… and Beyond

When in 2011 we had the idea to start blogging about our travels on motociclism.ro and advrider.com we needed a name for our thread. It was late in the night, we were tired, so we just called it  “Into The World – 2up around Africa and beyond” At that moment we had no idea what was to come. We had a vague itinerary, had done some research. We didn’t know how to accomplish our plan. We did know though that the money was not enough to go, like we had sketched on Google maps, from Romania to Djibouti then to Yemen, Oman and so on, but we pressed ENTER and that was that. Many months later, somewhere in Kenya, we were getting pissed that had not lingered in some places, or that we had not used our budget more stingily – even if I am not convinced that is humanly possible, given our practical needs and our profile. It was already becoming evident that the tour around Africa was about to end, but we had a strong feeling about the necessity of a continuation. Of a …. “and beyond”.

It took a while to make it happen. And we dare to say we did not waste all of it. We managed to fight and sort of win a legal war with the insurance company that finally paid for the damages of my 2010 crash. In a reasonable amount, considering we are in Romania, so I decided to lick my wounds and move on. It’s time to close this chapter and put this unfortunate even behind me. While winter pushed on we worked, we fundraised, we wrote emails and got some negative and some very positive replies, we stressed out and debated vigourously. And we made our decision. To push our limits further. To continue our journey Into The World on two motorbikes.
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Taking The Silk Road To Mongolia

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Ana freaked out a bit when she saw her metal horse for the first time. The DRZ comes from Italy and it has about 16.000 km. I got to work: lowering it, modifying the suspension, manufacturing new links, butchering the seat beyond recognition until it fit her diminutive height (1.55m). In the early days Ana was  like a wobbly ballerina on the DRZ. But despite our worst fears, within two weeks she makes the transition from a testing ground – actually a parking lot in an industrial area of Bucharest – and from riding without a seat on a folded pair of jeans…

…to the Romanian highway. By the way, did I mention that she has a driving license but she never drove cars? So biking, traffic, all these are new to her.

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Adventurisation of our bikes

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This is how the Suzuki was modded:

– Linx fairing Britannia Composites
– tank 4Gal IMS
– homemade links
– custom seat from Seat Concepts Low, tailored by me to accommodate Ana
– Enduristan textile luggage (1x Tornado L, 1xSandstorm)
– tires Dunlop Trailmax & 908 Rallyraid
– wheels DRZ 400 S (21″ + 18″) – we made an exchange with an UK rider, who got Ana’s SM
– handlebar Renthal KTM bend, handguards KTM + rally ride foam grips + heater and Shorai Lithium Battery

The KTM is a whole other ballgame. Because Barbu & comp. summon me to an off-road trip in Dobrogea, I suggest to Ana to crash the surprise b-dy party for her mum, happening in Galati, and transform the detour into a proper test for our new set-up. So we ride from Bucharest to Galati, then to Constanta and back to the capital, taking a few days to enjoy family, friends and some amazing wilderness in one of the least discovered stretches of Romania. MamaYa trophy  – the informal ride I was supposed to join, is good fun. I’m only posting some pics from this indie event when we got our wheels wet and savoured superb traditional cooking of our fantastic hosts.

The KTM 690 Enduro got:

– sprocket Dirt Tricks Ironman
– extra tank 14l Aqualine Safari
– custom seat by Seat Concepts + AirHawk2 for my butt (from Africa)
– Linx fairing Britannia Composites
– MK3 pivot pegs adapted from the Tenere
– foam air filter from Unifilter
– Renthal Dakar fatbar + KTM plastic hand guards + rally ride foam grips + heater
– RalleMoto RM2 steering damper kit
– Scottoiler
– 150W invertor
– textile luggage from Enduristan (1x Monsoon 2 + isolation bags, 1x Tornado L, 1xSandstorm)
– tires from Dunlop: Trailmax & 908 Rallyraid
– GPS GARMIN Montana 650 + OSM Maps
– Cable OBD2 + TuneECU and Shorai Lithium Battery

OK, must cut this report short. In Romania spring is springy, nettles and wild hers are already on our plates, Easter passed. It’s time to get rolling, we’ve been promising a continuation for too long.

