March 02, 2008 GMT
Reflections on Tunisia

21 Feb - 28 Feb 08

Our Tunisian adventure ended pretty much as it began with a long wait at a ferry terminal and the Elephant strapped down in the belly of a ship. Although the passage was only 10 hours from Tunis we paid the extra for a cabin as we expected the ferry to be more crowded than the trip over from Marseille.

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We spent our last week in Tunisia at the faded seaside town of Hammamet in a comfortable apartment with a sitting room overlooking a courtyard with a large fig tree that was the night roost for hundreds of noisy sparrows. We had a lazy week of late coffee and pastry breakfasts and after dinner strolls for gelato, with vigorous 2 hour walks each day to make sure we felt virtuous enough to enjoy our dinner.

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Apart from giving us a rest after many weeks of almost constant movement, the break gave us some time for reflection on our Tunisian sojourn. It has also marked the first six months of our journey.

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Wonderful antique shop in Hammamet. (Peter Pursey take note.)

We have felt comfortable and at home in Tunisia. The Tunisians have been good hosts and the country, while lacking the(geological) drama of Morocco, has some wonderful sights mainly in the deserted south. It certainly provides a better desert experience than the over exploited patch of sand that passed for the Moroccan desert.

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We left just before the Hammamet half marathon. This was a shame as we were both looking forward to the run.

Regular readers will have seen our wonder at the archaeological sites. These were stunning and numerous and were the highlight for us both. Visiting in the dead of winter we often had these places to ourselves with plenty of time to look for the small detail that gave a clue to the lives of the original inhabitants. Grand temples are all well and good, but the real story of their lives is more often in the plumbing!
(Apologies to Mike Russell)

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A section of the 134km aqueduct that carried water to Cathage built by the Romans and maintained in service for about 800 years.

We have eaten simply but well in Tunisia. The food is probably less distinctive than Moroccan fare but we could generally go to bed with full bellies for a few dollars. The small local restaurants all had basically the same menu and similar prices and all have at least one TV in the corner at full volume.

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A sandwich (with tuna) and a glass of wine for lunch in Le Kef.

The Tunisians eat tinned tuna with almost everything. It dresses all salads, comes on pizzas, is an essential ingredient in most fast food and all sandwiches. It has even replaced the anchovies in puttanesca sauce. Sacrilege!

We have also seen and been seen by a measurable percentage of Tunisia’s school children. There are three levels of schooling here from the primary kids with kid-size bags to the young adults doing the four-year International Baccalaureate. Each of these groups has two sessions of schooling a day and the start times for the classes are staggered. This means that all day from 07hr to 18hr there are kids going to or from school and, since Tunisians only walk on the roadway, riding through any town is a slow process of weaving through throngs of young pedestrians. They do at least look well fed, smartly turned out and happy!

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The Elephant gets a bath in preparation for Italy.

So, a good time overall. But we do have one gripe. Tunisians are, in our experience, the world’s best litterers. Our previous record holders were the Syrians who found new and interesting ways to dress the landscape with plastic bags, but these folk are a cut above that standard.

The Tunisian president has launched an anti-litter campaign but it has yet to have an impact on the behaviour of the people. It is common to see a parent unwrap a sweet for a child and throw the paper on the ground. People of all ages, both genders and all social classes act with the same assurance that they have a perfect right to turn the land into a rubbish dump. They don’t seem to see the rubbish or care about it.

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Rubbish is everywhere but no one seems to notice.

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An army of street cleaners manage to keep the main areas clean.

The major urban and tourist areas are kept clean by armies of street sweepers who work throughout the night to get things tidied up for the morning. But out of these areas where there is no clean-up service the rubbish just mounts up and no one seems to care. In many small towns the inhabitants literally live in a stinking rubbish dump of their own making.

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This is not to say that the people or their houses are dirty. Far from it, they are invariably clean and well presented. It is just that no one feels any responsibility for those spaces that are not their direct property.

For us travelling, this is a complete pain in the arse. No one wants to stop for a break in a rubbish heap, but any area that could be used as a stop would invariably be filthy. The Tunisians can’t blame this state of affairs on anyone else. There are, from our experience, plenty of poorer people who manage to keep their plot neat and tidy.

OK, that is our one beef off the chest!

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On board the ferry, Eurostar Salerno, we found our cabin and drifted into a peaceful sleep blissfully unaware that the Italian border police would find new and interesting ways to torture us in just a few hours time.

