Very happy with ourselves as we stepped off the bikes in the heart of Vienna
And that’s a wrap folks! For me this epic adventure has finally come to an end, I promised Sophie I would be home for her birthday and although I have missed it by one day I will make her birthday party. I feel naked without my motorcycle, my life as I know it is in a 27kg bag and my bike will eventually make it home by ship, thankfully James and Monica can look after it until then.
What a bike! Brigitta’s 17 years old with 170,000kms on her clock and she’s taken me 26,250kms across 14 countries without a hitch
All 27kgs of my life’s possessions for the last 4 months, wrapped up in a $4 gypsy bag
Vienna, Austria (Monica’s home city) was the catalyst for this trip and what a beautiful city it is! Always coming in a very close second to the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne. After spending six wonderful days in Romania I only had three full days to take in Vienna, but with Monica to show me around I feel like I know it and can’t wait to visit again with Sophie. We have many friends and family who now reside in Europe so I can see many trips to come.
Vienna. It could be worse…
Yep, it could be a lot worse
A hard earned thirst needs a big, cold beer. Thanks to Moni for organising some nostalgic beverages for our arrival in Vienna
Up to no good on my last night of the trip
James, after enjoying too much quality Austrian wine
The red wine consumed last night has brought on some emotional reflection of our journey. What we accomplished in four months on our motorcycles will only take a jet plane 22 hours. Looking out the window of the plane I can almost pinpoint our journey overland. I’m dressed in my new clothes from Zara in Vienna, upon purchase I noticed it was made in Pakistan and it took me back to the road, riding past huge textile factories producing items for the western world to consume but I’m sure none of the other patrons were thinking what I was…
For us Pakistan has a very different meaning than most
Blokes on Spokes was a motorcycle adventure but underneath our desire to ride around the world there was much more to the journey. James and Monica had made a massive decision to leave Melbourne and start anew in Vienna. For myself it was an opportunity to remove myself from our all consuming business and busy life in Melbourne. My business partner Nick and I have been working extremely hard on our business for the past 12 years and I am the first to acknowledge that it has taken a toll on our health and well being. Four months ago I left Melbourne a worn soul: I was searching for something other than the 8-5 slog and have to admit I was concerned that our journey would provoke even further frustration of my work/life balance. In fact it had the opposite effect. The whole experience has been so humbling that I now only feel guilt of how fortunate my life is. I am returning to Australia a new man. I had lost my way in a Western world driven by money and success and forgotten about the most important things in life. Family, love and health come first and everything else second from now on. We left Melbourne in search of good roads, scenery and adventure but I’m returning with no lasting memory of the riding but only of the kindness of people. I am also returning a more focussed businessman; wealth is an absolute privilege in this world and I am lucky enough to have the support and ability to increase it for the future of my children and family.
Although they could’t speak a word of English, and we couldn’t speak a work of Urdu, we had a fantastic meal prepared by the prison guards in Manshera, Pakistan
A fantastic home cooked meal prepared by our hosts Asif and Adnan’s families in Peshawar, Pakistan
Meeting some Pakistani tourists in our hotel in Quetta
Amir, showing us the sights of Esfahan, Iran
Sunrise in Bagan, Myanmar, with friends made on the road
Great food and fantastic company
I cannot thank James enough for the support over the last few years, not only was he my best man at our wedding he was also the brainchild behind our adventure. Months of preparation leading up to our rushed departure proved vital to our success and I will be forever grateful.
Jimmy, on the streets of Malaysia. It takes two to tango, and I wouldn’t have made it without his help
Bon voyage. Our parting moment at Vienna International Airport
On the streets of Myanmar
Two Blokes, happy on their Spokes
Up up up and away, Cappadocia, Turkey
Enjoying our first beer in 5 weeks after crossing into Turkey
Enjoying Persepolis with Lucy outside of Shiraz, Iran
We’d not researched anything about Bulgaria – originally planning to simply transit the country enroute to Romania. This would have been more than achievable, as Google Maps suggests that the 650kms from Istanbul to Bucharest can be done in a little over 8 hours, which has become normal day of riding for us. But a day or two out we thought we should at least stop for the night – after all, when were we likely to visit Bulgaria again? And so it was with blissful ignorance that we crossed the border of Turkey and Bulgaria and officially entered the European Union and our third continent.
People often say how remarkable it is that landscapes and culture seem to change instantly as you cross a border, and we couldn’t agree more. Suckers for the seaside, we took the most scenic route down to the Black Sea and were amazed at the solitude of the place – during our first 100kms in the country we saw only two or three other vehicles. The road was literally overgrown with greenery, a stark contrast to the arid landscapes that we’d grown accustomed to over recent weeks.
Drew, inspecting some minor road damage to see if we can make it through
It’s incredible to think that only 26 years ago, communism was the norm in this part of the world – communist era infrastructure can still be seen in their buildings, buses and trams and road maintenance. We didn’t spend nearly enough time to get a solid appreciation of the way of life, but people do seem to have moved along way forward from communist rule.
Passing through the streets of country Bulgaria
It was also strange to see Cyrillic script printed everywhere – thankfully we had our GPS, otherwise we might not have managed to navigate our way across. After spending our last night on the sea as two Blokes we saddled up and enjoyed a fantastic day’s riding as we pushed towards our commitments in Bucharest.
