Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Great Side Car Expedition

Ukraine to Italy via Istanbul by Russian Army Side Car

The story below (starting from the BOTTOM) relates the adventures of 20 intrepid riders who rode old military 650cc Dnepr sidecars through Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Croatia to Italy.

By going to the history/archives on the right you may bring up each month. The history/archives also hold all the various expedition stories from past years- just click on the year and month.

All photos may be clicked on to bring up full size.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Genoa, Italy Finale

Thurs 9th June

Thank you to the riders who took photos shown in the trip blog.

Lee and Phil in particular spent a lot of effort on recording what they saw. Phil's collection can be seen in full on his site.

The trip is well and truly over. Yesterday we tucked 15 bikes into two
forty foot containers which will be shipped to Brisbane and the additional
two bikes went into a 20 foot container to go to New Zealand.

We came into Genoa on Sunday and Lang was able to organise the shipping
first up on Monday. On Tuesday everyone scrubbed their bikes until they
gleamed, getting rid of 6 weeks of road grime and oil leaks. They were
then put into a warehouse on the dock overnight. It only took a few hours
yesterday with a lot of grunting and groaning and only millimeters to
spare to pack them into the containers and the shipping agent had a crew
on hand to do all the tie down, before the doors were shut and sealed.

As always the end of a trip brings very mixed emotions.

And, as usual, this project has given Lang and me challenges we could never
have planned for in advance. Lang as always has the capacity to just keep
his focus on solutions and shut out all the negatives enabling things to
keep moving forward. This does not always please a few people, pushed beyond their comfort zone, but in the end there is only ever one way - forward.

In any group we have ever been involved with there is the handful of people
who perform above and beyond expectation. We had that handful as usual on this trip and to these people we owe an enormous debt of gratitude.

Hub Jones really stood out as the person who was entirely dependable
and forever a calm problem solver. Even today several riders don't appreciate it was Hub's tireless efforts that kept them going. His work ethic and practical skills make
him a giant amongst his peers.

Lang and I will have some down time before our trip home staying with our
good friends Sandro and Wilmy in Garlenda Italy and then we have a few
days with John and Nui Salter in Thailand.

As with all our trips I like to remind people the reason we undertake such

In the ten countries we travelled through on this trip we made
connections with local people that have left an incredible impact and
reasurred me that mankind is basically good and caring.

Einstein also said about travelling,

All time is now
It takes you out of the everyday routine
The leaden weight of routine
The fetters of habit
The cloak of cares and
Slavery of home
It allows you to experience the here and now.

And finally Lang's favorite quote from Robert Louis Stevenson

"I travel not to go anywhere
But to go
I travel for travel's sake
The great affair is to move"


Monday, June 6, 2011

Genoa Italy

Sun 5th June, Genoa

Good News

We have all arrived in Genoa. That is all except Stuart Wood who in Poppi
decided to visit friends in Venice and catch up with us tomorrow.

The last few days have seen only minor problems with the bikes and all
arriving under their own steam. Lizzy Lada has had a few issues with her
carburettor but somehow manages to get me to my destination. She has done
extraordinary service hauling such a heavy load of spare parts during the
six week period.

Nadia has been riding with Sasha on his bike so I have done all but one
leg of the whole trip on my own. Early in the piece I did get plenty of
company at the end of a tow rope with hand signals our only form of
communication. It is a bit sad to say that I have formed a very special
bond with my very faithful GPS and get quite a feeling of well being
hearing her calm voice giving me directions.

From Poppi we had a camping night in Pisa, checked out the leaning tower
in this beautiful ancient walled city. We were going to stay two nights
but the consensus of opinion was to do the short hop to Levanto and see
the Cinque Terre. Many of us did the train trip between the five towns and
a few of us did the cliff face walk between the towns of this spectacular
UNESCO listed area.

