Monday, 31 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Slovenia in a day, almost...

29/30th July 2017

We arrived in Slovenia mid afternoon and had a look at the start of this part of the TET. It left the main road just after the border, climbed through some houses and then ascended steeply past a little wood yard into the trees.

Once we sorted out the start, we got the map out and made a riding plan for the next day, which meant a drive upto Nova Vas, find somewhere to park up and then head out in the morning.

We did this and ended up in a pizza place for dinner where we met a father & daughter from the local area. We got chatting about Triglav National Park and various other things including updating this blog!
We found one of the quietest places we have camped on this trip, in the forest just outside of Nova Vas by some kind of hut. There was no wind, no other sounds all night long. At around 3am I needed a nature call, when I stepped outside, the view of the stars was brilliant, all hemmed in by the trees and with no unnatural light for miles. So I stood for awhile just enjoying the view...

We were up and about next morning prepping the bikes and set off by 8am, the trails back to the start were all very straight forward and well groomed. As I came round a corner I saw a bear sat on the trail, a real life shaggy brown bear! I’m not sure who was more startled, me or it, but it was off into the woods before I could get my act together. (Lucy has been pouting that she hasn’t seen one all day since!)

There is an interesting place called Glazno which was a German glass making place up in the mountains, for various reasons it was abandoned around WW2, then the whole area was closed off and used a POW camp for awhile, there are some good sign boards to explain the history. We saw a few vehicles on the trails but the best was the party of teenagers all on horseback or in carriages with their local music playing as they cantered along. On the way back we ran into loads of traffic coming towards us, some asking for directions so we think there was a fete on somewhere but had no way of finding out where.

Once back at the van we loaded the bikes back up and decided to complete the TET as far as we could today as the distances weren’t all that far. We did this and only found two sections we had to bypass as the trail was too rough for the van. Keep an eye out for the limestone pillar box from WW2 in the forest and the Russian plane tail on the edge of the one of the villages!

We reached Most na Soci, which is the end of the TET GPX file around 6pm, there is a beautiful wide river here running down from under Triglav which is the highest peak in Slovenia at 2860 ish metres. You can have a ride on a paddle boat in Most na Soci if you fancy it.

We’re gonna take a couple of days out of TET land now for a bit and just go do tourist stuff in the National Park. Next up for us was supposed to be the Italy section, but we gather there are now issues with this and the GPX file has been removed temporarily, so we’re in touch with Alessandro, (the Italy Linesman), for some help and we’ll see where we end up. We can use the next couple of days to make alternate plans as we need.

Useful Info:
- Slovenia is a beautiful country, there is lots of forest riding on good smooth trails with a few bits of tarmac & villages inbetween. They are laying more sealed surfaces each year so expect to see some of the trails change as time goes by.
- Fuel is widely available in all the towns
- Places close between 12 – 4 in the rural areas, not sure about the big city of Ljublanja as not got there.
- Cash is the Euro
- If you camp in the forest, be aware there are brown bears around, lots of them... we saw one on the trails first thing in the morning about 400m from our camp.
- You can probably complete the whole TET section in one long day or in two to make it more relaxed.
- There is a gap between the end of the route and the border to Italy, so you’ll need to work out where you want to go after. I'd recommend Triglav National Park as a side trip for a couple of days, the roads and scenery are great. It's really busy in July & August, so don't expect a silent wilderness!

That’s it for now...

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Croatia

Saturday 29th July

We left our lovely viewpoint this morning following the TET to the next bit of tarmac. It climbs uphill from the tarmac just above the hamlet of Breze then enters into the forest for awhile on a left turn. Awhile later you repeat this process, then the TET enters into some really dense forest following a road that is a mix of tarmac & gravel. (NB: There is a junction which we found wasn’t on our OSM maps, yet was on our Garmin Nuvi Basemap, take the right fork and it continues along the TET through the forest to rejoin the tarmac). Where the trail exits the forest this next time, it’s a junction on a tarmac road, this winds down to the town of Delnice, where there is plenty of fuel, cafe’s, shops etc.

After this it follows the D203, which is an excellent bike road. We passed through on a Saturday and there were hundreds of bikes in the cafe’s around Delnice with plenty leaned over in the bends on the road.

At Brod na Kupi, there is a border crossing into Slovenia, we stopped for coffee and to get the dog in the lovely river that passes by the village, complete with rafting canoes and crystal clear water.

Useful Info;

The Croatian part of the TET is the easiest section we’ve done so far, (it’s emminently suitable in it’s current form), for beginner adventure riders to get some experience, whilst also have the joy of seeing the beauty of Croatia.  Towns are no more than an hour downhill and you can retreat to the comforts of modern living if you need to or continue to ‘rough’ it on the trail.

