Friday, June 10, 2016

Europe to NZ, this ones gong to be interesting!

I'm on the plane, Auckland - Singapore - Frankfurt, It's all feeling very real now, the last few months of frantic organizing is over. I should be excited and happy, I'm off on a trip of a life time but I'm not. Instead I'm thinking what the heck am I doing? The enormity of what I'm about to undertake is hitting home, maybe I'm under prepared for this one? I've got a fair bit of experience at this now but there is going to be a new level of challenges to face on this leg.

I try to sit back and enjoy some in flight entertainment in the form of Eddie the Eagle the movie. It's toward the end and I get all emotional  all because Eddie has just overcome some challenges and realizing his dream of Ski jumping at the Olympics. I think about it for a bit and realize that Eddies story resonates with me on a few levels, he's out following his dreams against the norms, he has the loving support of his mum but his dad just wants him to get a real job, but in the end this dad is as proud as can be. The last few weeks of saying good bye to everyone has been bolted, and now on my own on the plane it comes out. I am lucky to have such a great family and friends, and such a great place to call home in Golden Bay. I will miss it all.

Some people think I'm a bit crazy doing what I'm doing leaving the bay and also a job where I sometimes get paid to ride in some pretty fantastic places!!

This summer I considered staying back at home for longer, giving myself a bit more time to enjoy being in NZ and also get on top of the mountain of visa's and bits and pieces that would be required for my planed route. I procrastinated for a while and then decided to just go for it this year, that meant I had 8 visa's to get plus a document for the motorcycle called a Carnet de Passage. The visa's are a pain, some have restrictions such as limited time between issue and entry dates which means on a big trip you have to procure some on the road, and then some countries make it hard to get outside your home country so it all gets a little messy, and they all require your passport so you can only do one at a time! Another thing is that you have to commit to time frames which is something that I'd rather not do and is also difficult to predict.

A number of factors came into play when deciding on this route. One thing that I had decided is that this was likely to be the last big trip for a while. It's been an amazing experience so far but I feel that I don't want to be doing this too much longer, there are other things that I'd like to pursue, this journey has been my focus for the last 5 years, I've put everything into it. And simply put it costs money and I wont have much by the end of this leg.

There are places like Africa, Eastern Russia and Mongolia that would be great to see by motorcycle but if I have a choice this is it; Eastern Europe- Central Asia- South East Asia- Indonesia- Australia - New Zealand. I look forward to riding into my home town and pulling up for a beer! So this is the rough plan for 2016-2017:

Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Albania, Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand

I arrive in Frankfurt airport and have no problems getting myself onto the "Ice" train and proceed to get propelled towards Heidelberg at 200km/hr, it's easy as I did this last year so everything is familiar. Arriving at Stefan Knopf's motorcycle business I find the Dr in the courtyard out to greet me, all my packages are here except the one that was ordered from the US- that requires a custom duty to be paid, rather than go straight to bed and recover from the 10 plus 12 hour back to back flights I have to go straight to the customs office to pay the duty, a day later and the parcel would have been sent back to the US, that was lucky! I was expecting to have to get a new battery, I still have the original and it's been stored several times now but after a little cranking the bike was up in running...sweet!

So that's the route.... should be easy!!

The next few days are spent striping down the bike and replacing worn out components, a quick inspection at the end of last years trip meant that I had pre ordered and also brought a bunch of parts on the plane so hopefully had everything on hand to get straight into it. Major jobs included;

New fork seals and oil
Re greased rear swing arm bearings
New SS brake lines and disc's front and rear
New clutch plates and disc's plus new cable
New chain slider on swing arm

The fork seals proved to be a bit of a hassle as I had to find a hard wear store and build a tool to disassemble the forks. I was going to replace a seeping head gasket but found one head stud to be loose so have just re torqued and will keep an eye on it and replace later if needed, bit reluctant to open it up if not really needed, like the old saying goes... if it isn't broke don't fook with it. Interestingly, after 112000km the old clutch looked like new and probably shouldn't fooked with it too but I guess it's good to know that it IS new now. It's hard to say how much to do here while I have a good workshop as I'd rather not have to fook with the bike in outback Kazakhstan!!

I quite like working on motorbikes, but often it stresses me out a bit....did I torque that nut right? it going to explode? etc etc. I didn't get to see much of Heidelberg last year so enjoy a break from wrenching and do a little walk about the old town and castle with local lass Rebekka.

New Clutch going in

New fork seals, the oil that came out of here was bad!!

Quite a bit of work to get some fresh grease into the swing arm and linkages

New racing stripe!

Turns out I spend a whole week in Heidelberg, Stefan's place has been great for getting started this year, it was a bit of a mission getting back here last November in the snow but I knew it would be worth it. It's been great to have the workshop to use, nice camping out the back of the property and the best thing is you are meeting and hanging out with a whole heap of bike travellers all coming in to collect and drop of their bikes for travelling. lots of great People

Checking out Heidelberg Castle with Rebekka

Whisky and pizza!! ....with Peter and Beatie who are running the property while Stefan is away and another Stefan plus Pete and Jerry
 Me with Beatie, Gina and Jerry

Really Enjoyed Pete, such a cool dude....he's making some last minute adjustment to "Bike Friday" before heading out on a tour
Bonnie and Tim

Next on the to do list once the bike was up and running was to have a crack at the remaining visa applications that I need. Of most concern is the Russian visa, I had a go at getting this on the way out of NZ in Wellington but unfortunately came up short, I was not able to get the short processing time for the area I was intending to visit due to a higher level of security, and I had only just realized that this one could be difficult to obtain outside of ones country of residence.

With Frankfurt not too far up the road with a Russian Consulate and also Kazakhstan Consulate I decide to Have a look sooner rather than later, first enquires indicated that I would need to prove German residency to apply for the Russian visa here, but I wanted to check for sure. I knew this was not going to be fun or easy, I find the Russians easily enough with the wizardry that is my GPS, but I'm already hot and not enjoying the traffic. There's a queue out side the embassy with a guard, I show him my documents and tell him I'd like to apply for a tourist visa, he doesn't understand and although most young Germans speak some English it appears to be mainly Russian people queued and no one speaks English! Eventually a nice young lady translates for the guard and it becomes obvious that I need to go online in German and make an appointment and come back another time....just to probably be told that I have to have residency here. Not worth the hassle at the moment.

So I bring up the Kazakh consulate on the GPS and hit "go to". As I suspected things are a bit more laid back here, no queue and lucky the lady behind the counter speaks a little English and within a few minutes I'm filling in a application form, no need to go download an online form or anything like that, just good old fashioned hand written form, only thing is I'm a little under prepared and have not revised my route and need to indicate which areas I will be travelling, I tell the lady behind the counter I will need to go off and find my maps/or internet, she then gives me some small maps that don't have enough detail and eventually comes out with a massive framed wall map that they must have hanging in the back office just for me to have a look at! A nice change from the Russian consulate and thanks to the very helpful staff I have an application underway straight away and should have it ready for pick up in three days. I feel a bit happier to be making some progress.

Jerry and Gina from Alaska, met these guys here last year also. Super nice couple and they have being coming over riding every year for ages!!

Blasting about in downtown Frankfurt, the evenings where nice, the daytime too hot!

The Kazakhstan Consulate were very helpful, I had the visa after 3 days for a very reasonable 35 euro.

.... some sexy bikes kicking around in town