We printed the primary a part of Owen Howells’ story and images about using the Trans Euro Path in Albania in our Nov. 2022 Journey Problem and on our web site right here. What follows is Half 2, which additionally seems in our July 2023 Journey Problem. –Ed.
With the Albanian a part of the Trans Euro Path in my mirrors, there remained the small matter of getting my battle-hardened 1982 BMW R 80 G/ST again dwelling to the U.Ok. Having ridden the Albanian TET from south to north, I ended up close to the Montenegro border, and because the TET via Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia goes north, it was a viable possibility for the journey dwelling. I had been touring for 4 weeks, and I had two weeks left earlier than I needed to be again at work.
Bosnian and Croatian Trans Euro Path
The paths via Bosnia and Herzegovina had been smoother and fewer difficult than what I’d confronted in Albania, so I used to be capable of journey quicker and canopy extra floor in a day.
My closely laden Airhead was surprisingly adept at a little bit of mischief within the corners, skidding the again finish with a very good jab on the drum brake on entry and getting sideways with low-end grunt on the best way out. Humps and bumps allowed a little bit of airtime, although considerably restricted by the short-travel suspension bottoming out because the bike returned to terra firma.
Extremely, after a month of using, with most days spent on the Trans Euro Path, I had but to satisfy one other journey rider, so I used to be satisfied once I pulled into Mostar and was greeted by three Germans.
“Are you additionally using the TET?” they requested. I suppose the shabby state of my bike, its knobby tires, and my overloaded baggage had given me away.
From then on, I encountered a gradual stream of TET riders heading south – Germans, Austrians, Poles, and Estonians – on Honda Africa Twins, KTM 1190 Adventures, and BMW R 1250 GSs. However the taste of the month was clearly the Yamaha Ténéré 700. It appeared each different bike on the path was a T7, which is hardly a shock. It’s an incredible wanting, centered journey bike with an engine capability that makes numerous sense for off-roading.
Buoyed by frequent chats with fellow path lovers, I rode at a spirited tempo, however my 40-year-old BMW was a bit worse for put on. The highest field hung awkwardly off the again after the rear rack had snapped in two locations, and the rear brake was virtually ineffective. I made a operating restore on the rack with cable ties and duct tape after which limped to the gorgeous Ramsko Lake for my in a single day cease.
Repairs, Land Mines, and a Tit on the TET
I discovered a storage within the lakeside village, and whereas the mechanic took care of welding the rack, I investigated the rear wheel. The entire drum space was soaked in oil, brought on by a number of bolts within the bevel drive case working unfastened. I put thread locker on the bolts, retightened them, and cleaned the drum and sneakers in addition to I may.
After breakfast and low in Kupres, I rejoined the TET heading to Glamoc. A bunch of TET riders had warned me about impassable snow on this part, so I proceeded with warning. I rode for an hour into the hills earlier than seeing the primary patch of snow. Situations appeared good, and I crested the best level on the map with no issues.
Comfortable-arse Ténéré riders, I believed, remembering my challenges in Albania. They in all probability simply rode off the showroom flooring. They don’t know wrestle!
As I started my descent, a large blanket of snow coated the path. It didn’t appear too dangerous, so I simply eased off just a little and ready for much less traction. Nearly instantly the entrance wheel plunged right into a foot of snow, abruptly halting my progress. The rear wheel dug a trench till it spun freely. I used to be going through downhill, however the bike wouldn’t budge.
I dismounted, surveyed the scenario, and scouted forward on foot. The impenetrable subject of snow continued so far as I might be bothered to stroll. It could be an extended, arduous journey again the best way I got here, however urgent forward was unimaginable.
My bike was impressively caught, wedged within the deep snow. Retreating meant that I wanted to get the BMW rotated. I attempted pushing the bike to start a three-point flip, but it surely held quick.
The recommendation on the TET web site is evident: By no means try the TET by yourself. In fact, numpties like me disregard this recommendation, and moments like this reveal the folly of that call. Contemplating my choices, I shuddered on the considered strolling 10 miles again to civilization to get assist to retrieve my bike, all of the whereas hoping somebody with sturdy pals wouldn’t steal it earlier than I bought again.
I remembered the occasions in Wales once I’d grow to be equally caught in mud. One strategy is to lean the bike to its facet and use the cylinder head as a fulcrum to lever the wheels off the bottom. Then, with a lot grunting and cursing, you’ll be able to drag the bike out of the issue space. The levering labored, however even with the bags eliminated, the BMW was too heavy to tug uphill. At the least I used to be capable of spin it round so it was pointing the precise manner.
After I tried to journey out, the boxer Twin’s vast cylinders sank into the snow, and the rear wheel once more spun helplessly. I donned my winter gloves, dug out the snow across the bike, and created a ramp that I coated with fallen branches and sticks to assist maintain the tires afloat. Although surrounded by snow, I used to be sizzling and sweaty from my efforts. I fired up the bike, pushed with all my may, and dropped the clutch. The rear wheel dug into the slushy mud simply sufficient to climb onto the carpet of sticks, and I made my manner again to dry land.
I used to be relieved to have gotten out of a nasty spot, but it surely was my cavalier perspective that bought me into that scenario. I take all of it again, Mr. Ténéré. You had been proper, and I used to be positively incorrect!
