Billy and Storms Croatia report!

Billy and Storms Croatia report!

And so it begins,
Another bunch of eager Magellanites, ready to take the plungge down to the Balkans on their well oiled machines.   With every trip there’s always a mixed bag of riders and machines and this one was no different!  From tried and tested zen tourers to a 2.3ltr monster of a Triumph Rocket, all of which were lined up ready for inspection and appreciation by all 22 riders.   Everyone arrived safely at stop 24 services ready for action and more importantly, ready to have a great trip!  A great blend of new and returning riders would make this a fabulous trip to remember and ensure a memorable time was to be had by all.
First stop Metz!
Riding through France is an easy way to settle in to European riding, the roads are predictable and the scenery enjoyable but not distracting. If you’ve never ridden before on what we would call the wrong side of the road! There’s no better way to start, than by floating through the French countryside.  Our first nights stay is in Metz, this pushes us far enough down through France that in the morning we are only a short ride away from the extremely moving World War One memorial in Verdun.   If you’ve never been before, it’s a stark and harrowing reminder of the freedom we enjoy today being acquired for the ultimate price by the generation who lived through it.  Many people when they tell the tale of world one or indeed any war, have a habit of describing the death of the people as the ultimate sacrifice, if you watch the recorded film at Verdun, you will soon realise that giving their life’s may have been the easy part.  That may sound shocking! but, when you consider what these people seen and endured in those days of carnage and mayhem, death may have been the only way out of what must have seemed like a cruel and merciless world.   Verdun as we see it today, is a well kept masterpiece of architecture and is truly a sight to behold, its why we visit it so often and once you’ve seen it, you come away thinking how lucky we all are.   You might be thinking what a doom and gloom start to a trip, but I can assure you it’s a very enjoyable and interesting experience.

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Verdun Ossuaire de Douamont.
After visiting this amazing place it’s time to get cracking and head on to Baden-Baden. Our fantastic little hotel is situated at the very start of the world famous B500 Black Forest road.  After a lovely evening of alfresco dining and socialising, we start to get the first indication of how the weather is going to be for the rest of the trip! HOT!  10pm in the evening and it was a comfortable 22 degrees.  Only one thing could keep us sane and cool and that was the lovely crisp German beer that went down a treat before we retired for the evening. An early night was had by all and the next day would be a sign of things to come as we experienced the lovely sweeping bends of the fairytale forest.  It’s hard to tell how high up you are climbing when your surrounded by trees.  Suddenly you appear in to an open space near the top and you have a clear sight to the forest floor below, you now realise that you’ve been climbing far higher than you think and the view is just stunning. Your now 1493 meters above sea level and it’s bliss.  At this point something clicks with everyone, all of a sudden you realise your on holiday for 15 days on your bike and it’s going to be awesome!
We now press on to Austria. Heading through Germany, we make our way down from the forest and onto the Autobhan.  Two lanes of unlimited speed revealed to you when your sat navs speed warning sign disappears leaving you to self govern your capabilities on the open road ahead.  Now! This sounds like a nutters paradise right? Well in actual fact it’s a tranquil and very enjoyable experience, plodding on knowing you can let rip if you wish and being surrounded by some of the most considerate and careful drivers you will ever see. Despite being only two lanes wide, there’s no tail backs! There’s no accidents! And obviously there’s no speed cameras which means you can breathe out and take your eye off the clocks for a while.  Most people do just waft along at uk motorway speeds and occasionally you will get a Porsche or Mercedes driven by a time travelling scientist in the fast lane trying to go back to the future, but these are few and far between I must confess.  Germany is a lovely country to ride in, right up until you land in Austria and then you just stop and say hang on a minute!  Everywhere you look just resembles a post card picture! In any direction at all, there’s the greenest grass and the bluest sky’s and it’s just stunning.  Our luxury lodge for the evening awaits us after a mammoth days riding and it’s a welcome sight in the lovely Austrian hills.
The following day the mighty Grossglockner awaited us!  Hairpin bends that would make a triumph rocket rider wake up sweating during the night, steep inclines that would make a triump rocket rider wake up sweating during the night! And steep descents that would also make a triumph rocket rider wake up sweating during the night!   So did our triumph rocket rider wake up sweating during the night?  Of course not! He done all his sweating during the day in the mad scorching sun!  Other than that he was up and over it like a greased ferret up a drain pipe!  What an incredible road and scenery in all directions.  The Grossglockner can easily be thick with cloud at the top, after all you are 12,461 feet above the Adriatic Sea!!!!   To put that into context for you, where I live on my little Hebridean island we have a twin otter aircraft that carries people back and fourth twice a day.  The flight ceiling for that aircraft is 12,000 feet!!  What would the pilot think if he looked up and there was a bunch of bikers eating a cornetto 461 feet above him?

