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Photo by Ellen Delis, Lagunas Ojos del Campo, Antofalla, Catamarca

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!

Photo by Ellen Delis,
Lagunas Ojos del Campo,
Antofalla, Catamarca

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Old 8 Jul 2016
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Lovely pictures.
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Old 8 Jul 2016
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I would love to get my hands on one of them.
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Old 13 Jul 2016
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Greece

I crossed the border into Greece and Albania at the Kakavia crossing. No high drama, showed my passport, vehicle registration, insurance and I was on my way. I survived Albania !

The first city of any size that you come across on the Greece side is Ioannina. Nice Greek sounding name. I was not able to find any hotels in Ioannina that provided secure parking for my motorcycle so I found lodging at the nearby tourist town of Perama, just a few kilometer north of Ioannina. One of my biggest concerns while travelling is making sure I am able to find a safe secure place to park my motorcycle each night. So far I have had no problems in this respect

I did not know this at the time that I booked a guest house in Perama, but Perama is famous for its caves. In fact the whole existence of Perama seems to be to serve the tourists who come to visit this landmark. Its a town of only a few hundred people, one main street with a couple of restaurants, jewellery stores, food markets all clustered around the main entrance to the cave.

The guest house I stayed at was only a block away from the entrance to the cave. I took a guided tour of the cave. There were not many tourists in town. The entire group for the tour consisted of myself and a fellow from Holland. I have been to many caves around the world, and as far as caves go, the Perama caves were near top of my list of best caves I have been into. The tour takes about an hour, the guide leads you about a kilometre into the depths of the cave.

They would not allow any photography inside the cave, so I have had to cop a few photos from the web to show what the caves looked like inside.

Guest house I stayed at.

Some of the formations inside Perama Cave

Some of the formations inside Perama Cave.

You notice from the photos below, not many people in the streets of Perama. Aside from myself I may have counted 4 or 5 other tourists in town. I really do not know how these local businesses exist. And this this is during the peak tourist month of July.

Main street in Perama

Main street in Perama

I really had not mapped out a travel plan for Greece. Whatever direction my front wheel is pointing is usually where I am headed. I meet up that evening with the Dutch fellow I had meet earlier in the day. he and his girlfriend have been down here to Greece many times before and he recommended that I should visit Thessaloniki and Kakamaria which have some of the best beaches in Greece. If you look on a map of Thessaloniki there is a large bay there called the Therminian Gulf, up and down the coasts on both sides of the gulf are numerous beach resort communities. I found a place on the western side of the bay, riding around all the way to Kalamaria would have added another hour to my riding day and I figured a beach is a beach and found a hotel on the western side of the gulf.

I decided to take a mini-vacation break from my travels and booked myself in at the Edem Holiday Club in Olympiakis Akti for 4 days. They claim to be a 3 star establishment, but I think a couple of those stars have dimmed over the years. This place and many like it along this stretch of coast south of Thessaloniki do not serve a North American clientele , so standards are a little less demanding. Most people who come here are mostly from eastern European countries, Poland, Russia, Romania. The hotel I was staying at was the only place in town that had a swimming pool. Most of the lodgings in this beach resort community were apartment units catering to family groups.

Pool side at my hotel

For those who travel to Greece, you probably already know this, at many parts across Greece, you can not flush toilet paper down the toilet, you have to dispose of it in a special little "shit paper bin". A local explained it to me. Greek plumbing uses only 2" drain pipes while the rest of the civilized world uses 4" pipes. Toilet paper clogs up the smaller pipes.

How did Greece get accepted into the EU? I thought the assessment criteria for entry into the EU, were good governance, free and fair elections, rule of law and 21st century plumbing.

Nice sandy beaches

Many bars and restaurants along beachside promenade

scene at the beach

Scene at the beach

This resort as I quickly discovered catered to eastern European families. There was another beach resort just a kilometer north of where I was, it had a completely different mix of people, single, fewer family types, after my second day in Olympiakis I started spending more time hanging out in Paralia.

I have discovered where all those stout, matronly babushka women vacation, its here in Olympiakis, and another reason why I deserted the beaches of Olympiakis for Paralia.

Take a look at the picture bellow, can you spot the guy in the speedo? You see a whole lot that down here, 40 -50 year old portly gentlemen wearing speedos. didn't they get the fashion memo years ago. A Polish gentlemen told me that's common beach apparel for the Russians, they like their speedos.

Scene at the beach

Scene at the beach

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Old 16 Jul 2016
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Greece Continue

After having spent 4 days lazing about at the beach resort in Olympiakis Akti, I was anxious for a change of scenery. Lying about like an iguana on a beach is not my thing.

I was looking forward to heading down to Athens, the capital of Greece, there are a lot of interesting tourists sites in the capital. There is a major tolled road from Thessaloniki all the way down to Athens, 650 kms which If I wanted to I could have done in an all day ride, but since I was in no rush, I stopped off along the way for a few days in Loutra Ypatis, which is about half way from Thessaloniki to Athens. Loutra Ypatis is a little community outside of Lamia.
The town sits at the slopes of a mount Oiti. The area around the mountain is set up a nature reserve.

Loutra Ypatis is noted for its thermal sulfur springs. There is a spa pool setup around the waters of the thermal spring. According to the Spa's website, bathing in the waters of the spring will cure just about every affliction known to man. So ...!! After spending a few days soaking in the thermal waters of Loutra Ypatis I should emerge new and revitalized.

In front of spa building

I found an excellent hotel in Loutra Ypatis just a block away from the Spa complex. When I first rode into Loutra it was like riding into a ghost town. No one out and about in the streets. Maybe because of the oppressive afternoon heat, everyone was hiding out in the confines of their air conditioned homes.

I rode around the village (too small to even call it a town) there is nothing here but a few hotels and a number of buildings that look like they are private condos, well everything here looks pretty deserted. The one thing I noticed right away about Loutra is ever present hum of cicadas chirping in the background. The noise is overpowering. I hope my room has good sound insulation.

