Grab the opportunity!
It all starts with an idea… and the idea started with them doing the ACT in Greece.
It is almost an exotic destination, but at the same time, within their reach.
After a deeper analysis of the distances, the costs and effort to get there, they realize that this
trip deserved much more than a mere 5-day journey…
The “starting point” was defined… they just needed to know how to get there. By land, it is roughly 3,700km from Tito da Costa’s house – aka “RadRaven” – to Patras, the port city, where the ACT begins … that is, using highways… but the idea was to do an off-road trip.
Doing more than a 7,000 km round trip, to complete a 1,000 km route, really didn’t make any sense… not to mention an off road tire, could not last such distance (that is, if it would get there at all!) and still be in good shape, after hours, and hours, and hours, of motorway riding.
It didn’t take too long to realize, they would have to ship the bikes over. But even that was proving complicated to sort out.
They begin sketching a plan: a loop that starts and ends at the place where the bikes would be picked up and later, dropped off.
Initially, Rome seemed to be the best option, as it provided the shortest distant to destination. It would put them 500km from Bari, where they would then catch a Ferry to Patras. It seemed perfect, until they were told by the shipping company, that usually they don’t send motorcycles to Rome, because of the high probability, it might get stolen…
They are suggested Milan, instead.
Nothing goes well at the beginning… 3 days before, RadRaven’s flight is canceled… 2 days before the departure, his hotel reservation is also canceled… and the day before, James’s motorcycle breaks down in England…
Rad Raven’s partner on this trip is James Carter, beter known as Mr. “Unstoppable” whose nickname will make more sense to you, later on this adventure.
James had decided to take a longer trip, having had already left for England, a few weeks earlier, towing his bike on a trailer, taking the opportunity to visit his family in the U.K. and participate in an orientation event, known as Taffy Dakar, in Wales.
As we have already mentioned, his bike broke down the day before the departure… RadRaven, from Portugal and James from the United Kingdom.
After 3 frantic hours between phone calls, they finally find the solution.
James would pick up a rental bike, in the south of France and would meet RadRaven in Milan, where they would pick up his motorcycle.
Despite these radical changes, everything seemed like it was coming together, so they could proceed with their plans.
Already mounted on the motorcycles, that is, RadRaven on his Honda CRF 250 Rally and James on a rented BMW F700… with road tires… they catch a motorway to Ancona, where the Ferry that would take them to Patras, awaits them.
Their calculations were correct and 5 hours later, as the sky was gefng ready for a beautiful sunset, they make it just in time, to catch the ferry to Greece.
With a 36-hour Ferry trip and a booked cabin, they have plenty of time to recharge their baceries, before gefng to the real starting point of this adventure, ready for whatever comes their way!
The arrival in Patras takes place, mid afternoon of the following day. Enthusiastic and curious, they set off, in search for a hotel room and are blessed by luck, as even without a reservation, they manage to get a room, right on the Adriatic Sea’s shore.
They have dinner and go to sleep right away – they can’t wait for their first day of adventure to begin!
The first objective of the trip was to complete the ACT Greece route, which starts at Nafpaktos and ends at Viko’s Gorge – roughly 900km, 45% off-road.
ACT GREECE – DAY 1
The first day rises with rain… as if the snow they had already seen on the mountain peaks, and the warnings of the first mountain pass being insurmountable, weren’t enough… they would have to bring their rain gear out…
But the rain wasn’t going to move them from their goal! Time to Rock!
And just as they were starting the route, a mistake on their behalf, would end up providing them, with an unforgecable day!
They never quite understood, either why or how, but both RadRaven and James had merged the first day’s track, with the first half of the second day.
“When we started, looking for the beginning of the track, we ran into a no entry sign… we thought we were going in the opposite direction and, after all, that made us start the route, backwards… little did we know, that we had just taken the best possible option.
