Deel 2 van onze Griekse blog beschrijft onze rondrit over schiereiland Peleponnesos. We zijn inmiddels geen newbie’s meer als het gaat om Griekenland en hoe het is om daar te fietsen. We weten bijvoorbeeld dat het een Griekse hobby moet zijn om afval in de fik te steken en om de omgeving van het huis schoon te spuiten, of zoals Harry het gekscherend zegt: het land van struikstokers en stoepspoelers. We verwachten echter meer van de Peloponnesos; we hebben er veel moois over gehoord en zijn reuze benieuwd.
Europe (2021 - 2023)
Griekenland gaat het 16e én laatste land zijn dat we op deze tour door Oost- en Zuidoost-Europa aandoen. Het vliegticket terug, van Athene naar Amsterdam, is namelijk geboekt. We kennen het land; we zijn er allebei wel eens op vakantie geweest en op onze wereldfietstocht zijn we er een stukje doorheen gefietst richting Turkije. Maar ja dat waren een paar eilanden en een stukje van pakweg 100 kilometer bij Alexandropoli. Nu hebben we maar liefst dik zes weken om het land echt te leren kennen, terwijl het toeristenseizoen, nu eind oktober, definitief tot zijn eind komt. Één blog maken over een periode over zes weken zou leiden tot een waar boekwerk, en aangezien we van die "achteraf-bloggers" zijn, gebaseerd op gezamenlijk geheugen, zouden we veel vergeten. Dus gaan we ons Griekenland-avontuur opknippen in delen. Lees hier het eerste deel: de westkust (tot aan Peloponnesos).
Albanië staat hoog op ons lijstje landen waar we nieuwsgierig naar zijn. Het schijnt er heel erg mooi te zijn, maar hoe zijn de mensen? Meestal proberen we een paar basiswoorden te leren, maar Albanees is erg lastig, 'hallo' is 'c'kemi', 'ja' is 'po', 'nee' is 'jo' en 'bedankt' is 'falemnderit'. Best moeilijk om te onthouden en al snel merken we dat hello, bongiorno en ciao hier ook wel begrepen worden. Als we de falemnderit proberen te gebruiken krijgen we steevast een vertederende glimlach terug. Het zal wel niet klinken, maar onze poging wordt zeer gewaardeerd. Sowieso ervaren we dat de mensen toegankelijk, open en behulpzaam zijn, al is er dus sprake van een taalbarriëre. De over het algemeen wat afhoudende en wantrouwende houding eerder op de Balkan vinden we hier niet terug: er wordt volop naar ons gezwaaid ook vanuit auto's en vrachtwagens en iedereen vraagt waar we vandaan komen.
We zijn al vaker een inleiding begonnen met "wat weet jij van...". Nou van Montenegro weten we aanvankelijk bijna niets, behalve dat we er nooit geweest zijn. Nou daar komt verandering in! Natuurlijk doen we (een beetje) recherche. Zo weten we dat de euro feitelijk de munteenheid is. Kijk dat is makkelijk. Ook weten we dat in Montenegro op zondag alle winkels, ook de grotere supermarkten, dicht zijn. Dat is de reden dat we pas op maandag het land binnenfietsen, na nog heel even een bliksembezoekje aan Kroatië. Tenslotte weten we dat het overgrote deel van de fietsreizigers, die richting zuiden fietsen, het land nagenoeg letterlijk links laten liggen: zij steken van het zuidelijkste puntje van Kroatië, via het Montenegrijnse stadje Kotor met één overnachting direct door naar Shkoder, Albanië. Wij fietsen ook naar Shkoder, maar doen daar langer over. Met andere woorden: we laten het land niet links liggen maar slaan links af het binnenland in. Voordat we dan met een grote omweg in Albanië aankomen, zullen we ook nog door Kosovo fietsen, waar we in dit blog ook verslag van zullen doen.
Bosnië en Herzegovina! Het elfde land op onze tocht door Oost- en Zuidoost Europa. Ook dit land hebben we eerder doorkruist op onze wereldfietstocht, net als Slovenië en Kroatië. Maar net als Slovenië en Kroatië zijn we er toen een beetje linea recta doorheen gesjeesd. En net als Slovenië en Kroatië eerder op deze tocht, nemen we ons voor meer te zien en te beleven van dit land.
De vorige keer dat we hier waren was in 2018 en toen vierde Kroatië het succes van hun team op het WK voetbal: veel trots en veel vlaggen en andere uitingen. Naast die trots zagen wij destijds helaas niet veel moois -op het oude centrum van Zagreb na dan- met verlaten huizen en dorpen. Nu is ons plan om dichter bij de kust te blijven die wel eens erg toeristisch zou kunnen zijn. We zijn benieuwd!