I spent two days in Loutra Yaptis. After an early morning hike up into the mountains I spent the afternoon at the thermal springs. The hot water pools are actually very relaxing. The waters are not much more than lukewarm in temperature. The pool area has a slight sulfurous smell to it. There were probably 40-50 people at the spa at the time that I was there. Already feeling like a new man.

Park near spa in Loutra Ypatis

My hotel in Loutra Ypatis

The dog days of summer

Ornate church building in town

Following trail up into mountains

Some of the scenery around Loutra Ypatis

My long anticipated visit to Athens did not turn out to be as eventful as I hope it to be. After my first day's arrival to Athens I was stricken with a bad case of the tourist disease. I have suffered bouts with Montezuma's revenge but this Greek variant of travellers diarrhea is even worst. I was laid up for three days trying to recuperate from my illness. The problem with travelling through some of these lesser developed countries is that you are prong to catching a bout of traveler's diarrhea. Coming down with TD quickly puts a damper on your travel plans. It has taken me three full days to recover. I managed to find my way down to a pharmacy which fortunately was only a few blocks from my hotel. While I was at the pharmacy talking to the pharmacist about treatment for my TD, a friend of the pharmacist came into the store who just happened to be a medical doctor. He gave me a free consultation and diagnosed that I had more than just a bad case of the "Runs" but probably had an intestinal inflection which would require an antibiotic treatment. I suspected that what I had was more than just loose bowls, the Imodium tablets I had been taking were not working.

Turns out he was probably right, after a few days treatment on a antibiotic, I began feeling a lot better.

During my three day planned visit to Athens, I had not ventured more than a few blocks from my hotel. I did not want to leave Athens with out at least spending one day visiting some of the historical sites, so I stayed over an extra day to do some sightseeing.

Inside metro subway station in Athens

Finding my way to Acropolis museum

Front view of Acropolis Museum

One of the main display rooms in the museum

A representation of what some of the sculptures adorning the Parthenon looked like.

Many of the historical sculptures that use to adorn the Parthenon and the other temples around the Acropolis were looted from the site many years ago. The worst of the looters was a British fellow called Lord Elgin who removed the best parts from the Acropolis and had them shipped over to England, where they now sit in the British Museum.

Greece for over the last 100 years has been pressing the British Museum to return the Elgin (Parthenon) marbles to the nation of Greece. At the time that they were looted, Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire.

A view of the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis

Another interior view around the Acropolis Museum

A closer up view of the Parthenon

Athens has a surprising good underground metro system.
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Old 20 Jul 2016
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Motorcycle Wanderings Greece

Changes to my travel plans. While I was laid up in Athens recuperating from my severe bout with TD, I made a decision to nix my plans for visiting Turkey. When I first started making plans for my around the world ride, I had intended on heading east across Europe from Ireland, eventually making my way across Russia, Mongolia and South Korea with my eventual return home to Canada via Vancouver. My plans where scuttled when I was unable to get a visa to enter Russia. I have talked to other people who have applied for the regular 30 day multi-entry tourist visa for Russia and was told that it normally takes a week or so to get. I am not going to go into the details about why I was not able to get my visa, I was not denied a visa, but after 3 weeks of waiting I kept getting told my visa was not ready, I had already booked my flight and scheduled a date for shipment of my motorcycle . I don't know why it was taking them so long, maybe because I had an entry stamp for the Ukraine in my passport ??? . I was not keen on visiting Russia, but to get to Mongolia you need to travel through Russia.

I still had planned on going as far east as possible from Europe, across Turkey to Georgia and Armenia. But while in Athens, I decided to cut the Turkey-Georgia route from my travel itinerary. It would have meant spending a week or so back tracking from Georgia and Turkey to return to Europe, a distance of 3200 km or more. I do not think that it would have been a good investment of my time and money, so I have decided instead to head down into Italy and Sicily from Greece.

Note: I am now in Italy while updating my blog and it was fortuitous that I decided not to travel to Turkey after all. If I had left Athens and continued on to Istanbul as planned, I would have found myself in Turkey right at the same time as the attempted military coupe.

Athens is a large metropolitan city of 3.5 million people. Navigating my way out of the city during the early morning rush hour was no fun. Even with the guidance of my GPS, it was a challenge to find my way from downtown Athens to the main Hwy heading north.

My next destination is Delphi. Delphi is a little tourist town in upper middle part of Greece. It is located on the side of a mountain plateau overlooking a river valley. Some of the most important archeological sites in Greece are found in Delphi. The road west leading into Delphi off of main Hwy 3 was some of the best riding I have experienced thus far in Greece. Nice winding mountain roads, well surfaced with incredible mountain vistas at every turn.

I stayed in Delphi for three days. That gave me sufficient time to visit the local museums and other historical archeological sites. Aside from all the touristy stuff to do in Delphi, its just a cool place to hang out in. The views from Delphi to the valley below awe inspiring.

A local was told me that Delphi has a naturally high concentration of negative ions in the air which promotes a sense of well-being in people. I am not sure if there is any credence to this or not, but I know that I felt fully recharged after leaving Delphi after my 3 day stay.

View from Delphi overlooking valley below[/caption]

Touring archeological museum in Delphi Greece

Touring archeological museum in Delphi

Some of the early weapons of mass destruction used by early Greeks to bash in each others brains

Greeks borrowed this design from Egyptians

Carving of horse

Most of Greek sculptures based on stories about their Greek gods

Lots of statues with the heads and torsos chopped off

A few more headless statues

One of very few existing bronze statutes existing from 500-400 bc Greece

Touring the main archeological site around Delphi

Sacred navel stone (Omphalus) dropped by Zeus onto earth. Where it landed marked the centre or navel of the world.

The treasury Temple

View of Temple of Apollo


The Serpent's column. There use to be a set of three snake heads adorning the top of the pillar. The original was rem oved from site. This is just a copy.


link to article on serpent column

To get to Italy from Greece without having to backtrack up through the Balkans I booked a ferry passage out from the port town of Patras, Greece to Brendisi Italy. The road between Delphi and Patras was even better than the section of road coming into Delphi. The mountain road hugs the coastline all the way to Patras.

