A couple of days later while sitting on the balcony at
Frodos apartment looking at the busy street below, I noticed that no-one
was wearing a helmet. While in Rimini I had taken to riding in tee-shirt
and jeans and it was only a small step to ignoring everything I had been
thought about motorcycle safety. Only a few minutes later I was laying
face down, the Elefant on top of me surrounded by Greek men saying that
I was going to fast, whilst they were paying lots of attention to the
blonde Danish tourist who moments earlier had stepped out of a shop straight
on to the road without so much as glance around her. She wasn't quite
ploughed down, as I had almost come to a stop on the glass finished road
by the time the front tyre hit her. I went down with a thud, my chin just
missing the curb. Crying "I'm Sorry I'm so sorry," she got up
helped by all those men who left me to squirm in the road unable
to pick up the bike which looked very indignant spilling out fuel on its
Finally with Frodos help who had witnessed the whole thing, I
returned to the campsite.
During the next few days my health slowly deteriorated,
I developed a summer cold with ear infection, nice stomach bug
and some conjunctivitis so as not
to see too good. Not to mention hobbling about on sprained ankles and
two wrists twice as thick as usual. Feeling quite low wondering
what the hell
I was doing
in Greece when I should be working like everyone else in the real world!
After a few days convalescing by the pool I felt a lot better
and moved on.
Paros island and the surf club camp site where I spent seven
days getting up strolling down to the beach, sitting at the
beach side bar for a while, sunbathing
a bit, reading, talking to people I met and eating whatever Nickos happened
to be serving that day.
Time to leave and on to Ios, this island has a reputation
and when I got there I saw why. A visit to Ios town after midnight
is a real eye
opener.'Drunkenville' what else could I call it, pissed people
wobbling in and out of loud
virtue of my injuries I hobbled and wobbled most of the night in
a club playing the Clash, Jam, Specials and all that sort of
stuff you would
have loved if
your very intoxicated and my age. By six in the morning most people
have collapsed on the street, piles of humans litter the narrow
night. On the Greek Islands you're often asked where have you been
so far? The mere mention of Ios and you will be asked how
long were you there?
Reason being that most people can't handle more than a few
days, or so they tell me!
Next to Santorini this is where I would be meeting up with Adrian.
Adrian overtook me and flagged me down in Rimini centre six weeks
previous when he spotted a motorcycle with an English number plate
the better of him. "What are you doing here?" he asked me. " Nothing," I
said "What about you?" " I work here, I'm a designer for Cagiva" " So
what's the score with the new F4?" I asked. Adrian laughed, telling me
that things are slow in Italy and even slower at Cagiva Research
Centre. We went for a drink down by the port bar,
where we spent hours chatting about his new life in Italy and how difficult
was, and I explained in great detail why I was there. So just before
I left for Greece I convinced him that him that instead of going back
home to England
for a holiday, he should ride down to Greece to meet with me, and
that his boss Signore Tamborini would not mind if he took his company bike,
Cagiva Canyon 600 down to the Greek islands.
Our arrangement was rather vague, I had phoned him one week earlier
telling him I would be in Santorini and he told me that he would
be leaving Rimini
on Monday morning. Based on my own journey it would take him 48 hours,
so I sat
at the port waiting for the four ferries arriving from Athens on
a warm Wednesday dawn. Sure enough he pushed the bike down the ramp
of the first boat
" This thing's been giving me grief since Rimini"
" Calm down, you here now," I responded in typically Greek style.
Some time later after crap coffee and cigarettes I heard the horror story
of Adrian's ride.
Unfortunately the Canyon would not start at all when the engine
had cooled down. This was the opposite of what was happening three weeks
back in Rimini, when it had to be push started if it had a hot
given the bike to the Cagiva engineers who had literally turned
the problem around.
" We'll fix it tomorrow," I said optimistically.
We never fixed the Canyon and had to push start it every time, not very good
down a packed Naxos high street and quite dangerous considering
people can't hear a bike that's going let alone one that's being pushed!
On balance, my Cagiva was still going strong. "That's because it's got
a Ducati engine," Adrian would sarcastically retort.