Wordt Slovenië na Hongarije een deceptie? Hongarije is ons namelijk uitermate goed bevallen en dan kan het daarna alleen maar tegenvallen, toch? Aan de andere kant zijn we in 2018 op onze wereldfietstocht al door Slovenië gefietst en we herinneren ons best een aantal dingen, onder andere het levendige straatbeeld met open mensen in de stadjes en dorpen, maar ook de relatief dure campings die ook nog eens dun bezaaid zijn. Maar toen zijn we in minder dan drie dagen van noord naar zuid gecrost en nu willen we (grofweg, nog geen definitieve route) van noordoost naar zuidwest er beslist langer over doen. We fietsen echter niet vanuit Hongarije het land binnen; dat doen we vanuit Oostenrijk waar we ook een nacht gekampeerd hebben.
Hongarije, het land van Budapest, Orban, Donau, goulash, Balaton, paprikasaus op Hongaarse wijze (ooit bekend bekend als zigeunersaus), etc. Wat meteen opvalt is dat de taal nogal afwijkt van Tsjechië en Slowakije. Geen dobry den meer als groet maar jona pot, en de informele groet ahoj zou szia zijn, maar dat die horen we nauwelijks en wel iets dat klinkt als Tiësto met nog een k erachter... Moeilijke taal en kijk nou hoe ze Hongarije schrijven: Magyarország. Hongarije, opnieuw een land waar we nog nooit eerder geweest zijn. Het is altijd mooi om een land waar je een aantal veronderstellingen (of misschien beter, vooroordelen) bij hebt, in het echt te ervaren op de fiets!
Slowakije is een voor ons onbekend land. We verwachten weinig verschillen met Tsjechië te ontdekken. Een eerste verschil is dat we de euro terug hebben als munteenheid en dat we met overgebleven Tsjechische kronen rond gaan fietsen, waarvan we elke dag zeggen dat we die vandaag gaan omwisselen, maar nog in ons bezit hebben, als we Slowakije verlaten.
Het eerste wat je noemt, als je aan Tsjechië denkt, is Praag. Het eerste na het passeren van de grens, dat ons opvalt, zijn de fietsbordjes die niet meer wit met groene opschriften zijn maar geel met zwart. Zijn er nog andere verschillen met Duitsland? Natuurlijk, alleen al de taal, die voor ons verschuift van vaardig en begrijpelijk naar vrijwel onverstaanbaar en onleesbaar. Er zijn meer dingen die Tsjechië karakteriseren en daar komen we al fietsend achter. We fietsen door het stadje Cheb (zie route via PolarSteps) naar een fietsenmaker om de ratelende derailleur van Roelie te resetten en tegelijk ook de spaken van het nieuwe achterwiel te laten controleren, want de eerste 1000 km zitten erop en dat is het moment voor een nadere centrering. De fietsenmaker is zeer behulpzaam en gaat er meteen mee aan de slag. Wij mogen een half uurtje door de stad zwerven die nu Cheb heet maar vroeger Eger heette. Veel steden hebben een Tsjechische en Duitse naam. Op internet en onder andere onze reisapps Komoot, MapOut en GoogleMaps worden de namen door elkaar gebruikt want bij ons regelmatig tot verwarring leidt. Hoe dat zit, komen we later op terug.
Eindelijk is het zover! Het is zondag 30 juli: de dag van de Grand Depart. We noemen het zelf "hearttobeat reload". Vijf maanden voordat we op een vliegtuig stappen naar Bariloche Argentinië, gaan we lekker warm trappen en hopelijk gewicht verliezen door Europa. Het plan is om eerst naar Oost-Europa te fietsen en daarna via de Balkan af te buigen naar Zuid-Europa. Harry en Kitty, die een tijdje in ons huis zullen gaan wonen, komen de sleutels ophalen en zwaaien ons uit. Vamos!
For the first cycling day of the new year, January 2, rain is predicted; especially the inlands will get a big splash of water. We are near the coast and secretly have the idea that we can stay ahead of the rain, but we leave just a little too late for that: a few drops are already falling in Vejer de la Frontera anyway. We quickly descend to the coast and see dark rain clouds to the northwest and sunshine to the southeast. We are heading southeast toward Tarifa (route), so that's all right and on the rain radar we see that Tarifa, until the evening, will be "out of harm's way". On that same rain radar, we see that Ronda will get the full brunt. We cycle there later this week over unpaved paths and we already fear mud slides. Well, we'll see, for now we just have to deal with this rainy day. Unfortunately the rain does catch up with us and when we check the Weather Channel's rain radar again we see that we don't stand a chance: we are going to get wet and it will probably even continue to pour all day.
Harry pokes and picks at his dinner on the warm Christmas Eve in Córdoba with some disappointment on a terrace next to a ancient Roman wall. He thought he had ordered a fine tenderloin for little but it turned out to be oxtail: a lump of bone, fat and meat. Soup meat instead of excellent meat. We both laugh heartily about it and the disappointment is quickly forgotten. We enjoy the following day all the more with a deliciously sumptuous breakfast in our hotel next to the impressive Mesquita, the mega-house of prayer where we walked around yesterday.
