We had mixed emotions riding into Europe. We felt a sense of accomplishment having made it that far… a sense of relief with the cold out of our bones… and genuine concern for our injuries. We have no dramas smiling through the rubbish that comes part and parcel with overlanding. However, a not improving injury is different… finding a positive mindset is almost impossible. Getting the ankles into riding boots was excruciating and the left knee wasn’t doing any better. Zero enthusiasm was had with respect to straddling the bike.
BULGARIA – SERBIA – CROATIA
I officially cracked the SNITS at Buzludzha. I had intended to climb into the place and explore… but was flatout able to walk around the outside. For the first time in nine months I wanted to be parked up back home in the lazy boy. If you can’t climb into Buzludzha then what’s the point of travel!? The bottom lip was out. We decided to adopt a new approach and apply some common sense… REST. Our priority from here was simple… don’t limp into Africa. Riding in Europe focused only on getting from point A to point B… pay the bloody tolls and just get there.
Needless to say, Europe was a non-event adventure wise. We mostly resorted to booze and what better place than Eastern Europe to be stuck with this plan. A hostel bed with crap brekky = 6 Euro per night and booze is just as cheap. Admittedly I drank myself to a low point. Wake up and eat crap brekky… hobble to a liquor store… hobble to a park… hobble to a bar… repeat. I started to regret not sticking with Laws on the Turquoise Coast in the sun… but I was really keen to see our Slovenian buddies who we met in Iran.
A direct route was made to Ljubljana where I planned to rest. My mates had other ideas… Matjaz intended to bury me. Matjaz’s mindset has three settings only: 1) outdoors & sport; 2) work; and 3) party… I was limping and it was the holidays, which didn’t leave many options. There is no ‘chillax’ setting let alone an ‘off switch’. As he puts it: this is his curse. Per capita, Slovenia is consistently in the Top 3 Greatest Sporting Nations. Regardless of season, weather or terrain… getting into the outdoors for sports is ingrained in Slovenian culture. There may have been little to no improvement on the injury front… but Mates4Life were set in concrete and my spirit was lifted.
Laws and I reunited in Sienna, Italy. You’d think after nine months living in each other’s back pocket we’d be sick of each other… but it was completely the opposite. I missed the little bugger. Going on a holiday with mates is easy… hang out and have a great time. An overlanding partnership needs a genuinely special relationship… you need to be equally sick in the head to keep smiling when stuff goes wrong. Laws and I are definitely better together. On our own we: 1) forget shit; 2) lose shit; 3) apply incompletely thought out approaches to situations ; and 4) generally end up hurt mentally and/or physically. Together there is a simple line sounded regularly: “Bro! WTF are you doing?”… and points 1 to 4 are avoided. Most of all, happiness is shared and you want to share that stuff with the people that matter most.
We were very excited to meet up with Mum. Nothing makes you feel more rooted in the world than having Mum or Dad around. By rooted, I mean grounded 🙂 We caught up with mates over the next two weeks with Mum commuting by train and/or bus. Mum’s holiday route was: Saint Mamert du Gard (near Nimes) – Montpellier – Bordeaux – El Pla de Sant Tirs (near Andorra) – Barcelona – Valencia.
We hugged Mum goodbye in Valencia and then had the overhaul of our bikes to focus on. We were pretty disappointed in ourselves with respect to some components. We never falter on the three priorities: clean oil, clean fuel and clean air… but some components were well past serviceability. Full credit to the bikes once again. The reason behind pushing things was that we didn’t want to expose components to salted roads before Africa.
Although we didn’t see much of Europe we have plans for Eastern Europe in the future that involve linking Bulgaria with Estonia and hopefully the North Cape (Norway). Our last stop for Europe was Seville, a happening and immaculately kept city.
Spirits were high riding onto the ferry at Tarifa. Riding our DRs in Africa was no longer some wild dream of years before. I was still limping but my injuries had improved a lot… the ankle could manage some standup riding. I was told by a physio that I could expect a 4-6 month heal time so I was nearly half-way there… and it felt like it. Things were looking up 🙂