After 11 days in Northern Europe off the bike, Kyle had left his girlfriend in the London airport and caught a flight back to Rome, where his BMW was waiting for him. That day he rode it over 400Km to Bari, Italy where a ferry to Albania was waiting for him. Sparing no time he rushed across SE Italy, through Albania and up to Dubrovnik where the two Ricks agreed to meet. This whole process took only one and a half days, so little photos remain of this part of the voyage.
We will pick up in Dubrovnik, where the two were trying to save a bit of money by camping out in the hills above the city. A light drizzle fell on their tents as they slept, ushering them into the cold that was to come. Kit took a second to have some fun riding in the mud.
Dubrovnik is to Croatia what Forks is to Washington state. A city so caught up in a franchise that nearly its entire identity is associated with it, and will likely be for years to come. People (in the summer) will line up to pay $30 to “walk the walls of kings landing” and other associated touristic Game of Thrones things. We decided while the view undoubtedly would be lovely we would rather use that cash to pay for dinner for 3 nights so we saved that opportunity for when we sail there with our yacht.
After spending three nights drinking cheap wine, and planning our future excursions (actually more work than you would imagine) it was finally time to leave and make a quick side trip inland to Bosnia. We decided this (along with many other stretches of our journey) would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see places that we would 1: most likely never pay the money to visit again, and 2: would never have a motorcycle in these places even if we did. Therefore, even though the forecast called for light snow in Sarajevo 5 days in the future, we decided to risk it and cut inland.
Into the Cold and Wet
We were riding along following the google maps suggested route of entering Bosnia from Croatia, when suddenly Kit had a desire to see neighboring Montenegro. Kyle had just traversed the entirety of the country a few days prior, but was willing to add an extra hour to the journey to entertain Kit. The countries being so close together, it was simply a matter of going one valley further to the South and we were in another country.
While riding along, a light rain began to fall. Cutting up some switchbacks up the side of a very steep mountain, Kyle turned his motorcycle the same way he had dealt with thousands of other hairpins in the past. Unfortunately, not having dealt with pavement in the Balkans, his front wheel completely lost traction as if it was ice, and he crashed his motorcycle in the hairpin. We came to realize that pavement here was of a much greater hardness than that in America, and instead of wearing out and cracking, cars traveling over it polished the surface. Add a little bit of rain in the mix, as well as our knobby tires, and there was very little traction to be had. We proceeded to continue our way at a reduced pace to avoid any further mishaps.
Montenegro however proved to a beautiful detour nevertheless. After an hour and a half, through rapidly falling temperatures, the Ricks finally encountered the Bosnian border at a very remote border crossing. The very nice border guard casually explained “you cannot buy motor vehicle insurance at this border, but if you give me some cash, there is no problem, it is best for you I think”. It was a bit strange encountering such casual corruption, but we took him up on his offer (the next border crossing was easily hours away) and proceeded on our way to Sarajevo.
In the early 90s the ethnic Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats were fighting for control of Bosnia in the Bosnian war. At some point, the Bosniaks and Croats made an alliance to fight the Serbs. Eventually the war ended in a ceasefire (this is a massive simplification obviously), with the official name of the country being Bosnia and Herzegovina, but with a portion of the country being semi-autonomous under a “Republika Srpska” controlled by the opposing side. I was not surprised that when you enter the this part of Bosnia there is a giant sign telling you so.
It was relatively spooky riding through lands that only 25 or so years ago had experienced massive destruction and slaughter. I was interested to see what the reaction of the local populace would be after seeing our license plates from “Washington” (mistakenly D.C.), the place where all decisions for where the bombs of the United States would fall. After going through a police checkpoint in the middle of the night in Republika Srpska controlled territory, a place full of people that had been on the wrong side of the US Air Force, we realized that they were mostly just confused why we were there more than anything else. After chatting for a few moments about our trip, they wished us well and sent us on our way.
We rode through the night, facing temperatures in the high 30s, through Republika Srpska until we hit the border just on the other side of the river from Sarajevo, one of the bloodiest sites of the war. The city was under siege/blockade for nearly four years, three times longer than the Battle of Stalingrad, and the longest siege of a capital city in modern warfare. We expected to see some remnants of a siege of that length even today.
After making it to our AirBnB, we woke the next morning to see the city under daylight. It turns out that Sarajevo looked the same as any other Eastern European city. The tenacity for people to pick up the pieces and continue on with our lives certainly is a significant force in the world.
Kit desperately needed an oil change at this point, so he rode off out of town to a motorcycle shop that looked like it would 1: have decent oil, and 2: let him do the change himself. Again, an oil change turned into an oil change and a beer, and ended up taking several hours talking about life and sharing stories.
That night, we took the time to explore Sarajevo.
Kit got a few phone numbers of the guys at the motorcycle shop while he was getting an oil change, and caught wind of a Sunday morning dirtibke ride. Excited for the opportunity to ride motorcycles other than their big 650s, Kit and Kyle got up early for once and made their way down there. Waiting for them was 3 WR450F’s and Joseph. Noone else managed to wake up that morning, so we jumped on the Yamahas and rode into the woods.
A short while later we made our first stop, an old Refrigerated shipping container that had been turned into a house. We got the wood burning stove going and had a familiar time of shooting old yugoslav pistols and cooking meat.
Joseph had some 30 year plum brandy (called Rakyia) that his family continuously makes every year (to keep up with their consumption) and even though it was 10am we had a fair bit of that (to aid in the proper Bosnian woods experience). We continued to ride and take occasional breaks at cabins and other high points, interspersed by fun and easy dirtbiking through jeep two tracks.
Later in the day we met up with Josephs good friend (whos name escapes us at the moment) who proceeded to motorcycle alongside us (must have had a hard time getting up early). We spent the rest of the day in a nice rhythm of fast dirtbiking mixed with short stops to cook another snack.
We rode through the day and into the night, ending with a mountain home of another local friend of Josephs, who’s entire house was run off his car’s alternator. He left the car running outside while inside was a large party of friends and family eating from a table full of food. We were sat down and told to eat, and while we couldn’t understand what they were saying, everyone was excited to share how things were done here. Humbled by our generosity from all the Bosnians we met, we left with a new picture of how this part of the world really was.
Off to Serbia
The cold front that we were trying to outrun was now upon us, and the next morning we packed our bags and cut tracks even further south-east to Serbia. It was a miserable day of pouring rain, and instead of destroying the camera gear in the wet, the Ricks elected to trudge on without interruption.
A small break in the clouds allowed capture of a few choice photos of a place that looked like it could be very beautiful in the summer.
From here, it was on to Kosovo