Posted by Mike Hannan at 03:41 PM GMT
March 09, 2008 GMT
Long days in short countries

28 Feb to 7 Mar 08

The passage from Tunis to Palermo, Sicily, was smooth. After a beer with Sicilian BMW rider, Vito, and his wife, Antonella, we slept well in our comfortable cabin. Next morning, we rose and packed early to be ready for the formalities of getting back into the EU. Our experience on these ferries so far had been that the immigration procedures were carried out on board and in transit to shorten the turn around in port, but the desks and chairs set up in the passageway for this purpose remained determinedly empty.

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On board the Palermo ferry with the Sicilian coast in the distance.

The chairs were still empty as the ferry backed into the dock in Palermo. The crew were inscrutable and insisted in herding passengers into the ship’s cafeteria, but we hung back resisting all efforts to direct us into the masses. We didn’t know what the format for the proceedings would be, but experience has taught us not to be timid at these times. When Vito and Antonella appeared at our elbow and confirmed that we were aimed at the right doorway for EU passport holders, we pushed forward with renewed determination. We stood our ground against others pushing forward and relentlessly pushed aside those with less mass or determination.

We were amongst the first dozen to be processed by a disinterested, harassed looking official, but it had taken nearly an hour in the maul to get through. We could only imagine how long it would have taken for those back in the cafeteria mass.

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These well tied down bikes accompanied the Elephant in the car deck.

We rolled the Elephant down the ramp from the vehicle deck and straight into the streets of Palermo. I think I heard the Elephant groan, “so, this is Sicily, now get me some decent clean petrol!”

Back in the land of digital mapping, we had programmed the GPS well in advance with the location of the BMW dealer but, unfortunately, not the BMW “Moto” dealer. It took us an hour in the traffic to find the place but it was time well spent getting used to local traffic. Greg and Kerry Lane will be pleased to know that the Sicilian drivers make the Italians look like masters of restraint.

We weren’t surprised when they couldn’t service the bike late on Friday afternoon, but the friendly and helpful service manager booked us for Monday and gave us the address of a business to fix the slow leak in our rear tyre.

We were told to ask for Mario Gambino and we did just that when we arrived an hour later. Mario had been phoned and warned that we were on our way. He and his team marvelled at the Elephant’s fit out, where we had been, where we were planning to go and the whole idea of the Ulysses Club and its crazy motto. In short order, they removed a shard of steel from the tyre, repaired the wound and pumped it with 3.5 bar of Palermo smog.

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Mario’s team get to work on the Elephant.

“How much?” I asked. Mario shrugged his shoulders, spread his arms in a welcoming gesture, and said something we took to be “welcome to Sicily!”

We joined Mario for lunch at a new restaurant next door. The proprietor, Antonio, had learned his trade during 17 years in New York and had returned with his family to make a big investment in his home town. We had the best pizza we had tasted since New York, exchanged stories about our families and enjoyed our first Italian coffee for a while.

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Mario, Antonio and Mike enjoying the early spring sun.

We left Mario with a Ulysses sticker still chuckling over Antonio’s interpretation of the Ulysses motto and the special hand shake we had shown him. With two days to explore western Sicily we headed for the coastal town of Trapani, a warm hotel and two more alarmingly good pizzas and long neck of local beer.

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Sunday in the park – Palermo.

By the time the Elephant was back from the BMW dealership three days later, we had discovered that Sicily was full of challenging mountain roads and ancient villages clumped precariously on the top of the hills.

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Jo loved the “undercover police dogs”. At least that is what we thought these well fed pooches must be.

We walked all over Palermo from our hotel in a less salubrious quarter, ate some great Sicilian food, and started to get used to the budgetary reality of being back in Euro-land.

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“Our street”, at least for a couple of days.

The Elephant was also in good fettle with new fuel filters after the lousy petrol in North Africa and new brake pads in back. Its warranty expired on the day after its 30k service.

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Another BMW dealer and a chance for the Elephant to pick up bad habits from the locals.

We headed out for Messina on the eastern coast by the old coastal road. The 250km took more than 8 hours in the saddle and was a good explanation for the construction of the autostrada.

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Messina looked smart from the mainland ferry.

After the ferry to Italy, we elected a combination of autostrada and back roads for the ride over to Brindisi on the east coast. This interesting town was the end of the Appian Way and the step off point for the Crusaders on their way to the Holy Land.

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The crusader church in Brindisi had the remains of a…

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…fresco showing the Virgin blessing the knights. I assume this was before they sacked Constantinople.

