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Ancient History is Greece

Rolling through the northern Greek countryside we round a couple turns and high up on soaring rock columns are the Meteora monasteries. They change and disappear as different ones become visible with the turns of the road. Some are resort sized buildings cut into soaring rock columns and are balanced preciously hundreds of feet in the air. We have picked a campground with views of several of the monasteries from our campsite. As the sun sets, we sit back and watch the colors change on a large monastery just above us, so beautiful.

Sitting in the garden restaurant we meet another couple from Canada and spend time with them discussing politics. Drives me crazy. Why politics. Here we sit in a beautiful country and this is what people want to talk about???

The next morning we pack up in anticipation of visiting a couple of the incredible monasteries. Winding up the road thinking we may have beat the tour busses up the mountain, we are wrong. Lines of busses line the road, and even longer lines of tourists, literally hundreds. I don’t like cities because of the crowds and I can’t do this. We pull in and grab a few great photos of several monasteries, which is quite enough, and it is time to go.

The terrain south is mountainous with a valley running through the middle. We jump on the fast road and ride hard sorry toward the Peloponnese peninsula.

We stop for the night in Delphi. Finding a hotel in town we are able to park on the narrow street right in front of the hotel. The Yellow Donkey (the VStroms new name from later in the trip, stay tuned) attracts attention with people taking pictures or wanting their picture taken beside the overburdened beast.

Spending the evening walking about town, watching a beautiful sunset and a good meal at an outdoor cafe was a good end to a hard day.

The next morning we walked to Delphi. Just outside of the entrance we see a couple bikes from Europe. Inside we meet the riders, a man and his daughter (University age) riding two-up, and a friend. We talk for a while before walking through the ruins.

The Pythia was the time of the high priestess oh the Temple of Apollo at Delphi who also served as the Oracle of Delphi. The Pythia was established in the 8th century BC, and was credited for her prophecies inspired by the spirit of the God, in this case, Apollo. During this period the Delphi Oracle was the most prestigious and authoritative oracle amount the Greeks, and she was the most powerful woman of the classics world.

The ruins of the Temple of Delphi date from the 4th century BC. The temple survived until AD 390, when the Roman Emperor Theodosius I silenced the oracle by destroying the temple and most of the statues and works of art to remove all traces of Paganism. (Wikipedia)

Starting in 586 BC, athletes from all over Greece competed in the Panhellenic Games, precursors of the modern Olympics.

The next day as we were riding toward the Peloponnese peninsula we rode into the outer bands of a weather pattern called a Medicane. This is a hurricane type storm that forms in the Mediterranean.  There is a 2252 meter, cable-stayed road bridge, the Rion-Antirion Bridge, spanning the Gulf of Corinth connecting the Greek mainland to the Peloponnese peninsula.

The winds were fierce as we approached the bridge along the coast with gusts approaching 60 mph. The only way to cross, besides the ferries which weren’t running because of the weather, is this bridge. Pulling over at the base we evaluated our situation and options. Deciding that we really needed to get over the bridge, we decided to get up and over the bridge. Pulling out and moving forward was certainly puckering. The bike was all over the place, at time feeling like the front end was even off the ground. Our speed never exceeded 30 kph and that was super tough to even control. As we finally crested the top of the bridge we realized these winds were going to continue for the rest of our ride. Reaching the other side we were still very exposed to the gusty conditions and took the first exit seeking cover from the winds among building and a place to stop and recover. The first coffee shop we came across was our respite.  We finally made it to Olympia, but that is in the next post.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

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Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

Albania, Macedonia, Old and New Friends

We crossed back into Albania and the great road, went to shit. It became tight and narrow, blind curves, major sized potholes (southern Honduras), then dirt and gravel. As we just ride slowly along with the absence of traffic on the only road from this point north, I thought I had taken a wrong turn somewhere.IMG_20180921_135104692

Coming around a corner and we happened upon a camp and great restaurant. We sat at a table and are hungry, as usual. They have a fish farm right there. I order the trout, as do a couple Germans sitting at a table next to us. Our waiter places our order, a man comes out of the kitchen and dips his net into the water retrieving three wonderfully looking trout. Mine was delicious, as were the others since bones were the only leftovers.

Again, we got lost trying to find the small border rounding Lake Ohrid into Macedonia. Lake Ohrid is one of the oldest and cleanest lakes in the world. The next day we took a boat ride on the lake (which lasted longer than advertised). It was a beautiful day to visit some of the sites around the lake. But the reason for going here was to visit some friends that were arriving to Ohrid also. The famous riding duo, the RTW riding pair, all the way from Australia (again), Ken and Carol-Ann Duval. ;).

