BMW R1200GSA vs Moto Guzzi Stelvio NTX

Friday, 3 August 2012

We finally get to Mount Tzoumerka, and the Horizons Unlimited meeting.

26, 27, and 28/7/12

How can you be so dog tired and still not sleep? Last night I felt the way you do when you've been on a boat all day and even some time after you get off, you feel like you're still moving. I was riding my bike in bed all night. Up, down, left, right. I didn't feel refreshed at all when I got up.

Our early start this morning was thwarted when we went down stairs for breakfast and found that we lost an hour entering Greece. It didn't matter as we surely must only have about thirty kilometres to go. OK, let's go and play mountain goats again. 

I'm sure there is a line in there somewhere about mucking around in fountains.

We left the hotel at about ten thirty with some very simple instructions. Turn left, follow the road, then turn right at the church. Follow the road up to the camp. We can do that. We rode down the road for about a hundred metres and there was a large Horizons Unlimited banner at the turn off. We'd ridden twelve hours the day before and stopped a hundred metres short of our destination. 

Well, a hundred metres, and three kilometres of the worst dirt road we've encountered this trip. It was pretty bad to start with, then the local council in their wisdom dumped a whole lot of fresh gravel on the road before the event to "help" the motorcyclists. Now this gravel isn't like ours, it lumpy limestone, with lots of large chunks. Pile this deep on an up hill, hairpin bend, throw in a lot of overloaded motorcycles, and you know what's going to happen. We made it to the top unscathed, more through luck than skill, and with two very close calls. Suzanne was in tears when we got to the top. She's been bloody tough this trip, so I guess it was a little unnerving. (Wait til she reads that line). I told everyone that the tears in her eyes were from the wind as I was going so fast up the track. She insists she's walking back down and won't be coming anywhere near the bike til it's back on bitumen. Quite a few people came unstuck on the way in and fell off. A few of the savvy guys cleared a lot of the loose rocks off the hairpins, but it was still a very tricky ride. Especially if you were on a road bike or inexperienced. It was a perfect way to finish our challenge. Having said that one guy rode his Vespa PX200 up there with no problems at all.

Me riding solo on the way back down the mountain, while Suzanne enjoyed the comfort (and safety) of a car ride with Dimitris.

We're finally here. Yahbloodyhooo! We crawled off the bike and were welcomed at sign in by Dimitris. Now I have to admit I have my first man crush. Dimitris is Greek, but speaks absolutely perfect, well educated, Cambridge (I think) University English. He is a pleasure to listen to and should be a movie star. I was happy to sit and listen to him talk any time. The girls all seemed to like him for some reason as well. We signed in and set up camp, then sat down for a well deserved drink. Well, we signed in and sat down for a drink, then set up camp about an hour later. Suzanne picked the best place for our tent out of the whole area. Our tent was so well shaded that we only had sun on it for about half an hour a day. It was petty hot so that was a big plus.

The driveway to our new home (for a few days). This was easy after the ride up to the camp.

Our back yard was a little crowded, but we made do.

Our home for the weekend, and my little home maker.

These spiky little buggers are everywhere, and they really are spiky.

The camp area at Mount Tzoumerkas is a refuge. This means it is a stop for hikers and climbers when they tackle the area. It's a pretty nice place but only offers basic facilities - that is, only two cold showers. Can someone please explain to me why, when it's 35 degrees, I still squeal like a school girl when I step into a cold shower. Anyway, we set up camp and settled in. Then the fun started.

Camp Tzoumerka. The scene of a lot of fun, the presentation area, the preparation area for a large amount of tasty food, and the source of all things alcoholic.

There was a camp dog. Zara was so chilled out that I suspect she has a secret stash of dope plants that she chews on.

Meet Zara.

Early on the first night Suzanne painted the Horizons Unlimited logo on Joel. It was a big hit and cameras came from everywhere with a swag of shots being taken. Thanks for being a good sport Joel.

Suzanne at work on Joel. We think Joel had a future in modelling.

The finished product. Suzanne is evaluating some new paint for a manufacturer and isn't overly happy with the result. Check out the background though.

Joel and Taz are a couple from Canada who are travelling on a pair of Kawasaki KLR250 Super Sherpas. They are a little different to us in that they are travellers who are riding motorcycles, not motorcyclists who are travelling. It's really good to get a different perspective on something you are very close to as it often opens your eyes to things you haven't seen before.

When darkness fell the presentations began. We had to wait for dark so we could see the Power Point presentations. What a great night. We had travel stories from all sorts of people from all around the world. Some of the presentations were in Greek, so one of the English speaking Greeks sat with us mono lingual people and translated. No one asked, it just happened. I'd love to tell you about each and every presentation, but it would take hours and hours. There were funny stories, entertaining stories, and a few sad stories.

During the day there were lots of things to do. There were rides to local sights. There were training schools on anything from what tools to take with you, to changing tyres, or how to ride off road. Or there was relaxing and just soaking up the atmosphere. We did a lot of relaxing.

Oh, and the food. We were so well catered for, in quality and quantity. It was exceptional.

This was one day's lunch for Suzanne and I.

If you are into motorcycles and travelling try and get along to a Horizons Unlimited meeting. They are held all over the world so the chances are there will be one near you. Suzanne and I are thinking on holding one in Perth when we get back. I suspect if we do it will have a very strong Greek flavour. We might have to hold it in Fremantle.

This went on for three nights, so information overload was the order of the meeting. Then there are the people you meet there. What a bloody fantastic bunch. We were lucky enough to get to know quite a few people well, and met some people far to briefly. We can only hope that our paths cross again and we can get to know each other better. I'd love to name names, but if I did I would only leave someone out and every single person there deserves recognition. The only person I will name is my new friend Thodoris. Thodoris worked all weekend looking after everyone with drinks and food. He was tending bar on the second night and after the presentations finished around two am we spent many hours solving the worlds problems. A bit after four am we had it pretty much sorted and called it a night. The only problem was that there was no one taking notes so all that hard work went to waste. Bummer. Thanks for the drinks, and thanks for the company, it was a true pleasure meeting you Thodoris. He was a top bloke when I was sober as well.

Yes, Thodoris, the sun was very bright in the morning.

Thank you so much Dimitris for organising a wonderful meeting. Suzanne and I had a fantastic time, and so did every other person I spoke to over the course of the weekend. I can only imagine how big it will be next year.

Some quotes from the weekend:

"There is another choice, for every one of us." Alex, about life.

"It's very uncomfortable" Joel, about travelling on a small bike.

"Two bikes looked like two dogs sniffing each other" Dimmi, KTM rider from Greece.

"Motul 2T gives you 90,000 km out of a Vespa PX200 piston." Crazy Greek guy who rode a PX200 the the meeting. I told him that in Australia we'd call him a "crazy bastard" and he looked offended and asked why. I had to explain that it was a compliment.

I'll finish of by saying something that will only mean something to people who were there.

" good for the eyes."

I hope our travels bring us together again somewhere guys. What a truly amazing and inspiring bunch of people. Thanks for having us and making us feel so welcome.

Where's Rex's Buff?

I had to put Polytimi in this post. Polytimi is a very accomplished off road rider and has a BMW R800GS. Big deal you say. Yes, it is a big deal. Polytimi has owned her GS for eighteen months, and has put 48,000 km on it! Oh yes, she's tall, slim, gorgeous, and has a full time job as well. How does that make you feel guys? (And Harley riders?)

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