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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

***flashback series*** - budapest breakdown
So there I was, tootling down a bumpy Budapest road on my way into the city to perform some tourist juties when the hog's roar dropped to an idle. My first dead throttle cable! how exciting! I rolled to a stop and cursed a little. Luckily I had a spare cable - but after a couple of SMS's to Joern back in Germany I was a little more worried. I had to find a way of terminating the carburettor end of the cable with something, damm! I surveyed the area and ended up locking the scoot behind a shop owner's hedge and then hit the street in search of parts.

If anyone wants to know a little more about the streets of Budapest, check out this article from the Budapest blurb, Pestiside: http://www.pestiside.hu/archives/king_of_tabs_crowns_king_of_pothotles002052.php#more

Cut to a day later, walking through the Pest side of Budapest, scanning shopping centres, circulating train stations, jumping from overcrowded bus to bus, yearning for a shop that might hold a tiny tube of brass to clamp around the end of a new throttle cable so that I can continue my journey towards Croatia. I argued with a chap in a large suburban bicycle shop that he must have some sort of terminating clamp for the end of the various bike cables that he sold. He eventually caved in and found some brass tubing - and after waving some forints in his face he was out the back with a hacksaw cutting some small sections for me. These pieces turned out to be no good as I didnt have the correct crimping tool (so they broke) and they also needed to be soldered (didnt carry a soldering iron in my toolkit).

Cut to the next day. I walked back into a small downstairs hardware fixings shop, still mortified from the previous day's claim that they didnt have a little nut and bolt with a hole through the bolt. I walked up to the chap and motioned for a pen and paper - he knew the drill from yesterday. I proceeded to draw the best damm bolt with a hole through it diagram that ever was - even better than the previous days effort. He smiled, pointed to the sky with realisation, walked over to a set of drawers, and pulled a couple out. He was my saviour. At this point I recieved a message from Sean, my Budapest night time tour guide, and alcoholic advisor. He too had been helping out on my scooter fixing goals, and his SMS read something like this.

'Try the place at 168 vaci ut. Blue line metro to gyongyosi u. Station in direction of ujpest. Then walk back towards centre of town about 600m. It's on the right in a big courtyard complex of stores... Mechanic is way at the back in standalone grey shed, junked scooter by door.'

If only I knew what he was talking about.

Monday, October 31, 2005

bring it on home
Ive finally landed back in the land of vegemite and crocs with a swag of stories and associated grey hairs so it must be awards time. In no particular order: #1 German: Frank Bremer, #1 Canadian: Sean Jordan, #1 Country: Hungary, Country with best roads: Germany, Country most likely to destroy travel budget: France, Country with the least internet cafe's: Slovakia, City with the shittiest locals: Prague, Country most likely to cause hypothermia: France, Area containing the most annoying homeless drunks within a square km: Croatia/Split/Ferry Terminal. Hopefully ill find the time and inclination to update the blog to include further details of o/s insanity, just dont hold your breath.

For those of you who demand more, and want some in depth no holds barred analysis of the inner workings of my squash where I tell it like it is, check out the great Budapest Zine Pestiside and their interview with yours truly at: http://www.pestiside.hu/archives/the_pestiside_instant_interview_drew_milne_ramblin_vespa_guy001609.php

Final statistics; kms travelled: 6086+, total time moving: 124hrs, moving average: 49.0kh, maximum speed: 102kh, max kms travelled in one go without sleep (stupid): 1100+, snickers bars consumed: unknown, mars bars consumed: unknown.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

lack of updates update
There are reportedly two computers in Slovakia (not counting calculators). Unfortunately for me one was being used, and the other had its box modified to plow a field, thus my lack of blog updates. Ive covered about 1900kms since heading off from Kiel, and had just as many adventures. Im currently in Budapest, in awe of their buildings, traffic and road surfaces, dodging pedestrians and sliding down cobbled roads. I hope to update this blog with reports of said good times and misadventure but there will be unavoidable delay. Remember to scroll down as new entries will be in histerical order. Drew out.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

dresden dolls
After an amazingly successful unplanned tour of Berlins sights via my GPS's 'hints' to Dresden, (The Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie) I was back on the road heading towards.. Dresden! The countryside was tops. At one point I came over a hill and saw a mass of power generating windmills, common in Germany but I lost count at 30, (I was also negotiating potholes). There must have been roughly 150 of them on the horizon. I hit Dresden in the dark being chased down by anxious Germans on their way home from a hard day um.. windmill spotting, or whatever they do. It was bleak, almost damp, and uninviting but I somehow hit a great spot and found a nice hostel. After unpacking the hog and giving the hostel staff a laugh with my version of travelling it was time to explore. Dresden was heaving bombed during WW2 - but some of the roads looked like they were bombed last week. It was a bit of a mess but still had great night life. (Cut to drinking, chatting to wierdo's, stumbling, sleeping).