Greece can make a man lazy, so I spent many hours laying on the
roof of the youth hostel soaking up the sun and philosophising with whoever
the mad Swedish genetics student, the Argentine economist, the
brothers - a doctor and nuclear engineer, Australian and South
African primary school
teachers, all sat on the roof at some time or another.
A few days later Adrian and I moved on back to Ios for the weekend.
During the day we went off-roading, after all that's what the
bikes were made for! What a laugh, I really enjoyed it and from then on hardly
didn't see me blasting through the countryside raising clouds
of red dust behind the Elefant. It didn't take long before my new-found confidence
was so that
jumping over humps and dodging rocks at 60mph was the best way
think of to get to the other side of whatever island I was on,
to eat at the taverna.
Sitting in the shade with a big plate of Moussaka and bread,
me covered in dust while inevitably gazing at electric blue seas, was good.
We left Ios after having witnessed and participated in the drunken
carnival of a Saturday night making our way once again to Naxos.
I longed to return
to Naxos Camping and the fantastic pool, where I planned to spend
whole days sunbathing.
Adrian adapted to this difficult routine with ease. Some days
we would explore the interior off road of course! On one afternoon while
a hill it
happened the Elefant broke down. Stuck in the middle of the island
twenty miles from town, 38 degrees Celsius with one dead bike.
Not a sound - nothing.
what Agosto had taught me.
" It's a process of elimination."
Ten minutes later behind the head lamp cover, I rejoined the loosened electrical
connection and spent the rest of the afternoon feeling quite
pleased with myself.
We discovered a small bar in Naxos centre that was owned by a Roman,
as the days passed we found ourselves eating there more often,
my interest in Greek
cuisine was wavering and together with a longing for some comforts
like having a shower, that's not in salt water and not being eaten
alive by mosquitoes
night, signaled time out.
After thirty-six days we contemplated the long journey back to
Rimini and very nearly decided to stay.
Once again over night to Athens, push the Canyon at the other
end to start it, got lost in the city for an hour or so, at least we caught
the Acropolis. When we arrived in Patrai Adrian pointed out the
oil all over the Elefant engine block. Staring into the oil window there
" Oh shit! my bikes bleeding."
We filled it up, only needed half a litre so things weren't that bad. Looking
closely oil was coming out of both cylinder bases and from one
head. Things didn't really get any better I just had to keep topping up. 24
hours after leaving
Naxos we were on the ferry to Italy a long night ahead, gone
were the backpackers replaced with hundreds of Turkish immigrants returning
homes in Germany.
Next morning we docked in Brindisi, stopping for the first decent
in weeks we moaned at how tired we were. It got the better of us
when 200 miles later we stopped to rest in the long grass by the Autostrada
for three hours. At 9 o'clock that evening we were at the port
Rimini very tired but home.
That night I had quite the most satisfying shower ever and for the
first time in ages saw soap suds. The salt water showers on the islands
don't allow for such luxuries. Still it took some scrubbing to get
the road grime
Agosto confirmed my suspicions that the long ride from Athens
in very high temperatures had probably been responsible for the gaskets springing
Short of spending a lot of money I had to live with it. If the
pressure was a bit lower than usual and the weather was cooler
it was fine. I
couple of weeks in Rimini doing the usual.
Back down the boot to Rome to visit my friend Angelo. I set off
early, riding through Tuscany and Umbria, the landscape was beautiful, the
road even better
as it snaked it's way through the Apennines mountains, rolling
and vineyards with medieval cities and towns. Stopping just outside
Perugia for lunch and
staring at the Elefants oil covered engine, I was concerned and
resolved to have it looked at when I arrived in the capital.