If you look at a map of Greece you will see that you need to cross the Gulf of Corinth to reach the Peloponnese area of Greece and the city of Patras . For the 2004 Olympics Greece decided to construct a bridge to span the Gulf of Corinth..

I knew there was a bridge or causeway or something that crossed over the waters here, but I was not aware of the sheer scale or size of the bridge. Coming down from the mountains from the east side of the bridge, I could see the massive structure from miles away. While riding across the bridge I thought to myself, "This is a masterpiece of engineering and art". The bridge is really that impressive. It is one of the longest cable-stayed span bridges in the world. I only wish that I had recorded my ride over the bridge with my GoPro.

I did a little more research on the bridge and it truly is an amazing feat of engineering on how it was constructed.

I found this National Geographic video on YouTube describing how the Rio-Antirio bridge was built and the engineering challenges they face during its construction.

A video of my ride from Delphi to Patras.

https://vimeo.com/175132713">Motorcycling Greece

Some more photos from around city of Patras. I liked Patras. It a hub of tourism. main centre of town is setup for pedestrians traffic only. Lots of restaurants, bars and clubs.

Street scene in Patras

Lighthouse in Patras

Islands offshore from Patras

Church in Patras

Street scene

Front view of church

View of harbour from on top of my hotel
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Old 24 Jul 2016
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Italy

I have booked passage on a ferry boat from Patras Greece over to Brendisi Italy. There are a couple of companies that sail this route, Grimaldi Ferries were the only ones who had any available bookings for the day that I wanted to leave on.
According to the ferry schedule, the ship would leave Patras at 15:00 and arrive the next day at 8:30 local time. Italy and Greece are not on the same time zone, so I would be gaining an hour on my journey west.
The hotel I was staying at in Patras were good enough to allow me to delay my checkout until 2:00. The hotel is only a kilometre's distance from the main ferry terminal.

I had expectations that the passenger-car ferry that I would be sailing on would be at least as good as the Irish Ferries boat I sailed on from Ireland to France. Well! I was in for a disappointment. The Irish Ferries boat was excellent in all respects, the condition of the boat, the food service, the staff, nice cabin, all first class.

The ferry boat from Grimaldi was called the Engnazia. From a distance the ferry boat seemed ok, but when it came time for me to board, I could see that this old tub had seen one too many sailings. The ferry boat was originally constructed in 1995, so that makes the boat over 20 years old. What is the life span of a passenger-car ferry? Whatever it is, this boat was on its last legs.

The boat was half the size of the ferry boat I took from Ireland to France. Everything about the Engnazia was worn out, unkempt and dirty. The difference between the Irish Ferries boat and the Grimaldi vessel was like the difference between a champion pure bred dog and a mangy stray. When I first booked my ticket on the vessel, I was not able to get an assigned cabin, instead I was offered an "Aircraft type seat" whatever that is suppose to be. As it turns out there were a number of people who did not turn up and I was able to upgrade my ticket from a seat to a private cabin. More likely, people showed up, took one look at this old scow and changed their minds.

When I was upgrading my ticket the agent on the boat told me that they did not have any inside or outside cabins, only interior cabins. I told him anything would do, so long as I did not have to sleep in a chair tonight.

An attendant led me to my room, after 6 or 7 right and left turns down different corridors we arrived at my cabin which was located in the very bowels of the ship. Now I know why they classified this cabin as an interior cabin. If this ship goes down during the night there is no way I am going to be able to find my way back to the surface. One good thing about my cabin, my port window gave me a panoramic view of the bow of the ship.

Waiting at ferry terminal in Patras

One of the car ferries preparing to leave port for Italy

View out of the portal window of my cabin

I checked the ships registry, the ship is capable of carrying 116 passenger, I did not count more than 40 people onboard and half of those were truck drivers in passage with their trucks.

They had a restaurant onboard the ship which was only opened between 8:30 and 10:00. It is not hyperbole when I say that this ship served the worst food I have every tasted. I am fairly certain that the cook learned his culinary skills while imprisoned in a Russian Gulag camp. No meal choices, it was boiled chicken, (I think it was chicken?), cabbage and soggy pasta, all for 24 euros, ooh! and you got a piece of stale crusty bread to go with your meal.

I may be not too far in my assumption about the cook, the ship's registry shows that the boat has passed through 6 owners since it was commissioned, before being taken over by Grimaldi Lines it was operated by TransRussia.

I had some good company on my trip over, there were at least 5 or 6 other bikers making the passage with me, most were on short holiday rides. They all seemed quit taken by the fact that I had been on the road touring for the last couple of months.

I was more than relieved to finally get off the boat when it finally arrived in port at Brindisi. What I immediately noticed when I left the port at Brindisi was how much cooler it was over on this side of Italy. For the last 3 weeks I have been riding around in 35 degree C temperatures. It was such a relief to finally be riding around in comfortable temperatures for once. I like it.

On my first day in Italy I made it as far down as Torre Melissa which is a small beach resort town just north of Crotone Italy. as I have mentioned earlier in my blog, I am not into the beach scene. But I will say that I really enjoyed my time in Torre Melissa. I had a very nice beach side hotel overlooking the Adriatic. Unlike where I stayed at in Greece, this place was less crowded. I liked it because you did not have to contend with the suffocating heat and humidity that I was experiencing in Greece.

The beach was a bit stony and the waters deep and cold, not best conditions for swimming, but still an excellent beach for just walking along the shore line watching the waves come in. I wanted to stay for at least 3 days but was told I had to leave after only 2 days. The place was booked for a convention or something.

