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Old 09-26-2007, 07:32 AM   #1
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2004:A Greek Odyssey

Hi there, I'm Perty....or PB or PAB or Pabby or sometimes just plain Paul. I'm a long time lurker and occasional 'er but thought it was about time I changed that, so I hope you'll enjoy this report from back in 2004.

The trip kicked off on the 31st July 2004. This is me (and Bertha), fully loaded, feeling rather fragile after a surprise send off party the night before, and a tad worried about guiding the old girl through the car park that we call our motorway system.

I’d called in the ‘sabbatical’ card at work, agreeing 3 months off, and the house was all but sold, so the finances were sorted. There was no more reason to linger, time to tick off some miles.

Months of planning had gone into the itinerary and it went something like this;

1. Catch the ferry at Calais
2. Head to the parents house in the South West of France
3. Generally get pampered for a week or two
4. Head for Greece….

A long trip down through France brought me to the old folks house in the wee hours. Mum dished up a quick glass of celebratory Vin Rouge and it was off to bed for a well deserved snooze.

La Romieu is the nearest place, a lovely quiet village and great for just sitting and watching. Nothing much happens but I like it. It has a very grand church for the size of the village and sees a steady stream of walkers, as it lies on one of the many pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela.

From the top of the church tower

And the cloisters

The whole area is quite stunning, this village (I think) is Lavardens

Market day in Fleurance

And in late summer, the sunflowers are everywhere

After a week I was itching to ride, so jumped on Bertha, set the Sat Nav and headed over the Pyrenees to join my best chum and family for a few days sitting on the beach in Spain. The journey was great with the Sat Nav selecting a few choice roads.

After a terrific week of complete alcohol and food over indulgence (not to mention people watching), it was back over the Pyrenees to the parents for a few days.

The holiday was over, time to travel.
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:17 AM   #2
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The Run to the Coast

Initially I set sail for the Western Massif Central. Travelling up through Cahors, Aurillac and on up to Mauriac. A fantastic start on some wonderfull roads. I found my first campsite, pitching my virgin tent just in time to dive in it and sit out a massive storm. It worked. No leaks....howerver the small porch bit was now an indoor pool.... I don't remember finding it that funny at the time.

I spent the next 2 days chasing patches of sunshine. France is a stunning country and this area did not disappoint, even in the rain.

After the storm had passed

Next morning looked promising....

One of the many Damns in the area

I managed to grab a patch of sunshine and a picnic lunch next to the Dordogne.

After a few days, I headed directly east, crossing the Massif in one glorious (if somewhat chilly) days riding and on into the Western Alps. Where it again rained…..a lot…

The next day didn't look too promising either. Saillans on a damp morning.

At this point I was already a bit fed up with the rain, we get enough of that back home, so, in the town of Gap, I decided to let fate choose if I should stay in the Alps, as I had planned, or run for the South coast. A toss of a coin and I was headed South. Several gloriously twisty hours later saw me plot up at a campsite in the town of Grasse, just North West of Cannes.

Lac de Serre-Poncon

The South of France
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:36 AM   #3
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eh, a brit in my area !
this trip sounds goooood.
Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile
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morocco 2006 | morocco 2007 | Traces of Kimangao: An HP2 in France, Spain and Italy | Morocco 2008: a F800GS test ride | where the destination is Anamur - Turkey via Greece...
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Old 09-26-2007, 08:48 AM   #4
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The Place is Packed....

I spent several days cruising the South coast, topping up the tan and having a good mooch around. Bloody busy in high summer (I was very glad to be on two wheels) but the countryside just in land is quite stunning.

I also visited Cannes. The old part of town was lovely but very crowded.

At this point it felt a bit like I was kicking my heels. I had sort of made the decision not to get to Greece before the end of August, primarily because August is peak season and the Olympics were on, so I thought it might be a hassle getting in and very busy. But in the end I decided just to go. It was where I was headed and where I wanted to be, so I packed the (wet - oh yes, the rain had found me again!) tent and headed for the motorway.

A long day saw me pull in to a dark campsite, half way down Italy, on the outskirts of Montecassino, a place I’ve always wanted to see. For some reason the images from the ‘World at War’ TV series, of the Monastery being completely flattened by allied bombing, have always stayed with me, so as it was just off the autostrada, it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Early the next day I took the hairpinned route up to the Monestary. A recent fire had stripped the hillside bare.

I think this is the Polish War Cementery.

It took 10 years to rebuild but I imagine that was a lot quicker than the previous 3 times it was destroyed!

From Montecassino it was a short (ish) hop to Brindisi and a ferry to Greece.