We bought tickets for the only ferry running to Igoumenitsa, Greece, departing at 1900hr and got ourselves down to the docks late enough to ensure we were last on and close to the loading ramp. We spent the 8 hour passage in the bar chatting with Steve and Sandy, an English couple on their way to Greece to spy out a permanent mooring for their yacht. Steve had once ridden a 250cc two stroke Harley Davidson (who remembers this period of Harley history these days?) through Algeria and across the Sahara to Mali and had some great stories to tell about that adventure so the time went quickly.

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The trick is to turn up late so that you go on after the semis and are positioned near the door. Most small (cars, etc) vehicles go a level up or down and take much longer to get off.

We rumbled off the back of another ferry at 0400hr Greek time and had a great rush of enthusiasm as we stormed past the semis up a new freeway heading into the night. Our enthusiasm lasted for as long as the new road, about 25km. After that it was down to business and we hustled east and then south along the twisting mountain road through the dark.

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Ready to roll off another ferry. It's cold and nothing is open because it is 4:00 am. Welcome to Greece!

I know I have mentioned this before, but the headlights on the Elephant are a hopeless disgrace. For safety sake, we will have to organise an upgrade before our next night ride in mountains.

By dawn it was raining and cold, but we were thankful for the light and just hustled on. By midday we were half way down the country, warm and comfortable in a hotel room in the prosperous town of Messolongi with our bellies full of mousaka and beans and with the feeling that we had done a pretty good night’s work.

It was the first time we had been to Greece for about 20 years but we still have great memories of the wonderful month we spent here with Sarah and Nick in 1990. We had been propelled on our journey here by the kindness of strangers, and it felt good to be back.

Posted by Mike Hannan at 05:52 PM GMT
March 16, 2008 GMT
Spring at Last

8 to 15 Mar 08

A lot had changed in the 18 years since our last visit to Greece. The country we remembered was a bit of a backwater, friendly, quaint and a little clunky. The country we found has been transformed by its membership of the EU and monetary union. The place looks and feels prosperous, it has the beginning of a cosmopolitan culture (albeit one with central European bent), and all of the usual problems of a modern western market economy.

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One excellent effect of Greece’s booming economy is that folks have real jobs. We are never bothered by touts in the tourist areas.

The great news is that all of the things we loved then are still here, even if the prices are now in Euros. The food is great, the people straight-up and the country still rugged and beautiful. In short, everything we like about a place.

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Athens lacks the beautiful architecture of other cities, but in the prosperous area the town looks smart and clean.

Not that the Greeks themselves are fully used to the new face of their country. In one coffee shop, a fellow explained that the newcomers bring discrimination on themselves because they dress and act differently. We bit our tongues and didn’t say anything. We’re visitors here and, besides, we have heard enough talk-back jocks at home blaming the victim not to take the high ground.

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Don’t know about these fellows, but there were six of them sleeping around the same bank!

We arrived in Greece on the Friday of a long weekend for the celebration of Shrove Monday, also known as Clean Monday. As we rode into Athens on the Saturday morning a river of traffic moved in the opposite direction out of the city. We had wondered why the huge and almost empty hotel in Messolonghi had no rooms on the Saturday. We saw the reason pouring past us; a river of cars leaving town.

The Sunday of the long weekend is marked by a carnivale with big street parades. While the Brazilians are probably not in danger of losing their crown for the ultimate street party, the Greeks do a great job of parading in the streets dressed up in silly costumes and eating and drinking far too much. All of this in the name of piety mind you.

We spent the weekend in Athens staying in an area inhabited predominately by Romanians (don’t ask us). The unexpected upside of our visit was that the air, having been cleaned with recent snow and the Friday’s rain, remained as clear as crystal. The usual polluters spread their vehicle exhausts further afield in the provinces for three days. We put on our walking shoes (our only shoes) and made the best of the brilliant warm spring weather and the clean air in this traditionally smoggy city.

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On a rare clear day in Athens we look from Lycabettus Hill over the Parthenon and all the way to the Peloponnese. It is not often you can get a view like this.