We got back to the hotel to find them and their familiar looking BMW 800GS waiting for us. Chatting it up our group headed down to the marina in search of beer, food and, more beer. A stage was set up just off the marina and we stopped and watched the Macedonian dance troupe for a few minutes before continuing our quest for beer and food. Both were found at a nearby restaurant with seating outside on the sidewalk watching families do what they should be doing, enjoying each others company. It was good as always to catch up with them.

After a good meal, wonderful conversation and probably too many beers we headed back to the hotel. In the morning we were packed and off to Greece again. After a couple hours we pulled into a fuel station to fill up our gas tank and have a coffee. While we were drinking our coffee a couple bikes showed up. Then a couple more. Soon the parking lot held several bikes of a Macedonia Motorcycle Club, POTFAT MC. We were at a small table inside and they were all seated outside at a couple tables. The club leader came in and approached us and wanted to know if we would like to come outside and share their tables. Of course we would. We spent an fun and interesting hour with the group, which included a female pillion. They were all meeting for their Sunday ride somewhere to get something to eat. The club leader wanted me to have a club patch, which I accepted, and will have sewn onto my leather biker jacket back in the US. Getting ready to leave, we all had to get pictures in the parking lot in front of the bikes.

With great roads south (a different route) the day ended at a campground with views looking up to the towering monasteries of Meteora. But that will be in the next blog.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, motocamping, motorcycle travel, VStrom | Leave a comment

To Greece We Go! Oops, detour.

Leaving Horizon’s Unlimited we decided to ride around Tuscany and then head to Greece. We had already had enough of the big cities and thought we can do Rome and the Amalfi coast another time. Some friends that we would see in a couple days were there and hating all the tourists.

The riding toward San Marino was fantastic as the roads leaving HU were perfect motorbike roads. Perfect tarmac with endless curves and elevation changes always led to a pass. As it was Sunday, at the pass there was always a large group of motorcycles with riders in full gear. Parked at the top of the pass at a small cafe, they grouped around the bikes, sipping Espressos and Cappuccinos. and watching as other bikes zoomed around the corners at the top. It’s so great being a motorcycle rider.

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We stopped in San Marino briefly, camped, and got out the next morning. Nothing excited me, even the campground and the rude people there. BYE.

The next day we rode toward the coast where we would be catching up with Australian friends. We stopped at a place we had seen on their FB page called La Casdade Saturnia in southern Tuscany. This is a series of thermal pools cascading down the hills into other pools. It was a fun thing to see and do but the popularity led to way too many tourists all with the same idea. Saturnia is a spa town in Tuscany in north-central Italy that has been inhabited since ancient times. Near the village, 800 L/s of sulphurous water at 37 °C gushes over a waterfall and down into a cascade of natural pools formed by the deposition of calcareous rock from evaporation of the water. It was a cool place but the popularity of this FREE attraction made it overcrowded with tourists.

Springs

After a quick dip and a change behind the bike, it’s Italy, we headed to the coast to meet up with Paul Knibbs and Maryna Matthew, a couple on a RTW trip from Australia. They have been on the road for about 18 months. We arrived at Australia/USA Glamp and had a fantastic evening. We cooked up a fitting meal together, drank too much beer and wine (hangover), and told brilliant lies about friends and time on the road. All too quickly, as it is on the road, our time together was up. We will meet again somewhere in the world. Ride safe, our friends.

After leaving in the morning we headed to the ferry port in Bari, two days away. We chose to ride through back roads along the edge of a couple National Forests on the east side of the country, across from Rome. The riding was fantastic and we were surprised by several places that we came across.

Riding through the national parks there was very little traffic and great roads. As we rounded a corner there was this beautiful lake, Lago del Salto. Above the lake and terraced into the mountain was the village of Borgo San Pietro. It was breathtaking! We stopped at a local cafe overlooking the lake and, of course, ordered a cappuccino. Such is the way of wandering on a motorcycle, great surprises when least expected.

That night we came across a McDonalds and stopped in. It was raining and we needed a place to get internet. After ordering a beer off the menu (yep!) with my cheeseburger we found a place to stay at the base of a ski resort. We got an second floor suite with wood beamed ceilings. There was an inner courtyard so I was able to pull our bike in and lock it at the base of our stairs, covered and secure.

 

The next day we hightailed it to Bari, Italy to catch the ferry to Igoumenitsa, Greece. We found out we had some more friends from OZ that we could catch up with in Macedonia.

