Sunday, 23 September 2012

Munich & Gut Aiderbichl

By Sanne

Our next stop was Munich where we were to visit Kevin, a guy we met in Thailand back in December last year. He was at the time studying in Singapore and was doing a trip around Thailand, Laos and Cambodia during his break from uni. Then when he finished his studies in Singapore earlier this year he packed up his motorbike and rode all the way back to Germany! We just missed each other in Pakistan so he insisted we come see him at his home in Munich when we got to that part of the world - which we did.

It was great to see him again and to exchange stories of our adventures on the road - especially his ordeal of getting his bike across the landslide lake in northern Pakistan - a mission we deemed too risky but one he had no choice to avoid as he had to get to the Chinese border. Although we were disappointed to learn that we were two weeks early for October Fest (and Mark seriously considering whether he should come back on a flight) we still had a good time here. Well, we went to the Dachau concentration camp which of course was very depressing...Well, what can you say? It's a black mark on the history of Europe and a terrifying example of what evil human kind are capable of committing.

Kevin also took us to see "The Wave" which apparently is a very popular contraption with surfers coming from all over the world to surf this stationary wave in an ice cold river in the city centre. He also took us to some motorcycle stores where Mark bought a new rain jacket and we both bought some inner gloves (the Northern European weather is pretty cold!)

After Munich we went east into Austria where we visited a farm animal sanctuary outside Salzburg called Gut Aiderbichl. It is located on a really beautiful property with green rolling hills. Here an Austrian man, Michael Aufhauser has created a sanctuary for rescued animals providing them with the love and care they never knew. It is my dream to create something similar one day so I was very curious to visit this one. It was an amazing experience to see farm animals walk around freely and be free to just BE without the fear of slaughter and mistreatment. I think it's safe to say that in the world we live in today, the majority of farm animals never get the chance to experience this. It is also a great opportunity for children to meet a farm animal as most children (and adults alike) will never in their lifetime get to interact with a farm animal. How easy is it then to disassociate with the animal on your plate? One animal that especially caught my eye was a little dairy calf who had (as all dairy calves) been taken away from his mother not long after birth and taken to the sales yards to be sold for slaughter. A waste product of the dairy industry he stood alone and scared in the sales yard where he was bought by his rescuers who took him to Gut Aiderbichl. When I saw him he stood alone in a little grassy enclosure and looked so vulnerable and confused. In the natural world he would have suckled from his mother for several months even up to a year. For me he was not a piece of meat, but simply a baby without his mother.

After Gut Aiderbichl we went to a nearby forest to look for a place to camp. While cooking some dinner a young family came past and started talking to us. We hadn't spoken more than literally five minutes before they said: "We know this might be a bit fast but do you guys want to come back and stay at our house tonight?" The thought of a bed and a warm shower sounded too good to turn down and they seemed like really nice people. They were Klaus and Rachael and their two children. Klaus is from Austria and Rachael is from Israel and they just moved back to Austria after living in a Kibbutz in Israel for many years. It was amazing to have complete strangers invite us into their home just like that. It has happened many times now but it still warms my heart every time :)

The message that greeted prisoners upon arriving at Dachau:
Arbeit Macht Frei = Work makes you free

The Wave

Kevin and Mark

In front of Kevin's apartment in Munich

Gut Aiderbichl

This fella used to be an act in a circus

The little dairy calf

This content pig was enjoying a few rays of sunshine

And I found myself a new friend (then he started eating my pants!)

Did you know that pigs are more intelligent than dogs?

This little polar fox was going to end up as part of a fur coat before he was rescued

Mark also found some new friends

Such beautiful animals are deers

Lots of rescued donkeys here, especially from Greece

I think this goat saw itself as a cow!


Cooking up a storm in the forest

Klaus, Rachael and their two children whose names I'm really sorry I can't remember!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

On the road again...definitely!

By Mark

We finally made it out of France with no problems, happily also for Francis who was probably hoping that he would no longer get anymore distress calls from us wanting a place to stay.
Our aim was to get out of France, cross Switzerland and make it back into Italy to camp the night. It would have been good to be able to spend some more time in Switzerland but with the ridiculous prices of everything we chose to push on. After an unscheduled stop in France for 2 weeks we felt the need to cover some distance.

The weather was great and it was an awesome feeling to be making miles again, to be back in the saddle is where we feel most happy, to stay in a place for a while is always great but to be in a new place every day is a feeling we love most and hard to describe to people who have not experienced this before. Travelling on a whim with no real sense of where you will end up that evening can be hard for some people to take but one we have come to thrive on.

We did however decide to make our way for Lake Como, hoping to catch up with our mate George (Clooney) of course and live a bit of the high life, unfortunately he was not around and after being in the town of Como itself we both wanted out, the plan was to have one last pizza for lunch in Italy but instead we ended up with having homemade salad rolls by the water front. We have become very conscious of our budget and have done very well at keeping to it, even with our bike problems. It has almost been 3 months now since we have crossed from Iran to Turkey and in that time we have only paid for 7 nights accommodation, not bad I think!