We rolled along the coast for half an hour and it didn’t take long for us to start climbing an endless mountain, with fabulous landscapes. The rain was easing, but it kept returning, from time to time. Nothing that was unbearable and it was actually giving us good trac:on on the dirt, but on the other hand, it forced us to keep wearing, that always annoying rain gear. We then rode through the green flowy hills, which I think no one forgets, once you watch the official ACT Greece video. It is undoubtedly a special area, where you can barely see the trail you have to follow, which translates into a feeling of complete freedom … almost as if we were flying, over those mountains!”
It is past lunch time when they arrive at the village of Kalavryta, where they delight themselves with a hamburger and a sandwich, at a friendly bar. Shortly afterwards, they return to the trails, climbing onto another mountain range. This is where they start facing more demanding conditions and our friend James “Unstoppable” Carter, somehow manages to overcome some precy gnarly terrain… on road tires!
They then arrive at a completely blocked patch of boulders, that had collapsed over the path.
Without really reflecting on the macer, they acempt to cross this rock garden, with RadRaven on top of his bike and James assisting him.
After a significant effort, they manage to reach the other side, with the CRF 250 Rally – but then they realize, how much of a challenge it would be, to do the same, with a 50kg heavier bike… and on top of it all, they were already very close to the area, that would be uncrossable, because of the snow… which implied, coming all the way back, over those same boulders… so, all of a sudden, it didn’t seem like such a good idea, anymore…
They had so much fun during the day, that they completely forgot to think about what they would do, when they got to that point…
With the day coming to an end, backtracking all the way, would certainly be tough, to say the least… and there didn’t seem to be any tarmac alternatives, nearby… but after trying to locate themselves, on the GPS, they find some trails that seemed like they could take them, towards Patras.
Google Maps didn’t show anything in that area and gave them an estimate of 5 hours, to return to our starting point… the thing is… they didn’t have 5 hours of sunlight left, anymore…
The labyrinth of trails that the local and detailed map of Greece presented, filed them with uncertainty, as to whether this was the most direct path to Patras … but everything seemed like it would be. That didn’t mean, they could not run into other areas of collapsed rock gardens…
The sun would not wait for them, so they decide to take a chance! After all, that’s what they were there for! To live an adventure!
Once again, luck was on their side! They would not only reach Patras, but ride some precy epic trails along the way, with several small waterfalls, following a licle stream, for a good chunk of the way.
Mais uma vez a sorte estaria do lado deles, e não só iriam dar a Patras, como fariam alguns trilhos épicos pelo caminho, com várias pequenas quedas de água e um riacho a acompanhá-los, uma boa parte do caminho.
They return to civilisation, with a gorgeous overcast sunset, falling over the beautiful bay of Patras.
“The first day couldn’t have gone any better! I can barely wait for the second!!!”
ACT GREECE – DAY 2
The second day starts sunny, but just as they were arriving at the hotel, the night before, RadRaven realised, something was wrong with his clutch…
After breakfast, they try to fine tweak the clutch cable and after a quick test, everything seemed to be working fine.
No more than 20km later, as they faced the first hill climb, it becomes clear that the clutch is still slipping, so they have no choice but to return to Patras.
With the rest of the journey, taking them deeper into remote areas, they could not risk going on, without solving this problem.
It wasn’t difficult to find a Honda agent in Patras. They were super friendly and diligent, but even then, they would still have to wait until the next day, for the parts to arrive.
So, they take the opportunity to have a relaxing day, which entitled them to some locally caught fresh fish.
No other option, but to rest and wait for everything to be sorted out, the following day.
The new day begins with the anxiety of knowing if his new Greek friends hadn’t let him down and if the problem with RadRaven’s bike had been sorted… and when they arrive at the Honda Dealership, at the agreed time, the bike was already outside & ready to go!
“We will never know for sure what happened … but I no longer trust judder spring clutches…
I thought it could have been misuse during the “rock garden” crossing… that maybe I had worn down the clutch, but the mechanic stressed that the damage was due to overheating and not to friction wear, which takes the blame off my shoulders… or should I say, wrist.