Back on the highway en route to Bucharest
My wife’s family is Romanian and our sponsor Remedia is also based there, as such Romania was always an important stop on our itinerary. Valentin, my father in law, was watching our progress on our Spot Tracker and met us on our way into Bucharest – we were almost run off the road as he enthusiastically waved us down! He escorted directly to a Bavarian Beer Haus where we caught up over sausages, sauerkraut, and erm, beer. But it wasn’t all about food and drink and our attention quickly turned to more responsible matters.
Making a short presentation of our journey for the staff at Remedia
We were invited to share stories about our journey with the staff at Remedia, and this was followed by an interview for the Romanian television station Antenna3.
Turning heads and cameras
Not wanting to stop there though, we also made a short presentation at Automobile Bavaria Otopeni, who in return very graciously gave the bikes a much needed service. Emanuel and the team were fantastic to deal with and gave the bikes far more attention than they deserved – if you’re in Romania and on a BMW that needs some TLC, you can’t go wrong to pay them a visit. Really!
Meeting fellow adventure motorcyclists at Automobile Bavaria Otopeni
“Make life a ride” and share your ride tales with other BMW folk
My bike under the tender care of Automobile Bavaria’s mechanics
Our sincerest thanks to the team at Automobile Bavaria for their efforts!
These photos make our bikes look far more glamorous than they actually are…
…look closely at Drew’s indicator!
We did take the time to soak up some of the things Bucharest had to offer which included a walking tour of the city and a visit to the communist dictator Ceaușescu’s palatial residence. It was quite incredible to walk through this simple but opulent home, knowing that whilst occupied, people outside it’s walls were starving.
An unrestored section of wallpaper in Ceaușescu’s palatial residence – made out of gold!
Private cinema in the basement of the palace
Elena’s (Ceaușescu’s wife) wardrobe
A staircase inside the palace – fantastic mosaic tiling features throughout
They told us this was a spa…
Drew, signing an autograph for our palace tour guide, after she found out that we were on the TV
Ceaușescu began his rule as a popular leader and initially Romania prospered under his stewardship. His public condemnation of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 by other communist nations won favour in the US. This led to Romania’s membership in the International Monetary Fund from whom he proceeded to borrow a staggering $13 billion. The debts got out of hand, and determined to reign things in Ceaușescu decided to export everything. Needless to say when you export everything (and don’t import anything) people are going to run out of things to eat, and the once popular leader became the most hated man in the country. Remarkably though, just weeks before he was overthrown and executed, the debt was fully paid off – Romania remains the only country in the world to have achieved this.
With our media commitments behind us and our thirst for recent history quenched we got back on the bikes for Drew’s final leg to Vienna. During our trip planning one of the only roads we’d marked as a ‘must ride’ was the Transfagarasan, which crosses the Carpathian Mountains and was famously declared “the best road in the world” by Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. With a declaration like that, we’d be fools not to include it on our way west, right? Needless to say we were pretty heartbroken when we found out the road was officially closed still for the winter (yep, we were there in May!) and wouldn’t open until June. We met fellow overlander Florea Ionut (aka Jon, from Into The World) at Automobile Bavaria, and he mentioned that we might have more luck with the Transalpina. Sure, it hadn’t featured on a TV show, but we were assured it was no less spectacular. And that was all we needed; after a fantastic home cooked breakfast provided by our outstanding hosts in Bucharest we were back on the road again.
Our farewell breakfast – there was hardly any food and our stomachs were growling all day
And blow me down if Jeremy wasn’t barking up the right tree when talking about Romanian roads. Un-f&^king-believable! We didn’t even make it all the way over the Transalpina either, because it was still covered with a metre of snow! But we had bloody sensational time trying.
The Transalpina. That’s snow up there
And all of a sudden the snow’s pretty close
A lot of fun, but certainly not promising
We had so much fun in fact, that the following day we decided to try our luck from the other direction, knowing full well that we’d eventually hit the snowline again – we didn’t care, we just loved every kilometre on the roads of the Carpathians. Gorgeous green mountains, fantastic tarmaced roads, picture perfect villages and fantastic (and affordable) food made Romania our favourite country so far for motorcycling. If you like motorcycling, you will love Romania!
Our second attempt at the Transalpina. Sensational
Romania. Unbelievable motorcycling
Travelling through small Romanian villages
Like riding through a postcard
This town is called Carpenis. That is all
But all good things must come to an end as they say, and we needed to continue towards Hungary. My bike was determined to stay in Romania however. The morning of our last day a strange noise was coming from my bike’s alternator belt, and at times like these, it’s always comforting to travel with a bloke like Drew.
Initially planned as another transit country, we squeezed a night in Budapest in as our last hurrah as two Blokes – the following day would see us ride into Vienna where I’d be reunited with my wife, and Drew would depart to Australia to reunited with his. A vibrant city with incredibly rich culture and history, ironically we were both so tired from abusing our motorcycles in Romania that our last ‘big night out’ finished at around 9:30PM. History and culture came a boring second place to sleep.
On the streets of Budapest
Our first and last cocktail for the night
It’s a shame we weren’t feeling more energetic, because Budapest seemed to have a lot of potential
And so, with mixed feelings of achievement and sadness, the two of us saddled our bikes in Budapest for our final ride together on this epic adventure…