Burgman Encounters 2010: A Trip Diary, photos and videos
What brings 43 men and women, between the ages of 40 and 65, to leave everything behind for 14 days and go out after one common objective: conquering the Alps and other areas on a Suzuki Burgman megascooter? Is it the riding challenge? The social objective? The need to find out that even at such advanced ages, with children and sometimes grandchildren at home, we can still do such interesting things?
This seems to be only a retoric question for all those that were involved on the Burgman Encounters 2010 European Tour, which took place between the 20th of July and the 3rd of August this year.
I am just returning from this event, and let me tell you, it is difficult to land back into your normal life after the experience we had there. I will try to describe here in the best possible way our journey during those 14 days.
This trip diary is based on daily records that I have published in Hebrew on www.burgman.co.il and on www.mobilityfreak.co.il, but it is not a direct translation. I hope to go a little more inside the emotions and the feelings I had and I saw in the group.
The itinerary of the first day.
The trip began for us at 2AM. At this time, all the people, who came from all around the country, met at the Ben Gurion Airport in order to catch the Neos charter flight from Tel Aviv to Verona.
One could see the excitement on the eyes of every participant, and despite the fact that we all knew we would have a very difficult day ahead, sleeping was not in anybody's mind until 5:30AM when we went into the plane.
We landed in Verona nearly at 8:30 in the morning, and found the bus which would take us to the Ravenna Port already waiting for us there. So, after more than 6 hours from the moment we left hour homes, we went into the bus for another 2.5 hours of trip from Verona to Ravenna.
Arrival to the Ravenna Port was a party; from the windows of the bus, people could see our Burgmans waiting for us at the parking lot, after they had been released by the representative of Ofer Avnir (Suzuki's distributor in Israel) who had travelled to Italy one day before us.
Now the first job was to turn on the motorcycles. The 20 days at sea hadn't done well to the batteries, and none of the megascooters would start. The solution was starting the first one or two with cables from the escort car (the car which would be accompanying us during all the trip and carrying our luggage and replacement parts), and then begin starting one megascooter from the other.
Starting the bikes at the Ravenna port.
A second problem regarded the escort car: the minivan simply did not have enough space for all the material which had to be inside it. This has been solved by removing its seats and locking them at a room at the port until the day we come back.
At the end of the process, one megascooter would still not keep its charge, Shmuel Bander's scooter. So we sent him to a nearby garage to buy a new battery.
With the battery installed and the minivan filled with bags and boxes, at 3PM approximately, we left on our first ride at European soil. The direction: Chioggia, a fishermen town near Venezia.
Most of the trip was through secondary roads, so we could both skip the heavy traffic in the area and also appreciate the countryside of eastern Italy.
We travelled near the sea...
enormous amounts of rivers and water...
... and at the end we arrived at Chioggia, or "Little Venezia" as they like to call it, a small fisherman's town with a beautiful historic center:
The main street of Chioggia.
Another area of the main street.
A colorful secondary street.
In summary, a really charming town, and the super-prize is a beautiful view of Venezia from its shore.
Chioggia is a very nice place, but the whole group was too tired from the previous day in order to stay up at night. So, after a light dinner at the restaurant in front of the hotel, everybody went to sleep.
Before publishing the video of the first day, I would like to explain one thing: all the videos here were recorded for the sites in Hebrew, thus having caption fields in Hebrew, and some of them containing interviews in Hebrew as well. But for whoever likes beautiful sceneries and nice riding footage, they are a must see. So here it is:
Today our way took us from Chioggia to Cortina D'Ampezzo, a beautiful ski village known as "the capitol of the Dolomites".
The morning began with a good breakfast at 7:30, and at 10:00 everybody was ready to move. After we celebrated the 50th birthday of Moshik Kobi, we went out on our way.
The above is a sky picture of Chioggia. It gives us an idea of how nice this town looks.
And then we went on our way.
The above picture can give us an idea of why Chioggia is called the "little Venezia". There are a lot of similarities between the two.
Our first waypoint was Treviso. Until there the way was quite straight and boring. I guess you can have an idea about it from the pictures above and below.
At Treviso, the group decided to take a group picture. I don't appear in the picture since at that time I was at the Treviso airport with Moshe Rokach, the manager of the Suzuki label at Ofer Avnir, trying to get him the car that he rented.
As we approached Cortina D'Ampezzo, the way became narrower and winding, something that make us begin getting the feeling of what this trip was going to be. At last, we were approaching the big mountains! Houses by the wayside became more and more similar to the Swiss/Austrian/German style.
From far, we could see the big mountains and their peaks, filled with snow even in July, the hottest summer month ....
An example of what I wrote before, a house in the prettiest Tirolean style.
At the end we arrived to Cortina D'Ampezzo, a bautiful Ski Resort/Town. We didn't know it yet, but this was just the beginning of series of beautiful towns we would meet on our way.
The picture above was taken from the door of hour hotel at Cortina D'Ampezzo.
