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First trip as ADV Hoppers: Balkans

by ADV Hoppers
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The plan for the first ADV Hoppers trip was ambitious.  We had just one week of June in 2019 and wanted to go somewhere nice. The choice was obvious: Balkans. The region not only beautiful, but also offering good food, and, most of the time at least, good weather. Agata has been there numerous times but for Joris this was not the case. We packed our gear, drafted the route and set off.

Long rides

The firsts day is actually the one to forget quickly – highways, just to get us quickly to Slovenia, so the following morning we could just start exploring. After some long hours we made it to the camping, put up our tent while drinking the beer included in the price of a stay and went to the only restaurant in the nearby village to eat dinner. Actually, it was more a local pub than a fancy restaurant and the kitchen was about to close, so we ordered basic dishes and some beer. The portions were enormous and extremely tasty. When we said we could not stuff anything more inside our stomachs, we got a huge piece of cake for desert (and as we don’t like to waste food we took it with us and ate for breakfast the next day).

In the morning it became obvious that it would be a great day: blue skies, perfect temperature and breakfast in the sun.  We went around Bled late and then through some small but picturesque roads we reached Kranjska Gora, and then – through countless turns – the Vršič pass. We then took the road to Mangart Saddle, but the very end of the road was still covered with snow.

The day was still long ahead of us, so after eating some lunch, we headed south, crossed the boarder and in the evening we were in Zadar in Croatia. We checked in a small but cosy hostel in a very convenient location and went for an evening walk and dinner to the old part of town.

Unexpected meeting

Next way we spend riding down The Adriatic Highway, enjoying the view on the sea and cursing the traffic in the smaller towns. We had to cross a boarder to Bosnia and Herzegovina, as we were planning to stay in Mostar that night and… meet with someone very important to us, who, by chance, was in the same region and was happy to extend his stay in Mostar to see us. Before reaching the town we stopped at Kravica Waterfall and then unexpectedly had some offroad as the roads were closed due to roadworks and the deviation was not too clearly marked, so we took a shortcut that turned out to be more gravel, dirt, sand and stones than a regular road. Joris had a lot of fun on the bike with knobby tyres. Agata also had fun but with some small dose of caution due to street tyres on her bike.

After meeting with our host we left our gear in the great apartment we rented for the night, refreshed ourselves and soaked into old town of Mostar. We had a lovely evening with Myk, the guy that brought us together – eating, drinking, dancing and enjoying the magic of the place.

Almost homecoming

The next day we continued our trip and our first stop was not far from the town of Blagaj, a at a Dervish House – a Sufi monastery surrounded by cliffs and water.

The roads were calling so we had to go. And the roads were epic. We crossed Sutjeska National Park , where we had a short rain shower. Then we followed the Drina river, to the boarder with Montenegro. For those who are curious – the road was still full of potholes and the wooden bridge was still wobbly 🙂

Riding along Piva Canyon was like a homecoming for Agata – she loves the place so much and has special memories with it, as she came here on her first solo motorbike trip. Unfortunately the clouds stopped the sun from from bringing out the unique turquoise colour of the water in the river.

We took the scenic hairpin road to get to the Durmitor National Park. Heavy clouds brought rain, and it was such a pity, as Joris had never been here before and due to the weather he could not enjoy the stunning views and pleasant road fully.

Soaking wet we reached Žabljak where we wanted to stay in a camp. However the camp of our choice did not have any place we could eat at, so we decided to go back to the center and take a hotel instead. At least we could also dry our suits.

Overnight the weather improved. We went to the famous Tara River Bridge and then continued along Tara river for quite some time.

Later, we took some smaller roads taking us to Andrijevica, where we had some late lunch (look for Restoran Most).

