Revisiting the Balkans
After traveling the balkans in 2017, starting from Berlin (back then with the CRF1000 Africa Twin) , it was clear that I had to continue where I stopped. I prepared throughout the winter, sold the Africa Twin, and built up a Honda XR650R which is much better suited for riding the Trans Euro Trail as the heavy and expensive Africa Twin. It should be the first big test of the bike and I was a bit nervous whether my winter wrenching worked out. I did not know the bike and had near to zero experience riding it. The excitement of continuing the remote trails and testing man and machine was bigger than my worrying and so it happened that I loaded the bike up the van and drove down to Croatia. I parked at a sweet camping that would be the starting basis for this expedition.
I arrived late afternoon and prepared the bike, loaded up the gear, fueled up and arranged my camp for the night. The weather was brilliant and so was the mood. A first BBQ and Karlovacko beer, which I celebrated the complete empty camping place with, also helped suppressing my tensions until I went to sleep. Will this bike hold up? Will I hold up? What about these harsh trails I so failed on with the Africa Twin? I just had to find out.
Croatia Obrovac - Bosnia Sipovo ~290km
After brewing the necessary amounts of coffee and having a proper breakfast to gain strength, I jumped into my gear. The GPS track was appearing on the phone which I mounted on the bike. A last deep breath and on with that helmet. I was not used to bikes that would be so individual to start. No electrics, no battery, no magic button. The XR and I, we fulfilled our special ceremony to get the pig’s engine up and running. The wacker plate was purring and shaking and I said Goodbye to my fabulous hosts! "See ya folks, vidimo se uskoro"! First gear in, "katschaaakkk", and off we go! As soon as I left the camp property all my tensions were gone for that moment. I enjoyed the sunshine and the morning braap through beautiful nature.
The Trails were rocky but totally doable and I giggled under my helmet. What a change compared to the Africa Twin that was. The XR was just bored with the terrain it got and went over it with ease. Full of excitement I did not stop until I reached the Bosnian border. The trails got steeper und winded up the mountains into the woods. From this point on, I shall not see any human until reached the days destination.
Once in Bosnia the tarmac was quickly gone and the trails got more advanced. It was end of April but the intense winter months clearly left their marks. I tried to climb mount Šator, but after battling through some snow fields, I had to give up short before the peak at around 1500m, still it was totally worth it. The following hours I had to move a lot of trees out my way and I got used to the snow leftovers. The bigger problem definitely was the fallen trees! Suddenly the "shall not pass" one came into my way that I could not find a way around. Steep down left and steep up on the right. Riding remotely offroad in Bosnia, it’s advised to strictly stay on the trails as there are still lots of landmines floating around. I could not longer follow the TET route and had to find my own way out of the woods. The 18l already payed off as I spent quite a while in Šator National park until I finally got out.
Coming from barren, rocky Croatia the landscapes transformed into juicy, green hills and flats. It was quite late in the day and I had to find a place for the night. I looked on the map and found Šipovo an appealing destination. It was off the TET but promised a good entry into it the next day. It was a good decision. After struggling through the woods in higher altitude, I now happily blasted over wide gravel roads. I took another break to let the landscapes soak in and used it to talk to some new cow friends I made.
I went on, targeting Šipovo, but stranded in a tiny village trying to find some proper food before I’d call it a day. As I was strolling around I met shepherd and asked him for help. End of the story was that I got invited and spent the evening with him and his wife. He only got one leg! Being a shepherd this fact mightily impressed me. They both teached me (with hands and feet) how they would train their dogs and were even so kind to offer me some grilled sheep and self picked salad. I felt quite ashamed being a stranger and overwhelmed which such hospitality and kindness. We joked about landmines, VW Golf 2’s and dogs attacking motorbikes while having some self brewed Rakia.
It was an unforgettable experience I’m really grateful for!