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Monday, 10 October 2016



Macedonia was actually not in my route. It was a last minute decision to enter this country bcos I wanted to see Lake Ohrid from the Macedonian side. Upon declaring my bike at the customs at Kjafasan border, the officer insisted to see my GC. He wouldnt let me in until I showed him one. The price for GC were EUR50 for 15 days (thats the minimum). It was very expensive. I felt like going back into Albania, but I was so tired and cold after the stressful ride and my hosts house was just 26kms away fr the border. I didnt have any choice but to purchase it. This is the most expensive GC among all 28 countries in GDR so far, considering that I will be in the country for 3 days only.

Finally, I reached Labunishta village after riding 400kms in 10hrs. It was a very tiring and cold ride indeed. The challenge didnt last there as I had to ride on a very narrow and steep road, or I could say alley, to reach my host's house which was located almost on highest most part of the village. It was indeed a scary ride as my small powered bike with heavy loads at the back seemed almost unable to climb up the steep ascend. The last right turn to reach my host's house was so sharp and steep. Past experience had taught me that with my lack of skill and the lack of power on GD's side, taking the turn right away will cause disaster. I had to continue riding straight onto a flatter ground, than only slowly made the turn. Thank god I didnt drop my bike, but God knows how fast my heart beat at that time.

Bertha, her husband, Cani and their grand daughters were already waiting for me. Bertha was an Indonesian who married to Cani, a successful jewelery businessman (specialized in pearls) in Macedonia. She was introduced to me by Adeeb, a famous Malaysian cyclist who rode all the way from UK back to Msia. Bertha served me hot soup right away when she saw me shivering. How shouldnt I be? I had been riding under the rain in the mountain for 10 hours!!! After taking a hot shower, Bertha served me delicious dinner of steamy white rice and ayam penyet with sambal (smashed fried chicken with hot chilly paste), a very famous Indonesian cuisine. It was sooooo delicious. This must had been the best ayam penyet rice that I had tasted in my whole life. Thanks Bertha.

I spent three nights in Labunishta. Bertha and Cani treated me like their very own sister. I felt very touched by their kindness. The same goes to all my previous kind hosts. Bertha told me lots of things, mainly about her past and her experience living in Macedonia for the past few years. I was very amazed by the strong will of this lady. She may seemed small in size, but the way she fought her life battle was undescribable, something which I'm sure many of us will surrender if we were to be in her shoes. Despite being a full time housewife currently and a housemaid previously when she worked in Hong Kong, she was rich in knowledge as she spent most of her time reading academic books. If only her fate turned out differently, I wont be surprised if this lady became a successful woman holding an important post as she's a very smart person. She impressed me with her thoughts and opinions and I must say that I really admired her. She also talked about the charity and Islamic foundation which she raised while in Hong Kong, how she put her efforts (without being paid) in teaching Islamic knowledge to Mualaf and whoever needed one. How many of us could do that? On the other hand, her husband, Cani was a very generous man when it came to Islamic charity. His family and himself had built few mosques in and around Labunishta. Every few months, Cani will allocate a certain amount of his money to buy groceries such as rice grains, flour, sugars etc and he donated them to the poor villagers. Whoever in need will come to him asking for help. Mashaa Allah. My salute to both of them and may Allah grant them jannah for their good deeds.

Cani and Bertha are on my left hand side

I managed to visit Sturga, the Lake Ohrid city, during my stay in Macedonia. Bertha showed me around the beautiful old city. We strolled along the charming little shops and houses with beautiful flowers dangling from the balconies. We also visited an old mosque and a church and spent some time drinking the view of beautiful Lake Ohrid.

Bertha also brought me to an Old Fort near Sturga which I could see birds eye view of the whole city and Lake Ohrid from above.

