March 21, 2006 GMT
Italy and Greece

Left Pisa 13/03/06 to Tarquinia which is a medi-evil walled city. Very windy- this is called 'The Montana' and lasts either 1 or 3 days. It was day 2 when we got there. Normally I am not keen on high winds on the back of the Bike but she felt very stable and comfortable.

Colin has been very pleased with the very last 'mod' that he did before leaving UK. That was to fit handle bar muffs. They have been very succesful. I'm OK with the heated jacket and gloves.

From Pisa to Tarquinia, we diverted of the Autosrada to do the coastal route but it was'nt worth it, as it was very Industrial. Colin had been concerned about negotiating the ring roads around Rome and Naples but it turned out to be easy. Naples was worse than Rome, as it turned out.

Went on to Pompeii and intended to have 2 days off. The first day Pompeii was shut- due to a strike for more money. After meetings it was stated that it would open at 10.30am. This came and went and the next rumour was that it would open at 1 pm. There were loads of tourists waiting and we decided to hop on the train to Herculanium, so as not to waste time. This also opened at 1pm and we had a good look around.

Next day Pompeii was open at 8.30 am and we got in for 10 euro each. We thought it was busy but the Guide told us that there were 2000 tourists there that day and in summer they have 12,000. Loads of stray dogs around who will attatch themselves to the groups of people going around.

A fascinating place but in retrospect we need not have done both sites. Sadly, Vesuvius was 'shut' also , due to ice on the road. It is ominous in the background of the beautiful, bustling new town of Pompeii.

Drivers in Italy are manic but courteous to other road users. Petrol is 1.25 Euro. Drinks in cafes slightly cheaper than UK. Alot of police around and we were parked in a pull off one day and a blue light screeched in behind us, stopped and Policeman said' are you OK" , 'Fine' was the reply and he said' have a good trip' and was gone.
Beware of the Autosrada payments- some you get a ticket and pay at the end of the section and some you just pay a statuary toll by throwing the money in the bin.

I am reliably informed the the girls in Italy are ravishing !

Then on to Bari and the night feery for Greece on The Bluestar line. The ticket girl asked shyly' how old are you?' and we got Concessionary fares weithout asking for them. We were able to board early and were shown to our cabin on deck 8. (now that's a first ). We were assured that there would be' no roll' but we tied the bike down as best we could.

Colin spent a happy hour watching the lorry drivers reversing in a small space , in order to reverse on. One would be backing in whilst another lorry turned around- hardly space for a cigarette paper between them. Pedestrians and cars also in the same area. Health and Safety eat your heart out.

It was a 10 hour crossing and we had a very polite phone call at 5am to ensure we were awake. Now we are on Greek time which is 2 hours ahead of UK. Total mileage so far is 1,937.

Disembarkedat 6.30 am at Igoumenitsa and we were short of fuel. Managed to find some in the Port area and we were on th Autostrada immediately. It was a good job that Colin had done this as we then did'nt see any petrol stations or pull off's for miles. This turned out to be 139 miles of very demanding driving. At first it was dark, the roads wet and as we climbed into the mountains, it was low cloud with visibility of 50/ 100 feet , in places. Loose shale on the road, hair pin bends with sheer drops. We climbed to the Katalan pass and reached 14,000 feet. The snow line was here and on the roadside was 3 metres deep, although the roads were clear due to the 3 Snow plough/ blower stations that were there.

We reached the other side and the temperature was 13 degrees- positively balmy. On to Meteora where there are some fantastic rock formations made by wave action millions of years ago.

Then on to Thessolonika, the second largest city in Greece. Totally different terrain here , flat and marshy. All the shops seem to stay open here and there are loads of bikes and scooters. Drivers smoking as they are driving, no crash helmets and the pillion reading the paper .

Food is cheap here, petrol is 0.93 euro and rolling tobacco is 50 grams for 3 Euro. We managed to get new tyres and Colin was impressed at the care taken. About the same price as UK. The guy said it was a good job we had them changed in Thessolonika as in Istanbul the wait would be 3/5 days. He had not seen Ultraseal before or the tyre pressure caps.

Everyone has been so helpful- some speak good English. All the roadsigns are in Greek first , followed by a sign in English. The taxi drivers will pick up more than one fare at a time.

Now in Alexandroupholi and next stop will be Turkey tomorrow. More to come.

Posted by Dee Masters at March 21, 2006 02:54 PM GMT

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