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

berlin breakdown #1
No Vespa ride through Europe would be complete without a vehicle manfunction in perfect weather, at a perfect time in a perfect location. After battling German drivers on some nice quick roads with no 'off' or 'side' roads on my way to Potsdam / Berlin the clutch cable decided to give up upon entering a small town. I rolled to a stop in a small parking area and took the scoot apart & tried to replace the cable. The 10 minute job took about 30 (my first time) and I was helped by a nice old German chap who introduced me to his toothless wife and let me use some high octane German soap. I bid him adieu (wrong country but I didnt care), and scootled towards Berlin & the mass of traffic that the city has constantly circling its spread out burbs. I GPS'd my way into confusion circling 1 way streeted high rise housing until I found my Berlin contacts apartment block. Maren seemed a nice host and after a quick hello & how do you do she was off with her man to the movies and I was left with her keys to her apartment which housed the smallest bathroom I have ever seen. It existed, and it shouldnt have, in the space of a tiny green hallway, amazing. I was shocked and gracious. After that there was the usual beer, drunken street exploration, a kebab and sleep, yada yada. Berlin's great!

Monday, September 19, 2005

east deutchland
After freezing my toblerones off at the campsite it was time to head for Berlin. Berlin was roughly 150ks away (in a straight line), but id be using tiny circulating roads via GPS so it could be more than double when factoring in wrong turns, bad roads & chaos. This ride was a tricky one with roadsworks closing off towns, major diversions, and roads that continually seemed to be turning back towards where I originated. At one point I headed through a town that seemed to fade into nothing and I ended up scooting between fields and on to an obvious ex-commi town full of bad cobbled roads, wandering livestock and the obligitory toothless old hag. Old walls, checkpoints and abandoned buildings all pointed to a run down border town dead to the new world. My GPS batteries were on the blink and fuel was low but I just managed to find my way out in time. I ended up reaching Berg and other industrial commi-hellscapes and scrambled just enough in the dark to reach a nice little pension in a cosy town (until a gaggle of guys on scooters turned the main road into a dragstrip at about 11pm). The old lady of the property and I exchanged laughs, shrugs, and pointing and I ended up having a really good steak I didnt really want before going to bed amongst the squealing of adolescent scoot hoons outside. Ahh Germany!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

autobahns = big wobbles
Frank, Jenny and their neighbour Paul (read nudge) all gasped and laughed after viewing the laden hog. The damm thing looked a handful and was. Backpack tied to the rear, tent & sleeping bag up front, box on the back. It was roughly 10am when I wobbled off from Kiel towards Lubeck and misadventure. It felt like I was riding a vanilla slice, not the Balfours type but the large wobbly variety found in country towns. My Italian stallion shook and coughed its way through the field roads of Northern Germany east towards Lubeck and then south towards Hamburg once Lubeck was confirmed as a bit of a hole (at least the parts I saw). The GPS worked brilliantly and I arrived somewhere 50km east of Hamburg with a handful of euros, just enough for a camping platz outside Lauenberg. Cards werent accepted for the on site restaurant and the town was way off in the dark so I spent the night with a bottle of water, a toblerone and a bunch of local flies beside a lake, only waking up to shiver and tighten the scarf around my head.. cold brr. First time camping (ever) and hopefully the last.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

vee have vays of making you vait
After getting a great little tour of the portside area of Kiel on the wing of Frank's sidecar it was once again time to hang on to the metal tubing as Frank threw the BMW based beast around the wet streets on the way to the registration office. Vehicle registration in Germany is a big ass run around bring joggers deal, this is how it goes. Firstly the prospective lience owner, in this case Frank, must produce the paperwork signed by the seller stating that the vehicle has been sold. Frank must then provide proof of character and address. At this point he is given an official piece of paper stating the alpha numeric and numerical information of the plate. This information must be then taken to a plate maker - which are outside businesses - usually residing in a neighbouring street. Once the plate is created and paid for it must be returned to the registration office where the first person who issues the plate information has a look at it. Then its off to another office within the registration department where a chap measures the characters on the plate and applies the county stickers. This is then taken to the first office where everything is re-checked and an invoice is issued. The invoice must then be paid at another office. Ahh, good ol' sterically logical Deutschland. Pfft.