Later that evening Angelo's mother, Valentina cooked some wonderful
food and as usual I was stuffed and happy by bed time. Next day
to the mechanics to look at the oil problem. On investigation he discovered
the oil seals on a bearing of the valve belt was perished and
it was replaced. Relieved,
and with the Elefant in an underground garage I enjoyed the next
I've been to Rome so many times that a visit to the Vatican or
Coliseum are not on the agenda anymore, but one place that I always like
visit is the
Stadio Olimpico to watch a football game. All my friends in Rome
are empathic AS Roma fans and spit and curse at the mere mention
of Lazio the capitals
football club. I think Lazio play quite well, but for fear of
being chucked out by Angelo, and my cousin never talking to me again, I fail
this fact on the way to the stadium to watch the opening game
of the Serie A season
- anyway as it was an evening game and Lazio had already lost
at Bologna that afternoon - my guests were in very good humour. There buoyancy
the pizzeria after the game Roma won convincingly against Piacenza,
not hard considering the disparity in superstars that the capitals
unglamorous provincial northern rivals. After ten great days
it was once again time to leave, I decided that I would ride up to Lake Como
and then visit my aunt in Novara near Milan for a week.
One hundred miles into the journey I stopped to rest, feeling
quite pleased with myself that I had ridden 100 miles without stopping, some
considering my ever moaning bum. Looking at the engine I was
disappointed at how much oil
had leaked out, the mechanic hadn't fixed her and now there was
a strange rattle too. It was a long ride that day stopping often to check
off my boots which began slipping off the pegs, and when things
were getting worse having to drain petrol on to a pair of socks to clean
the back tyre coated
in engine oil.
Riding 480 miles worrying about the health of the Elefant most
of the way, I was very tired by the time I reached the shores of Lake Como.
days relaxing in some of the most wonderful landscapes in Europe.
While riding about the oil mysteriously stopped leaking, on the
way to my aunts in
I stopped at a Cagiva dealers where we discussed in detail the
problems. Confident that with cooler weather ahead and keeping a close eye
on the oil level and
maintaining it low, it would not spew out all over the place.
my way down the Autostrada towards Turin I felt the Elefant twitching
as she craved
more fuel, leaning over as I did hundreds of times previously
to turn the fuel tap to reserve the familiar feel had gone. I had forgotten
the tap from
the last time and had left it in reserve, with no warning of
my impending drying out I was stranded on the hard shoulder and left to walk
6 kilometres to
the nearest petrol station, pushing the Elefant fully laden in
hot weather for what seemed like ages. It taught me to remember the fuel
I cursed all the way only to be greeted by a smiling petrol pump
attendant asking, "if I had pushed it far?"
I just stared at him as the sweat dripped off my grimy face,
droopy arms flopped by my flanks, whizzing like an asthmatic. I vowed to
smoking and kept on thinking how stupid I had been.
Spending a week in Novara I serviced the Elefant and investigated
the strange rattle coming from the engine. A bearing had shattered
in the valve
Little steel balls were rattling about mixed with dust and oil
from the leakage's. All cleaned up with new plugs, oil, pads and a new bearing,
great and during that week the leak was minimal.
So when I left heading towards the Alps and Munich things were
fine, that was until the evening. After three months of summer riding the
cold air on the
Autobahn was a shock. It was September after all but that didn't
make me feel any better late that night, once again lost in a
a bed. Taking stock of the situation I had no winter clothes
and no money to spend on them either, and I could kiss good bye to Mediterranean
Next day I joined the German Youth Hostel Association and booked
myself in. Hostels are good places to stay if you don't mind
sleeping with 27 other
naturally I got the fat guy who snored all night on the bunk
above me. I cursed him and all other fat people as I twisted and turned most
to be wakened at 7 O'clock in the morning to be told that anyone
who wanted to stay another night must book in again before 8
You do meet lots of people in hostels, mostly cliquey backpackers.
Sitting in the bar if I closed my eyes I could picture myself
in the lecture hall of some grand old German university listening to some
discussing European history, culture and economics. There is
a paradox here
as most Americans think that Brazil is in Europe, I exaggerate
but I did over hear one who got a little confused talking about the once
Vienna, I think she meant Venice.
After four days in Munich drinking Bavarian Weissbier, eating
schnitzel and listening to other travellers tall stories of how cheap it
in this town, how one shouldn't go unaccompanied to this area
and how they nearly got
in some God forsaken country I never heard of, I left for Prague.