Some castle I cane across while riding down from Brindsis to Torre Melissa

View from balcony of my hotel

Courtyard of Hotel Melissa

Overlooking the Adriatic Sea

Scene of beach below hotel

scene at beach below hotel

Front view of Hotel Melissa in town of Torre Melissa

I left Torre Melissa early next morning, I was headed for the town of Catanzaro which is mid way across the bottom part of the instep on the boot shaped country of Italy. Google maps showed it to be only a 1.5 hour drive if I followed the main highway, as I was in no rush today and wanted to explore some mountain roads, I plotted a circuitous route through the mountains instead of following the flat lying coastal route.

My ride this day turned into the most challenging of my trip to this date. The first sections of the road up into the mountains were along well maintained roads, easy riding. But this was to all change as I ventured onto some of the less travelled roads in the mountains that my GPS guided me to. I rode across some roads which I am sure that no human or goat has passed along in years. I spent several hours riding through these one lane trails which often times were so overgrown with brush that even with the narrow width of the motorcycle it was an effort to get through. I did not take any photos or films along this route, I was too busy in survival mode to even think about recording this adventure ride.

The road to Catanzaro

What I thought would have been a casual 3 hour ride through the mountains turned into almost 6 hours. I finally arrived at Catanzaro around 4:00 in the afternoon. At the end of a long hard day's ride I was looking forward to settling in to my B&B. Well! that was not to be, as I soon discovered Catanzaro is one of those ancient Italian cities with a street network inherited from the romans. To start with there is not one flat spot in all of Catanzaro, the road network is a maze of steep cobble stone street, narrow alleyways and the most frustrating of all, most streets are designated as one-way. Combine that with the fact that half of the downtown streets are either closed or under construction and you have the recipe for a navigation nightmare.

I spent 2 futile hours riding around Catanzaro trying to located the B&B that I had booked for the night. Nobody I asked seemed to recognize the name of the street. I finally stopped and asked a couple of police officers if they know where the street was, they radioed ahead and had two motorcycle officers come by and escort me to the street address. The officers lead me to the street and then left. It turns out I was on the right street but not where my B&B was located. Seems they have another street with same name but a couple of blocks away. None of the locals even knew how to get to it, as there was no way to navigate from where I was, as all the streets around here were one way going the opposite direction to where I wanted to get to. Eventually, I just said screw it and stopped at the first hotel that I could find. I saw a bunch of comments on the Booking.com site about this B&B, most of the comments related to how difficult it was to locate the B&B and how they had to get the owner to come and show them the way to the B&B

Add Catanzaro to my list of places I never want to visit again.

On to Villa San Giovanni

I am off to San Giovanni this morning, I plan on overnighting there and then catching the ferry boat over to Sicily. San Giovanni is only 170 km along a good paved highway from Catanzaro. It should be an easy ride.

For anyone planning to ride through mountainous countries in Europe, be prepared to ride through lots and lots or tunnels. Over the last month I have probably ridden through a couple hundred tunnels, with tunnels ranging in length from a 100 meters to several kilometres in length. In each and every instance, the tunnels have been well lighted, with lights installed on the ceiling and sides of the walls, also the tunnels have reflective markers on the sides to help guide you through the tunnel. Along Hwy SS280 about an hour's ride west of Catanzaro I had a complete and total WTF moment. As I rode up to the entrance of the tunnel I immediately could see that something was amiss with this tunnel. Usually as I ride up to the entrance of a tunnel I can see a set of entrance lights and usually a strip of reflective paint on the pavement to give you an indication if the road entrance is straight or curved. I rode into the tunnel going about 80 to 100 kms and soon discovered to my horror that the tunnel was completely unlighted. Within a matter of seconds I was enveloped in complete darkness. There were no vehicles ahead of me to light the way or any cars in back of me. I was along in the tunnel now in complete darkness. I do not know how long I was riding in the dark, if it was a few second or more, I continued riding until I saw a bright light marking the exit to the tunnel. I kept my eyes focused on the tunnel exit, I had no sense of spatial awareness, I did not know if I was riding in the middle of the tunnel or was about to crash into the side of the tunnel wall. This went on for what seemed like forever, I could feel the bike began to wander off its course, I looked down just in time to see that I was now steering towards one of the walls. By now I was close enough to the exit that I could safely ride out of the tunnel.

Between where I was on route SS280, I would have to pass through another 30 - 40 tunnel sections, all the rest were properly lighted. I discovered at a gas stop, that my low-bean headlight was not working. I still had my hi-beans and my accessary lighting which I now used when entering the other tunnel sections along the route.

I do not know when exactly my headlight first failed. I usually do a safety inspection on my bike before riding off every morning. When I got into San Giovanni that afternoon, I was able to quickly determine that the bulb was burnt out and replace it with a new one. I have ridden through other unlighted tunnels in the past and even with a working headlight it is still difficult to ride through the tunnel especially at speed.

I will not soon be forgetting this incident.

One of the sad medical facts about aging, is that as you get older your night vision begins to deteriorate. Two things begin to happen, first you eye pupils lose their ability to adapt quickly to changing levels of light and secondly, the rods on the back of your eyes that help you see in the dark begin to die off. They say that a man over 50 has half the night vision of a 21 year old. Yea.. it sucks to get old!!

Tomorrow I will catch the ferry from San Giovanni over to Messina Sicily where I will be visiting and planning a hike to the top of the Mount Etna volcano.
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Old 27 Jul 2016
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Exploring Mt Etna in Sicily

The ferry schedule says that there were ferries crossing over from Sam Giovanni to Messina Italy every 20 minutes, yet I have been at the port terminal for over 40 minutes and still no sight of the ferry. The ferry is suppose to take only 20 minutes to cross over the straits of Messina. The straits of Messina is the channel in the Mediterranean Sea separating Sicily and Italy. At its narrowest point the straits are only a couple of miles apart. There has been discussions for over a hundred years about building a bridge across the straits but beyond talk and promises from a succession of Italian presidents, the project has never gone beyond that. They estimate that it would cost over 10 billion euros to build, something that the Italians and their current state of economy can not afford.