One of the most amazing things is the length of the day around this area. The picture above was taken at 20:40, and there is still full sunlight. Actually, we had daylight until 21:30.
Let's follow tradition and present the daily video.
Today we left Cortina D'Ampezzo and took the direction to Austria, the country which will be our main objective during this journey.
Since we did not have much riding to do today, we decided to leave late, at noon, and let the people enjoy a little more of Cortina D'Ampezzo. That was a decision we would regret at the continuation of the day, as you will see.
The three pictures above were taken at the main street of Cortina. This is a city to make you speechless. The beauty is everywhere.
When we left, our direction was to Arabba, with a first stop at the Falzarego Mountain Pass.
A first view of Falzarego.
The group gets ready for a group picture at Falzarego.
At Falzarego there is a sign with the name of the place and its height, full of stickers from almost every organized group that has passed there. Obviously, after the group picture, we had the cerimony of sticking our sticker there together with the others. You can see that at the daily video.
After that, we took the cable-car to the peak itself. The picture, at the peak, gets together all the Burgman-Girls.
A view from the peak
At the peak, a very good coffee-shop, with good coffee and a good Strudel.
We left there after approximately 1.5 hours, heading to Arabba, place in which we expected to eat lunch and rest a little. But one or two problems were waiting for us there:
a. At arrival, Israel Ullman rode off the bike while his wife Batia (who was driving) was not ready for that, and the bike fell aside. Luckily, nothing happened either to Israel, to Batia or to the bike. After lifting the 250 Kg, we saw that everything was OK and the bike continued with us up to the last day of the trip.
b. At the time we got there, the whole city was at Siesta time. So no lunch for anyone.
But we did manage to meet a very small and pictorial village, and here are some pictures to share it with you:
We left Arabba hungry and headed to Austria and to Heiligenblut, a city situated at the Grossglockner. The Grossglockner is the second highest peak at the Austrian Alps, a peak with eternal snow and a beautiful view. We were all waiting for the opportunity to both see the views and ride the roads of the Grossglockner, one of the dreams of every rider.
On our way we passed the border between Italy and Austria, and stopped near a supermarket to buy something and have our first Austrian lunch.
At the parking lot there we found a new problem: a bump appeared on the rear tyre of Moshik Kobi's bike. We had spare tyres in the car, but due to the late hour the big problem was to find an open place which could change the tyre or lend us equipment to change it by ourselves.
At the end we found a service station in which the guard accepted to let us in and use their equipment and tools. Here comes in Rany Ovadia, who by himself dismounted the rear wheel (not an easy job at all), removed the tyre, mounted the new one and mounted the wheel back. Rany actually stayed behind with Moshik after we found the garage, and the group continued on its way to Heiligenblut. One hour after we arrived, the two got there safely as well.
We arrived to Heiligenblut around 19:30, and almost everything was closed. So after missing lunch and eating sandwiches from a supermarket, we all went to sleep without dinner as well. So far for leaving a place at noon.
The picture above shows the group arranging the bikes at the front of the hotel.
Today I have two videos to show. Unfortunately I will need to move from Vimeo to Youtube. Despite the fact that at Vimeo we have better quality video, the upload is very slow comparing to YouTube, and they limit the quantity of space I can upload in one week.
Here are the videos; some beautiful riding action footage, nice scenery, and some interviews.
This has been a special riding day; it's been the day we have conquered the Grossglockner, one of the main riding objectives of everyone in the group. It has also been another day of changing regions, and we are making our first move from the Austrian Alps to the area of Salzburg.
Today's riding experience wasn't powerful only because of the riding itself. It was our first chance to feel upon our own heads the powers of Nature, which has decided to test our skills on this day, making it one of the most interesting riding days we could have. Man, machine and Nature on full integration and full power to provide an unforgettable experience.
The Grossglockner is one of the most powerful places I have ever been in life. I can compare the feeling you have up there only to the feeling I had while looking at Machu Pichu, in Peru, from its entrance at the top. While Machu Pichu is made by men, the Grossglockner is totally Nature; and it is Nature in all its power.
The point we arrived to is called Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Hohe and is placed 10 minutes from Heiligenblut, at 2570 meters height. It is said to be one of the places where the Kaiser liked to spend some vacations. From there we can see the peak of the Grossglockner at a stunning 3798 meters height, but there is no way to ride until the peak, only to get there by a train, which was out-of-service today.
A sample of the green fields we've seen through our way to Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Hohe.
Also many lakes, part of them natural and part of them, like this one, not.
Our first stop on the way to see the view was also a good opportunity to celebrate the 35th marriage anniversary to our friends Zohar and Lea Adaki, participants of the group. Mazal Tov !!!
This is a viewpoint on the way to Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Hohe
Talking about view, while we were there the clouds suddenly opened and the rock showed itself in all its power!
A little more riding, some beautiful roads, and we get to Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Hohe
Dror and Lea Levy and myself. Dror has been a member of the organization committee from its first days, and was responsible for the fantastic itinerary being done by us, from A to Z.