With my tail between my legs, I trundled again down the hill, having wasted 4 hours and made it no nearer to dwelling. I discovered an alternate path on the map and determined that, though it seemed to be tougher going, it was preferable to doubling all the best way again to the highway. Exhaustion was setting in, and I dropped my bike once more.
Quickly I got here throughout an indication that stuffed me with dread: a cranium and crossbones on a purple background with MИHE! (mine!) in large, daring letters. Though the Yugoslav Wars ended greater than twenty years in the past, war-torn buildings and homes riddled with bullet holes are nonetheless a typical sight within the Balkans. Efforts have been made to clear land mines, however they’re nonetheless a hazard in some distant areas. The TET web site warns riders to not go off the path the place land mine indicators are current, and I used to be completely happy to heed the recommendation. However the path I used to be on, which wasn’t a part of the official TET, wasn’t clearly outlined. After a really cautious 21-point flip, I lastly headed again to the primary highway.
A Drag Race at an Deserted Airbase
After a number of powerful days on the TET in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I adopted quicker paved roads to succeed in Zeljava, an deserted airbase on the Bosnia/Croatia border. I wasn’t certain what to anticipate upon arrival, however there have been no indicators or gates to dam entry. I rode previous a rusting Douglas C-47 transport aircraft and proper onto the large runway.
Zeljava was constructed within the late Forties to be an indestructible Soviet airbase, with a labyrinth of giant interconnecting tunnels buried deep into the mountain able to housing a whole lot of fighter jets and defending them from a nuclear blast. The bottom was partially destroyed through the Yugoslav Wars within the ’90s, and it has been deserted ever since. Although technically off-limits, the native police bought so uninterested in kicking individuals out that they now not trouble. At the moment the massive blast doorways sit completely open, inviting investigation by the curious.
I wasn’t the one one at Zeljava that day. With a kilometer-long runway, there have been scores of different bikers competing in run-what-ya-brung drag races. My Airhead bought totally embarrassed by a BMW F 800, a Honda VFR800, and a Ducati Multistrada. Even with my stomach on the tank, I barely scratched the ton!
From there onwards, the Croatian TET was superb, with winding woodland trails culminating in elevated views of the Adriatic Sea close to the Slovenian border.
After using via Slovenia and attending a pal’s wedding ceremony in Italy, I had solely three days till I wanted to be again at work, so the ultimate jaunt was principally a road-going affair. However it might’ve been impolite to cross the Alps with out sampling a minimum of one off-road path. For bragging rights, I wished to summit the best unpaved move in Europe, however I’d heard it was too snowy on the prime, and I didn’t need to repeat that mistake.
As a substitute, I opted for an unpaved army highway constructed within the late 1800s that climbs up a 9,200-foot mountain within the Cottian Alps in northwestern Italy, close to the French border. Perched close to the highest of the mountain is Fort Jafferau, which was accomplished in 1898 and utilized in each world wars.
In comparison with what I’d confronted in Albania, the path wasn’t a problem, however the altitude certain was. Within the skinny air, my previous Beemer wheezed like an asthmatic, barely capable of energy itself up the hill and steadily dropping to at least one cylinder.
Bike points apart, the path as much as the fort was one of many highlights of my multiweek journey, although using in a pitch-black, 876-meter-long tunnel via the mountain jangled my nerves. A half day spent within the hills meant I had a more durable, quicker journey to catch the ferry, but it surely was fully value it.
The Ultimate Push on the Trans Euro Path
Crossing France in a heatwave through toll roads was torture on my previous R 80. All I may do was drone on, squinting on the shiny solar made hazy via a graveyard of bugs on my faceshield whereas being blasted by sizzling air and vibrated into numbness by the knobbies. Gasoline stops allowed a couple of minutes in air con, however I needed to pay via the nostril for crummy ethanol-laced petrol.
You don’t hear a lot about this a part of highway journeys. It’s all about Instagram moments of unforgettable experiences, unimaginable roads, and pals made alongside the best way. However until you will have limitless time, there comes a degree the place you’ve bought to munch some critical miles, and infrequently is it enjoyable. At occasions like these, I dream about being on a giant, clean, trendy sport-tourer – and even higher, in a automobile with the A/C on full blast, a plethora of snacks to graze on, and a very good podcast to move the time.
I wished to push tougher to get it over with, however the R 80’s engine had different concepts. The warmth took its toll, and the bike started operating tough. The following morning, I checked the valve clearances when the engine was chilly. The exhaust valve on the precise cylinder was tight, which was not stunning given the 5,000 miles I’d ridden since leaving dwelling – and the going had been tough.
Because of the simplicity of the Airhead’s pushrods and rocker arms, the valve adjustment took only some minutes, and I used to be quickly again on the highway with the engine operating clean.
Reflections on the R 80 G/ST
As I sat in a quiet cafe in Ouistreham, France, ready for my ferry to the U.Ok., I admired my R 80 G/ST parked throughout the highway, with its patina of dents, scratches, rust, and dust accrued throughout my six-week journey. After I completed my ST-to-GS conversion, I’d created a gorgeous and distinctive bike, one worthy of maintaining pristine for posing at a city sq. or bike meet.
Has it misplaced potential resale worth? Nearly definitely, however the worth of the reminiscences is value much more to me. Each scuff on the paint is a reminder of the adventures we’ve had collectively, and each scratch is a memento of the struggles we overcame on the journey of a lifetime.