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

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

Turkish Delights

As we entered Turkey a week ago, we also started a new phase on this trip on many levels. We now have 4 weeks left to cross Turkey (about 2,500kms/1560miles), and make our way through Europe to get back to the UK the first week of October (we have no idea of our route yet, so no mileage for that). Our focus now is to make the distance and keep a few days up our sleeve in case of bad weather as we get to western Europe. Because of this, no longer can we afford to meander, not too much anyway or spend days in one place or spend too much time sightseeing – we have to be very selective. We even missed out on catching up with a couple of friends by a few days. We try and plan our day so that we can sightsee after a day’s ride or first thing in the morning – it is still pretty hot in this part of the world making riding and sightseeing in the heat of the day a bit much at times. More on the places we stopped at later. This new phase also marks our leaving Asia and the Great Silk Route to enter Europe.

There have been so many “firsts” on this trip this past week!

It is the first time we have planned more than an day ahead. In fact we even planned 7 days ahead in Turkey and booked accommodation for most days, mixing long riding days and visiting some important sights. It is the first time we have stayed at rather luxurious hotels, 4 star hotels – why not at Euro 40 a night?!

We are now in an undoubtedly Muslim country. The first mosque was just around the corner once we entered the country, then it felt like there was another literally a few meters down the road up to Trabzon. As we travelled through the smallest village, there would always be at least two, if not more. When we were in Sivas, on the top terrace of our (luxury) hotel, it was wonderful to hear the call echoeing gently across town. I first experienced this in Jeddah and I have to say, it is rather magical. All the ones we have heard here to date as we ride through towns and villages have been gentle and melodic calls, unlike many I have heard in the UAE.

Suddenly, being in Turkey, I feel I cannot communicate with people: no more Russian here and no English. I have not used Google translate as much in the past 5 months as I have in the last week in Turkey. It is such a pity as the Turks are so friendly.

We have seen so many road signs in Turkey. We must have seen more warning signs, orange cones, road narrows signs, lane disappears signs, traffic arrows than we have in the past 5 months altogether. I have to say though that traffic and driving style here nearly warrants its own blog. Thank goodness the road surfaces are good throughout the country so far. Even the smallest country road is in pristine condition!! What a dream you might think. Yes, certainly, it has been a great change after Kazakhstan roads especially, if it wasn’t for the drivers… They are such bad drivers, never seem to be able to go round bends without cutting the corner. Even on a double-lane- each-way road, with a wide safety centre lane, they drive in this safety lane and still cut the corner over into our lane. We just ride as if there will always be a car in our lane as we come around the corner. “Needs our lane” is what we tell each other as a warning. You would think we’d be used to this after all the time we’ve spent on the road! The difference here is that they now have more powerful cars, so they drive extremely fast, but still can’t control them. I miss the friendly hello hoot and wave which has been changed to get out of my way hoot and flashing lights. It is odd because, they are so friendly out of their cars!! I burst out laughing today as a vehicle 3 cars behind me hooted even before the lights had gone to orange before going green!!! And this evening, as we are riding onto a ferry and being directed by ferry staff on the deck, a car behind me tried to overtake me!! He was promptly stopped by the ferry staff, but what was he thinking, we’re all on the same ferry!!

Funnily, we have not understood the speed limits or roundabout rules in this country. Anthony reckons the speed limits must be in miles instead of kms. Despite 50 speed limits through towns and villages, everyone does at least 90!! Give way or stop signs mean nothing especially on roundabouts so we just follow what the locals do. And who came up with this speed limit?

82?!! Speed limits, Turkey

So many road signs and markings in Turkey

We have also seen many police armoured cars with machine guns, police with sub-machine guns at the numerous road blocks and checks on the roads. Even police directing traffic at the occasional road construction carry sub-machine guns. But we have not sensed any tension in the streets or seen much security in the tourist spots.

Traffic police with sub-machine guns, Turkey

New gas pipeline from Russia, Zara, Turkey

Using wifi, we have found many of our common sites censored. No wikipedia on anything whatsoever (not even on Ephesus) and no access to my usual hotel booking site – I wonder what they have done to upset the authorities here.