Finally after an hour of waiting, the ferry shows up. I ride into the ferry boat and park my motorcycle. There is another bike rider there that I was talking to while waiting for the ferry to arrive, he see that I was about to leave my bike helmet on my bike while I went up on deck. He comes over to me and says, "My friend I think you better bring you helmet with you. You are now in Sicily, many people here are poor, and the poor like to steal."

Once I arrive in Messina and began my ride down to the town of Zafferana Etna where I would be staying for the next few days, you could readily see that Sicily is the poor cousin to mainland Italy, the roads, infrastructure and towns have a decidedly developing third world look to them.

My hotel was located a few miles outside of Zafferana on the main mountain road leading up to Mount Etna. This place should serve as a good base from which to explore Mount Etna.

One of the ferry boats crossing between Villa San Giovanni and Messina Sicily

View of Mount Etna as I start my ride from Zafferano Etna to Rifugio Sapienza at 1800 m

It took about 15 - 20 minutes to ride up my hotel above the little village of Zafferano Etnea to the main tourist hub of Rifugio Sapienza. During the winter months there are two ski resorts that operate on Mount Etna. When I first visit Mount Etna many years ago, I did so during early April and took the opportunity at that time to ski on the snow covered volcano. I remember it being late in the ski season and there was a light covering of black volcanic ash over the snow from a recent flare up. It did not make for the best of skiing. In late July there is not a trace of snow up in the mountains here, even at elevation above 3300 meters.

The main tourist hub is at an elevation of 1800 meters, for those more hardy than me you can start you ascent to the summit from here, but that would be a good 3 - 4 hour hike to the top, I like most of the tourists here took the cable car from Rifugio Sapienza to the 2500 meter elevation. At the top they have a number of restaurants, guides and buses waiting for people. They charged 33 euros for the cable ride up here and for those not willing to hike up the rest of the way, you can pay an extra 33 euros and be bused up to the summit of the summit. They have an army of these 4 x 4 mini buses going up and down the base camp to the summit.

I elected to hike up to the summit from the base camp at 2500 meters . Most days I am told that the top of the mountain is covered in clouds and the winds can get pretty cold and nasty at top. I came equipped with extra layers of clothing knowing that it can get cold on top. I was surprised at the number of people attempting the hike, wearing nothing more than sandals, shorts and a T-shirts.

It took about an hour to an hour and half to reach the summit. The hike was a lot tougher than I expected, it is really hard walking on the steeply pitching trails and walking on the loose volcanic ash makes the effort doubling more difficult. About half the people who started the trek with me, gave up before even reaching the summit. I made it. My legs were pretty sore the following day, but I made it all the way to the top. At the top of Mount Etna there is not one large volcanic crater but a series of 4 - 5 craters. The main crater that is observed from afar, was not accessible to the public, the route up to the very top of the main crater was closed off. The very top of Mount Etna is at 3329 metes, I probably got within a few hundred feet of the actual summit on my hike.

Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanos in the world. It is in a constant state of activity, with daily minor tremors and smoke bilging out of one of its 5 craters. The last major eruption was recorded back in 2013. Many of the eruptions do not occur at the summit but along its flanks where a fissure will open up and lava will start spilling out from the fissure. Some of these eruptions will see lava fountains shooting molten rock a 1000 feet or more into the air. There are reported to be at least 300 lava vents on the flanks of the main volcano. Mount Etna has been active since before 1500 bc and since that time it has erupted over 200 times.

Back in 2008 there was a major eruption that destroyed the cable car at Rifugio Sapienza, you can see the remains of the destroyed cable car when riding up on the newer current cable car.

Makes you wonder why people would choose to live so close to an active volcanic. The volcanic ash makes the soil around here very fertile, its like a natural fertilizer for plants.

Video of my ride and hike up to summit of Mount Etna

The cable car takes you from 1900 m up to 2500 m elevation

It takes 15 -20 minutes by cable car to top

Cable car brings you up to 2500 m

You have choice of taking 4 x 4 mini bus to summit of Etna or hiking up to 3300 m elevation

You know you are at high elevation when you are at eye level with clouds

Starting my hike from 2500 m to summit of Mount Etna at 3300 m

There are numerous lava flows and cinder cones on flanks of Mount Etna volcano

Its a long tiring hike up to the summit

Numerous trails to follow

Getting closer to top

Mount Etna is not just one volcano cone but 4 or 5 with several hundred smaller cinder cones along its flanks

Looking down into the collapse crater of a cinder cone.

Spectacular view from summit of Mount Etna

Amongst the volcanic ash is outline of more recent lava flow

Most of these people took the bus to the top

Overlooking one of the volcano cones at summit of Mount Etna
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Riding the Apennine Mountains of Italy

I have been finding the weather in southern Italy a little too warm for my liking, so I am headed north for the cooler climes of the Alps.

The last few days since I left Pompeii, have been "travel days", no destination in mind, just riding north in search of mountains. Along the way I stayed overnight in a couple of small Italian villages which were along my travel route.

The highway north passes through the regions of Umbria and Tuscany, I did not see much as I kept to the main Highway, stopping occasionally for gas and food.

I was considering spending a few days visiting Florence but was not able to find any suitable accommodations close to the old part of the city of Florence. Hotels, B&B or any sort of accommodations located near the old part of the Florence was priced out of my budget ($200-$300/night). There were a few places 10 - 15 kms away that I could have stayed at, but that would have meant having to ride the motorcycle into Florence to do any sightseeing. For those of you who have not been to Florence before, much of the old section of the city is closed to car traffic, and finding a place to park even at a distance from the historical parts of Florence is very problematic. So I am giving a pass to visiting Florence.

Here is what I missed out on!!

City of Florence Italy

After two or three days of riding the toll roads north, I finally was able to get off the expressway and on to some mountain roads.

I experience some of the best riding in Italy along section of Hwy SS45. Some of the best motorcycling roads in Italy are to be found in the upper regions of the Apennine mountains here. The road between Torriglia -Gorreto - Bobbio is one of the most memorable roads I have ever ridden. The road follows the course of a river that meanders through a series of river valleys below. Its a road of a million curves.