Interesting flower (or cactus?) which I have seen only at that area.
Jaki Hakim, the president of the Israel Burgman Club, and Rany Ovadia, the logistics manager at the organization committee, find time to pose together for a picture.
So 22 Burgmans have conquered the Grossglockner. This semi-circle construction symbolizes that. BTW, in all places we pass through, the long stream of Burgmans immediately calls for the attention of all the people around. In case we stop and park, there is immediately a big crowd formed around us, and if they are surprised about the long stream you can imagine the surprise when they realize that all the bikes have arrived from Israel.
On our way to there, we entered the Grossglockner park, where you pay for entrance in the park. Together with the ticket, every biker gets a sticker for the bike with the Grossglockner and a motorbike, a kind of a medal that proves you've done it.
From Kaiser Franz-Josefs-Hohe we left to HORTHO, the place from which we will cross the mountain and get down from the other side, on our way to Salzburg. It is a 800m tunnel, approximately, straight through the mountain, and the way down on the other side.
Views from the way.
Riding in a cloud
Well, after a new coffee-break at Hortho, we entered the tunnel, ready for our way down on the other side. Ready? I can't exactly say that, nobody was really ready to what happened when we got out.
We entered the tunnel from an area with a quite nice weather, cold, a little cloudy, but fine and stable. Two minutes later, when we got out at the other side, the clouds were down covering the mountain, and we were out there riding downhill within a cloud. Our visibility was nearly zero, one could see 10-15 meters in front of him.
The picture above is only the beginning....
And here it comes!
Well, we are the Israel Burgman Club, and some low clouds and poor visibility are not enough to stop us. In fact, some of the people remember this as the most interesting and fun riding experience they have ever had in their lives. A real top-moment in the trip.
On our way to Salzburg we stopped at Sankt Johann, where we found a very interesting waterfall hidden by rocks in such a way that it is almost a waterfall inside a cave. Well, it is not a cave, not really closed, but in some moments it did transmit to us such a feeling.
When we went out of the "cave", there was a lot of rain outside. For the first time in our trip we had to wear our rain vests, hoping it would be the last. Not much for the hopes, as you will see in the continuation.
The storm went with us until our destination hotel in Anif, near Salzburg.
The daily video today has some good footage of mountain riding, and is around 6 minutes long, and some images of the storm from the logistics car.
The storm that accompanied us to Salzburg stayed for the next day, and as a result we decided to make a change on plans and postpone the Lakes tour to the next day, bringing for today the free day in Salzburg that was planned for tomorrow. A small change in order, while keeping the plan of the visits as in the original program.
Part of the group travelled with their bikes, the other part in the floor of the logistics car, which was empty of bags and of seats as well.
The first stop was at Ginzinger, a motorcycle equipment shop, where many people bought material and added to the luggage pressure on the logistics car.
Moshik Kobi (left) and Doron Shefer (right) choose from the products at the shop.
Jaki Hakim (left) and Shmuel Bander (right) discuss helmets.
Jaki Asher tries riding pants....
... but Rany Ovadia has set for himself a higher target than pants ....
.... and about that we say "everyone tries what fits him/her"... Talia Kobi and Lea Levy try the Goldwing.
Like in every place we have gone in until now, there is an immediate pressure at the cashiers. It seems they are just not ready for such an invasion.
After the biking shop, we left to the center of Salzburg.
Dror and Lea Levy enjoy the comfort of the logistics car.
And others continue by bike.
At the center of Salzburg the group split in small groups of 6-8 people, and each group went to visit the historic center in separate. In principle, the walking in the rain was not difficult but quite annoying, and things became a lot better after we all bought some umbrellas. Well, almost all of us, Rany Ovadia got a complete package for himself.
So we entered the antique Salzburg, saw the Mozart square, the street and the house in which Mozart spent his childhood, and a beautiful shop for Christmas decoration, which should have around 1 million eggs in it:
All of them painted according to different models....
From there we continued to the gastronomic part of our tour, beginning at Nordsee for some fish and seafood :
Miki and Sharon Strachman and myself.
From left to right, Miki Strachman, myself, Dror Levy.
Sure, that was a great opportunity to looking at pictures of each other's families at the phones....
After the seafood, nothing like a good coffee at Demel, the one of the best coffee-shop chains in Austria.
Surely, the coffee is just an excuse for the cakes.
As you can imagine, there was no material for a movie today, and no way to record it in the rain. But movies will be back from tomorrow on.
Today was the day of the Lakes Tour. It will surely be remembered as one of the most beautiful days in the whole tour, so go ahead with the pictures.
If I have said in the day of the Grossglockner that it was a day we would never forget in terms of riding experience, this was a day we will never forget in regard to all the beautiful places we have gone through. Mainly we visited the Salt Mine near Salzburg, and the lake towns of Gosausee, Hallstatt and Sankt Wolfgang.
We began with the Salt Mine, a very interesting place, and left the bikes to go inside. We arrived there at 9:00, and we recommend to get there early, since it has a lot of touristic activity, and lines are long.