It may have been the type of oil the bike was running with… but on the other hand, I bought this bike second-hand, so who knows what it went through, before it got to my hands.”
The most important thing is that he already had his motorcycle to continue the journey and they didn’t waste any time, to resume the track of the second day of ACT !!! Well, actually…
Do you remember that mistake that had given them am outstanding first off-road day? Yeah… now they only had half of the second day to do. Which came in handy, as they didn’t have an early start.
They cross the charismatic bridge that connects Rio and Antirrio, again and resume the coastal road, this time on the north bank of the Corinthian Gulf.
They enjoy an hour of black top, rolling by the sea, passing through some picturesque coastal towns, to then start with the off road journey.
They are immediately presented with a winding climb, which puts them at 900 meters high, in less than 20 minutes!!!
Spectacular! Breathtaking views, framing the countless switchbacks that took them all the way to the top.
The views from up there are just… majestic! Offering the Corinthian Gulf until they lose sight… both towards East or West.
The next hours would be spent on a medium / low difficulty trail, quite fun and varied, crossing the mountains that separated them from the Mornos dam, until they finally stop for a meal at the village of Lidoriki.
Communication with the locals wasn’t easy. Basically, they don’t understand a word RadRaven and James say and vice versa.
Had it not been for the goodwill of someone who spoke English, their life wouldn’t have been as easy. Thus, they would end up enjoying a gorgeous meal of meatballs, chicken, tomatoes and some exceptional potatoes.
The rest of the day was filled with 65km of delicious twisties, always climbing up the mountain, until they reached Ano Chora, where they would spend the night.
ACT GREECE – DAY 3
Ano Chora is a picturesque village, in the middle of the mountains.
At dawn, its landscapes are simply sublime, and with the silence only broken by the chirping of small birds, conveys a state of total peace of mind.
Staying at the only existing hotel in the village, they find 4 other motorcyclists who, like themselves, were also doing the ACT. 2 Englishmen with a BMW GS 1200 and a 1250 were having a very early start, to fulfil day 3 route, classified as “Hard”. They mention they feel comforted in knowing that someone is coming behind them, in case they have problems, with their heavy bikes.
The other 2 were Germans, both with KTM 690, also happy to have company, but much less concerned with their 150kg bikes.
They leave after breakfast, continuing to climb up the mountain, over tarmac, until they finally enter the first dirt section.
It started like a long day, gliding at a leisurely pace, through a very dense mountain forest, with a track that varies from smooth to very rocky, both loose and firm.
We could tell that there were extraordinary views, which we could only glimpse through the narrow streaks of light that flashed through the countless trees, growing up the cliffs.
After a few kilometres, there was an open area, perfect for them to take a well deserved break and some typical landscape pictures.
Later on, they meet their German friends and chit chat for a few minutes, right before they reach the so called “Hard zone».
Curious to see what awaits them, they proceed.
First they come across an area with mud puddles, somewhat deep, but easy to get through. Then the path begins to become more and more rocky, until they reach a section with a lot of rocks, perhaps with 200 meters long.
It is time for Mr. James Carter to live up to his reputation … and he does! With a completely stock F700, with road tires, Mr. Unstoppable overcomes the hard zone, with inappropriate
Tires, probably much more effortlessly, than most people would, on the appropriate tires.
Now it’s RadRaven’s turn…
The initial progress is made quite at ease, thanks to good tires, the magical MXT suspensions and the natural off-rod aptitude the CRF 250 Rally has. A slightly bigger rock, ends up «pushing» him into an unexpected trajectory, though… and he ends up stalling the bike … but after a quick push of the wonderful magic bucon, he is back in business and the rest of the rock garden is overcome with ease.
Happy and stoked, they continue on their way, riding through beautiful mountain roads and some tarmac, until they start another climb, clearly pointed to the top of a mountain.
This trail is fun, but challenging – it also starts showing some dashes of white, which announce their next big obstacle…
They arrive at a point with a big white blanket of snow – which although blocking the road – already has some tire tracks, smeared with dark mud and rocks, which confirm that other motorcycles have already gone through there.
