Wrapping up and starting to head home

Over a week has passed since engines off, no more morning helmet visor cleaning for Anne, it all seems a little surreal. I have adapted to driving a wider vehicle although I still cannot understand why cars continue to drive on my side of the road flashing their lights as they head straight towards me, puzzling.

How are we adjusting some people have asked: not too badly, we both still miss being on Streak and Storm from time to time, but that journey was not open ended and is finished. We move on, what to, I am not sure, we will need a little time to get home and think about the future – home still needs painting, our seven month absence will not have fixed that. We have decided that we will just pick a ‘white’ paint from the forty or so shades on offer, then comes the problem of which brush to choose.

As Anne mentioned in her last blog entry, this will be our last long haul motorcycle trip. While we achieved our objective of circumnavigating the globe for a second time, we now want to explore at a slower pace with focus on a particular region or culture. While it is a departure from our previous two adventures, we both came to a realisation that while we were forced to move on due to time or visa constraint, we would in future like to travel at a more leisurely pace and explore those small villages, open spaces and intriguing laneways that were always beckoning us as we rode by. Quite what and where is still to be debated, along with mode of transport, no more flying for Steak and Storm: you may not realise it, but they have been on 8 separate flights. Streak and Storm will be Europe based in future, which is still a huge and largely unexplored region for us. We still may decide to part with them but that is a decision for the future.

We have spent the time since our return catching up with some family and friends in a little bit of a whirlwind over the past 10 days, there is just not enough time to see everyone and we hope those we missed will understand and we will try and meet next time. Sorry. We were glad to see everyone was well and enjoying life and most passed the 2slowspeeds blog Q&A session. Yes we do really monitor who is reading the blog, just kidding, although if you want to appear knowledgeable, do not, as one nameless person we spoke to a couple of months back when we are in Azerbaijan, say ‘I thought you were back in Australia’, it gives the game away.

Our journey home will take 9 days: we decided to take the opportunity to break what we are finding more and more is a tiring journey for us both that leaves us jet lagged for up to a week once home. We, well I thought that it would be fun to keep our destinations a surprise for our followers, and family for that matter. Anne thought it a little strange, but went along with it to humour me, my thought was a extra for our followers, although it does not involve motorcycles or 4×4’s. It also takes us to a couple of destinations we have not visited before. We only have a couple of days in each place, but it will give us a sampler of the chosen locations.

Our flight leaves Heathrow and in less than half a day we have this view as we descend to land.

Like all good serials, we leave our viewers wondering what comes next.

– Anthony

We did it!!!

Yes, we did it and it feels great!! Our 2nd round the world trip on the same motorcycles, Streak and Storm, in 6 months this time, from east to west, is now complete: 30,300kms or 19,000 miles plus 2 flights, 5 ferry rides and 2 truck rides, 22 countries visited on this trip, 11 new countries, making it 95 countries in total for us over the years. And we celebrated a couple of milestones on the road: 43 years since we met and my 60th birthday.

We did it!!!

Why did we do this trip again?! Well, it was a choice between painting the house or going on another bike trip. There was no hesitation on our part. After Anthony drew up 3 routes of varying length and duration, we both picked the same one: the longest one, another round the world. There were friends in a number of countries we made on our last round the world trip who we dearly wanted to see again. It was also the most challenging route, for the timeframe – can we go around the world during a northern hemisphere summer? and for the terrain – crossing Mongolia with its renowned stunning scenery but difficult roads. Why so fast? We didn’t want to be away another 15 months – 6 months seemed to be about right and we saw it like an endurance challenge, a marathon, or ultra-marathon if you will, one that would challenge us both physically and mentally. Well, the timeframe challenge ended up forcing two major route changes along the way. Right at the start of the trip, we had to abandon our plan to ride to Alaska due to a long late winter. We spent a couple of months basically seeking less freezing weather and heading further and further south in the US. Then we gave up the indefinite wait in Kazakhstan to hear whether Turkmenistan would grant us a transit visa which meant we could not return to Iran to visit the many friends we made last time. That was gutting. And the terrain proved to be more challenging, hence one pickup ride in Mongolia, and the timeframe too, due to visa constraints, hence the 2nd pickup ride. Yes, the ride was at times physically and mentally tough but also so much fun and so rewarding!!! Renewing friendships and making new ones a huge part of that enjoyment. So we made it around the world from east to west in 6 months as we had hoped!!! And safely!! And we feel good.