We got white closes of salt miners, and when going into the mine the group quite reminded me the characters of "One flew over the cuckoo's nest".
After a small walk into the mountain and a trip on a small tram, we get into an area of sliders, which were used by the miners to slide into the mine. Each slider goes down 20-30 meters, and we have two of those to beat. Though in principle it looked quite complicated for the geriatric ages of the group, all the group was able to do it. In the picture above we see Shuli and Avi Livne doing their first slide.
The whole sliding experience brought us some good laughs when Jaki Asher decided to fakely faint, and only remembered there were people coming behind when they were already on the way. Jaki managed to run away, but left his wife Dina to be hit by the next group. All registered in the video.
We left the Salt Mine and began a beautiful ride to Gosausee.
On our way we passed the pictorial village of Golling, which can be seen in the picture above.
Another picture of the way, Shmuel and Levana Bander (AKA "The Banders") on their way.
The two pictures above show the lake Gosausee, a pastoral place with one coffee-shop and two souvenir-huts, and some rental boats.And let's not forget a stunning scenery.
We spent around 45 minutes at Gosausee, and left to our next destination, Hallstatt.
Hallstatt is another pictorial village, almost only one street, full of houses in which the first floor is the family business (mostly shops for tourists) and the second floor is the living place. We got there on a special day in which the firefighters were doing a demonstration for the community, and the whole town was one big party, with children operating a firefighting car water-jet, bubble-pools in the street, etc.
Houses at Hallstatt.
We've had a nice surprise there, impersonated by a group of German youngsters who were thrilled by the fact that we were from Israel and began singing Israeli and jewish songs. It was a heart-warming experience, specially on such days in which most of the world forgot who are the terrorists and who is fighting terror, and seems to understand reality in a completely distorted way.
But this was not all: in the middle of the mess a young couple with a child approached the group and asked in English if we were from Israel. Upon the positive answer, the mother opened the child's coat and on his shirt we could see a pin with an Israeli flag.
Well, it came out that the family is also German, the father has already visited Israel for 6 times and is crazy about the country. The boy, by the way, is called Reuben, named after the leader of one of the Israeli biblical tribes.
After nearly 1.5 hours at Hallstatt, we left to Sankt Wolfgang, where we decided to make a large stop and enjoy the town.
A look at the Wolfgangsee from the high part of town.
The main street of Sankt Wolfgang.
A different direction at the main street.
At this spot we sat for a good cup of coffee and an even better piece of cake.
And down to the daily video:
Today we close the first week of the journey, and also leave the Salzburgland district of Austria in the direction of the Tirol.
Mainly this was a day of fast and straight riding at highways, so there aren't many pictures, or a big video file. But let's try to show a little of the things we have seen and done.
A little after leaving Anif, we suddenly got a call from Yossi Ifrach, AKA Joe, asking us to stop since his bike began to overheat. We checked and it seems that the ventilator was not being operated by the thermostat that should control it. Rany Ovadia took over, and after some minutes of work made a bypass on the thermostat, and put the ventilator back to work. This enabled the continuation of the journey, and if not completely solved the problem, as you will see in the future, at least provided Joe and his wife the means to enjoy the journey without problems for the next days with us.
Riding with responsibility and order, in a Z-formation, at the highway.
A beautiful countryside.
On the way we stopped at Chimsee, a giant lake full of islands, where one of the kings of Germany built a beautiful castle.
We sailed to the main island.
And walked around there for more than an hour.
While we were parking the motorcycles for sailing to the Island, another group of motorcycles came to the same parking lot. It was a group of girls-only. There were girls from all over Europe, and even one from Canada. A very interesting interaction, questions (for example, how did we manage to bring the scooters from Israel to Europe, or how do we carry our luggage for so many days). As usual, finding a group of 22 bikes from Israel was a good curiosity item.
We visited also Innsbruck, a city which is well known for hosting the Winter Olympics. The group decided to make a stop there for another motorcycle equipment shop, and were so eager to do so that forgot a part of the group wandering around the city. Luckily we were able to find them and everything came out fine.
At the end, we got to out destination, the town called Seefeld. Above is a picture of our hotel there. If the hotel looks nice to you, the town looks even nicer. A place to visit, for sure. Worth staying one or two days there. Here are some pictures from their main street.
During the 8th day of our journey, we crossed another border, this time between Austria and Germany. Our destination: the Zugspitze and Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Weather was half nebulous and half rainy, it was not an easy trip.
This is a picture-on-demand. The demand is from Avi Livne, who claims that there is something wrong with my camera that in all my pictures he comes out bald. Well, here it is, Livne, you are not bald on this one.
We decided to leave Seefeld only at 11AM, to let the group enjoy a little more of Seefeld. It was definitely worth it.
