The Great Escape [From Great Britain to Greece]

Many of you might have seen the famous classic film “The Great Escape” where Steve McQueen tries to escape from Nazi captivity by using a Triumph motorbike, trying to reach the neutral Swiss border. It is a great film and I suggest you see it if you haven’t done so already.

My “Great Escape” is a bit different. It is a trip on a motorbike, but I am not on the run from any Nazis. It is still a Great Escape from routine and everyday life. It is a nice adventure and some time in complete solitude and maybe take some important decisions for the future.

So the plan is to travel from London, Great Britain, to Thessaloniki, Greece. If you are still intrigued to know details, carry on reading…

So the thought was provoked and inspired by this video here, before Easter this year. I thought I might do the trip in Easter, but for various reasons it wouldn’t work out at that time. Then I was thinking to do it in the summer and despite my not-so-recent back problems and doctor consultations, there was something unpleasant that forced me not to abandon ship and do it, for myself most of all.

I lost a friend that passed away from cancer this June quite suddenly and it just made me realise how short life is. From the simplest thing like calling him or dropping him a line when you think about someone to your biggest dreams, it’s easy to shelf plans and dreams but it is also easy not to do so.

So I decided to carry on with the initial plan despite of the amazement and surprise of all the doctors I’ve been to. As a character, it is my biggest flaw and biggest advantage at the same time, although many will disagree, not to listen to anybody.

So I started thinking of my stops and the places I’d like to visit. In the end, I ended up staying for a full twelve days all over Europe, averaging 300 miles per day. Of course, this is just the distance I need to cover in order to go from a place that I’ll sleep over to another place I’ll sleep over, so it is a very conservative prediction.

Have in mind, that on my way there, I am going to avoid motorways completely (except from a bit of the German autobahn to test my bike’s limits) and only use country roads and scenic routes. So, even if it is 300 miles a day, most days I’ll need to be on the move for about 7 hours if I want to sleep at a hotel and not under the stars.

Pt I – The Machine

This trip is a marathon. Going through uncharted territory, into the unknown, you must have a strategy not to burn out in the first days by overdoing it. More importantly though, you need to ensure that your machine will not let you down. So oil needs to be changed along with the filter, the chain needs to be as good as new, tires need to be new as well and coolant levels need to be OK.

The last bit is the most important for me, as I am heading towards warmer climates. Spare bulbs, chain spray and some tools are very important and convenient to have. Breakdown cover for Europe is non-negotiable, even if you’ll never need it.  No need to mention that you need your insurance to cover you in Europe too.

Last but not least, in trips like this, the last thing you want is to stumble upon bad weather and then for your clothes to be all wet inside your non-waterproof luggage bags. This happened before when I was returning from France with my beloved as a pillion and thank God that we were only heading home at that time.

So I learned my lesson and invested in some waterproof luggage for the bike. Panniers, tailpack and a new tankbag convenient for reading your satnav and maps. All of these combined they give me 130 litres of luggage, and I am also going to have two non-waterproof rucksacks with me attached to the bike that hold 30 and 35 litres respectively. So, in the end, I’ve got 195 litres of luggage to use.

Some may think it is excessive, but as I will be staying in Greece for some time, the more the merrier.

Pt II – The Plan

When I was young, for some odd reason, I had a really big interest in survival books. Some of them also instructed you on how to amputate your own leg, if you need to do so. Hopefully, I won’t have to chop my leg off, but there was an acronym for finding a suitable place to set up a tent. Now again, probably I am not setting up a tent in the jungle, but the bloke said, “You need to have a PLAN”.

P for Protection

L for Location

A for Acquisition

N for Navigation

It seems to apply for many situations. You may think that nowadays with Satellite Navigation and mobile phones you are safe. But it only took a trip to Wales on a dark night with snow for all of these to fail. No phone signal, the SatNav went bonkers and I didn’t have any fuel on my bike. I was genuinely scared (scroll to the darkest hour for more details). So, always carry a map and a compass with you and have a rough idea of where you are and where you are heading.