We start packing. To save money – that was the idea anyway – we bought online a tent and whatnot, from the US of A. But the forwarder we used so many times before now screws us big. Our parcel arrives over 2 – yeah, that’s right, two months late. And things are missing, perhaps the most important things of them all: the auxiliary tank for my KTM, the Shorai batteries and the fuel pomp for the KTM, it’s Achille’s tendon sort of speak.

Great, that’s what I needed. But we have already bought some visas that might expire and Ana is still quite very slow on-road, so we must move. We cannot wait for this mess to be sorted out. I organize for someone to collect my parts when they will arrive and instruct them to ship them by bus to Istanbul, where we will need to stop for a few days for more visa shopping. Cross my fingers that this unlikely plan should work.
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On the eve of departure our pals catch us again in the middle of a hectic display of unpacked gear. Mihai points to some cool trails through the Pamir. We toast a few drinks. And by morning we’re ready.

It’s the 13th of May. Mihai and Bobe make us question our choice of vehicles for this leg of the journey. It’s a premonition of some sort.

Iulian obliges to accompany us again to the border, just like he did the other time. This, my friend, will not do for a third, you’ll have to come along for the entire way!

The ferry across the Danube takes us African style from Calarasi in Romania to some decrepit village in Bulgaria. At least this time we did not have to pay in gasoline and push the rusty monster. Also I can erst assured about our safety: we even have life vests onboard!

We find the other bank flooded in river, just as we are flooded in emotions. I love you, I say to Ana though the walkie talkie. The Chinese radio screeches and squeaks but delivers the message. We are in the best mood for the road across Bulgaria. And I don’t know how, but this time everything feels great: the coffee at the gas station is tasty, the provincial town look neat, the parks feel chilled…even the Bulgarian chicks look rather sexy. Hmmm…. it’s like a bizarre reverse situation of what we felt last time we crossed Bulgaria, on our way back from Africa.

To keep our spirits high we avoid the highways, but we stay on tarmac. Let’s not forget that Ana has barely done 400 km of riding. And how else to baptise this than with a bit of rain?

Black Locust is in bloom. Ana can’t help but  eat a bunch. I sample a few. It’s a light, slightly sweet flavour. In her home town they celebrate a kind of festival when people eat the raw flowers and even deep-fry them in pancake dough. It doesn’t sound bad at all.

We buy some food from a supermarket, because soon after Varna we must stop and search for a camping spot. After about 350 km of tar we deserve a quiet place to sleep. Of course we hope for a sandy stretch. And obviously we can’t get to the beach unless we get off the road. So it is that Ana has the opportunity to ride her first 5 km of piste, on a bumpy dirt track that leads to the prize. From up here we can see what it is:

After I ride down the 45 degrees slope, the place is revealed to be even more stunning that I suspected. Infested in poppies and wild thyme, a stream trickling into the sea, and not even too many mosquitoes. I looked for a spot like this on the GPS, and I was afraid it will turn out to be a complete disaster, much like our first accidental bushcamp in Morocco. But this time I am on the money.

To be frank, even if the place is gorgeous, we don’t spend here the more restful night. It gets quite cold, the tent – like any new piece of kit – swooshes out of every zipper – and the surf is roaring and munching into the shores. We need, I say, a couple of nights to wild back. To readjust to the sounds of nature, to accept a frugal border between our intimate space and the unpredictable surroundings. To let our guard down and trust that everything will be alright. But already both of us can sense that… a significant weight is being lifted off our hearts.

The next morning we leave this first wildcamp of our Silk Route towards Central Asia and the Stans. Just as we have found it, so other can enjoy it too.


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