Both bikes performed fantastically well overall: Streak’s four problems got fixed in Tajikistan and is still running with a secret ‘Tajik fix’ and both Streak and Storm got a new battery in Turkey. Heidenau Scout K60 tyres were fitted in Vancouver and lasted 20,000 kms.

As for us, we have enjoyed the whole journey, loved the people we met and new friendships made, saw some fantastic places, experienced so many unforgettable moments, discovered places we’d love to return to, supported each other during the tougher parts, learned more about ourselves, and best of all, can confirm once again that based on our experience, the world over, the vast majority of people are good, kind, generous and helpful.

As we close this chapter, we know how we would like to travel next!!! While we had a fantastic trip, we were so often sorry to have to move on. Too often, we ran out of time to spend a couple of more days somewhere to catch up with friends on the road – that was disappointing. 6 months was too short really. But at least we know where we’d love to return to such as the Caucasus. And while we saw stunning scenery and many fabulous ancient sites, as always, it is the time we spent with people that stays with us. We would love to spend longer in one place, wandering the smaller lanes and smaller villages with lesser known sights, at a much slower pace and at a time of the year that isn’t either too boiling hot or freezing to camp – I may have to work on Anthony for the camping part though!! Our pace will change radically. But for now, Streeak and Storm return to their storage place in southern UK.

Feeling good – we have just completed our 2nd Round trip on motorcycles!

Thank you to our numerous Gardian Angels and to all our followers for your comments and private messages and encouragement, it always meant so much to us, our connection back to home, family and friends. It is time we did that painting at home now!

– Anne

Nearing the end of the journey

We are back in France, well the far southern part at least, the last country on our 2nd RTW motorcycle trip. It is almost over, in less than a week we will be waiting to board a ferry to England. It all seems a little surreal, we have spent almost six months travelling generally westward seeing and experiencing so much and now we will race through the last week ignoring the signs for interesting and intriguing places. We are out of time, the temperature is dropping, leaves are gaining their autumnal tints and it’s time for us finish our journey.

We leave Dubrovnik to sunshine as usual, following the coast road (D8) to Donja Podstrana – there is a name for you but the weather forecasts see rain fronts crossing the continent over the coming week, so our aim will be to try and minimise our exposure while still keeping to our timetable.

Dalmatian Coast

Dalmatian Coast

Dalmatian Coast

Dalmatian Coast

We leave Donja Podstrana and the coast and head inland to the main motorway. The scenery changes in only few miles, is less arid and shows a gentler side to Croatia, small villages, intriguing winding roads. Yet another place to come back to and explore – the list keeps growing, we must stop looking or we will have years of traveling just in this part of the world.

Time to leave our motel at Donja Podstrana, Croatia

We cross into Slovinia, our last new country on this journey and last border crossing until the UK as we are in the Schengen area late in the afternoon and spend a night in a small hotel/guest house.

The next morning sees a magical mist covered landscape heading north, yes added that to the list as well.

Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia

Ilirska Bistrica, Slovenia

Prestranek, Slovenia

Vipava, Slovenia

Vipava, Slovenia

Morning light in Borgo Ticino, NW of Milan, Italy

Italy was crossed with our destination, Montauroux, a small hilltop village west of Grasse, where we were based from January to May 2014 and did a significant amount of planning for RTW version 1.

Riding up to Montauroux, Provence

Heading into Montauroux

As we ride up the hill towards Montauroux, we recognise all the old sights, winding our way into the square, we are relieved, nothing seems to have changed. We park outside the ‘Brasserie du Clos’ where we would walk to each morning for coffee to watch the world go by, and more often than not in the evening for Pizza and a surprisingly good rosé wine on tap. We had got to know the proprietor Albert quite well. Over three years later, would he still be there or have sold and moved on? He is there and remembers us, he still has a post card we sent from Uzbekistan in 2014. Another great reconnection on this trip.