On our way we went through Fempass, a place in the middle of the road with a beautiful lake and a nice castle. We stopped there for quite a long time, since we discovered already one hour before that we had lost the logistics car and we were trying to get him back to us. We talked to the driver, Dror Sankevich, and understood he had entered the highway, and tried to get him back to us. Not apparently successful, but we understood that he was in the right direction to our destination.
The way to Garmisch-Partenkirchen was beautiful, a small road made of bridges and small towns.
We went through Nassereith, Ehrwald, and other towns. At Erwahld, we made our attempt to get to the Zugspitze, but we got to the train station after the last train left, and even after starting the ride upwards, in the middle of the way we saw that the whole peak was completely covered by clouds, so there was no reason for continuing our way up.
Well, bye-bye, Zugspitze, maybe next time.
At 16:00 we arrived to our hotel at Garmisch Partenkirchen, part of the group went to walk in the city, and the other part decided to check what our hotel at Partenkirchen had to offer:
Like the nice Jacuzzi above....
... or the nice saunas (wet and dry) which were very nicely used by Rany Ovadia and Eitan Cohen (in the picture) and others.
Well, the clock was marking 17:00 and the car was still not there. Talking to Dror S. again made us aware that he "was at the hotel but couldn't find us". Some questions made it clear: he was in the hotel in which we are supposed to be in the next day. Now, another two hours to make the way back to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. At the end, at 19:00 and after 400 Km of travelling, Dror and the car were safe with us, and everyone got his luggage back.
Today we left Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Germany, on our way back to the Tirol and a Ski resort called Sankt Anton am Arlberg.
On our way we passed through two very beautiful places, ETTAL and LECH, villages which are very well known for their local beer. Despite the reservation, many of us tried the beer, and surprise, the local beer is a lot lighter than the beer sold in Israel, and did not have any effect in letting us securely get to our objective.
We left the hotel at 9:15, heading to the border.
In the picture above I am with the line of bikes in front of the hotel, and in the picture below I try to show our line leaders, Dror and Lea Levy, who are always the first in the line and thus never get to be photographed.
Here is another picture of them in the holy task of leading us to our next destination.
Here is ETTAL; we stopped to see its beautiful cathedral, and to drink their local beer ,Ettal Weiss, a typical Bavarian beer, very light and even more tasty.
The cathedral at ETTAL.
Part of the group poses at Ettal for a group picture.
One of the nice things in all houses in the region is the decoration around the windows. Though it looks like construction, it is all paint !!!
From Ettal we moved to a town that is known for wood works. There I found a new friend...
There were very nice segments for riding and training our control over the bike.
... and very beautiful corners in which Nature shows its full wisdom.
Well, we crossed the border back to Austria, and who was waiting for us some meters after the border. Right, the rain ! So, during the drive from there to Sankt Anton, I couldn't photograph anymore, and it is a pity since we passed through very nice towns. Around 18:30 we arrived to our destination, Sankt Anton am Arlberg !!!
This is a local band that every evening performs a parade across the main street.
Sankt Anton is a lively ski resort, which receives tourists not only during ski season, but all around the year. The town is lively and interesting, and beautiful to see.
Well, unfortunately the rain decided to stay for today. We had the Silvretta path planed for today, but the thought of doing it with that amount of rain was a difficult decision. At the end, we decided it was too dangerous to do as a group, and made it a free day. Five or six couples decided to take their bikes and do it anyway, while de others decided to stay and enjoy Sankt Anton.
The Silvretta path is a mountain pass which is very bautiful and provides a special riding experience, with its sharp curves on the way downhill. It is a beautiful thing to do and a pity to loose, but considering that we had an even sharper mountain pass for the next day, I believe it was a good decision to give up on Silvretta.
The picture above and the other Silvretta pictures and videos were provided to me by Shmil Afias and Moshik Kobi, who were there while I decided to stay in the city.
So take a look and understand what the Silvretta is:
A lot of curves.....
... which are difficult to do in such a wet road ....
This is the group who took the challenge at the top of the hill.
And the girls who participated in the operation.....
Well, at the time they were fighting the Silvretta, others were enjoying the city, and we could not ignore the three Heidis:
From the left: Heidi Levy, Heidi Ovadia and Heidi Strachman.
The cable car to Galzip. From there we can continue to VALUGA but we did not do it since it was also covered by clouds..
So we went up to Galzip to have lunch. This is the view from there. Sankt Anton is the village at the bottom of the picture, the nearmost at the valley. It is beautiful to see as the valley goes, town after town.
Well, here is your reporter from the freezing cold - brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !
at the end of the day there was a party at the hotel, and the group took the opportunity to dance a little:
Above are Jaki and Dina Asher in their dance.
I can sadly say that today we have begun our way back. We are leaving Austria on our way back to Italy.
We left Sankt Anton on our way to Merano in Italy, but not through the straight highway, but instead doing the Timmelsjoch mountain pass, which is also known in Italy as Passo Rombo. The Timmelsjoch peak lays at 2509 meters height, and the ways up and down are thrilling riding experiences, full of sharp curves and a beautiful scenery. Even the people that conquered the Silvretta the day before agreed that it was nothing compared to Timmelsjoch.