Things to watch out for:
1.      - Croatian drivers seem to have a rule that it is their country and they can drive how they like, you get out of their way. The have perfected the look of utter disdain and hold this on their faces as they pass you by on the narrow mountain roads or the coastal roads. They also do not reverse, smile or acknowledge you in any way no matter how much effort you have to put in to let them past. The women make the men look like beginners in this by the way so beware!
2.     - The gravel trails are really well groomed we found, but they can be very narrow, not much of issue for a bike, but be aware of the No.1 above.
3.      - Fuel is available in all the towns we passed through, but not in the villages. Dropping to the coast always mean fuel is not far away.
4.      - Snakes and bears are around, so make noises when you go to the bushes and check around the ground where you plan to camp for the night.

5.      - Don’t drink the tap water on the coast, Lucy & I were both pretty ill with stomach issues from this, once we’d found some of the rare ‘springs’ we swapped the water and felt better. Springs are more available in the north than the south we found.

Trans Euro Trail - Croatia

Friday 28th July

We woke early feeling much refreshed after a good nights sleep, itchy feet started though so we set of driving down the island to the bridge which links it to the mainland, We crossed back over then picked up the TET as it wound up the road towards Karlobag. It follows the coast all the way, past secluded bays and ‘kiss me quick’ Packlenica before turning back up the hillside away from Karlobag. A turn left takes a small tarmac road that is being widened at the moment to a col. From here it’s dirt for 20 odd kilometres, winding through some beautiful forest with views out over the surrounding limestone edges and summits. Once back on tarmac, it’s a short hop to the next dirt bit, this passes through a National Park area which has some lovely glacial bowls that are now used for accommodation in the old shepherds huts. Here we saw what we think was a horned viper and several birds of prey. We managed to pick a load of wild raspberries too, so pudding was sorted for the night!

The next section was closed off for some reason, so we had to bypass it and take the tarmac road around to the village of Olari. Here we climbed up on a really narrow road to a large escarpment overlooking the bay below. It was a beautiful place so we decided to camp here for the night and enjoy the sunset over the islands.

A little later in the evening a really friendly guy and his son turned up, they were staying in one of the huts in the forest and came out each evening to photograph the wildlife. Snakes, bears, wild sheep, deer etc. They warned us the horned viper was deadly and there were plenty around at the moment, so wear long trousers and your bike boots when you go off into the bushes for ablutions!

Trans Euro Trail - Croatia

Thursday 27th July

We’re in Croatia! 

We decided that Serbia’s lovely rolling hills and forests weren’t where we wanted to be, so we drove to the lovely little fishing harbour of Karlobag on the Croatian coast and the start of the TET where it leaves the coast road.

En route, we paid a visit to the KTM/Honda shop in Zagreb, Motosport Victor, looking for brake pads as we’re getting low on both bikes and I only brought one spare set with me. I think we spoke to Victor, a really helpful guy, who spoke great english, unfortunately he had no pads, so he recommended the KTM shop in Ljublana when we pass by as it’s a great shop and Slovenia apparently has a better enduro scene than Croatia, so we’ll try there later on.

We stayed at a campsite on the edge of Karlobag, run by a slightly odd but nice lady, it’s a perfect place for bikes as it’s small, shaded and 2 minutes from the beach/bar/restaurant/shop. It’s tiny but has everything you’d need.

For us though we had another night of mosquito hell as we had forgotten to close the van up early so I jury rigged the mesh net up for the door which helped, but a few had gotten inside already.

The next morning we were both a little bleary & grumpy so we decided to go across to the island of Paga opposite on the ferry and find a place to chill out for a couple of days before embarking on the TET properly. We ended up in a picturesque little place called Kosljun where we set up camp on a nice little site right next to a bar and the beach. So the rest of the day was spent doing chores, changing the rear tyre on Lucy’s bike, laundry etc with a mix up of odd swimming bouts to cool down!

This would make a good alternative to the original TET route as the landscape is like something off the moon on the western side, but a bit more lush and lived in on the eastern side. There are rocky side trails to that drop to hidden beaches if you have the time to spend searching them out...

Trans Euro Trail - Serbia

Tuesday 25th July 2017

Today started in a thunderstorm, heavy rain belting down onto the van where we were camped up in the Kolasin valley. A rabbit had taken shelter under the van and when I decided to move as where we were parked was filling up with water, he jumped out looking very sorry for himself and got a soaking into the bargain!

We entered Serbia via the Pljelvja / Priepolje point after a drive through the Tara Canyon to the bridge, home of rafting & bungee jumping companies it seems as well as the usual curios and trinkets. Lucy was very happy when we saw the wild sheep crossing the road and heading into the woods en route too.

It was the easiest border we’ve done to date with just a look at our passports and nod to go... excellent!

The TET crosses this road just after the border and before the police road stop, so we’d stopped to look at the gps and the route, which allowed several cars past us and into the clutches of the ticket wielding officers.

Once we’d got our bearings, we headed into Priepolje for some cash, then headed up towards Priboj and onto Kokin Brod... (mmm, my brummie puerile humour had a field day here!), mostly to avoid the ongoing rain. The TET comes down out of a range of wooded hills into Priboj, then down the tarmac to a left turn heading north. From here it winds along some woodland, passing houses hidden in the trees until it crosses a lovely high valley. It then drops to Rodoinja Lake, which is actually a dammed section of the Uvac nature reserve. It’s also the home of the both Egyptian, the Black and the Griffon Vultures and loads of deer too alongside some really big trout in the lake.