Yaaa vacation!!! But then why does the alarm clock go off at the same early (work) time? Ah yes we are going to Andalusia to do some cycling. We are taking the steel adventure bikes because we expect to cycle mostly unpaved. Taking bikes always results in hassle, tension and some stress, also this time. When Roelie cuts herself a big gash in her index finger in the morning making breakfast, we hope that that will be all to make the rest of the trip go smoothly.
With a few more Danish coins in our pockets, we cycle across the border into Germany. Just across the border is a supermarket and we suspect that Danish kroner can be used to pay there. The assortment is rather limited: liquor and candy in large packages. Probably liquor and candy are substantially more expensive in Denmark. At the checkout we find two bottles of Fanta and we can indeed pay with our last kroner. We actually need other groceries and see a normal supermarket a little further on and stop again. Near the entrance and exit of the supermarket is a separate bakery with seating inside and outside and coffee can be ordered. Later we will find out that most supermarkets have such a bakery and they are ideal for a morning stop.
It just isn't right. When the loading ramp of the ferry opens, the cyclists are the first to disembark. That's already weird; we usually experience it differently. We have not yet seen that it is pouring heavily behind that tailgate. After leaving the ship we stop directly under a half canopy to get us in rain gear. In those few meters we are already practically soaked and after the stop we have lost the lead on the motorized traffic. We cycle in the pouring rain between the motorbikes, cars, trucks and (of course) a lot of campers. Where are we? We are in Fredrikshavn, a harbor town in the north of Denmark. Fredrikshavn is the proud owner of Denmark's most beautiful beach: Palmestranden. The weather on arrival doesn't fit palmtrees at all.
Sverige (Sweden) immediately treats us to a beautiful road to the hamlet of Skillingfors. One statement is immediately disproved. Someone told us that in the Swedes the slopes are never more than 4% so that in winter a car can get everywhere. It might apply to highways, but we don't cycle on them. From here it will be mainly gravel, because tomorrow we will pick up the European Divide trail!
The rest of the route towards Sweden is short as a crow flies but the geology of Norway does not allow for that route. Every eastward move requires riding north and south as well. So we cycle quite a bit through the country.
What do we really know about Norway? Not much more than what we read in the detectives. We therefore expect to have to solve many complicated murder cases with broad investigations of many suspects. Even before we set foot ashore that picture is correct. We make the crossing to Norway in the entertaining company of Tejo from Sassenheim, who has been working in the criminal investigation department for a very long time. Tejo is a good mix of swagger from South Holland and sobriety from the Achterhoek (where his roots are). However, he is not on his way to Norway to assist with his years of experience in an intriguing international case, but he is on a cycling vacation. He limits his route through Norway to 500 meters and immediately switches to a boat to sail to Denmark.
Friday afternoon, July 15 at 14:03 is the start of a new adventure: we are going to Scandinavia! Already in the winter, not long after our cycling trip on the Canary Islands, we booked a ferry from the north of The Netherlands to the south of Norway. We have set our sights on (a part of) the European Divide Trail, a long distance MTB route from Lapland to Portugal. It is the European counterpart of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route through the USA and Canada, which we cycled in 2017. Since we booked we have often thought: why not cycle to the sunny south? Hopefully, at the end of this 2,500+ km adventure, we will have a good answer.
In this final part of our blogs on cycling the canaries, we have returned to Gran Canaria. From first the west and then the south we move into the interior and high mountains and are surprised how incredibly beautiful this island is.
In this second part of our blog about cycling vacations in the Canary Islands, we are back on Gran Canaria for a while. We traverse the northern part of the island and celebrate New Year's Eve on one ear. On New Year's Day we take the ferry to Tenerife and cycle around the whole island with of course a climb to His Majesty El Teide.
After six months of being cooped up in our home office, we long for a month of cycling. We have to go again or we'll get too sour (and too fat). We decide between Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Canary Islands. When we have already booked the Canary Islands as a relatively safe destination within the EU, we do not yet know that the new corona variant omikron will lock the world up again and that Thailand will close its borders again. On the day that the Netherlands goes into lockdown again, we leave. It feels weird but we are not breaking any rules and we are not the only ones although it is quite quiet at the airport.
We try to suppress our dreams about a new world trip for the time being: save for a while and hope for the world to open up again. So now we limit ourselves to stay in Europe and to spend one month. Corona still causes a lot of uncertainty when planning a summer holiday in 2021. At the beginning of July, the number of infections is rising rapidly and the Netherlands is turning dark red on the international corona map. What really don't want to go into quarantine somewhere. A wide round from home around Paris is our final plan, a tour of approximately 2,300 kilometers.
