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February 2012 Club News

Frenchman | Denham | Oldest | Porongurup | Pemberton | Turkey | Calendar | Membership

From Turkey to UK by Motorbike Part Four

Story and Pictures by Bob & Chris

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Go back to part two

Go back to part three

Bob and Chris
          at the snow margin.
In Austria we had excellent accommodation. Opposite there was a bar and restaurant that the couple owned and when we arrived there was a free litre of Austrian beer for us all. The guy owned a bike as well and was keen to take us over the Grossglockner Pass the next day, which is famous for its many, many sweeping bends and scenery.

A few nice
          corners in the snow.
Normally it would be covered in snow until mid-May or even June, but being as it had been such a mild spring the road had opened on Thursday, we were to ride over it on Saturday. Ah the excitement is building again. The actual mountain is 3798m and the pass the highest in Austria.

It was at the end of the next valley to where we were staying, so after riding over a windy, hilly road to get to the valley we headed for the pass. There were a lot of bikes. Another beautiful bendy valley road, stopping for coffee on the way before paying an entrance fee and starting the climb. This road was as smooth as you’d find anywhere and the bends were all sweepers, even the hair-pins.

The snow was piled high next to us as we rode along, often over 2 metres high, there were even people skiing as we rode by, weird eh. We rode to the base of the Franz Josef glacier, but couldn’t ride the road next to it as the snow hadn’t been cleared.

We rode through a tunnel that had thick pillars of ice on the wall next to where we were riding, what a great experience, something we’d never done before. We continued on down the other side to the end of the National Park where there was a restaurant, I mean you’ve got to have apple strudel in Austria haven’t you?
As we looked up we could see snow coming over the peaks, time to go because if they closed the pass it would mean a very long way around.

As it was Easter Saturday, and the Pass had just opened there were lots of motorbikes, we passed a group of six scooters and lots of cyclists too, are they mad? By the time we got back to our accommodation we had done about 260kms, about 80kms in the national park.

The next day was a rest day for us. Chris had been commenting that the bike was very dirty, I wasn’t going to clean it until we got to UK, but she was right, it was filthy, so I thought I’d give it a wash and go over it at the same time. We also decided that we would split from the others as they were going to spend some time in Frankfurt and another city in Europe which we really didn’t want to do, we also wanted to go to the Czech Republic.

Scenery on the
          way to the Czech Republic.
We said our goodbyes and headed off towards the Czech Republic, another couple who had shipped their bike to Turkey joined us in Austria, they had been through Greece and took the ferry to Italy - he was on a GS BMW and she was on an Aprilia sportsbike. They decided to ride to Cesky Krumlov with us before moving onto Prague.

We had to hop on the motorway for a short distance, taking in more tunnels (some again over 5kms long) before we branched off to the east on more side roads. It looked good on the map, but it was better than we thought - there were bikes everywhere, it must have been the Austrian scratchers road, these guys were moving.

After a couple of hours riding and admiring the sights we turned right, after a while no Louise, we turned back to see if everything was OK, but after half an hour of trying we couldn’t find them, we’ll keep going.

Guys on Horex
          chair and solo.
Beautiful road, riding past lakes, mountains, picture postcard stuff. Filling up at one petrol station 2 blokes came in on old bikes, a Horex sidecar outfit and a Horex single, original, about 60 years old overhead cam machines, they looked great, had a chat to them.

Back on another motorway briefly before heading into the Czech Republic and more back-roads. Chris and I decided we didn’t want to do motorways in this country and that would save me paying the motorway tax like in Austria. You get a sticker which you place on the windscreen of the bike. If they catch you on the motorway without one its a huge fine.

Czech village
          with tiny houses.
I love riding these narrow, rural roads, no traffic, although these roads were pretty patchy. We rode through this village with the tiniest houses you could imagine, but everything neat and tidy. Because we were riding slower on the narrower roads to what we would do in Australia, the distance I could get out of a tankful of petrol changed from around 300kms to 450kms - unbelievable, so even though petrol was expensive at 2.50 euro a litre it was more economical because of the slower speeds.

Eventually we arrived at Cesky Krumlov which is a very picturesque old town. Apparently it was one of the few towns/cities in WWII that wasn’t bombed by Hitler because he wanted to preserve it. We went to the tourist bureau, by now we’re getting used to the fact that no-one speaks English. In Croatia its taught as a second language in school which made it much easier for us to be understood.

We ended up at an old pensione opposite the entrance to the walled city, fabulous place with lock-up yard for the bike. We were the only people staying there, it was full of antiques with an American pool table in the basement.

