The African Challenge | Europe – Greece and Albania
The first day in Greece began with an unusual icy morning, with temperatures around 3 degrees, with snow all over the mountains. On top of that we had to walk to the bus in the cold rain, so when we stopped for breakfast we did not even feel our hands.
Arriving in Athens, with a very inviting time to stroll, we began to settle in a friendly hotel with a very inviting price, about 15 euros per night. The only minus was the area where the hotel was, a bit badly frequented. Anyway, you can not have everything.
After the check-in, we walked to the famous acropolis of Athens to visit the famous Parthenon and all that emblematic hill surrounded by monuments with more than 2000 years. After taking dozens of photos taking advantage of the fantastic late afternoon light, we drove once again through the famous neighborhood that surrounds the acropolis, Plaka, until we found a supermarket where we made food purchases to face our voracious appetite and the lack of money, from where we then went to the hotel to rest.
The next day, as the laziness already accumulates, we dragged ourselves through the hotel until the wee hours of the afternoon, more concretely until 16 o’clock, which meant that when we decided to go visit a little more of Athens we had to walk to run, but we still managed to climb the Lykarditos viewpoint, with the chapel of St. George on top. The climb is difficult, but the view is well worth the effort. From there we can see the imposing acropolis and the whole city of Athens at our feet, stretching along the valley. Also fantastic view of the sea and the port of the Piraeus, where our bikes should have arrived long ago, were it not for the bad weather. In the meantime we have been able to take many excellent photos and remind us that these trips should be taken to the maximum. The next day we decided to finalize the border insurance to be ready as soon as the bikes arrived. But we still had to wait.
AND ON THE TWELFTH SECOND DAY THE WAIT IS ENDED!
Euphoric by the news of the arrival of our motorcycles, we started to the port of discharge of automobiles. How we miss seeing these our companions. As soon as we started the engines, they said yes, which gave us great joy because there was always a risk that the batteries had come to life. It was time to load things in a hurry and move on to a tire shop, where PEDRO changed the mixed tires for its road tires.
Now it was the turn of camping. After many days in Athens in hotels and the budget was already tight, we had nothing left but to camp, which would not be easy given the temperatures close to zero. But it’s part of the experience.
We drove for about 85 kilometers looking for a good place to camp when we found a gas pump with a contiguous two-story building that was under construction but abandoned, which seemed like a good place to camp. We asked the gas pump man if we could do “camping”, and behold the response was a harsh “NO!”. Well, we thought we’d have to look elsewhere. But to our surprise, he decided to make a phone call to his brother, apparently to speak in English with us, who immediately told the bomber what we wanted and that he would respond to our request. He did so, for our joy.
After that, we set up the tents and immediately took shelter of the intense frost that was felt, then starting the confection of our dinner. However, the cold was such that we had to head back to our gas pump friend to ask if he would let us cook at the pump reception. The gentleman, now sympathetic, invited us immediately to use the kitchen of service of the station. He also gave us the opportunity to meet the whole family, with whom we had a long time to fraternize.
Then it was time to face the tent and the negative temperatures from the outside, an adventure that we did well. About 9 o’clock in the morning we woke up towards Meteora in northern Greece. In the middle we passed snow-laden landscapes. Around 16 hours there we arrived in this city, deciding to end the day, staying this time for a hostel.
The next day dawned rather coldly, but nothing that would make us slow down after several days of rest. There we made the road, road with lots of ice, which led us to progress very carefully. Then, advised by some motorcyclists, we decided to start the descent to take the national road that would take us to Albania, which was only 130 kilometers away.
After thousands of miles in Africa any distance here is a joke. By these bands the biggest challenge ends up being the cold that is felt, with roads covered with snow, where the attention has to be more than doubled.
Arrived at the Albanian border there we did all the formalities and we entered next in a country unknown and warned by many because of the corruption. Despite these warnings, shortly after we entered Albania we were approached by a young man, with a good look, who told us to follow him that he would take us to a hotel to stay (without asking him anything). We sent the councils to hell and went after the boy. Upon arrival at the hotel he introduced us to his family and quickly realized that the hotel would be a family run business. They even offered to send us pizza, which we accepted immediately.
One more day, and we continue our journey. With the kilometers to pass the snow disappeared, although we are still in the mountain zone, but with temperatures around 15 degrees.
There we arrived in Tirana, with some confusion in the traffic, but without the African aggressiveness. In fact, contrary to all the reports and expectations, we find in Albania a very quiet and friendly country. A few kilometers ahead we reached the border with Montenegro, super quiet and where we were allowed to pass without any resistance. We still thought we would hit Croatia this time, but the time was not long enough and we decided to go in the next day.