What motorcyclists like to see on a map! Squiggly lines

Video of My Ride along Hwy SS45

My hotel in Attiglianio Italy

Around streets of Attiglianio

Around streets of Attiglianio Italy

Around streets of Attiglianio Italy

Around streets of Attiglianio

Heading North along Hwy A11

My hotel in Gorreto along Hwy SS45

I stayed overnight in this motorcycle friendly B&B. The place is a favorite hang-out for local motorcyclists looking to ride the mountain roads along Hwy SS45

Main plaza in village of Mori Italy

Hotel I stayed at in Mori

I found a good little Hotel to stay at in Mori. Its a Hotel-Bar-Restaurant. Very friendly English speaking staff who run the place. The place was great, located right in center of village, but as I soon found out, it was located right across the plaza from a Church. The bell tower of the church was on same level as my hotel room. Every hour on the hour starting from 6:30 in the morning the church bells are rung. When the bells were being rung, it sounded like the bell tower was right in my hotel room. What a noise!! Its like this all over Italy in all these little village town, you hear the constant clanging of the church bells. Make it stop!!

Wall mural in Mori Italy

Have not seen too many of these before! A Citroen 2 CV6 car 600cc 29hp

The 2cv was design back in 1934. The design team at Citroen were tasked with developing a cheap affordable car for the many rural people of France. The stated design requirements was to build a car that would enable four small farmers in clogs to transport 50 kg (110 lb) of farm goods to market at 50 km/h (31 mph), and if necessary across muddy, unpaved roads. The car would use no more than 3 litres of fuel to travel 100 km

I love this story about a French adventurer who got stranded in a Moroccan desert when he broke the frame and swing arm on his Citroen 2 CV. No problem, he took the Citroen apart and turned it into a 2 wheeled motorcycle.

Link to story about the French adventurer
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Innsbruck Austria

I am now in Innsbruck Austria. The immediate impression you get when you first enter Innsbruck is that this town is first and foremost an Alpine community. The town sits in a valley bookended on two sides by towering snow capped mountains. During the winter months, Innsbruck is mostly known as a skiing destination, but during the summer months its becomes a favorite place for cyclists, hikers and climbers and for tourists who want to take in the vibe of being in an alpine setting.

Innsbruck hosted the Winter Olympics back in 1964 and also in 1976. From my hotel room I can look out my window and view the ski jumping facility.
Downtown Innsbruck is what you expect of any major tourist town, its a bit garish, again its looks like the folks from Disney were hired to design the Alpine looking buildings with their steep pitched roofs, turrets and spires.
This seems to happen to many popular tourist destinations around the world, tourists have an expectation what a place should look like and over time, the town planners slowly transform the town to meet those expectations of further attracting more visitors to their town.

I was planning on only spending two days in Innsbruck, two days is enough to take in all the sights of Innsbruck, but on the day I was set to leave, a violent weather system swept into Innsbruck, bringing in high winds and heavy rains. There was no way I was going to attempt riding a motorcycle across mountains roads in such weather, it would of made for a long miserable day of travelling. I am in no rush, so I'll spend another day in Innsbruck.

One of the popular things to do in Innsbruck is to take the modern Nordkette cable car from the center of Innsbruck to the top of the mountain. It took rides in two separate cable cars to transit to the top of the mountain. When I arrived at the top of the mountain, it was under clear blue skies, providing fantastic views of Innsbruck below. At the top of the mountain you find a cafe. Lots of trails for hiking. No chance to take any photos, my camera battery died. I will need to return another time. They charged 32 Euros to ride the cable car to the top of the mountain. Travelling is not cheap.

Some photos from my stay in Innsbruck Austria.

View of Triumphal Arc

Walk along Maria Theresa Street in Innsbruck

Scenic view along the Inn River in Innsbruck

View along Inn River

Colorful buildings along Inn River in Innsbruck

Backside view of St James Cathedral

Outdoor book library

View of ornate Helblinghaus Baroque building

Walk along Maria Theresa Street

City Tower

Walk along Maria Theresa street

Street Tram in Innsbruck

Last edited by Ride4Adventure; 12 Aug 2016 at 21:49.
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Stuttgart Germany

I am headed this day to Stuttgart Germany. The route from Innsbruck Austria to Stuttgart will take me through windy sections of mountain roads through the Alps and eventually the road connects up with the autobahn which connects with Stuttgard.
I was expecting to have an easy ride through the mountain sections of the route. When you are on a remote mountain road, the last thing that you are expecting to contend with is traffic congestion. There was so much traffic on the little mountain road along route 177, that progress was very slow. It took over an hour just to ride the few kilometers along the windy mountain road to the top of the mountain pass and then about half that time to make the descent to the other side. The mountain road had numerous hairpin turns along its course, and cars were lined up bumper to bumper along its entire length. It hard enough driving in traffic like this in a car, it is doubly more difficult on a motorcycle when you are having to control the weight of a heavy motorcycle at slow speeds, and constantly having to squeeze the clutch and brake levers. Your hands get pretty tired.
I thought that once I was clear of the mountain roads and back on to the Autobahn that my progress would be better, but there were numerous stops and waits for construction all along the way to Stuttgart.
Stuttgart is one of the larger cities in Germany. People probably recognize the name as many of the major car companies, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche have their headquarters centered in Stuttgart.
The Germans proudly proclaim that Stuttgard is the cradle of the automobile industry as Stuttgart was where the automobile manufacturing industry first got started.
I spent a couple of days in Stuttgart, I found a hotel not too far from the centre of town. Stuttgart is an eclectic mix of old historical building and new 21st century design.
Much of Stuttgart was destroyed during the war. I read somewhere that as much as 60% of the buildings located in the main parts of Stuttgart were destroyed during the numerous bombing raids by the Allied forces. Over the span of WWII, over 140,000 bombs were dropped on Stuttgart. Some of the old historic building were rebuilt after the war, but much of what you see today in downtown Stuttgart is of more recent construction. I remember when I was travelling through Ireland, I was staying at a B&B with a fellow from Stuttgart and he lamented that Stuttgart no longer had any historical character, as much of it had been destroyed during the war.
Regardless of that, I found it to be an interesting, vibrant city to visit. They have one of the longest pedestrian walkways in Germany. On the weekend that I was there, the downtown area was taken over for a local music and food festival. One thing I noted on my visit to Stuttgart is that the population of Stuttgart is not very Germanic looking. I did a little research on-line, 40% of the population of Stuttgart are immigrants, who have settled in Stuttgart seeking employment. The city certainly has a very diverse multi-cultural population.