Its time to say goodbye to my wonderful hosts. Both Bertha and Cani tried to persuade me to stay longer, at least 1 week more, unfortunately I couldnt do that. Bertha gave me lots of food for my upcoming trip that I didnt have the space to put them in my box and panniers. I also got some souvenirs from her. How kind hearted person she and her husband were. It was hard to leave them. I hope we will meet again someday.

The ride from Labunishta to Macedonia – Greece border was interesting. I passed lots of wheat fields. Some were still green, some were golden, waiting to be harvested. Wild flower fields of white, yellow and red dominated the view. At one point, my GPS directed me to take an offroad. I thought that was the correct road so I followed it. It get more and more difficult later with big gravels, whilst in the same time I saw paved road ran alongside with the offroad. Then only it crossed my mind that the road I'm riding now must had been the old road. I found a path which linked to the new road but it was quite a steep climb. I managed to do it but I wasted half and hour riding on the offroad. Later, again my GPS played trick on me when it directed me to a secondary road inside the villages. I followed the road for about 20kms and the whole time I was doubting if it was the correct way. My instinct proved that it was the wrong way as the paved road ended just like that, but my GPS showed as if theres still road ahead. I turned back 5kms and managed to find another road which was connected to the correct one. Again, I loose some precious time here. I hated it when my GPS decided to play games with me.

I arrived the border and exited Macedonia without any hassle. To enter Greece, I need to show the officer my GC. Thats the first thing the officer asked. Greece was listed under EU countries, unfortunately my GC for the EU's expired just 2 days ago. Previously, I purchased a 2 months GC but failure to follow my own itinerary resulted in failure to enter Greece, the last European country for me before the GC expired. I had to pay an expensive lesson for that. It was EUR100 for 1 month GC, too pricey for me considering that I will only be in Greece for a period of 1 week only. Okey, lesson learnt. Next time make sure to follow what you had planned, or if you're unsure, its better to purchase a longer period GC which will be cheaper than purchasing a new individual one.

The road in Greece was better than in Macedonia. My destination for the day was Trikala. The view was interesting as well. I really loved the wild flowers, so beautiful. Before reaching Trikala, I enjoyed the rock formation Meteora views which was very famous here.

The next day, I rode to the capital city of Greece, Athens. The distance were 360kms, via E65 and E75. I had to pay toll for 4 times. It was a very windy day and my small bike was swept by the wind few times. It was quite scary, but the view from the mountain road (which I'm not sure the name) was awesome. There were lots of vehicles upon entering this big city, but that was not a big issue. The big issue for me was how steep the road in Athens were!!! Everywhere in the city, you had to ascend and descend steep road and it was narrow. My host's house was also situated on the steep road. However, to my amusement, Panos who was also a biker and a tall guy, had some trouble to help bring GD inside his yard. He said its unbelievable that GD which looked small in size but was actually quite heavy. LOL...

I stayed 3 nights in Athens and managed to meet Krista, a beautiful and friendly lady biker. She was linked to me by Tiffany Coates (my idol) and Rashmi (the founder of Global Women Who Ride). The three of us were featured in GWWR. We met at a famous bikers meeting place and I met some other men and women riders. They were all very nice. They were amazed to know that I had almost done ¾ of the world.

Krista is the tallest one

In Athens, I also managed to visit the first modern olympic games stadium. It was a fascinating feeling to be here, not because of the structure or the architecture of the stadium, but for the glory and history which once created at this place. This was the stadium which witnessed the modern olympic games came alive after being banned for hundreds of years. I stared at the track for a long time, trying to imagine the glory here way back in 1896.

Self made crown of olive leaves

Visiting Acropolis is a must when you're in Athens. I was lucky because it was Museums Day today, so the entrance was free. I had to climb up a hill to reach the site. There were too many people since it was a free entrance day to visit all historical sites, anywhere in the world. In a way, I could save money, but it also meant that I had to 'fight' with other visitors to get the best picture. Acropolis was impressive, but when I was there, restoration works were ongoing and there were many parts which was covered by scaffolding. It was quite frustrating, especially after seeing a documentary showed in the Acropolis Museum of how beautiful this ancient site was (without the scaffolding). Anyway, in my personal opinion, Lebanon offered much more interesting ancient sites compared to here.

