Adventure Country Tracks: Greece
Photos: Katja Wickert
Just before the »go live«, a team of off-road enthusiasts from Touratech as well as other sponsors of the project rode the track one more time.
For our tour through the Greece wilderness, we gave ourselves five days, just as long as off-road enthusiast Meletis Stamatis’ scouting team has assessed for this demanding track. However, unlike the adventurers who will ride the track next summer in accordance with their own, personal time frames, we’ve been a little under pressure. We had a film and photography crew with us. And everyone who ever worked with creative minds knows how long it takes to take the perfect picture…
Even if package holiday-makers won’t believe it – Greece is so much more than just beaches, taverns and a few neat ruins. In the first place, Greece is a sparsely populated, mountainous country. Quite mountainous even. Not only the highest peaks have almost 3000 metres; apart from a few plateaus, there’s are hardly plain fields here. Consequently, roads that lead you more several hundred metres straight ahead are an exception. Instead, there are numerous road ways and gravel trails and tracks winding through valleys, over ridges and across vast forests. Even the weather’s not always as Neckermann & Co. wants us to believe. There can be snow in high altitude areas till May, and rain during the springtime is no rarity. Accordingly, many of the course sections were eroded, and oftentimes we’ve been glad to travel in a group, so we’ve been able to help each other.
First Stage: Already on day 1, our riding skills had been tested. No wonder, as we were winding our way up the very same trails that are also part of the Hellas Rally, from Nafpaktos at the Corinthian Gulf up into the mountains. Before it led us into the backcountry, our path allowed us one last breathtaking view over the shimmering, blue sea.
To reach our destination for the day, the winter sports resort Kalavrita, we crossed spectacular plateaus, deep valleys on narrow paths, and passed small villages and – time and time again – tiny churches. These chapels in this solitary nature do not only have a sacral character, they have always served as refuge for lost wanderers. And to this day, it is officially permitted to camp near these special places, or look for shelter otherwise.
Second Stage: Also on the second day, the routing’s diversity left nothing to be desired. Beside the numerous sections on gravel, leading us through forests and canyons, we also had some mountain passes under our wheels. Incredibly steep and for the most part not wider than a car, they’re winding their way up into the sky. In the few villages we passed, the locals look curiously at these rare visitors. But most of the time, we saw no other human beings apart from a few shepherds, roaming the lonesomeness with their herds. Towards evening, rain set in and we were glad that the final metres of this stage were on asphalt.
Third Stage: .The third day’s track was, from the technical point of view, easy for all riders. In fact, it’s the serpentines, winding their way through the – some of them several hundred metres - deep chasms of the mountain world that had all our respect and required utmost concentration. And last but not least, we were always aware of this. Out here, already small damages on the motorcycle or even injuries can turn into a real problem. So we were always happy when we passed one of the few villages. If we could find a small Kafenion there, we gladly took the opportunity to chat with the friendly locals.
Here you’ll find reasonable travel equipment for your Honda Africa Twin CRF 1000 L (just click)
Fourth Stage: For this tour, we had decided to alternately camp and to spend the night in hotels. The little guesthouses and nice hotels along our route were always a welcome diversion for us; a chance to get our tired bones some rest. But of course it’s only a campfire in front of your tent while you’re camping in a riverbed that turns Adventure Country Track into a real adventure. In the mountains, wild camping isn’t a problem either. If a village is near, it’s recommended to ask the locals. In most cases, they won’t mind some enduro travellers raising their tents in their neighbourhood. Nonetheless, we all enjoyed the conveniences of a roof above our heads when we reached – worn-out after a demanding stage – the picturesque Plastiras reservoir.
Fifth Stage: After trails and tracks in abundance we were happy when we rode on asphalt at the afternoon of our last day in the wild mountains of Greece. Our destination was Monodendri, a very touristically developed place, as we have to admit. This is no surprise as Monodendri is located in the immediate vicinity of the Vikos Canyon, which is said to be one of the deepest in Europe. Despite of the numerous hotels and taverns, the place had managed to keep its charm. At a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius we enjoyed our last evening with cool ale under the plane trees on the village square. And we came to the following conclusion: the image of Greece that we had in mind had totally been skewed by travel brochures and other advertising messages. Nothing against a bath in the turquoise blue sea! But over the past five days, we got to know an entirely different Greece. A rough and lonesome country, a primordial country with cordial people – and a lot of room for adventure! Thanks to Adventure Country Tracks.
Our special thanks go to the film team of MotorradreiseTV Stefan Klabunde and Canan Gündogan, to trail and GPS mastermind Felipe Elias of Touratech Portugal as well as to Meletis Stamatis’ team, especially his “best man” Dionysis, and – last but not least – to the organising team Bea Jacimowitsch, Karin Birkel and Dominique Polk.