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Week 11: Pompeii, Rome and Pisa

I have been travelling for just over 11 weeks and am currently in northern Italy. Since my last post I have visited Pompeii, Rome and Pisa. Pompeii was a strange place to visit, it is a lot bigger than I expected and I got a little bored after a while because all the interesting things, like the casts of dead people, were in one place. The rest of the town is just empty ruined buildings, which was nice, but I got the idea quite quickly. I had planned to camp near Pompeii, but when I found out it was more expensive to camp there than it was to stay in the hostel in Naples, I decided to go back to the hostel.

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After a few days in Naples I travelled up to Rome, I stayed in a hostel very close to the Colosseum and visited as many places as I could. I enjoyed Rome, but it was different to what I thought it would be like. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t what I found there. I had a great time though and enjoyed wandering through the streets and squares seeing all the statues and fountains, even if I had to put up with the crowds of tourists.

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During my last couple of days in Rome I was sharing a room with a group of three Turkish guys. They were really friendly and we spent some time exploring the streets together and visited the Vatican. I’m in no way religious, so the Vatican may not have had the same attraction for me as it did the hundreds of other people that were visiting, but I enjoyed climbing up all the steps to the top of the dome and looking out over Rome.

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From Rome I had a long ride up the coast to Pisa, This was a great ride, probably because I chose to avoid the motorways. The views were great, driving through small coastal towns and villages, driving on small roads overlooking the sea and lots of tunnels. Pisa is a small town and there isn’t much to see there, basically just the tower. But the town is quite nice anyway, with little bars and restaurants, I managed to pass the time easily enough. There was a bar inside the hostel too, so I spent the evenings in there talking with other travellers.

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I am now in Bologna and will be visiting some other towns over the next week. Some of you may have noticed that my Africa route has changed on the route map, this is not a final plan but I think I will be riding down the west coast of Africa to South Africa, then up the East coast to Tanzania. I’ll let you know when this is decided for certain.

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Week 10: Athens to Naples

After I left my last couch surfing host I travelled into central Athens to find a cheap hostel. I drove around for about an hour, asking people for directions as I went, before I actually found the place. I checked in and went to relax in the room. Later in the day I was joined by a Japanese tourist who was travelling around Europe, we went for some food together and played some guitar in the room.

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During the week I visited the sights of Athens to take some pictures, the weather was very hot and humid, this meant that I could sit and cool down while admiring the views.

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I arranged to meet with a couple of couch surfers in Athens for a coffee and a walk, this was a nice way to see the city. One of the girls was an American student who was studying music in Athens, the other girl was a local. We got some drinks and wandered through Athens, ending up sat on top of a hill looking down onto the city.

After leaving Athens I drove to Patra and camped there for a night before getting the ferry to Italy. I camped next to some German bikers who were very well travelled, they pointed out some extra planning that I need to do before I go into Africa. Firstly to get myself a carnet de passage and secondly to find out which borders between countries are open and which are closed, then plan my route accordingly. The Ferry journey was long and not very exciting, although I did meet a guy from England who had been travelling through Greece on his motorbike.

When I arrived in Italy I drove across the country to Naples. Driving on the motorways in Italy is stupidly expensive, I had to pay over 10 pounds to drive across the country from Bari to Naples. I plan to use smaller roads for the rest of my stay here. Over the last few days I have been staying here in Naples, eating pizza and drinking Peroni. Yesterday I went to explore the city with a couple of Spanish tourists who are staying in the same hostel as me. We ended up in the old castle on the hill above the city and got some good pictures of the city and the sunset.

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Today I am heading to Pompeii to camp for a couple of days before I head up to Rome for a long weekend.

