Life on a KTM Adventure is much like life as a gigolo… I assume… much of the time one ride is much the same as any other.. going through the motions.. nothing special… same old same old… arriving on time … satisfied but not sated. Sometimes the ride will rock your world.. grab you by every nerve ending you have and shake you hard.. mirror every move you make in perfect synchrony and take you screaming over the line exhausted and bathed in sweat. Sometimes the ride will be lumpy, loose and uncomfortable.. unpredictable .. painful even.. accompanied by strange noises and unpleasant hot smells.. and sometimes you seriously wonder if you will get to the line without your riding partner expiring underneath you… This is the story of a KTM gigolo.
It all started so well. Me and one other ride out to Asia, meet a few others for a while then head to a far flung foreign port to ship the bikes home. I’ve got all the visas.. I’ve got the carnet .. everything is ready to go. Three days before I leave. I’ll just check where the engine number is. I know it will be checked against the carnet. I get down on my hands and knees and take a look..
OK then … I just lay on my back in the garage.. this could be a problem.. I bought the bike off a bloke that had it from new.. how the hell do I end up with a bike with no engine number.. apart from the obvious. Jesus.. I need a plan…
On my last trip to Russia I threw the bike down the road … well … sand.. and really crumpled and bent the pannier rails. Jesse rails are made from a cheese/chocolate alloy and you only have to fart near them and they bend .. even a small fart will do it. I asked around and found a fabricator in a shed just up the road that builds wings for airliners by night and helps restore old aircraft by day. I got him to copy my pannier rails but in 16mm solid steel bar.
Hard as nails… I also had him knock me up a rack to mount my spare tyres and make them easier to carry.
So.. Plan A.. call the fabricator with the engine number and dimensions of the area to cover .. he gives me a call with 1 day to go .. “ready”. I go and collect them and file the ends round ..
Stick it on ..
Well … that looks … ummmm. Maybe if it was a 1916 Sopwith Pup that would be believable but I don’t want some bored border guard with a huge moustache and a sharp pencil telling me to bugger off and refusing me entry, leaving me trying to get the bike back from the middle of bum fuck nowhere..
12 hours to go… I’ve got plans B to G but they’d all involve trying to find people to help me on the road .. then I have another thought. I actually know someone with access to an engraver don’t I? Yes I do. One phone call and a 20 minute journey and I’m getting some aluminium plates made..
That should be enough. I get some liquid metal and stick one of the plates on .. straight on the side of the cylinder .. in plain view.. give it as long as possible to get roughed up.. it will be fine… what could possibly go wrong.
It’s a sunny Sunday and I’m off again. I kiss my wife goodbye.. just like I was going to the shops… I won’t speak to her for a while… We have a pact when I’m away. I don’t call unless I have added significant shit to a far flung foreign fan. She is happier to believe I’m riding in lovely warm sunshine all day every day on good roads with absolutely no other traffic.. and who am I to tell her otherwise..
I meet my riding buddy on the M25, go to Folkestone, take the train..
This trip is not my usual format. We have a vague plan and we have particular places we need to be at particular times but the rest of the time we will just be winging it… that and I’m taking the kicking in my own pocket this time. I’m keen to run the wallet raping gauntlet of Europe ASAP.. fast forward … just a blur of tarmac and beds. It’s just like re-reading the first chapter of my favourite book ..
First stop Reims, a beautiful city, but the stop is outside in an industrial area that could be anywhere, the usual collection of anonymous buildings and fast food outlets .. and an instantly forgettable pink hotel….F1 themed .. it’s the pits .. next..
Berlin .. an Air BnB south of the city. Put the bike in the motorway slot.. pull the trigger .. hold it down
Christ traveling through Europe overland is expensive.. all the service stations seem to have gone the way of BMW garages .. splashing loads of cash of expensive chrome and ducting and ‘themes’ .. and green plastic cows .. then having to charge shit loads to pay for it all.. Jesus.. I feel a rant coming on .. I was talking to a bloke in B&Q a while ago about this .. ‘read The Age of Absurdity by Michael Foley’ .. so I did.. ‘Buy more shit or we’re all fucked’ seems to be the general theme..
Anyway ..on these trips I have must admit I have a drinking problem.. and the further from home I go.. the worse it gets… “Hello… my name’s Jason.. and I’m a Milkaholic”. I cannot resist it. Ideally I would take a friendly Friesian with a huge set of udders as a pillion.. that would be perfect… At home I probably drink 3/4 pints a day, maybe more. How many calcium units is that? Whatever it is I certainly qualify as a binge drinker. So whenever I see it .. I buy it .. and never one at a time ..
