Oct 24 – Oct 29
Istanbul – Sofia – Belgrade – Budapest – Vienna – Frankfurt – Amsterdam
Preparing the bike for the last week – Serbian hospitality – First time in my grandfathers country: Hungary – Flying low over the Autobahn – Last night alone – Home where I belong
I am back! Back with Evelien, my parents and sisters, and my friends. My dream has come true. I have driven from Amsterdam to Mongolia, on to India, and back to Amsterdam. Besides the feeling of accomplishment, I have also seen that I was very lucky to be able to do this. I have made many new friends around the world, and almost all of them were not even close to have the opportunities that we have here in the West. Stuff like that make you think twice again about many things. I would like to thank all of you who have been following my travels. I have received many e-mails next to the reactions on this blog. I must say that they have been an inspiration for me. Many people that I have never met also found this site and took the effort to read some of it. All in all pretty cool.
I have been back for 6 weeks now, working as a freelance consultant and part-time entrepeneur, and finally get to write the last part of my trip. I guess delaying the final blog entry was a way of extending my trip. People very often ask me whether I have already adjusted to normal life in Holland. I always answer that I try not too, at least for a small part. Then people ask me: can you do that? Up till now the answer is: yes, I can. I have been away almost half a year and I am filled with so many memories that it is relatively easy to think back. The easiest way to be back in my trip is to take my good old friend the bike and drive around. The sound, the motion, the whole feel is enough to create a huge smile on my face. Ah! I was planning to sell it right away, but somehow I can’t.. I also try to use in my life what I have learned during my trip. I have changed a bit as a person, and I’d like to use the positive elements of that in my life. From the outside I do look the same, I realise that, but inside I have found some peace of mind. I now know more than ever where my home is. Everywhere people have a home, and I am lucky to have one too. Right now travelling is over for a while. Although I already know that one day I will be back on the road again. How, where? Suggestions anyone?
I plan to publish on this blog a full statistics report of my trip. This is mainly for other motorcycle travellers. Every day I have kept a record of distances, costs, road quality, food experiences, etc. I would like to share some info with others so they can prepare well, just like I did. Here are some main statistics for whoever is interested:
– 42,000 km. by bike (around 10% off-road)
– 1,500 km. by plane
– 1,000 km. by truck
– 17 countries visited
– 3 officials bribed
To properly finish my blog, here are the last small stories about the one-week drive back to Amsterdam.
In Istanbul, there was one last thing to do. My bike had had a slipping clutch plate since Mongolia and to my surprise it held until Istanbul. By loosening the clutch cable the clutch’s life was extended with over 10,000 km. Even through the Himalayas with my dad the bike pulled through. In Istanbul I found a garage that was not expensive and had a very knowledgable owner, the good man Saffet. I skipped the official BMW dealer. In the garage, I had the clutch changed, oil changed, valves adjusted, a new battery installed and some nuts tightened. It took us a full day. Riding out of the garage, into the night was a memorable moment. The bike felt totally new. That feelling lasted 200 kilometers. I had overlooked the gas station availability in Western Turkey and emptied my tank on a dark stretch of highway. By Lowering the bike onto one side, I got to ride some more kilometers. I got to the next gas station with the last drop and considered myself very lucky (again). That night I enjoyed the best Turkish pizza in years.
I had planned 6 days to ride the 3,000 km. from Turkey to Holland. That meant serious riding since I planned to stay in Budapest at least one day. And that said, I crossed the Bulgarian border one morning and left the country that same afternoon. Before coming into this country I knew nothing more about it than Hristo Stoijtskov, the former Barcelona striker. After leaving, I knew nothing more, really. In Bulgaria I decided to take the road through Serbia instead of Romania. I had heard and seen on the map the road quality of the latter, and made a quick decision. Serbia was pretty. Much nicer than I had expected. Somehow I still had the idea that the country would be unstable but none of that. Nice villages all around, very expensive toll roads and good restaurants. Very European, all in all. That night I decided to leave the highway to take some rest in a town. Funnily enough I was immediately spotted and invited for dinner by the local biker’s club president. A gigantic meal followed. They called it the meat ‘train’. One starts with a whole chicken, than a huge steak, than spareribs, and on and on. I almost turned vegetarian in India, and again played with the idea. My host was not disappointed however, invited more friends and drove me 20 km. further on. There we met with the president of all bikers in Serbia. After cool beers in a cool night I promised the man to send a Dutch delegation the Serbia in the coming year. I declined an offer to extend my stay for another 3 days, all expenses paid. My home was waiting…
The next day I was asked to be interviewed by the one and only Serbian biker’s magazine. Of course! I had missed being a special person since entering Turkey, so Serbia made a nice change. When entering Hungary I had a very warm welcome by the border guard who saw my second name – Geza – in my passport, but unfortunately he was the last one to see my Hungarian roots. In the streets nobody spotted the Hungarian in me, under my beard. Arriving in Budapest was fantastic. A great city, lovely architecture, great squares and buildings, and a calm feel to it. I spent the following day cycling around and decided that I would be back to do the great city justice. It just does not get any better than drinking a nice soft capuccino in the last rays of sunlight whilst being surrounded by beautiful buildings that made internal time travel easy enough. I decided again that I liked the ‘old Europe’ a lot.
It was sad to leave the city again, but I had no real time to think since from Budapest to Amsterdam were two days of fast riding. Slowly but surely the perfect European standards replaced everything else. Smooth tarmac and gas stations with everything imaginable inside made me feel like a stranger at first. Luckily I found some of the hospitality that I had found everywhere, this time in Germany. Looking for a place to stay, I drove around not wanting to pay 45 euros for a bed. One guy in a charming little village understood where I was coming from and offered me cheap lodging and food. That last night I drank red wine for the first time in ages and found myself at an ‘afterparty’ with three complete retards. The adventure is only finished when you want it to finish.
That final day, day number 168, I drove into Holland and before I knew it I was driving to my parents house. A mad feeling, but it felt so good when my mother came outside and I was able to hold her after so long. My dad was there as well of course, my companion in India. Friends of my parents were invited to see me ‘fresh’ from the road. A very nice moment indeed. However, I still had to go to Amsterdam that same day. Evelien and my friends were there. The last 130 km’s were over before I knew it. The Netherlands is incredibly small. When entering my street, I almost hit a lady but controlled the bike in time. I did not know what to say when I got home. Being home again was something I had imagined from the first day of my trip. I kept very quit that night. The feeling was wonderful, being back with Evelien and my friends. I kept on asking whether nobody was about to leave for an appointment later that night. Because that is what I remembered about life before the trip. Nobody left, and I stayed as well. I unpacked my bike for the last time. I threw my clothes in a corner. I ate Evelien’s tapas. I looked at my friends. I smiled. I knew I had done it. Epilogue: the very next day Evelien shaved my beard. That was a big shock. I was afraid to lose that ‘other me’. I now start to realise that he will always be a part of me, if I do my best. I will just do that.