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Greece & Italy 2018 (#6)

greece nafpaktos motorcycle

Days 10-12

22/04/2019

It was my last day in Greece. I found a nice and quiet camping spot at Elea beach the previous night. Beach was very long – as long as I could see – but it was empty.

From there I had about 4 and half hours ride (the quickest way) to get to Igoumenitsa from where I would take the ferry to Italy. I checked ferry schedule in the morning on my phone. Ferry was to depart around half 11 at night and booked my ticket on my phone.

Since I didn’t have to be in Igoumenitsa until late at night and with only half day’s ride I could take it easy and not rush. This was the route I did that day:

greece motorcycle route

I set off about half 9 in the morning. Got to Patras couple hours later. The quickest way from Patras to Igoumenitsa was motorway, which I didn’t fancy. And with so much time to kill it would make no sense at all to take the quickest and boring route, so I decided to take a detour through some small mountain roads that would add another at least 3 hours of ride.

Here’s the video from Elea beach to Patras, through the Rio-Antirrio bridge and to Nafpaktos.

After Nafpaktos I took a turn and that’s where small mountain roads started. Couldn’t ask for better views!

greece nafpaktos motorcycle
greece nafpaktos motorcycle
greece nafpaktos motorcycle
greece nafpaktos motorcycle
greece nafpaktos motorcycle

It was really hot. The fact that the roads that I was on were not exactly fast speed kind of roads, I had to go quite slow and with so many hairpin turns it was pretty exhausting.

I didn’t really think about my fuel level at first when I got onto these mountain roads as I still had a lot left. Surely there will be petrol station at some point? But when I was down to about 1/4 tank of fuel I started to worry.

There were no any towns at all, only some small mountain villages. I couldn’t turn back as I didn’t see any petrol station for ages and I would run out of petrol long before I would reach Nafpaktos (last town that I passed where I could probably get fuel). So all I could do was to try and keep going. There was hardly any traffic, sometimes even half an hour passed before I saw another car or bike, so if I ran out I would probably be waiting long time for help.

But luckily I made it to small town Thermos where I found a petrol station. Well, it wasn’t a normal petrol station. It was just a tiny shop with some grocery products and one fuel pump sticking out the wall beside window. But they had fuel and that was the most important.

Video up to this point:

It was so hot, I was all sweating. Bought some water in this shop, got back on the bike just to move it slightly further down the street and parked in the shade to try and cool down a little bit. Sat on the pavement beside my bike feeling exhausted after riding for hours in this heat, in the mountains with loads of hairpin turns. But the views were nice and it was worth it.

Eventually managed to cool down a little (but not a lot) and got back on the bike. Headed towards Agrinio and then Amfilochia. First when I left Thermos roads were still pretty narrow but eventually they became more open. I was getting really hungry and found a place to stop on the outskirts of Preveza. By the time I got there it was half 5 in the afternoon but it was only just over an hour ride to the ferry now.

Ordered some chicken fillets with chips and with still quite a lot of time to spare I could chill out for a while.

preveza blue coast
preveza blue coast

But my adventurous spirit doesn’t know what chill out means. Shortly after I had my food, sat about for another 10 or 15 minutes, took some pictures and got back on the bike to explore more. I went on my phone to check for any places I could visit on the bike, started looking out for brown road signs that normally lead to some touristy places.

There seemed to be quite interesting place only a minute or two away – Pantocrator Castle. Stopped there, took some pictures of my bike and went for a walk around the ruins of the castle.

pantocrator castle motorcycle
pantocrator castle
pantocrator castle
pantocrator castle
pantocrator castle

It was pretty interesting, especially this hidden small beach at the back of the ruins.

Got back on my bike and some 15 minutes later I noticed road signs for some archaeological site (Archaeological site of Nikopolis). I took the turn and after couple minutes on a narrow back road I got there. It was shut so I couldn’t get inside and just took some pictures outside with the wall instead:

Archaeological Site Of Nikopolis motorcycle
Archaeological Site Of Nikopolis

It was after 7pm and sun was slowly going down. I got back on my bike but didn’t see any more signs for any touristy places and just kept going to Igoumenitsa (still had 1 hour to go). It started getting dark not long before I got to Igoumenitsa and sunset was amazing, wish I took some pictures of it.