Get to the AirBnB and meet our host Zoltan. Zoltan.. I was expecting a Heinz or Ernst, not Zoltan. Such is the diversity of Europe that Zoltan is from Hungary. He is a mechanical engineer and works in the car industry. We’re chatting about engines and I ask him about the shallow pistons on the Ktm.. “Oh… they’re good.. but they’re not a long term solution” .. that my friend is just exactly what I want to hear as I head off into the wilderness on a bike with an engine of seemingly unknown provenance and mileage .. thanks.
Someone has knocked the s off of beds .. its a double. My riding buddy booked it.. ..a bit presumptuous.. this is only our second night together .. oh well.. what happens on tour .. next..
I get up and before we set off I have to have a word with my wallet. It’s run away and hidden in my socks. It’s sitting there quivering in fear and it won’t come out. It knows today it’s going to be subjected to toll torture and vignette hell and it doesn’t want to go. All I can do is promise it will be over soon and that I will treat it a lot more gently in a few days .. just tickle it with pretty foreign currencies .. not stick my fist up its arse and pull huge sums out kicking and screaming the way they do at the toll booths… its not convinced.. it won’t come out so I grab the sock and shake it until it pops out and starts running round the room like a mouse dropped from a cat’s mouth .. desperately looking for sanctuary.. I feel it’s pain ..
Out of Berlin in the soft morning light and south over the mountains on roads paved with gold .. or at least they should be .. through long tunnels lined with €500 notes down into the beauty of Slovakia and across to small village outside Zagreb.
Whatever the flavour.. whatever the price .. it has to me mine.. the true sign of addiction
My buddy booked the room tonight .. twin beds .. we must have fallen out .. or I’m not as good as I thought I was ..
Croatia is shut today .. national holiday .. bollocks .. how am I going to get my milk? I wasn’t prepared for this.. maybe I can find a doctor … get some condensed milk on prescription .. just to take the edge off..
The woman renting us the room see’s I’m in trouble.. she can see me sweating and shaking .. she knows I’m close to an episode .. so she drives to her mum’s house and gets me some milky medicine.. it’s warm .. not the way I like it .. but I’m in no position to complain.. phew .. that was close..
Wake up.. walk out the room .. someone has been in and stuck some adverts on the doors … looks like milk addiction therapy to me .. something I’d definitely be interested in anyway ..
Out and south we go. Croatia is weird country.. all concentrated on the coast it seems.. like Canada is concentrated along the border. Out in the middle there isn’t much of anything.. and we’re going through the middle.. It’s getting hot now.. proper hot..stupid hot.. why the hell am I wearing leathers hot. Stop just shy of the Bosnia border for some lunch. Time to start introducing random brown slop to my diet and they have just the thing on the menu.
Get down to the first border of the trip.. this is going to be a theme for the next few days. Sweating in hot queues of metal, finding your way round a maze of windows.. filling in forms .. the Bosnia border is pretty straight forward though. Insurance is mandatory so go to the nana-in-a-box first and flash some dollars then a quick stamp and on our way towards Sarajevo.
It’s only day three .. time for a problem by now surely .. do I have to wait until I’m properly in the middle of the desert .. surely the shit and happens brothers are travelling with me.. I’m sure I saw their visas somewhere .. ahhhhh here they are … that Christ for that ..
Traffic is crawling as we approach Sarajevo and the Bitch is getting hot. Proper hot. This shouldn’t be happening hot. The fan is running constantly but the bars are still going up. Then I just stall it … just for a laugh .. I choose the biggest busiest junction obviously .. why not .. I’ll just press this little button and all will be well .. ok.. I’ll just press it again… ooooooooooooooo … look at all these amber lights … soooooooo pretty …. The Bitch refuses to start.. and then she starts warning at me that if I press that button one more time she’s going to start self harming .. I don’t even read the messages .. My mind is already into ‘oh shit’ mode and going through getting the bike home from here.. There are a few other warning lights on now too so I just push the bike through the traffic .. only stopping briefly to have an argument with a fat hairy munter that had fallen out of an ugly tree, hit all the branches, then gone up for another 5 goes .. and throw it in the gutter … its a good job I’m not on the side of a mountain .. it could easily be at the bottom by now … BITCH.. The trouble is she is possessed by the devil… FACT
I was having some issues with her when I was preparing for the trip .. I’d had enough .. time to put her out of my misery .. so I took her up the road to an abandoned building… filled the place with petrol … set fire to it .. came back in the morning and this is what I found..
Untouched … i expected to find some baby dragons in the ashes … all she wants to do is screw with my mind ..
