Illyria Raid 2019 – Balkans

I never had any aspirations to ride a raid until I was approached by Adam, a co-worker who knew I liked to ride motorcycles off-road. After a bit of research it seemed like a fun opportunity but I still had my reservations:
• Chantil and I were planning to ride through the Alps and the dates of the Illyria Raid would conflict.
• I have never spent much time with Adam outside of work. Would we be able to get along for a week of sleeping in the same room and riding together over challenging terrain?
• I’ve never done an organized trip since I feel they are too constrictive. I often want to slow down and enjoy taking pictures or planning side-trips. I also feel it is more cost effective to plan your own route, especially if you camp instead of staying at expensive hotels.

Six months before the date of the Raid, Chantil learned about a motorcycle event called “Girls on Top – Everest Base Camp”. It was an all-girls event guided by legendary Steph Jeavons – a British woman who rode around the globe and all seven continents on her Honda CRF250L. Her event was planned during the same time of the Illyria Road so we decided to have separate motorcycle vacations this year. She signed up for Girls on Top and I signed up for the Illyria Raid.

*Perhaps Chantil will write a blog about her Everest Base Camp trip (wink, wink).

Preparation

I was concerned about the weight of my BMW G650GS. It’s 440 lb wet-weight is not ideal for crossing challenging off-road terrain for a week-long event covering 2,200 km. My friend, Adam, offered to let me ride his Yamaha 250 but I am always weary of riding someone else’s motorcycle, especially over challenging terrain. I was also planning to ride from the end of the Illyria Raid at Croatia to Germany via 22 Alp passes. A 250cc motorcycle would not be ideal for this type of riding. So the decision was made – I’ll be riding ‘Apache’, my BMW mule.

Are you ready to rumble! Nearly 2,200 km crossing seven Balkan countries in seven days. *Map from illyriaraid.com

I’ve always been fascinated with flags. As a young boy, I would browse through atlases and marvel at the colorful flags of far away counties that I could only imagine in dreams. I am beyond excited to be adding the following counties to the windshield of my motorcycle. Let’s hope I don’t break a leg in Greece and ruin the whole three-week ride.

Since I was limited by vacation time (aren’t we all), I decided to have my motorcycle shipped to Greece using the services of EAO Racing, an off-road Rallye group in Belgium.

Some of the other bikes – Since this is an almost purely off-road trip most of the bikes are midsized enduro types.

It’s been proven that more stickers make a motorcycle go faster! 😆

Illyria Raid – Getting to the Starting Point

🗓: 6 Sep | 🌍: Flying from Düsseldorf, Germany to Ionnina, Greece

A week after dropping off my mule, Adam and I flew from Düsseldorf, Germany 🇩🇪 to Ionnina, Greece 🇬🇷

Burned by the metric system in Düsseldorf, Germany… Security wanted to throw this 2.75 oz travel size of shaving cream away because there was no milliliter label on it. I wasn’t willing to argue in the security line but afterward decided to look it up…
2.75 oz = 81.33 ml which is below the 100 ml limit. I went back, explained my case, and got back my shaving cream. Victory! A tiny 2.75 oz victory.

The Aegean Airbus A320 arrived for Athens! Months of preparation and planning and it’s starting to feel real!

Getting from Athens, Greece to Ionnina, Greece via Olympic Air was delayed a bit but all is well. Looking forward to reuniting with my motorcycle tomorrow!


🗓: 7 Sep | 🌍: Exploring a Bit of Ionnina, Greece

I had a lot of anxiety so I woke up early enough to get breakfast and walk around observing the town of Ionnina waking up.

The breakfast bar had some wonderful “feel good” signs. I’m a firm believer is surrounding yourself with positivity!

Adversity is just a small part of this wonderful life.

Greece is an interesting country. It appears that money was spent on infrastructure and building projects but then the money dried up – it’s collapsing from lack of maintenance. Sadly, many of the sidewalks in Ionnina look like this.

Graffiti is also a problem here. Much of it is really poor quality… but I happened to find this stencil art that was interesting enough to remember.

Some buildings are a bit run down but they still have a unique beauty about them. Perhaps it’s the various materials used and the decorative entrances?

Ferro animals also seem to be a problem here. This was one of three cats that seemed to be living in a small hole inside a crumbling home.

Lake Ionnina was quite and peaceful in the early morning.

The different shades of blue in the layers of the hills was especially picturesque.

A uniquely molded fence surrounds the lake along the walking path.

Enjoying the solitude and beauty for a brief moment.

It’s all Greek to me 😂 !

Our walk back to the hotel, took us through the residential apartment area of town.

I ran across this old gas pump that had been abandoned for some time. I found the mechanical gears and number wheels to be interesting.

I passed by a gallery of an artist that adds a bit of modern illustration techniques to an old art form.

We walked back to the hotel, packed up, and hopped in a cab that took us to the Epirus Palace Hotel where we were going to register and then start the event the following day.

Epirus Palace Hotel

I was definitely impressed when we were dropped off at the Epirus Palace Hotel…

…with its large welcoming lounge area.

Just outside the hotel in the parking area I was reunited with my mule ‘Apache’ – It’s been A WHOLE WEEK! Thanks to EAO Racing for getting my mule safely to Greece!

Rider 145 and Apache are ready to ride starting tomorrow! There are about 60 other riders on the raid – Most of them were on dirt bikes, some four-wheelers, and one side-by-side.

We spent much of the afternoon making sure the motorcycles were gassed up and ready for the next days early start.

In the evening the hotel come alive with lighting, dinner, and dancing.

No dancing for me. I sat by the pool and tried to calm my anxiety of riding in my first raid event.

That night we received a nice dinner and then were briefed on the next timings and route. Tomorrow will be day 1 of a week of off-road riding through some of the most beautiful scenery of southeastern Europe.

Check out PAGE 2 to enjoy Day 1 of the Illyria Raid…

Published by viajarMOTO

A couple of vagabonds traveling the world on motorcycles.

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