Sunday, 5 August 2012


By Sanne

Getting from Turkey into Greece was by far our fastest border crossing so far. The whole shebang took no more than 20 mins which is just insanely fast for us as we are used to wasting 2-3 hours on borders in Asia. It was just all so quick and efficient that once on the other side Mark and I looked at each other and went: was that really it? It surely can't be that easy?! No self-pronounced 'fixers' hanging around, no dodgy police men wanting money. Well, we definitely were not in Asia anymore! We were now in the EU and from now on we could look forward to plenty more straight forward border crossings. 

Our first night in Greece we camped at a beach on the Mediterranean Sea. We put our tent up in the sand dunes overlooking the beach. Not a bad spot at all. This was also our first dip in the Mediterranean. My oh my, how nice! Although Mark of course missed the waves, the water was magnificent. Crystal clear turquoise blue water and perfect temperature... This is what I remembered the Med being like.

The next day we headed into the second biggest city in Greece - Thessaloniki - where we had arranged to couch surf with Lefteris, a local guy and lucky for us a fellow biker. We met him at his house and he had prepared dinner for us. And what a dinner! Lefteris, there's a great chef lost in you! Mid-way through this feast Lefteris pulls out a bottle of something similar to Ouzo, I can't remember the name, let's just call it Rocket Fuel because that's how strong it was! The second I downed my shot I felt my whole face starting to burn with the fire radiating down into my throat! This lasted a few seconds and then it was gone. Now that is strong alcohol! I would imagine you wouldn't need too many of those before you end up on the floor.

Later that night Lefteris took us to see his friends who are motorcycle mechanics to get them to have a look at our long-suffering bikes. Achillas and Ioannis own this motorbike workshop called Adrenaline Junkies and within moments of meeting them they had diagnosed what the problem was with our bikes and one thing they were sure of was that neither of them would need a carburettor rebuild kit like we had been told in Istanbul! As it was Friday, we arranged to bring the bikes in on Monday morning and they were going to clear their schedule and concentrate on our bikes to get them running asap.

With that sorted we had the weekend free to relax and what better way to do this than to go camping! Lefteris, Mark and I packed up the bikes and headed to Halkidiki, a peninsula not far from Thessaloniki known for its brilliant beaches. On the way there we stopped in a little mountain village where Lefteris' family owns a house. What a pretty little village. We followed the narrow, cobblestoned streets up to the house where we chilled out for a bit, enjoying the cooler mountain air and the pretty surroundings. We chatted to some local older gentlemen, who found us both and our trip very interesting and one of them reminisced how he had once watched the movie 'Easy Rider'. When we got on our bikes and were about to leave, we hear this voice going: "This is for you!". We look up and there's old mate standing there with a ghetto blaster blaring out Steppenwolf's "Born to be wild"! I have never felt cooler and in that short moment in time I was Peter Fonda and Mark was my best friend Dennis Hopper!

The beach where we camped that night supposedly used to be very quiet, the operative word being used to. I have never seen so many tents except for at Roskilde Festival! It had obviously become very popular now but it was the weekend after all. It took us a bit to find a place to pitch our tent but we managed to squeeze them in between some other ones. As crowded as it was there, oh was it worth it. The beach was magnificent. More of that crystal clear, turquoise water. Perfect temperature. Nice. As it turns out, this used to be a nudist beach and although most of these have moved on and made way for families and young people with clothes, some hardcore ones have stayed behind to be, well, naked. Didn't bother me although Mark seemed a bit distracted (the prude).

We had a really cool weekend and were fully recharged for Monday morning when we showed up at the workshop. My bike was up first and after our experiences with mechanics in Turkey where sometimes we doubt if the work even had been done, we decided to stay there with the bikes and observe the work being done but also to learn. I will add however that we had full trust in Achillas and Ioannis from the very start, they seemed very professional and on top of that they specialised in working on Suzukis so we were pretty confident that our bikes were in safe hands. They had no problems with us staying and asking questions and we spent the next couple of days just hanging out in their cool workshop, soaking up their bike knowledge and using their wifi. My bike FINALLY got a new stator coil and battery (needed since Pakistan). What the mechanics in Istanbul took as the carburettors needing a rebuild was in fact just the carburettors needing a PROPER clean. The jets were so dirty and looked as if they hadn't been cleaned at all and Mark's carburettor hadn't been put back correctly with hoses in wrong places etc. Seems like those mechanics did a half-arsed job! But thanks to Achillas and Ioannis the bikes got worked on properly at last. After they had a good look over the bikes they also realised that they both needed new cam chains which were then replaced. We were extremely lucky that all the parts we needed were in stock. Mark's bike got new piston and rings which was the cause of his bike loosing oil. My number plate had finally snapped after thousands of nosy people through India, Pakistan and Iran had repeatedly touched and bent it! Half of it came off somewhere in Turkey and since then I had been riding with half a number plate which looked pretty dodgy. Instead of getting a new one sent out from Australia we went the easy option and got a replica made in Thessaloniki. It looks just as good as an original and is made out of plastic so shouldn't brake easily should I encounter more nosy people who feel it's their right to touch my things! The bikes needed a few other small odd jobs done to them after wear and tear from the trip and Achillas and Ioannis managed to fix those along with making a few other modifications to improve the performance of the bikes. In the end they even gave us some of their own store merchandise sporting their logo. They had been working until 3 o clock in the morning two nights in a row to finish our bikes for us and we were extremely appreciative of this. We can highly recommend these guys if anyone ever needs any work done in Greece or for that matter in Holland as Ioannis runs a workshop there too. Their website is: or We hope to catch up with Ioannis in Amsterdam later in the year.

Lefteris was a star letting us stay a few extra days than planned to get the work on the bikes done. He also helped us look into the Green Card which is the third party vehicle insurance you need for Europe. Our plan was to go through the Balkans but we soon realised that as they are not part of the EU it would cost us a fortune to buy insurance for each country on the border. Another problem was simply to get the insurance. No insurance company in Greece would insure us as we are foreigners and the same was true for Turkey when we looked into getting it from there. We did a lot of research and in the end found out that you can buy the green card insurance on the Bulgarian border for 1/3 of the price as elsewehere. This made us change our route from Balkans to instead head up through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria and then into Italy. We said our goodbyes to Lefteris and thanked him for all his help and with hopes that we will see him again some day. He will always be welcome in Australia. We then headed towards the Bulgarian border. We spent our last night in Greece camping at a lovely little lake. Greece had been great, people there really won us over. Despite the hardship they are going through at the moment Greek people really have a great spirit still. It is definitely a country I want to come back to some day. 

The Turkey-Greece border

First dip in the Mediterranean!

Camping in the dunes

Thermal springs outside Thessaloniki


Our CS host Lefteris' amazing homemade dinner for us

Us with Lefteris

Lefteris' family's house in the mountain


Sunset over Halkidiki

 My sad excuse of a numberplate

And the new and improved version

My bike on the operating table

My open carburettor

Ioannis and Mark

  The old and the much needed new stator coil

And Mark's bike getting some open heart surgery (piston and rings)

One new and one old sprocket

Us with the Adrenaline Junkies team

 Me and Lefteris

The White Tower (used to be the Red Tower from all the blood on the walls)

Our last night in Greece camping at Kerkini Lake

1 comment:

  1. I would have met you in Thess, only a 5 hour drive had I not already been somewhere else in Greece! ;-) It was so great to meet up with the both of you - what you are doing is incredibly inspiring!! xx