Our reason for coming to Athens was to resolve some problems with our visas for Russia. In the end, we left without having a full solution to our problem, but the folk at the Russian Consulate were most helpful and we are hopeful that we will get our visas in the end. Without going onto excruciating detail, the following facts will allow you to fill out the problem(s) for yourselves:

• We are still 2400 km and seven countries away from our entry point into Russia and it will take us 60 days to get there. Our target entry date is 1 June 08.
• To get a visa, you need an invitation from an organisation inside Russia.
• Because we need a visa for three months (it’s a big place) and for multiple entries (we wanted to go to Mongolia as well) we have to have a business visa as the tourist versions are only for short visits.
• The organisation that is inviting us can’t apply for our invitation from the relevant ministry until 45 days out from our entry date.
• It takes 18 days to process our invitation request.
• Once we have the invitation (the original copy of which needs to be delivered to us somewhere, which will take a week) we have to apply for a visa at a Russian Consulate. These all operate separately and have different rules depending on the host countries. It takes 10 days for the Consulate to process the visas, during which time they have our passports.
• In the end, there is no guarantee that we will be granted the visa we need for the trip we want to do.

The current plan is to process our visas at the Consulate in Budapest in early May. We shall see about that! But, in the meantime, we stave off Alzheimer’s solving these problems on the road.

After Athens we headed south into the Peloponnese, that large southern protrusion joined to the mainland by a thin isthmus at Corinth. This is where you can find Sparta, Olympia, Kalamata and the village of Githio where Paris took some folk dancing lessons from Helen before stealing her away to Troy and starting a war.

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While we don’t intend to re-visit sites we visited in 1990, the theatre at Epidaurus was a short and interesting stop that we missed last time. This visit also gave us the chance to…

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…get a plumbing shot for Mike Russell!

In the Peloponnese you find those idyllic Mediterranean scenes with crystal clear water and beautiful villages that we associate with the islands. Here, however, we don’t have to travel by ferry.

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Your idyllic Greek scene! This one at the town of Nafplio, where we…

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…got our “codgercise” climbing 1000 steps up to the old Venetian fort above the city. I took this shot of Jo on the way down, and…

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…this one to show where we had been.

We rode through the rugged mountains over some of the most spectacular bike roads and enjoyed the spring weather with the Elephant.

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We were so high in the mountains when we stopped to take this shot near Kosmas, that….

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…there was still snow on the ground in some places.

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The mineral baths at Methana. Jo thought they called it that because if smelled like methane. They pump this foul smelling green stuff into the building and folks actually immerse their bodies in it. Pass!

Our week ended at a small village in the far south. At a taverna full of locals, we had a very traditional Greek meal of salad, grilled fish and octopus. We ate the same meal often during our last visit. This time, however, we walked a few blocks to an ice cream shop and wandered home licking a superb chocolate and chilli gelato. Welcome to the new Greece!

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The coast line just north of Githio. Not a tourist in sight.

Posted by Mike Hannan at 09:07 PM GMT
March 23, 2008 GMT
Lost on an Island in Greece

16 to 23 Mar 08

Happy Easter everyone, we hope you caught up with the Easter Bunny like we did!

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Having survived big-city Greece in Athens, we were pleased to settle into the gentle routine of travelling the Peloponnese and southern coast. Our days have developed a rhythm of late starts, careful rides over treacherous mountain roads and lazy evenings wandering picturesque villages. Interspersed with this is the constant round of hunting and gathering that keeps us accommodated, fed and healthy on the road.

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Rooms for rent are cheaper and often more comfortable than hotels. Many, like this one in Githio, …

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…have wonderful outlooks. Many also have communal kitchen facilities that allow us to make a cuppa for breakfast.

Our route takes us down the west coast through Methana and Nafplio, across through the series of thin peninsulas and the towns of Monemvassia, Githio and Koroni. We then pushed north through Olympia and Kalavrita before crossing to the mainland at Patra and ending our week on the island of Lefkada in the Ionian Sea.

It has been the sort of relaxed week you would expect in a country where we know the way things work and how to make ourselves at home. We found many of the roads here to be both challenging and exhilarating. With rugged mountains plunging straight into the sea, you can ride the Great Ocean Road every day without rounding the same corner twice.

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The mountain road west of Sparta clambers up through dozens of impossible switchbacks. The Elephant’s hairpin technique is close to faultless now.

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In these mountains, we have spent hours in first, second and third gear. (There are 6 gears.). We use the classic technique of going in wide and deep and turning late and hard once we can see the exit. This gets us coming out of these corners on our side of the road which is the first trick to survival.

The country itself is rugged and beautiful without the breathtaking drama of the mountains in Morocco. The upside is the perfect scenes that greet us at every stop along the coast.

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One great feature of Greece is that we can usually find a place by the road to boil the billy and eat our cheese, bread and olives. We carry a small mountaineering stove and food for breakfast and lunch.

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The view from our room in Koroni. All this and the hot water and heating worked as well!

