars, in the valley of beautiful women we spent an afternoon tasting wine and looking for the red wine they call the bulls blood.
  5. a language that is unique to Europe...just nod and laugh.


  1. the worst secondary roads, a good support bra is highly recommended.
  2. too cute little towns with small house fronts and gates hiding barns with geese and cows, gardens with potatoes, cabbage and who knows what else, each house a bench in front so the people can sit out and watch the local goings on.
  3. ugly cities, concrete apartments built during the time of socialism and are now rundown and dilapidated or deserted.
  4. one of the highest roads in Europe, the Transfagarasan pass (breathtaking at 2034 mt).
  5. Audis driving along side horse and wagon
  6. little roadside bars with men gathering at 8am for a local beer.
  7. while we were here a world record of the larges batch of Mamaliga (a cornmeal mush that is boiled or fried, something like polenta, that is served with most meals) 500 kgs.