Austria to Kazakhstan

It’s hard to comprehend how far I have travelled in the last 20 days. Austria feels like a lifetime a go and is another planet compared to the landscape of the last few days. I have ridden from alpine mountains through endless fields in Russia to the steppe and desert of Kazakhstan and have returned to rolling hills and mountains on the horizon as I approach Almaty in the south. 


After Austria I rode to Budapest where I stayed with Tim, had a beautiful meal with his family and got a tour of the city at night in his URAL sidecar. An experience I’ll never forget.  



From Budapest I headed through Slovakia, camping in Košice. On the ride in I rode past a large building, completely derilict, now home to Roma Gypsies. It was a pretty shocking site. After chatting with Viktor, whose parents owned the campsite, he offered to take me to the shops to get dinner and then show me Lunik 9. Lunik 9 is something that has to be seen to be believed. A whole district of a city comprising maybe 10/15 high rise flats that are all in ruins and piled high with rubbish. I think the main thing that shocked me is that such poverty can exist so close to home and within the EU. 


I left Slovakia and headed to Lublin, Poland. After crossing the border I immediately felt more relaxed. I stayed by a big lake surrounded by forests. The next day I attempted to cross the Ukrainian border but was rejected due to only having copies of the bike registration. I returned to Lublin and Ducati sent out the originals for delivery the next day. I took the bike for a service in Warsaw to make the most of the lost day and succefully crossed the border the morning after. Ukraine was the start of the long and straight roads which have been unchanging throughout the former Soviet Union with the exception of their condition. Potholes became regular obstacles which managed to shake free the boots which were strapped to my bike. Thankfully RevIt! are sending new ones to Almaty!


I entered Russia with relative ease, friendly border guards took interest in my bike and the trip and we managed to fill in all necessary paperwork even with the large language barrier. Russia was a demonstration in the meaning of vast. Black fields stretched on forever as did the straight roads between cities. I stayed in Kursk the first night, then Voronezh where I met Alexander. Alexander pulled up next to me on his motorbike at some traffic lights as I entered the city, he asked me if I wanted a coffee and I followed him to his house where he showed me all sorts of photos before showing me to my hotel and convincing the receptionist to let me park my bike in their garage. He returned with his son (who spoke English) and we chatted about the trip and my plans.


I left Voronezh the next morning and spent a night in Saratov before heading to the Kazakhstan border and on to Uralsk. I stayed there two nights to recover a bit from racing my Russian visa expiry and to get insurance to ride in Kazakhstan. The road to the border and from the border to Uralsk were abysmal with craters in the road and some sections completely demolished. The landscape completely changed from Russia’s black agricultural land to dusty steppe complete with eagles, tumbleweeds and camels. Great for a day but pretty monotonous after three. Steppe became desert and then, as I approached Kyzylorda, green crept back into the land. Through Shymkent and on to Taraz I was back in rolling hills with mountains as a backdrop. I’m heading for Almaty tomorrow to meet the Ducati team there and will spend a few days with them exploring the area. I’m super exited to explore and happy that my bike will be getting some TLC!


20 days on the road have flown by.

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England to Austria

It’s so hard to put the last 5 days in to words. I’ve travelled over 1000 Miles through 5 countries in as many days and experienced so much already. The weather has turned from thunderstorms and torrential rain to 20 degree sunshine which has made things way easier and more enjoyable. Day one and two were really hard work, I was putting in big miles (405 Miles on day two) through France with a horrific headwind the whole way. It was also chucking it down and cold. Putting a tent up in a thunderstorm on day one was really deflating after the great send off from The Bike Shed. I was lucky enough to be setting up camp opposite a fellow biker in a motorhome who brought me an umbrella and a beer. Friendly faces have been everywhere from that point. People have stopped to chat at petrol stations and rest stops.

I spent day 3 crossing Mt Blanc and heading to Bologna to tour the Ducati factory and hang out with the scrambler team which was great fun! They were kind enough to get me a hotel for the night. It was really strange seeing the place where my bike was built! I actually ended up riding through Mt Blanc with one glove on - I managed to pull the lining out and could not get my hand back in at the toll for the tunnel. I spent the next 25 KM praying my hand wouldn’t fall off as I carved through snowy mountains with no place to pull over. I got to the bottom of the mountain and was greeted by views like this. 



Petrol station at the bottom of the valley 9 AM


The spot where I managed to pull over and sort out my glove


The great weather continued through Bologna and on to Venice at lunch the next day - the guy in the car park even let me off my parking fee (€18!!!!) as I only stayed just over an hour. It was nice to have a little walk around somewhere so picturesque after only having seen motorways and stopped at petrol stations most of the time.  




After lunch I continued to Slovenia to meet Jon who had emailed me whilst I was in Bologna. There was a big crash which caused a massive tailback which in turn caused another lorry crash on the motorway just before the border. Filtering for 30 mins between massive trucks and cars with their doors open whilst hauling my wide set up was really challenging and I was pretty wiped out when It cleared. I got to Jon in Kamnik, Slovenia around 7:30PM and the generosity started immediately, a huge bed with fresh sheets and towels, food, beer, great conversations, a lovely family and a great plan for the next day. We headed in to the town for a beer at a bar which was motorbike mad and then called it a night. The next morning we headed to see the capital Ljubljana, which was stunning. Wide streets and magnificent buildings lining a beautiful river.



We headed back to Kamnik to a party at the same bar as last night where they were celebrating the start of the riding season. So many nice bikes! After that we rode to lake Bled which was stunning with great roads followed by more great roads out from Lake Bled and up to the Austrian border, where Jon and I parted ways. 



Jon and I at Lake Bled 


Posing at the other side of the lake and continuing to park whereever we want! 


Parting ways at the top of the mountains before Austria


I headed through the tunnel to Austria and came out to the best 25 minutes of road I have ever experienced. Hairpins and back to back turns (I’ve uploaded footage to YouTube for any road geeks!) the Loibl Pass was a dream. Unfortunately no campsites are open yet in Austria as the summer season doesn’t officially seem to start until the end of the month so I had to find the cheapest hotel possible. On to Budapest today to stay with another kind stranger!