Thursday, September 23, 2010

Birds Beasts and Relatives.

This is the title of a book by the late Gerald Durrell whose brother Lawrence also wrote in one way or another about Greece. Gerald spent his formative years in Corfu before WW2 where his curious and acquisitive nature lead him to collect all manner of wildlife.  He recounts his adventures in  books called My Family and Other Animals and the sequel Birds Beast and Relatives.  For many years these had been the only two books that I had read ( apart from 97 out of 98 Biggles books ).

This is the corpse of beast  no.1 found in  Mrs Nikos' kitchen sink - we gave it a christian burial.
This is beast no.2 taking residence on my motorcycle and shocking me considerably.  Mrs Nikos called it a grass hopper - I called it a ******* locust.

Beass no. 3: This is a fine example of οδηγημένη ψύλλος γάτα εστιατορίων
Beast no.4:  Goat - Camila sex it please - I am obviously incapable.
Now that I have finished with the beasts I intend to deal with the relatives and other strange or curious things  found in Greece this year:

The newest member of our family - Ginger el Greco, found abandoned 4 houses down the road.
Mrs Nikos aka αυτή που φορά το παντελόνι
  Next I would like to illustrate how confusion may easily set in whilst shopping in local supermarkets.

This is not meths.
This stuff has the same effect as meths if misused.
Essex  appears to be the number one brand of soap powder in Greece!
The crowing glory of this summer trip has to be the ability to produce shaky and poor quality video clips that are seemingly impossible to edit on my stone age equipment of journeys on Greek roads.  I have seen some very good advice shared by fellow bloggers and chose to do my own thing.

This is a flight deck ("cockpit" Camilla) view of the standard solid state video cam mounted on the mirror stem with those ball joint thingys.  The wire leads to the remote control....

....that is craftily mounted on the right hand mirror stem.  You don't get this superior functionality with Hero cams!

And finally a quiz.

Question 1:  What is the diameter of the drive shaft (to the nearest 0.2 mm) of this Yamaha micro Tenere?

Question 2: What in three words do these road signs found commonly on the verges of Greek roads near road side shrines signify?

That's all for now folks.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's the Greek for "where is the nearest argon arc welder ?"

The answer is "πού είναι ο κοντινότερος οξυγονοκολλητής τόξων αργού;", according to Babelfish.  By preference, I would have used the 3rd person singular of the verb to exist, viz "υπάρχει", somewhere in there.

Here's a trick shot involving a pineapple and my bike at the beach.
 Nothing has been planned in advance - we are in the land of spontaneity.  it's a nice day so we ride south along the coast  towards Leonidho to find the fresh water lake just past Aghia Anastasia latterly turned into a nature reserve with EU funding.  This comprises a car park with a poor surface, some defaced boards displaying wild life information but no tea room.

A dramatic view of Paralia Astros in the background.
The KKE have been issuing spray cans by the look of it - EU funding is apparently not now welcome by these born again Trotskyists.
On the way back to Mrs Nikos Towers mountain retreat we pop into the monastery at Iera Moni Loukous for a quick coffee and chat with Mother Popi about world affairs.  It's good to find a monastery with non-commercial pretensions and the seven nuns here busy themselves with horticulture and entertaining the odd visitor.  The two coffees and turkish delight were paid for by the  €1 purchase of a candle to place in the chapel in the best traditions.

A traveller should never be turned away from a proper monastery - but we must mostly cover bare skin - the wearing of shoes is actually encouraged.

I could fill the blog up with pictures of this tranquil beautiful monastery but we are transgressing from the argon arc welder theme too much.
The next morning over breakfast Mrs Nikos surveys the valley below and the mountains beyond and declares that she wants to explore there.  I rush for the Garmin GPS and maps and waste time planning a route - It's the triumph of hope over experience in these lands and Mrs Nikos says "nah* - we just ride through the village and turn right down that track over there!" - she points to a goat track that snakes in a descending spiral around the adjacent mountain . I delay the preparations as much as possible hoping for some natural cataclysm  to prevent the trip.
 *she actually said "nein"

Unfortunately hell did not freeze over and here we are lost down some goat track.  The eagle eyed observer will note the caption on the GPS says "driving on road" but sometimes this randomly changed too "proceed to road". The term road is pejorative.

έχουμε φθάσει -We have arrived at somewhere
 So I had a crash course in riding off road a fully laden (sorry dear) 400kg  motorcycle down dirt tracks and up dirt tracks and through winding narrow concrete paved village streets with goats and shepherds (we met Manoli near home on a 1 in 3 track and Mrs N had a good chat whilst I burnt the clutch out).  When we finally "hit asphalt" I whooped with joy and I drove back to Mrs Nikos Towers with that feeling one gets in a tennis match when winning 40 - love last game final set.  Except it never works out does it?

