Just one more day of riding, and then I'd be awaiting the boat the would bring me to the other side of the sea I was now walking in. The other side, where also the country of my dreams happened to be.
But yet again, I was ready too early. That early in fact, that the proprietor hadn't risen yet. So I had to wait. For 20 minutes. Oh well.
When the owner finally saw the light of day at 7.10am, it was time to proceed. And the road was quite... depressing. Endless straight wasteland territory. Burnt fields, that had a stench draped over it making you wonder what the hell was on there in the first place.
And it also smelled of cheese for some reason.
But cheese grows on cows, right?
Over here you can see some more Greek tarmac, glistening in the sun. I always proceeded with extra caution whenever a city road looked like this.
Or like this.
The highway to Brindisi was quite fun, actually. I mean, there hardly were any corners, but left and right I got people giving me the thumbs up from their cars. It's quite fitting how much better such a little gesture made me feel after riding through pretty much the worst landscape so far.
And after some divine intervention...
... I was in Brindisi, at 10am. My hotel was on a quite remote part of town (and when I say remote I mean: there's-only-industry-in-a-2-mile-radius remote), but I had everything I could wish for. One of the hosts asked where I came from, when I walked towards the reception. 'Ollanda? A moto? Ahhh bella!!'
When I'd put all the gear in the room, I just sat on the edge of my bed... and shed a few manly tears. After 3 years and thousands of miles, I was now so close to Greece I could almost smell it (despite the earlier stench, that is).
That evening I met a group of Dutch guys on a trip through Italy. Now, I can't tell you how nice it was to hear a familiar language after days of struggling with Italians (who don't speak English 9 times out of 10). I'd come to feel like a Martian because of that, but now I could revert back to being human.
I took a rest day to collect the data from the cam, make a start on the editing the compilation (which is done by the way - I'll post it at the very end of the ride report) and think about the ferry that awaited me. I knew the Beast was as ready as ever... but was I?
I just decided to run with it. The 29th, the hotel kicked me out without any prior notice because guests 'could arrive'. I had to wait until 4pm, but 11am I was already out and about. The hotel was cleaning their restaurant, so basically, I had nowhere to go but the ferry terminal. Customer service, it's an underrated concept.
As a result I had to wait there, at the terminal, for hours in searing heat, waiting for the gates to the ferry to open. And ofcourse, I got bored.
So... how you like my impersonation of Ed from the Lion King?
Eventually though, I got aboard. The two kilos worth of ratchetstraps I'd brought almost 3000 kilometres weren't needed - I put The Beast on its centre stand, it was strapped down by deckhands...
...I took a few pictures...
...and after I was told not to do that (they whistled at me and walked over to probably tell me to remove the images, but then they saw my numberplate and all was well), I went to the living deck leaving the Beast behind. Almost there now, buddy.
As the sun set, the boat left the harbour. Thank you Italy, it was great fun.
Now, the ferry was an experience on its own. It doesn't work like the ferries that sail the North Sea for example. On the Adriatic, they cram as many people as they possibly can on the ship, and sail to the other side. There were people sleeping in every nook and cranny you can imagine. The lobby, the restaurant, the hallways, even the outside deck where I took the above picture.
I felt guilty about having a cabin all to myself. It was quite the culture shock.
I used the main part of the 8 hour sail to get some sleep, as I probably needed it on the days to come. I didn't expect to get any though, but despite this, I was awakened hours later by a heavy Italian accent through the ship's intercom telling everyone we were entering the Greek harbor of Igoumenitsa.
The moment I'd thought about for years was now finally upon me.
I moved to the deck where the Beast was eagerly awaiting me. Apparently, I was not the only biker on board, as the Beast had been bricked in by other fully luggaged motorbikes (and scooters, because there were Italians on board too).
The problem was ofcourse: getting out. I had to leave the ferry through the same door as I'd entered, so I needed to turn around. But in order to do that, there were at least 3 other motorcyclists which needed to leave first.
And predictably the last one that needed to leave didn't come. So there I was, 50 metres away from Greece, everyone else had left but I couldn't go anywhere because, apparently, an Italian and his girlfriend had overslept themselves.
So I had to wait, in scorching heat and deafening noise that eventually forced me to put my earplugs in. Murphy... don't you love his practical jokes?
But eventually, mercifully, the Italians arrived. And after making a 460-point turn, I lined the Beast up to disembark.
And there's nothing like it, riding onto shore, and suddenly finding yourself outside customs and inside the country you've dreamt of seeing for as long as you can remember. I just couldn't believe it, it was so surreal.
I pulled over, and woke up the locals in celebration.
(complete footage of the disembarkment will be in the trip compilation, by the way)
I would be staying the night with Angelos, whom I'd got into contact with through ADVrider. He'd texted me earlier saying I should call him as soon as I'd arrived, so he could pick me up.
And so he did - we made a stop at a bakery so I could eat something, after which he kindly offered me his own bed to sleep in while he slept on the couch.
Welcome to Greece.