Argentina & Chili December 2019 - March 2020 (when covid-19 stopped us... temporary)
Our last blog we ended with "We will wait, keep all options open and continue to enjoy some well deserved rest, good company and delicious food". On Sunday May 10, the last day of the harsh Argentine quarantine is announced that once again (already for the fifth time) the quarantine is extended with two weeks and again without loosening of the far-reaching restrictions. The only relaxation was at the end of April that a stroll was allowed however no further than 500 m from once home. Cycling and jogging are still prohibited. The Argentine government primarily chooses to save human lives. It's doing well because there are few corona deaths in this country.
Our plan had long been to leave the Carretera Austral at Villa Santa Lucia and visit Argentina for the third time. The area around El Bolsón and Bariloche must be very beautiful, with dozens of lakes. The last idea, however, is not to return to Chile, but to continue to follow the Andes on the Argentinian side: first towards Mendoza and then on to Salta on the way to Bolivia. The Chilean alternative to cycle north, both along the coast and more inland to Santiago, is described by many cyclists as "boring". We'll see how long this new plan lasts, but for now it seems best.
In this blog we describe our journey northwards from the most southern city of Chile, Punta Arenas, to the most southern place on the famous Carretera Austral, Villa O’Higgens. Between the Chilean city and the Chilean hamlet, we cycle through Argentina again.
We start at the beginning and that is the longest day of our lives: a 40-hour day. In the evening at 8 pm (New Zealand time) we board the plane to land in Buenos Aires after 11 hours on the same day at 4 pm (Argentine time). We had thought to spend the 11 hours of flying asleep, but that didn't work at all and that is largely due to Game of Thrones: the entire last season can be viewed on board. At Ezeiza airport it is extremely busy with (foreign) holidaymakers, which puts us in a extreme queue for passport control. If - like in a theme park - there were signs with the expected waiting time, we would enter at the sign 'from here about 2.5 hours', but we still get lucky, because behind us in the queue is a couple from Eindhoven (around the corner where we uses to live) and we chat for 2.5 hours about our travel adventures. After 3 months in Australia and 2 months in New Zealand (just like us), Bram and Nicolina will now be traveling in South America for another six months. Just like us, they stay in Buenos Aires for a few days and then travel on to Ushuaia in the far south of the country.
Australia & New Zealand August 2019 - December 2019
A left over is normally related to food: a left over from a meal. It ends up in a tupperware container or ziplock bag in the freezer or fridge until reheated and consumed. In a restaurant you left overs end up in a doggy bag to bring back home and eat later. We introduce a new variant here: a blog filled with the New Zealand left overs. We have a list of things we like to do or see and there are not many days left.
Can we start with a statement? We already expected it when we were cycling the Timber trail on the North Island, but we became more critical after cycling through 28 countries. But after cycling for two days on another so-called 'Great Ride' - the Alps to Ocean - we know for sure: New Zealand has the most beautiful cycle trails and scenery on our world bike trip (ok so far)! Sorry Turkey, you were on the top spot, and you are still the finest country, because of your hospitality and the fact that drivers in Turkey are not trying to get rid of cyclists. New Zealand can still work on the latter area. But we think that will be fine someday.
One of the most iconic routes in the world and perhaps the coolest coastal bike route is the Great Ocean Road. The road lies along the south coast of Australia, below Adelaide and close to Melbourne. The route is a succession of rugged cliffs, rock formations, sandy beaches and tourist resorts.
In this fourth blog and final part of our journey from Darwin to Perth, we cycle south along the west coast. The coastline has various names, the area is often called the Mid West of Western Australia. We give this blog a nice general name: the Sunset coast.We roughly look at how long we think it will take: 900 kilometers, 100 kilometers per day on an average, so 9 days. We tell our family in Perth (or better Mandurah) that we hope to arrive in Perth on a Saturday afternoon. That became a bit more challenging than we thought ...
Nepal, India, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malesia, Singapore & Indonesia November 2018 - August 2019
Wow we are on the road for a whole year, and at this very moment, the one to look back, we ride into paradise. Paradise is called Singapore. The way it looks here, that's how it will look in heaven, if it exists: beautiful, clean, peaceful, multicultural, clouds but not gray, oh yes and also expensive !? It's our 25th country on our world bike tour and it makes quite an impression on us. The boat to Jakarta takes a while: in the meantime we enjoy two weeks of city, park, house, swimming pool, cooking, netflix and ... cycling.
After not cycling for four weeks and one blog, we are back on the pedals! This blog describes our trip from Bangkok to Krabi. With the exception of the last two days, we follow the coast of the Gulf of Thailand. The first day we cycle through the Bangkok metropolitan region, the next one or two days through salt fields and after that several days through coconut, palm oil and rubber plantations. The route is fantastic and we are - after having a wonderful time with the children - very happy that we are back in the flow of cycling: eat, sleep, ride ... the world wide!
