Eastern European tour
My friend Stu and myself went on a trip on our bikes - his a Yamaha Tenere 750, mine a BMW F650GS. We went around Europe sleeping rough in the any woods we could find and living off any food we could get hold of that day, then cooking on open fires at night.
The route we took was from Hull to Germany, then through to Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic then back to Hull through Germany. I know this is not going around the world but it was a great adventure.
For me the adventure started as we got into Poland. The people are so hospitable and any time we got lost there seemed to be someone lurking around the corner who would slowly ease closer then ask if we needed any help (apparently this is how the Polish people are; they will observe from a distance before approaching you).
Our plans were to visit the concentration camps in Poland, which we did. This was a very sobering site as it has changed since it was found by the British all those years ago and the gates are left open to allow you to walk in with no payment. I think this is to allow anyone to come in so they can show the world the horrible things that went on here...
After this we camped in a Polish family's garden which we had been told about by a friend who had visited the year before! They were a really nice family who invited us into their house for drinks and singing around the piano. The next day when we awoke we could see the hills of Slovakia from the tents far away in the distance so we said our goodbyes and off we went to another countr,y not knowing where we would sleep that night.
We could not have known we would be sleeping in some woods that seemed haunted. It was like the Blair Witch Project! We had been riding for about eight hours, stopping for fuel and a quick cup of tea and some strange sandwhich from the local shop, when we pulled into some woods off the track away from the road. We were getting really good at finding good spots to sleep, so we set up camp. First job was to get the fire going, to get rid of the mosquitoes - they are killers in Slovakia. Then Stuart says to me: "I will nip down the road to a shop in the distance in the middle of nowhere". At this point it was dusk.
So off he goes, and as I could hear the last sounds from his exhaust in the distance, it hit me that I was in the middle of Slovakia in some woods on my own, with just a video camera for comfort. This is when I started to hear noises. Not just rustling, but screaming and grunting from the distance. As you can imagine I was crapping myself, so I videoed myself collecting wood for the fire, to keep my mind off the fact I was on my own.
Then, as I was collecting wood, I found cut out in a tree some people's names and it was dated the day before. I know this sounds unreal but it was all true so as you can imagine I got more and more scared and by now it was getting quite dark so I set off back to the fire.
By this time half an hour must have passed. I thought: "where the hell is he anyway?" I could here a faint noise of a bike exhaust in the distance and was so relieved. When he arrived i asked where he'd been. He said he had gone to the shop and they were shut so he knocked on the door and they invited him in and gave him vodka and food and they were dancing around the living room to some Slovakian music for half an hour before he could get away.
I told him about the noises and the names on the tree but it somehow did not feel as bad with two of us there. Anyway we soon forgot about it after a few beers and a massive stew with beef and all types of veg. Then we set about drawing some pictures with a white marker on some black open faced helmets we had bought in Germany. The next morning we packed our stuff and off we went. We were looking for a church called the 'Church of Bones', which Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman visited on Long Way Round, and after many hours of searching we found it, due to an ingenious way of asking for the directions by drawing a church and a bone then showing it to people.
We eventually got there quite late but it was worth the effort as it's packed with human bones - and I mean packed. There must be thousands packed into this church and it was nice to go there as I'd watched Long Way Round loads of times. We then set off to find camp. It took us some time but we managed to stumble across some more woods. As we drove through it opened up to the most spectacular lake nestled in between some hills. It was amazing: we had our own pebble beach with no-one around, apart from a guy on a rowing boar miles away.
By now we had got really good at building fires so we collected all our wood and built a three-level open fire out of stones so we could have stew on the middle rack, slow-cooking chicken on top and kettle on the bottom rack. That night we just slept on the pebbles in our sleeping bags with no tent. It was amazing watching the sun go down behind the hills and the deadly silence apart from the water on the shore.
Next morning, as the sun came up and heated all the beach up slowly, we had a cup of tea and set off. I could have stopped there for the whole holiday but we had to press on...