I made it…..Greek soil…the port of Igoumenitsa.

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Old 09-26-2007, 09:01 AM   #5
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Better late than never!! Thanks for posting this ride after holding on it for all these years!! Great pics and ride, thank you
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Old 09-26-2007, 10:54 AM   #6
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The North

I figured it was time for some more R&R, so I headed down the coast to the Island of Lefkas and found a great campsite in the Southern resort of Vassiliki. This is a wind surfing mecca and I planned to brush up on my limited windsurfing skills and top up the tan.

Somewhere on the west coast

Not a bad spot for some lunch...

Look South Down the Island

I spent a week here and it was all becoming a bit too easy, I was even getting a social life So on the morning of the 3rd of September, I dragged my severely hung over body out of my tent, packed and left. Firstly I retraced my steps and headed back up North, then turning in land, headed for Ioannina via my first ancient site, Kassopi. Mainly a pile of rubble but with a magnificent view and, sat under an olive tree at the back of the amphitheatre, a quite lovely spot to stop for picnic.

On leaving Kassopi I decided to try and take a back route to Ioannina. Good maps of Greece are few and far between and I got totally lost on the tiny roads and tracks that criss cross the country side. A couple of hours later, more by good luck than good judgement, I burst out on to a main road. I guessed left and 30 mins later I rolled in to the bustling town of Ioannina. I found a campsite right on the shore of lake Pamvotida, set up home and headed for the heart of the town, the Kastro.

Next day was spent doing the local rounds. First stop ancient Dodona, not quite the grand views of Kassopi but set in a beautiful valley. And the remains are much more significant, with a wonderful theatre contained by massive stone walls.

I also paid a visit to the Perama caves (no pics I’m afraid) which were quite spectacular, as was the lightening storm that welcomed me back to the campsite.

The 5th of September starts with a glorious sun rise.

And turns into one of the best days of the journey. First stop is the Vikos gorge. Truly spectacular, and fun getting too it. My first real off tarmac excursion and I was feeling quite adventurous until the coach tour turned up!!

At least with a coach load of people, I could get a shot of myself.

And the road there had been a nice gentle introduction to the 'off tarmac' experience.

Later I bumped into 2 German travellers, Jurgen and Martin, and we travelled together for the remainder of the day. We were headed to Kalambaka via the 1694 m Katara pass. Initially we took some back ‘roads’ which were fun, often coming across the old pack horse bridges which are common to the area.

And some of the locals.

We then hit the main road, which was quite spectacular but bloody freezing at 1600+ metres. I really shouldn’t have been surprised when we passed under a ski lift at one stage.

After waving Jurgen and Martin off in the morning (they were on a very tight schedule), I headed out to see the Meteora, the monasteries in the sky, one of the most wonderful sights in all of Greece.
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Old 09-27-2007, 11:33 AM   #7
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Meteora & Delphi

The area is made up of these spectacular rock pinnacles.

And the monasteries are perched on top. If you are a James Bond fan, you may recognise them from 'For Your Eyes Only'.

There were originally 20 but only 6 now remain.

The steps and bridges to get to the monasteries are a relatively modern enhancement, before that it was a pulley or wooden ladder

The Lunchtime picnic view was quite pleasant.

Bertha takes in the view.

The next day was an early start, destination the ancient ruins of Delphi. Not a spectacular day in the saddle but still very enjoyable. Again I was caught out by the cold, climbing some of the higher roads. I just wasn’t expecting anywhere in Greece to be chilly at the beginning of September. Buying the ‘Airflow’ jacket was not turning out to be the right decision at that moment.

I found a great campsite and headed straight out to see Delphi, the place the ancient Greeks believed to be the centre of the earth.

A spectacular setting (those ancients sure knew how to pick'em) and the museum was quite excellent.

Next day I headed for the Peloponnese, a short ferry crossing away.
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Old 09-27-2007, 01:54 PM   #8
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Awesome report!
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Old 10-01-2007, 09:51 AM   #9
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The Peloponnese - Part 1

Cheers SFKLR, it's nice to know there's someone out there!

Northern Greece and the Peloponnese are separated by the Gulf of Korinth. There were several options to get to the other side, a road journey in either direction would have got me to where I was headed but I fancied a ferry crossing. I like ferries. For a Brit, it normally means you're leaving our claustrophobic shores for somewhere a little less restricted. So a ferry it was.

A short hop down the coast, I found a campsite not far from Diakofto, right on the beach.

The beaches in this part of Greece are not the picture postcard beaches you see in the tourist brochures but the coastline is wonderful, particularly at first light.