Also it helps if at least one person knows your whereabouts in case of an emergency. A first aid kit is mandatory to have on the bike, by law in some countries but also because you really don’t want to be riding while a cut in your finger distracts you, puts you in a dangerous position and ruins the fun.

Now the above are for extreme situations of course. The more practical side of planning is to know where you’ll stop every day, what is available to eat, where you will refuel and what route you are going to follow.

I have the eurotunnel tickets booked, every hotel in Europe booked and the ferry tickets from Italy to Greece also booked. This gives me the advantage of getting value for my money and staying in hotels in the countryside where they’re cheaper and nicer.

Also make sure you have enough cash with you, in case your bank blocks your card because you are overseas. Since euro is the currency of most European countries, I made sure I have enough with me.

I tend to be very cynical with some motorcyclists that claim that they just jump on the bike and just improvise on where they want to go. To me it sounds like complete laziness. In Europe, if you do that, chances are that you will end up in a motorway (boring) or you will be filtering through traffic (my daily commute, no thanks). You have limited time on the bike before getting tired and also limited money. Every day on the road costs, make sure you get the most out of it.

Improvisation is fine, when it is controlled by parameters that protect you from wasting your time, fuel, money and energy. So, do your homework and you’ll enjoy your trip a lot more.

Pt III – The Law and Attitude

In Europe driving laws for most countries are similar. There are some catches though and cops don’t mind making some money from ignorant tourists. To avoid unnecessary trouble, a quick read in laws that apply in European countries that you are going to visit is almost more than enough.

Some of them are not enforced (like carrying a breathalyser in France) but some are (having Speed Camera alerts on your SatNav in France). Also, even if filtering is perfectly legal in the UK, it is theoretically illegal in some countries in the Continent. So, even if it is tolerated, any small accident whilst filtering is your fault. Apart from that, it seems that Swiss bobbies are really anti-motorcyclist from what I read and really like to make money out of these things, so don’t do them a favour.

So, chances are that you will filter everywhere (at least I’ll do so) but it never hurts to be aware of the law and customs so that you avoid confrontations and you don’t fly past a police car thinking you didn’t do anything wrong.

Anyway for more advice on these things, you can either use google or take a look at the AA website.

Other than the law, you can check about the attitude and driving behaviour of people that live in countries you are going to pass through. For instance, French drivers are very bike aware and give you space. You need to be extra careful with Greek drivers since they drive erratically, unpredictably, looking for a fight, they don’t obey the law and Greek roads are really bad and slippery. A recipe for disaster, I know, but what can you do?

Pt IV – Execution

All right then, we’ve got everything set, we prepared ourselves to the limit, now it is time to dive into the unknown. Anything can happen on the road and no matter how prepared you may be, you WILL get surprised. I got surprised many times during this trip. The nastiest surprise of them all is for your bike to get stolen and hopefully you’ll never experience it.

Day 0

I tested all of my new luggage (tailpack, panniers, tankbag and rucksack) on the bike with a small trip to Heathrow from Hanger Lane. It was really hot and there was also a traffic jam so I can’t say I enjoyed it much. It was though a preliminary trip that needed to be taken in order to check out the bike’s feel with all the luggage attached to it.

Everything went well and I grabbed some fast food on the way back. Now, there was no chance that I would take the luggage off, so I left it on the bike and covered the bike with my cover in order not to draw unnecessary attention. I had a lot of stress for the trip so I couldn’t get to sleep easily.

Home, London, UK 

Day 1

I woke up at 06:30, didn’t even have a coffee, dressed up and I was on the road. I was hoping I didn’t forget anything important, but the most critical things were in front of me, on my tankbag. I took the M4 and then there was the classic hectic London traffic on the M25, but luckily, just a bit of it. I was listening to music and my morale was high.

