Week 4 – Italy to Greece

Sunday 21st to Sunday 28th April

Gallipoli – Brindisi – Igoumenitsa – Kalambaka – Menidi – Proastio

SUNDAY 21/04/19 – RIDE DAY: Matera to Gallipoli; 195klms

Easter Sunday and southern Italy was as quiet as the tomb as we headed east to try and find a trullo (plural, trulli) which is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. Their style of construction is specific to the Itria Valley, in the Murge area of the Italian region of Apulia. I was thinking they’d be few and far between because we were entering the region via a very different route from the norm, which is our norm. But believe me they are everywhere, and in all states of form and repair.

So ticked that off the tourist list and turned towards the inside of the heel of Italy’s boot where we followed the coast all the way to  Gallipoli. A fairly uneventful ride only broken by a coffee break in a one church town, and nothing else, just before we hit the coast.

Then stopped at a small village for lunch.

We arrived at our very pleasant accommodation late in the afternoon and took a wander along the waterfront.

Day 09 195k

MONDAY 22/04/19 – RIDE DAY: Gallipoli to Brindisi; 205klms

After a simple breakfast and a tussle with TomTom not wanting to work properly we headed off. The problem turned out to be an issue with the location services on my phone.

On a glorious day we headed south and then north east along the coast. Yesterday there’d hardly been anyone on the road, today everyone was out and about and driving like no one else was on the road.  It was an uneventful ride only broken by an occasional stop.

This stop in a tiny harbour where the Guzzi got its fair share of attention, as did its crazy owners “all the way from Australia?” It is a little odd that in the country where Moto Guzzis are built there are very few of them about, I’ve only seen 3 others in Italy, and even fewer elsewhere.

We arrived in Brindisi to find our accommodation had been changed without the owner bothering to inform us nor caring that we spent an hour trying to contact him. Sadly it’s this attitude to service that will condemn these countries to poverty. Generally we’ve found very good service but the opposite can also be true which is very foreign to us and odd for countries that rely almost entirely on tourism for their income. I expect some would disagree with that.

Anyway, sorted that and took a look around town a bit.

Tomorrow we head for Greece.

Day 10 205k

TUESDAY 23/04/19 – LAY DAY: Ferry Brindisi to Igoumenitsa

There’d been an amazing amount of dust fallout during a few showers overnight, apparently from Africa, so everything was covered in it. I washed the Guzzi and we headed for the port where we lined up to board the ferry for Greece.

It was blowing quite hard on the trip over and I was a little concerned for the bike but the deck crew had lashed it down very well. We met a lovely couple from Northern Italy, Roberto and Bruno and had a great time discussing common interests.

We arrived in the port of Igoumenitsa around 10pm and found our hotel.

WEDNESDAY 24/04/19 – RIDE DAY: Igoumenitsa to Kalambaka; 225klms

After a sumptuous Greek breakfast provided by our most excellent host we headed east for the Greek mountains and the famous monasteries of Meteora. It pays to be vigilant on the back roads as there are livestock all over the place. Some are tended by traditional old shepherds, and some by dogs, but the cattle just roam.

The monument is in a little village called Zitsa. Some friends of ours in Australia are descendant from this village and seeing as it was only 10klms off our route we thought we’d take a look.

There was quite a bit of snow on the peaks as we stopped on the lake in Ioaninna and had a look around, came back to the bike and met Chris and Ellie, who’d pulled up on a BMW 650GS and were discussing the Guzzi. The story continues below.

These guys above are Chris, Penny, Elle and Billy.

We pull up and he realizes we own the bike. Me, ‘Sorry mate, we’re from Australia so no Greek’ Him in an Aussie accent ‘What, where from in Aus?’ Me, ‘West Sunshine in Melbourne’ Him, ‘I was born in Footscray hospital and went to school in Sunshine’ What a rave. Hilarious. And he’s a Guzzi nut. Anyway we had to go to his place to meet his wife. We had a fantastic time with them for a couple of hours then headed off for Kalambaka. Turned out to be a great day.

Day 11 225k

THURSDAY 25/04/19 – LAY DAY: Kalambaka

Today we threaded  and diced with the stream of tourist buses and cars jostling for parking as we visited the famous  Monasteries of Meteora. There’s one thing for riding a motorcycle; queues are for mugs.

These things are pretty spectacular perched high up on their limestone columns. We joined the crowds. It’s a pity it was such a hazy day as the snow on the mountains in the back ground looked amazing but can’t be seen in these pics, which themselves aren’t as sharp they’d normally be because of the haze.

FRIDAY 26/04/19 – RIDE DAY: Kalambaka to Menidi; 185klms

Good Friday in the Greek religious calendar and although this was only 185klms it was a long slow day and therefore quite tiring as a good 150klms of it was non stop twisties and or hairpins which in itself is no big deal except for the fact that they’re up and over and down what seemed like a never ending series of ranges. With snow all around on the higher peaks the views were quite spectacular as we made our way to Menidi which is a little fishing village that has discovered and embraced tourism in a big way.

This was a very nice place for a stop and we witnessed the local vigil procession of what must have been everyone in town, carrying candles in the expectation of Christ’s resurrection.

Day 12 185k

SATURDAY 27/04/19 – RIDE DAY: Menidi to Proastio (Patras); 185klms

This ride was very much the same as yesterday in every way, although it needn’t have been as there’s a freeway the whole way. But that’s boring hey.

Finally got back down to sea level at Nafpaktos where we took a long break.

Before crossing the Rio–Antirrio Bridge which is one of the world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridges and longest of the fully suspended type. It crosses the Gulf of Corinth near Patras which is where we’re staying right now in a lovely, yet isolated, upmarket hotel with the sea at our doorstep and the snow covered mountains behind.

Day 13 185k

SUNDAY 28/04/19 – LAY DAY: Proastio

Resurrection Sunday and last night we joined the throng of locals as they walked to their local Church to celebrate the Risen Christ. We didn’t understand a word of it but it was a wonderful thing to do to join the crowd as at midnight candles were lit and crackers ignited in celebration of the greatest thing the world has ever seen. Today we’ll join them for lunch over spit lamb and local Greek cuisine. Love it.

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