Fearless, RadRaven decides to move forward, just to have an immediate encounter with the laws of lack of traction, in the snow…
With James’ help, they manage to put the light, 150kg Rally, on the other bank. Now they need to deal with the heavy F700… the one with road tires…
Luckily, the friendly Germans arrive, which makes their task a lot easier.
To return the favor, they also help them crossing their beloved KTM 690s.
Later, they would find out that the various rocks that gave consistency to that small passage, had been laid by their English friends, who apparently took more than an hour and a half, to cross their two GS … But the adventure would not end there… they would still have to make some detours, off the track, to avoid more snowy patches… but everything went well.
At the beginning of the descent, they were confronted with a lot of mud and once again James defied the impossible and slid down, with his usual ease, in places where RadRaven struggled, even with his Motoz Desert… anyway … “it’s one of those things … some have it… and others don’t!».
After the storm comes a calm!
After a short section of tarmac, they turn into a trail covered with dense green leaves, which makes them feel as if they were in a magical forest! The luminosity is surreally green, feeding their imagination and making their jaws drop, in the face of such beauty!
To complete the decor, small notes of snow and several small water falls, caused by the melting snow, turn the scenery into something worthy of a Lord of the Rings movie!!!
There are no pictures or video that can do this place justice… it’s simply magical!!!
The day would not end without one more mountain climb, where they are treated with unobstructed, breath taking views!
After a few moments of contemplation, they start their descent towards Karpenisi, the city that marks the end of the third day of the ACT.
ACT GREECE – DAY 4
Although more urban, the dawn in Karpenisi, still makes you feel you’re in the interior of Greece.
Early morning is filled with a beautiful mountain road, with some, absolutely delicious switchbacks!
After crossing a characteristic iron bridge, they take a detour, off road, towards the emblematic Viviani bridge.
The water of the Megdovas River have a turquoise tone in this area, probably because of the bright bocom, created by the sea of white pebbles, that fill the beds and banks of this river.
The constant noise of running water, the wind fanning the leaves of the trees and the chirping of birds, create an atmosphere of absolute serenity, which invites you to stay, observe and enjoy… They end up staying longer than expected, taking pictures, flying the drone and enjoying a scenery, precy close to the idyllic.
This place is marked in the ACT guide: for those who want to camp. And if that’s your thing, you shouldn’t find a becer place then this!
Then, the track takes them back to a mountain trail that turns out to be one of the most fun on the whole tour.
The path crosses the mountain slopes, surrounded by bocomless cliffs, with abundant vegetation, projecting views over a huge, but distant lake, as well as some snow peaks – a constant feature of this trip.
It should be noted that, it is not normal to have so much snow, in this area, in the middle of May … a late snowfall that struck Eastern Europe, presented them with these looks, more resemblant of Switzerland, rather than Greece.
The pace they adopt is perhaps one of the most lively so far, on this trip, given the high degree of fun that this trail provides.
And as if time hadn’t passed, they suddenly find themselves on the other side of the mountain, where a considerable herd of cows, wander unsupervised, which ends up providing them with another unique experience … «playing cowboys”! Mounted on their motorbikes, as the cows run in front of them for a good while, until the path finally opens the opportunity for them to get out of their way.
They keep following the track, surrounded by extraordinary beauty.
A few kilometres later, they arrive at a small road side restaurant, cooled by a series of small waterfalls that provide the ideal environment, to take a break, eat a marvellous Greek salad and taste the compulsory lamb chops.
After lunch, they are served with imposing colourful cliffs, framed by clouds and big mountain peaks… The weather eases and to them, it just seems like they entered mountain trails’ paradise!
The arrival at the great lake of Plastira heralded the end of another unforgecable day, on this trip.
