vrijdag 30 augustus 2013

GR2013 Day 15 & 16: Athens & Lamia

Now, there's one thing that amazed me walking around on the Astros camp site. And it wasn't the heat, it wasn't the walk-on beach, it wasn't that some occupied caravans looked like they hadn't moved for decades... it was the extra stuff that people took with them to go camping.

Up until this point, I'd seen people with airconditioning units, a stove (with microwave), garden lighting sets (including gnome)... but this one took the cake. A standing house refridgerator.

Now, I agree that it's nice to have some level of comfort whilst being away from home... but comfort is not the point of camping. Freedom is the point of camping... and to me, it seems a bit cumbersome to keep lugging a huge fridge around.

But maybe that's just the battle-hardened gas-guzzling motorcycle nomad in me, oblivious to why people stay on the same camping for weeks on end... I don't know. 


The Argolic Gulf made for a nice goodmorning, on yet another sunny day.

I kept finding more S#%P signs, too.

But soon enough...

...I was on the highway to Athens.

What struck me here (besides the awesome view and countless insects, ofcourse) was the apparent lack of regular service stations on a toll road. I mean, you pay extra to drive the road, so why can't you have a rest every now and then?

In the mean time, it seems there's a city in the distance...

...the city that is home to alót of Greek people. To give you an idea: there's about 11 million Greeks, and just under 4 million reside in Athens.

Mercifully, just outside the city, I could fill up the Beast and empty myself.

I'd agreed to meet with Socrates, whom I got into contact with through V-Strom Hellas. He'd described to me what exit to take on the highway, but ofcourse, I just followed the signs saying 'Athens'...

...which made me end up right in the middle of the multi-million metropolis.

Now even without a satnav it's still pretty easy to find your way out of such a situation. What alot of people do is retrace steps, but I'm not in favor of that - streets look different going the other way, so you might miss a turn you took earlier. 

My preferred method is following my compass into the direction of a ring road or coast.

In this case, it was time to head North, to the highway around Athens.

Et voila! I could see my exit in the distance, but it was already too late. Time to pay toll...

...for 500 metres of highway!

Here we are, nearly done for the day.

And soon enough, I was at my destination...

...where I would learn that The Beast is a true pussy magnet. Well, what can I say.

Socrates was kind enough to be my guide for the day. Time to be an annoying tourist, and time to find a GR sticker as well!

This should be the place, we reckoned. According to Socrates, if we couldn't find a sticker here, we couldn't find one anywhere.

I would learn later that 'Grigoros' means fast/quick in Greek. What's in a name, right?

Ofcourse, eventually I found a sticker for my panniers, after which we continued towards the Akropolis.

This is typical of Athens - a modern square with a subway entrance, and an ancient building right in the middle of it.

Mind you, there were some other ancient buildings I was a bit more curious about...

Climbing the Akropolis (which is lined with various other ancient sites), you got a feel for things to come.

The heat was immense, but by this time I more or less stopped caring...

...because the Parthenon was upon me. Walking around for a few minutes, I was overcome by the moment itself. I was standing on top of the friggin' Akropolis in the heart of Athens. It's crazy how things can go.

And what a view it was, looking back from where I'd come.

Mind you, I was really missing my Camelbak by this point. I'd left it with the rest of the gear, but without riding wind to cool me, I needed it now more than ever.

Socrates thought it'd be a good idea to get a drink, so he took me to his favorite café/restaurant, which overlooked the city in true spectacular style.

Afterwards, I waited at his place to be picked up by Pavlos from Transalp Hellas, where I'd spend the night. Time to have a shower, something to eat and come to the conclusion that on trips like these, polyester underwear is the work of the devil.

Oh, and speaking of devils: the Beast even got its own room!

Probably the most expensive sticker on my panniers, in terms of what I had to do to go and get it. But well worth it!

Thanks to Socrates and Pavlos and his wife Rachel, the day had been yet another testament to the greatness of the Greek people. Pavlos was even kind enough to give me some spare coolant, and mail the cards I'd bought in the city centre earlier. Wow.

The next day, first item on the agenda (besides getting dressed, have breakfast, and thanking my hosts for the warm welcome ofcourse) was to brim the tank, and check tire pressure.

And this was where I met probably the two most amicable pump attendants on the trip.

"Where you from? Holland? How long you been on the road?"

Apparently, his female colleague was to embark on a motorcycle adventure as well, with her husband. Sticker time!

They'd misunderstood me at first, thinking I was under way for 40,000 km. No, it's just 4,000 - no big deal.

Amazingly though, the tires didn't need any more air. Ever since Florence, they'd mysteriously been fine.

But enough of that. Time to find the highway...

...and go to our next stop: Lamia!

I felt it was OK to indulge myself on tollroads for a minute. Make it a bit easy-going, and relax a little after the Peloponnesian hairpin-mania.

That I then have to stand in the blazing sun waiting to pay up, wasn't that big of a deal. My coolvest kept me from boiling over. 

And I guess the straight, pee-brained highway for a day also gave me some time to reflect on the days behind me.

You know, get all introspective and such.

It's quite amazing as well what a bit of light-heartenedness did to the bored toll attendees.

I suppose everyone is defenseless against an idiot of a foreign motorcyclist coming to the booth saying 'KALIMERAAAAA' with a face akin to that of a 1 year old parking its breakfast in a diaper.

Either that or it was just my macho-charm doing the work.

Eventually though, after crossing some mountains in a way the Persians never thought of...

...the mountains of Leonidas and his peers beckoned.

You know, where that movie 300 was shot.

Oh sorry there, I promised I wouldn't make any lame 300 jokes. 

Thermopyles is quite close to Lamia, and pulling into the next petrol station, I got the surprise of my life.

You see, back in the Netherlands, it's nigh impossible to get 4-stroke motorcycle oil at a pump. But in this country where nearly everyone's riding around on Cubs and other two wheeled awesomeness...

...even the liquid gold was easily obtainable! I'd learned back in Igoumenitsa that because of the hotter climate, my regular, 10W40-choice of oil was burning away faster than normal. Angelos had given me some 15W50 along, but I thought it'd be nice to have a full litre on board for the days in the Balkans.

Time to find me a camp site...

...find out I'd been bitten by Scaramanga mosquitos, giving my left arm a third nipple...

...and relax. Before I could though, the Beast beat me to it - I found some nice grassy ground and the bike seemed to be OK on its sidestand, but after I turned around the nearly fully loaded bike slowly laid itself down, with the sidestand sinking all the way into the grass. 

No-one was near me, so I had to get the bike on its wheels by myself... which reminded me again why I don't ride a 1200cc. No problem.

I couldn't really grasp yet that tomorrow, the final days in Greece would already begin. The border with Albania seemed so far away, yet I would be there pretty soon.

Tomorrow, time for Mount Olympos!