They have a mega construction project going on, called Stuttgart21,. Its a railway and urban development project in the heart of downtown Stuttgart. they are upgrading the current railway infrastructure and moving the system underground. This is all being done in order to better integrate their current railway system with the Trans-European rail network. Its a 6.5 billion Euro project. Its a big world class construction project.

They have a well developed underground subway system in Stuttgart, so it is easy to get around. Both Porsche and Mercedes have major car museums in Stuttgart, paying homage to their automotive history.

I liked Stuttgart, it was an interesting place to visit, lots to do and see. Be warned!!, the traffic congestion on the surrounding roads can be pretty horrible.

Lots of modern looking contemporary designed buildings in Stuttgart

Main train terminal

Hauptbahnhof train terminal

View of new Mercedes-AMG GTS car. Out of my price range

Stuttgart Museum

Some more examples of modern contemporary architecture

Walking along main pedestrian walkway in Stuttgart

Old clock tower in center of Stuttgart

Downtown Stuttgart taken over for Summer Fest

In the Schlossplatz plaza

View around Neues Schloss buildings

Summer Fest setup in Schlossplatz
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Motorcycle Wanderings - The Rhinland Germany

I have been to Germany a number of times in the past, before but have never have had the occasion to visit the Rhineland area of Germany. So after leaving Stuttgart, I have plotted a route to take me into the heart of the Rhineland.

This is not the first time I have I travelled to the Rhine River. On a visit to Switzerland some years ago, I travelled to the headwaters of the Rhine River from were it first starts out in Switzerland. From its primary source in south-eastern Switzerland, the Rhine River flows north through the Rhineland and the Netherlands eventually discharging into the North Sea, a distance of over 1200 kilometers.

Going as far back as the times of the Romans, the Rhine and Danube Rivers marked the frontier boundaries of the Roman Empire in Europe. The Rhine severed as a trade route and means of communication across the hinterland regions of the Roman Empire. The Romans developed numerous forts and signal stations along the Rhine, and kept fleets of ships based along the river to maintain control over their frontier territories. Over the years many I important commercial towns were established on the banks of the Rhine River.

I was told by some local Germans that I met in Stuttgart that if I was interested in spending some time visiting the Rhineland I should visit the resort town of Boppard which is situated right on the Rhine River. Its a tourist town, mostly frequented by local Germans. Boppard is situated on one of the more notable sections of the Rhine River, along the Rhine Gorge, where the Rhine River is channel through a series of narrow valleys. This area with its unique physical geography, has been declared a UNESCO Heritage site.

I spent a couple days in Boppard. A very interesting little town. Lots of tourist facilities. Many of the cruise ship companies offer cruises down the Rhine River on these long and narrow barges and some of the companies make stopovers in Boppard.

I was surprised at the level of traffic on the Rhine. From my viewpoint along the riverbank in Boppard, there seemed to be at least a couple of cargo or passenger barges passing by at any one time.

The town was full of tourists when i was there, many seemed to be here on a cycling holiday. One thing I observed about many of the cyclists who were here, is that many were riding these new ebikes.

Boppard... An interesting place to visit!!

Video of my ride along the Rhine River between Boppard and Koblenz in Germany.

View of my hotel in Boppard. Situated in a forest reserve.

Walking around backstreets in downtown Boppard

Along backstreets of Boppard

Market area in centre of Boppard Germany

In main market area of Boppard

In the main market square in Boppard Germany

Numerous restaurants in center of Boppard

Street scene in Boppard

Passing cruise boat along Rhine River near Boppard

Many of the cruise ship companies have their own private docks setup in Boppard

View of the boardwalk along the Rhine River in Boppard

There are numerous medieval buildings in Boppard. It has a long storied history

Passing cargo vessel along Rhine River. There is a lot ship traffic going up and down the Rhine River.

Another view of boardwalk in Boppard along Rhine River.

There several parks and gardens along the boardwalk. Very nice.

Another passing cargo barge

View of town of Boppard Germany

The Rhine River near Boppard passes through a gorge.

Many ornate building around Boppard
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Motorcycle Wanderings - Bremen Germany

I was undecided where to go next after leaving the Netherlands. I had considered heading further north into Denmark and spending some time riding *around this Scandinavian country, from where I was in the Netherlands It would be a couple days ride to Copenhagen.*I have to* be back in Frankfurt in a weeks time to get the motorcycle ready for shipment back over to Canada. So rather*then spend a few hurried days travelling to Demark, I instead headed over to Bremen Germany, a 4-5 hour ride away from where I was in the Netherlands. *Some local Germans I had met at my hotel in Beekenberg and told me that if I was to visit the northern parts of Germany that I should visit Hamburg or Bremen. Bremen is renowned as being one of the cultural centers in Germany. It is home to dozens of historical galleries*and museums. It is a fairly large city located on the banks of the Weser River.

I really enjoyed my visit to Bremen. The town has over 1200 years of history behind it. Bremen sits on the Weser river, a historically important route for transportation and commerce**in Northern Germany. The city is another mecca for cyclists. The city is known as being a very walkable connected city. There are parks all over the place. They have over 800 kms of cycle paths throughout the city. My favorite part of the city is along the Weser river that cuts through the heart of the city. It is just a very liveable urban landscape. Very pleasant city.