The TET climbs the hillside behind the lake, at first on tarmac, then flat dirt track before joining the E763 for a short time. We’ll pick it up tomorrow where it leaves the tarmac.

We stayed at the lake for the evening, having a beer in the local bar and getting Roxy in the water for her daily ‘old lady’ swim...

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail - Montenegro - Last Day Ride

Monday 24th July

The final northern section of the Montenegro TET was a fitting end to the whole thing.

From where you join the tarmac after the Savnic section, it winds through an upland pasture area rich with farms and views. It’s mostly tarmac, but what a road... Perfect for any bike, it winds through some fabulous scenery on the edge of the Dermitor National Park, with huge folded layers of limestone rising up to jagged peaks which dominate the skyline, the rolling upland farmland laid out below. The TET leaves the tarmac on a left turn across the fields on a vague track, it then winds through the farmland to rejoin the tarmac for another 5km.

Once the tarmac ends again, the trail is ace, through some gentle forest, open pasture and along the edge of the plateau, giving great views of both the lake below and the panoramic peaks across the valley. After the small cluster of houses that could have been a village, the track becomes very vague for a short time, it’s rough, loose and ace fun. We got waves, whoops and shouts of ‘hey ya’ from a couple fo the guys cutting hay which just added to the ambience of the place.

The end comes as you drop back to tarmac, which then winds down to the Bosnian border. For us, we turned around to retrace our steps, with a little detour on some other tracks to get more views.

Once back at the van, we packed up, had lunch, then drove back to Podgoric to get the van sorted again as the ‘fix’ had bent again. A great little Mercedes garage in a back street had got the correct part and fitted it for 10 euros, so we were back on the road again.

We found a new KTM shop in Podgoric too, it was actually closed though so we headed back to Magnus Moto to get a rear tyre for Lucy, then to a cafe to make plans. After much deliberation we have decided to go back to Serbia, ride the western sections of the that part of the TET, then head into Croatia to ride that bit! After that who knows...

Montenegro = Fabulous place, great riding. Ivan the TET Linesman for here is a lovely helpful guy as are all the Montenegrans we’ve met. 

Useful Info;
- Fuel is available in all the towns, but not on many of the main roads in between
- Cash is Euros - but it's not in Europe I now gather!
- Green Card is needed for vehicles
- Terrain is rough stone on all the trails, make sure you have tools to re-tighten all your bolts on your bikes regularly.
- Water sources can be wells or sources, (Izvor) but the sources aren't as available here as in other countries, so fill up when you see one.
- It can rain a lot in the afternoons with thunder & lightning storms, watch the clouds or get very wet!
- You can camp almost anywhere.
- Fires in the hillsides are a really big issue here.
- Podgoric is the best place for spares/tyres etc but not guaranteed - Magnus Moto are very good, Ivan very good.
- Driving standards are a step up from Albania/Romania but they still like to overtake on blind bends and drive up your arse all the time!

We will be back at some point, meanwhile it's Serbia time!

Monday, 24 July 2017

Trans Euro Trail – Montenegro – Savinik to Dormitor National Park

Sunday 23rd July

We drove away from the Mokro campsite early this morning, heading to Plusine with a plan to find a campsite, then ride the Savnik to Plusine section one day and the final section to the Bosnian border the next. The drive up took us past some fabulous hanging high plateau before dropping down to the azure coloured lake that is the home of the little town of Plusine. It’s a picturesque place, perched on the side of the lake shore, with little red roofed houses, a tiny campsite, a really good cafe with pretty good wifi, shops and a fuel stop.

We had a mooch around after having breakfast in the cafe but couldn’t find a place to park the van, so headed up to the plateau above where the TET runs through. We picked up the trail as it wound through tarmac roads to a junction with a trail, this was where the TET turns south heading back down to Savnic. I pulled the bike out and rode this section whilst Lucy took the dog up a nearby hill.

This area is on the edge of probably the largest national park and certainly the busiest in Montenegro with the Tara Canyon running through it. (This is the second deepest canyon in the world after Grand Canyon). Why this is ironic is that as you ride through this section, there are some of the more ancient style of mountain farms I’ve seen to date in Montenegro, they look a little like the high farms in remote parts of Nepal, with well used & weathered wooden shacks, tethered dogs and the little old lady doing the washing by hand in a wooden bucket. I felt very alien as I passed by on my little orange bike!
The trail winds down to the villages above Savnic where the road becomes tarmac again, then on into Savnic itself. I went a little ways down this but knew what was entailed so turned back to save my precious rubber for the more fun  stuff!

We wild camped up at the trail junction for the night, with a plan to ride the last section tomorrow, then head over to Jablak the day after. After this is back open to debate as we’ve just met a lovely couple who are from Slovenia, they were raving about the beauty of Bosnia just after you cross the border, plus the nearest places to get a rear tyre for Lucy is either back to Podgorica or up to Saravo, both of which are two hours away. Belgrade is a 5 hour drive from the border, so back to debating for us... Meanwhile it’s wine time!