A Travellerspoint blog

Day 44

Alexandroupoli [Αλεξανδρούπολη]

storm 4 °C

We had breakfast in a little sandwich bar round the corner from our hotel. The owner was pleased to serve us and I had their first ever cup of tea with milk! After that Ed got his hair cut while I wandered around and took in Greece's second city.

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We're starting to learn the Greek alphabet now and can almost read the place names on the first signs before the English ones appear, so we headed off towards Drama for lunch, but we don't want to make a big thing about it! Very good food from a lady with an infectious laugh.

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Spent the day dodging storms, but we got caught by the edge of one and it started sleeting which took us back to Croatia (it looked like that old starfield screensaver from windows 3.1 for a while) but thankfully it passed.

Alexandroupoli tonight, just shy of the Turkish border. We found a good hotel quite easily but had much more trouble finding a restaurant later. There seems to be nothing but kebab shops and bars here (sounds very English) and the restaurant we eventually found is just a kebab shop in disguise, with the very proud Nick The Greek working the coals and introducing himself as we arrived. Good food though and we had a drink on the way home.

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219 takes us over 8100 miles total

Posted by EdAndJames 15:05 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Day 43

Thessaloniki [Θεσσαλονίκη]

storm 10 °C

Ed got up and headed into town to get a new footrest for Roger (it had sheared off and was part of the pannier support) while I put some photos up. When he got back we lugged all our stuff down the 4 floors of spiral stairs and went via the Acropolis and Parthenon in the centre. The city was teething with motorbikes and heavy with fast traffic which made the transit quite good fun.

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After that we headed off North as Athenia is just about our most southerly point on the journey. It was nice and sunny and the roads were fast despite being through very mountainous areas by the coast.

We filled up in Thessaloniki (I was on fumes!) and found our very central hotel without much bother.

Posted by EdAndJames 15:15 Archived in Greece Comments (1)

Day 42

Athina

sunny 15 °C

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We left our hotel in Ioannina and within 500m saw a sign for Athina/Athens, our destination for the day. Well, the first sign actually said Αθήνα, but thankfully the Greek seem to have two sets of signs everywhere, one in the Greek Alphabet and one in the Latin/English one. The road passed through some lovely steep valleys with a lot of greenery. We rode with a Kawasaki rider for a while on the twisty roads and he told us to be careful because the roads were dusty which annoyed Ed for the rest of the day!

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Had lunch at a roadside cafe/petrol station in the sun which was very relaxing, although not for the poor girl working there who was rushing around doing about 3 jobs at once.

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Took the Rio bridge over the sea and hooked up with a few more rider buddies. Another guy with a BMW GS rode with us for a good hour or so on a fantastic windy fast road where there was only technically one lane each way but half of the people drove straddling the hard shoulder, so there were actually 4 lanes of vehicles!

Just short of Athina we stopped for a leisurely cuppa as we'd made good progress and then we took the final ride into the city, which was very busy with traffic. We found our hotel very easily actually and locked the bikes up before heading out for a nice meal and a bit of wine.

When we got out of the restaurant we walked around in the general direction home for a while until we were lost and asked a couple of passers by for directions. Half an hour later and still no nearer familar roads we flagged a cab over. We could only remember the name of our hotel and that it was number 38, on a road beginning with D near a train station and we could only say hello and please in Greek. The cabbie didn't have a clue what we were talking about and we jumped out and got another one. Same problem until finally we found a guy who spoke English and knew where we were meaning. He was interested in our journey as a fellow biker and dropped us off and took a photo of the bikes.

278 miles today

Posted by EdAndJames 01:50 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 41

Ioannina

sunny 15 °C

Easy day off recovering, cleaning the bikes, washing clothes, walking around the lovely lakeside mountain-flanked town in the sun!

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Posted by EdAndJames 13:15 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Day 40 detail

Ioannina

Well, we could easily write a book about our two days in Albania, but we'll try and keep today's write-up as succinct as possible to avoid a daunting block of words.

There's nothing like throwing you in at the deep end to teach you a new skill and today we learnt off-road motorbiking! More about that later.

So, had breakfast with our two Albanian hosts and discussed our route for the day. We had two options - via the coast or the interior. Our map showed the Coastal road as bigger, but google maps didn't even have it. We spoke to the guys and settled on the Coastin' Around remit and went for the coast.

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Coming out of Tiranë was a challenge. One of the rounded-off rectangle shaped roundabouts with four lanes and no markings was a right hoot!

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Today we kept saying 'I've never seen so many/much:
- dust and dirt in the air
- smoking cars
- dead dogs
- abandoned concrete frames
- people stood at the side of the road staring into middle distance doing nothing
- cars stopping/stopped on the side of the dual carriageway
- rubbish drivers
- potholes and open drains
- petrol stations
- litter/rubbish everywhere
- one man with their cow/donkey/goat on a lead leading it to water or grass.

The road to Vlorë for lunch was in a terrible state, at times there was no road at all, just a mud/gravel track.

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After lunch the road was initially okay past the seafront and up a mountain pass. The view and sunset down the other side was stunning and now there was no human influence around it was beautiful. That's not meant as an anti-Albania comment and we certainly have nothing bad to say about the people (everyone we met was very nice) it was just a relief to be in clean air and clear surrounds.

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After sunset the road got worse and worse until we were completely off-roading twisting up and down the mountains in the dark getting nowhere. At one point we did 7km in half an hour.

To cut a long and anxious journey short we continued like that with occasional Tarmac sections until finally reaching the border at 10pm (11pm Greek time). The border crossings were pretty smooth (I think we've found the key to quick border crossings - turn up really late when no-one cares!) and the Greek roads were wonderful and slightly reminiscent of New Zealand.

We got to Ioannina and booked into a hotel at half-past midnight for two nights and went out for food and drinks. It's a lively place and we had no trouble finding anywhere.

244 miles and off-roading course completed today!

Posted by EdAndJames 09:50 Archived in Albania Comments (0)

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