The result of practical application of incompetence or was it incontinence - spelling has never been my strength

On the two previous occasions when I have ridden directly up to Mrs Nikos Towers, I rode solo  - the entrance is formidable and  requires a deft 180degree turn on gravel covered broken concrete with a 1 in 3 rise upto the parking place - most cars going up there do so on only 3 wheels due to the topography. Now I was 40 love up so giving it gas I swung round without dropping off Mrs Nikos   (aka as "auto steer") from pillion, put my left foot down to stabilise the turn and discovered that due to the inviolate laws of Euclid my left leg would have needed to be 4 feet longer than normal to provide any stabilsing effect.  I think therefore I dropped the bike. I dropped Mrs Nikos after all (the rear pannier box provided protection) but the rear left footpeg cast aluminum mounting plate was broken - I started to sip tsiporro on the rocks and concluded that a skilled argon arc welder could join this back on before the ice melted.

On the way to Tripolis to find a BMW dealer or at least a welder with the correct equipment, we find this old chap - at least 20 years old (just count the concentric rings and multiply by 2π).

We find a motorcycle dealer in Tripolis who confirms that the nearest BMW agent is some unspecified distance away and responds when I ask whether he could order the part with the Greek shrug  and the tutting vertical motion of the jaw "ees deeeefeeeecult" (  "θέλω να έχω το μεσημεριανό γεύμα και να κάνω την αγάπη στην"). We discuss welding. Kindly, he leads us through town at break neck speeds on the BMW F650GS to a welding shop.  The man at the welding shop responds with the Greek shrug  and the tutting vertical motion of the jaw "ees deeeefeeeecult -eeemmpossseeble- ees magneeeeesium" ("έχει τα μεγάλα στήθη - πρέπει να αρμέξω την αίγα μου").

This is the main square of Tripoli - there is probably a considerable amount of EU tax payer's money being spent here,
 Mrs Nikos says that she does not need a foot rest anyway - I say yes you do.  I hatch up a cunning plan and use my ingenuity and considerable training, skill and experience as a self taught son of a self taught Ottoman Greek botch it merchant (aka another chip off the old Turkish delight).

We visit Mr Marcardes at Meligou - the sort of hardware store that stocks trunnion adapters for Nero's offside chariot wheel - if only they could find it.

This kit of parts....
...assembles thus:  A rear foot rest is born from 8mm stud, garden hose, washers and self locking nuts. Mark Evans please may I have your job?
Who needs a welder anyway?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Getting There

Mrs Nikos and I  had ridden from England to Germany on the BMW - the second part of the journey onto Greece needed careful planning and cunning due to the limited holiday days - this required a blitzkrieg approach with 14 hours to get to Ancona Italy through Switzerland to pick up the high speed ferry to Patras Greece.
Waiting for the ladies to get ready.
 Whilst it would have been nice to ride all the way we needed to transport my Mother in Law so a dual car-bike coupled approach was adopted using a trailer (and a car obviously).

It's 2am so we must be in Switzerland?
When we checked in for the ferry at Ancona we were warned that the sailing would be late due to the incoming ship being completely full mostly with German Turks returning from their holidays back to Germany (there's irony there somehow?).  

Waiting at Ancona quayside.
We strolled around Ancona in the humid heat to find lunch in the main (and only) square.

The ferry arrived 1hour late and took 2 hours to unload.  The procedure appeared to involve dispensing all the car passengers onto the small quay side before the trucks and finally the cars.  This meant that a mass of milling humanity  effectively prevented efficient off-loading of all the vehicles.

The ferry reverses in
Chaos of the illogical unloading procedure.  Why could these people not drive out in their vehicles?

The journey to Greece is best done by cruising the Adriatic.  In past times we used to catch the ferry from Brindisi but following  the debacle in the Balkans many new high speed ships are available from the Northern Italian ports of Ancona and Venice.

We are now on the ANEK Lines m/f Hellenic Spirit a 9 year old Norwegian built high speed ferry appointed to cruise ship standards and able to cruise at 32 mph.
It's deck class for us hardy souls.
We'd rather spend the €s on the meatballs than a cabin.
The spectacular Rion-Antirion bridge linking North and South Greece near our  destination Patras
We never take a cabin - Mother in Law saw the documentary film about the sinking of the Estonia.  I keep explaining that due to similar tradegies in the Aegean sea Greek ferries now never have bow doors (but to no avail).

Unloading the bike from the cleverly designed Motolug trailer - we have arrived at Mrs Nikos Towers after a 1,500 mile journey across Europe.
The holiday really begins now that we have ridden down the mountain to the beach at Astros Paralia.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Was machen Sie da, Herr Nikos?

If you really want to know, I'm sitting on one of my motorcycles  high up in the mountains of Southern Greece with a damp arse trying to look as pleasant as possible, after all I'm on holiday. By the way the roads in Greece turn to soap when it rains and my shoes are barely gripping the asphalt * from the Greek η άσφαλτος είναι shit.
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