11th of June, 2018. Rolling green hills, expansive coastlines, and many lovely twisties. This is Greece.
What I wrote about this day at the time…
I discovered a mountain as I was riding my way down towards Athens. I decided vehemently to climb up that pass and eat up all the twisties that I could handle within a day. Scaled all the way to the top of Pelion, and saw that all was very well with Greece. Whoever said The Shire is God’s country is either lying or just not all there.
I wish I had more time to spend here but, as always, I refuse to become comfortable and attached to one place. I like this perpetually-getting-mindblown thing as I travel to new places, even if I only get to see the cover of the book and miss out on the meatier bits. But that’s okay.
Like a lottery ticket that gives me momentary hope of riches and wealth, I will flick through the library of my life as a sightseer of the lifestyles of those much more fortunate. Maybe, just one day when I obtain the means, I will be the one that is able to write that book and take the time doing so in my own European chateau.
It appears that I had a moment of epiphany. I reckon I could have done more in Greece if I just had a few more days, but I really needed those new tyres in Athens, and also had to make it back to Germany on time. But more on the day…
So I made it to Thessaloniki, a large port town in the north. Greek alphabets littering storefronts and labelled on street signs. The Aegean Sea bordering the southern edge of the city. Numerous ancient monuments embracing Hellenic culture. Unmistakably, I was standing on Greek lands. After just a week, I had made it to the southernmost country for this Europe tour.
For most of the journey over the week, the pace of travel had been way too quick for me to enjoy the whole experience. A quality time spent primarily entails the practice of mindfulness. Living in the moment, and being totally tuned into what is physically detectable by your senses enable you to appreciate the features of every locality that you visit. I’ve had to skip on so many places and cut down on any time spent at places that I had decided to stop over, that I thought that there wasn’t going to be that much that I could show friends out of the road trip.
Such was the urgency of my journey, that I did not take notice of the amount of dust and grime that had accumulated over the past week and a bit. I pulled over at a servo for a break as I was getting slightly drowzy, and I was saddened to see that the magnetic tank bag had etched some numerous small chips into the paint. I should have known better than to leave the surface exposed. Everything else seemed fine, with exception to the rear tyre. Yeah, that needed attention very soon, but it was likely going to be okay as long as I resisted from gunning the throttle at every stop.
The day resumed southbound along the main highway of the eastern Greek coast. I saw a massive set of mountains, which turned out to be Mount Olympus. It is considered to be the home of the twelve Olympians, or Greek gods and goddesses, in Ancient Greek religion. The summit, known as Mytikas, rises to 2917 metres. Much of the elevated sections remained unexplored until 1918 when three climbers reached the peak, which now is a popular tourist attraction. Not attractive enough at this point for me to climb though; I have other things to fulfil. Maybe next time.. Bye for now, Zeus!
Most of my journey had not been specifically planned or routed strategically before departure. Due to the undetermined direction of my journey, apart from the objective to reach Athens, I was constantly scanning through information on the mobile internet, weighing my options to see some interesting and distinctive places, locations that take me away from the characterless, monotonous national highway and into the depths of scenic wonderlands. Highways, in general, aren’t meant to show you anything at all; they’re just a quick way to get from one city to another without too much fuss.
Ultimately, the big smoke does not entice me as much as the august charm of nature. I didn’t even need to see the best of the best. All I wanted to see were the seas, some mountains and a few decently twisting roads, a place that could give me an ample dose of Greece in one go. That place happened to be a mountainous coastal region known as Pelion, a hook-shaped peninsula that is a slight detour away from the main route to Athens.
I was partially regretful to have not seen more of Mount Olympus up close earlier in the day, so I made it a thing to go high up on the mountains of Pelion. Oh man, and those few twisties that I was craving as I passed the city of Volos led me on to hours on the saddle, exploring the dramatic tarmac that took me through many small hilltop villages. The peninsula’s peak, Pourianos Stavros, stands at 1624 metres, overlooking the Aegean Sea. Unfortunately, the area at the very top is a restricted military zone, so I had to turn back around, but the views weren’t too shabby on the way back down!
More often than not, when my mind is totally fixated on an amazing set of tarmac, the presence of beautiful scenery is lost on me. As momentum increases, so does the level of riding involvement. Satisfaction is the result, but doesn’t end there. A perpetual desire for more of that sweet taste becomes inevitable; an addiction that only those who have experienced the joy of riding can fully understand.
When I eventually force myself to take a break, and pull over at an epic lookout, the realisation occurs. In a world in which chaos exists in many forms, there is still a place where your own space can be exercised. The joy of riding has given me a new lease on life; a reason to live to explore the world and the cultures within. This joy had brought me half way across the world where I now stood in Europe.
Despite this day being one of the most physically taxing journeys so far in Europe, there was also a moment of beauty and peace that was realised. I have had to race against the constraints of time, all the whilst attempting to prolong the life of the rear tyre, to make it to Athens on time for my tyre replacement. Sunsets generally signal the end of most outdoor activities for many travellers, but in this instance it was the start of the next chapter of the day, of what was to turn out as my second consecutive all-nighter on the road.
In spite of the huge challenge that awaited, I allowed time to pass by without a worry, for over an hour, simply immersing myself upon the beauty that was laid out in front of me. The theatrical stage of expansive mountain ranges and glimmering city lights that were gradually being switched on, under pink skies of the land of the Hellenes, were all too pretty to ignore. A moment to remember…