Tonight we will have a finale dinner and then over the next few days
organise the shipping of the vehicles to our home ports. Most of the group
have arrangements to fly home later in the week.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Poppi, Italy

Thurs 2 June

We arrived in Ancona, Italy on the overnight ferry from Zadar in Croatia
sailing at 10.00pm and arriving at 7.00am on the 31st May.

At present we are at a camping site in Poppi on the Eastern side of
Florence. Here we are spending two days as we had two major break downs

We did some serious mountain climbing travelling from Urbino where we had
camped out side the beautiful walled city the previous night and here to
Poppi. Sasha's bike broke a bearing and Susan Horrobin seized the
universal joint on her bike. After towing Sasha a short distance we were
lucky enough to flag down a passing tow truck and ended up with the two
bikes arriving on the back of the truck at the camp site ready for the
repair work.

Here in Italy it is working out better to camp as the towns are so crowded
and this gives us plenty of space to work on the bikes and spread out a

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Split, Croatia

Sunday 29th May

We are all now in Split, Croatia.

Yesterday we had a long day from Tivat along the coast and three border
crossings. We passed from Montenegro into Bosnia and then into Croatia. It
is a very beautiful part of the world and Dubrovnik in particular is

This long run was to enable us to have two days in the one place and
allow Sasha to do some long needed major repairs.

Late in the day Robert Hazell's bike had differential problems and was
unable to continue. Nadia and I had to double back with the spare parts
and between Lang , Brian and Robert they got the bike mobile, but the five
of us decided breaking down in the dark was not an option so stayed 90kms
short of Split and joined the rest of the group here early in the morning.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Durres, Albania

27th May

Phil Barnaart is downloading some great photos see them on

Last night we spent just south of the very historic town of Durres.
Albania is similar to Romania and Bulgaria, in that they are a mix of vey
primative life styles in the rural areas and very flash coastal resort
areas. We have seen hand ploughing and seed planting, ancient old farm
machinery in use and donkey and cart as their general means of transport.

Tonight we will be in Tivat, Montenegro



Wed 25th May

I am at present sitting at the Greek / Albanian border and have been for
the last two hours, having left Florino early this morning, .The mountain
climb was all but impossible but the little car and all the bike made it
in first gear.

Already 10 of our riders have gone across the border and reported it was a
hassle free event. Lang and Hub have left me here to twiddle my thumbs and
they have taken the Lizzy back to tow in Marcel. We believe he has had a
major problem .

Over the last few days we have had a lot of small problems, mostly
electrical, and all have been rectified along the way. Ivan had an
electrical problem and Lee bought him a car battery and with jumper leads
hooked it up carring it in his sidecar.

Everyone is really sorting out their own bike's idiosyncrasies and doing
more and more of their own preventative and repair work

Yesterday morning at Thessaloniki Lee Harman decided to leave the group to
catch a ferry across to Southern Italy and will ride from there up to the
north. For the rest of the group we have booked an overnight ferry from
Zadar Croatia to Ancona Italy on the 30th..

I have had a message from Sasha and Nadia and they are about 300 kms
behind us, and should catch us up in another day. We are certainly looking
forward to another mechanic and the spares he is bringing.

Evening of 25th at Progradeci, Albania

Marcel's problem was not as major as first thought and he was able to ride
under his own power from the border, albiet with the car battery in the
sidecar fix.His starter shorted out, flattening the battery and this was
fixed immediately.

The scenery here with a huge lake and mountains down to the water is
spectacular. Prices are cheap and the small town very pretty. Most bikes
required only daily maintenance and everyone was relaxed well before

Sasha and Nadia arrived at the hotel at 10.00pm absolutely exhausted
after a 500+ kms ride non stop.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Thassos, Greece

Sunday 22nd

We are all here on Thassos Island in Greece enjoying the sunny weather and
beautiful surrounds. Some have hired modern bikes, cars or little motor
scooters to visit monasteries, Roman ruins or enjoy the local fare at
fabulous waterfront cafes.