So back to camping and we noticed a big change in the temperatures, the warm nights of Southern Europe have now been replaced by the cold evenings of Northern Europe with our coldest night yet experienced in Livigno, Italy it does not help that the town is at a high altitude. We came into town late and I managed to get to eat one more Italian pizza, after dinner it was almost dark and we had to find a campsite quickly. We headed out of town towards the Swiss border, along the way are tunnels by the lake and we noticed a road along side one of them and found a great spot over-looking the lake. It was a chilly night indeed but the daytime temps were ok and the sun was still shining but not for long. We made our way over yet another pass as we were too tight to pay the 18 euros to drive through the tunnel to Switzerland. This was one of a few passes we made our way over that day. Half way down one of the mountain passes I found an impressive campsite not visible from the road where we set up camp. After dinner we jumped into bed and the lightning and thunder kicked off straight away. Well, we where in for some serious rain and it did not let up all night until about 6 in the morning where I could go for a quick pee break. Hoping the weather would change come time to pack up was wishful thinking as the weather had turned for the worst and we were forced to pack up our drenched tent, luckily for us our destination was Munich and a much needed warm shower and dry room was on offer with our biker friend Kevin.

Our first night back in Italy

A beautiful village on a lake on our way to Lake Como

Lake Como

My lovely Bamse

Aahhhh, back in the mountains

Outside St Moritz, Switzerland

A very cold night's camping in Livigno, Italy

But the view from our tent was worth it

Italian/Swiss border crossing

One of many passes that we rode all over the Alps

Nice biker lineup at  the top of one of the passes

Roadside snack break

Back to Switzerland

And then back to Austria

Awesome campsite in the evening

Not so pleasant the following morning after raining non stop all night and morning

Sunday, 16 September 2012

On the road again...almost

By Sanne

We made it a whole 100 kms down the road after leaving Francis before Mark's bike decided to start backfiring with flames coming out of the exhaust and then come to a stop on the highway just outside Albertville. Great! What to do now??? The bike would not start again so we pushed it off the highway. We had spotted a Yamaha dealership from the highway so Mark jumped on my bike to go see if they were open while I stayed back with his bike. He returned five minutes later with the good news that they were open but then came the funny part - I would have to tow him and his bike there! We had always known this could happen one day but had never actually practiced towing each other. We hooked the tie-downs onto Mark's footpeg and then attached it to my back rack and slowly and (un)steadily set off for the bike shop. I only went quite slow like 30 km's an hour and it was ok as long as I was keeping a steady speed but as soon as I would slow down or stop and then set off again I would feel this massive pull on my bike which almost knocked me and my bike over, but I managed to keep it upright until we got to the workshop. The mechanics there had a look at the bike and did some tests and immediately diagnosed it to be the stator coil. As they didn't have any Suzuki coils in stock they referred us to the Suzuki shop down the road. Mark went down there but he came back 10 mins later unsuccessful as the people there didn't speak a word of English and didn't have a mechanic there. He went to a third shop which did have a mechanic but didn't have the part and it was too far to tow the bike down there so we were left with one solution, which we really didn't want to have to do - to call up Francis and kindly ask him if we could come back and stay with him (having already stayed there a week) and to find a way to get the bike back to Bernin. We called Francis and although I think he was surprised to hear from us he said that of course we could come back. Great. Now we just had to rent a van. Well, this proved a little difficult as it was Saturday afternoon and all the rental places were closed. Hmm... what to do now? We asked the manager of the Yamaha shop if we could leave the bike there and pick it up the following day. Well, the following day was Sunday and they were closed, ok, Monday then? No, also closed! We wouldn't be able to pick the bike up until Tuesday! But as it stood we had no choice as the bike was going nowhere. Mark took a few belongings out of his panniers and we then both rode back to Bernin on my bike (note: there's a reason it's not designed for two-up - it's severely uncomfortable!)

On Tuesday morning we set off for Albertville in our rented van and picked up Mark's bike. Back in the garage in Grenoble we tried to diagnose the problem. We took the stator coil out of my bike and put it into Mark's and it started up straight away which told us that we needed to buy a new stator coil for Mark's bike. We contacted the local Suzuki shop and were told that a new one would cost us 350euros! We then looked online and found one for 150euros on a website called wemoto which meant a saving of 200euros! We ordered the one online and waited for it to arrive in the mail... It only took two days to arrive with courier and we set to work again. As we put it into Mark's bike it started and then died. This happened two or three more times and then just wouldn't start at all! We then took my stator coil and put it into Mark's bike just like we had done a few days prior...and nothing. It still wouldn't start! WTF??? We just couldn't figure out what was wrong. All these bike mechanical issues were starting to get a little bit annoying by now.
Out of any good ideas but having to try something to get it running somehow we changed the spark plug and the ignition coil. And guess what - it fired into life! We had no idea what was going on and we were a little hesitant to be jubilant about it in case something would happen again and we would be back to square zero. My bike then got the new stator coil and it worked perfectly! Well, we were just more confused than ever but hey, both bikes were running and hopefully they would keep running!

We went for a lovely ride with Francis the last night before we left; he took us around the mountains and up to the Chartreuse monastery where the monks live in complete silence but where they also brew the famous Chartreuse liqueur. We tried some at Francis' place and it's pretty strong so perhaps the monks are just in a constant state of hangover who knows...

We left Francis the next day for the second time hoping it would be the last!

At Yamaha in Albertville

Sad sight: Mark's beloved in the back of a van

One thing the French do well is pastries!

Grande Chartreuse monastery

Some of the nice scenery that surrounded us

Francis and Mark

Francis on the TTR600 he rode around the world on

First it was Condom, now this???

Mont Blanc