In the early chilly morning we left Anchorage to reach Denali National Park and finally made it at the end of the day. It was mostly cloudy and later on it even started to rain. Finally, after a 400km ride in the rain we reached Healy and moved in the warm and dry trailer of Paul who is a fellow rider which we know from ADVrider.com. We had an awesome time in and around Denali. Actually it is hard to find the right words to express the beauty and the variety of the wild life and the scenery – it is breathtaking and we were incredible lucky with the weather. Even Mount Denali was showing his full presence to us and we now belong to the 30% club (only 30% of all visitors to the park can say that they even have seen Denali without being covered completely in clouds…). We saw bears (even quite some beers….;), moose, Dall sheep, arctic ground squirrels, caribous, marmots, a raven nest and many more… we had a wonderful time in the wilderness and spent some very relaxed moments with Paul, his son Brice and the friends of Paul (THANK YOU PAUL it was such a great time and whenever you come to Germany there is always a place for you!). Very strange thing here is the “time”… you are sitting at the fire and having a beer or two and you think it must be around 19:00 or 20:00 o´clock… and Paul says “ohh I think I should go to bed soon…”, my response was “hmmm, Ok what’s the time?” “00.45”… the Sun here at this time of the year nearly never goes away… And what it doesn’t make it better is that all our “watches” e.g. camera, phone, laptop they all show a different time… but we are working on it to set them right…. ;)
The start of our trip comes closer: Last day of work (for Kerstin) and HAPPY EASTER to everybody!!!
One more step towards our goal is done: Kerstin had her last day of work! She prepared a collection of cakes for her `good-bye´
But the warm good-bye present-table of her colleagues was just overwhelming: Flowers to give us an idea of spring (we still have snow here), sweets for the soul, a lovely memory book of her team, a professional fish-hook to feed us during the journey (salmon take care we are coming!) and they collected an impressive amount of money which may help us to support one or the other person/ family on the road… :) Thank you all once again for this warmly ´good-bye´!!!
Now it was time for a glass of sparkling wine and Easter was a great possibility to meet some family members and starting the `see you soon – round´. Anyhow: WE WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY EASTER, enjoy the spring and take care – we still have to organize some things and time starts really to run now – but of course we gone make it ;)
Kisses Kerstin & Sascha
Suddenly the time is rushing. In three-month already we have an appointment with some grizzlies and caribou somewhere in Alaska – WOW! A number of our tasks we accomplished, some are ongoing and others are still to do or rather we have to find a solution for.
Last year in October Kerstin did a Spanish course in Alicante and both we are learning vocabularies on a daily base since then. Vaccinations we did not have to do much and meanwhile we have new passports, the international driving licenses and as well motorcycle documentation. Kerstin resigned her job and is counting her last working days. Status of today: 23, wowowowoooo!!!
The parents of our landlord kindly provided us their garage to store our bikes for the winter months as well to do the required maintenance there. When we started to do so in January we had a moment of shock: one of the spark plugs of Sascha’s AT was broken in the cylinder head and Sascha came home with the message: `My bike is fu..ed!´ Thanks to the help of the great AT community and a mechanic in our neighborhood Sascha was able to fix it. It took a full weekend al lot of sweat and tricky moments, several evenings after work but finally the AT was running again!!!
Now we could continue the normal maintenance. All this evenings and weekends in the cold garage resulted in a bad cold and later on we both caught a flu virus additional. This compulsory break of 3 weeks was not really what we needed and made us a little nervous. But hey – back on the track! Today Sascha went back to the garage to finalize some electrical issues and Kerstin is sitting at the sewing machine to finish some additional mash-bags for the top of the cases to store wet clothes/sandals, groceries and coffee cups. Also she is sewing some secret-pockets where we can fit some papers.
On Tuesday we have an appointment at the US embassy in Berlin to apply for our 6 month visa – we will go there with the first train in the early morning; cross fingers they will award it to us!
Beside several small things we have to resolve some elementary things: to find a tenant of our flat for this one year period, we need to find somebody who would like to drive our car or sell it and of course we need to arrange the transport of our bikes to Anchorage and build an appropriate box for them. And least but not last we have to book our flights…
Of course we do spent some time as well about the route – the Pan-American is legend and it is quite a distance to Terra del Fuego. Many options where to stop what to see and where to drive in or not… Shortly we received a note of some friends we made in New Zealand 2011, Chris an Marty, who are planning to come in June to Vancouver and spend some time cruising. We are really looking forward meeting them and hopefully we can work out a couple of days together. As well we want to visit Junichi, a Japanese guy whom we met 2013 in Tasmania and who owns a vineyard now somewhere close to Portland. And we are excited to all new people we are going to meet along this loooong way J If you have any hints, tips or “must see” please feel free to let us know.
Went to the garage (which our landlord made possible for us because he and his wife went to the canaries islands for the winter) and wanted to do the usual maintenance, chain and sprockets, oil, tires, brakes, fluid changes, and spark plugs etc… First the Africa Twin.
Tank off, Spark plug one: done, Spark plug two: Hmmm, doesn´t feel right, hmmmm doesn´t sound right, ARRRRHHHHGGGG I had it in my hand ….. Together with the thread!
OK, don’t panic…
A quick post in the forum (www.africatwin.de) checking possibilities, none of them is promising, except a complete overhaul…and within 24 hours I got a new cylinder head and various offers to help… What a great forum that is!