Once again I left early on the 250 mile ride to the Czech Republic,
it was cold and overcast as I lamented to myself on the lack
of sunshine. Arriving
in the early afternoon I immediately fell in love with the Czechs
and decided that this was a good place to spend some days. The
architectural splendour of this city is stunning, it is a place for everyone,
history, culture even and night life.
Getting lost in the city streets is fun as you stumble upon bars,
clubs and restaurants surrounded by contorted and magnificent
Finding accommodation in Prague Technical University student
rooms, I shared a room with a Czech who I didn't see until 5 am the next
at night and slept in the day and when he slept he snored. I
got up to shake him and he mumbled:
" I'm Mike, I don't have the keys to my apartment that's why I'm here"
What the hell are you talking about I thought, I only shook him to stop his
snoring not to hear his life story at five in the morning. He
" I went to St. Petersburg two days ago to collect some money but they arrested
me for racketeering and put me in a Russian jail."
" Have you ever been in a Russian jail?" He asked,
No I said trying hard to understand his thick accent, not easy that early
" Then they said that if I wanted to leave in one piece I must go now."
He asked if he could return to his accommodation for his keys and bag but
they just took him to the airport and sent him home, and so he
was waiting for his girlfriend to return so as to get into his own apartment.
" Russia is a dangerous place," he continued, "The Russians are
dangerous, my old girlfriend is dead now. She was a beautiful girl, I loved her,
she was a photo journalist for a Prague newspaper, eighteen months ago she went
to Chechnya to cover the fighting. I got a telegram from the Military saying
she was dead and that they were sorry, no body no explanation, nothing!"
I was confused but that was how I heard the story, and soon after
I fell asleep.
In the room opposite were Iller and Alfredo, two Spaniards. We
spent three days together sampling the delights of Prague's restaurants,
museums, and night
life. Very good beer at very good prices, in fact everything
was at good prices. The former Eastern block was good for my Western pocket.
a beer and
night club tour one night.
Budweiser Budvar, Starompramen and Pilsner Uruquel all passed
our lips as we danced the night away. We returned with a charming young lady
her Skoda taxi was a rally car. Her ability to negotiate corners
cobbled streets at high speed was limited only by the less than
technologically perfect car. I'm sure that given a Lancia Integrale HPE 4
she could have cut down the journey time quite significantly
and really frightened me,
as she overtook buses and cars at over 90 kph and still found
time to smoke and sing along to M-People playing loudly on the car stereo
the controllers voice.
After four days Iller and Alfredo left and Mike my Czech room
mate, finally had a day off so we were able to talk. I discovered that he
biker and that he had a Suzuki GSX R 750. I told him that I needed
to re-charge the
Elefants battery. So the next morning we set off. When we arrived
at the shop the man said it would be ready at 2 o'clock which
was fine as I had
new accommodation that day because the students were returning
and needed their rooms. We went to a bar, Mike drank beer at 10.30 in the
do he told me! I had coffee while Mike looked at me strangely
asking if I didn't drink alcohol?
" I do but not in the morning."
" Why not?" he asked
I made some excuse and changed the subject. Finding out what exactly had
happened to him in Russia and about the death of his old girlfriend,
time passed and soon we were back at the shop to collect the battery.
A note was in the window and the shop was closed.
- Shop closed due to technical reasons - it read.
Mike walked straight over to the telephone across the street and
called the other branch. After shouting down the line he turned to me to
explain that as
the boss had paid his employee his salary that morning and he
had decided that drinking it would be a better idea than keeping the shop
The boss was very apologetic and said that if we came over he
would give me a new battery for my trip adding, that if I didn't return I
the shop I was furnished with a new Japanese battery and the
boss wished me a good trip.
By the time we returned to the student rooms it was late, our bags
were out of the room and we had nowhere to stay, Mike's girlfriend
had still not
from the weekend so going to his house was out of the question.
So once again with Mikes help we rode together on the Elefant, he said not
him not wearing a helmet, I didn't, what worried me was the Prague
rush hour, traffic everywhere. Terrifying when you have a passenger,
a tall motorbike,
hills, cobbled streets, slippery tram tracks, rain and to top
it all you don't
know where you are going, but you do know that once you arrive
it's all got to be done again with the bags.