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The Grossglockner
The rest of this days ride would see us making up ground towards Slovenia, but not before hoping into northern Italy first.  A fantastic mountain pass would bring us down into Italy in the late afternoon to Buttrio.  How crazy is it that by day five you have left the uk on your bike and passed through France, Germany, Austria , Italy and into Slovenia ? Tonight’s hotel is in an industrial area and used by truckers mostly but don’t think eww yuk just yet! The exterior of the building looks like a massive warehouse or aircraft hanger and yet once you enter its got everything you need including a restaurant, bar and of course a ten pin bowling alley!  Aptly named hotel epicentre, it’s a one stop shop for all you needs!  A lovely well deserved meal was had by all and I went on big Mikes recommendation which was some sort of crazy sounding sword of meat!  Turned out to be rather lovely, good shout Mike.
On to Croatia now and to a fantastic hotel Called the Plitvitce Palace.  Our host Marijan worked his backside off keeping us in cold beer by the fantastic pool area. A real gem of a hotel indeed and everyone enjoyed a two night stay there which allowed us to relax and ease the aches and pains as well as visit the 16 stunning crystalline lakes near by and take a stroll around. The hotel served exceptional food and what I deemed to be decent size portions, however when the very hungry Marrion Decided she would opt for the large pizza! I don’t think any of us could have anticipated just how large a large Croatian pizza actually is!  I know we won’t forget it now!

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To be fair she was hungry and in the end richard had to remind her the bit below it was a chopping board and not the pizza base! Those teeth marks will never come out Marion!

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Big Mikes Plitvice lakes waterfall photograph. Stunning.
Leaving Plitvice, we are only a short ride away to the Bosnian border and once through, we start our days ride towards Sarajevo.  Riding through some stunning scenic roads, little towns and villages, you start to look around at the different types of homes scattered throughout the landscape.  You can see the different influences in their design from the early to late ottoman eras to the Austrian-Hungarian era. If you look just a little closer though you can see most of them are still peppered in shrapnel damage from the war in the early 90s when Bosnia and Herzegovina made their Declaration of Independence from Yugoslavia.  Insanely what happened next was the longest siege of a city in modern warfare. The city was held without electricity, water, gas for heating and medical supplies for nearly 4 years.  The city of Sarajevo was shelled everyday with an average of 329 shell impacts each day with exception to July 22nd 1993 when 3,777 shell impacts were recorded on that single day. It’s estimated that 12,000 people were killed and another 50,000 injured during the siege.  By the end of 1995 it was estimated that some 2 million unexploded land mines and munitions remained scattered around 28,699 locations, just incredible don’t you think? For me personally I found this to be one of the most disgraceful acts of modern mankind and how the world could sit back and allow it, is truly staggering.
We had a local guide who took us on a walking tour of the city and what a phenomenal experience that was. A 37 year old chap called Neno! Not Nemo! Took us on a cultural trip through time and history, explaining all the different influences that became the shaping of a modern day Sarajevo.  From the ottomans, Austrian-Hungarians to the execution of Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip which effectively started World War One.  Neno was just 7 years old when his mother asked him to gather some toys and belongings to attend a party in the basement of the building where they lived.  Neno never left that basement till he was nearly 11 years old!!  Yet here before us was a young man who’s passion was not focused on the single biggest thing that should have shaped and mapped his existence out for him, instead stood a young man who delivered perfectly what his country meant to him and how it should really be defined. The war in Sarajevo is something that no one will forget, however what’s more important to be remembered is that it’s a beautiful multi cultural and architectural masterpiece which really needs to be seen to be understood.  Yes there’s still shrapnel damage to buildings, yes there’s still a long way to go in terms of healing those wounds, but like the wrinkles on our ageing faces or the injuries to our tired body’s, underneath her distinguishing marks, Sarajevo is still waking up every morning and getting on with it!  There’s no one looking for sympathy, there’s no one hanging about street corners unemployed or making a nuisance of them selves!  Because every proud citizen has a role to play in the revamping of this amazing historical place.  Truly amazing and lovely people who cannot do enough for you, we must remember to tell everyone to go there, so the tourist contributions help put Sarajevo back on the map.

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Shrapnel damage to the bottom left corner of the sacred heart cathedral.