Friday, September 16, 2005

ok, so its not a *big* bike
Wednesday promised a lot, and delivered even more. Frank and I jumped in the pickup truck - I headed for the wrong side as usual, "Who put a steering wheel over here?" and we headed to Jorn's place in Flensburg, a northern German city bordering Denmark (and hypothermia). Jorn was a top chap, very willing to help out with my journey and the scoot was seductively waiting for me in a large club room amongst jealous 50, 80, 150, 200cc machines. We loaded the scoot aboard the truck, well the guys did, I was too busy snapping away with the camera, and then someone decided to go to Denmark for a quick sidetrip. What? A foreign country? aww I just got my scooter and we didnt have time for that! Anyway, Denmark was similar to Flensburg, perhaps because it was just across the road and I was quickly ushered to a hot dog stand on the side of a coastal highway in the middle of nowhere for a Denmark speciality. Great hot dogs! After a bit of chatting about the wacky tax system in Denmark it was time to head back. Frank and I dropped of Jorn, bid him farewell, and headed for Kiel with the 200cc Italian stalian strapped aboard. All was going nicely to plan. Frank christened my hog with a quick run up and down a small country lane between fields and he officially declared it wobbly, and my decision to use it crazy, I declared it a success! Frank, being the ever logical German, disallowed any running on roads as it was yet to be registered and insured, I was a bit pissed but he was right and registration wasnt far off. The hot dog was great, the guys were understanding of my insanity, and even the Denmark supermarkets had packaged food with vikings on the front! It was almost more than I could handle.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

frank the man
Frank, the man for all occasions. Bike traveller extroadinaire, sidecar flipper, paperwork hero. Everyone needs someone like Frank to help them out on an o/s expedition. He gave hints on locations, road sign reading, Australian lingo (he's been to Australia twice and spent a year travelling around it on his sidecar with his girlfriend Jenny), he even talked his way into me getting some leather pants (you know what I mean). Frank showed me the sights on his sidecar, helped me pick up the scooter from Jorn in Flensburg, gave advice on motorbike gear and everything else, forced me to eat too much German food and was even handy with a sewing machine. A German, never leave home without one.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

to hamburg
After returning from the GP to Liege I bid Vanessa, Laurent and their hometown farewell and headed back to the train station for 8 hours of Liege to Hamburg hell. The day's GP activities and a taxi ride that resembled a police chase had me in dire need of some sleep. Ok, so it said 'sleeping car' on the paperwork, but what I really paid the extra 10€ for amounted to a shelf with an old pillow. In addition to that, I was tired and frustrated and stressed about losing my worldy posessions of 2 bags whilst I slept on a.. ledge. I ended up wedging the gear as best I could under my feet and knees. This in turn gave the strange sensation of having a lot of blood at the top of my body, and little at the end, not the ideal way to sleep. Somehow, I managed to get myself and my goodies to Hamburg without screaming through stress or falling off the 'shelf'. Once there I staggered around a little, put my bits in a station locker, and took a bus tour of the city and waited to make contact with Frank in Kiel. I also had to contend with a lady in a public bathroom who was against my decision of brushing my teeth in a public area, she finally relented, argh. By this stage I was sick of inner cities and train stations and having to pay 50c to use the can. I needed my own wheels, and luckily they were just around the corner.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