The stress was gone, since I knew I would be on time, so I was just looking forward to the rest of the trip, since travelling to Folkestone to board the Eurotunnel train was something I have done before and there was nothing special about it. I was a bit worried about boarding the train on time with all of this fear the media had cultivated about “operation stack” and illegal immigrants trying to cross the channel by any means, but it was business as usual in the end.

Arriving at the Eurotunnel terminal I grouped with some other bikers and we had a chat about our plans. Everybody seemed to be surprised that I was doing such a big trip on my own.

Eurotunnel

After I supplied myself with some sandwiches, water and cigarettes, I waited on my bike for the call and finally boarded the train. Whilst on the train I had a chat with a pair of bikers that were going to tour Belgium, spending 7 nights camping.

Eurotunnel

After the short crossing, disembarkation had begun and I was riding on French soil, on the right.

After a quick fuel stop, I passed from places I had spent some time with my beloved in the Nord-pas-de-Calais region and then I headed towards Dunkirk or Dunkerque in French.

Now, I am saying this because the app I use for getting around had the city names translated to the local language so instead of searching for a translated name for every city, I found out that I could navigate to a dropped pin instead, by touching the place on the map I wanted to go. This proved to be an invaluable way of navigating, since I could also instruct the SatNav to guide through waypoints that I would choose. So it seems that every cloud has a silver lining.

Arriving there, it was a nice little seaside city with some tourist population. I sat at a “pataterie” and enjoyed a potato burger with some smelly but delicious local cheese on top.

Potato Burger in Dunkirk, France

Then, the plan was to head for Ypres, a historic Belgian town that is infamous as the main WWI battlefield. There is nothing interesting about the town itself in my opinion apart from that fact, but my curiosity just guided me through there.

So, shortly after lunch I crossed the Belgian border from a village I cannot recall its name but what I recall is that they kept the traditional station with a statue as the guard.

French - Belgian Border  French - Belgian Border

After that, the schedule for the day was to pass from some various French and Belgian small towns and big cities (one of them is Lille), crossing the French-Belgian border numerous times until I reached my first overnight stay hotel in Maubege, France. I didn’t miss the chance to confirm the fact that Belgian people make good fries and beer at a short stop.

Lille, France  Belgium

The hotel was uninteresting but at the same time convenient and cheap. I had a hot bath since I rode 700 Km in open roads and I didn’t have a good night’s sleep.

Day 2

Then I just got to sleep and woke up to an equally uninteresting but OK French breakfast.

Maubege, FranceIt was going to be a very long day, but I just didn’t know it at the time. I started my trip towards Brussels and I was in a great mood, listening to Equinox.

No words can describe this feeling. Alone, on your motorbike, free, in straight French roads with trees along them to protect you from the sun, listening to this masterpiece of an album.

But, once I reached Brussels, my mood and morale fell to critical levels.
The reason? Someone-who-is-not-me had a similar experience:

I just had a quick coffee in a suburban cafeteria where the climate was still a bit hostile. I decided I had enough, so I decided to stop at Waterloo for lunch. Nothing special really, the good thing was that Waterloo is visited by many British tourists and people working in restaurants speak English, so at least I wouldn’t have any other nasty surprises.

Lunch was OK, nothing special really, but by the time I finished, there was a huge black cloud over me ready to empty its contents. I refueled the bike at a petrol station and headed for Luxembourg. Since detouring for Brussels wasn’t planned, it meant that I would have to cover a lot more miles than I had planned that day. So, having had enough from rain in country roads, I hit the motorway to Luxembourg.

Then, after the rain had stopped and whilst I was enjoying a cigarette break at a parking, I realised that my tablet, working as a SatNav wasn’t charging. Something had gone wrong and my power line wasn’t working any more. At that point, it was a big misfortune. But during the next days, it proved to be one of the best things that happened to me. Because I didn’t need to keep an eye on it any more. Things became a bit more traditional.

Planning a route in the morning, checking what major cities are in my route, writing down the road numbers and riding whilst being more aware of my surroundings. It totally changed the way of travelling for me, reminding me that it is fine to be aided by technology, but there is something wrong in your plan if you depend on it too much.

