On the Austrian roads

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Our trip on the Austrian roads started by a first break at the town just after the border. We entered in the only café of the main street, for buying the licence allowing to drive on the highway.

We passed by the countryside at the speed of our vehicles. The asphalt followed the relief of the smooth Austrian hills. In the middle of a large field, the nice landscape had beautiful farms with wooden structures very topical of the region. 

We are surprised, after a turn, to discover many vineyards along the hills. The East of Austria has actually some famous white wine vineyards.

The nice turns appeared one after another one until a new breakdown 80 kilometers before Prigglitz, on of the stop over town. On the side of the road, we had to change the gear on the rear well of one of the sidecars. The teeth were worn by the several kilometers drove since Columbia. Without any spare parts, Julien decided to switch the gear from the sidecar wheel to the rear one. This gaves us the possibility to reach the Ural importer workshop about 300kms further away.  After less than an hour, the engine roared again and we reached Prigglitz just 2 hours later after the scheduled time.

We rode 200 kilometres on the straight highway to reach the Welz city, in the Linz suburbs. Nothing fancy, our aim was to reach the Ural workshop as quick as possible and without any mechanical issues. We needed new spare parts to fix our sidecars.

We reached the workshop at the time of their closing time. Magdalena, one of the managers, warmly welcomed us. We started to visit the office with many Urals in the main room plus Royal Enfield and Norton motorbikes. We were particularly surprised to discover a mini-caravan adapted to be fixed on our sidecars.

In the morning, while Magdalena and Harry were working in their offices, a customer arrived with a Norton motorbike. We shared with him a coffee on the picnic table in front of the showroom. Once the espresso finished, we started to work on our sidecars. We had the benefit to park our sidecars in the warehouse. Due to the 30,000 kilometres of the trip, we changed the gear between the final drive and the wheel with the advice of Günter, the mechanic of the workshop who was changing the oil of a sidecar for a customer. No troubles for changing the one of the wheel but it was more difficult for the final drive. To extract the part, Günter helped us and gave us a good advice: not to be afraid to use big tools! So we used one of the machines to extract the part.

We enjoyed to be in this place to replace also worn seals and rubbers. For not loosing our time, we did a quick break in the warehouse with a sandwich. We put tables and chairs out for the picnic which were used as a drawing table by the kids once the lunch finished. During the afternoon, we checked the valves and changed a rear wheel, hoping to do this kind of repair for the last time of the trip.

The following day and after a busy day of mechanics, our Ural sidecars were ready for leaving the warehouse. This time, we headed to the West of the country and the region of Tyrols in the Austrian Alps.

We crossed wide fiels at the beginning of our itinerary. We shared the road with many bicycles. We used nice little roads crossing many villages. We saw nice tower bells and beautiful houses with an architecture from Austria and Hungry: a coloured facade and decoration around the windows.

We walked along the Attersee lake with its clear waters and the first summits of the Alps. We followed the valley shaped by the Gasteiner Ache river. On the first heights of these wide green gorges, there were castles on the top of rocky peaks such as the Burg Klammstein.

By getting closer to the mountains, the rain was back. We found a shelter in a supermarket next to the Bad Hofgastein and we took this opportunity for some food shopping. At the end of lunch, no other choice than going back on the road under the rain.

A hundred of kilometres further and once we crossed the col of Brenner under thick fog, we headed to Italy and the delicious Mediterranean food.

Linz – 6 days – 317 metres above sea level

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We crossed the border and arrived in Slovenia. We met Julien’s siter, Alice, and her husband Manu with their kids, Zack and Loah. Behind the van of the little family, we discovered the Slovenian roads between the hills of the Lower-Styria, located at the North-East of the country.

Once the camp was set up for the first evening next to a lake. We enjoyed a drink to celebrate our reunion. On the table, good French produce: a saucisson and some pâté. We dreamed about this from many months. 

The following day, we visited the 2nd biggest city of Slovenia, Maribor, under a blazing sun. We discovered the ancient marketplace, the cathedral and strolled in the paved streets. Along the Drava river, we had a picnic, sat on the stairs of the quay in the shadow of a tree.