The way is made of a very narrow road, with a very low wall which won't hold anyone from falling downhill, a lot of sharp curves, and the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen. Riding there was a really beautiful thing. Whoever can't understand that from the picture above should definitely see the video to understand what I am talking about.
But let's start from the beginning.
At 9AM we were ready to leave, but detained by some confusion about two parking cards that disappeared. We lost about 1/2 hour, but finally arranged everything and left.
We began our trip through the Austrian beautiful roads, under light but very steady rain.
A little after we left, Yossi "Joe" Ifrach's bike stopped. Well, one week after it presented problems, it was doing it again. The bike was hot and almost completely empty of water. We checked and saw that the closest service garage was distant 150 Km from us in the opposite direction, and Rany decided to call the service in Israel to get instructions on what to do.
This is the public watching Rany trying to fix it......
... and this is Rany, again lying on the floor under a bike.
After nearly one hour, the bike came back to work, but after a trip of around 15 Km it overheated again. We saw it was empty of water again, and understood something was wrong with the engine or the radiator. So we decided to make the distance to our next hotel with stops every 10 Km to add water to the bike. This would allow it to get there and be carried later to the Ravenna port.
So we got toTimmelsjoch, and took photos of the group near the marks with the altitude.
Temperature was under 8 degrees Celsius, so we didn't stay there for long and began our way down.
During the way down, at the very moment we crossed the border into Italy rain was gone and the sun came out. Around 1.5 hours later we were arriving to our hotel in Merano.
Merano reminded me very much of my childhood, in which we would spend the summer at a summer vacation town in Brazil called Teresopolis. Except for the river dividing the city, the views were very similar: same colors, same building style, a really beautiful place.
All the next days were already written after arriving back, since unfortunately I had no internet either in Levico Terme or in Mestre, and there was no way to publish anything. So the map shows the last three days of the Journey.
The 12th day began with waiting in Merano for the car which would take Joe's bike to Ravenna. Unfortunately the bike could not continue the journey with us. We all agreed that Joe and his wife would accompany the bike and put it on a safe place at the Ravenna port, and then on the way back stop in Levico Terme and meet the group back, continuing with us the trip. The cost of the car went on the whole goup.
After the car left with Joe, his wife and the bike, we continued our way to LEVICO TERME. Our way went through a beautiful mountain pass, and an area of lakes that was simply stunning. We stopped by the biggest lake to swim a little, or to stay by the bar near the lake and drink some coffee or eat something.
Here are some pictures that summarize the 12th day:
Getting ready fro the road in Merano.
Lifting Joe's bike and taking it into the car.
On our way through the mountains we passed through a little village which was running an exposition of old cars, trucks and motorcycles, and stopped there for two hours to see the mess.
A tricicle in the exposition.
An old Triumph motorcycle.
They had also old sports cars.
... and trucks.
The end of the day was already at LEVICO TERME, a beautiful village full of thermal fountains. The picture shows a summary meeting with almost all the participants, at the hotel in Levico Terme.
We left Levico Terme at 9AM, taking the direction of MESTRE, the continental part of VENEZIA. Our planned way goes through the GRAPPA valley, a region known by their grapes and wines production. On the way we passed through CISMON DEL GRAPPA, another nice pictorial town to be registered in this diary:
The mountains stayed with us along the way.
From another angle....
Entering CISMON DEL GRAPPA
The main street.
A surprise at CISMON DEL GRAPPA. The leaders saw a narrow road going uphill and decided to check where it takes to. After a nice ride of around 15 minutes, the scenery that suddenly opened itself to us was as follows:
A beautiful lake near the road.
Nice houses on the top of the hill, nearby the lake.
The lake as seen from the houses above.
A lifted bridge crossing the lake where the whole group went down to walk.
the view from the top of the dam that created the lake.
From there we continued through BASSANO DEL GRAPPA to MESTRE. We took our rooms in the hotel and set a time to go out to Venezia, 16:15. At the previously set time all the group was at the lobby and we took the bus which took us to the port where we take the water-bus to Venezia.
Venezia: the "gondolero" takes a loving couple to a small cruise.
The cannals at the city haven't lost a bit of their magic since I've been there with my wife Lily 10 years ago.
The only pitty was that the Piazza San Marco, where we can sit in the coffee shops and hear the orchestras playing, was closed for a paid concert, and it was impossible to see it or to enjoy even a small bit of it.
We arrived back to the hotel around midnight, and went immediately to sleep to be ready for the difficult day we had ahead.
Well, what can I say? This is the saddest day of the trip, the day in which we leave Mestre on our way to the Ravenna port to ship the bikes back to Israel, and from there to Verona in order to fly back.