I admit, there were some routes that were a bit difficult and it would help a lot having the SatNav in front of me, but for most of the miles, that wasn’t needed.

Carrying on, I crossed the Belgium – Luxembourg border and there was a surprise for me. The road became twisty and very nice, guiding me through a forest. Despite a first failure of the camera mount, everything went well afterwards.

Luxembourg

But, the day was almost over and I had to ride for almost 300Km to reach my overnight stay Gasthaus in Oberkirch, Germany. So, after a while in the French countryside, I hit the motorway again until Strasbourg, France and then I cross the border and ride towards Oberkirch, Germany.

Just before I reached the Gasthaus, torrential rain started battering me and I arrived completely soaked. A very kind and happy girl greeted me and I filled the necessary paperwork under her aid. I thought that it would be a good idea to have a beer or two, but I was so tired, having ridden 1000Km that day, that I just fell asleep.

I woke up early, realising that there was a church bell ringing every quarter of an hour. I was so tired that I didn’t hear a thing whilst I was sleeping, luckily.

Day 3

After I had breakfast and a quick chat with the humourless yet helpful German owner, I started riding. I was still a bit tired from the day before, but the perfect German roads and the nice scenery quickly made me forget about it.

Oberkirch, Germany

So the schedule of the day was to tour Swartzwald. My next overnight stay was not very far from Oberkirch, so I literally toured the Schwarzwald area for a full day and I had a very nice Schnitzel for lunch.

Schnitzel in Schwarzwald

Schwarzwald, Germany

After that, I decided to call it a day and find the hotel.

It turned out to be a very isolated place near Engen and when I arrived there, the only life I could see were birds. There was a paper on the door, saying “Montag Ruhetag” which means that Monday is the day off. But, it also said “Mr Huge please call Sabine blah blah”.

After I laughed with yet another misspelling of my surname I called her and explained to her the situation. She said, she got paid by card and the keys where in the flower pot, next to the door. My room was room number 5. Then I kindly asked whether there is parking available for the bike. She said, that I could take it in the room with me and I couldn’t help myself but burst into laughter. I explained to her that it is a motorbike, “Motorrad” and not a cycle and she started laughing as well.

There was no available parking but the area was very quiet so probably there wouldn’t be a problem. Despite that, I read on the weather report reports of a thunderstorm breaking out again, so I found a shed with some rubbish bins inside and parked the bike there. The thunderstorm did break out and it was a massive one, but this time I was just watching it from the comfort of my bed whilst watching footage I shot that day. It is a great feeling is all I can say…

Schwarzwald, Germany

Schwarzwald, Germany

Day 4

Next morning was the only day without breakfast. I was going to be heading south to Switzerland. Exactly like the Great Escape movie. The plan was to reach Zurich, then Bern and then end up in Lausanne. I quickly reached Zurich and toured around the city a bit. Then I decided to stop to have a quick cup of tea and maybe a quick bite. After I sat at a cafeteria and ordered my tea, I decided that there was no way I could order and pay for lunch at that place.

Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland

I already knew that Switzerland was very expensive on hotels, food etc, but this was a really cold shower. I carried on using the national routes towards Bern and I just stopped for a quick bite in McDonalds, since it was the only food I could afford. It cost me 15 francs for a normal menu. Generally, the road was nice but nothing special and the temperature was 30 degrees. This made things very hot and I can’t say I enjoyed that day’s riding that much. After I passed from Bern and had a quick cup of coffee there, I ended up in Lausanne, where I had proper dinner and a really good time with friends. I think this was the highlight of this day, anyway.

Day 5

I woke up, had a quick breakfast and started my trip short sleeved as the speeds were very slow and the temperatures very hot. I was OK for a while but I quickly realised I was sunburned.