After 3 nights in Athens, I made my way to Thessaloniki. Since today's ride was long (530km), I decided to take the motorway. Through my experience riding in France, Italy and Balkans, you can only do 50kms per hour if you took the back road, due to the low speed limit, lots of roundabouts, traffic lights etc. If you stop frequently for pics, the time spent on the road will be much longer. The motorway here in Greece was nice and less traffic, but the number of tolls were unbelievable. I had to pay tolls for 12 times which cost me more than EUR20. Theres one part that the road suddenly shrink to a single lane, narrow and winding for 19kms, and I had to pay approx EUR2 toll for that part too. It took me 7.30hrs to reach Thessaloniki (with stopping). I took some time to enjoy the seafront view of this city.

On my last day in Greece, I rode to Alexandrapouli, a famous beach town facing Agean Sea. The ride was okey and fortunately, no toll. At one time, as I want to get down from my bike, I felt something holding my Givi pouch and it was stuck. I pulled my pouch with some force and it was freed. However, I noticed that the buckle strap was broken. I felt very angry with myself. The waterproof pouch had served me well and never fail to keep my important belongings stay dry inside it during heavy rain, no matter how long it rained. I had been wearing it on my waist everyday and theres not a single tear on the pouch even though the ride was rough. But now the buckle strap was broken due to my own carelessness. Sigh...

I found a nice camping spot facing the beach and decided to camp there for the night.



The 12 hours Jadrolinija ferry ride from Ancona (Italy) to Split (Croatia) was okey. Adriatic Sea was calm so the ride was smooth. The ferry arrived Split Harbour at 8am. I got on my bike and rode to the immigration. Border crossing was smooth and easy. The customs asked for Croatia's Green Card which I didnt have any. The one that I have didnt cover Balkan countries. I lied to him saying that the GC was in the bag which I strapped on the pillion seat and it would be troublesome to take it out (a method taught by advrider friends to me....LOL). Looking at the long lines of vehicles behind me, the officer waved me off. Yeayyy, it worked :)

Split city was exactly like I saw it in 2010. Nothing had changed. I rode along the coast to the south of the country. Too bad that it was a cloudy day, so I couldnt enjoy the blue Adriatic Sea. The road was quite narrow and winding which went up down up down along the way. On my left was the mountain and on my right was the sea. Most of the time the road I was riding on was higher and the sea was down below the cliff. It would have been very beautiful if the sun didnt hide itself behind the clouds.

As this was my 2nd time in Croatia and I had covered most of the country before, I didnt intend to spend any night here but rode straight to Bosnia. I crossed the border at Metkovic. It was a very small border and the border post was a toll plaza kinda office. I didnt have to get down from my bike at all. Everything was settled at the window. I need to hand over my passport and GD's registration document to the officer and it was done in less than 10 minutes.

Bosnia too was a second time visit for me. Bosnia was a small country in the Balkans which was once ruled by the Ottoman empire from 1463 – 1878. My actual plan was to ride straight, crossing the smallest part of this country and after that cross into Montenegro. However, I changed my mind due to a request from a Malaysian traveler who asked to meet me in Mostar. The ride into Mostar was okey. The road was so-so. I had to ride in few unlit tunnels. It was very dark but fortunately the tunnels were short in length. Nearing Mostar, the view of the green Neretva River came into sight. It wasnt difficult for me to find the hostel which I booked via Airbnb.

About 1 hour later, Menk Mahawangsa, the Msian traveler, came to meet me. Menk was a famous backpacker icon in Msia. At such young age, he had traveled solo to many countries and its always a long term traveling. His epic solo travel was overland from Msia to UK, to the place where he once lived when he was a little boy. He managed to find the same house. It was interesting to hear his story. We had lunch together and after that we walked to the Old Bridge, Stari Most. There were too many tourists and it was very crowded everywhere.