At least I managed to catch the sunset on the camera (second half of the video):

I was slightly worried if they would let me on ferry with my bike. It was still pissing oil since Serbia and through the whole Greece. When I switch bike on and oil leaks, it starts smoking as oil falls on the exhaust pipes. At every single motorway toll where there is no option to pay by card and no option to avoid people, they ask me what this smoke is and I just try to pay and get through quickly.

It was dark by the time I got to Igoumenitsa. I stopped at a petrol station to fill up and give my bike a quick clean with wet wipes around the exhaust and where the oil leak was. But as soon as I got back on the bike to ride 5 minutes or so to the ferry, it started smoking leaking oil again.

I parked my bike and went to get my ferry ticket. There were some other bikers, I sort of nodded at them but I don’t usually start conversations first and just went to get my ticket.

At the ticket window they told me that the ferry is delayed by 6 hours. What? I didn’t fancy waiting till 6 in the morning and then spending daylight hours on the ferry. But luckily there was another ferry company and they had a ferry departing at half past midnight to Bari. My original ferry that I booked was to Brindisi, but Bari and Brindisi are not far from each other so I didn’t mind. They gave me full refund and I went to another ferry company’s window to book ferry to Bari.

Once I got my ticket, went to the toilet to get some paper to wipe the oil off my bike again (even though I knew that by the time I ride another 2 minutes to the ferry dock it would be covered in oil again), and off my jeans – my left leg of my jeans was soaked with oil.

The other bikers that were there asked what’s wrong and started talking. They were originally from Italy (2 guys with their wives) but they work in Dubai. They were riding their bikes from Dubai to Italy because most of the time it’s too hot to ride in Dubai so they were planning to leave their bikes in Italy.

With about an hour to go before the ferry departs we rode these 2 minutes or so to the dock.

igoumenitsa ferry to italy bari motorcycle

We were all pretty tired as it was almost midnight, but continued talking about our trips, jobs etc while we waited for the ferry to arrive. I always try to spend as little money as I possible can on my trips. Booking the cabin was not mandatory on this ferry so I didn’t book one, I didn’t mind sleeping on the chair or even on the floor if it meant saving some money on it. They however had a pretty bad experience on the last ferry they were on which was absolutely filthy, so they booked cabins this time.

After about half an hour the ferry arrived.

igoumenitsa superfast ferry

Once we boarded with our bikes, it turned out that there were no any proper straps to secure the bikes with. Just some small pieces of ropes, and most of them you could hardly call a rope – more like bits of strings. Luckily my luggage straps were very long so I used that to secure my bike. I would have never thought that this small cam buckle strap would be strong enough to secure the bike (as it’s not a ratchet strap), but it was completely solid with just one strap!.

igoumenitsa ferry to italy bari motorcycle

Took some pictures on the deck with our bikes:

igoumenitsa ferry to italy bari motorcycle
igoumenitsa ferry to italy bari motorcycle

And went to try and find the passenger deck. Ferry was much bigger than it looked at first and was actually struggling to find the way out. It was just our 3 bikes on this side of the deck, but on another side (and on another deck levels) there were a lot more bikes, most of them “secured” by only one piece of rope / string to the wall, some of them were not secured at all. It wouldn’t be me…

Once on the passenger deck, they went to their cabin and I found a place to sleep in the seating area of the cafe. There were quite a lot of people that were going to sleep on the seats there but it wasn’t cramped. Since I was really tired by this point (around 1am) I lied down on the seat and went to sleep.

It wasn’t super comfy and I was waking up every now and then but that was to be expected. Once I woke up around 5am I didn’t go back to sleep as it was starting getting a bit busy and loud with people.

23/04/2018

Finally arrived in Bari. From there I wanted to ride to Sicily. I didn’t have much time left at all for this trip, but since I was in the south of Italy I wanted to explore more in the south as it’s easier to get to anywhere in the north from the UK.

This was the route I did that day:

bari to scilla motorcycle route

Nothing eventful has happened for the most of the day (it was all about to change though).

Didn’t take any pictures, just the video:

It was late in the afternoon. I was getting close to Sicily, with only about 20 minutes to go to the ferry. I felt something wrong in my rear wheel. Like a flat tyre. No, not flat tyre. Collapsed bearing. No, no, no, not now, please no.

I was on a main, pretty busy road. Pulled over at a lay bay. Took the swingarm stand (one leg kind of stand similar to snap jack) and lifted the rear wheel. I wasn’t quite sure by just looking at it if the bearing was collapsed but I could certainly feel it and it was making the same sort of noise as last time when they collapsed, when I was in Austria on my previous trip. That time I rode 1000 miles back home from Austria with collapsed bearings, it was not fun at all…

After few minutes police pulled over. Well, Carabinieri which I think is some sort of police. Great, I thought. Last thing I needed is them to say that my bike is not safe to ride and take it off me.