Anyway, the day was still full of adventures. We left the hotel at 7:30 in the morning, and some seconds after leaving a group of 8 bikes got stuck after a truck in a traffic light, and lost the rest of the group, which for some reason did not leave a marshall to indicate the way. I was among them. After rushing to catch them and talking to them on the phone, we set the GPS to the Ravenna port and began to travel. Some minutes after entering the highway we see the sign pointing to the road where the rest of the group was travelling, and go out of the highway..... well, almost all of us, two bikes did not have the time to take the exit and continued on the highway. While keeping phone contact with the two, and also with the main group, we suddenly discovered that for some reason we had managed to overtake the main group and were around 20 minutes ahead of them. So we stopped at the first large gas station to wait for the rest of the guys.
At some moment we agreed with the two guys that were still in the highway that they should continue directly to Ravenna and meet us there. We expected to get there before them since the highway adds a big amount of kilometers to the trip, and we were doing the shorter way, even if we were slower.
After we arrived to Ravenna, we gave them our GPS cordinates and they were soon there with us to package their bikes.
Preparing the bikes and the equipment to put into the containers.
At 16:00 the containers were sealed and we left with a charter bus to VERONA. We stopped at the old VERONA city for 45 minutes of visit & pizza. Our plane left at 00:30, and at 5:00 we were landing at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.
This closes our journey. It is difficult to say what was more special on it at all; the riding, the people, the scenery, or even the public relations work that we did for Israel without even noticing.
I will try to do a short analysis of it all in the next lines, and maybe this will make us understand the magic behind such a journey that made us all leave our lives in the middle for a period of 14 days. Maybe we will understand why after almost one week from the end of the journey I still can't forget it for a minute, and all the time I have images of it running through my head, no matter what I am busy with. Maybe we will understand why we all came out of it like a big family and have already set a day for a group meeting this week, not being able even to wait for the next Israeli tour which is happening next week.
We have gone through 3 countries, with different sceneries, different weather, and different towns one from the other. We have gone through some of the most famous mountain paths in the world, known worldwide for their beauty: the Grossglockner, the Zuckspitze, the Silvretta (part of the group), the Timmelsjoch. We rode on these mountain paths, getting to the very limit of what an Israeli rider can know, considering the geography of our country. We rode around lakes in some of the most beautiful lake areas in the world. We rode through adverse weather conditions, heavy rains, cold, heat, and even inside a cloud.
All the above describe no more than the dream of every rider. I must confess that at some points of the trip I said to myself "I have made this dream come true, I can already die in peace". I am sure others had the same thought. It comes when the riding experience brings you to such a height in spirit that you already feel in heaven.
This is probably the reason why I cannot disconnect from it. The experience is still within me. I keep living it again and again, and I guess it will take some time for me to come back down to earth.
As someone who is crazy about technology and mobility, I must refer to this aspect of the trip.
A great guy I knew last year defined technology in a curious way that proved itself to be very true. He said: Technology = stuff that doesn't work yet. He explained that this is why it is so interesting to so many people, and that after it begins working it becomes commodity, and doesn't interest anyone anymore since it is just there with everyone.
Based on this definition, I must say that I came out a little disappointed about some things that for me should already be commodity and I found them to be still a big source of problems.
Let's begin by WiFi, which was either non-existant or very poor in all the hotels we visited. While in the US or in Germany we get good WiFi coverage at the hotels, for free or acceptable prices, in Italy and Austria the hotels that had it made it available only at the lobby, and gave a very slow network with prices of around 8 Euros per hour. Worst than that, you could not buy three hours, or a full day, you had to purchase it hour per hour. You can imagine what a difficult task it is to upload videos to Vimeo or to Youtube in such network conditions. This made the task of publishing these reports very difficult to complete.
Secondly: Cellular Internet. Let me say it in one simple sentence: cellular data roaming in Europe for an Israeli customer is a RIP-OFF !!! I can't understand how the cellular operators are not ashamed of selling air for such prices. They make their networks unusable.
Additionally, all the time that I was on Austrian ground, I had no cellular coverage for my Cellcom phone. Can't understand why, but the three operators did not accept me in their networks... is it possible that Cellcom doesn't have roaming agreements with any of the three???
Last but not least, GPS. Here I am going to do something that I don't like, to compare a product that has sponsored my trip with one who hasn't. I am telling you this for the sake of honesty, but I am trying hard to get the sponsoring case completely out of my analysis.
First of all, I must say that for most people in the group, that was still in technology phase (remember? stuff that doesn't work yet?). Although we did preparation training meetings, one GPS usage trip in Israel, and asked everyone to previously set favorites with the addresses of all the hotels in the trip, just a few did that. Most of the group didn't manage to learn how to use their GPS devices. I think it will be interesting for the companies to learn why.
Secondly, as a result from the field, I noticed that iGo performed much better than others (we had different devices with iGo at approximately 2/3 of the group, one device with Mio Spirit, and the rest with Mio Moov). iGo performed its tasks without problems for anyone who knew a little how to operate it. They were always the first to be ready to move.