Nice hotel I stayed at in center of Bremen

Walking around center of downtown Bremen

Interesting shot of art sculpture in atrium of building

I just found this an interesting photo of truck and building

Some of the interesting buildings to be seen in Bremen

Glockenspeil House

Entrance to Paula Modershon - Becker *Museum

Area in center of Bremen

Some of the Guild houses in main market square

Statue of Roland the Protector

Kids playing in main plaza

View of Bremen Cathedral in Market Square

Deutsche Bank Building

Doomshof town square in Bremen

Stroll through park in center of Bremen
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Great adventure. Someday I would like do something similar.

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Motorcycle Wanderings - The Return Home

It has now been over 2 weeks since I returned to Canada from Germany. I departed Frankfurt Germany along with my motorcycle.

I spent 3 days in Frankfurt Germany getting the motorcycle prepared for its journey back to Canada. I had no time to spend in playing tourist as I was busy getting bike ready for trip back to Canada. I had already made arrangements with Air Canada Cargo over a month ago to have the motorcycle air freighted from Frankfurt Germany to Montreal.

I spent a full two days getting the bike cleaned up. I know that both Agriculture Canada and Customs Canada would be involved in the process of clearing my motorcycle back into the country and did not what to chance that some over zealous inspector would refused*to release my motorcycle*because they found some*clump of dirt or found an insect fragment struck to the bike**I remember *once returning from a trip to the Bahamas and having one of my running shoes confiscated because they found some tar like substance*stuck to the bottom of my sneaker.

View of downtown Frankfurt as viewed from my hotel room. I*am not sure what is going on with all* the buildings being adorned with colored cones??[/caption]

The process for shipping the motorcycle back from* Germany to Canada was similar to that I experienced* I had when I first flew the bike from Montreal to Dublin Ireland.

First thing I had to do was to Contact Air Canada Cargo office in Frankfurt Germany . Both my bike and myself would be retuning to Canada on the same day. The motorcycle would be shipped out on an earlier more direct flight from Frankfurt to Montreal. I would fly out a few hours later, taking AC flight from Frankfurt - Toronto - Montreal. The AC Cargo agent told me that if both bike and myself arrived as scheduled,*I should be able to get the bike cleared through Canada Customs on the same day.

AC Cargo told me to drop the bike off at their Cargo facility, located at the* Frankfurt Intl airport. Frankfurt Airport is a very large airport. The AC offices are found by entering through gate 26 (TOR 26) which is just west of Terminal 1 and 2. Entrance to the airport cargo facilities is restricted, so*you* need to sign in with the main control office which is to your immediate right as you enter the entrance to gate 26. The Air Canada Cargo building is at 455a, just turn left along the main road once your pass through the security barrier.

Before I could drop off the bike at Air Canada Cargo*I *had to first get a dangerous goods certificate for the bike. AC Cargo gave me the name of a DG agent ( Deufol - 638 Cargo City Sud) the company is*located*on the south side of*the airport. I contacted Deufol**a week before*coming to *Frankfurt, they had the paper work prepared in advance of my arrival. For that piece of paper they charge me 40 euros ($60.00 Cdn), cheaper than the $100.00 I was charged when I first fly the bike over to Ireland.

I* was surprised to learn that the cost of sending my bike back to Canada was the same as what I paid to first ship it over to Ireland. When I first discussed the details*of the*" Fly Your Bike" promotion with Air Canada representatives, I was told that the low fares only applied to flights from Canada to Europe and not between Europe and North America, but apparently it*must, as I was charged the same rate on the return shipment.

To get the special Air Canada promotion rate, you must book your return flight with Air Canada. If you do not, they will charge you an extra $400.00 to the cost of your bike shipment. I got hosed by Air Canada when trying to arrange a flight back to Montreal. Air Canada as does many of the major airlines, charge a huge premium on single flight bookings on*their major international routes. I landed up booking a return ticked from Frankfurt to Montreal as the cost of a single fare between* Frankfurt and Montreal was twice that of a return ticket.

The day before I was scheduled to fly out, I dropped the bike off at the Air Canada building, I signed a few more documents, paid them a bunch money, they gave me a Waybill number for the cargo shipment, and that was it! There was a bike in* the cargo holding area that was just shipped back from the US t Frankfurt. They just load the bike on the aluminum pallet, and then*secure *it to the pallet using 4- 5*ratchet straps.

In Air Canada Cargo facility art Frankfurt airport, getting motorcycle prepped for shipment back to Canada[/caption]

Motorcycles are strapped down to an aluminum pallet for loading onto airplane[/caption]

I flew out the next day, I arrived in Montreal early in the afternoon. I had no idea where the Air Canada customs facility was. I managed to track down a customs agent at the airport who made a few phone calls and located my motorcycle. Canada customs has a warehouse facility a few kilometers from the main airport, I was directed to go there. It should have only taken 10 minutes to get there by taxi but my driver was a bit clueless in trying to*find his way over to the Canada Customs office, he initially try to drop me off in front of a vacant lot, insisting that this was the* right*address as directed by his company's GPS unit. I pulled out my own GPS and*proceeded to *direct him the correct location. No tip for you !!

Once I was at the Canada Custom office, it was just a matter of making a custom declaration on the bike and all the contents that were stored in the side panniers. I was in and out of the office in about 15 minutes with the customs release form. I handed this off to one of the Air Canada cargo reps and 10 minutes later my bike was delivered to the front loading door. The whole process was pretty painless, no high drama.

The Canada Customs office, just down the hallway to the left, only about a 15 minute walk[/caption]

Once back in Montreal I headed back to my home in Ottawa. I have decided to take a hiatus from my tour and attend to some personal*matters, I am relocating from Ottawa to Fredericton, New Brunswick. I sold my house in Ottawa before my trip and have now downsized to a condo in Fredericton.* My travels will continue but instead of travelling for extended periods of time I may now limit my travels to 3 or 4 weeks at a time instead. The world is a big place, no need to try and see it all at once.
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Thanks Ride4Adventure,
I'm planning to ship my bike into Dublin this year w ACan from Vancouver, so your clear description of procedure helps a lot.
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