Sunday, 29 May 2011

Day 8 - Igoumenitsa to Katrina via Albania

Ferry timetable online was wrong! Sergio managed to make it to Brindisi after a tyre fitter temporary repaired his bike's burnt drive shaft gaiter and checked lubes and brakes. It had taken him 11 hours. He then got a ferry to Vlore, Albania last night arriving at 6 am but miles away from me. After getting off the ferry at 22:00hrs I rode past the desperate types and stray dogs loitering around the port. To the town hotels on the front but they didn't have secure parking and Friday night was in full swing. To make matters worse my Tom Tom did,t have maps for Greece or Turkey loaded. I got out the michelin map and looked at the route out of town it was twisty and over mountains. The short distance I ridden I'd ascertained that the roads where in a bad state of repair, stray dogs on the road and pitch black. I found a petrol station with a cafe attached. I ordered a hot sandwich and contemplated my limited options. It was midnight still warm and only 4 hours before it got light. I parked up discreetly behind LIDL and tried to sleep by Mileeta. The night sky was amazing never seen so many stars but, the barking and howling from the dogs roaming around was disconcerting. I had got in contact with Sergio, he was delayed disembarking and had the same problem as me but worse re satnav not working, no map and been given bum directions on very dodgy roads with a repaired bike.

The mission was on. Repatriate the Scillian Mid Life Rebel. I rode through the sunrise and mist to the albanian border at Kakavia. Queued for half an hour and was asked by the Greek passport officer "What country you?" I replied with all possible answers: UK; British; GB; England, but non worked. Then I remembered Lois Pryce having the same problem so I said "London, Arsenal". He immediately understood and reeled off football plays names that meant nothing to me but I smiled and gave him reassuring "yes's" to each. Right now for the Albanian passport officer. Wasn't sure what entry documents I needed or if I had insurance, so I stayed seated on Mileeta and only gave him my passport. The queue behind me was getting longer and more impatient. When asked for "Moto papers" I made a half hearted attempt to get of my bike, the officer then said in quick succession "number, number", his colleague got up from his plastic chair and stood behind Mileeta and recalled the number plate in an undissypherable (apologies spelling) language. Passport stamped then waved through by customs and I'm in Albania! Not half a mile up the road was a police road block and they were armed. I rode very slowly and grinned my biggest grin and wasn't asked to stop. I came across three more and used the same strategy, except one, which did,t look to me to be the same. I had dumper truck in front of me I hid by riding close and out of there sight line until they didn't have time to respond. I was through, phew!

The country side is stunning, no fences just like Switzerland and grass meadows with wild flowers that stretch from the valley up the side of the mountains. There are lots of, what looked like, giant mushrooms in regular rows across the meadows. They were concrete pillboxes. I was surprised to see flocks of sheep and herds of goats being tended too, but I suppose with no fences they have to. Almost every car was an old type mercedes.

The road I was expecting to meet Sergio on went from open plains to a valley with aqua marine blue river running below. At one point there were stalls selling live trout in tanks. The towns and houses all looked to be half finished. Part concrete shell, part finished.

I'd been riding North on the same road for about an hour and a half, when I decided to pull over at a petrol station which was on hill. I got a cold can of fanta and stood by Mileeta surveying the road ahead for a motorbike, while trying to make contact. When we did, it turned out we were on different roads and passed each other. We arranged to meet at a road junction. I waited in the sun for 40mins but, the sound of a another boxer engine and the sight of a smokie R1200R approaching from the distance and finally a grinning Sergio, made it all worth while. By the time we finally met up it was 13:00hrs and we still had to retrace my steps South back to Greece.

My paranoia was diminishing now that we were two Rebels. The road blocks were a breeze, now we had the challenging of getting out of the country without fines for wrong documents. I'd already thought of this and had planned to use the football banter if it was a man officer. If a lady officer, I had put the picture of my family, that, Adam left on my bike back at Gatwick (day 1), in the clear plastic wallet with bike docs. It was a lady and she spent more time looking at the photo with a bit of encouragement from me saying "that's my wife, my daughter ..." I know very sexist but you women love a family photo.

Back in Greece we turned left to ride the E90, a great recommendation from Theo, it was like riding in Austria again but with dodgy road surface. Instead of taking the "racing line" it was more a case of take the "trail riding" line. Dodging fallen boulders, potholes and undulating tarmac. At one point we reached a "road closed" sign and found that half the road had collapsed into the river some 400 feet below. We rode through, nothing was going to stop us today.

We hadn't seen any campsites so far on route and no Tom Tom. We could have camped rough but had no food. It was 16:00hrs so we decided to head for the coast at Thessaloniki. I spot a sign for an 'ancient site' and suggested we take a detour and have a look. The road to the site was a dirt road that turned in to a proper green lane and went on for about 2miles. Anticlimax, there was nothing to see other than a large mound covered in red poppy flowers. We didn't fancy retracing the route we'd just taken so, a look at the compass suggested it might be better to continue. How wrong, some time later we emerged from the meadows and fields back to the road that now seemed perfectly good for the purpose.

The sun was getting low in the sky so from Omali, we headed for the motorway. When we arrived in Thessaloniki we found a very industrial town and no camping. It was getting dusk and to top it all by headlight bulb had blown!

The map was showing camping symbols further South so we took the E75 and got off at Katerini, and followed signs to Olympic beach, stop for fuel and got directions to a campsite along the beach. Ah! Camping Kristi, I love you. Tent up in the dark with head torch and mosquito repellent, shower then back on bike to an italian restaurant for calzone and beer at 22:30. Knackered!

Today's miles where 430 (mostly in the wrong direction), rode from 05:00 to 20:00hrs, Mileeta has gone over the 2,000 miles and are in another time zone +2hrs ahead.


  1. Nice going mate, Really good to hear your ok ! Wish i could be with you . take care.

  2. Thanks Gaz, pleased you and the guys got home safe and well. They'll be plenty of opportunities, and your at the top of the list.We'll you would be, being head of logistics.