ACT GREECE – DAY 5
All the riding, starts taking its toll, and awakenings, are increasingly slower and lazier…
They have the last day of ACT ahead of them! 250km! But 70% of it on asphalt… which on one hand would be lighter, but certainly not be as much fun… but the anticipation of finishing the ACT and going onto the second phase of their trip, gives them more than enough motivation, to escape the gravity of that God damn macress and hit the road, once again!
They start the day with a good deed! James spots a turtle trying to cross the road… and after a car almost runs it over, James picks it up, pufng it safe, back in nature and away from the road.
Shortly thereafter, they reach a section of dirt, that is quite fun!
The views are awesome, with snow as a constant theme, on this adventure! But… a licle less, wouldn’t hurt anyone…
The “climb” accentuates, as they approach the top, as well as the amount of water that flows through, making the path more and more challenging; yet another opportunity for our friend “Mr. Unstoppable» to shine, with his prowess on road tires. After reaching the top, he even mentions that he did find it that difficult … the same cannot be said of the next obstacle that awaits them…
Two motorcyclists who had passed them by, in one of their countless photographic stops, had already warned them, that they would most likely catch some snow ahead, and the path could even be uncrossable.
Later on, the same fellow companions were in trouble to cross one of those snowy patches.
They went on, to lend them a hand, taking the opportunity to assess the seriousness of the situation.
It was doable, but the only possible path, was over frozen snow… super slippery… and on a very steep section…
Being a party of 4 (because their 2 German friends were with them), with straps and motivated spirits, they decided to go ahead and cross James’ bike… if the heavier bike could make it, there would be no problem with the others!
And everything goes well.
Already with the 4 bikes on the other side, their British friends show up, with their “licle” GS, complaining about the mud…
After reflecting on the situation, and without knowing what could still be ahead of them, everyone thought it would be too risky to try to cross 250kg motorcycles, through a narrow path, full of mud and snow, on the edge of a steep slope, covered with ice…
And so, their British friends had to stay behind.
They continue, praying that they won’t have another identical situation, just around the corner … and thanks to the Greek mountain gods, despite a lot of snow along the way, they manage to cross the mountain, without any further problems.
In the last kilometres, they enjoy excellent twisties, going up and down several mountain formations, where even RadRaven, with his modest 250, was having a blast, carving corners, always with a smile on his face, until they finally reach Viko’s Gorge.
The last 100 meters of the ACT Greece, are covered on foot, along a cobbled stone path that leads to a “balcony” over a canyon of extreme natural beauty!
It is exciting to see the reveal of those monumental stone faces, salt spoced by vegetation, ending in a deep abyss, with the river that sculpted this masterpiece of nature, over millions of years.
ACT Greece undoubtedly ends BIG, providing photos worthy of posting on any profile and busting the likes scale on any social network!
Now it was time to find a place to sleep and get ready for Albania!
With ACT Greece completed, their journey continues, into Albania.
After a painfully dignified awakening, at the expense of the previous night’s dinner, they take off towards the border…
The border guards seem alarmed by the arrival of RadRaven’s motorcycle and, in a somewhat aggressive tone, ask him to get off the motorcycle, repeatedly asking whether the motorcycle was his and where the documents were.
Doing his best no to get too stressed, he calmly dismounts his bike, assuring them that he is the righxul owner and that he only needs a few seconds to remove the documents out of his bag.
Supposedly because of the appearance of the CRF 250 Rally, and the personalised decoration, coupled with the fact that they were close to the beginning of the Helas Rally, the police suspected that it could be a stolen bike… something that seems to be common, in some Rallies.
On top of it all, the bike was registered to firm, which makes them even more suspicious… but calmly, RadRaven explains to them that he is the owner of the company and shows them where his name is in the document authorising him to drive this bike while traveling; confirmed and officialised by a lacre seal of the Portuguese government.
With all the confusion, they completely forget to check the documents of the remaining motorcycles … and send them off, to no man’s land…
Already at the Albanian border, they are caught, completely off guard, when it’s called to their acention, that the insurance document on James’ bike, had been forged and didn’t belong to that motorcycle… which technically, means James was traveling with forged documents!