Back in Montauroux for coffee

We wander the town, reminding ourselves of those little things that fade from the memory,

View of Montauroux seen by us every day when we lived here

Cat flap in Montauroux

Lunch at the ‘Brasserie du Clos’ talking with Albert, it was great to see him again. We will keep in touch in future. Merci Albert pour le déjeuner, à la prochaine!

Anne and Albert in Montauroux

Our next stop is in Aix, chosen from a number of similar interesting places around the same distance from Montauroux, we know that Anne has an Aunt in the region, but where? Aix of course! We spend a couple of hours catching up with someone Anne had not seen in over 25 years.

Lodève, France

Heading down towards Lunas, France

Onwards to Lunas in the Occitanie region, created in 2016, where we catch up with the last friends before finishing this trip. Phillip and Judith we met in 2009 in India where we were all part of an organised group riding through Darjeeling and Bhutan on Royal Enfield motorcycles, our first overseas motorcycle adventure and look where that led us!!

Knights Templar village of La Couvertoirade

Knights Templar village of La Couvertoirade

Rooftops in Knights Templar village of La Couvertoirade

We spend a couple of days enjoying their company and hospitality and the last of the warm sunshine before heading off into the rain and back to UK, the trip almost over…

Anne, Phillip and Judith in the sunshine, Lunas

– Anthony

Breakfast in Albania, Lunch in Montenegro and Dinner in Croatia

Yes it’s true, the marvels of small countries, having spent 10 days just crossing four of Russia’s 12 time zones in June, to visit three countries in a day. It was a slow and leisurely journey dictated by the winding roads. Rain gone, we navigate out of Tirana with a sigh of relief as we were completely unable to determine who had priority at roundabouts. It seemed to change at each one, we found the best solution was to use a larger vehicle as a shield and when they went we went. Well it worked for us.

Bike wash coming, en-route to the Albanian border

Our first heavy rain cleaned Streak and Storm and only lasted a few minutes, a taste of what’s to come. We are already pining for warm weather – we are so fickle.

Rozafa castle, Shkoder, Albania

The green and the grey, just missed this one

At the Albanian / Montenegro border, we will need insurance: Montenegro is not part of the Green Card system we have for motorcycle insurance, although I am sure this will change when Albania and Montenegro join he EU. Currently Albania has ‘Candidate’ status and Montenegro is in negotiation, a stage prior to Candidacy. Both have adopted vehicle number plates that mimic the EU ones. As we leave the Albanian Customs and Immigration, we find no Montenegrin counterpart, ah that was the meaning of the ‘Joint Facility’ sign, so no insurance = drive carefully in Montenegro!

Montenegrin short cut

Angled and Parallel Parking combined

Lunch is taken at a small restaurant where no one speaks English. The owner asks all the customers, ‘who speaks English?’ and a young guy comes forward. We ask if they have chicken, yes so chicken kebabs it is. Only as we wait and see a staff member return from the supermarket do we realise, they don’t do chicken, but got it to accommodate us. Very nice.

What a fabulous coastine, Montenegro

Anne crossing between Lepetane and Kamenari, Montenegro

Streak crossing between Lepetane and Kamenari, Montenegro

Crossing between Lepetane and Kamenari, Montenegro

Looking North while crossing between Lepetane and Kamenari, Montenegro

We continue on and navigate successfully to Croatia where our Green Card Insurance kicks in.

Wonderful treescapes, heading in Croatia

We start to see more and more tourist motorcycles and by the end of the day I think we have seen more travellers on touring motorcycles as opposed to adventure motorcycles, than the combined travellers over the previous few months. We are returning to civilisation. We are now riding the famed Dalmatian Coast: the road twists and turns, climbs and falls with the varied blues of the Adriatic sea on the left contrasting with greys, browns and greens of the rugged mountain landscape on the right.

Traffic on the D8 south of Dubrovnik

Much as I enjoy this scenery, the volume of traffic and seemingly continuous habitation do detract in my mind to the glimpses of beauty laid out on both sides of the road. I wish we had more time to dive down a little lane to the beach below or ride the track up the mountain for a better view, but alas not this time. We both feel that perhaps the best way to see the region given the geography would be by boat, sailing along the coast, visiting islands and coves at will.