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Week 9: Athens

My ninth week of travelling is over and I have arrived in Athens. After I last added a post to the site I stayed a night on the sofa of Apostolis, my friend from Starbucks, after we had been to a party at one of his friends houses. The next day we took my bike to the electrician, who seems to have fixed the problem even though he said he didn’t actually find anything wrong. In the afternoon I went to meet my second Couch Surfing host, Myrto. She Lives with her two flatmates Filip and Maeve, there was also another couch surfer, from Argentina staying there, she was called Sole. Sole took a really nice group photo of us all which I don’t have a copy of yet, but will add to the facebook group once I get it. In the evening we walked up to a village in the mountains, ate a meal and drank wine, then walked back to the flat. It was really cool but also very tiring.

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The next day I took my bike to a mechanic to get the front suspension oil changed. And then in the night we went to the University, where the students are on strike as a political protest. We sat and had a meal outside the University and then there was a party. The final day at Myrto’s I was really lazy and stayed around the flat most of the day.

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Then I headed down to Athens to meet my third Couch Surfing host. She lives in the posh area about 30 minutes from central Athens, it is called Kifisia. Afi, my host, is a Kite Surfer so today we went to a beach near Athens where all the Kite Surfers hang out. It was really cool and relaxing to be sat watching them all on the sea.

I will spend the next couple of days in a hostel in central Athens before I head towards the western coast of Greece and eventually Italy.

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Friendly Greeks

This is not about another encounter on a gay beach. I have been in Greece for over a week, at first I didn’t meet many people and when I did they didn’t seem to be all that friendly. But thinking back people have been friendly all the way through. Firstly there was the bar owner who let me camp behind his bar for three days for free. Then last week when I arrived in a camp site in Halkidiki, I met a group of Greek people who were on holiday there and began talking. We went for a coffee, then I joined them for lunch where they paid for my meal in exchange for my travel stories.

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Then I had my first couch surfing experience in Thessaloniki, I stayed with Lara for three nights and had a great time. We spent the day time relaxing and then went out into the city in the evenings. She was a very friendly person and I’m sure I was lucky to get her as my first host.

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After I left Thessaloniki I headed up into the mountains near Mount Olympus. It was quite late at night when I arrived in a small village called Petra and began looking for a place to stay. I started talking to a few local people who were sat outside their house. They didn’t speak English but called someone who did and they translated. I explained that I needed somewhere to sleep and they said I could camp in the church yard. Just as I was finishing setting up my tent a lady came to me with a tray of food she had made me. There was a cheese omelette, some thick slices of home made bread, a big home grown tomato, a small block of cheese and two slices of home made cake. I thanked her and she left, I returned the tray before I left this morning.

Today I rode to Volos and at some point I developed an electrical fault on the motorbike. Most of the displays on the dash have stopped working along with my brake lights and my indicators. I have arrived in this city a day early so have nowhere to sleep. I stopped in Starbucks to use the internet to look for a place to sleep and also check for repair advice. While I was talking to the guy behind the counter he mentioned that he had the same bike as me. I asked him where he would go for repairs and he gave me an address to try. I then told him about my trip and mentioned that I was looking for somewhere to stay as my couch surfing host isn’t expecting me until tomorrow. He said he knows about couch surfing and offered to let me sleep on his couch tonight. Awesome.

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Week 8: Greece

My eighth week of travelling has come to an end and I am still in central Greece. I have been in Greece for a little over a week, slowly travelling along the coast, sleeping on the beaches. This was not just because the beaches are beautiful but also because there is a lack of cheap accommodation. Although the camp sites are very well set up with bars, cafes and plenty of people to mix with.

I have found that the most cost effective way of eating is to buy things from the supermarket, this means I have been living on croissants for breakfast with bread and pate for lunch. Evening meals are mostly pasta.

Following the coastal roads has been rewarding, especially the less popular dirt track roads. These roads are mostly used to access some old ruins along the coast but you can use them to travel from town to town. There are loads of beautiful little beaches where you can sleep if you have camping equipment.

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The last two nights I have been staying in Thessaloniki. I managed to arrange my first ever Couch Surfing experience here and it is really good. I will try to arrange more of them in the future. Yesterday evening we went down to the sea front and drank some beer next to the sea while we listened to a band who ere busking. It was a great night.