This blog describes our journey from the Cambojan border to Bangkok. A blog with few photos this time, the why will become clear later in the story. It is the second time that we visit Thailand on this world bike tour and this time it is 'party time'. For the third time this year we are celebrate New Year. After “our” own New Year and the Chinese New Year it is now up to the people of Laos, Cambodia and Thailand to celebrate New Year. In Thailand, they call the New Year period the Songkran festival, and on the first day we cycle to Thailand. We will travel through the south-east close to the Gulf of Thailand and cycle to Bangkok, where we meet Evi, Harjan & Sacha, who come to visit us - no cycling but beach and sea.
After three weeks, Laos is not rid of these two cycling world travelers. Laos South will be the third chapter of our blog about this special country, for which we will have to withdraw the grant to extend our visas.
Giving to others as an act of virtue is essential in Buddhism and brings happiness. Giving alms to a monk yields his blessing. Also in Laos the monks walk around in the morning to gather food from the people in the vicinity of the monasteries; a ritual that we encounter every day since India. Here in Luang Prabang, almsgiving seems to happen in a different ritual then what we are used to so far. Just before dawn the monks walk behind each other in a row a fixed route through the old town and local people kneel humble aside the route and offer food to the monks. It would really be an attraction. At half past five in the morning the alarm goes, but unfortunately we are a bit late. The procession of a dozen monks receives just the last offerings and the series of low stools, meant for tourists, are already being piled up by vendors who still try to sell sticky rice for the monks. It is still dark when we walk back to our guesthouse laughingly. Let's just say that our expectations were somewhat higher. We tick an imaginary checkbox behind this 'must see' in Luang Prabang.
Our cycle route through Laos comprises roughly two loops. First a northern loop where we cycle towards the Chinese border and then gradually turn to Luang Prabang, the city to which all tourists at the border leave by boat. The second loop goes south where we will divert at Vientiane to the east along the Mekong. In Vientiane we see if we cycle through southern Laos to Cambodia or that we cycle a larger loop via Vietnam. If we go through Vietnam, we must apply for a visa in Vientiane.
With some melancholy we have left the famous Mea Hong Son Loop behind. As we sit on a terrace in the old center of Chiang Mai we ruminate about what lies behind: the Alps, Rodopi (Bulgaria), Turkey, Svaneti (Caucasus), Annapurna and the Loop. The highlights are also literally highlights. There is more mountains waiting in the north of Thailand cycling from Chiang Mai via Chiang Rai to Chiang Khong, so it certainly will have something in store for us.
Thailand is not completely unknown to us. We have already gone twice before to find the sun in the Dutch winter time. For the third time, in March 2015, the airline tickets and accommodation were booked but we canceled. Instead of lying at the beach, Harry was lying in the hospital for his open heart surgery. The holidays after the surgery got a more sporty bicycle character, a hobby that seems to have gotten out of control. It has become a way of living. Now, three years later, we finally set foot on Thai soil again. Not by plane from Schiphol, this time we roll from home (or as we call it since our departure: 'the house formerly known as our house') on our faithful two-wheelers into the Thai country. Our bicycle plan does not (yet) focus on the sea and beaches of the famous Thai islands. We head north and enter the Thai mountains and forests.
After New Year and Harry's birthday, the bleak days of January begin. At least that is what we experienced in the Netherlands. Usually there was a planned holiday around carnival to the sun to look forward to. Now we are already in the sun and while in the Netherlands people skate on natural ice, we sweating like horses. We have entered the flat lowlands of Myanmar.
Myanmar, or Burma, is still a country with many secrets. For a long time (almost) inaccessible for foreigners / tourists, then for some time apathetic towards people who want to enter and explore the country by bicycle and not by plane to go to a resort and from there take perhaps a few organized trips. Myanmar, the country with the for us unreadable notebook (and figures), the country where English as a global language has barely made its appearance. Myanmar, a country on the road to openness and democracy, but also with some disturbing appearances in the world news. Since August 2017, the (country) borders have opened up further: you do not have to apply for a permit through shadowy intermediaries - in addition to a visa. In fact, the visa for Myanmar is "a breeze", compared to that for India. Myanmar, a country with a very rich history, the land of the thousands of Pagodas, the one even more brilliant than the other, the land of many ancient empires and cities, often spelled in different ways. During our cycling trip we will visit several former capitals, one of which is currently the capital city: Naypyidaw. Indeed, one from the category: 'never heard of it'. We are curious about this country, like every country or region that we visit. We have our own expectations (or prejudices) and now we are going to experience it.
