Holy smokes.. I can't believe it's been 6 months since this part of my trip, I'm embarrassingly behind...
So from Crete I sailed to Athens on October 6th... twas a punishing boat trip, and sleeping on the floor or twisted up on a cafe chair is no fun...
...so when I finally arrived, I decided to skip Athens altogether and jumped straight on a bus to Nea Achilios where my bike was waiting for me and knew I'd get some good rest during the 3 hour drive.
Arriving in Nea Achilios wasn't quite what I was hoping for though. I seemed to enter an immediate funk and struggled to get out of it, especially considering my lovely beach had turned from this when I was here a couple of weeks prior:
To this when I arrived this time:
I checked in back at the hotel though, and got some rest before heading out for dinner and Tsipouro with Vasillis the hotel owner (that I had promised I would do when I returned). Lots of fun was had, but I still couldn't shake the funk, and my sublime Tsipouro-induced hangover the next day did nothing to help that!
Whilst I was here I had decided get my bike looked at to see what the oil leak was, and conveniently there was a Triumph dealer and mechanic in Volos. To add to the funk though, when I took it in, I had to leave it with him overnight before he could even look at the leak, and then it turned out the mechanics wife had a baby that day (Friday) so wasn't able to look at my bike until Monday! This just sucked, as not only did I just want to get out of Nea Achilios, but I had booked a ferry to Italy from Igoumenitsa (on the opposite coast of Greece) for Tuesday night which just meant lots of rushing that I wasn't up for, and in weather that was less than safe to be rushing on a motorbike!
To add massive insult to what already felt like injury, in planning my time in Italy I realised that I had grossly miscalculated my days in the Schengen region which meant that if I wanted to maintain some semblance of what I had planned I basically had to get my butt out of the area (meaning most if not all of the EU essentially) for a few weeks, and would have to drop Spain off the list altogether! So much was weighing on my mind. It was one of those moments when I really wish I had someone with me, just to share the weight - it's bittersweet travelling solo sometimes, you get the benefit of true peace and quiet, and can do what you please when you please, but the cost is that you're completely alone when stuff goes a little pear shaped... In retrospect, I guess it is character building... at the time though, it just fucking sucks! I felt completely defeated and deflated at this point, and decided to just go to sleep and hope the new day brought me some good news...
Well it did... firstly the weather was nice again, I met a new friend (see pic), and along with the blue skies and puppy dog came the clarity to provide a solution to my Schengen woes...
I did my numbers and discovered that I still get a full 4 weeks in Italy, then at the end of that will find somewhere to store my bike for the winter, then go to Morocco for 3 weeks or so, before heading back to Holland to spend a month... the funk also helped me realise how much I missed home and everything about it, so decided at this point it may be a good opportunity to sneak home for a few months and surprise the crew there for Christmas and summer... all this added up nicely to a complete solution to my funk, and I was stoked!!
My mood only improved when I was able to get back on my (apparently) fixed bike and make my way back across the country on the way to Italy!
It was Monday at this stage, and I figured I would make the majority of my cross country trip this day, stop in the Meteora (as I had hoped to) for just one night, and then continue the last few hours on to the port on Tuesday. It was a horrible trip weather-wise but when I finally arrived I was again overcome with amazement at the place. Whilst the weather was nothing like it was when I passed through here the first time (35ºC and gorgeously clear), the low cover of fog and rain made it so much more moody and mysterious... it was absolutely incredible!
Alex from Plakias had ended up in the same place working at a hotel, so I decided to stay at his hotel for the night, with plans to move on the next day. Instead though, a bunch of guys that Alex knew, and Amelia a girl passing through from Seattle decided to head out for a big night. The hangover the next day helped me make up my mind to stay in town for an extra couple of days and a quick phone call to the ferry company later, I had changed my trip to Italy to depart on Thursday night instead. I spent the next couple of days in awe of the scenery around me, hiking through the mountains, and up to some of the monasteries that sit atop the incredible rocks...
When it was time to get on the road on Thursday, the weather had eased somewhat, and I was looking forward to a quick trip to the port... welllllll... the weather was nice for about ten minutes. Then as I travelled up into the mountains I was taken deep into the eye of a crazy thunderstorm with less than 50 metre visibility, and sharing the roads with crazy greek truck drivers who seemed unaware of the weather conditions... awesome. And nice and safe too!
If I didn't have my ferry booked, I probably would have stopped somewhere. Though that said, it would have been futile as there was nowhere to actually hide!! I pushed on through, and as I came gingerly down the other side of the mountain pass an hour or so later the weather cleared, and the last leg to the port dried me out, and prepared me well for the overnight ferry trip to Italia!!!