Next day we’re walking around the old town and bumped into Louise and Eric - the Aprilia had a puncture which is why they stopped, it was just around the corner from the road we were on and that’s why we couldn’t find them. Local bikers had stopped and given them a hand, and they had found accommodation in a different part of the city.

Later that day the rest of our old crowd turned up, they thought they would follow us and have a look at the old city too. The buildings and castle was fascinating and Chris and Louise had a bit of shopping therapy too.
We all ate together that night, before stumbling across an old motorcycle museum above a pub. We said our goodbyes again and next day continued north, the others heading to Germany.

We were back on our own again. Having a look at the map we could either go the main road, or zig-zag through small villages and back-roads to get to northern Czech. We opted for the latter. We spent all morning riding, passing through a UNESCO listed old village, and riding through some great country. We passed two tractors, which were the only vehicles on the road all morning.

Village of
Our final destination was Loket, which we heard about in Albany, another old small walled town that incidentally featured in ‘Casino Royale’ - an old James Bond movie. Following the GPS that afternoon took us on a very narrow and windy road over hills before coming to a small village, it took us to an old road that was blocked off - ah well, its done pretty good so far.

There had to be another road out which we found. Rural Czech was amazing, you can imagine travelling along the same roads 100 years ago and it would have looked the same. We arrived in Loket. Nobody in this small old walled village spoke English, even the tourist bureau. We found a pensione in the main square (all cobblestone) and a lock-up for the bike, so we were happy.

We had a look at the castle which had been a prison for 350 years and only closed in 1948, what a dismal, gruesome place that was. It was a strange village, practically empty of people. But we had a great meal that night in the cafe at the bottom of the pensione.

Next morning we decided to head to Germany, riding along I wanted to turn left at this new intersection, but they were building a new motorway and we could only turn right, we followed the road, just under an hour later we were back where we started off - in Loket ha ha.

I had another plan - I knew where this particular town was on the way so I ignored the GPS rode through the town, it reconfigured itself as we went, we were then on the right road again. Trouble was we were now on a motorway in Czech, and we hadn’t paid the tax (300 euro on the spot fine or 3000 euro at the police station) fingers crossed.

The old German border was good to see. We decided that we needed to make up a bit of time, so for a lot of the day we were on the autobahn, although we did take some smaller roads too. The traffic on the autobahn was heavy with many trucks going from east to west Europe, not our cup of tea, but it served a purpose.

The autobahn took us through the airport in Frankfurt which is weird and then past the new Hilton which is shaped like a giant UFO spaceship, must have a thousand rooms - it was huge.

Mosel River and
Eventually we were off the motorway again and purring along picturesque countryside. We thought we would head for the Mosel valley - it runs adjacent to the Rhine, and the road follows the river for many kilometres.

Great road and scenery, stayed for a couple of days in a village on the river in an old hotel with a room and balcony overlooking the river. Enjoyable watching the barges and river cruise boats going by. The food was great as usual, actually it had been all the way from Turkey, can’t complain about the beer either.

There was another hotel in the village that we found out was a biker friendly one - but a lot more expensive, we went over there one day for a chat. The number of bikes on this road was incredible, lots of sports bikes, but also Harleys and BMW’s. We continued south along this beautiful road that occasionally hopped from one side of the river to the other.

Chris said she always wanted to have a look at Luxembourg. So over coffee we decided on a route into the small country again taking the quieter roads. It was a magic day, sunny, no wind and the countryside was straight out of the “Sound of Music”. We found another bendy road that followed a river, there was a bit more traffic on it, mainly heaps of bikes - it was a Saturday and they were out in force.

We stayed the night in a village called Larochette, when we pulled up there was a medieval fair on in the village square, after finding a room, and a wander around the place we sat in one of the cafes opposite the village square, it was a warm evening and the band started up, there was a bar in the middle of the square with everyone singing and dancing - don’t think that would be allowed in Australia - drinking in the street?

Next day after riding through the city of Luxembourg we headed into France. It was a public holiday and everything was shut, although we did stop at a village where the whole place was a big open market - interesting.

Parked at the
          restaurant au naturel.
We came upon a small town, everything shut except a small restaurant, we were starving, parked the bike on the pavement - as you do - and looked at the menu. We didn’t have a clue what anything was, and not many people speak English in France. Luckily an Irish girl who was dining inside with her French husband came out and asked if we needed help - sure did. We had a great lunch.

While we were eating there were heaps of Harleys riding through the place, eventually 3 of them pulled up, one of them spoke a little English, we asked what was going on. He said there was a Swap Meet about 5kms away, he was hard to understand - so I got him to put the town in the GPS and we would follow that.
Off we went - heaps of choppers on the road.

Harley with a
          blown engine - who would've thought!
The whole village was full of Harleys, we had the only BMW! Turned out it was a bikie show run by the Boozefighters MC - originally an old American bikie club.

