Monday, 13 January 2014


The few weeks in Greece were a delight, in spite of our misguided expectations (built by the media, that Greece is in shambles and we would experience negative attitudes).  The Greek people were nothing but amazing: hospitable, accommodating, and giving, even though they have little themselves.  Most of them speak few languages, even in the smallest of the villages, and of course the food was great.  We had a cure of oranges like never before, mainly because they were free for the most part :)

We were inclined to head to Patra and then take the ferry to Bari Italy, but when we found out that the ferry takes 17 hours, we decided to ride instead.  It was a great decision: the road to Igoumenitsa is a delight, winding through mountainous landscapes and with great sea views, as you will see in the pictures below.
We arrived in Igoumenitsa around 6:00 pm and found out that the ferry was leaving at 1 at night.  We spent the rest of the evening at a cafe, having tea and biscuits.  It was becoming clearer by the hour, as we saw the people coming for the ferry that this was a crossing for immigrants, workers from Albania, Macedonia, and some other Eastern European nations to enter Italy.  The police checks were frequent and the security beefed up.  Once the ferry arrived, we were shocked to see how small the seating area was and how dirty the ferry appeared, with stinky toilets and garbage all over.  We could not find a place to lie down, and we sneaked in the cabins area where we lied on the floor on our bike jackets to find some sleep; I just rode 500 km and I had to ride again in the morning 400 more, so I needed my rest.  It was a nightmare of a night,with people shouting in different languages around us, smells of all sorts, loud TV sets in the main seating area, etc.  I decided then that there will be less ferry and more riding from now on.

We arrived at Brindisi at 9:00 am Italy time and headed out towards Sicily.  Only few short hours later, I had to pull in a B&B on the side of the road because I could not do it anymore.  We did not know where to sleep that night and we saw a sign on the side of the road : Les Collines de Gesul so we decided to try it.  We climbed some spectacular hills with beautiful Olive gardens and soft green grass in between the trees through which the afternoon light was gently showing and the silence and beauty all around us calmed our spirits down and we felt rested.  We were further surprised up the road when we discovered that Les Collines de Gesul is an old castle, with an architecture that sent me back in one of Dumas' novels.  Sitting on top of a hill, overlooking the olive orchards around, this place felt out of this world!  We got a room with high ceilings, antique furniture and amazing character.  I fell asleep happy!

The next morning we headed out early to be able to reach Messina, Sicily before dark.  Nothing spectacular on the way, the roads were mostly in construction, so we advanced slow and the vibration from the corrugated road, managed to break two things on my bike, for the first time: my license disc and my GPS bracket.  The funny thing was how it happened: the license disc broke in front of me, as we were parked and I was checking the tires, when I saw the disc just slowly falling to the ground.  The GPS bracket fell while riding, but I was looking at it as well, because I noticed it was shaking in a strange way; few seconds later it fell straight in my hand.  My GPS is now tied with tape around the butt of the former bracket; not so pretty as before but it still does the job.

Once we arrived in Reggio di Calabria, things suddenly changed: beautiful mountains appeared, the sea is beautiful and the great island of Sicily was looming across the channel like a mirage.  We jumped on the 10 min. ferry to Messina and spent the night there.  Sicily seems a different world then what we have seen so far: more bikers (first thing I noticed) and people are more communicative then the ones we encountered already.
The ride the following morning was very pleasant: the highway is built on super tall stilts around the mountains and, when they could not do that, they built it straight through the mountains.  Hundreds of tunnels pierce the Sicilian mountains on the way to Palermo. 

We stopped for gas in a small town, called Santo Stefano di Camastra.  It was the greatest decision of that day!  The town is high in the mountains, with very tiny streets winding around it and great sea views!  The people were out for a stroll and were very attracted by the site of these two bikers that looked strange to them.  We were very happy to walk around it a little bit. 

Few hours later we were in Palermo, a large city with amazing history and fantastic buildings.  It was sad to see how much garbage is thrown all over the place, but if you can overlook this you will enjoy Palermo.

There are no accidents to report, no other incidents either.  Below you will find photos of parts of this stretch of our trip.

 Great Greek landscapes.  I love the white house and the clean look of the villages
 My dream come true: soft boiled eggs, with a yoke so red you think it is not real.
 We found this little guy in the middle of the road sleeping, so we took him in our jacket and placed him in the grass.  He didn't even wake up to thank us... the nerve!

 Fresh picked strawberries in January!  How about that?

 Les Collines de Gesul:  Splendid

 Sights of Palermo

 Santo Stefano di Camastra, my favorite place by far!

 On the ferry to Messina