September 11, 2009 GMT
Anticipation

No permanent address & no income. Yep, I'm really getting into my travelling skin now. I thought I'd put a half-decent blog entry up here since I've been telling people about this blog anyway, and I didn't think that the "Dog Toilet" placeholder picture (courtesy of my friend Christos) would cut it any longer... So here is a rough plan for my itinerary from the UK to India (and not Nepal as depicted, but I can't be bothered to re-create the picture and I didn't keep the original XCF format okay?)

trip-plan

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at 05:01 PM GMT
September 12, 2009 GMT
One step closer

My last Saturday in London was meant to be nice and relaxing... NOT!

This is how the story unfolded: After waiting for a new WP rear shock for 2 months, I was told WP are are having problems and won't deliver. Naturally they only told me that when I started getting really pushy as "I have to be on the road next week!", before that the reason for the "delay" was "extended factory holidays" and such malarkey.

So with one week to go, I had to find an alternative, and the Ohlins Su201 (46 PRCS) seemed to be the best option. Sure, it's supposed to be for the Vstrom 1000, but suspension & Suzuki experts KAIS performance (in Manchester) said they have fitted a few of them on 650s... so I ordered the very pricey full-feature kit (preload, compression AND rebound adjustable - wow) and set my alarm for 6 o'clock this morning to drive to Manchester and have it fitted.

Left North London at 7, was there by 10. After about 5 minutes, I get a smiling Mr. Andy saying "we have a small technical issue..." - it turns out the shock is different than what they were anticipating and the particular unit did not fit my bike, since the reservoir that hosts the compression damping adjusters is fixed on the unit instead of the {anticipated I suppose) loose unit. Grand.

So a solution had to be found and it turned out that the folks at KAIS managed to change the head and use an external reservoir that did get fitted on the bike, minus the adjusters. So no compression damping for me, in the end got only rebound and preload adjusters but hey-ho. Things can never simply work, can they?

This is the result: P9130021

So after riding 700km on the lovely M1 & M6's of this country, I'm spending the remaining day trying not to smash to pieces a new Acer laptop with Windows Vista on it. It comes from the shop with so much pre-loaded useless/dangerous software that I spent hours just uninstalling stuff. Of course the Operating System itself is living up to its tradition as well - the automatic update process is already broken, there are zombie services (can't delete/restart/fix/touch them in any way)...

P9120011

I will so not miss this when I'm gone :-)

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at 11:00 PM GMT
September 20, 2009 GMT
Leg 1: London to Athens

Unbelievable, but it actually takes 2 days on the road to reach Ancona, Italy from London.

I left London on Wednesday the 16th of September 2009, 07:40 in the morning. Quikcly, before I thought too much about what this meant, what I was doing etc. My plan to make a quick escapade was quickly thwarted by one wrong choice - not to use the M25 to get to M20 to Dover. Instead I took the manly option and decided to drive through London... An hour and a half later I was THIS CLOSE to turning on the GPS, which would have dealt a deadly blow to my explorer/navigator self esteem, but then I saw that lovely sign for Peckham and I knew I was on the right side of town.

After crossing to Calais, I enjoyed paying EUR20 for my first toll - a warm welcome by the French motorways, which turned out to be a bug in their automated vehicle recognition system - it turns out motorcycles are recognised as cars by the automatic system, so a word of warning for all motorcyclists out there - USE THE MANNED BOOTH or pay twice as much. Of course there is a (byzantine, user-unfriendly) system to get a refund. Whatever.

I set up my tent in a lovely Aire-de-something-or-other just after Metz (FR) with a beautiful patch of grass, tree coverage and about 50 truckers spending the night there, hence a feeling of safety. I collapsed around 21:00 after asking the GPS what time the sun would come up - the answer was 06:01. So I set my alarm for 6 and slept.

Nine hours later I woke up fresh as a rosebud (okay, poetic license [ab]used!), packed my stuff and was on the road again by 06:50. The truckers were also waking up and continuing their journey and I remembered the affinity I used to feel for these nomads of the roads in previous trips. It's good to know they're around and they're also just travellers.