Biker's Sunburn

Here you can see me looking like an idiot with winter motorbike boots and short sleeves, next to a lake close to Geneva. Some kind Canadian tourists took the picture for me.

Switzerland

I soldiered on, but the heat got me completely knackered. After I passed Geneva I stopped in Annecy, France, where I realised that there were many British cars and tourists in the area for some reason.

France

After that point, the day started getting a lot better. The temperature went down, probably because the altitude went up and I rode on the “Route de Napoleon” until I reached Tallard. A magnificent road, with a bit more traffic than expected. Not a big problem when you’re on a motorbike though…

French Alps

I finally reached a small village close to Tallard. The French speaking owner greeted me, guided me to the room and I just cooled myself down with a cold shower. The village didn’t have a restaurant. It didn’t have a place for me to buy cigarettes. But I kind of liked this whole feeling about it.

Les Gailaches, French Alps

Day 6

This day was my day off. It started very well, with a very nice French breakfast.

Les Gailaches, French Alps

Then, the plan was to tour the area a bit and go to Lac de Sainte-Croix. It is a lake up in the mountains, where people swim and the waters are crystal clear. The route towards the lake was magnificent, passing from many scenic French villages. Arriving at the lake, there was a mishap. On a steep uphill, I attempted to perform a 180 degree turn maneuvre and I dropped the bike.

Nothing too serious and my crash bungs made their money. Some nice French people helped me pick up the bike and even I was a bit shaken, there was nothing some swimming and relaxing couldn’t fix.

Lac de Sainte Croix

After my swim and lunch, I decided to head north again to find the overnight stay hotel, which was not far from the previous one. I also encountered some rain on my way there, but nothing too serious.

Finally, I reached the hotel near Tallard again and Franck greeted me and showed me my room. He spoke English very well and also offered me a beer to relax after a long day.

After we discussed a bit, he proposed me a route to Nice via Entrevaux, a medieval village on the French Alps.

Day 7

Breakfast was a surprise to me. Franck offered me various cheeses to try. He also said their names, but I am afraid that the only ones I remember is the brie and the blue cheese.

Tallard

After I enjoyed my breakfast and my coffee, I got ready for my big day. I was going to travel to Nice via Entrevaux, as Franck suggested me, then I would pass from Menton, Monaco, Monte Carlo and then I would head north again, to the Italian Alps.

My next stay was in Roccasparvera, a small village – town near Cuneo. And so I got on the bike and started my trip. I am just lost for words when it comes to describe the road leading to Entrevaux. It is the continuation of “route de Napoleon”, just better and more breathtaking. I would say it was the best route of the trip, hands down. I stopped for a quick cup of tea in Entrevaux, where I also captured some of the magnificence of the village by taking some pictures.  

Entrevaux

France  Entrevaux

Then, the road became easier until I reached Nice, whether the temperature went up a notch. It was crowdy as well, since it was holiday season and also a weekend.

I had a salad as a light and quick lunch and then carried on to Monaco by using the road that goes up to the mountain, next to the sea. The view was just magnificent.

On the way to Monaco

Then, if Nice was crowdy, I guess Monaco was full. I was filtering through traffic, stopped to take my jacket off and then it started raining. Can’t say I am too lucky I guess.

Well, after I had some fun on Monaco and Monte Carlo, I decided I needed to head towards my accommodation for the night. That was easier said than done, as the traffic was just terrible. But after a point, when I started going uphill towards the Italian Alps, traffic cleared. The temperature went down as well. And then, there was this tunnel, that was single direction for health and safety issues, making it a perfect cigarette stop.  There were also some Italian bikers ahead of the queue and we had a nice chat about the roads and our trips.

Cuneo, Alps

Eventually, the timer went down to zero and then it was only a short distance to reach Roccasparverra and Mary’s Ranch or “Il Ranch di Mary”.

Roccasparverra 

Roccasparverra

The owner only spoke Italian, so it was a bit tricky to communicate, but eventually, sign language prevailed and I told her what time I would like to have breakfast.