Most of the group had two nights here but five of us were again doing
catch up.

Sadly Paul and Martin pulled out of the group. Paul's bike has given him a
run of bad luck and they have decided to finish their holiday riding BMW's
through Europe.

Paul was going to leave his bikeat the side of the road, but our mechanics
in the group saw the potential to get some essential spares we may need
before the trip ends. Paul generously offered to come to the border with
it to get it across into Greece with his paperwork.

We saw Robert and Brian go back into Turkey and tow the bike to the border
where Lang met them with Lizzy Lada and towed them back to Alexandroupoli.
Here in the back blocks we did a Zorba the Greek. We stripped the bike of
all useful parts loaded the bikes and car to the gunnels disposed of the
frame and as it was so late in the day we spent the night at Komitimi
enroute to Thasos.

Lizzie is now so loaded she can not carry another gram. The electric fan
stopped working so every time I start the car I have to lift the bonnet
and connect the wires straight to the battery to stop her overheating. Her
tiny 1,200cc engine is still bravely pulling the car, her load and often a
half ton of bike as well.

Our bike problems are definitely being sorted with fewer faults every day.
The regular problems are just the price of driving 75 year old technology
6,000km across Europe. Most people are becoming good at diagnosing faults
and if they can not fix them themselves, can give Hub an indication of
what is going on.

Hub continues to perform miracles and has kept everyone going. We are all
very grateful for his dedicated mechanical work.

Moral is still very high and the continuous change of scene is pleasing
the majority. Everyone is looking forward to the week or so running up the
Adriatric coast through Greece, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia etc.

Off to Thessalonika tomorrow then into the hills.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gallopoli Peninsular

We all spent the night here on the Gallopoli Peninsular at a camping hotel
site only 8kms south of Anzac Cove.

Today we will cross the border into Greece and overnight in Alexandroupoli.

For another version of our trip and some photos Paul Barnard has a blog


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Canakkale, Turkey

Thus 19th May

Yesterday the mobile contingent left Canakkale and went the short distance
over to the Gallipoli Peninsular, crossing the Dardanelles by ferry.

Eight of us remained to work on three disabled bikes in the hotel car
park. When Lang and Hub stripped Lang's bike they found a bolt had come
loose in the gear fly wheel. Fortunately it had not caused any severe
damage and did not need an engine change . Never the less it was major
job which took all day to fix. At the end of the day everyone was tired
so we decided to stay another night in Canakkale.

This is an area steeped in military history, and to us Australians
Gallipoli obviously has very special significance.

On the peninsular hillside opposite Canakkale gigantic letters spell out
the first few words of a poem commemorating the stuggle at Gallipoli in

The translation is

Traveller, halt! The soil you heedlessly tread once witnessed the end of
an era.
Listen! In this quiet mound there once beat the heart of a nation.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Istanbul / Bursa

On Ferry out of Istanbul 27th May

The run into Istanbul was certainly a challenge as everyone in the entire
city was out having a Sunday drive and picnics along the water front,
making a grid lock on all major roads. All our group except Lang made it
under their own steam which was quite a feat. I again had to tow Lang the
entire day.

The hotel was on a steep hill and the promised parking was on a very
narrow busy street. The next morning we risked having all bikes towed away
so a hasty search for parking found a vacant block not too far away. The
area made any major work on Lang's bike impossible so another day of
towing until we are able to do an engine change.

The majority of the group were able to do some sightseeing in around town
on our second day. I even managed to fit in a visit to a Turkish bath to
recharge my batteries.

Dan Gridley flew out to OZ after handing over the bike he had been riding
for the last two weeks to Dave Griffith who will be with us for the rest
of the trip.

This morning after a 6am start we are now on a ferry crossing the Sea of
Marmara to Bursa, from where we have a 250kms drive to our overnight stop
in Canakkale. Tomorrow after another short ferry ride we will be on the
Gallipoli Peninsular where we will spend the next two days.