We visited Olympia 18 years ago with Sarah and Nick and we had no desire to see the archaeological site again. We did, however, have two pressing reasons to go there. Firstly, we needed to buy a postcard from Olympia for our friends Bob and Jenny Cook, whose daughter Sarah has just been selected for the Australian Olympic Rowing Team, and it didn’t seem right to buy one anywhere else but Olympia. The second reason was to see the new Museum of the Modern Olympics.

The post card was no problem. The Museum turned into a Greek joke. We had noted that there was industrial trouble in the air during our time in Athens (the riot police gathering near our hotel was a dead give-away) and we knew the garbage collectors were out because of the mountains of uncollected rubbish in every village. We then found out that the postal workers were on strike when we tried to buy a stamp for the Cook’s card. The penny finally dropped and we realised that the whole of the public service was up in arms when the museum was closed because of the strike action.

Our consolation for the trip to Olympia was to meet an American couple Oliver and Marjorie Fezler. Now in their 80s, Oliver and Marjorie had only sold their Honda Goldwing Aspencade last year. They had travelled all over North and South America on their bike. They gave us lots of encouragement and renewed our ambition to take the bike to Copper Canyon in Mexico before we die.

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Oliver and Marjorie loved the Ulysses sticker on the bike and the motto: “Grow Old Disgracefully”.

It took us more than an hour to find the right road out of Olympia and into the mountains to the north east. Some days can be like that. As it turned out, it was an hour we would have appreciated later in the day. The 250km run to Kalavrita took us all day on the tortured mountain roads. Apart from our usual meal and travel breaks, we also took an hour out of the trip to visit the limestone caves at Limnon.

Jo was very keen to see these as they are reputed to be some of the best in the world, made special by a series of cascading lakes within the caves. Unfortunately, the guy who turns on the water for the lakes was also on strike and the caves were mostly dry. The guide claimed that the lake-less condition of the caves was due to poor snow during the winter, but we know industrial action when we see it.

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Now, where is the bloke who turns on the water?

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The village of Kalavrita is a ski resort. This makes it high, cold and expensive, all good reasons not to take a bike there. To add to the stupidity, we spent an hour freezing on a park bench next to an expensive hotel to use some free WiFi and get some emails done.

At Kalavrita our spring weather deserted us.

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The ride over the mountains to Patra was wet and slow. But by the time we were on the mainland and heading up the Ionian Coast, the skies were clear and we were stripping off excess gear.

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Ionian Coast near Mitikas

We first heard of the island of Lefkada from Steve and Sandy on our trip over from Brindisi. They were looking for a permanent mooring for Steve’s yacht that is warmer and cheaper than their UK base. We arrived at Lefkada to find that many others had the same idea.

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Hundreds of yachts are laid up for winter near the town of Lefkada, while…

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…many others fill up the marinas.

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The island of Lefkada had a number of small natural harbours like this one at Sivota. It was easy to see why the yachties love the place.

We finished our week having a few days at the town of Nidri where we had another room with a view. This gave us a chance to catch up on some make and mend and wash our riding suits. Since we had been wearing them for more than six months, they were at a point where even the owners could not stand to be around them. Imagine that!

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A room with a view at Nidri.

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Time for a scrub for the riding suits.

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Our stop over has also been a chance to do some bike cleaning and repairs, and to carry out a few of the maintenance tasks that keep us running. Tomorrow we head north along the west coast before turning east and heading for the border with Bulgaria and another escape from the financial tyranny of the Euro-zone.