Then, after I got into my room and had some rest, my stomach started growling. On my way to the B&B, I noticed many restaurants, so I just rode there and had a magnificent (and cheap) dinner.

You know you are getting closer to Greece, when the restaurants are full at 10pm…

Roccasparverra

After my dinner, I just returned to the B&B and slept like a baby.

Day 8

Italian breakfast didn’t impress me, since it is almost non-existent, like the Greek one. But I have to say that the average coffee in Italy probably tastes like the best coffee you can get in London. Cappuccino, Latte, Espresso, doesn’t matter. Italians just love coffee and it shows.

So I had two cappuccinos, some biscuits and a croissant and I hit the road again. It was when I was finishing my second cappuccino that I realised I commited the cardinal sin again.

Roccasparverra

I visited a Catholic country the 15th of August. Which meant, that there was literally NOTHING going on. Every petrol station worked only by card and cash self service and almost everything was closed.

So it was a rather monotonous day, that was. I had to navigate my way all the way down to Pisa. There were some wonderful cities I passed through, like Genova. I also got caught up by torrential rain and I had to switch to my winter gloves, up in the mountains.

Italy

Finally, when I arrived at Pisa, I realised what a stupid idea was to stay IN the city instead of staying at the outskirts of it. The B&B was an apartment with many rooms which meant that there was no parking for the bike and I had to park it in the street.

That meant that I had to take all of the luggage with me upstairs. I decided I would leave the panniers because it wasn’t worth the hassle and there was nothing valuable in them except from my non-designer clothes. But, I was stressed all night because of that and to rub salt to the wound there was a thunderstorm so intense that the electricity went off.

Day 9

So I woke up the next day after probably a 3 hour sleep, just to find the contents of the panniers which were my clothes soggy. I was knackered, in a bad mood and I had to attach all of the luggage on the bike in the pissing rain. The worst part was the fact that it was still 30 degrees outside so I was sweating inside my jacket.

Then I got lost numerous times in the medieval city of Pisa trying to locate that bloody failure of engineering that got to be so famous. I nearly got a parking ticket as well, but at least I took the cheesy picture to prove to people that I was there…

Pisa

And so I carried on, navigating my way to Florence. In Florence, the weather had cleared up and the city was magnificent, but I didn’t feel like stopping. I just carried on until I reached Peruggia.

Generally, I felt like Italy wasn’t going to be the highlight of the trip and it turned out that it wasn’t. Italian drivers can be very relaxed with road lines on the mountains, so I had to be extra careful. Also, as I was heading south, the weather was becoming hotter and the roads worse. Neither of those too make an ideal combination for a motorbike trip.

But, to be fair, there were some magnificent roads on the mountains that I enjoyed a lot. They were full of Italian bikers with their Ducatis and Aprilias as well.

After I arrived in Peruggia and found the B&B, the owner was a very friendly chap that offered to cook for me a three course meal for the price of 15 euros on top of the room price.

To him, I must have confirmed the stereotype that British people are always on time, as arrived exactly on time, 17:30 in the afternoon. For me though, it was just a coincidence, but he was convinced that it was not.

It turned out that the bloke was a retired software engineer as well.

Day 10

I did sleep very tight, breakfast was a lot better than the previous day and my day started significantly better as well.

The road took me from Peruggia to Atessa via Ascoli Piceno. I had a quick kebab for lunch. I know it is not very Italian but it did have some Italian elements in it. It was very small and light as well.

I arrived early at my overnight stay location, which turned out to be a medieval castle, converted to a hotel. It was a bit funny because the lady that greeted me didn’t understand English so we couldn’t really communicate. I was using signals, she insisted on speaking Italian very slowly and loudly. It was funny, because she thought I would understand, but it was hopeless.

After all, I did park my bike in the hall of the castle and headed towards my room, which was on a tower of the castle. The view was just magnificent.

