Two things happened today. The first is that I became a true devotee of my superb motorcycle and its incredible abilities. The second is that my GPS and I are getting divorced. And yes, those two facts are indeed linked.
I woke this morning to the sound of the most incredibly loud cicadas rasping their racket through my window. I rolled over trying to get back to sleep when the ‘loud and proud’ rooster from hell started. I got up and had a shower.
My plan for today was to ride to Tsagarada and locate the villa that my wife and friends are staying in when they arrive on Friday. On the way there I would take the low road skimming round the outskirts of Volos and on the way back, the high road in the mountains. And that, my friends, was the plan.
I departed at nine before the heat of the day. The first twenty minutes went completely according to plan, then the GPS asked me to take a left off the main road. Before following its instruction I stopped and looked down the road in question
“Fuck that!” I mumbled under my breath. It looked like the kind of thing solely reserved for goats, so steep it simply looked like a drop and with a surface of loose stones and dirt. I decided to continue on the main road for a bit to see what happened next. The next road the GPS asked me to turn down looked much better so I took its advice and turned. It didn’t take long for me to realise that this road was simply punishment for not taking the one earlier. Within one hundred yards it became so steep and narrow that I was committed. I made my way around a slight right curve to find a van had completely blocked my path. I managed to stop my bike on what must have been a forty-degree slope. Holding both the front and rear brakes to stop it sliding I looked around and wondered what to do next. The van looked like it had been there for a while and wasn’t going anywhere, it was the same width as the track so getting past was not an option. To the left of the van there was a house and to the right there was a bit of rough ground that was so steep and bumpy that it wasn’t even worth considering. I let loose with my horn and waited. Nothing.
“Hello!” I shouted in an attempt to get some help. Still nothing.
“Well, it looks like it’s just you and me again old girl. Sorry about this.” I said as I realised this was not going to have a pretty ending. I kept the back brake locked and slowly released the front just enough to allow me to steer the the bike to the right. I was hoping this would enable me to perform some kind of weird u-turn but instead the bike just slid. I slammed on the front brake but on the loose dirt the bike just slid and continued over the edge.
In that horrific instant, when I realised I was going down ‘the quick way’, I found myself so completely consumed by terror that even the most vulgar of exclamations were completely impossible. I grabbed hard on the handlebars and we literally flew down the drop.
To say the ride down was messy would be an underestimation of the most enormous proportions. It didn’t take long before the bike and I were hurtling down the hill completely out of control. We hit a hump in the ground and was immediately sent skywards. Moments later we landed with a bloody great clattering thud. Controlling the bike was completely out of the question with every bump sending us off in a different direction. After one particularly violent bump I found us heading straight for the roof an old wooden barn. Just as I was resigned to end my days in the barn the bike miraculously changed direction and we shot onto the road below. I grabbed for the brakes and skidded to a stop. I just about managed to get the side stand down and literally slipped off the bike onto the floor.
“Jesus fucking Christ Almighty!” I exclaimed as I shook from the shock.
I’d only gone and fucking made it! And what’s more, I’d made it without leaving any traces of my bowels in my pants. When I attempted to stand I found that I was shaking so badly that I decided to sit there for a while longer. After ten minutes or so I started feeling better and checked the bike over, I expected to find quite a bit of damage but, other than a reasonably sized dent in my thick aluminium sump guard and a few scuffs here and there it looks like we got away with it.
When I got back on my bike I found that, in the heat of the moment, my tank bag had flown off which contained my iPad, camera, phone, wallet, passport and all sorts of other essentials. I traced my tracks and found my tank bag by the landing site of the first large hump. Everything seems okay but for the zip on the tank bag which was pulled open and now won’t close but that’s not really a problem. I consider that a very close shave!
Before Setting off again I calmly removed my GPS from my handle bars and placed it in my tank bag. I knew I needed to head in an easterly direction so I pulled out the compass from my tank bag and took a bearing. I looked for a landmark that was in the right direction and spotted a hill with a funny shaped top in the distance and headed towards it.
From this point forward the ride to Tsagarada was most pleasant. The good quality roads wiggled their way down to the beech where I found them deserted with a single fishing boat bobbing up and down a few hundred yards out. We then made our way up into the mountains and meandered ever closer to our destination. The bike purred along along pleasantly in the knowledge that directions were coming from me and not the bloody minded GPS. It wasn’t long before I spotted a sign for Tsagarada and before I knew it I was passing a nice cafe with parking right outside. I pulled up and switched the bike off. To my amusement, in the silence I heard the GPS asking me to ‘turn around when possible’. I smiled and ignored it completely.
In my haste to get out before the heat of the day I’d left without having my morning coffee, this combined with my near death experience of flying down the slope of doom completely out of control had left me with a headache from hell. What I needed was caffeine. I placed my order.
“Kalimera, Two double espresso’s please and a bottle of water.” It turned out that the waiter, Nick, was also a biker and had taught music theory in England.
“You don’t want a hot coffee really?” He asked. The alternative was something called a Fredo Espresso which is large, frothy, cold and very refreshing. I had two. And a Snickers ice cream. And a large bottle of water. And a few paracetamol.
By the time I’d reach the villa that my wife and mates were going to be staying in my headache was almost gone. I rode past and continued down to the end where there is a wonderful view of the sea and, if you want to clamber down, a nice beach. Still feeling a little shaky I decided not to go any further and set about finding my way back.
On the way back I wanted to take the high road over the mountains so thought about the direction I needed to travel in and followed my nose. Before I knew it I was riding through the village of Kissos which meant my sense of direction was perfect. Who needs a bloody GPS eh?
I made it back without issue and indulged myself with another wonderfully cold shower. I tried a different restaurant for dinner and looked through the menu. After my rude awakening this morning I opted for the ‘Rooster with potato’. It got the last laugh though as it was tough as hell and not particularly tasty. You live and learn.
Now to join my hotelier for a nice scotch or two as the sun descends on a day I survived against all the odds. Hic!