Posted by Mike Hannan at 06:15 PM GMT
March 30, 2008 GMT
A final look at Greece

23 Mar –30 Mar 08
Sometimes you can put the mochas on yourself with the simplest things. All it took was a single mention of “spring” and a few photos of warm weather; that, and a natural talent for making silly decisions.
We enjoyed a few days of improving spring weather at Nidri and did some much needed administration which included giving the Elephant a bath.
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A local lends a hand with the hose for washing the Elephant.
We would have stayed on for a few more days except for the fact that the apartment complex we were staying at did not have any rooms with a double bed. Now call me old fashioned, but three days of struggling with the bedding on two singles pushed together, and I had had enough.
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The view across to the mainland from our room at Nidri. Shame about the beds.
We did our research on the weather and decided that our best bet for dry weather was on the east coast and the quickest way there was straight over the mountains through the town of Karpenissi. The unseasonable chill that was sweeping across Northern Europe was yet to have any significant effect on Greece and we only needed one day to relocate to the other side of the country 340km away.
The morning of Monday 24 Mar, we held off departure until 1030 to check on the weather. It looked good. We paid our bill, said goodbye to our landlord and headed for the hills. By the time we were charging across the causeway to the mainland 40 minutes later the blasting cross winds hit us and we were wondering about the wisdom of our decision. By the time we reached the foothills two hours later we had our rain-suits on, and by the time we reached the mountains three hours later we knew it was going to be a long day.
I have never minded riding in the rain, or riding in gusty cross winds, or riding challenging mountain roads, but this was the trifecta. Rain turned the switchbacks into rivers and covered them in debris. The storm wind ripped down the valleys and hit the Elephant with a hammer-blow each time we were exposed from the lee of a spur. The camera stayed dry inside Jo’s jacket so there is no photographic evidence.
We pushed on with nowhere to stop and nowhere to hide. Occasionally we closed on and passed a car or bus on the torturous road, but mostly we felt alone and exposed on the mountain. The only town of any size on our route was Karpenissi. The 240km to get there had taken 6 hours in the saddle and we were running out of light. The temperature was 6 degrees C and falling quickly.
We decided to stay, found a deliciously warm hotel, changed into dry clothes, found a bottle of very good Shiraz/Grenache, some tolerably good take-away and curled up safe and warm in bed. It had been a hell of a day at the office.
Tuesday 25 March is Greek Independence Day and a public holiday.
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Wreaths were laid at a monument in the central park on Independence Day which commemorates the uprising against the Turks starting in 1821. Interestingly it was international pressure led by the British and French that forced the Turks to settle a deal with the Greeks in 1829.
We set the alarm early and opened the window to an amazing sight. It was snowing! Even the Elephant had a light covering.
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The view looking up the street from the hotel window in Karpenissi..
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Looking down the street was no better!
We waited. It kept snowing. At 10:00 we told the hotel we were staying and settled in to read novels and watch some Greek TV. At 15:00 our town appeared on the afternoon news covered in its blanket of newsworthy unseasonable snow. They showed the main street where our hotel was located and there, in the corner of the screen, parked on the footpath, was the Elephant with a thick pad of snow on its grey cover!
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The Elephant with a covering of white stuff.
That night the snow turned to rain and it thundered down without stop until the early morning. We had a fitful night’s sleep waking to look out at the rain each hour or so. In the picaninny dawn, however, the rain stopped and the sky started to clear. By the time we were packed to ride at 0900, the mountains around the town looked magnificent in the clear morning light,
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The mountains behind Karpenissi were spectacular.

But we weren’t waiting around to enjoy the view. We tumbled down the mountain. In 20 minutes we were below the snow line and the road was drying. In 40 minutes we were on the coastal plain heading for the town of Lamia.
We turned south and flogged the Elephant down the motorway to Athens. We needed to do some important administration and Athens was the best place to get it sorted. We booked into the same hotel we had stayed at on our last visit, the Pergamos. The hotel itself had nothing much to recommend it above the other tourist class places in the area except that the front desk was manned by Stefanos, who is a former teacher of politics and history.
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Mike and Stefanos at the Pergamos in Athens.
Stefanos is a walking encyclopaedia on matters of Greek culture, history and politics, and is worth the tariff and the simple breakfast just to be there and answer our questions. We didn’t even mind staying an extra day when the weather closed in with heavy rain in this notoriously dry city.
On the morning of 29 March we left Athens and pushed 450km north to the east coast area that the weather forecasts assured us would be sunny. We stopped at the town of Platamonas. It was not much different to a dozen other settlements along this part of the coast except that we had stayed here 18 years ago with Sarah and Nick.
We walked up to the same castle we had walked to all those years ago and took some photos. The castle hadn’t changed but it now cost 2 Euro to get in. Last time the goat herd didn’t care if we wandered over the old rocks.
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The castle at Platamonas was still there, but much else had changed.
We remembered a sleepy village with a couple of tavernas where fresh fish was always on the grill. We found a walking street (mall) and a dozen glitzy bars, coffee shops and restaurants. While we walked along the waterfront a private helicopter landed in front of one of the restaurants and the occupants disappeared inside.
The new Platamonas was probably a good end point for our visit to Greece. Much of what we loved about Greece is still there and it is still a country where we feel completely at home. But the new Greece is also a modern country on the move with plenty of swagger and self confidence.
We will be back. And we may even stay at the Pergamos again if Stefanos is still on the desk.

Posted by Mike Hannan at 03:39 PM GMT

NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

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Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

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