The seven states in north-east India are called the Seven Sisters. We have now crossed state of Assam and left the valley of the Brahmaputra behind. We will visit two of the six remaining sisters: Nagaland and Manipur. Until recently there have been violent incidents in both states (and also in parts of Assam). The central government of India in Delhi has long neglected this corner of India. In addition, this area stands also culturally, ethnically and geographically furthest away of the rest of India. All this has led to separatist groups. The Indian army is still strongly present. Our Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises to visit these federal states only if it is necessary and otherwise avoid them. We hear and read also many good things about these states: the beautiful 'hills' of Nagaland with 16 unique Naga tribes and the former kingdom of Manipur, which was the crossroads of Asia for more than 2,500 years in the religious, cultural and economic area. Anyway, the border crossing to Myanmar is in Manipur and the road to Manipur runs through Nagaland. We have to visit the sisters to be able to cycle into Myanmar.
The second state we visit is Assam, the largest and most populous state in northeastern India. The state is largely occupied by the valley of the miles wide Brahmaputra river. We cross numerous rivers that flow from the Himalayas in the north to the mighty Brahmaputra in the south. The foothills of the Himalayas remain in sight for a long time. We cycle near the southern border of the mountain kingdom of Bhutan.What cycle through rice fields, where the harvest has taken place and now the cows are chewing on the remaining stubble; and immeasurable tea gardens, Assam is known for producing high quality tea.
After Nepal our route runs through the northeast of India. We continue to cycle to the east in the direction of Myanmar and we will cross the Indian states West Bengal, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. At least that is the plan, you never know. Plans change continuously and detours are made easily. Northeast India is connected by a narrow corridor to the rest of India and is therefore relatively isolated and according to Wikipedia "relatively far from the Indian consciousness". We are very curious what this means "in real life".
It is a lot of hassle in Tbilisi (Georgia) to get the bikes ready for the flight. Especially because we have purchased cheap tickets that allow us to check in 30 kilos of luggage per person and to carry 10 kilos of hand luggage in a standard size bag. We think that our total luggage including bicycles is just under 80 kilograms, but to divide it into this division (30 + 30 + 10 + 10) requires a lot of puzzling and especially a lot of standing on a scale with boxes, bags and stuff. After writing notes on several post-its, calculations and many changes (pedals, luggage racks and tools, for example in hand luggage) it is finally sorted out.
Almost 15 years ago, Roelie walked with her girlfriend Barbara in Nepal to Mount Everest Base Camp and Kalapathar. It was heavy, primitive, (too) high but very beautiful. Since then she has been dreaming of walking the Annapurna Circuit, the other big and famous multi-day walking tour in Nepal. It is therefore only logical that this walking tour is in our itinerary.
Turkey & Georgia August 2018 - November 2018
The last part of our route through Georgia takes us from Kutaisi to the capital Tbilisi via all kinds of back-roads. We leave the high Caucasus definitively, even though we continue to see the mighty peaks for days. We are looking forward to Tbilisi, but less in the way there. We expect a number of boring stages. Fortunately, this expectation did not come true.
From Kutaisi we cycle to Zugdidi. At least that was the plan. We did not make it. After a very simple and flat first half ,where we share the road with pigs, cows, geese and horses, we turn off the main road into the hills.
The border crossing at Posof, Turkey brings us to Georgia. Actually, you do not even see that you arrive in another country. That is explainable because we come from a Turkish region where quite a lot of ethnic Georgians live. But there are differences. Little litter in the verges. No broken (beer) glass on and along the road: beer is sold here in (large) plastic bottles. And unfortunately - we have waited a week for this observation - compared to the Turks the people are a bit stiffer and less hospitable.
In our last blog we wrote that we left the route along the Black Sea and choose to retreat into the interior of Turkey, back into the mountains. It turned out to be a good choice! In this part of Turkey you are off the coast within a few dozen kilometers between mountains of more than 4,000 meters altitude and you do not get bored of the many beautiful views and natural beauty. The northern mountain slopes are densely forested, the southern slopes are thinly overgrown and show the most spectacular rock formations. The Turkish government is busy with billions of costly mega-projects, particularly in the area of infrastructure (tunnels) and hydropower (reservoirs). Villages are very thinly strewn, towns you find even less. Some villages have also disappeared under the water surface of a reservoir.
The route along the Black Sea can not appeal to us as mountain lovers. The road along the coast is busy and boring and forms a big barrier in all villages and towns along the way. Rivers flowing from beautiful valleys inland into the sea all along the coast. It is tempting to get back inlands but that means an up and down the same road while we actually would like to reach and cycle through Georgia, however "winter is coming". It is sometimes difficult to make such choices. Turkey is so beautiful. We skip the plan to cycle to a monastery from Trabzon. The plan to cycle along the coast to Georgia is also skipped. The mountains keep calling us and eventually we give in. But for about 400 km we cycle along the Black Sea coast: from Samsun to Eskipazar (near Rize) and then we are done with the Black Sea coast.
Turkey seriously slows us sown: too many beautiful encounters, too much tea, too many detours, which we insert at the last minute and of course too many mountains. We have a great time, but realize that due to the coming winter, our travel plans through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will no longer be realistic. We would also like to be able to walk the Annapurna circuit in the Nepalese Himalayas, which is doable in November at the latest. We know that we will miss out on beautiful countries, but we don't want to rush on a travel plan that was made in back home in Oirschot.