An hour and a half of uncertainty follows… but the guards at the Albanian border were extremely understanding, realising that it was not James who had forged the documents, but the company that had leased the motorcycle.
They end up lefng them go, on the condition that they go take care of the insurance, in the nearest city, so they can ride legally.
The insurance would only cost € 15 and was good for 15 days, which, considering the conditions they were in, it was quite cheap.
The problem was partially solved, but until they got the insurance document, sent from the rental company, James was trapped in Albania.
All they could do for now, was to make the best of the remaining daylight, as the Albanian trails awaited them!
It is amazing how, just a few kilometres apart, the characteristics of the trails change so drastically. This makes you think that some of these paths, reflect thousands of years of history!
But it was heart breaking to start riding over old cobble stone Roman roads, surprisingly still in good condition, in some parts, but completely degraded and neglected, in others.
The riding level was also more demanding! But a super fun demanding that forces them to be constantly alert, to overcome the various obstacles, they have to deal with.
They then reach Osum’s Gorge. A place of great natural beauty! As if they were following a kind of mini Grand Canyon, for the rest of the afternoon.
It is truly magical, off road riding, alongside such a wonderful natural monument. They’re exhausted by the end end of the trail, but they would still have to ride for another hour and a half, on tarmac roads, before finding a place to stay, in the city of Berat.
The previous day, had been long and hard, and their bodies reflected it.
Nothing that a varied and plentiful, Albanian breakfast couldn’t fix.
They were still a bit far, from the beginning of the route… and as if they haven’t been having enough trail riding, in the last few days, they decide to look for a way to get there, off road… After a while, they start realising that they were kind of lost, with only one of the GPS displaying the trail they were on.
They continue climbing up the mountain, through a somewhat technical trail, until the path narrows, to the point they begin doubting, whether it would eventually dead end…
There is a first time for everything in life… and this is the very first time, RadRaven had seen “Mr. Unstopabble ” turning back on a trail…
Who knows, if it was out of experience or just pure “gut feeling”, but seeing James deciding to turn around, leaves RadRaven a licle worried.
However, Herbert, one of the Germans, on the KTM 690, insists that the trail keeps going and that they shouldn’t be too far… To spice things up even more, it seems that rain is on the way… and bu the looks of the clouds,
it wouldn’t be just a licle rain…
But there is no way to demove Hebert, who decides to go and check out the trail on his own, in order to find out if it kept going, to then come back and tell them to come along.
Herbert rides away and a few minutes later, the rain, which still seemed to be at a distance, starts falling, in the form of very fat, juicy drops…
It doesn’t take long for RadRaven to put 2 and 2 together, and says that they have to ride out there, immediately!!!
There was still some hesitation… but after shouting imperatively, like “either you come along with me, or I’m leaving without you”, finally makes them all, start going down the hill!
The rain is abundant, and accompanied by, fat peas sized, hail balls, that can be felt, even through their equipment.
The ramp through which they had climbed up before, is now very slippery, and gefng worse by the minute!
They live intense moments of great anxiety, where they got to have both their wheels locked and still unable to stop their bikes! Only God knows, how no one ended up, hifng the ground.
However, their friend Herbert had stayed behind and for some odd reason, RadRaven had a feeling, he was in trouble and needed their help.
After finding a place to stop the bikes, they leave Marc (the other German) to take care of them while RadRaven and James walk back, to find out, what was going on, with their stubborn German friend…
But after all the stress, going up that ramp, without an engine pulling you, was proving quite difficult… RadRaven ends up having to take a break, to rest his “well composed” stature… while James, a decade younger, keeps going ahead. Shortly after, resuming the march, RadRaven’s MX boots, although even with an enduro sole, end up skidding in the mud and water that flows down the rocky surface, and falls… and there he was in the middle of the ground. The situation is not easy for him, but he knows, he can’t give up … so, he keeps going, as fast as he can manage.
In the meantime, James finds Herbert, who had fallen into a hole with his 690 and couldn’t get it out of there, on his own.