On the other extreme was Mio Spirit. The poor guy that bought this device has never been able to finish one task of setting a destination on it. The system was so complicated, so opposite to straight-mind, that he always got lost with it, and me as well, when I tried to help him. I believe this last software update by Mio was very unhappy and their previous version is much easier to use to anyone that sees it for the first time.
BTW, I don't know who was the genious that decided to remove the GPS Status Screen from the Spirit's software. Today, if you need to give someone what are your current cordinates and you have a Mio Spirit, you can't do it. I challenge anyone to prove me that you can.
In the middle of the two we had the Mio Moov. It was an interesting sight to see the Moov users comparing their devices over and over and trying to understand "why he can do it and I can't if we have the same software". Well, I don't know, some Moov devices showed the flag of the country when we were choosing an address and let us build a path that goes from one country to another, and others did not. There was no flag, you needed to manually change maps, and there was no way to choose an address in Italy if I was in Austria, or more exactly, to navigate from Austria to Italy. It was like the maps of the different countries were isolated from each other. Why? I simply don't know. But it was very distressing.
I believe that if Mio wants to survive on this market they need to urgently create a software which is fast, exact, and most importantly, easy to use. I don't have an issue with their current speed and exactitude. They are very good on those two. But usability is the name of the game, and here they are looking bad.
Being an Israeli diplomat for the forces of circumstance
Let's begin by saying: I am an Israeli, and I am proud of being Israeli. Despite the fact that I was born in Brazil, most of my adult life was lived in Israel, which has presented me with citizenship after I was here for 6 years. I meet many people when I go out for my business trips, and I always function as a mini-ambassador. But this time it was different.
Try to picture a long line of 22 giant scooters, each one with equipment and two people over it, with a non-recognized license plate, going into your town and taking almost a full block for parking side-by-side one with the other. Wouldn't you be curious to know what the fuss is all about?
Well, maybe not if you live in a big city like London or Paris, but in the small towns we passed through, our arrival was always a touristic attraction to the villagers and the tourists there. More than once we parked the bikes and by the time we got to that souvenir shop at the other side of town the owner already asked us if we were from the big Suzuki group that has just arrived. There is also the solidarity links between bikers, everyone is interested in everyone. Specially when a club from so far away is visiting.
For these reasons and more, it came out that we had contact with many people, either local or tourists from other parts of Europe. All of them very receptive to Israeli, and most of them also very supportive.
The group, in its respectful behaviour, has been a good ambassador for Israel. We were able to show people of all origins in Europe that we have a life here which is just similar to theirs. That we are not busy with war all the time. That we like to enjoy life, travel around, and mainly that we would be very happy to do this more if we only had peace.
As wise people use to say, smiles bring smiles, and the amount of smiles we have seen from local people in all countries during this journey was the biggest I have had in one single period of my life.
Being this kind of ambassador makes me proud, specially when I see that all people in the group are doing their part in making the group desirable in every place we go. I wish I had more chances to do this, and more groups would go out and show people in other lands what are the beautiful things in Israel and in the Israelis.
Maybe then the anti-semitic and anti-Israeli trends (which are actually the same wearing different masks) would be gone forever.
A group of 44 people go out on 22 bikes for 14 days together in strange lands. Well, we can remove the bikes from the formula and the result will be the same: at some point of the trip there will be pressures and conflicts of interests. And they were not missed here as well. However, I believe that whatever happened was really so small compared to the fraternity between the people in the group, that I find it difficult even to consider it of any importance at all.
One year ago, after a trip the Burgman Club did to Eilat, someone wrote an article in one of the Israeli car magazines called "making friends after the age of 40". Hell, I am almost 50 and if I look behind I can really notice that after the age of 40 I have hardly made some 5 new friends. And then comes the Burgman Club and all this happens.
Making friends after the age of 40 is really not something that happens easily. Creating a new family around you after the age of 40, this is already a miracle. I can say that I had the luck to see this happening around me. I have an additional family today, made of people who mainly share with me two big interests: enjoying life and riding.
Before finalizing, I need to apologyze to six people: Shmuel and Levana Bander, Jaki and Dina Asher, Dror Sankevich and Moshe Azuguy. Here is the reason: during all the trip I have interviewed the participants in video and published the interviews in my websites. Well, the trip finished and I did not have time to interview these four. They are not less nice or less interesting than anyone, they are great people, some of them are close friends of mine, and it just happened that the journey finished and they were not interviewed. So I would like to leave my apology recorded here.
Challenging rides, beautiful scenery, pictorial towns, weather that included all 4 seasons in 14 days, and the best friends someone can wish for himself..... what more could I ask for? Someone once said that the best in such a trip is when it ends with a taste of "more, more...."; well, I was left with such a taste, and I hope very much that in 2012 I will be able to be there again.
I would like to thank to all the organizing group, a group of wonderful people who gave me the chance to be a part of them. To the whole participating group, who made the best friends I could wish for such a journey. And last but not least, to GPS & More, iGo's distributor in Israel, whose sponsorship made it possible for me to participate and report on this journey.
And now.... well, let's try to go back to routine and wait until 2012.....