What unprecedented hospitality the Turks know! From the picturesque and old little İznik, where our previous blog ended, we cycle to Sakarya, a city with approximately 1 million inhabitants. After 20 kilomters we buy bread and cheese a supermarket. The owner invites us for a cup of tea. A few kilometers further the owner of a stall along the road gives us grapes and a peach. In Sakarya we are approached by a German speaking man in front of a car garage and we end up on invitation of the man and the owner of the garage at a restaurant. That is quiet convenient: it just started raining and the bikes parked save in the garage when we set of to a nearby restaurant. The 67-year-old German-speaking man is visiting from Istanbul. He studied mechanical engineering in Munich, traveled extensively, had many different jobs and companies and wants to live in Malaysia next year and export teak. Maybe we'll meet again there.
Sweaty from a steep climb we arrive in Misa, apparently a picturesque village within the expanding boundaries of the metropolis Bursa. Bursa has been the capital of the great Ottoman empire. It counts over 2 million inhabitants and many must see attractions. Misa has a campground according to maps.me; it's always the question whether that's true, but this time it is confirmed by Google Maps so we are in good hope. We first cycle into the village and see serried terraces along the river. This looks nice! The local mini-supermarket has a small product range. We think with some improvising we can cook a meal, but the restaurants beckon. The well deserved beer is unfortunately not available. On a terrace we drink an icetea and then we go to the campground. We pay 40 Turkish lira (converted € 5.58) for 2 nights with the manager of the on-site restaurant in a net suit. There is a separate tent area and we are not the only ones, not even the only cyclists! We pitch the tent and want to take a shower, but first we say hello to the group of people in the middle of the site. They immediately offer ice-cold beer, red wine and ayçekirdeği, or sunflower seeds, to nibble (or make an effort because it requires some dexterity). We meet Aydogan and Ece, they live in Istanbul and came by bus to Bursa. Ece has been restoring ornaments in mosques, churches and country houses for 30 years. She shows an impressive series of photos with gold leaf ceilings and own designs. Aydogan has been her friend for 7 months and they are now working together. They would camp 2 days here, but that was 10 days ago and they are still here.
We have left Europe behind us. From Gelibolu we cross the straits of the Marmara Sea by ferry. Across the street we buy some groceries and see a barber shop next door. Harry needs a haircut and is turns out not only to be a haircut, but also extensively massaged, washed, eyebrows and nose hairs are trimmed and the hairs at the ears are scorched with a lighter. Afterwards we get tea, there is some communication via Google Translate. We have to pay the small amount of 2 euro ... We cycling along the coast with a strong headwind. As we stop for water at a mini-market along the road, an incredibly sweet little owner lends us a peeler to cut the bought peaches, offers coffee on the house and an extra peach and two hugs at the farewell. He also gives us a plasticized map of Turkey on one side and the world on the other side. We can probably use that often. It is hot today. We have not experienced this hot yet. At a petrol station we buy cold water and are called by Ismail. He owns an outdoor shop in Bursa and invites us to come by when we are there. He also warns us for the traffic. You might feel safe on the emergency lane, but it is not unusual for motorists to use it to overtake. In the town of Biga we again check in at a hotel. The lira is so low, that a hotel costs so little that we allow ourselves to take a warm shower, have a clean and private toilet, sleep in air conditioning and get an extensive breakfast for 20 euros. We need to make a choice in Biga. We cycled all day on a D road, a wide motorway with relatively little traffic but also a bit boring. We can continue on that same D road and go to Erdek to a good campsite or we choose an unknown route more inland as suggested by routeplanner bikemap. We choose the latter and head to the town of Gönen. It is another hot day. Fortunately, the climbing is at the beginning of the day when it is relatively not so hot. Shortly after leaving the town, a stray dog is annoyingly in our way as if he would not let us through. When we carefully pass him, he follows us on the back wheel, in front of the wheel and next to the wheel. We climb and do not go so fast and he keeps up easily. Over a distance of 10 kilometers we are suddenly a pack of three: Harry, Roelie and doggie. Actually, that is exactly what we wished for. We would not be the first to go on a bicycle trip with a dog. On the way the dog is attacked by two herd dogs, but he bravely passes through and stays with us. Before entering a village we can descend strongly and make some speed. That will not be the only reason that the dog stops following. In the village we see some more possible hostile four-legged friends. End of journey with dog.