Finally, with the three of them together, the adventure of retrieving the 690, with Herbert on top, begins…
The best thing really, is to watch this episode, because there are no words to describe what follows next…
Defeated, they return to the tarmac and it doesn’t take long for them to start freezing … luckily, the weather starts easing and the sun comes out. With no energy left, to resume the trail, they opt for a simple (read on road) route, to Skoder, where they would spend the night.
After all the wetness of the previous day, they wake up a licle sceptic … but the sun gradually begins peeking through the clouds, announcing an unforgecable, off road riding day!
In fact, they didn’t even know for sure, where they were heading…
Their German companions had a track that a friend of theirs, had given them, and it was classified as a must-go!
The region is called Theth… and that was just about everything they knew about it…
After crossing the city of Skoder, they start seeing mountains in the background and shortly afterwards, a small river begins to follow, alongside the route… from there on, they spend the rest of the day in awe…
Even in bad weather, the views and countless waterfalls, delight their eyes and fill their souls!
The trails are super fun and with a turquoise water course, along their side, a good chunk of the way! Lots of rocks, some mud, always challenging, but always feasible and a total blast! In a trail riding perspective, of course.
Everything would go smoothly and without any incidents to report. The rain persisted in keeping them company, but not in sufficient abundance, to ruin their plans.
It is amazing to see that there are people living there, in the middle of the mountains and that their children do not stop going to school.
They pass by some vans with kids inside, which makes them wonder, how the heck, do they get up there, in those “old cans”…?! But you can’t help but notice, the countless crosses you see along the way… especially a polished memorial black headstone, with the name of 2 adults and more than a dozen children, whose ages didn’t exceed 15…
Hard lives, no doubt … but they probably don’t even have a real sense of the natural beauty of the place where they live.
“Theth is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to! And the place where I most enjoyed riding off road, ever! I can’t stop but thinking, I eventually would like to go back and stay longer, to explore.”
Not everything, always goes as planned…
For the rest of their trip, they had planned to do a good chunk of the TET, in combination with other routes and passages, they had found during their research… but James was already
exhausted from riding off road, on that bike, and truth be told, they had already stretched it far enough, without causing any real damage, to the poor BMW… and at the TET, things were bound to get a lot tougher, so they thought it would be a good idea, to readjust the plan to reality, because, besides not even being James’ own bike, it didn’t even have off road tires…
However, they were not going to let the rest of the trip, go to waste!
In the original plan, they had included some tarmac passages that seemed quite interesting to them, so it was a macer of tracing a new route that would take them to those same places, over B roads, preferably with spectacular views and fun corners… and in reality, they couldn’t be in a becer area to do exactly that!
Traveling on road, they could also cover a lot more distance, per day, so James started talking about going to an air base he had heard about, located on the border between Bosnia and Croatia. This would imply traveling through the interior of Montenegro, crossing Bosnia and entering Croatia much further north than they had previously planned, and then ride down to Split, where they would finally catch the Ferry back to Italy.
As they hadn’t planned to pass in this area, they didn’t have much information, but nowadays, with widespread access to the world wide web, a laptop or a smart phone is more than enough to plan a new route, without much trouble.
They take the opportunity and ride through the iconic Kotor Serpentine, where in addition to the stunning switchbacks, they are presented with some amazing views!!!
They head towards the interior, and although the rain tormented them again, they are not indifferent to the beauty of the road they take, flanked by a deep gorge, with turquoise water and topped with an intense green, of the abundant vegetation that grows on the escarpments.
They would overnight in a 5-star hotel in Kolasin, the only place where they felt it was safe to leave their motorbikes during the night… but let it be said: spending the night in a 5 stars hotel, only costing € 45 each… when just the breakfast alone, was almost worth that, turned out not to be a bad deal!
The next morning, they head north, towards the Bosnian border, leaving Kolasin behind.