First we had to go to Albania again. We missed a sight the last time through that we were very near now. A friend of ours, Carla King, had told us not to miss it this time. This is the triangle fortress of Butrint. This area has been inhabited for over 50,000 years up to the 19th century. Riding to the complex you first see the triangular fortress standing guard over the narrow water passage. Not very impressive, one is almost tempted to turn around and go back, but an interesting wooden platform ferry ride, drawn by cables, beckons.

Once across, the entrance to Butrint is hidden, just across the river. From 800 BC until the Romans it was influenced by Greek culture. For almost 2000 years it has been controlled by several distinct cultures, all adding to the different styles of construction. The most interesting ancient Greek monument is the theatre which is well preserved.

After exploring we decided to head just a bit further into Albania and find a nice place on the beach to relax. We were exhausted after the overnight ferry ride with not much sleep. We found a great place overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea and Monastery Beach. Not exceeding our budget we had access to the beach, a nice restaurant on the cliff and great hosts. The young host had many questions about travel, motorcycles and the world. After talking for an hour the original glint in his eye was fully engulfed in flames. The stories we pass and the lives we influence. The journey is not always about you as a traveler, but of the people you meet.IMG_20180920_134347871

The next morning we headed to Macedonia. But first we would detour back into Greece. We wanted to see the Vikos Gorge.

“The Vikos Gorge is a gorge in the Pindis Mountains of northern Greece. It lies on the southern slopes of Mount Tymfi , with a length of about 20 km, depth ranging from 120 to 490 m, and a width ranging from 400 m to only a few meters at its narrowest part.

Vikos is listed as the deepest gorge in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.” Wikipedia  

 

It was an incredible sight. We rode down to the bottom of the gorge where people were white water rafting. Back at the top of the gorge, we sat at an old structure/coffee shop and enjoyed the views. An old man saw our bike from the USA and kept yelling out the different cities he had visited during his long life. “New York” he would yell from across the street, “New Orleans”, “Philadelphia”, and on and on. A father and his two children from Israel were seated next to us and the kids were very curious about our travels and what were in the dry bags on the motorcycle. Dad spoke great English and the kids were just learning in school, so they practiced with questions. In the end, both wanted to sit on the bike and get a picture taken.

The young boy had that gleam…

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, Greece, Horizons Unlimited, Italy, VStrom | Leave a comment

Headed to HU Italia

A quick flight from Iceland to Frankfurt and we were at Stefan’s to pick up our bike.

What do you say, Stefan? NO CLUTCH!!!!

No worries. A leak in the slave cylinder resulted in the fluid draining out and no pressure. A quick replacement and brake line flush, followed by an oil change, and we were ready to go.

A few other riders were also getting their own bikes ready to ride. That night we all went out to eat and to drink a few beers while telling traveler stories.

A couple German riders, Frank and Klaus, that we had met on the road were home and came over to say hi. We have met them on two and three continents, respectively. It was great seeing them and getting to spend some time with them in Heidelberg.

 

We left the following morning and headed to France, bypassing the expense of riding through Switzerland. In the mountains it was cold but we found great campsites and fantastic roads to ride.

The next day we stopped for the night at an AirBNB. They were travelers that are still in the midst of their RTW trip in a custom-built fire truck and are home recharging and saving again. We had a fun night talking about where we have been and where we all wanted to go. They even had a yurt in their backyard for guests to stay in that had come back with them from Mongolia, even the door.

Based on their recommendations we detoured to a site that was amazing, Postman Cheval’s Ideal Palace. This man spent 30 years of his life building this amazingly hideous palace. One day in 1879 while out walking, he tripped on a stone that had an inspiring shape to it. While out on his daily 20 mile route through very rough terrain he would empty his wheelbarrow of mail and fill it on the return trip with rocks. Quite a labour of love, or just crazy?

That night we stopped in to see Ted Simon. He rode a motorcycle around the world in 1973 he rode his 500cc Triumph Tiger 100 , “Jupiter”, RTW over four years and returned to write “Jupiter’s Travels”.  He has written many books including another about his second RTW trip 25 years later, “Return to Jupiter”. Many adventure seeking motorcycle travelers, including myself, throughout the world look up to him and consider him their inspiration for adventure motorcycling and international travel. img_20180907_202223832408845126.jpg

He has now moved from California to the south of France and has his home there. It is also a writer retreat and backed by the Friends of Aspiran. We feel very fortunate to be able to call Ted a friend and enjoyed our night out on the town at his favorite restaurant in the village, just around the corner. His journalistic nature and questions always have a way of making you look just a little deeper for your answer.