June 2018 - August 2018
From the pass at the border between Bulgaria and Greece at Makaza, we see a brand new way down. A few hundred meters after the border, both bicycle route planner bikemap.com as maps.me ignore this masterpiece of civil engineering work and to choose the old road. Already after 100 meters we regret choosing the old road. Instead of descending, we have to climb over the mountain top while the new road passes through with a tunnel. However, the regret quickly disappears when it turns out that no car (or other transportation vehicle) drives on this road anymore. We have this very acceptable old route for ourselves. After that first part of the climb we can also start a great descent. We hope to see the Mediterranean Sea, but that does not work. It is more correct to write the Aegean Sea. A few years ago we cycled from home on the rather simple 'Green Road to the Mediterranean' which ended for us in the French town of Sète. Now we cycled the mountain route to the Mediterranean Sea: many kilometers and definitely a lot altitude meters more.
Little is told about Bulgaria in the Netherlands. As far as we know, Bulgarians are good at discus, wrestling, skimming and working cheaply. Quite limited and not too positive image! Besides, we had prepared ourselves "just fine": we thought the Euro was the currency. It turned out to be the Lev. And after a day we found out that the clock had to be moved 1 hour ahead. We passed a first time zone. No discus, wresters or skimmers seen, only friendly people. Bulgarians seem somewhat stiffer at first than the Serbs. That is not a criticism of Bulgarians but a great compliment for the Serbs.
Serbia is the fourth country of former Yugoslavia that we visit on our cycling tour around the world. And this country is again completely unique compared to the previous three. The country has left impressions with us that we will not forget.
For cyclists it is good to know that campsites are thinly strewn in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you want to camp, it is advisable to adjust your route accordingly. Something we did not do. We searched every day for a campground for the next day on Google Maps and Maps.me. Every time it turned out to be quite a task to find a camping spot in the vicinity of our route, on a day trip. Wildcamping is not allowed in Slovenia and Croatia and we have not tried how strict the authorities are. Partly because of the daily thunderstorms, we have not slept four times in our tent in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia, but in half a mobile home, a B&B and a hotel (2x).
The Alps are beautiful, not many will dispute that. But if you have to get on the other side, people still find them a barrier. Motorists will have to deal with tunnels, toll-laden and congested roads, an overheated engine, traffic jams, children yelling in the backseat and fatigue after a day of driving from the Netherlands or other Northern European countries. Cyclists (without e-motor and with luggage) often choose the lowest passes and / or stage with a not too high percentage of incline. Favorite for cyclist is the Reschen Pass, which is about 1500 m high and has a moderate rate of increase. The Brenner Pass is also widely used.
From camping Strasbourg we cycle into the old center with the special cathedral of which there is only one tower instead of two. On Sunday mornings it is quiet in the streets where surprising rivers and brooks flow through in different places. Via a modern white slow traffic bridge we cross the Rhine and enter Germany again.
The border with Luxembourg is partly formed by the river Our. We cycle about 15 km across Luxembourg territory until we return to Germany with a ferry over the Mosel: our 5th border crossing within 5 days. We follow the Mosel a bit to the east until Konz, a town that lies at the spot where the Saar flows into the Mosel. The Saar is a "silent river". Due to a number of high dams the flow of this river has at least optically stopped. We will continue to follow the Saar for two days. Now we cycle a little 20 km until we arrive in Saarburg. Saarburg is a small old town with a castle on a high rock, a cozy square with few terraces and a water trap in the center where the stream Leuk flows into the Saar. A little further on this tiny river we find our campsite which - again - is occupied with almost only Dutch people. The tent area is right on the bank of the Leuk. There are two other bicycle couples and we chat a bit. One couple comes from Ost Friesland (Germany) and cycles from the Bodensee to Katwijk. They have great tips about our route towards Strasbourg. The other couple comes from Groningen (The Netherlands), but is originally Frisian.
Well, it is clear we will not blog daily. That would be impossible. Not only for us, but also for the people who follow us on our website. Nobody wants 1000+ stories about our "everyday" experiences. We want to blog about a theme, about the area or cycle route. This blog is about the first week of our world trip, or we can also say that we give you some information about cycling through the first hills in South Limburg Hills, the Belgian Ardennes, the Eifel and Saarland.
Finally it’s time to take off! We lived towards this day for months. After all preparations, selling our belongings and our house, arranging a lot, and not to be forgotten unforgettable farewell moments, it is departure day!
We know them from professional cycling: the yellow jersey, the pink jersey, the red jersey, etc.
A world trip of 3 years costs money, a lot of money. A person can fare well in faraway places with a few euros a day, yet the budget shows a big challenge, let's just say. From the moment the idea of a world bike ride takes shape, we have started to become more economical. Partly as a result of our trip across the Great Divide, which made us look differently at the luxurious life. Partly because you just have to save a lot.
A next phase of breaking up started in February. The house is sold and that puts everything in a new perspective. Before July 1st we have to deliver an empty house and store as little as possible! So everything has to go and that means switching to a higher level: stuffocation XL.
After 3 months of "inner journey" through the Rocky Mountains we realize at home that we have a gigantic store of mostly unused stuff. If you live happily for 3 months from a few panniers, all those possessions at home become overwhelming.