Thursday 16 Sept 2009 I crossed Strasbourg, crossed into Switzerland from Basel, crosses Luzern, Lugano and entered Italy above Milano. From there I took the Autostrada till Rimini, where I exited and took the SS-16 (Via Adriatica), the coastal road south towards Ancona. I knew the boat would be the next day and I thought I'd call it a night in a seaside camping.

Indeed I camped in a place called Riccione (very posh), did a nice 6km stroll around the beach/town, maintained my high protein meditteranean diet (pizza/nutella crepe/ice cream) and went to bed.

Friday, 18th September 2009. Left Riccione around 8, heading South to Ancona. No rush, so took the busy coastal road, passing through villages, getting lost down alleys, asking for directions etc. It's all good fun. After two days on boring motorways, it was nice to be floating through truly beautiful land:

South of Rimini, Italia

Hopped on the SUperfast V for Greece which left Ancona at 13:30. Started a movie marathon (who can watch more than 7 trash movies in a row? I challenge thee!), with the sun setting sweetly on the Adriatic...

View from Superfast V

Saturday, 19th of September 2009

After sleeping for less than 4 hours (the CamelBak, for all its talents, is NOT a good pillow), had my cookies-based breakfast on the boat and waited to arrive to the port of Patra.

Breakfast @ Superfast V

Reached Greece around 12:30, hopped off the boat, weird feeling... the jukebox of my brain was stuck on "Bittersweet symphonie" (Verve). On the road back to Athens I got a good contestant for the "most scaringly idiotic diplays of nationalism" competition:

Civilised bloke

The translation for the very few of you that might have slept through ancient Greek class is roughly:
"GREECE: Anyone who is not a Greek, is a barbarian"

Lovely, eh?

Sorry it's so fuzzy, the dude was doing 110km/h and I had to fish out the camera and take the shot with my left hand in motion on the bike. But dammit, it's worth it, otherwise people just shake their heads in unbelieving scepticism when I rave about the poo for brain that some people have in this country, and the silent acceptance of such views as "harmess and graphic" by the rest of the population.

The coastal road that twists its way to Athens offers some spectacular views of the sea and sky. I had to stop to take a few snaps:

View from National Road @ Corinthos

After less than an hour, I was back in the house I grew up, with all the usual suspects (close family) there, buzzing around. It's good to be home.

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at 10:23 AM GMT
The road so far

This is the updated itinerary plan, with the green part already done (in 3 days nonetheless!). So the rest of it should take roughly another week, right? :-P

090920 trip route

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at 10:46 AM GMT
September 26, 2009 GMT
Red tape

...with no white knuckles :-(

From dict.org:

Red tape,
(a) the tape used in public offices for tying up documents,
etc. Hence,
(b) official formality and delay; excessive bureaucratic
paperwork.

Im referring to Lois Pryces excellent "Red tape and white knuckles", which I really enjoyed reading a few months back. Unfortunately for me the experience is all red tape, because I am having to deal with copious amounts of paperwork, and no white knuckles, because Im not doing any riding, as Im not on the road yet.

In any case. This past week has been busy. Got the Iranian visa - what a lovely document, how pretty the inscriptions, how magical the script I cant make anything out of... Id very gladly post a picture here for the artistic value of it alone, but alas, its a private document and one cant broadcast such things.

Now Ive applied for the Indian visa and with that in hand Ill go for the Pakistani one. Things turned pear-shaped when the Pakistani embassy asked me for the Indian visa first, while I was hoping to issue it in Islamabad (while taking a nice break and resting my bones), but noooo, plans are to be changed, arent they?

In the meantime Im having the bike sorted (i.e. spending serious money in servicing, equipping it with stuff etc) and completely negating a maxim I heartily endorse, which goes something like "its not the bike, its the rider". But there you go.

Now that the off-road tyres have been installed the bike looks properly in overlanding mode:

Vstrom with Continental TKC80

Other than that, red tape is wearing me out. I seem to be quite tired most of the time and cant wait to get on the road. I need some fresh air; this city and all its air-conditioned boxes and slippery, traffic-jammed roads are suffocating.

Anytime now, anytime...

Posted by Alexandros Papadopoulos at 06:01 PM GMT
 



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