Greece on a Harley - Return Trip!Author: Becky B. (More Trip Reviews by Becky B.)
Date of Trip: June 2005
Not everyone gets a second chance on a dream. But I had exactly that. Avid readers of Trip Reports will remember reading about my trip to Greece in June 2004. Riding a motorcycle around the country and exploring the southern regions was something that I had wanted to do for years. But just less than a week into my travels of the Peloponnese and passing through Patra, I was bumped by a car and broke my right leg. It cut my trip short when I had to return home but I wasn't home long before I knew I had to return and finish my journey. Before the healing was finished I had already started making plans in my mind of how to start over and to do it as soon as the following summer.
Dina Branis was my contact at Elmec Sport Harley-Davidson in Athens and after finding out that they were not really all that upset that I had wrecked their brand new 2004 Heritage, I meekly asked if they would be willing to supply me with a bike again the following year. I figured that the worse they could tell me was no. Even then I was a bit surprised when she told me that they would be willing to do exactly that. So, it was time to start making travel plans again!
On my first trip to Greece I realized that the friends I had made there and the ones I had made through the internet before I got there were very valuable and I don't know what I would have done without them. If you read my other trip report and remember, it was my internet friend, George, who borrowed a car and drove 3 hours to Patra to pick me up in my leg cast and take me to the Athens airport so I could return home. Now on my second trip to Greece I made friends that just made my travels much more enjoyable.
When I arrived at Elmec Sport Harley-Davidson to pick up my bike I was less than thrilled to find out that the only bike they had available was a V-Rod. I had never ridden one and have always been a Softail fan. I was used to a windshield, floorboards, and all the comforts of a touring ride. Not only did the V-Rod have none of these luxuries, it didn't even have a sissybar or appropriate place to strap the bag that I needed to take with me for almost three weeks of traveling. I know this wouldn't have been a problem for a man, but I wasn't planning on wearing the same pair of jeans and black t-shirt for three weeks! They were very understanding about my dilemma and even though they didn't have another bike to offer me, they did find a small backrest to bolt on which was just big enough to attach a dozen bungies to keep my pack from falling off.
So, off I went and the first roads I traveled out of Athens were the same ones I had the ridden the year before. I only had a vague idea as to which route and which cities I would explore but I knew that my first destination would be Nafplio. The only rain experienced on this trip was on my way to Nafplio and it was then that I realized just how much I missed my windshield. Nafplio turned out to be a good choice and I liked it so much I stayed a second night. It was street after street of cobblestone and bougainvillea vines hanging from balconies. The town center was like many that I would come to see in the next couple weeks across Greece. The sidewalks were marble and at dusk the locals would congregate in the town center to discuss the days activities. It was surrounded by outdoor cafés and full of men playing dominos and cards. The town's children played kickball well past midnight.
My second destination was Monemvasia and it turned out to be my favorite. The name means "Only one way in" and is called "the Gibraltar of Greece." And that is exactly what it looks like as it rises from the sea. Monemvasia is an island connected to the land with a causeway and the only transportation allowed on the island is packhorses that carry the supplies to the restaurants and other shops. I watched as they loaded the horses with building supplies and lead them through the narrow walking trails that divided the small shops and rustic lodging that was literally cut out of the rock. It is deep with medieval mystery and Byzantine history. It was at the entrance to Monemvasia that I met Mike Acciani and Rainer Loesch. Mike is from Minnesota and Rainer from Freiburg Germany. They were traveling together and had brought bikes with them from Germany to Greece by crossing from Ancona Italy on a ferry. We met later for dinner and shared our experiences of traveling Greece. We all became immediate best friends and I hooked up with them for the next several days. I didn't have a solid destination and they had some good ideas, so I followed. They did the campgrounds while I found softer accommodations in hotels. I think they later decided that just maybe I had made the smarter choice when they found out that my hotel stays were only a few dollars more then the campgrounds. I got a soft bed, private bathroom and what was most important to me-doors that locked.
The third day into our newly formed riding partnership Rainer decided to spend the day at the beach so Mike and I scoured the map for a destination close enough for a day trip and yet be back to Gythion before it got too late in the day. Gythion is where our camping/hotel was now centered. My hotel was again beautiful with marble halls and floors and had a great a view of the harbor. Across from the hotel the fishermen would hang their morning's catch of octopus to dry. For about $30 US I had the comforts of home and all within walking distance of the town square, which is where we would meet for dinner and then again for breakfast to plan the next days ride. Mike and I decided to ride to Vlidaha caves, which was a two-hour ride across the Inner Mani region. After we left the caverns we headed south to the tip of Cape Tainaro and to what I called the "End of the Earth." It was a less than two lane road that looked like it went nowhere except for an occasional village but the views were spectacular.