Il Castello, Atessa

Il Castello, Atessa

Il Castello, Atessa

After I refreshed myself a bit, I headed to the kitchen where some German tourists were enjoying their coffee break. We had a quick chat and I received detailed information about the village. They were very well informed (being Germans) and also seemed to frown upon me a little bit for my “misorganisation”.

I call it parameterised chaos and adventure.

So, I was going to have a night out. I dressed up, and headed towards the village. I found a very nice restaurant and had a three course meal and a couple of pints for a bit less than 20 euros.
Atessa

Atessa

Day 11

I did have a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast to start the day.

But still, fatigue started kicking in. I was genuinely knackered at this stage. Despite this fact, the weather didn’t do me any favours as well. It was a really hot day.

I decided to use the Autostrada (aka motorway) for about 200Km from Atessa to Bari. It seemed like a very easy task, but it turned out to be the hardest day of them all.

Even when cruising at 120 km/h I was sweating like a pig. The air was really hot and as I was heading south it was getting worse by the minute.

At some point I felt dizzy and pulled over at an emergency parking of the motorway. I was genuinely scared at that stage. I rode some of the most dangerous roads in Europe and didn’t feel scared at all. But now it was a battle with myself.

All the symptoms were fitting. Dizziness, nausea, light fever, shaking and no sweating any more. I was probably heading for a massive heatstroke. With many stops I made it to the port of Bari where the symptoms only got worse. I tried drinking a Gatorade to balance my potassium and sodium levels. It didn’t help much, but the nausea started disappearing.

After waiting for about 2 hours, I embarked, left the bike to be strapped and got upstairs to the deck where a biker and his wife invited me to sit with them. He was Greek and his wife was English. Sail away! (from Bari)

They saw me heading to the port and waived at me, but I didn’t see them. Then they were arguing about me being Greek or British. The bloke said I was Greek, but his wife saw my British numberplate. At the end of the day, they were both right (and wrong) at the same time.

The air-conditioning of the ship did miracles and I immediately felt a lot better. We discussed about many things and I had a really good time with them. I also met some guys that were from the Greek V-Strom club. They seemed very baffled and amazed that I did a trip like this on my own, on a modest fazer, my wee loyal dragon pacman.

Day 12

Going for a quick cigarette on the deck of the ship and seeing a Greek flag brought tears to my eyes. I’ve made it.

I disembark, say goodbye to the other fellow bikers and start cruising on the Egnatia motorway to Thessaloniki. It was chilly. In fact so chilly that I had to turn on my heated grips and close the vents on my jacket.

It was such a weird feeling riding on a road that I only drove on whilst I was living in Greece. It was the road that gave me my first and only (so far thank God) speeding ticket, so I stick to the speed limit, consequently saving on fuel as well.

It is the only European motorway I used that hasn’t got service stations. It is a good motorway though.

After a quick fuel stop near Kozani, I stopped at the only service station near Katerini, about 80Km from Thessaloniki. I smoke a cigarette and let all the thoughts pass through my head.

Finally, I reach Thessaloniki and then ride on the roads I have been riding on almost every day three years ago. It seems unreal and very sentimental as well.

Finally, I reach my family home and ring the doorbell. At this point, I really regret that I didn’t take a picture of my Mum’s face when she realised that I rode all the way down there.

I quickly unload the bike and go for a quick coffee, near the sea…

Kalamaria

Finale

The Great Escape is finally over and successful. 5,000 Km (3,106 miles) on mostly open roads in 12 days. There is this satisfaction but also a bit of emptiness after this mission is over.

I have been thinking of this trip since I bought this bike and now it is over. It was probably one of my best experiences so far. It broadened my mind and changed the way I see certain things.

Also, I really enjoyed the time I’ve spent in Greece. This normally doesn’t happen when I am there for a few days, but this time it was different. Why? Because reasons. I can’t really pinpoint them, but good things happened and I’ve spent quality time with people I love. I loved some people even more, as well.

The moral of the story is, if you want to do something, do it. Better sooner than later. It is worth it, believe me.

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