At the bottom of the old Stari Most, we discovered a grapevine growing on the wall of a farmhouse made of stones. It was apparently the oldest kind of vine cultivated in the world. With its 400 years old, it was still giving grapes.

We continued our walk, up to the main square with the colourful facades with an architecture from Austria and Hungary before to arrive at the ancient castle with its golden bell tower dedicated to Saint Florian. Built after one of the fires, this castle was supposed to protect the city from natural disasters.

At the end of the afternoon, we were back on the road to find a new spot for the night. This time, we pitched up the tent between a football pitch and the Ledavsko lake. To enjoy the aperitif of this evening, I went for a run alongside the lake. No dive in this cloudy water but a hosepipe on the roof of a cabin next to the football pitch was worth one of the best locker rooms.

In the morning, we reached the border to enter in Austria after a few kilometres. At the end of the afternoon, we reached Prigglitz, a little village at the South-West of Vienna. We met Eva and Willy, our Austrian friends met in Peru, in their holiday house. We spent a great friendly evening with them.

In the morning, we left our friends and headed to Linz. More specifically, we stopped in Welz, the head office of Ural Europe, for a few days. It was time for some mechanical checks between a couple of BBQs.

Once the sidecars ready and still escorted by the family van. It was time to go back on the road for crossing the Austrian Alps and the region of Tyrols. We changed of direction before Salzburg and headed to the South to reach Italy.

Being confident with our sat nav, we crossed the beautiful valleys surrounded by massive mountains. But after a few hours on this road supposing to cross the border, we discovered the itinerary used the rail to cross the mountain. But the price announced made us changing our mind. We decided to go back and to take the Eastern road which will use free roads to cross the Italy after a summit in the Alps.

But for the time being, we looked for a spot to spend the evening. In this country, wild camping is prohibited and the campsites were too expensive. We opted for a little road along the Saalach riverside. After two negative replies from farmers, it was at the entry of a quad bikes circuit that we had the authorisation of using a little wooden cabin to spend the night, sheltered from the rain. We dined and spent the night on our matresses for the evening.

We left in the morning to reach Innsbruck. We did a quick stop at the ski station of Steinbergbahn which was full of bicycles this day. Then, we stopped in the village of St Johann in Tirol. Surrounded by the colorful houses, the main square was buzzing this day. There was an endurance race of mountain bikes. The bikers were in the paved streets with their best equipment.

We continued our road and noticed signs indicating the temple of ski, Kitzbuhel. On the left hand side there was its famous wall, a vertiginous slope for the great skiers. We avoided Innsbruck and used a little road to reach the station of Patscherkofelbahn and its track of bobsleigh. The rain arrived during our picnic. We stayed in a forest to enjoy our sandwiches of rillettes of fish, under the roof of the family van.

At the end of the afternoon, it was with a thick fog that we crossed the summit of Brenner marking the border of Italy.

On the road of the Balkans

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Our adventure in the Balkans started under the rain with our reflective rain suits.

reach the beautiful coastline and seaside city of Sarandë. Upon our arrival, there was only a drizzle. We headed to the North and used the SH8 road winding between the cliffs and the beaches. The coast was beautiful. This road, overlooking the blue-turquoise water and the surrounding mountains, shaped the nice coves.

Kilometre after kilometre, we rode along the seaside cities and crossed nice and outside of time villages with narrow and paved streets. After the Dhermi city, the road was going up and crossed the Thanasit mount symbolising the end of this Riviera. At the opposite side of this summit, the road was winding. In the shadow of the deep forest of the Llogara national park we went down carefully due to the smell of burn form our engines. We managed to stop at the end of a loop to finally understand the front break have overheated. Therefore, we were not able to break properly. To cool down the breaks, we poured a full water tank and continued the road. Luckily, after three loops we were back on a straight and flat road, nearby the Vlora city.

In Montenegro, after the border, we left the main road to ride in the mountains and reached the viewpoint overlooking the Skadar lake. The lake was the most important one of the Balkan peninsula and is a natural border between Montenegro and Albania.

