For some people adventure is going to Disneyland, buying a house or going on a trip by car. I see adventure (and adventure riding) as the (slightly) sadistic way of finding satisfaction in extreme living or exploring the boundaries of men and machine. I like to push myself to the limit in harsh conditions, to eventually enjoy it afterwards. This is adventure for me and is exactly what happened in Bulgaria and Greece.While crossing Bulgaria, I really wanted to visit the Buzludzha monument. This is an old communist monument located high up the mountains.  I woke up very early and drove the last kilometres towards the monument. Arriving there, the view was… nihil. During my climb to the top it had been snowing, mist, strong winds and temperatures below -5°C. I was secretly hoping that the monument, which was on the top of the mountain, would have been above the clouds. Instead of that, I was in a complete white-out. After waiting almost 2 hours in the freezing cold and snow for the sun to break through, I could barely feel my feet and hands anymore, and gave up. I continued my journey south on some very nice off-road tracks. How do I find them? Well, Bulgaria is full of unpaved roads. Combine this with bicycle mode navigation and you have the best off-road tracks you can imagine! Using this technique I crossed a high mountain pass and witnessed one of the most amazing scenes in my life! The evergreens were frosted with some fresh snow, there were wild horses parading and then crocuses were flowering in the fields. This all while it was peacefully snowing. What an amazing landscape!
Continuing my journey, I found a great camping spot where I could watch the sunset and the next morning I was treated with a cracking cold morning frost on the tent and superb landscape. After that I drove to Melnik to witness eroded earth pyramids who pierce through the landscape.

From Melnik on I drove to Thessaloniki (Greece) to eventually start the greek TET. The greek landscape (and people) really amazed me! The country is so diverse, full of mountains, amazing views, olive trees, lakes, awesome gravel roads, snow, mud, oykos, feta and ouzo!
I was cruising at a nice 30ºC and was making good ground. I was riding on a dirt track next to the river for already a long time and went through several mud pools successfully. It was noon and I was almost out of water. A few more kilometers more and I would search for a nice lunch place. Arriving at a slightly bigger mud pool, I stop the bike, have an observing-confirming look and continue my way through the mud pool. Or at least I tried… at around ¾ of the mud pool, my trusty horse (Belle) was stuck, really stuck! The front wheel had completely dug into the mud and the rear wheel was more acting like a water sprinkler on steroids rather than giving traction. I get of the bike, unload the luggage (thankfully the GIVI Canyon soft panniers have a quick release system and are waterproof!), drink my last water, remove my riding gear, greet the sun, shout my warrior cry and start pulling and wiggling the bike out of the mud. Everytime I try to get her out, she just desperately sinks a little bit deeper. I should have learned her how to swim. This is not gonna work!
I put my arm in the mud and try to feel where the underside of the rear wheel is but I cannot find it. It is buried to deep in the mud and as I suspected, a big rock was sitting just before the wheel, preventing it from being able to go forward. I need to find some sticks to raise the rear wheel out of the deep mud hole and get it over the big rock. Sadly there was no single stick to be found in the region. The only thing I could fin were thorny plants… What the hell! My drinking water was finished and it was getting quite hot…

Then I hear a truck. Yes, my rescue team is arriving! I walk around the corner to signal the guy but to my suprise, the guy was suddenly also stuck in the next mud pool. There goes my saviour. Luckily he was more skilled than I and managed to get out by himself. I try to explain to the greek farmer with “hands and feet” (belgian saying for “trying really hard”) that I’m stuck with my bike and need some help. A few minutes later we pull the bike out of the mud and there it is: a happy me and my Belle back on mainland. I load her up and continue my journey. But not for long… After a few hundred meters, she starts acting really strange. I stop her and check the oil but it all looks fine. I remove the air filter cover and I see some water droplets coming from between the air filter and cover. This must be from my squirting rear wheel… I remove the air filter and to my surprise I created a small Niagara mud waterfall…
Somehow the whole air box was filled with mud and water and the drainage valve clogged with stones. I guess it had something to do with here mud pool swimming lessons… Skipping my lunch, I disassemble the whole air intake system and luckily the mud stains just stopped before the carburetors! After some “professional” cleaning I reassemble everything, hit that start button, hear some coughing and spitting sounds and eventually some nice BRAAAP sound. She’s back alive and ready to rumble! I buy some food, get some beers and set up camp in the wild. Thankfully all my gear stayed perfectly dry in my GIVI Gravel-T bags and GIVI duffel bag!

I continue my journey south (towards Athens) and cross some nice and high mountains, get stuck several times in the snow and ride some of the most amazing gravel, dirt and asphalt roads! Arriving in Zagora, Magnesia I am for the third time stuck in the mud and snow but this time I didn’t need a truck and was able to rescue myself. A little bit under Volos I met some Greek enduro riders who declared me crazy when seeing my driven track and eventually I make it to Athens. Time for some “normal” tourism and relaxing! After Athens I did some adventurous “Island hopping”: climbing on Tinos and Kalymnos. It is truly a world class climbing paradise and probable one of the best climbing regions in the world! Some belgian friends flew over and we climbed together for several days. I had so much fun there!
See you in Turkey.


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