We have decided to double up a lot of our remaining days to allow on going
maintenance on the bikes as well as a chance to relax and enjoy the
country side we are passing through.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Kirklareli, Turkey

!5th May

I will keep my blogs short as so much is going on with the bikes and also
with our day to day running

Sasha and Nadia are still in the wilderness so we are having to be
totally self sufficient. As with all our projects we have the group of
people who really step up to the mark and not only look out for themselves
but do the extra mile for the good of the group. To them we are just so

Last night we stayed in Kirklareli just 45kms south of the Romanian
border. Lang had a major break down out of Nessebar so I towed him 100kms
to the border where Lee Harman had also come to a grinding halt. I then
did a double tow all the way to our overnight stop. Little Lizzy Lada
certainly earned her keep yesterday

We arrived at the Romanian/Turkish border at 12 noon and the last man
processed was out at 5pm. We had no trouble with our paper work just that
it was a long slow grind. Everyone's father's name is now officially
recorded in the archives at the Turkish border custom's post.

Today after work is done on 4 sick bikes we will follow the early mobile
group and arrive in Istanbul and a two night stay.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Nessebar Bulgaria

Friday 13 May

We are now in Nesseba, Bulgaria. Again a country of amazingly friendly

The country side here is very lush with a lot of agriculture in evidence.
There is a mix of old communist buildings and the very new modern resorts
particularly around the black sea area.

We crossed the border from Romania into Bulgaria with very little trouble,
and continued on to Nessebar which is a big tourist region on the Black
Sea. Here we decided to stay for two nights so problems on the bikes could
be addressed and a little of R & R for those lucky enough not to be having

Nadia and Sasha are still catching up to us, and everyone is still on a
steep learning curve dealing with their bikes under Hub's dedicated

Martin White went ahead of us to Istanbul to meet up with his wife. He had
a few issues at the Turkish border so we will see tomorrow if the rest of
us are going to have any problems.

I will get Lang to do a report on the bikes when he has a moment to spare.


Monday, May 2, 2011

Bila Tserkva, Ukraine

Friday 29th April Bila Tserkva
Lang and I have been in Ukraine now for two weeks, 2 nights in Kiev and
the rest in Bila Tserkva where the bikes are being prepared, slowly but
surely. The saying all will be right on the day has passed through our
minds on numerous occasions. Our group of 18 riders have been arriving during the week in Kiev. Some
went off sightseeing, four came down to Bila Tserkva early and the rest
were collected in a mini bus from Kiev on Thursday morning. It is now the 1st May and here we are still in Bila Tsverka. The best laid
plans etc. Ukraine is unbelievable, the paper work and all the bureaucracy
is unbelievable, and there is such a laid back attitude to everything.
Urgency does not seem to register in the psyche of the locals here, and
corruption is alive and well. Some bikes are having last minute adjustments so we have postponed the
start of the trip by two days. On the up side our hotels are a good standard, the food and drink are
great and the prices are very cheap. The troops are in good spirits and
taking the slow motion in their stride. Keep posted for the convoy to roll out southward bound. Bev

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Great Side Car Adventure

In May 2011 twenty old Russian Army Dnepr MB650 side cars will leave Kiev, Ukraine to travel the Red Sea. As usual, Lang and Bev will be leading the trip with Lang on a bike and Bev, driving a tiny Russian car, going ahead to find camp-sites, hotels etc. Riders are from Australia, New Zealand and USA. It will take six weeks to cover the 6,000km journey cruising at only 60kmh(35mph) .

The route is Bila Tsekva, Ukraine to Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan.

The bikes are closely based on the German WW2 BMW and are two wheel drive (the sidecar wheel drives as well as the bike giving terrific off-road performance). They are being restored to as-new standard by Alexander and Nadia Levchyk in Bila Tserkva, just south of Kiev.

The trip can be followed on this blog from 01 May 2011.