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Everyone engrossed by Nenos tour.
Now it was time to head for the coast and make our way south to Dubrovnik.  What can I say, simply incredible costal roads that make you just love life as a motorcyclist. The road south is unbelievable, a fantastic mix of mind boggling scenery and epic twisty roads carried us south for the entire day down to our hotel and a two night stay. I was so looking forward to resting those aching joints and weary arms of mine, kicking back on a speed boat with a beer in the sunshine was all that was on my mind! Maybe some lunch by the ocean, a cocktail on the beach, a swim into the coastal caves and maybe even a nice walk around town! These were all the things I wouldn’t get to do because a certain lady threw her husbands passport away in a sulk!  Only kidding Tracy, sit back down with your iPad a keep reading! lol.
So every trip has one, not a Tracy! An blooper when something goes missing etc. In this case Ian trusted Tracy with both their passports and unfortunately Tracy thought she had put them in her inside pocket after a border check leaving Bosnia. By accident one of the passports never made it into her pocket and instead slipped down the inside of Tracy’s jacket and back out again onto the road.  Once Tracy had noticed this, the hunt was on but unfortunately to no avail. After a quick trip to the police station that evening we had it all sorted but we had to make a 300 mile round trip to Split, where the nearest British consulate would issue a new passport. Of course after making that trip with Ian two up on my GSA, the second the new passport was handed over my phone rang to say someone hand found and handed in the old one to the police station. Ouch!
Still I’ve never been held so tight as I was that day, I miss the closeness Ian, perhaps we could ride again some day. The only strange part about it was that the person who handed it in said a blond English lady gave it to him and insisted that he take it saying her husband wouldn’t need it anymore as he was staying in Croatia.  Ok I’ll stop it now!
On our way to Dubrovnik we stopped off at the Stari Most,  a rebuilt 16th century ottoman bridge.

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Stari Most which translates to old Bridge.  Incredible sight to see with occasional divers flying off it into the waters below.
After a nice relaxing break in Dubrovnik it was time to begin heading north again and what better way to do this than by driving 208 miles of incredible coast line! Yes you will spend no less than 5 hours gliding up the Dalmatian coast on what we think is the best coastal road in the world. It’s just unbelievable and so enjoyable on a bike. Zadar would be our end destination and a traditional Croatian BBQ and some fresh cold beer would be just the ideal way to finish this amazing day.
After breakfast it was now time to head back toward Austria, and back into Slovenia and more specifically the amazing 7km karawanken autobhan tunnel.  It’s a bizarre feeling riding in a tunnel for that length of time! Other than the dart ford tunnel at home and one or two other small ones I can think of, we are not really a tunnel nation with bridges being the preferred method of crossing water and valleys etc.  Riding through many tunnels on this trip opens your eyes to the imagination of some of those engineers who must have said at some point “I’m sure it will be fine” or “what could go wrong it’s rock” and how right they were! There’s tunnels with junctions and slip roads off them, amazing!

 

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Back in good old amazing Austria.
After a nice relaxing evening in Austria, we would keep heading back towards the euro tunnels general direction and make our way back into Germany.  Today’s options were the Brenner pass or the Timmelsjoch pass as we headed toward Oberammergau  hopping in and out of Italy along the way of course. The Brenner is 4,495 feet above sea level and a very scenic and fun road to ride, with plenty of twisty bits and challenging hairpins early in the day.  Or there’s the Timmelsjoch pass at 8,231 feet above sea level which is another fantastic option to have, unless your on a triumph rocket of course in which case there’s the motorway!  After some incredible displays of skill handling the mighty Rocket, Billy decided to just relax and cruise down the motorway with his sparring partner Terry.  The rest of us split up into two groups and headed towards our chosen passes.  We had Ducati’s roaring around the hillsides looking for more ASBOs and we had a BMW XR just ride round the mountains instead of over them!  I’ll change their names to protect the innocent, let’s see? I’ll go with Dev and Berek, that should work!  lol,  after finally realising their untrustworthy sat nav was leading them astray, they finally followed some signs and by that I mean Berek told Dev Oi that way plonker, and made it to the top of the Timmelsjoch for a quick look about before heading towards the hotel again.  Well done in the end you nailed it.

 

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Oberammergaus fairytale themed town centre.  Why would the council not make an effort to make old fashioned Parking signs to blend in!!  Must be Brexit!
We had dinner in a little restaurant in town and enjoyed wishing Geoff a very happy 60th birthday.  Geoff polished off the worlds biggest Black Forest Gateau birthday cake like a man half his age!   Then he took his teeth out and polished them! Only kidding Geoff your still 100% original and looking well for it, there’s at least 3 good summers left in you.  Geoffs wife Maddie obviously relieved him of a slice of his cake to help shift the pile.
Heading up into France and the Vosges Mountains, our last nights hotel is one of my favourites. Perched on top of a hill sits the wonderful Logis Le Rouge Gazon.  A fantastic family run out of season ski lodge, it never fails to be sunny and welcoming and the beer is always just at the right temperature for the arriving travellers who stay there. Once in and settled we sat down outside with a lovely cool beer and passed the evening away in hysterics.  What an amazing group of people to have on a trip, and what a final nights setting.