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From Ted’s we cut across southern France and into Italy and stopped for an espresso in the port city of Genoa.  We also wanted to see Florence while we riding around Tuscany. We found a great AirBNB with a super great couple on the bus route about an hour outside of the city. The next day we rode the bus and train into the city and did the Hop-on/hop-off bus tour and it was great. Those tours are always an inexpensive way to see big cities.  We next hit Pisa and did the leaning tower thing then headed to HU Italia.

Camping along the Mediterranean

Genoa

Florence

Pisa

We finally made it to the HU Travellers meeting Italy, held in the Tuscany region. The meeting was held in a fantastic area with the roads all around some of the best we have ever ridden, ALL directions. The facilities were once the home of a monastery and was now a beautiful equestrian center. The meeting was very well run and the hosts did a great job for their first meeting.

We met many fellow travelers and made some bonds with people who I hope will last many years and through many meetings on the road.

On to Greece…

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel, 2WANDRRs, adventure travel, Europe, France, Horizons Unlimited, Italy, Ted Simon, VStrom | Leave a comment

Iceland

Iceland. The land of fire and ice. It didn’t disappoint.

Also the land of wind, cold and rain. And waterfalls.

We landed in Iceland on a four day layover, courtesy of Iceland Air. On our way to Germany to pick up our bike for a couple month ride we decided to stop in Iceland and drive the ring road, the Golden Circle. This road, which is mostly paved or smooth gravel, is where you can drive a normal rental vehicle. Any of the interior road require a 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle for the difficult, rocky roads and river crossings. Since we had our camping and cooking kit along we decided to rent a small van and camp around the island and mostly cook for ourselves to see how much money we could save over what the horror stories are.

Arriving in Iceland at 0430 we went directly to the rental agency and picked up our van. We were out of the airport and past Reykjavik before the sun had been up an hour.

Headed north, our destination for the day was Dynjandi waterfalls on the north side of the island. Stopping at as many waterfalls and sights as we could get to we ended up on dirt roads as we rode to coastline on the way north. The track is built so at times you are directly above the edge of the water, sometimes as much as 100 meters below you, without a guard rail. It’s usually not too bad unless you have a Mario barreling at you way too fast, at times taking up most of your portion of the road also.

Dynjandi waterfalls are a tourist destination and we could see why once we were there. The falls are multi-tiered and cascade down to the fjord from the main falls at the top of the cliff. The main falls are like a multitude of chandeliers as they mix together during to the upper pools. Absolutely beautiful.

We back tracked about 30 kms to a campground on the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Choosing a great pitch overlooking the bay we quickly set up camp before walking to the cliffs and a hidden hot springs tucked romantically into the rocks. A young couple from Israel shared the water and views with us. The night temperatures got down to 3°C, from a high of 7 degrees. It was windy and misty all night leaving to a very chilly night and morning packing up camp.

The Golden Road runs around the perimeter of Iceland. The interior road, or F roads, are off limits to small rental vehicles because of the rocky terrain and multiple water crossings.

Driving to the geothermal area of Myvatn we don’t the night in the view of several volcanoes. There is a blue springs there also. And like the more famous Blue Lagoon, it is very expensive and very crowded. We choose instead on old hot springs that the locals have been using for many years, the Secret Lagoon. It was less than 100 kms from Reykjavik, inexpensive and not crowded at all.

The day before we got to the springs, and back to Reykjavik, we stopped at Glacier Lagoon, at the base of the largest icefields and glacier in Europe, the Vatnajökull National Park. This icefield covers sq meters.

As the icebergs calve off the glacier they melt in the lagoon to a size that allows them to float down the river, under the bridge and out to sea. The icebergs colors varied from white to blue to dirty. The dirty ones were from high winds blowing sand from the black sand “Diamond Beach” on to the ice. It was an amazing sight to be so close to so many enormous chunks of ice.

We went to Iceland on a layover to Europe flying on Iceland Air. The stopover was free for up to seven days. Our van rental cost US$340, food $85 (we brought some food with us and split one $25 meal of not so good fish and chips), $160 lodging (1 hostel night before leaving), fuel (US$1.60/l), and extras (about $100). It is possible to see Island, the land of fire and ice, inexpensively. You just have to plan ahead.

On to Germany.

Cheers,

2WANDRRs

Categories: 2-up motorcycle travel | Leave a comment

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