belgium grand prix
The Belgium GP was everything I was informed of and more! More people, more mud, more expense, more amazement, and more strange transportation logistics than I thought possible. The day started like any other, a trip to the local train station, confused looking locals perplexed at my ramblings, and the ever present 1 or 2 english speaking people who were on my wavelength. For the trip to the Francorchamps circuit in southern Belgium I came across a British father and son team, (with a Mercedes banner in hand) at a train platform and I tailed them from train to train like a shadowy sponge until I reached the circuit. Once at the circuit it all looked like it was going to shit. The Brazilian supporters had just gotten off the top of the train station to circuit bus (apparently being inside the bus wasnt 'Brazillian enough' for them), and it was foggy and raining. The 2km, 4€ bus ride to the circuit and the 4 person Brazillian boombox took its toll, and now I had no cash for a ticket and no money exchange was open, typical. As everyone trudged off in the rain towards the gates I did what any sane person would do, I entered the pub on the main street of Francorchamps and voiced my pains. 5 minutes later I was being shuttled to the circuit gate (which was a few km's off), with cash in hand and the pub hotel owners umbrella. Apparently the chap has a thing for Australians, and when he saw my passport it was like I was a mysterious god, a god from a land of kangaroos and gum leaves. The young chap driving the minivan weaved his way through the whordes of race goers, Lamborghini's and mud and dropped me off right at the gate. After that it was back to fending for ones self. I stood out in the rain, paid 3€ (5.50AU$) for tiny cans of coke or fosters (who the hell drinks that stuff) and did my best not to strangle 10yr olds with airhorns. The circuit was great, the cars looked great on a purpose built circuit and the local supporters, oh how they loved to urinate on the fences surrounding the circuit.
On the way back I dropped off the brolly at the pub, caught the bus to the train station and then came across a Sydney couple living in London who had come over for the race and tailed them back to Liege. It was nice having a bit of Australiana for a change, and it was hard to keep up with the conversation through lack of practice.. ugh.

Monday, September 12, 2005

as liege is in wallonie, does that make its inhabitents wally's?
After getting rooted around by the insanely fast star trek doors on the 'USS Train to Liege' from Frankfurt and having to get off at Brussels instead I arrived back in Liege after the unplanned side trip a few hours later than planned. I was met there by Vanessa and Laurent, a bonza couple of locals I had contacted earlier about accomodation. As they had both travelled and lived elsewhere, Vanessa being German\Dutch and Laurent being a French speaking Belgium\itsy bit Italian, they had great perspective of Belgium and the social settings in Liege. I saw lots of Liege culture, including mayonaise, mayonaise, chips and more mayonaise followed by some meatballs. I stayed for about 4 days with these guys in their riverview apartment and saw a lot of the town, the music scene, some touristy spots and had a great time overall. They also did their best to stink out my clothes with their tobacco leaf, but it was well worth it. They are both heavily into music and the local music scene and were great people to chat to about pretty much everything. Note to self: a gift of vegemite could be misconstrued as an act of war.
(Photo of Vanessa and Laurent stinking out my clothes)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Some 26 hours later I arrive in the land of erm.. concrete and Mercedes from what I can tell. Frankfurt is a little like an 80's 3 series BMW. It comes in grey, greenish grey and more grey and appears functional if not a little bland.

Blog of revelations.
1. Never squat down whilst wearing a laden backpack in public or you'll end up looking like a retarded turtle. Although legs in the air and subsequent full second of adrenaline will cure some jet lag.
2. Be certain the bus driver knows you want to go to the city and not the city motel - which is nowhere near the city, go figure.
3. If you need to use a pc it wont have a querty keyboard. Dont get used to it as every keyboard manufactured for use in Europe has its key positions assigned by random.
4. When you´ve had your fill of the German tap beer at the local Australian pub (it looked enticing after 25 hours of flights) and your ready to pay and wobble off down the street make sure the chap at the bar doesnt confuse ´pay now?´ with ´another round chap!´ or you'll need your GPS.

Monday, August 15, 2005

full bike licence
Hoorar! I just passed my full bike licence test - which now lets me run anything up to a 250cc for the first year, and beyond that, any bike of any capacity. I decided to do the 4 hour scrape n rate lesson and test on a twist n go auto 150cc Honda scooter which was completely different to the Vespa that I was now familiar with. I thought going auto would have my licence in the bag but the Honda's disc brakes felt a little cushy and overpowered and there was quite a lot of slack in the throttle from idle to go, and this took a while to master. I might have been better off on a normal motorbike but luckily I got through without crossing any of the maginot lines. Now I'm fully legal.. which is fully sick.. ahh peace of mind.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

vespa found
This lucky little metallic red PX200 was found through a contact of a contact in Flensburg, which is roughly 100km north of Hamburg and close to Kiel. Flensburg is not to be confused with the more northern Flembsburg (which is colder and causes even more mucus). Its done minimal k's and has some slight scratches and scrapes, a little like me, so its perfect for the tourist who wants to blend in and not have his scooter stolen (totally like me). Its currently owned by Jörn, the Flensburg Vespa Club President. Jörn's agreed to give it a good looking over and add a front rack before I pick it up - what a champ! Not sure at this stage if ill get a lockable box for the back or a backpack to tie down or both or what. If the little scoot knew what was in store for it it would probably rust from fear.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