With only one road, long convoys form, with few overtaking places, it can be quite frustrating. We are lucky however on a couple of occasions to reach the front, pull away and have a quite few minutes of traffic free riding, a great experience and worth the effort to lead, not just follow.

Coming from the South, Dubrovnik is laid out below us on the other side of the road. Anne risked life and limb to take this photo, so savour it.

Dubrovnik from the D8 road

Like so many wonderful tourist spots today, we are smothering them by sheer numbers of visitors, we thought that this late in September would be quieter, but with over 91% of hotel rooms booked out, we were wrong. We joined the throng heading for the old walled city, with an equally large number of people leaving. While the buildings on the main streets within the walls are visitor focused, glimpses up the narrow passageways shows domestic washing hanging from the windows. All is not lost to the tourist trade. Still, we really enjoyed our short visit and had both dinner, down a little side alley and breakfast over looking the ocean. Could not have been better.

Looking east up the Stratum in Dubrovnik

Minčeta tower and western old city walls, Dubrovnik

Main square in Dubrovnik looking North.

Local lanes in Dubrovnik

Pile gate, Dubrovnik city wall

We came across the art gallery of Ivo Grbić, which was burnt down with the loss of all his work during the conflict between Croatia and Serbia-Montenegro in December 1991. It must be hard for an artist to loose so much of his work forever, but the building is restored and his work continues. A reminder of what was so recent and in Europe, not some far flung part of the world we had barely heard of. One can hope that the process of becoming part of the European Union will enhance the healing as a new generation grows up, hopefully without the baggage of the past.

Our breakfast view, Dubrovnik

Breakfast with Anne in Dubrovnik, could not be happier

From Dubrovnik we will head inland, the coast road is too slow for us as we now have about 10 days to complete this journey and 2000 km. / 1200 ml. to cover. We will fly past so many wonderful and interesting places that I do not want to look at any travel guides to see what I am missing, but this was a Northern Hemisphere Summer RTW trip so we are still following our primary goal, tempting as it is at times to just stay, wander off track, we would probably still be in North America! Not this time. Next we head for Bosnia-Herzegovina which has a small sliver of coastline which breaks Dubrovnik from the rest of Croatia.

– Anthony

Returning to Europe

We leave the Gallipoli Peninsula and Turkey with fond memories: we have covered the country from from one side to the other, seen amazing sites, met wonderful people, ridden great roads and complained about the heat from time to time, something we will miss looking at the weather forecasts for Europe, some 10 to 15 degrees celsius cooler. We have a couple more days of greater than 30 degree celsius weather then out come our winter woollies. You have to remember that we have basically avoided the colder weather since we set off on our first RTW trip in June 2014. We have become used to warmth.

Turkish Immigration is straightforward, Customs however want to X-Ray Anne’s bike, not mine I hasten to add, with the machine they use to X-Ray trucks – that will be a new experience. We weave through the parked trucks to the X-Ray office, closed, walk back to Customs. Here I am told that it will open in five minutes, then a van arrives with the official, probably late for work. I am motionned to follow the van, on foot no thanks, I hop in next to the driver. Probably not making him happy. We get Streak up on the ramp, X-Ray on, we wait, he wants to try another X-Ray machine. I tell Anne to wait while I take Streak back past Customs and Immigration to the X-Ray machine on the Inbound side of the facility near the exit back into Turkey and as he has Streak’s motorcycle passport you follow. You do start to wonder if they have seen something, has someone put an illegal item in the bike while it was parked overnight?

X-ray time for a tiny ‘truck’

Into the X-Ray machine for Streak, and wait for me. Then the X-Ray officer I have been dealing with leaves with his colleagues. More waiting, then a new X-Ray officer comes out gives me the Motorcycle Passport, “tell Customs Ok” that’s it. I get to ride back using the open gate to avoid Immigration and Customs, come in from the other side and tell the Customs officer its all Ok and we are done. Strange process, at least we will be able to find Streak in the dark from now on, hopefully we will not set off any radiation detectors that may exist in ports going forward.