The reason for being in Diakofto, was to take a trip on an old rack-and-pinion railway, built in the late 1800’s by Italian engineers, to bring minerals from the mountains to the coast. It twists, turns and cuts along the Vouraikos gorge, crossing matchstick bridges and clinging to a ledge only just wide enough for the train to sit on. Fantastic stuff!

It winds, rattles and shudders its way up to the Ski Resort town of Kalavrita.

After the excitment of the previous days train journey it was back on the bike. The 10/9 turned out to be another awesome day. I travelled from the North coast, through the central Peloponnese, down to the South West coast. One of the best days I have ever spent on motorcycle. Hours and hours of the most glorious scenery, empty roads and quiet, untouched villages.

Initially I retraced my steps from the previous day, to Kalavrita. In this shot you can make out the train track in the bottom of the valley.

From then on I just sort of headed South....ish.

You're never quite sure when you're gonna bump into these guys.

Not quite sure where this is, might be Langadia?

This wonderfull day ended at a lovely campsite and a dip in the bay of Navarino.
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Old 10-02-2007, 06:00 PM   #10
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Stunning pix.

Keep it coming.
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Old 10-02-2007, 06:24 PM   #11
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Thumb Very Enjoyable stories and pics

I traveled through southern Greece in 1992 along some of the same roads. It brings back great memories. Also visited Hydra, Mikonos, and Santorini. Reading those Greek road signs written in Greek was a real challenge.
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Old 10-04-2007, 10:45 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by anythingon2wheels
I traveled through southern Greece in 1992 along some of the same roads. It brings back great memories. Also visited Hydra, Mikonos, and Santorini. Reading those Greek road signs written in Greek was a real challenge.
You're not wrong there. I mainly gauged it by the length of the place name. I often got lost...
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Old 10-04-2007, 11:36 AM   #13
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Southwest Peloponnese

The bay of Navarino played a particularly important part in Greece’s recent history as it is here in 1827 that the combined forces of Great Britain, France and Russia, ’accidentally’ sunk 53 Turkish ships, which ultimately led to independence for Greece from the Turks.

Pylos is a lovely town but the main draw here is the Kastro Navarinou and the picture postcard Bay of Voidhokilia.

It was a bit of a trek to the castle but well worth it as the views were quite marvellous.

No health and safety here, just scramble where you want.

After a few days I moved on further down the coast but not far, I was looking to have a small rest from packing and unpacking the tent. I stopped at an excellent campsite just outside the small resort of Finikouda and set up ‘home’.

The view from the tent was nice.

At either side of the peninsular are the Venetian fortresses on Methoni and Koroni. First up the substancial fort at Methoni.

The fortress at Koroni is a little less obvious once inside the grand gate but still offered great views from its crumbling walls.

After 4 days R&R I was ready to move on again. I headed for Sparta, to visit the Byzantine hill town and fort of Mystra. It would have been worth it for the journey alone but the site itself was quite magical and definitely one of the high spots of the trip. I arrived mid afternoon and had the place to myself.

A parting shot of the bay at Finikouda.

The road to Sparta.

A stunning view point and not a bad lunch either. The fortress at Mystra can just been seen in the centre of the pic.

There is a church around every corner.

And what a view from the top. That's Sparta in the distance.

One last view of Mystra, then it's off to the underworld.
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Old 10-08-2007, 10:35 AM   #14
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The Entrance to the Underworld

After Mystra, I doubled back to Kalamata and then headed South for the wild and barren Mani. I found a great campsite, on a glorious beach South of Gythio.

Gythio, once the Ancient port of Sparta, is now a typical small Greek port with only a hint of tourism thrown in.

But the main event was further South, the Mani, the mythical entrance to the underworld!

This is the town of Vathia and was restored in the late 1990's.

In years gone by, blood feuds between neighbours resulted in almost every home being turned into a mini castle. The males of the feuding families would try to kill each other and destroy their neighbours dwellings. The females were free to go off and work the land and bring food and munitions back for the boys!! The feuds were run under very strict rules and ’cease fires’ were called during harvest times. Apparently these sometimes went on for years.

At the far end of the penisular, the Bay of Asomati awaits. All but empty expect the remnants of an old Roman town, with a chapel and some mosaics.

The actual 'Gates of Haydes' (a cave) were a small walk away and I was too hot and hungry. I'll leave hell till later.

A few shots from the return up the east of the penisular.

Back at base.
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Old 10-08-2007, 11:28 AM   #15
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This is highly entertaining...thanks for going through the old pictures and putting them up here.
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