Gone Bikin' 2: Switzerland to Croatia

11th July 2017

We hit the week away mark yesterday so time for another quick update. I’m currently sitting in a nice little apartment in Senj, Croatia, sweating from the mere exertion of typing in this 32c heat.

We’ve had a very busy 4 days since I last posted, so we have decided to treat ourselves to a bed after 4 nights camping on the trot.

After leaving our camping spot in Switzerland when I last wrote, we headed straight for the Stelvio pass which takes you into Italy. This road has 48 180 degree hairpin turns, and peaks at around 2760m. Any Top Gear fans out there will be familiar with it, as its built up quite a reputation as one of the world’s best roads since its creation. Coming down it is quite exhausting on a bike, as adrenaline is high, and your concentration has to be too. Constantly riding on the brakes, gravity also play its part by pulling your crotch down onto your petrol tank - uncomfortable times.

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Once in Italy we were immediately confused, as everything appeared very Austrian. The first shop we went to the cashier spoke German, which rendered our very limited knowledge of Italian useless. This continued as we headed towards the Dolomites, where we made camp.

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Our bikes are both performing really well, and we’re really starting to get the hang of them after all this practice. We even raced two BMW bike’s twice our size up a pass and beat them, although to be fair they never knew it was a race.

We managed to camp in a forest under the dolomites, next to a freezing cold stream which served as good spot to clean after two days sweating it out on the bikes. As we were leaving, we bumped into the Farmer’s son who was coming to check on his Goats (who had been chewing on our kit all morning). This kid was so Aryan, a skinny Augustus gloop lookalike, with even a traditional Austrian cap to complete the outfit. We have no idea what he was doing in Italy, we almost checked the map to see if we were in the right place.

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Things got a lot more Italian as we cracked onto Slovenia where we eventually arrived at Lake Bohinj. Slovenia instantly took to our liking, and signalled the first slight drop in prices - thank God. We spent 2 nights at Lake Bohinj, giving ourselves the chance to relax a bit. We went on a walk and found a stunning little gorge which we could go swimming in. It was characteristically Slovenian coloured, with clear/turquoise water. We then hired a canoe for some time on the lake and managed to paddle into the only nudist spot on the lake - a genuine mistake.

We had our first mechanical issue, with Dave’s Suzuki spitting a screw out of its rear brake. We stopped into the nearest garage, but it was empty, so a very kind Slovenian man drove us to the next village and showed us who could fix it. Was a five minute job, so the Suzi is back to full health!

So we’re now in Croatia where the heat is pretty absurd. Probably something we should be prepared for though, as we’re only going further south! After spending two nights in Senj, letting the sun do its work on our scottish milky skin we will be heading towards Bosnia. Amazing to think its only been a week - we’ve done so much, and yet still have so much more to do over the next 4 months!

In 8 days, we’ve ridden 2373km (thats 1474 miles to us Brits), and camped 5 times.


16th July 2017

We're now in Belgrade and spent a day off the bikes today relaxing.

Leaving Croatia and entering Bosnia definitely marked the biggest change in culture. Immediately the buildings took on a much less adriatic look. Overall, we would say that Bosnia was much less developed than its neighbours, an after-effect of the war that ravaged this area 20 years or so ago. You can still see more obvious marks of this war, with occasional bullet holes spotted, as well as craters from mortars blotting rural landscapes.

Despite this, we found Bosnia and the Bosnians absolutely lovely. We camped our first night in the Una valley, a national park just over the border from Croatia. Whilst camping, a young guy called Ahmed came across our campsite whilst fishing. He hardly spoke English, but iphones are great for helping with communicating and we showed each other pictures of fish we'd previously caught at home. He gave us both a go (with a spinner, slightly cheating!) but it didn't amount to much, but he stuck around long enough to catch a trout, and gave us the spoils after Dave landed it. We cooked it that night but definitely botched that effort.

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The next day marked my 24th Birthday and we had quite a relaxed morning before heading to Martin Brod, a village that had been recommended for good food. When we got there, we found out that card wasn't accepted anywhere and there were no banks - a classic mistake which I bet we make again. Lucky for us we were spotted by Saso, someone we had waved to by chance at a petrol station the previous day, who offered to buy us a beer and join him and his mate Mico, and ended up buying us a delicious trout lunch! Goes to show where a smile and a wave can get you!

Afterwards, we enjoyed a sunny afternoon ride to Banja Luca where we found a hostel and hit the town. We seriously needed the next morning off to recover from being out-drunk by some locals, but did a short ride later to a lake near the border with Serbia. We found a half-finished house on the edge and set up our tents in there Ryan from the OC style (for those who know). Cooked up our camp favourite of Tortellini and hit the hay early. Big shout out to Bosnians - everyone we met went out of their way to do something nice for us.

Since then we've been in Belgrade, a not so pretty city with a lot of tower blocks, but a fun night out. Using the usual price comparisons a pint costs about £1.25 (but they never fill it to the top) and petrol is sitting at around 80p a litre at the moment. We're off to Romania next where we start heading south towards Bulgaria and the end of Europe!