After the viewpoint, the road was winding between the lake and the mountain following the uneven road around the lake and crossing the leaning villages. It was tough to cross cars on this road. On each side there were low walls to delimit the fields with the donkeys and sheep. But by using this road, it was like the time was stopped. There was no one around, just the four of us, the lake and the mountains.

At the end of the P16 road, we arrived in a nice medieval city of Godinje. The houses made of stones were leaning towards the next house. With an architectural cacophony attractive. The Virparaz city was along the lake. We crossed several tunnels on this highly frequented main road going towards the famous Kotor bay.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, after the medieval city of Mostar, we were charmed by the little sinuous road along the Neretva river offering breathtaking landscapes with the warm lights of the end of the day.  

In the bottom, the Jablanicko lake and the unbelievable colours were between the mountains of the Dinaric Alps in the middle of a breathtaking nature shaped by the natural park of Blidinje and the mount of Prenj named the Bosniac Himalaya. At the North of the lake, the river was shaping a furrow and the impressive gorges in which little cities were built with old factories around from the Soviet period. A return in history highlighted by the stone tablets along the road in tribute of the soldiers dead during the Yugoslavia war at the end of the 90’s.

Towards Croatia, there were old Volkswagen vehicles: Golf, Polo and Transporter. We crossed the wide fields. As it was Summer, it was time for harvesting the hay. In the fields, there were the modern technics mixed with the ancient ones. There were only stacks of straw around a wooden stick.

 

After visiting the lakes of Plitvice and before to ride towards Slovenia, it was our turn to have an issue with our sidecar. While Julien was checking the wheel of his sidecar due to a noise from the break disk, it was finally on our sidecar there was a crack on the frame. We drew a mark to see the evolution and to evaluate the distance we can do before to stop for finding a welder.

We continued slowly our trip towards North and did a break every 20 kilometres to see the evolution of the crack. But 100 kilometres further, in the city of Karlovac, we made the decision to stop for the day and to repair the crack on the following day in a welder shop.

Located in the industrial area of the North of the city, we were in the welder’s garage at the back of a house. On the little parking, an old Zastava car looking like an old Fiat 500, perfectly renovated, a proof of seriousness and professionalism of the welder. Things were going fast, the young welder looked our crack and asked to take the Ural sidecar in his garage and to start the cleaning of the crack before to weld it. The repair was done in a couple of minutes for a few euros. After looking more deeply, the repair was not done properly. But it was enough to ride hundreds of kilometres and the hope to reach the Ural shop in Austria, the most important!

We were back on the road, but the issues continued. A hundred of kilometres further, it was for Marie and Julien’s sidecar to have an issue. We sent a message to Marina, the importer agent of the pieces in the factory of Irbit. She gave us advice but the diagnostic was the same: we needed to change the injector. Luckily, the Ural team gave us a spare injector before our departure. Finally, it was after 34,000 kilometres, in Croatia, that we needed to change it. Julien did it at a service station, where we stopped.

At the end of the afternoon, we reached a little border post to enter in Slovenia and to end this adventure in the Balkans.

Encounter in the Balkans

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Anne, Régis and their red Volkswagen

In Croatia, we experienced some mechanical issues. A crack appeared on the frame of one of our sidecars. This problem forced us to stop and to find a welder. As it was Sunday, we had to wait the next day for getting a workshop nearby open.

Therefore, we started the quest to find a place for pitching up the tent  and we founded the “Autocamp Radjonj” in Tusilovic. We were not welcomed by the owner, but by Anne and Régis, a retired couple from Lyon (East of France). They were traveling with a beautiful brand new red Volkswagen Transporter.

Once the greetings done, Régis, an experienced traveler, coaxed us by offering a chilled Pastis (a traditional alcohol from South of France). His technic worked perfectly. As he said : “I have travelled for a long time, I know we are not missing a lot of things, but you cannot resist to ta good Pastis because this treasure is only from our place.”

We passed our afternoon doing some services on the sidecars and tightening some bolts. Then we tried to find, without success, a swimming spot at the river nearby. Unfortunately, the grass was too high and restricted the access.

The camping owner arrived at the beginning of the night. Absent due to the hospitalisation of his son, he offered some shots of a homemade spirit for celebrating his good medical results. 

