'98 Trip Around the Mediterranean Sea


J.: Greg has been moped- and motorbiking since he was a teenager. In 1993 he and Lucas flew to Poland, bought an old Czechoslovakian made Jawa and drove to Spain and back. In 1996 they opted for a decent bike, ‘92 Kawasaki KLR 650. From Amsterdam they went to Spain, then to Italy, Greece, Istanbul in Turkey and back to Poland. The next trip in 1998 was supposed to suppress both previous adventures. Also this time each traveller was to ride his own bike.  





G.: Since the conclusion of our (Greg and Lucas’) Euro-tour ’96, Lucas and I started throwing ideas about another expedition. We had several plans but the most exciting proposition seemed to be encircling the Mediterranean Sea. Visiting the Arab countries, going to the desert and seeing the Pyramids were the main reasons. I have to admit that the idea was mine but I did not really believe anybody would go for that. I was pleasantly surprised when one day Lucas told me: “We are going to go.” Awesome, I thought, but I did not treat his decision seriously, at least not yet. Since then Lucas became the driving force and without his determination the trip wouldn’t have happened. When Lucas bought his bike in the fall of ’97 I knew we would go. 


The original plan was to visit all the North African countries and do it on two bikes. So far Jacek was just an observer and despite me asking, he seemed not to be convinced to join us. Finally in January ’98 Jacek made a big decision and purchased a nearly new KLR. He would join us, however, under one condition: we wouldn’t go to Algeria. I suppose we could compromise and skip a civil war torn country, plus, it would be more fun with three people.




G.: I started the preparations in September ’97. I contacted the diplomatic institutions of all the concerned countries. Since we held Canadian passports it seemed like we only needed to obtain visas for Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Apparently obtaining visas for Egypt, Syria and Jordan was supposed to be very easy. I was advised to wait till March ’98. Getting visas for Algeria was not impossible since we did not want to go to the north of the country but it would take some more phone calls. The biggest headache was to get visas to Libya. Libya is a people’s country, if you know what I mean, and tourists are a rarity there. One may not just receive a visa for travel purposes, one must have an invitation – that’s what the Libyan Mission representative in New York told me. Since it was nearly impossible to find someone inside Libya to invite us, I had to look for other options. I contacted the Libyan embassy in Warsaw, Poland (we also hold Polish passports). I was told it wouldn’t be a problem but I had to contact them in January. Great, I thought. Now we just waited. When I phoned them in January I was told a totally different story. Now it was impossible to receive visas in Poland. I did not get discouraged and I started phoning some of the independent travel agencies in Libya. I found their phone numbers on the Internet. It was hard. Not all of them spoke English and some did not even respond. On one January day I was reading a new Lonely Planet book “Africa on a Shoestring”. There I found some more phone numbers of new travel agents in Libya. One agent spoke very good English and was more than happy to help. We exchanged several faxes. I sent him all the documents he requested and we were all set. We would get our Libyan visas in Tunis. I still was a bit apprehensive but at least now we had a chance. Now, I have to thank these very nice agents for making it possible for us to visit their country. You are great. Thanks!!!


In the spring we sent our passports to each embassy and within weeks we had all visas. We also started collecting all necessary gear: tires, chains, chain lubes, tubes, luggage mounting and what not. Nearly half of our luggage was spare parts. We also had to do thorough tune-ups just to make sure everything worked. In the meantime, Lucas and Jacek were exercising heavily their riding skills.


The next step was to build appropriate crates. Since I already had one from the previous trip, we built two more for Jacek and Lucas. Two weeks before our flight to Amsterdam, we took the bikes apart (forks, wheels, handle bars, blinkers, etc.) and stuffed everything into the crates. We rented a truck and drove to Toronto to drop off the packages at the shipping warehouse. To ship the bikes to Holland, we used a reliable Canadian-Dutch company “Damco Maritime”. We would pick up our bikes in Rotterdam, Holland. We would also buy the European liability insurance in Holland. 


As a part of preparations we also read a lot. We all agree that the Lonely Planet guidebooks are your best friend when on the road. Don’t hesitate to buy one when planning a trip.


The Guys:


Greg: musician, jazzman, teacher. Motor biking since he was 13. Speaks many languages.


Jacek: musician, teacher. Used to travel a lot when living in Poland. First time on a motorcycle in the fall of 1997. Learned very quickly.





To continue the story, click Europe 1 or go back to Mediterranean Trip.