Anyway we locked up the bike and went in. The Hells Angels had a big tent and I think they wanted us to buy a T-shirt and be a supporter ha ha. There were other bikie Clubs there that I hadn’t heard of plus some that I had.

          paintjob on chair.
The bikes were heavily customised, we laughed at one couple, they were walking along with a pig on a lead - studs and all. We eventually headed off, we could have camped there the night, Chris wasn’t too keen ha ha.

By now we needed petrol and everything was shut. Eventually we found some pumps that worked by credit card only, but like a lot of Europe it had to have a chip in the card - ours didn’t.

There was a guy on a Moto Guzzi filling up, using sign language, I gave him 10 euros and he charged it on his card. Everyone has been helpful everywhere.

We rode through the Ardennes district of France where there are a lot of graves and memorials to the soldiers of WWII, lovely part of the world now - not then.

Eventually we ended up in northern France near the Belgian border - there was a lot more traffic around and everything was busier - we were heading to Calais, we turned south again riding through the Amiens district, which was prettier and the roads quieter before reaching the coast. We stayed at a coastal town about 40kms south of Calais. Seemed funny sitting down having something to eat and a beer overlooking the Channel with England the other side.

Road to
Next morning we had a brilliant ride on a less busy road that hugged the coast all the way to Calais, passing ferries and remnants of WWII as we went. It was easy to find the ferry and with very little waiting we were strapping the bike down on the boat. There was a Belgium couple on two bikes heading for a holiday in the UK.

The weather was again perfect and the sea flat calm, the captain said on the speakers that the day before was very rough. We’d been so lucky with the weather all the way from Turkey, and only had rain around the Bulgarian border and when we left Dubrovnik in Croatia - the rest of the time sunny, remembering this is spring as well.

We thought if the weather was rough we’d jump on the train and do the Channel Tunnel. I booked the ferry from Albany 29 euro, the train was 39 euro which I didn’t think was too bad, but we found out that if you just front up instead of pre-booking it was 139 euros - double for cars.

We headed south from Dover, stopping in a coastal town called Hyde, where we had bacon sandwiches with sauce and it was great understanding what everyone was saying. We were going to the Sammy Miller Museum near Bournemouth before heading to my sister’s place in Wales.

Instead of the motorway we were on the A and B roads - they were superb, very little traffic and heaps of bends - great riding through the English towns and villages. We stopped at one village looking for a B & B, accommodation had now got expensive - 70 pounds and more at most places. We enquiried at one place and the woman looked us up and down and indicated she wouldn’t be happy for us to stay there - ah good old England.

We kept riding, there was nowhere, eventually riding through a small town, we saw an English bobby and asked him if he knew anywhere - he said the only place he knew was the Angel Hotel in the next town.
We went there - lovely old place, they wanted 130 pound a night ($200) Chris knocked them down to 90 pound - don’t know how she did that!

Old Triumph at
          Sammy Miller Museum.
The place was unreal, centuries old, and the room fantastic, apparently HG Wells based two of his books on the place. Next day we rode to Sammy Miller's Museum, which is superb, got a huge collection of unusual and rare bikes, well worth the detour. This was the only time the GPS got confused taking us on the road to Cornwall, miles out of our way, but I reset it and it came good.

We were now on the home straight to Cardiff, where I originally came from, we had no choice but to get on the motorway at Bristol and over the new Severn Bridge. Before long there was the “Welcome to Wales” sign and a toll, over 5 pound for cars, free for bikes, good stuff.

Norton born
Before long we were riding up my sister’s street, seemed very strange. We had a great week there, I took my niece and nephew’s kids for rides - had a ball. There was a bike show in Cardiff where an old friend of mine had his bike on display. Eventually we said our goodbyes and headed back towards the east coast of England.

We stayed on the motorway as far as Chepstow and then turned off taking the A and B roads again through Gloucester, Cheltenham, Banbury before arriving at Felixstowe. Here we had to have the bike spotlessly clean before taking it to the docks ready for shipping back to Australia. It’s a massive container port, we had a room overlooking the Channel, sitting out on the verandah watching the ships go by.

After spending a couple of nights there we hired a car to take us to Heathrow (incidentally hiring a car was half the price of the train or bus fare). We had a great trip, with no problems with the bike, no close scrapes, and we were both well the whole time - not even an upset stomach.

Since I’ve written the aricle the bike arrived in Perth where Bruce unloaded it and Huw rode it back to his place, later I rode it back to Albany. Dave & Maggie of “Get Routed” do a great job of shipping bikes to different parts of the world and I would highly recommend them.

Now, where shall we go next, Chris?

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