The roads were switchbacks and hairpin turns that finally ended at Tainapon, which is the southern most point of mainland Greece. There was only one way to get there and only one way to get out unless you sailed into the bay. I am guessing it is more of a boating destination than one reached by road. It was perfect for motorcycling. There were about three cafes lined up on the waters edge and they were so close that a high tide and a little bit of wind would wash the salt water into the seating area. No sidewalks, no curbs, just a sandy footpath between the tavernas. It is one of those places so remote that I bet I will never meet another person who has ventured there.
Leaving Gythion, the three musketeers went separate ways but we decided to join up later in the day in Kiparissa at the town square. It would be about a four-hour ride. The guys had to stop in Sparti for some camera repair and the roads between Sparti and Kiparissa were slow going for me. I knew this because I had taken this very road the year before. Mike and Rainer had a completely different riding style than I did. They both were riding Kawasakis. Mike a rented Ninja identical to the one he rides back home in Minnesota and Rainer his ZX-10. So, while I slowed down for the snake curves, they would speed up. I am a diehard - take it easy - Harley rider. I'm sure the V-Rod could have handled the curves but I could see no reason to hurry. I still wasn't happy with the bike but I was becoming more comfortable with it when I wasn't worrying about losing my gear off the back. They did beat me to Kiparissa but I am betting they wouldn't of had I not taken a fifty-mile wrong turn.
From Kiparissa we headed north to Patra, which I wasn't looking forward to. Actually, my plans were to avoid Patra completely on this trip. It was like putting all my fears right in front of my face and I had hours to think about it as we headed in its direction. I replayed the accident from the year before in my mind many times over before we approached the city. I think that both Rainer and Mike both knew my apprehension with riding through the traffic and congestion in Patra. But, as most fears usually are, it wasn't as bad as I had imagined and we made it to Port Rio where we caught the ferry to Antirio without incident. Just a short ferry ride across the Patriakos Gulf was Rainer's family vacation home in Galatas, which is near Messolongi and where we stayed the night.
The evening I stayed in Galatas was one that I will never forget. The three of us were invited to the home of Kosta and Michaela for an evening of authentic Greek food. Kosta and Michaela are friends of Rainer and after hearing that Rainer had American visitors with him they wanted to meet us and show us what Greek hospitality really meant. You never really know a country or its' people until you have spent the evening breaking bread and sipping Ouzo in their home.
The following day Mike and I headed to Delphi for some history and sight seeing. Delphi is a small village in the mountains and was to me as I imagine what the Alps must look like. We walked some of the ruins and took in the views from a German restaurant. It was there I said good bye to Mike as he and Rainer had to head back to Germany and I had plans to meet Dina and the Athens H.O.G. chapter the next morning to start a totally different adventure.
At a restaurant on the side of the National Highway I met up with the H.O.G. chapter and Dina. We then headed back again to Patra to catch a ferry to the island of Kephalonia. We had about 30 bikes in procession to the ferry and Dina and I were the only women who were riding their own.
Kephalonia was no less beautiful than the rest of Greece. It is the very island that the movie Captain Corelli's Mandolin was filmed with Nicolas Cage. Every place was picture perfect and the people I met from the H.O.G. chapter were very friendly. I was adopted by Vaso & Panagiotis who took me to a birthday party for one of the members near the hotel we stayed at in the port town of Argostali. It was also the first time they had ridden with the chapter and they were having as much fun as I was. The bikes lined the street between the hotel and the town square where the locals and tourists both were snapping pictures. Seeing one Harley in Greece is still an uncommon thing, but to see 30 or more in one place is a real rarity!
On our second day on Keffalonia we did the tourist thing and checked out the rest of the island. I followed Dina and her friends to two of the beaches. If you knew which hidden road to take like they did you would end up riding down a dirt road to a secluded spot on the Mediterranean. For lunch we headed to the far end of Keffalonia to the sleepy little port village of Fiskaro. It had a beautiful inlet that was lined with a combination of fishing boats and Yachts that shared the docks. From my seat at the sidewalk café I could feed the fish and watch the boats come and go. I felt like I was setting in the middle of a calendar photo.
After leaving Kephalonia I rode back to Athens with the chapter and the next morning I had to take the V-Rod back to Elmec Sport Harley-Davidson. I put 2000 KM on the bike before returning it and because of the unbelievable places I had ridden it, I now have more pictures of it that I have of my own bike. On this, my second visit to Greece, I took a total of almost 1,500 digital photos of the sites and the people. Now that I am home and have only memories and photographs, I wish I had taken even more.
I don't know if I will ever get the chance to return to Greece but I do know that I have friends there. A few that I met on my last two trips and some that I hope to meet on my next.
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