A storm appeared at the pre-dinner drink time, we found refuge under a shelter where we shared some peanuts and beers on the picnic table. A fox came around, looking for some food and a dry place to stay. Once the torrential rain ended, Anne and Regis joined us for sharing another drink. We spent the night sharing our respective travel stories and our favorite spots.

The next morning, the grass was still covered with dew, we shared the breakfast with Anne and Régis. We enjoyed their homemade jam and they showed us proudly their traveling toaster working on their gas camping stove. The apogee of this lush breakfast was the salted butter from their fridge. Some stuff that can only been acquired after many years spent on the road…

Night spots in the Balkans

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Jalaë & the beach of Gjiri i Akuariumit

During the first day on the Albanian roads, we arrived at its Riviera. In the South of the country, from the morning to the evening, there was a heavy rain. After weeks with a hot weather, the road became slippery and the air had a nice smell of wet asphalt.

We rode along the Adriatic coast on 60 kilometres. Then we left the main road of the SH8 road and headed to the seaside city of Jalë. On our left, the beach with a fine sand. We rode on the path which became very muddy with the rain. Metre after metre, we were not sure anymore that we will be able to make it. We decided to continue.

At the end, it was worth it! We reached the little beach of Gjiri i Akuariumit surrounded by rocks in a little wild cove.

To respect our traditions, we ended this day on the road with a chill beer on the rocks while watching the sea and the indigo sky full of clouds due to the rain coming.

We pitched up the tents, a bit away from the beach and its rocks, on the only area without a stone but with the foots in the clay!

When we woke up, we packed the tents and did everything to avoid stains from the clay. Then, a quick dive in the clear waters of the Adriatic Sea to clean the clay.

The sunshine was back from the beginning of the morning and helped to dry the path helping us going back on the road towards North.

Alongside the river of Drini in Shkoder

We arrived at the border city of Shkoder at the end of the afternoon. Before arriving in this city, we noticed on our sat nav a nice green area alongside the river Drini. But during this first ride, we didn’t find the path to reach the riverside. We went back on the road and finally found a path between two little shops. We had the feeling to be in the city but behind the houses there were fields of cereals, as far as we can see. Very surprising! We followed the uneven path and reached a clearing next to the river where  we decided to pitch up the tent. The scenery was similar to the one you would have on a postcard! The sunset with beautiful piking colours was highlighting the Rozafa citadel, the historic symbol of the city.

After a chilly night, the river next to the tent was a perfect bathroom! With the sunrise, the shower was invigorating.

During the breakfast, while the coffee was heating, a farmer was walking his cow. As many other times, chatting was impossible due to our lack of skills in his language. We did a few gestures but quickly the silence arrived. The man was surprised to see us and the sidecars. It was very poetic to see this old man walking his loyal cow. A routine which has been changed by seeing 4 young travellers. He will probably tell this improbable story to his friends.

But we will never know. We can only imagine while continuing our trip towards North !

Greek night spot

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After leaving the highway, the road was winding between the coast and the hills. For bivouacking, we chose a beach just a few kilometres before Olympiada, at the North of the Three Fingers of Chalkidiki peninsula. After taking a small path, we reached the spot we wanted. But at the end of the afternoon, there were still too many people. It didn’t seem the evening would be quiet and peaceful… We decided to continue on the same path and hoped to find a more intimate beach. A few hundreds of metres further, the path turned on the left. It was tough to ride due to the ruts and many rocks. But a treasure needs to be earned! Once we reached the end of the path, there was a little clearing and a deserted little creek, well… almost! Indeed, at the other extremity of the beach, there was two young naked women enjoying the last rays of the sun. Each group enjoyed the evening with its own business.

For the swim before diner, we dived in the water in our birthday suit!

Early in the morning, the day started by the best shower: swimming in the sea just after going out of our sleeping bags. Then, it was time for a hearty breakfast before to go back on the road.

After an adventurous ride to reach the asphalt, the engine protection and the exhaust pipe had some marks as souvenirs ; we headed to Ouranoupoli and the rest of our Greek adventure.