Back in the EU, a simple check of our EU passports and we enter Greece, what will the process be like for UK Citizens post Brexit, more complicated I suspect, but that is for the future. We also have a single currency, the Euro, no more converting one dada to another and finding various notes and coins in pockets after we have crossed the border. Open highway, good road, four lane highway, but where are the petrol/gasoline stations and restaurants? There are none on the A2 highway between the Turkish border and Thessaloniki. In Turkey both facilities dot the highways, we see signs at exit points and eventually hunger for food and fuel have us off the highway to a delightful local garage. In Greece it seems they have kept the facilities in the towns and villages, not shut them down and moved them onto the highways as other countries have done.

For lunch we find a small village with a great seafood restaurant, we are enjoying the wide range of Greek food on offer. We have a long day but reach the town of Kozani, west of Thessaloniki having covered over 550 km. / 340 ml. A strange oneway system gets us to our hotel, which I thought was on a continuation of a one way street, lucky Anne is around to save me from denting the bonnets of passing cars!

Bear and cub crossing sign in Greece

Clever representation of fog for cars, Greece

The road to the Albanian border is brand new, not even on the maps, which causes some confusion for the GPS as we appear to head into the middle of nowhere. The Customs and Immigration between Greece and Albania are a breeze compared with the seemingly mindless paperwork we have encountered previously. I have given up documenting borders, all too easy here. All we need is insurance and it always seems the next window sells insurance we are told until finally ‘Yes we sell insurance’, should have guessed by the words ‘Best Albanian Insurance’ above the window. We are all set.

Albania has a nice feel, and maybe not as arid as the Greek side. We leisurely wind our way towards the capital, stopping for coffee at a small roadside cafe. Here we meet Johnny, a local who speaks excellent English, plus Albanian and Greek. He is studying Journalism and has a great desire to learn and travel. As we travel more and more young people have been exposed to so much of the world via the internet and want to get out there and explore and learn and experience the same sort of opportunities that we take for granted.

SH101 north of Koeçe, Albania

Drying corn husks in Albania

Drying corn husks in Albania

Strolling throuh Pogradec, Albania

Proud owner who painted his home, Pogradec

Home in narrow lane in Pogradec, Albania

Lasgush Poradeci, poet born in Pogradec, Albania

Librazhd, Albania

Wonderful Johnny Goussa, Librazhd, Albania

Large cities have less and less attraction for us, especially riding Streak and Storm. Tirana, sadly, does not disappoint: masses of traffic, impatient drivers and pedestrians interweaved with them. Anne always takes into account when booking a hotel the ease of riding into and out of town. This makes it a little easier for me navigating on the GPS. We arrive successfully, but plan to leave early to avoid some of the more interesting driving behaviours of the locals.

Getting to our hotel in Tirana, Albania

Checking the forecast weather for tomorrow, rain rain rain, we decide to spend two nights in Tirana instead of moving on. The day is punctuated by frequent showers but we use the intervening time to explore the fish market, main square and the old underground bunkers used by the leadership in the Communist era.

The storm is coming, Tirana, Albania

Street sculpture, Tirana, Albania

Street sculpture, Tirana, Albania

Playing dominoes, town square, Tirana

Not a throw-away society, rewiring electrical motors husband and wife business, Tirana, Albania

Not a throw-away society, rewiring electrical motors husband and wife business, Tirana, Albania

The bunkers have been turned into a museum charting the history and activities of the police and security forces since the start of the 20th century, with emphasis on how they watched monitored and enforced the Communist Governments desire to control the population and weed out and brutally punish any supposed or falsely accused dissidents, saboteurs and traitors. So sad to see pictures of those individuals who suffered at the hands of the police.

Bunk’Art2 Museum, Tirana, Albania

Bunk’Art2 Museum, Tirana, Albania

List of people killed, Bunk’Art2 Museum, Tirana, Albania

Photos of some of the people killed, entrance of the Bunk’Art2 Museum, Tirana, Albania

A sobering reminder of what lengths authoritarian regimes will go to maintain power.

– Anthony