zaterdag 31 augustus 2013

GR2013 Day 17 & 18: Veria & Ioannina

The camp site in Lamia was pretty much of the same character of the one I encountered in Iseo. You know, the kind where you're right beside the water but can't enter it, and the kind where only OAPs and ignorant first-timers camp.

The proprietor was a man well in his 70s, who cruised around the site in a scootmobile whilst doing the necessary upkeep to the various facilities.

Mind you, the toilet block next to my tent had probably been skipped for a while. There were leaves, cobwebs... and the water coming out of the tap was orange.

Oh well, needs must.

And after solving the problem of rising early...

...and paying the Deka Evro for spending the night...

...I was on my way.

The day before I'd gone to the camp site thinking it was the only one in the nearby area. But ofcourse, after 200 metres I passed another one, with all modern facilities and filled with foreign campers.

Murphy was still riding along, so it seemed.

This wouldn't be a day full of toll roads again, though. I planned to go to Larissa...

...and then turn onto secondary roads, towards the Olympos National Park.

So after consulting the map the confirm I was heading the right way...

...I was already steaming towards the hills.

I hadn't expected to be riding the hills again so soon... but I wasn't complaining, or anything.

Just look at the roadbuilding here. Like someone cut away the hillside to make way for the road.

And they made for some nice riding too! Good tarmac, nice flowing bends... this was a welcome change from the normal scheme of things.

These are the kind of roads you enjoy most on such a trip. Around 80 km/h...

...and dancing through all them nice views.

Until Olympos was upon me. Time to ride the road to the gods!

Yeah, I think I can say this road was quite entertaining.

That much entertaining in fact, that eventually I turned around, and did it all over again.

Quite a nice way to spend an afternoon.

I mean, just look at that view!

Time to head further North.

Oh, wait. What's that in the distance?

Trucks. Normally, it's already a pain if you have to overtake one. Now, there were three of them.

Time to wait for a straight, and POWEEEEEEERRR!!!1

The twisties just kept on coming though, making for some thorough riding entertainment.

Still, I required a break - my balaclava had the nasty habit of pressing down on my forehead if I didn't put it on correctly, which would start hurting tremendously after a period of time.

But there was also something else which was recurring through this trip, and that is that whenever I'd taken a break and wanted to saddle up again, the truck/bus/car I just spend miles behind to overtake would pass me by again.

And I knew I had to do it all over again.


Not too long after (just before the last camera battery died as well), I stopped for fuel, and then it wasn't that long anymore until I'd be riding into Veria. I'd be spending the night at Dimitris's place. He was an avid rider himself as well, and even builds motorcycles from old ones. I had to wait two hours until he was free from work, but he phoned his friends at a local bar to take care of me.

And they welcomed me with open arms. I was told that they originally thought I was able to do these trips because I was rich (which fit in the pattern of people in Italy asking me whether I had sponsorship), but I explained to them that I had to sacrifice alot in order to get where I was. The only way to make something like this reality is to make it your first priority. 

The thing is though that there's a 60% youth unemployment in Greece, so alot of the youngsters go abroad after graduation from university. The ones that stay just don't have the means to travel - the one thing you want to do around that age.

It really put my own situation in perspective.

After a trip to the amazing Royal Tomb of King Philip and a nice night out with Dimitris and his peers (during which it once again struck me how mindstaggeringly beautiful Greek women are... literally everywhere I looked!), it was time to hit the sack.

The next morning, I was greeted by this sight on the balcony.

Dimitris's mother had asked me the day before whether I had any laundry... and I suppose I did, after 2.5 weeks on the road.

Time to say goodbye in the traditional fashion...

...and get on going. Dimitris, in true Greek fashion, had been a tremendous host. Cheers, brother!

And after brimming the tank for the ride toward Ioannina (note amazed onlooker in the far right of picture)...

I was time to head onto the highway.

Now you have to imagine, the road stretching from Thessaloniki to Ioannina is pretty much brand new, and passes through alot of mountains. So the sights are awesome... well as the tunnels linking them up.

At the nearest tollbooth, I laid eyes on my first Albanian car for the trip.

And ofcourse, it was an old Mercedes. Don't you just love clich├ęs? 

I know I do.

Today's plan was to go to Meteora first, and then ride to Ioannina.

Which explains this turn-off.

The road from Grevena to Meteora proved to be tremendous fun however.

The views were great, the turns were great...

... and I started to feel a little giddy because of this, which made alarms go off in my head. 

You see, the last time I felt like this I was in Scotland, and I ended up in a ditch. You just enjoy yourself a little bit too much, going into corners leaning in at speed, not paying any real attention to what's at the end of it, that sort of thing.

So I gave myself a slap on the wrist, turned it down a notch, and rode on.

See? Even the roadsigns agreed with me.

And before long, I arrived in the town of Kalambaka, where Meteora is.

If you look closely to the cliff to the far right, you will see the monastery on top of it. It really is a staggering sight.

Time to head to our final stop in Greece: Ioannina

And the road leading there was just as spectacular. Wait, let me show you.

Arrival in Ioannina showed, besides an actual accessible body of water bordering the camp site, the extense of the damage to my tent. I'd started to camp without the outside tent, as in the heat it was fine this way and it didn't require me to put any tentpegs into the ground.

There was only one stick left that hadn't snapped, but by the looks of it it was soon to follow. 

So using a tree, The Beast and some rope, and kept the thing together.

By this time I had been joined by not just a Dutch family as neighbours, but also by Konstantinos and Maria, an Athenian couple on an XT who were on their way to Croatia. What a coincidence - so was I! We agreed to ride on together tomorrow, as the border of Albania beckoned.

Me, I was a little apprehensive about Albania. It was the country I knew least about, and the things people told me left me doubtful of what was to come in the next two days. It was the start of the part outside my comfort zone.

The real, adventurous part of the trip would begin tomorrow... I knew that for sure.