Conquering Greece – Day 1 : Thessaloniki to Nikiti

  • Weather: Sunny Departure: 11h00
  • Arrival: 18h30
  • Date: 31/07/15
  • Distance: 260km

Thessaloniki to Nikiti

Up bright and early, I showed up at the agency and took possession of my new two-wheeled companion on time. I knew the bike was an Honda Varadero 125 and I was pretty excited about it since I had owned one a few years back. I had taken this bike across Europe so I knew very well that despite its small engine, it was capable and comfortable enough for the long journey to come.

My rideShe was not in the greatest of shape though, with 75k on the counter and a roughed up body, I quickly noticed that she was an earlier model than the one I was familiar with. A carburated model and a picky one for that matter. Nevertheless, once the engine got warm, everything was fine so I took off, made a stop at a motorcycle shop to buy gloves and hit the road.

For the first couple of hours, progress was slow. I was taking back country roads, signage was poor and the riding (at 38C) was far from enjoyable. I was actually starting to wonder if there would be anything to write about this day.

And then I crashed.

I was following the highway on a service road in a bad state of disrepair, but at least there was no trafic to deal with. I went up a steep hill and as soon as I was on the other side, I noticed to my horror that the road about 50 meters down was completely flooded and proceeded to do an emergency braking procedure. I had so little distance that I applied maximum pressure, but due to the gravel on the road and the downhill slope, the bike started to slide. I released and hit the brakes again. More sliding. Soon, I lost control and dropped the bike while both she and I continued sliding for a couple more meters. her on the right side, me on the right knee. We managed to stop ten meters short of the river. I got up, swore profusely, made sure nothing was broken (on me) and got the bike up on its stand. My jeans were torn and exposing a pretty deep gash on the right kneecap, my left calf was scratched all over but otherwise, I was ok. The motorcycle got out with a bent brake pedal and a scratched fairing but was in working order.

Not bad I thought after having calmed down a bit. I took a glance at the river. It appeared deep. Too deep to ford and anyway, I was going too fast. If it was not for my fall, I would have most likely crashed in the water and ruined the bike for real. Going down in this case was the best option.

The damageI normally would have stayed longer to collect my thoughts and maybe take a couple of pictures for posterity, but the sun was pounding on me and the air was barely breathable. I had to get the wind going again. Some kilometers later, I finally found a bit of shade and stopped to have a cigarette, tank my water canteen and treat my wounds. Was a fall really the only course of action I thought? In this situation, yes. But a good driver will simply never get himself into that sort of mess in the first place. This accident was avoidable. My mistake had been to assume that the road was fine on the other side of the hill. Never make assumptions I reminded myself, that’s one of the key principles of defensive driving.

Slightly mad and still shaken, I made it for the highway and in little time reached the dive shop in Nikiti. Everyone was out diving, so I refilled on water, ate some sandwiches. Decided on not letting this incident ruin my day of riding, I jumped on the bike and headed for the peninsula. The road was excellent and the views magnificent, hairpin turns in mountains and slaloming bends along the coast. This 2 hour ride brought back the peace in me.

Awesome motorcycling road

Awesome motorcycling road

Once back in Nikiti, I entered the shop and got annoyed looks from what appeared to be the owners. They knew about my arrival but their welcome was anything but warm. I inquired about a room and got a rude reply that the cheapest option was 30 Euros. Expensive but given the location, I could not hope for anything more affordable. Félix, a French instructor that worked there offered  to take me to the house where the room was, informing me while walking to the car that the owners were Bulgarian which explained their apparent rudeness while in reality they were being friendly.

Once there, I was informed that there had been a misunderstanding and that the room was occupied. This greatly compromised my stay here as I had check on the web and there was nothing below 80 Euros in this resort town (popular with Bulgarians and Serbians). Félix right away understood the situation I was in and kindly offered me a place in his tiny apartment, which I promptly accepted under the condition that the beers would be on me that night. It had been a while since he had had someone to speak French with so I think for that reason alone he would have appreciated my company, but since we shared many common interests, we got along great.

Earlier today, I had seriously considered the idea of driving back to Thessaloniki and return the bike, but I don’t yield to fear, it’s just there to be overcome.

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