But they were not like that at all. They were rather impressed that I rode there from UK and on a Fireblade and they were super friendly. They didn’t speak English. I used Google Translate app to communicate with one of them. The other one was a huge fan of Marc Marquez.

They started checking my bike over. First thing and the most obvious that they noticed straight away (would be hard not to notice it) was oil all over the left side of my rear tyre and at the front. Since he was a huge fan of Marquez he pointed on the right side of my tyre – (said) Marquez, left side – Rossi. (Saying to lean on the right side not covered with oil but not lean on the left side). It was pretty funny especially that he didn’t speak English.

But the leaking oil wasn’t really my worry as I managed to ride all around Greece with it. My real worry was collapsed bearing. I tried to explain that to them. They made few phone calls (to some garages I think). At first they said that they would take me to Honda garage in Reggio Calabria, about half an hour from there. But after some more phone calls they said there is a garage 5 minutes down the road in Scilla. (As it turned out later the mechanic that works there he works in Honda garage in Reggio Calabria during the day and in Scilla in the evenings). They told me to follow them and rode slowly 5 minutes or so to Scilla.

It was a tiny garage. They explained to the mechanics what happened (no one spoke English there) and then they left. They must have spent about an hour with me all together, trying to sort me out so that was super nice.

Mechanics took my bike in and put my bike on the stand but after that they said they are not able to look at my bike until tomorrow because they had other things to get done. I was in a real hurry as I only had about 3 days left for Italy and 2 days for the way back. Plus they were not sure if they can get parts, they said it could be 5 days to get the bearing. I said I would pay them extra if they can get on with it today. I couldn’t wait 5 days for the bearing (if that’s what the problem was), my bike wasn’t worth that much money so if I had to wait that long I would have to abandon my bike there and fly home.

Eventually they agreed to make a start on it today. They were still focusing more on the oil leak and I was trying to explain that bearing is more important. They removed rear wheel and yes – sprocket carrier bearing was collapsed, like I thought.

It was around 7 in the evening. They said they can’t check if they can get parts until tomorrow. I started stressing a lot worrying about the time. After a while they started making some phone calls to any other mechanics and contacts they had to check if they can source the bearing. But they were not sure, they said they won’t know for sure until tomorrow.

They were still more focused on the oil leak though and they were convinced that it was the rocket cover gasket that was leaking – same what the mechanic in Greece thought. The only thing was that the mechanic in Greece didn’t have a new gasket so he put some strong sealant in place. When mechanic in Scilla now also thought that this was the reason of the leak, I thought that the mechanic in Greece maybe didn’t apply the sealant properly or the sealant wasn’t strong enough.

The mechanic wanted to get a new gasket so I thought ok, if that fixes the leak then fine. But they also didn’t know if they could get new gasket tomorrow or if I would need to wait. They stripped the bike as much as they could to the point there was nothing else they could do without new parts. It was dark by this point and a lot of locals have gathered there. They were all trying to be super friendly but I was so stressed about my bike and about the time that I later felt bad that I wasn’t as nice towards them. In the end they were trying to do everything they could to help me.

They asked where I would be staying for the night. I didn’t really know, I was happy to pitch my tent anywhere. Didn’t really want to go too far without my bike and didn’t really want to pay for a hotel. I could either put my tent up on the beach or in a public park just across the road – there was grass and some trees. Decided to put my tent up there. I don’t think they ever saw anyone camping there, it must have been unusual sight to the locals.

There was one girl, Alice who spoke English. She was trying to keep me company since she was the only person who spoke English well (she got there later on). She had a small scooter and she suggested to take me on the back of it and take me around Scilla. It was almost 11 at night but the mechanics were still in the garage and all the locals were still there, it didn’t look like I would be going to my tent any time soon anyway so I said ok.

Jumped on the back of her scooter and went for a ride around Scilla through the tiny narrow streets of this small town. She took me to the harbour first and then to the main walkway at the coast with a view onto the castle. It was looking pretty amazing at night.

scilla night
scilla night
scilla night
scilla night

We went for a walk along the coast and talked in English. Her English was really good. She said that she stays in a flat on this hill beside the castle! What an awesome place to stay.

