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Plan A

This was the original plan drawn up before the start of the ride.


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Date Town Country Dist (km)
10-09-11 Putney England 0
11-09-11 Littlebourne England 130
12-09-11 Ypres Belgium 70
13-09-11 Ypres Belgium 0
14-09-11 Tournai Belgium 50
15-09-11 Hergies France 50
16-09-11 Houyet Belgium 100
17-09-11 Vianden Luxembourg 120
18-09-11 Bostalsee Germany 100
19-09-11 Dahn Germany 90
20-09-11 Bad Herranalb Germany 85
21-09-11 Tubingen Germany 70
22-09-11 Rettenback Germany 120
23-09-11 Unterschliesshiem, Munich Germany 110
24-09-11 Unterschliesshiem, Munich Germany 0
25-09-11 Prien am Chiemsee Germany 90
26-09-11 Zell am See Austria 90
27-09-11 Oberdrauberg Austria 100
28-09-11 Gemona del Fruili Italy 100
29-09-11 Bovec Slovenia 60
30-09-11 Bled Slovenia 60
01-10-11 Kozina Slovenia 130
02-10-11 Piran Slovenia 50
03-10-11 Rovinj Croatia 80
04-10-11 Selce Croatia 140
05-10-11 Korana Croatia 110
06-10-11 Bosansko Grahovo Bosnia 150
07-10-11 Livno Bosnia 90
08-10-11 Mostar Bosnia 120
09-10-11 Mostar Bosnia 0
10-10-11 Trebinje Bosnia 125
11-10-11 Herceg-Novi Montenegro 50
12-10-11 Kotor Montenegro 60
13-10-11 Niksic Montenegro 90
14-10-11 Zabljak Montenegro 80
15-10-11 Prijepolje Serbia 100
16-10-11 Novi Pazar Serbia 110
17-10-11 Peje Kosovo 110
18-10-11 Prizren Kosovo 80
19-10-11 Tetovo Macedonia 110
20-10-11 Struga Macedonia 150
21-10-11 Struga Macedonia 0
22-10-11 Elbasan Albania 80
23-10-11 Berat Albania 90
24-10-11 Orikum Albania 100
25-10-11 Sarande Albania 110
26-10-11 Igoumenitsa Greece 80
27-10-11 Aitoliko Greece 180
28-10-11 Itea Greece 140
29-10-11 Delphi Greece 20
30-10-11 Athens Greece 160
31-10-11 Athens Greece 0
01-11-11 Athens Greece 0
02-11-11 Putney England 0

About the route

The route can be broken down into a few parts: London to Munich; crossing the Alps; the Northern Balkans; crossing Bosnia; the Southern Balkans; Greece.

London to Munich
This should be the easy bit. It runs through countries where I have some grasp of the language (you should hear my Luxembourgish), there are plenty of camping options, it is relatively flat and I've not set myself particularly ambitious distances to cover. I know a couple of people in Munich from when I worked there many years ago, including Daryl who has generously offered to accommodate me, so I'll have that to look forward to.

The Alps
The aim is to cross the Alps through Austria along the Grossglockner Road, famed for its spectacular views. Flat roads don't have spectacular views. On a fully loaded bike this is going to be hard work.

Northern Balkans
After a rather gratuitous stop in Italy it will be time to enter the former Yugoslavia for the first time in Slovenia. The idea is to take in the Julian Alps in the north, before heading into Croatian Istria, the region south of Trieste. This isn't the most direct route, so this coastal attraction could be dropped if I'm behind schedule.

Crossing Bosnia
This is where things could get tricky. Rather than take the more obvious tourist route along the Croatian coast I'm planning to venture off the beaten track into Bosnia, largely because I've already been to Split and Dubrovnik on a previous trip. Up this point I've been able to pick specific campsites to aim for, but those now run out so I'll have to improvise. GoogleMaps also gives up so navigation will be harder. From here on minor roads might be unmetalled and may be hard to follow so progress might slow dramatically.

Southern Balkans
Assuming I'm still going at this point, this is where I'm most likely to diverge significantly from the plan. The mapped route swings inland through Montenegro to the Durmitor National Park before heading to Novi Pazar in Serbia. It then returns to Montenegro before entering Kosovo, you can't cross the Serbia/Kosovo border. It continues south to Macedonia and Lake Ohrid. A time-saving alternative will be to ditch Serbia and Kosovo altogether and head further along the Montenegrian coast before continuing more directly through Albania towards Ohrid. After this the plan is to return to the coast in Albania, the coastline south of Vlore is spoken of very highly. Unfortunately the road to Vlore from the north, which seems hard to avoid, sounds particularly unpleasant and dangerous.

The plan has a rather hurried approach to getting through Greece, paying attention only to Delphi on the way to Athens. It would certainly be nice to have a bit more time to play with at this point, but as I write this getting to Greece at all sounds a very long way off.

What could possibly go wrong?

Before setting off I listed my concerns, which are reproduced below. Interesting that the first one on the list proved my downfall, but it was in cycle-friendly Germany where it all went wrong. In fact all of these did play a part in the week and a half of proceedings except for mechanical failure.

Traffic. I'm planning to go through some countries that are pretty standard cycling destinations like Belgium and Germany, and Slovenia has a reputation for being very accommodating to cyclists. Then I'm also planning to go through Albania. Various blogs on the web give accounts of some narrow, busy and poorly maintained roads for which there aren't easy alternatives in Albania and other Balkan nations.

Terrain. It's going to get hilly, but I don't really know how hilly. I don't mind the hills, it would be a pretty boring ride if it was all flat, but my estimated distance for a day could be hopelessly ambitious if I've underestimated the gradients involved.

Mechanical failure. Although I can do basic bits and pieces I'm not a bike mechanic. Things will go wrong, it's just a question of how seriously and how far I am from a bike shop when it happens.

Weather. I acknowledge that the ideal timing for this trip would have been to set off a couple of weeks earlier. The days are getting cooler, which is no bad thing, but they are also getting wetter and shorter. In particular the Southern Balkans in late October might be a bit damp. Not much I can do about it though.

Loneliness of the long-distance cyclist. I'm used to solo travel, but usually in circumstances where you naturally come into contact with others, not something that's really true of this trip. However I don't think I'll have much time to kill; there will be plenty to do when not cycling such as looking after the bike, the general faff of camping and most of all buying and eating sufficient food. However I might still go crackers.

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