After the emotional visit to Lone Pine at sundown, I rode on, into the night, towards the Turkey – Greece border. By 10pm I was into Greece … land of Zorba … I rode 30 minutes into the night before finding a seaside hotel in Alexandroupoli.
The next morning I woke and went to refuel … only the machine chewed my 20 EUR … told me there was a problem, and told me to come back on Monday to get a refund from the service station (It was an automatic service station). Monday was no good to me. I needed to be on the move. Help came in the form of a Romanian biker who pulled into the station on a Varadero. He was on tour visiting some Greek friends. The greek bought my reciept off me for 20 EUR and led me to another station to refuel.
Greece and Turkey have a lot on common … they may not want to admit it … but actually there’s a huge commonality. Both are very old cultures that have existed for thousands of years. Both have occupied each other for several hundred years at times. As a result, both have mixed with each others genes extensively. Both have beautiful coastlines. Both are mountainous and great riding countries and perhaps most important of all, both share very, very similar taste in motorcycles. Almost every bike I saw in both Turkey and Greece was a big trailie. Between the two countries, I don’t think I have ever seen so many Varaderos, V-Stroms, Africa twins … there was a healthy amount of GSs and 950 / 990 Adventures too. It seemed over half the bikes in those countries were Adventure style bikes. What cool guys!
After filling up at Alexandroupoli, I headed for my next compulsory cultural pilgrimmage. Pella today is nothing more than a small out of the way village in Macedonia, but for several hundred years, at least two thousand years ago, it was very important. And for a decade, was the centre of the universe. It is the home town of Alexander of Macedon, otherwise known as Alexander the Great. Pella today is the site of extensive excavations, but almost zero tourists. A site of significant historical and cultural significance, but no tourists exactly fits my bill for being worthy of a visit.
I pushed on from Pella … I had to get all the way across Greece by sundown. There was a ferry with my name on it, leaving from Igoumenitsa for Ancona in Italy at 8pm. But there was one more thing I really wanted to see in Greece before I left. I checked my watch, checked the distances involved. It was going to be tight … the GPS had me arriving in Igoumenitsa about 7pm … for an 8pm ferry … and I had to stop, explore and take pictures at my final tourist stop – Meteora – a collection of greek orthodox monasteries atop impossible rock cliffs.
I made it to Igoumenitsa about 7:25 and bought my ticket at the port for 78 EUR. I was hastily shuffled onto the ferry and began to relax for the overnight ride to Ancona in Italy.
It was midday by the time I unloaded in Ancona. I stopped for lunch and petrol then rode north past Venice to cross the Alps between Udine (Italy) and Klagenfurt (Austria). Day turned into night, but I was determined to get to Vienna where my friend Lukas, a fellow biker, would welcome me with open beers.
It wasn’t straightforward of course … it was a little colder over the Alps than I expected so early in the year:
After a few days in Vienna with Lukas, days I spent recovering from a bout of the flu, I headed off westwards, aiming roughly for Holland and England, but stopping at another mates place along the way.
Josef Pichler is a well known KTM adventurer I had also met earlier in the year in Mirny, Northern Siberia. Joe and his wife Renate are based just outside of Salzburg.
Joe took me on a tour of Hangar 7, a giant glass museum built and filled for the people of Salzburg by the Red Bull billionaire. It’s filled with Red Bulls racing cars, aeroplanes and even some motorcycles Also in there is Marc Coma’s spare bike for the 2009 Dakar.
After that there was another visit. Another friend of Joe’s had bought Marc Coma’s primary 2009 Dakar bike … I was privileged enough to get to jump on it … and what do you know? It fits!
So after I left Joe Pichlers place, I headed for another friend … motorcycle partmaker extraordinaire, Stephan Scheffelmeier.
Two more days were spent cruising leisurely (via the Ruhr) back to Holland, one of two home bases for me on these expeditions. While the UK is my traditional home and base, so much time has been spent in Holland for motorcycle preparation, that is has become an equal home base for me over the last two years.
Whether the project this year would finish in Holland or England was answered once and for all when I woke on my first morning in Holland to find my bike stolen.
A day of furious running around, interviewing locals myself, putting together clues I had sought and found via the internet, resulted in the bike being located later that evening. Police came and liberated my bike, but it wasn’t before thieves that taken a couple of panels and damaged a few attachments.
And so Sibirsky Extreme 2010 ends with the promise of rebuilding the bike … it’s a great chance to refresh the machine for the challenges of 2011 and beyond.