7 August 2011

Kalahari George is up early. Knocks on my door about 30 mins before we were due to meet. Seems he could be in for an uncomfortable day with plenty of stops. Not quite the imagery I’d been hoping for. Hope it is manageable for him.

Or is it a cunning plan to get me to slow down to the pace of the JMF?

Yesterday he said it was running rough in the morning. Then the front tyre was an issue in the afternoon. Of course he’d have spanked me in the hills yesterday if not for these problems. Lucky for me as I couldn’t have taken the embarrassment of chasing the rear of the JMF!

Much to Kalahari Georges’ relief the bikes are just as we left them the night before. We are packed and ready to go.

Bikes loaded in Poprad – we’re ready to go!

The road out of Poprad is good. Tight corners and a little greasy as a consequence of some overnight rain. Lucky both Kalahari George and the JMF are off-colour as it could have been another embarrassing day. We stop just before the descent for some scenic shots.

No signs of Kalahari George soiling himself so far, for which I am very grateful.  And no dash off to woods to inspect the local fungi. Maybe those pills he took are up to the task.

We stop to refuel at the bottom of our descent.

Time to refuel and a comfort stop for Kalahari George

After not too long we cross the border from Slovakia to Hungary.  Another new country for me – the first of two today.

These are unmanned. We are not stopped. This structure now serves merely as a poorly maintained monument to a different era.

We press on through Hungary via the cities of Miskolc and Tokaj. Just before Tokaj we see a vineyard/winery and make a stop for lunch – soup again today.

Another hour or so and we have our first real border crossing into Romania. Not part of the Shengan area so out with the registration docs and passport. Kalahari George goes ahead to clear the path – then cannot find any of the documents requested. By the time his panniers are emptied and his docs located a long line has formed. Hope Romanians are patient. Plenty of time for me to get the requisite paperwork.

Farewell to Hungary but I’ll still claim it as a new country for me even though no overnight stay.  Hello Romania – and onward to Satu Mare.

I am though the border in less than a minute but now have to wait for Kalahari George to repack his kit. Plus it is hot so he’s taken his jacket, helmet and gloves off also. Plus he now tells me we have to stop again another 10 minutes up the road at the money exchanger in Carei. More on that later. I am soaking from sweat inside my suit as I wait with all my kit intact.

Kalahari George leads the way to the money exchanger – he only carries pounds – and will not use credit or debit cards (is this part of some bigger money laundering scam I wonder?). We pass through the first town where the money exchanger should be but there is no sign of it so we stop – can I find one on my GPS he asks. I’m not sure what has happened to that GPS he has but it’s probably easier for him to ask me to do this so why not. It’s absolutely boiling – over 30 degrees now and humid as Brisbane in February. I can see a storm brewing in the distance.

This kind of temperature used to be a doddle for me back in Oz but after a few winters in the UK, about 20 degrees and no humidity is about all it takes before I break out in a sweat wearing only shorts and a t-shirt.

I do as Kalahari George requests but the GPS only reveals banks and ATM’s – and these are sure to leave a footprint so are out of bounds. I’ll just wait here while he rides around town looking for the money exchanger. Ten minutes later he is back but has only exchanged a small amount in the basis the rate would be bad so close to the border.  Great news.  I can’t wait to go through this again.

My torture is at least over now and we move on.

But the possible threat of rain ahead is now of concern to Kalahari George. This I can understand this as it is never something I look forward to. But some years in the UK have taught me that if you enjoy riding then prepare for rain. If you don’t you would perhaps only go out twice a year. When I rode in Oz I would not even think about going out if there was more than a 2% chance of rain. Maybe I’m made of harder stuff now.

We are only 5 miles out of Satu Mare now and it’s looking ominous. Some large drops of rain are falling – slowly at first but now getting harder. I just don’t want to get my suit wet – these take more than an overnight stay to dry out – and there is nothing worse than riding in wet kit.

Two and a half miles to go – there is a petrol station just up ahead. Better pull over to take some shelter and see what happens with the weather. If nothing else we can put the wet weather gear on for the short distance remaining – I don’t want to hang around here for too long.

Kalahari George disembarks and carries on like a pork chop about the rain, the mud on his helmet from the spray off my back tyre and just about everything else! He sure doesn’t enjoy like the rain. But who does? Sometimes you just need to tough it out and get to the hotel no matter what. I hope the rain holds so we can continue – so near and yet so far.

About 5 minutes later there has been no rain so I reckon it will be ok – we should make a move for the hotel. Not far to go and no need for wet weather gear.

Reluctantly Kalahari George follows me – I’ll never hear the end of this if we get wet now. And this is possible. I sense he only follows me because he has not programmed his GPS with the location of the hotel.

But we make it under very heavy skies and park right out the front of the hotel. Job done. Check in, carry bags up two flights of stairs, shower, cold beer and a walk around town.

Total miles today 218 (351km), cumulative 1,981 (3,188km).

Update: The is the original blog post from that fateful day.  A couple of days later I was forced to redraft this post on the Horizons Unlimited website.  I’m still not sure what it was about this anyone would take offence at.  The next few days were to prove most upsetting for me as a result. This day was the start of a down phase for me on my Turkey motorcycle tour that would last for about a week.  But who did I upset?

To be continued.