donderdag 29 augustus 2013

GR2013 Day 13 & 14: Tenaron & Astros

Forgive me if today's report is a little long - I've got alot to show you. Because today, it was time to reach the final destination. Cape Tenaron!

Fotis had told me that, when heading South out of Kalamata towards the cape, I had to look for a junction at a hotel where I had the choice to go straight (along the coast), or left (going up the hill). I had to go left, up the hill, and it would lead me to a tremendous road.

So after thanking Fotis and saying goodbye...

...I filled up, and went to look for that junction!

Now, ofcourse I didn't know how the hotel look like or anything, but I was told I'd know it when I saw it.

So at the first junction with a hotel and a road leading up the hill and one staying near the coast...

...I went up. And it was quite a good road - lots of hairpins though.

And... well... I could téll you what happened next, but I think it's more fun if you see for yourself.

I started to realize this was not the road Fotis meant when I approached the sign saying the road ahead was a dead end. But by then, I figured I'd just plow on and see what was at the end... I'd come this far anyway.

But eventually there I was, on the top of a huge hill, at the end of unnerving gravel inclines that led to nowhere. And I had to go all the way back down again. Oh joy!

At one point I need to make a U-turn, requiring me to walk the bike backwards a little. But to do that with a 600 pound Beast on an incline borders on the impossible. Eventually though, my view was this:

Engine running, clutch engaged, and hassling around to get it pointed left where I wanted to go, knowing that if I let go of the clutch, the Beast and I would be bye-bye.

I can think of less nervous moments in my life.

I made it down in one piece though, and rode on to find the right junction. Soon enough, I found one that fit Fotis's description ánd had roadsigns telling me there'd be cities at the other end. Comforting, yes.

In the distance, I could see what Fotis meant with this road being worth the ride.

Quite the sight already.

The road was draped at the side of a mountain, with rocks on one end and a valley at the other.

Sadly though, the valley was largely obscured by trees beside the road.

Soon enough, I was greeted by the coast again! But the awesome roads didn't end here, for sure.

Let me show you what I'm on about. 

This went on for miles. With the hill-climb adventure earlier, and now this, it was turning out to be one awesome day.

And the roads made for some good riding too. The tarmac wasn't the slippery kind, at all.

So let's have a hurray for twisties!


As it turned out, I was not the only rider here. Respect, guys.

By this time I still hadn't had any real trouble navigating. Once in a while I just took the map out to check whether my location was the right one, and rode on.

(note the amazed onlooker in this pic)

There are worse places for a toilet break.

And the pretty pictures just kept on coming.

This was also something that kept on coming - looking up a hill, knowing you're going to ride the spaghetti road you see draped on the hillside before you.

But the Greek don't care, they build their houses there as well if they have to.

Thankfully, most towns have their own petrol station too.

I could feel I was slowly getting closer to the end of the continent. Towns became smaller, roads became more... well... remote.

But the Diros caves were on the list first. So, a small detour, and down the hill I went.

God, tourists... bleagh.

I chose not to leave the Beast alone with all them other foreign people. That's my paranoid streak for ya - I just don't like leaving it anywhere on a trip.

So I turned around, made like a shepherd and got the flock out of there.

Going further South, I knew it wouldn't take long...

...before civilization would end too.

It's quite strange how such a thing feels. Myself, I feel as free as I could possibly be.

The houses here in Mani (the Southern tip of Greece) are all built as if they were castles.

Fotis told me that Mani citizens pride themselves on being the sole area in Greece that wasn't conquered by the Ottomans about 200 years ago. 

And riding into Mani, I could see why. There's hills and cliffs everywhere.

To me, this meant alot more hairpins...

...and steep inclines.

But the views? Well, see for yourself.

The only thing to see in the middle of nowhere is its staggeringly beautiful scenery.

And that alone makes it worth it.

Yes, almost there now.

The very last town of Kokkinogia still obscured me from...

...the end of the road. Literally, the tarmac just stopped into this 'parking lot', which was basically a clearing on the rocks.

This guy (whose clothing indicates the local temperature) had driven with his camper all the way from France. He helped me realign the Beast on the rocky surface, after which he told me he'd traveled alot on a Transalp as well. Bonjour, et merci!

After shooting a few images, it was time to head on back.

Back down the exact same road I'd just ridden, for miles.

Another thing I saw alot more in Mani than anywhere else in Greece - houses sporting the Greek flag. Fotis told me that because of the aforementioned history, Maniots tend to see themselves as truer Greeks than the rest of the country.

They do have themselves a pretty nice area to live in, I'd say. Time to follow the East coast!

And with one more look back South, from whence I came...

I arrived at a camp site near Gytheio, at 3pm. Fotis had told me that to go from Kalamata to both Tenaron and Monemvasia on the same day would be ambitious, and the roads from Tenaron had shown why. The twisties had made for nice riding, but really slow progress.

I was still dubious about going to Monemvasia though - it would mean a choice between going there, or Mystras (near Sparti). The camp site was nice though - both left and right I was sided by German families, and both of them had experienced riders. 

And both of the riders had ridden Transalps. "Ahh, Transalp! Geht nicht kaputt. Nie." was one of the comments I got. I would learn later down the trip exactly what this entailed.

The next day, I chose to keep the distance respectable, as the ride to and from Tenaron had drained me more or less. 
I chose to go from Gytheio to Sparti, Mystras, and then via Leonidio to Astros. And I surely wasn't disappointed... but more on that later.

Time to fill up, and head on outta here!

Gytheio proved a very nice place, especially with the sun rising.

And after a few miles...

Sparti was already upon me!

Time to silence my munchies...

..and then head to Mystras. You can see the castle right in front. 

You know, on that mountain.

The view was spectacular. And this was just the main gate - the fortress was even higher up.

Fotis's map of the Peloponnesos was proving its worth today. Even the smallest towns were on it, making navigation a tad easier as some of the time, the signs just tell you the nearest towns instead of the closest cities.

So after a lot of twisties and turnies...

...I saw the hills I was to cross in about 15 mins. The Parnon mountains.

And just to be clear on this - I was going OVER these hills. Not through them.

Oh boy.

You see that sort of whitish streak running across that mountain in the distance?

That's a road.

This road, to be precise.

Wait, let me show you where we just were.

All the way to the right. See?

But I wasn't done climbing just yet. This set of mountains is nearly 2000m high, and my ears popped three times because of the air pressure until I got to the top.

But the Greek don't mind, they just build a town on this hill. And I can't blame them.

Hello mate. 

Because... well look at this scenery!

Another thing, most Greek people don't ride with a helmet. A motorbike is more like an accessory, or so I was told.

And if you go up, there comes a time you must go down again. That road you see on the mountain to the left - that was exactly where I was heading. Yay!

And these weren't the normal kind of hairpins either. No guard rails, just a sheer drop where the road ended. Even my camera didn't want to see what came next - the battery died (of fear, probably) just when I started the descend.

Mind you, what awaited me at the other end was just as spectacular.

I must've made a wrong turn, because I ended up in Utah for some reason.

After some searching, I found myself a camp site near the town of Astros, and settled down, spending the rest of the day swimming in the Argolic Gulf.

Tomorrow, Athens!