Having our bellies full with delicious Ćevapi we went towards Albanian boarder. All of the sudden it started raining heavily. We needed to stop to make some adjustments in our suits: close the air vents in Agata’s and add the waterproof layer to Joris’s. We spotted a couple of wooden garages on the side of the road ans as one was open we decided to use it for this urgency. Unfortunately Joris could not fund his rain suit and we even though he had left it in Mostar, but luckily he finally found it somewhere at the bottom of the luggage bag. At the boarder all looked at us like we were crazy riding motorbikes in such a rain. But shortly after we entered the famous SH20 (the aslphalt started very close to the boarder, so this changed a lot since Agata was there in 2016) the weather improved and we could enjoy the views and the twisty road. We could not have stayed in a different place for the night than the Lake Shkodra Resort – biker friendly, affordable, with access to the lake and  fantastic food in the restaurant. It was hot so we took a swim and well deserved beer at the bar. And we ate too much 🙂

Slow return

This was the most southern point on our trip, so we started a slow return. We returned to Montenegro where we enjoyed the small roads through Lovćen National Park. Well, most of them were small, but at some point we found ourselves in a highway, or something that reminded it, with news smooth tarmac and apparently prepared for further construction and development of some other services for tourists that will now be able to come here with big buses. Luckily, nothing can be done in this direction to the scenic road to Kotor with narrow hairpin turns. It’s a no go for any vehicle bigger than the normal car and even that can be tricky when another car is coming from the opposite direction.

After leaving Kotor we took a shortcut via a ferry, just not to go round the Kotor Bay and ended the day in Dubrovnik. It turned out to be extremely busy with tourists due to Corpus Christi day. We totally missed that in our route planning, so we needed to bite the bullet and live with it. And make note for the future to check for any holidays when visiting touristic places. Anyway, all the magic the city had during Agata’s past trips was not felt this time. The city has changed. I was a huge disappointment, totally not worth the money spent on the accommodation and food in the restaurant.

Initially we thought to have a breakfast in the city, but we dropped the idea and went straight to the smal boarder crossing with Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was a great decision, as there was a very nice bar right after the boarder, where we got a decent, fresh made meal at no cost. This also gave us some strength for what was coming. Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the countries that when you plan the 100% on road trip it becomes an all road trip. The asphalt ends suddenly and without warning. So was it this time. But apart from that tiny detail that gave Agata some harder time the road was beautiful, to say the least.  After some hours we reached the abandoned 1984 Olympics complex. It was so sad to see the place, that once brought joy of sport and then was witnessing some horror scenes during the war.

Small world

We left the place with mixed feelings and continued to a camping we chose for the night. It was a bit surprising to see a Polish number shield on one of the bikes parked at the camping, and even more surprising when Agata was recognised as one of the Moto Birds Women-only team member by its owner. The world is small so we had a great evening of talking bikes and trips with Jarek “El Bosque”.  He even arranged that we got some hot meal made by the camp staff (the camping boss and bar service wre already to “happy” to do anything; we even needed to make count of all te beers we took from the bar ourselves 🙂 )

The morning started with a good coffee and a thought on the tyres on Joris’s bike – they were worn out more than expected and we still had some mileage to do to reach home. We pinned some motorbike and tyre shops on the way through Croatia just in case we can have a tyre replaced there but they were either closed or non-existing at all. Not finding anything we ended up in Hungary. We stopped at a biker-friendly restaurant, but also they could not help – it was already weekend and a bit late in the day. We reached a camping in Eger and went for the last night out on our trip, enjoying Hungarian wine and local dishes.

Last straight

The night was rainy and miserable. In the morning we woke up to find our tent in a huge puddle and with a small lake inside it (that was a turning point to decide we need a new tent). To pack, we just used the covered area near the bathrooms, but the weather was not encouraging to leave. The gate to the camping changed into a rapid stream causing some problems to get out. It was cold and slippery and the front tyre in Joris’s bike did not make it more comfortable either.  We crossed to Slovakia where we had our last lunch on the trip and then returned safely to Krakow. The tyre lasted. But was changed immediately after.

Some numbers

  • first ADV Hppers trip to the Balkans lasted for 9 days
  • we rode for 4267 km
  • no bike failures, no accidents, no flat tires
  • loads of good food eaten
  • one exceptional meeting with a special friend
  • one unexpected meeting with a new friend

Map

Video from the first trip as ADV Hoppers to Balkans

So… there is  supershort and lousy video from the trip; nothing to be proud of. Agata did not have a camera with her and all recordings were done by Joris… but he mounted his camera incorrectly and the whole footage turned out to be in the vertical orientation… Anyway, if you want to watch it, here it is. But we warned you 😉

 

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