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My adorable ladies

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And my throw him off the balcony Gents.
In the morning we all set off on our final leg of this amazing trip towards the euro tunnel and home.  We got split up a little bit here and there and some of us left earlier due to on going journey times home at the other side which made sense.
THE RIDERS……..
Billy Sharpley-   Riding his massive Triumph Rocket around hairpins was all in a day’s work for this top bloke!  It did however make him sweat as I may have mentioned before! In fact when the sun winked at Billy he all but turned into a puddle at his own feet!  I know fish who don’t get that wet.  Still with the addition of a new Knox Zephyer mesh jacket for the next time, I’m sure you will calm down to a fountain!
Terry Dancer-  Terry done exceptionally well to get through this trip on his Triumph after taking ill on the second day. With outstanding one liners and acid etched advice over his intercom to his mate Billy, he hung in there and made it back in one piece. This won’t exclude Terry from a ribbing though as he was probably the most house trained man I’ve ever travelled with. Doing daily Washings was top priority for this domestic God and if your ever in his area but are unsure which house is his, it will be the one with socks and pants hanging out the windows!
David Atkinson-  with his distinguished looks and dapper dress sense, I knew from the minute I seen him in his stunning Klim Kodiac suit he had style! Actually now that I mention it, it’s identical to mine, do we look that good David? Riding along on his mighty BMW K1600 with its state of the art kit at his disposal, David looked impressive! Then he ruined it for himself one day at lunch time when he pulled up and  the front of the bike looked like a demented grasshopper!  Look at these he said! What are those I said?  Well that’s like air conditioning he said! Really I said! Oh yeah, you just open these bits of trim out and it guides cool air straight towards you! Just what you want to hear when your like a boil in the bag meal in 33 degrees and he’s not!  Still I’ve screwed bits of plywood onto mine for the next trip I’ll let you know how it goes!
Ian and Tracy Smith-   Married for 33 years now it’s obvious this couple are solid!  Tracy decided to test just how solid by lobbing Ian’s passport away. Still as we rode down to split to get a new one like an officer and a gentleman on my bike I kept thinking about Tracy’s last words to me before we left! Don’t hold back, let him see what it’s like to be me on the back when the bikes flying along round bends and stuff. Ian may be riding his Bmw GS a little to hard for his wife’s liking I think.
Patsy Glover- well well well what can I say!  Butter wouldn’t melt in the evenings and then there’s that calm and Buddhist nature when talking about life in general……and then she throws her leg over Ginge her massive KTM1190!!!! And then it’s see you at the next stop whooooooossssshhhh!  A hooligan by day and a lady by night, Patsy knows what she likes and how she likes it.  Well done again Legend.
Andy and Leigh Perry-  having travelled with Dwight ,this lovely couples amazing son earlier in the year, I was looking forward to meeting the parents.  Leigh was just as elegant, gentle and caring as I had imagined her to be but unfortunately Andy turned out just how I imagined him to be too.  A true case of beauty and the beast and a ducati, which was also a beast!  Flying along with not a care in the world Andy was waiting for no man as he was on a motorbike holiday and nothing would get in his way! Leigh however couldn’t say the same and while filtering through some traffic, she had to duck to avoid a Lorry wing mirror as Andy cruised under it! Fairly high rear seats these Ducati’s, must get one!
Marion and Richard Johnson- this lovely couple pointed out on day one that their sat nav was relatively new to them and that they were still finding their feet with it……then whoooooooossssshhhhh they were gone too! Must be a ducati thing! Gliding along loving every minute of it there was only one issue! The bikes Mpg was down! The cause was obvious, a 30 inch pizza and 45 lbs steak of course! I’ve never seen a pizza or a steak like it! Incredible!
Paul and Nene Tarr-  again what can I say, every time we travel with these two I love them more.  Paul is without doubt a phenomenal rider and he makes it all look effortless on his mighty GS! however! Right behind him is a lady who also makes it look effortless! Whizzing along Nene photos and films everything with her phone as the day passes and if she needs a rest, she just pops off to sleep sometimes too! Barrels of laughs come from any conversation we ever have and Nenes descriptions of Paul’s profanities towards his sat nav when things don’t go according to plan are just brilliant! Keep going the wrong way paul , it’s worth it! What would you prefer for the next trip Bazil Tarr or Paul Faulty?