So I give her 10 minutes.. approach her quietly with my head bowed and my hands pressed together and press the starter… success. Warning lights are still on and she’s running like a pig but we get down to the hotel and I leave it outside half hoping it will be gone in the morning. Go for a walk round Sarajevo old town… I’ve been through here before and I really like it. It has history and atmosphere and bullet holes seeping out of the walls.. and beautiful women everywhere you turn.. I spent a lot of time turning .. no pictures though .. I feel like I’ve definitely gone through the perv age threshold .. from ‘daddy’ to ‘grandad’..
Not sure about the food though.. I think this one has come straight from the pavement to the plate ..
Get up in the morning and the Bitch is still outside. There are scorch marks on the surrounding pavement where I presume she has torched prospective thieves just to amuse herself in the night .. whatever .. she seems to be back to normal self … another of her mind fuck tricks .. so we head off out into the countryside towards Serbia.
Bosnia is a very beautiful country in parts. Lakes and mountains and huge meadows full of wild flowers.. good roads too
Stop for coffee ..cake .. and a caress for my helmet ..
Out of Bosnia, into Serbia and on towards Belgrade.. just another big collection of concrete and tarmac chaos .. It’s proper PROPER hot and we’re stopping every 10m for cold drinks .. we stop at a petrol station and I go in to buy some cold coffee .. another one of my addictions .. and always purchased in multiples ..
There is a really unusual looking girl behind the counter and I ask her if I can take her picture.. she looks like a cat .. she must have the smallest mouth I’ve ever seen .. I think one lipstick would last her a lifetime .. she won’t have it though .. she just flicks her tail, hisses and scratches her nails down the curtains .. very strange .. lovely coat though ..
I remember Belgrade as being a wild west style city with out of control traffic and real edgy vibe about it but I think it’s got it act together now, tied it shoelaces properly, straightened its tie, sorted out it’s behaviour and been for an interview at the EU headmasters office about joining the club… its a real shame.. still I did manage to get over myself for a few minutes and get the tottieometer out ..
I’m out hunting for milk.. but I find a motorbike… an old Honda previously owned by a monk .. the current rider used to be friends with the (now) monk and bought it recently as a ‘non-runner’.. that hadn’t been turned over for the last 20 years. He poured oil down the plug holes and gently teased it back and forth over a few weeks until it was free.. then it just started. He’s polished it within an inch of it’s life and it sounds lovely… not for me though.. far too reliable..
Serbia seems to have nothing of the natural beauty of Bosnia but it’s an interesting place none the less. The buildings the Americans bombed back in 1999 are still ‘as was’ .. sitting as a reminder to behave themselves. We’re come to a small town and it’s at least 20m since the last drink so we stop in the town square and immediately get invited for a coffee from a man celebrating his birthday. He’s in the army and says he remembers riding a scooter down this road and having a cruise missile fly just over his head and hit the base just a couple of 100m from where we’re sitting.. lucky he wasn’t early for work that day ..
Just like all my other addictions .. I like pairs ..
I’m hoping to meeting my old mate Brian in Sofia today. Get to the Bulgarian border and it’s a car park. I have a real problem at borders overcoming my British gene.. I feel I have to queue.. it’s a compulsion.. I just cannot help it. My travel buddy isn’t affected by this problem and would happily push in at the front but we agree on a compromise and push in half way..
The Bitch is getting hot again. Yesterday coming into Serbia she was glowing red .. proper pissed.. and she has started loosing coolant now too. This time I pushed her through the border in 37 degrees and full leathers .. I’m sure I could see her smirking ..
Down to Sofia and another game of spot the difference .. one city merging into the next .. we’re moving fast.. eyes on a destination over the horizon..
Get to the hotel.. knock on the door next to mine and Brian appears. My old mate has been down to Greece and is on his way back. Always good to see him. He never looks a day older .. he’s always looked 95 ..
Out and heading south.. we’re looking for breakfast .. and at last we see signs of leaving Euroland ..
That and the fact that MacDonalds don’t do breakfast here..
Stop for fuel and I see a woman who is not exactly hiding the fact that her jumper lumps are straining at their leash .. her nipples are in danger of popping off like champagne corks .. perhaps if I just gently wiggle them between my thumb and finger ..
Out of Bulgaria and into Turkey. I’m carrying a drone and I’m not sure it’s allowed so I hide it .. somewhere they’ll never look .. unless they have a special drone sniffing dog .. I always worry though .. it’s like Midnight Express .. are they going to feel my heartbeat .. see the pulse in my neck … hell no .. the bloke just remotely inspects them from his chair in the shade .. and we’re away.. the gateway to Asia
Time to get started ..Next – Turkey, Georgia and armenia