3 October 2011

Even though I’m not quite back in London yet, it’s fair to say that my Turkey motorcycle tour has concluded.  All that remains is the short ride to the ferry terminal in the morning, an overnight ferry to Portsmouth and a quick blast for a couple of hours up the A3 to London.  It’s been a long time on the road – here’s a quick overview of

I left the UK on 28 July and since leaving the train in Calais the Family Truckster and I have travelled 10,883 miles (17,514km). We been abroad for a total of 68 days of which 51 have been spent riding at a daily average of 213 miles (343km).

Enroute, we passed through the following countries:

France (transit)
Belgium (overnight)
Netherlands (transit but only just and confirmed by the GPS tracks)
Germany (overnight)
Czech Republic (3 nights)
Slovakia (overnight)
Poland (3 nights)
Slovakia (overnight again)
Hungary (transit)
Romania (9 nights)
Bulgaria (overnight)
Turkey (29 nights)
Greece (transit)
Macedonia (2 nights)
Albania (transit)
Montenegro (transit)
Bosnia and Hetzegovina (overnight)
Croatia (2 nights)
Ferry (1 night)
Italy (2 nights)
Austria (transit)
Slovenia (transit)
Austria (overnight)
Germany (overnight again)
Switzerland (2 nights)
France (2 nights)
Andorra (2 nights)
Spain (2 nights)

After tonight, my last on continental Europe, I will have another night aboard a ferry in transit from Spain to the UK.

When I return to London on Wednesday afternoon I will have been away for exactly 10 weeks – just what I told P I’d allowed for (lucky guess, that’s all).

So in summary, 21 days to reach Turkey, 29 days in Turkey and 20 days to get back to the UK travelling through 21 different countries, 15 of them for my first time.

And the star of the show was the Family Truckster. Even though I had to replace the front wheel, it did not miss a beat. Mechanically and electronically it was faultless. The new tyres I put on in Poland will be replaced on my return to the UK with all but 10,000 miles on them in tough conditions including high temperatures and a bad puncture (there is still a slow leak). There are a few scratches but this is to be expected. The 3M paint protection I put on before my departure was a good investment although it appears I have scratched through this in a couple of places through my carelessness more than anything else.

You simply cannot take a bike on a journey like this if you are scared of scratching the paintwork.

It hasn’t had a wash since Antalya in Turkey on day 43. It looks a bit tired now with about 500 species of bugs smashed all over the lights, wind-shield and fairing but it should clean up ok and look as a good as new again.

Some sections of the paint protection film may need replacing as they have bubbled and lifted, but only a little. No rush to get this done.

Even though I don’t want to count my chickens yet, I’ve made it unscathed. No real days of sickness (one day in Capaddocia I felt a little average) or worse, injury. The bike and me remained upright all the way (touch wood).

The most used tech was the integrated Navigation and audio system. I would never have made it all the way and not died of boredom without it.

Next was probably my camera – a Sony NEX-5 compact DSLR camera, closely followed by my phones (HTC and Samsung – Android Smartphones) which helped me find hotels on numerous occasions enroute. Finally but by no means last was my HP Laptop and Go-Pro HD video camera.

Then there were the phone apps I used, Booking.com and Tripadvisor were the most useful from a touring perspective but also a handful of others than enabled me to stay in touch with news and friends.

Over the course of the trip I have all but filled up a 1TB external hard disk that I brought along specifically for the raw digital media. I probably have between 150 and 200 hours of HD video which I plan to edit and post on You Tube to show other touring motorcyclists the fantastic roads and scenery Europe and Turkey has to offer.

Also invaluable was my relatively low tech puncture repair kit and electric pump. It really got me out of trouble in the middle of nowhere in Turkey. I will probably carry this with me wherever I ride now.

Some of the things I carried weren’t worth the space they took up as it turned out, but its probably good that they weren’t. In different circumstances they may have been as critical, so I would probably choose to carry most of them again.

I have a certain amount of pride in completing a journey like this, even though many of the hard heads will say I did it the easy way. All on-road, not venturing into third world countries, staying in hotels, new bike, good dealer network, lots of unnecessary trinkets, too much junk etc.

I don’t really care – each to their own. If you want to make it tougher then great for you. I have still achieved something that a few years ago I would have not even thought about and many would not undertake – but it is easily achievable.

A very good friend of mine once said about university that the only prerequisite for graduation was enrolment. This is true. I think the same can be said about a trip like mine. Once you make a start you are bound to finish it in one way or another. But unless you start the trip will always remain in your dreams.

I remember my first trip to the continent a few years back. It was an organised tour to the WW1 battlefields in France and Belgium. I was so scared and on reflection such a novice rider. Just riding on the other side of the road was just about more than I can handle. But now it is second nature. It’s much easier on a bike then in a car anyway as all the controls are the same – you just need to remember to start out in the right lane and then just stay within the lines.

My riding continues to improve and I know my way around most of Europe now but there are still some new countries out there for me to visit. I doubt I’d want to travel through Africa though on a Massey Ferguson. Just not enough safety nets in this part of the world but all respect to those that do it. I’m a bit soft and know my limitations. I’m happy to stick to surface roads.

South America would be good and possibly middle Asia also. But I’m not about to start planning my next motorcycle adventure as soon as I get back to London.

I have some different adventures and challenges that will require my attention and focus for the next few months in the same way as I needed it to ride in the dark in Bosnia and France and on the terrible road surfaces in Turkey. There will be some borders that will not let me pass and darkness may cloud my judgement. There will be wrong turns and sometimes the GPS will lead me astray or even not have details of the roads I plan to travel on. But in the end you always make it to the hotel or back home, and I am confident my next adventure will be as successful as this Turkey motorcycle tour – I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A big thanks to those of you took the time out to read this blog and gave me encouragement along the way – your feedback made me feel like I had a travel companion with me every day.