While crossing a beautiful mountain, the snow blocks their way, once again… this time, they are lucky enough to have the help of a snow plow – which even then, takes 2 hours to clear the road…
Shortly thereafter, they would enjoy unforgecable moments, riding in between, 2 meters high, snow walls!
“Montenegro is a beautiful country!
There are even those who say, it is the most beautiful country in the world… whether that is true or not, I really don’t known… but there is no doubt that its natural beauty is simply overwhelming!”
After a long section of endless tunnels, with blue and green flashes, of valleys taken from the most beautiful of paintings, they finally arrive at the Bosnian border.
It wouldn’t be easy to supplant what they had already seen … even so, they ride over a road, with a long meandering stream, which accompanies them for quite a while, with the reflection of the late afternoon sun, making it a precy pleasant ride.
With the delay of the snow plow and the countless photographic stops, they reach the city of Berat, at night fall, leaving them licle to no time, to explore.
Dinner would be plentiful and surprisingly cheap. Maybe just pure luck, but they were very impressed with Bosnia’s gastronomy!
For the following day, they have just one goal: to get as close to the Croatian border as they can, so they can go, to the air base, James so much wanted to visit. So, they would roll the whole day, barely stopping, in order to cover the long distance.
At the end of the day, they would stay in a hotel, in the friendly town of Bihac, right on top of the beautiful river Una, which has small waterfalls that create, a more than perfect environment, for a relaxing end of day.
Well slept and rested, they wake up early the next day with James all excited about going to that air base…
A very iconic place, the Base of Zeljava, is a mandatory stop and very popular within motorcyclists. As proof, you can see the countless stickers, that decorate the old plane, which marks its entrance.
They continue on a road that almost makes them imagine, they are in a tropical jungle, thanks to the abundant vegetation that wants to swallow the tarmac… Shortly after riding by a mines in the bush sign, they arrive at a crossroads that gives access to the runways and the tunnels that once hosted the respective air fleet.
Perfectly camouflaged among the vegetation, the tunnels, pierce the base of a mountain, fully fulfilling their purpose, during the war that ravaged this part of the world, for years.
It is impossible not to be curious about what may be inside, or how deep do they go…
Another acraction are the airstrips! But an off road focused 250, is far from being the ideal bike, to take advantage of them… but they still have fun and take some cool photos.
A few hours later, they reach the beautiful Adriatic coast! A lot of motorcycles can be seen there! Many ladies riding, too!
They still cover some distance, along the coast, in order to split the distance they have to travel the following day, to catch the ferry back to Italy, in the port of Split.
They would be completely betrayed by the weather forecast the next morning…
They couldn’t stand the rain, anymore! But another wet day, awaited them…
They still decide to explore a trail, but when they are reaching the top of the mountain, which would then take them to another trail, in the direction of Split, they can see a big storm heading their way…
They decide to turn around and go back, the same way! And just as they reach the tarmac, abundant rain starts pouring… but they are fully aware, it would have been a lot worse, would they have stayed up there, on the mountain.
They continue on their way towards Split, always close to the coast, with copious rain gefng them completely drenched… even then, they manage to keep their spirits high, still determined to make the most out of the few hours they have left, they keep taking secondary roads, up to Split!
A few hours later, the clouds start clearing and they are blessed with a few rays of warming sun, casting a shine on their spirit, as well as warming up their bodies.
At some point, they see an island that is connected by a bridge and spontaneously decide to go exploring … before they know it, they find themselves on a dirt track that goes around the island, right by the sea.
How good it felt to ride that bit of off road, planted on the shore! It was undoubtedly a reward, a victorious turnaround (given the start of the day they had had) and the icing on the cake of a trip they will never forget!
Life is made up of experiences, and there is no more enriching experience, than leaving our comfort zone, to explore the world!
It now remains for them to savour the memories, until the stars realign again, and the opportunity for the next trip comes around…
Until then, you can experience this whole epic trip in detail, through the amazing THE BALKAN’S VENTURE series of 11 incredible episodes!!
Credits: Rad Raven