After a while we went back to the garage. Mechanics were still there and one or two of the locals, not as many as there were earlier. I gave the mechanic my number and asked him to text me as soon as he knows about the parts. He wasn’t going to be back in Scilla until at least 3 or 4pm the next day since he works in Reggio Calabria during the day.

The mechanics parents (they all live in a house that this garage is attached to) asked me if I want something to eat. I said no as I was worrying so much I didn’t even feel like eating. But they insisted and made me a baguette. That was really nice of them and I thanked them. They also said that I can use their bathroom when I need to.

Since it was pretty late I went to my tent which I pitched earlier in a park across the road and went to sleep. Mechanics were still in the garage till around 1 in the morning. I wasn’t sure if it was just because of me or if they are always working late but later they said they always work late.

24/04/2018

When I woke up in the morning I packed my tent and left my bags beside the garage (in was shut) and with nothing else to do, went for a walk around Scilla. Went to the beach and some of the locals who I met at the garage last night were there. They noticed me and waved at me, and asked if I want to sit with them. They didn’t speak English almost at all, just some single basic words. Communicated a little bit with Google Translate but most the time they just spoke Italian.

scilla

After a while I went for a walk along the beach. The castle in the daylight:

scilla italy

Some pics from my walk around Scilla:

scilla italy
scilla italy
scilla italy
scilla italy
scilla italy
scilla italy
scilla italy

I was getting hungry so went to the restaurant on the beach and ordered some food. After that I started walking back up towards the garage, even though I knew it’s still probably too early. It was only around 2pm. When I got there like I thought it was still shut but his parents had their house door open and when they noticed me, they asked if I want anything to eat or drink and invited me to their house. I said I just had food and they made me a tea. They were very nice but couldn’t speak English so it was a bit hard to communicate. After a while I went for a walk again but not too far away, then back again and just sat in the park across the road.

At some point I got a phone call from the mechanic (well, it was someone else on the phone translating) and their English was not great but of what I gathered was that they managed to find the bearing and they got new rocket cover gasket (to stop oil leak). If I understood correctly they found another bike same as mine and they took the bearing from that bike. What a relief. I didn’t have to abandon my bike then and could get back on the road.

The mechanic got back to Scilla around 4pm and started working on my bike. It took good few hours to replace the gasket since half the bike had to be stripped down. Once that was done and bearing replaced, he wanted to fix everything else, things like bent gear change pedal – I wasn’t really worried about this, it was bent but was fine especially that I just wanted to get back on the road as soon as possible after loosing one day (it could have been worse though if they didn’t find the bearing so I shouldn’t really be complaining).

I really wanted to go to Sicily but now after loosing a day I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I really wanted to see Etna volcano at the very least. Now that I knew I could get back on the road tonight, I decided that I would get to Sicily tonight and ride around Sicily the next day, then start heading back up north. It was funny when all the locals kept saying “Scilla better than Sicilia” all the time. Yeah, I guess not the worst place to get stuck at.

Eventually after 7pm my bike was all back together and ready to go. I asked the mechanic how much is it, he didn’t give me the price asked me how much do I think I should pay. I didn’t really know, I asked 100 euro? He shook his head and said “no, no”. At first I though that he meant 100 euro is too much and he wanted me to pay less but since we couldn’t communicate very well he wrote 200 down. I guess with the cost of the parts and their time, and the fact that they worked on it late at night I simply agreed and paid.

I had to fill my bike up before I set off and one of the locals got on his scooter and went to show me where the petrol station is. Went to fill up, got back to garage and put my luggage back on. Took some pictures, waved goodbye and finally set off to catch the ferry to Sicily.

scilla mechanic
scilla

After 5 minutes on the road I saw smoke coming from my bike… Well, it turned out the oil leak wasn’t fixed then. The issue cannot be the gasket then, if two mechanics – one in Greece and one in Scilla – tried to fix it and both thought that the gasket was the reason. I could have saved some 3 or 4 hours and some 100 euro but hey, they tried to help. At least the most important thing – bearing – was fixed.

I got to the ferry to Sicily. It was dark by then. Bought my ticket and maybe 15 minutes or so later started boarding the ferry.

sicily ferry

It was just a short ferry so I wasn’t worried about securing my bike and just left it on the stand.

Finally made it to Sicily!

Rode south a little bit towards the Etna volcano and found some campsite along the way. Pitched my tent and went to sleep.

Part 7 coming soon…

Greece & Italy 2018 (#6)

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