I noticed lots of differences in Mostar now compared to 6 years back. It was December 2010, winter, when I first came here. The old city was very deserted. Perhaps it was off season, so there were very few tourists at that time. It was very cold then, and stalactites of ice could be seen dangling from the tree branches. Part of the Neretva River surface was frozen and theres not many souvenir shops, only some along Kujundziluk. At that time, I really felt the effects of a postwar city by the stillness and the quietness around me, and I drowned myself in the emotions while walking from tomb stone to another tomb stone in the many cemeteries, feeling sad on how young the Mostarians lost their lives during the war. But now, the old city was so lively and full of people. Lots of cafes, bars, shops, loud music and everything. Its good for the economy, but I somehow felt that it had lost its charm as a postwar city. The war museum and mosques which were free to enter last time were now not free anymore. Everything had its price. The only thing remained the same was the green green Neretva River.

During my time here, both Menk and I managed to visit some old mosques and we climbed up a minaret to enjoy the view of the old city. From above, we could see that the right side of the old city belonged to the Christian Croat community and the left side belonged to the Muslim Bosnian community. They had a long complicated history with each other but now they lived in peace. They learnt well from the unpleasant bitter past.

We also walked from cemeteries to cemeteries. Graveyards were norms here. Effects of war could be seen everywhere. Mostarians preserved the war proof as they didnt want to forget what had happened here in 1993, and during the previous wars. Bosnia went through three major wars for the past hundred years. The First World War in the early 1900's, Second World War in the mid 1900's and Bosnian War in 1993.

After 5 hours walking and chatting, its time for Menk to go back to Sarajevo. We were not aware of the time as we had so much fun talking to each other as if we had been friends for a long time. I felt at ease with this young man who was a funny guy, yet matured and wise despite of his young age. I guessed traveling had made him into such, as how traveling had moulded me in becoming who I am today. Goodbye Menk. Good luck in all your future business + travel plans you had in mind. I hope to meet you again someday.

The next day, I left Mostar and rode to the Bosnia – Montenegro border. It was a fun ride with lovely views, green Neretva River, sheeps, some twisties and some straights.

The border crossing at Deleusa was very fast and easy too. The procedure was just the same as when entering Bosnia.

Montenegro was a very beautiful country. Green mountains, lovely twisties and nearing to the capital city, Kotor, the beautiful bay welcomed you with amazing views. It was so hard for me to focus on the road as I kept looking at the bay down below.

It wasnt hard to locate my hostel which was situated right next to the bay. I could enjoy the beautiful view from my room window.

View from my window

I'm supposed to meet Msian advrider friends but it was only before sunset that they arrived my hostel. It was soooo nice to meet Faizal Sukree again, after the last time I met him in Madrid. This time, he came with Musa and Musa's wife. They were doing Europe and Balkan ride together. We walked to the old city and had dinner together. We exchanged route infos as I had came from Croatia (north) and they had came from Albania (south). Thanks guys for meeting me and buying me dinner.

The next day was a very wet day as I made my way out of Kotor Bay. The road was very slippery and many times I felt GD's tires skidded. I had to ride with lots of caution. I did two crossings today. The first border was at Sukobin to enter Albania. This border was located in the mountain. I didnt hv to pay to bring GD in. Faizal Sukree had warned me that theres plenty of road blocks when he rode in Albania. I didnt want to get into trouble if the police stopped me so I purchased Albanian insurance for EUR13.

The ride became more stressful due to heavy rain all day since early morning. The narrow mountain road was so slippery. About 30kms to Tirana the road was quite bad with pot holes and the driving attitude was crazy. I felt as if I'm entering El Alto, Bolivia. After I exited Tirana, it was again narrow, winding and slippery all the way to the Macedonian border (again in the mountain) with thick fog blocking the view.


Band: NASTIA, Title: ANGGUR (taken from EP 'EKSPRESI')