Since we arrived here, we have been eating so well!!! No more boiled mantis – dumplings with dubious animal mince! Even the simplest chicken kebab is absolutely delicious and always comes with a fresh lettuce, cucumber and tomato salad and with a basket of bread! Yes, you don’t get a slice but always a massive basket of bread. Better be careful not to put too much weight on!! Talking about the luxury of great food, cheap luxury hotels, my list of firsts wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the luxury of finding toilet paper in restaurants, hotels and public toilets. And you are allowed to throw the paper down the toilet instead of placing it in an open bin… ahh the joys of travel and what you take for granted!!!

So what have we seen of Turkey this past week? We enjoyed the wild grand mountains around the Sumela monastery, the raw and humbling beauty of nature, the sound of water, the greenery. The monastery was closed for renovation, but spending time near it awe inspiring.

Sumela monastery, Turkey

Sumela monastery, Turkey

How fabulous is that patch of green, near Sumela monastery

Lovely spot for lunch on our way to Erzincan

Kizilay roundabout with actual pouring water

Water fountain stop, Erzincan- Sivas road

Erzincan- Sivas road

Wonderful to see some water, Imranli Resevoir

The scenery after Sivas I found stunningly beautiful, in a very gentle way. The golden harvested fields with scattered poplars took me back to my childhood in northern France where I used to ride around on my pushbike first, then later on my moped. We just didn’t have the mountains in the background of course!

West of Sivas, Turkey

We had a few places we intended to visit here: Goreme, with its famous “fairy chimney” rock formations and hot air balloons, the 8th century rock-cut monastery of Selime, the ancient Roman spa “sacred city” of Hierapolis and the nearby Pamukkale thermal pools, Konya’s 13th century Sultanhani caravanseray, the 10 century BC Greek city of Ephesus. Well, we saw most of those, but missed out on Selime – we missed the turnoff and when we realised, we had gone so far, and it was so hot, we simply could not be bothered – terrible isn’t it?! Reflects how tired we are at times!! Same with the caravanseray, touring outdoors in the heat of the day is too hard. What we did get to see has been spectacular.

Goreme, Turkey

Goreme, Turkey

Goreme, Turkey – notice the stairs up

Check out Anthony’s video – press the arrow to play:

Hierapolis, Turkey

Hierapolis, Turkey

Hierapolis in the background, Turkey

Pamukkale travertine, Turkey

Pamukkale travertine, Turkey

Walking down the Pamukkale travertine, Turkey

The Great Theatre, Ephesus, Turkey

The Library, Ephesus, Turkey

Temple of Hadrian, Ephesus, Turkey

Nike, Goddess of Victory, Ephesus, Turkey

Terrace house, Ephesus, Turkey

Terrace house, Ephesus, Turkey

Ephesus, Turkey

The oldest advert? “This way to the brothel” – Ephesus, Turkey

What is common with everywhere we’ve been is that people are very friendly and love Australians. So often, on telling people we are from Australia, they tell us what a good country Australia is and how we are friends. One guy we met in a restaurant told us his grandfather died at Gallipoli, he sleeps there now he tells us. Anthony mentioned his grandfather had been there too. “They are both sleeping together” he said, assuming he had died there too but there was no point in correcting him. The intent of his statement genuinely welcoming, despite our past fighting.

And like always too, some of the best moments for us are the simpler times, sitting at a roadside cafe, walking around a local market and being offered a piece of kelek, a fruit that tastes like a cucumber and is cut up in pieces by the market seller so you can snack on them, listening to a group of musicians and watching others enjoying the music, being invited for tea and a chat even though we don’t understand each other, chatting with people at traffic lights which happens so often, it doesn’t matter, it is all about sharing humanity. And of course, we love the quiet moments, in the middle of nowhere, enjoying the scenery, together.

Musicians in Sivas

No excuse not to recycle, Sivas

Dr Halil Uluer, owner of Anatolian Balloons and Eray Bora – Discovery Balloons chief pilot, Goreme, Turkey

Our time on the road is running out fast, but we still treasure the time we have to experience as many new places and people as we can.

On our way to Kilitbahir, Turkey

Next stop Gallipoli…

– Anne