Now I have to remove the whole engine, about 1.999 screws, change the cylinder head, put it all back together again. There was another option, a “quick and dirty” one, just use a Helicoil and leave the engine mounted while installing it (this is the dirty part NOT the Helicoil itself, I heard only good things about it!). But then you never know if some of the aluminum went into the cylinder and if so it will burn the whole thing soon or later and if this “later” happens somewhere in the Andes we are screwed. So I will do a complete overhaul of the cylinder… must be around 100-1500 hours of work (Ok others may do it in 24h or so – but I can´t). On the other site I have seen the whole bike then from inside out!
Never done that before – so wish me luck! And if some motorcycle mechanic is around Hamburg on the weekend and knows about such things pass by, have a beer and let me know how that works!
I will start meanwhile…
Luckily nothing serious was broken on the bikes. We all had some sore muscles, Kerstin had many bruises and the bikes little wounds as: Broken Windscreen, Fairing all around, Engine Protection and scratches all over the bike. We spend the day bending, gluing and fixing all parts – remember most important things you need to have with you: Duct tape, superglue, zip ties, some extra screws J And occasionally we relaxed, had a beer and chatted around.
The next day we drove to Koman.
There is a nice camp under the bridge owned by Marco. We spend the early evening straying around and we walked up through the tunnel to the Ferry station. We asked for tickets as we wanted to take the Koman-Lake-Ferry to Fierze the next morning. But the ferry guys asked for an horrendous price and we knew what about it should cost. So, we left and got the tickets from Marco who asked the real price and then nearly did not charge us for the night at his camping; additional he served us a gorgeous delicious homemade grilled fish for dinner.
The ferry trip through this beautiful landscape took about 3,5 hours and we continued afterwards to the Valbona Valley. Actually we were surprised how touristic it is and it seemed half of the French population is around. We found a nice spot for our tents and enjoyed the lovely alpine scenery.
From now on we were zick-zacking south, we made an excursion to Macedonia, to Lake Ohrid.The original plan was to cross over to the Albanian Riviera one of these days. We had a look at the map and recognized that we can make a short cut while driving via Greece as there are not many roads in Albania. The last kilometers from Leskovik to the Greek border there were two road options and Stefan’s and Kerstin’s GPS said it will be off-road. We chose the `propper road´ which was after a few meters already in really bad condition and we were wondering if there will be really a border crossing at all. On the other side of the valley we reached the other `road option´ the off-road one – which was in fact a wide brand new tarmac road J Anyhow we reached the border and Sascha and me we were immediately feeling like home hearing the Greek language. We wanted to continue a little bit and then looking for any place to stay. While doing so we remembered that we have a good old friend who was supposed to live somewhere in here in the northern mountain part of Greece. Sascha contacted some friends to find out his actual telephone number and later in the evening we reached him! Georgios invited us immediately to his place but we had already some beer and Rakia so we promised to come the next day.
Truly it was the opposite direction than planned but Christina and Stefan agreed to skip the Albanian Riviera so we have the chance to meet again our old friend Georgios. How great! – and thank you both once again!
Next day we were crossing the mountains and Georgios picked us up in Ptolemaida with a friend of him. Sascha´s back tire had vanished completely and we asked for a possibility to get a new one around here. They brought us directly to a Honda shop where we got one. But it was older, from 2004, one size to big and we agreed they will put it on and test it while we go for something to eat. We left Sascha´s bike there and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon eating and drinking – greek-style: Ola! Georgios has built a wonderful nature stone house powered by solar and fresh spring water up in the mountain about 25km from Ptolemaida. We picked up Sascha´s bike and spend a lovely evening at the fire and took a trip down the memory lane.
Georgios wife, Theodora, is running a family Hotel about 60km north in Florina and she planned a `season closing party´ on the roof terrace. We were all heartily invited to stay and join the party what we truly did. We left with tears in our eyes and we hope this time will we see each other much sooner again! Thank you both so much again!!! pollá filiá kai tha doúme sýntoma!
Time is flying and we had to plan the route back.
Once more we crossed Macedonia. Unfortunately in the Albanian inland a thunderstorm slowed us down but we arrived early evening at the coast with blue sky and sun. We stayed at camping Pa Emer, south of Durrës, which is not the cheapest but has a great location with a beautiful view and a little artificial Island with a restaurant in front.
The weather forecast was not so good and the days were limited now. We decided to pass Shkodra for some shopping as the famous Skënderbeu Brandy / Konjak, Tabaco, bells for the bikes to scare the street trolls off etc. The first part in Montenegro we followed a nice little road along the Shkodra Lake, P16. Later on we arrived at the coast road and noticed how packed it is so we spontaneous decided to change the plan. We drove up and chose the road via Bosnia Herzegovina – actually I think we were crossing 4 – 5 times borders that day and sometimes we were not sure anymore in which country we are currently :) We got very wet that day and gusty winds gave us a good shaking here and there when we were back at the coast in Croatia. We found an apartment with sea view a little bit north of Omiš where we stayed two nights. So we spent one wonderful day with blue sky and sun at the beach and dried all our clothes beside.
Our last night all together we spend in Korana not far from Plitvička Jezera. It is a beautiful quit idyllic valley with streams lakes and waterfalls and not that touristic – somehow a miniature of the famous Plitvička National Parc.
We loved it and the owner of the guest house welcomed us with fresh plums and Sljivovica. The next morning it was time to say good-bye. Christina and Stefan had to go to Karlsruhe and we had to go to Vienna to catch our car train and to visit our friend BigTom.
The ride to Vienna was very stormy; we were nearly pushed `home´ – and we had again a great day with Tom and his girlfriend playing with his new toy: a drone.
The trip was as well a probation period to see if Kerstin is ready for the planned BIG JOURNEY `PanAmericana´ – for sure there is still a lot of room for improvement but hey everybody had to start sometime and we are looking forward to our next trip!