bike practice
I've had the chance to ride some nice 2 wheeled machinery over the last few months. Bikes include a few Honda CBR 250RR's, one a very nice Repsol Honda replica. And as far as scooters go i've had some good weekend drives on a bonza ex South Australian postie 200cc Vespa PX. No mail was delivered, but some mono's were nailed. Many thanks to Greg, a neighbour of mine, for letting me swap my MX5 for his scoot for these days - I dont think he minded as now he's after an MX5 of his own. Thanks also to the Adelaide Hills. Rain, fog, below 10 temperatures, the region have delivered it all and as the Vespa PX 200 is the model on my German hitlist, im halfway there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

blog updating via sms
I've just realised that I can update this blog via an sms from anywhere - as long as I have phone coverage. All I need is global roaming enabled on my phone so I can SMS a UK service that converts sms's to emails, (emails can be converted to blog entries through this blog setup). Ill be limited to 160 or so characters, but if im nowhere near a pc its a good way for me to write things down before I forget them, and ill be able to edit and expand upon them later. Things such as "out of $$'s dad, down 2 my lst cabbage, plz send $$'s" can now easily get through! Hooray for technology and its limitless pointlessness.

Friday, July 15, 2005

mein deutscher freund!
Finally! In a country of about 80 million I've finally found someone who will help me out with registering and insuring a scooter. Preferably a Vespa PX 200 or Vespa Cosa 200 which seem to be plentiful in Germany (as far as German EBay goes). The chap's name is Frank and he lives in Kiel which is in Northern Germany, just north of Hamburg. Frank's an avid traveller and biker so he knows the in's and out's of travelling via bike, he has some contacts in the scooter scene, and importantly has insight into German paperwork! Frank isn't exactly into poofy scooters, but he respects and does his best to drive around them on the roads (if he can be arsed). Frank is pictured below helping out an American with his journeys. Many thanks go to him, (the saviour not the yank).

Thursday, June 30, 2005

easy rider - getting my L's
Day 1
Motorbike training day 1 was a success. I was a bit unsure about it all, but the Honda CB250's that were provided were well prepped, good fun to ride and very predictable, and the instructors were great. I even got to step onto an automatic Honda 150 scooter which was sparklingly clean and under 10 click's old. The thing was a tight little rocket, but so easy to ride that I quickly jumped back on a CB250 from fear of losing all the gear changing and clutch work that I had just got my little head around. There were no reported casualties from the 8 or so relatively fresh riders, myself included. We all had a good time with the instructers, and even enjoyed an early 80's yanky instructional video of a talking bike! My chosen Honda however, much to my disgust, couldn't talk.
Day 2
Yesterday the bikes seemed a little easier to ride, and my head was a little more in tune with the clutch and gears. Today however, I kept my tally of stuff ups for the test below the fail factor of 10 and received my bike L's! I won't go into details, like the fact that I screwed up enough to amass 9 points and nearly didnt make it. Ill just put it down to lack of sleep. 'What do you mean look through the corner more? its a painted white line and I can see exactly where it goes!' .

Sunday, June 26, 2005

uploading photos to the blog
Ok, just putting the blog through some testing. It appears that I can upload images, straight from a pc - which could be connected to my digicam. Convenient for being on the road. The geek in me is overjoyed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

van dieman for sale
Ive just put my VD RF91 (no its not a disease) up for lease/sale and several people have popped up and are showing some interest. They'll all drag their feet, offer me pitifully small amounts, and squabble over boxes of crud, but it does look as though my widdle green bucket of pride n joy could be heading off to start a new chapter of its life. Its a little sad that it must be sacrificed for a greater good, and ill have to get another single seater at some point. If anyone's interested in a very nice Van Dieman RF91 it can be viewed at: http://www.fiatlancia.asn.au/vd91/

Monday, June 20, 2005

This blog has been created to help me document my upcoming o/s trip. Hopefully this is the first of many posts if I manage to line up about 12 ducks and make it o/s for said trip. Im still yet to decide upon my final itinerary but ill make sure its all included here when available. This blog won't capture anything but news that is soley trip related. Ill blurb about my adventures, take some photos and we'll all have a dandy time (at my expense, pain and suffering). Watch this space readoids.