Andy Carmichael-   A beard that could make a Viking jealous and a wolverine purr! A man with no plan, Andy just flys by the seat of his drawers on his triumph explorer! Never been abroad on a bike before! No problem set me up with a trip to Croatia to break me in!  A massive undertaking and a feat to be proud of, Andy made it there and back in a few pieces! There’s only one thing Andy forgot before taking on this huge trip…..Specksavers!
Joking aside, well done Andy.
Geoff and Maddie Hoad-  cruising about on their Fazer having a ball, Geoff and Maddie have covered more than a few miles on bikes in their day.  Geoff now entering his senior years reminded me of a young Hugh Hefner when he would arrive for dinner with his younger glamorous wife Maddie. Unfortunately only one of them would look at home in the playboy mansion and I’m afraid Hugh Hefners shoes won’t be filled just yet Geoff. Maybe next year mate.
Dev and Berek- oh no have I given the identities away!  Oh well! Flying about the place on their awesome Bmw XR, Bev and Derek would often find themselves off the motorway, then on it, then off it, then on it, then off it until the little co pilot sat up back would bark an order!  Far too funny people who’s humour is endless, Bev and Derek make these trips a laugh a minute.  Bev doesn’t get embarrassed and in fact the only time I’ve seen her blush, is after a swig of Brandy! After which she could light up the room with those rosy red cheeks, or you could lay her down and fry two eggs on them!
Big Mike Mahoney-  Mikes bike takes more abuse than a red headed step child! Often arriving hours!…… Not minutes!…. Yes hours ahead of me to hotels, Mike loves nothing better than to send me photos of himself in the pool or eating ice cream. With action packed Sat Nav routes carefully put together, Mike gets about a bit, however on this trip his RT decided to keep us guessing if it would keep going or not. Occasional throttle issues and lumpy running lead to a day where I had to catch up with him at the roadside where he appeared to be broken down!  However once we pressed the starter button to have a look at the symptoms, the bike appeared to run as it should!  Maybe if you stop teasing me with those photos it might run even better on the next trip.
Craig Thompson-  floating along on his crosstourer dct, Craig can relax without the annoying need to change gears all the time!  A big friendly giant, Craig just lives for biking! In fact he’s probably forgot more about it than I’ll ever know. Armed with Mick Dundee from Australia’s hat Craig is a fantastic guy to have with you when your in a crowd! No matter where you are or if your lost just look ahead and you will see the parasol sized hat marching through the crowd and your back in business again! Getting ready to give his daughter away in the near future I can say she’s a lucky girl to have a dad like Craig, as for the new son in law I can only say good luck, giver her what she wants when she wants it and keep your nose clean! You don’t want the parasol marching towards you kid!
Bill Byfield(dad)-  floating about on his massive GSA, it’s good to see him enjoying life. After having raised me and my brother with good values and strong work ethics, it’s good to finally see him slow down and take a step back! It’s also good that because he’s still getting to grips with his recent new bike and its gadgets, gizmos and sat nav! That the power has now shifted over to me! With a hint of insecurity in his voice, the occasional request of “can you check my sat nav son” is a clear sign of how the tables turn! A few years back it would have been hoi muppet fix this for me or you going to your bed early tonight! Still we can’t risk chat like that when we are so far from home and we know what I’m like! A little trip towards Russia could easily be mistakenly programmed in couldn’t it!  Well done.
Storm Byfield-   the guides guide as she refers to herself!  Storm has a great way of making sure everyone’s alright throughout the trip. Being a top nurse she’s more than handy when It comes to any health issues along the way.  She keeps me right and helps me constantly throughout the day. I can do these trips on my own and I do but i must confess it’s better when she’s there with me.  Despite hogging the sheets, snoring, falling asleep on the back and constantly giving me driving advice!
Last but not least Myself-   I do hope you all enjoyed your holiday and I can’t thank you enough for making my job so enjoyable. We want to be the best we can for you while we are away and I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions so please feel free to put forward anything you may have up your sleeve that would make the experience better.  The judge of our performance is you guys and how you take part and enjoy these trips. We want to make you feel like we go above and beyond to make sure these trips are a great success for you all. I hope we delivered that on this trip and that you all feel well served.  We’d be thoroughly delighted to travel with all of you again in the future and if we can be of any assistance with anything in the future please feel free to ask, we would be only too happy to help.
We wish you all many safe miles on the road and please stay in touch.
All the best
Billy and Storm xx
2018-10-16T14:00:40+00:00

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