Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Long way up: made it to Nordkapp!

Entered Poland via the distressing sites of Auschwitz-Birkenau arriving in the delightful town of Krakow full of amazing churches and synagogues in the old town. Stayed at historic Hotel Rubinstein in the Jewish Quarter. Rode through Eastern Poland via the medieval town of Sandomierz and Bialystok then on to Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. Lovely old baroque town with cathedral, Russian orthodox churches and National day celebrations in the centre with lots of local fare. Great student town with lots of little bars and restaurants. Weather cooling down now around 14 degrees. Rode along the Neuman River past green pastures and forest to Sakiai and Jurbarkas tracking Jude's family roots.

Johannes bike swap?

Danube Crossing in Lithuania
Picnic by the river
Continued on to Riga, Latvia another lovely old town with its Art Nouveau area and on to Estonia via Parnu beach to a surprisingly charming walled medieval capital, Tallinn.

Tallinn, Estonia


Religious lunch

Hill of crosses

A wonderful reunion with our fellow pannier packers Chris and Kim after 7 weeks separation of “doing our own thing” in Europe! So good to be travelling together again and so many stories to share!


Took ferry to Helsinki where bikes were serviced then headed north through Finland’s fir and birch tree forests with their dazzling golden yellow (ruska) autumn colours. Weather cloudy and cold and occasional rain. Rode north past numerous reindeer on the side of the road to Rovaniemi, capital of Lappland, and home of Santa Claus – had to visit the Santa Claus village and even stayed at the Santa Claus hotel! Fantastic food at the best Lapland restaurnat, Nili.

We then spent 2 days relaxing in a log cabin with private sauna in the forest of northern Lappland to re-energize for the final leg of our journey. Passed through the villages of Ivalo and Inari, home of the Sami indigenous people.

Continued north into very expensive Norway to the port of Honningsvag (the northern most city of the world!) where we all celebrated with French champagne and were lucky to see the northern lights!

Next morning full of excitement we reached Nordkapp- barren, windswept, wild with Arctic low grasslands and cliffs dropping down to rocky beaches and clear blue ocean. Emotional photo shoot and short walk to the bluff-so cold and windy but bleak and beautiful! After 25,000 kilometers, 27 countries and 139 days we reached the most northern point in Europe!

We then travelled 2000 km south through fjord lands, alps and stunning landscapes of Norway to trendy Oslo. So perfectly picturesque especially with the brilliant yellow and orange autumn hues. Lovely ferry ride to Kiel in northern Germany then 900 kilometers of wind and rain to our final destination, Munich. Cheers at Oktoberfest clocking in at 27,200kms!!

Arctic Circle at Santa Claus village

Ruska in Finland

Finally made it to Nordkapp!

King Crab legs for lunch?

Road block

Arctic landscape and rain


Valium for Namibia

Taking up flying for next trip!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Europe smiles Sept 6

After 15,000 kms, 12 countries and lots of amazing memories we left the African continent and made our way from Port Said, Egypt to Turkey by Russian cargo ship with about 50 Turkish truckies. We spent 2 days running around Port Said dealing with inefficient shipping agents and customs ”fixers” who looked like sleezy Egyptian Mafia equivalents and were well paid with backsheesh! We arrived in Mersin 40 hours later after a rather hot, uncomfortable journey and spent 5 hours sorting customs and immigration only to find that we were unable to enter the country as we did not have a visa. Fortunately our European passports saved the day!

We then made our way to central Turkey to magic Capadoccia in Central Anatolia with its surreal fairy chimneys, columns, pyramids and mushroom shaped rocks, residences and churches carved out of the sandstone rocks and caves and valleys with plateaus of white, pink, yellow striped rocks. A beautiful ride along the winding Turkish Mediterranean and Aegean coast with a couple of stops at roman ruins such as Apollo and Olympus. Overnight stay at Side at the Beach House Hotel with delightful hostess Penny from Tasmania. Then to Izmir where we had the bike serviced and on to historic Istanbul to see the Blue Mosque, Aya Sofya church, Topaki palace and the colourful Grand Bazaar.

Took ferry to Greek islands of Kos and then Santorini, a stunning island of white houses perched on the edge of a caldera of a volcano. Then on to Athens to visit the amazing Acropolis- in contrast to the islands so few tourists in Athens. We rode through northern Greece and stopped to see the sights of Meteoroa- monasteries built on the edge of pinnacles of huge grey rocks in the hillsides. Food was fantastic in Greece!

Stayed in Olomouc, Czech Republic with old friends following a quick trip through Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Hungary and a delightful short stay in Neudorfl, Austria with family. Had pannier fixed by Zdenek at www.begr.cz an extremely helpful guy who went out of his way to help us.
Egyptian mafia finally get the carnets stamped

Stunning Cappadocia


Side beach, Turkey

Apollo and still standing


Riding into Marmaris Turkey


Johannes shopping???? at Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

Inside the Harem, Istanbul

Fat version of Ataturk

On the way to Greek Islands

Traffic control

future Touratech riding gear?

It doesn't get better than Santorini, Greece

 Bears in Greece??

Rural Romania

Sophia real estate, appealing?

Work liberates, Bulgaria

Romanians love red and silver

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Last Days Under African Sky and Wonders of the World Aug 6

First class cabin on the extremely crowded ferry meant bunks with bugs. Cahit convinced the captain to deviate route towards Abu Simbel because he pretended honeymooning after he paid 20 camels for his newly wedded wife. In fact he was protecting young Julia. We got a glimpse of the statues in front of the temple just after nightfall.
After a crowded pushy disembarkation the pool in the hotel in Aswan felt like paradise and the campari orange like nectar after 2 weeks of forced abstinence! Took a whole day baksheesh to get bikes out of Egyptian customs plus local number plates and Arab drivers license. Petrol shortages everywhere, but good black market available for more baksheesh.

Proud of the Egyptian number plate!

Then onto Luxor over 300 speed humps with punctured tyre. Mesmerizing Karnack and Luxor temples, tombs of Valley of the Kings and Hatchesput temple. All some 3,000 years old with amazingly well preserved hieroglyphic carvings and paintings.

Hatchesput temple where massacre happened

Temple of Karnack, Luxor 

Just off the road
Temple of Karnack

Then hot ride to Red Sea coast and spent free time at Aldiana resort at Makadi Bay thanks to the generosity of Fusun and Cahit our Turkish friends. Further north towards Suez and onto dirty 20 million Cairo and Giza. Rewarded ourselves with the historic Mena House Oberoi hotel right next to pyramids and sphinx.

Pyramids over Cairo

Johannes doing a little shopping

View from our hotel, Giza!

Camel ride
Touts and hasslers trying to push their goods upon you due to Egypt’s run down economy and sparse tourism. Winding down at the end of our amazing journey through Africa. Looking forward to the next leg through Europe. We will take a ferry from Port Said to Turkey this week.

Spot map