Welcome to mad nomad’s adventurous website! This site is about travelling the way I’ve been dreaming of as a child! When I took the decision to make my dream come true, it seemed remote and totally unfamiliar to me. Finally, after two years of profound research and intense preparation, I hit the road!
On the 14th of April 2007 I set off solo from Thessaloniki, Greece by my small motorcycle (Honda XR 250S), on a journey to four countries, for ten months’ time: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India. During my trip, however, there were many changes in my schedule, and, finally, I ended up returning to Greece after two years and two and a half months, having covered 73,000 km. (45,361 miles), after travelling to fourteen Asian countries: Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh! This was my journey known as “greece2india“. You will find my trip reports from that time at: http://www.moto.gr/forums/showthread.php?t=38448
On July 18th, 2013, we hit the road for an even longer journey! Africa and Middle East are calling us and we are eager to explore those lands! Why do I use the plural form? This time, Christina, the she-mad nomad, was travelling with me for 10 months. Therefore, we were riding two motorcycles of the same type (Honda XR 250), travelling according to my usual recipe: innumerous detours, in order to visit everything interesting, years on the road, to catch the scent of the local societies we are visiting, always guided by the love for People and Nature. Since August 2014, I keep traveling solo, as Christina decided to fly from Zambia back to Greece because of some personal reasons. This is the expedition called “mad about Africa“! You can check out our route on Live Trip Traveller and you can enjoy our reports at the Trip diary section.
The unknown Lesotho is a country entirely surrounded by South Africa. It is a small mountain kingdom on which I had an eye ever since I was planning the “mad about Africa” adventure. It is the only country in the world that is entirely located in altitude higher than 1,000 m (3,281 ft). It is also a fact that its lowest point is, amongst all other countries’ lowest points, the highest, with an altitude of 1,400 m (4,593 ft.)! All these facts were very promising for my mountain-loving soul…
I entered the country crossing the borderline at the peak of the legendary Sani Pass (2,876 m / 9,436 ft). Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed to ascend the pass, which is sometimes closed due to bad weather conditions. I headed towards Thaba-Tseka through Kotisephola Pass (3,240 m / 10,630 ft). On my way, I found an amazing place to wild camp at, next to a crystal-clear stream. I was already caught under the spell of the mountain kingdom…
From Thaba-Tseka I did a detour riding around the picturesque lake formed by the Katse Dam. I luckily found some dirt roads next to the banks, so I enjoyed the magnificent scenery having ridden only a few kilometers on the boring asphalt until then. But the best was yet to come…
When I returned at Thaba-Tseka, I headed south. The part from Sehonghong all the way to Sehlabathebe National Park was meant to be my favorite in the country. Some parts of the route were kind of rough, with plenty of stones, especially while ascending the Matebeng Pass, where my GPS indicated I was at 2,966 m (9,731 ft). I did not run across any vehicles there. The only human beings I met were at some settlements on the mountains and some random shepherds grazing their herds at the beautiful green meadows of the area.
While I was descending the pass, I saw a beautiful, green open space next to a small stream. I could not resist… I wild camped there! The wind was blowing harder now and black clouds were coming my way, so I hurried to pitch my tent before the storm would start. Suddenly, I heard a voice greeting me. While I was rushing, I didn’t notice that a young shepherd had approached me. He was covered in a woolen blanket, as most locals in Lesotho do.
It was Frantietier, a very nice and warm youngster. He knew a few words in English, so we made acquaintances. He wanted to improve his English and he was showing me birds, stars and other things around, telling me how all these are called in South Sotho, his own language, and asking me to teach him the English word. He was curious to see the inside of my tent. I decided to cook a traditional Greek meal for both of us, trahana, while Frantietier asked me to play Greek music on my mobile phone. He ate with pleasure the food I cooked, so I assumed he enjoyed trahana, the traditional meal of Greek shepherds! At night, we said goodbye and he walked home.
I was feeling very nice after meeting Frantietier. He reminded me the hospitality of the Asians… Lesotho, being an independent kingdom, did not face the apartheid consequences that left their mark in neighboring South Africa. This was obvious to me from the very first moments I was there. The atmosphere was refreshingly free of the racism and the hate which stigmatize South Africa. The locals, who are almost entirely black, were waving at me with smiles.
The only exception were a few children on the mountains, who, like in some other countries, were playing the dangerous game of throwing stones at trespassing vehicles. One of the stones hit my motorcycle and I stopped to inform the elders of the village, because this has to stop eventually. Despite the fact that they could not speak English, they had already realized what had happened. They sent the rest of the kids to bring the guilty one who was hiding in a corn field. They told me they would hit the child or they would bring him to me so that I could hit him. I would not be able to do that, so I just left asking them to chide the kid and explain him that he must not do that again.
Next day I headed to Semonkong, where I hiked to visit Maletsunyane Falls. The water drops from a height of 204 meters (669 ft). This is the place where the Guinness world record is held for the longest commercially operated single-drop abseil. I preferred, though, to stick on my peaceful hike… I ascended to the green plateau where there was a village. People were walking by or wandering around riding their horses. It was a nice feeling to walk in this peaceful scenery and see how the villagers live there. Some people were working in the fields, cultivating the land, growing corn, wheat or sunflower. Women were washing clothes or cooking out of their stone hut. Children were running around, carrying water from the village’s spring or firewood. It was a strange feeling I had when considering that the entire world of these people is this plateau. It is a beautiful world yet very confined. So it doesn’t seem strange to me that most of them want to see something more or get to live someplace else…
Through nice dirt roads and trails, which at some parts were a sea of moving stones, I headed to Malealea. While riding northwest, the high mountains started to fade and gave their place to fields and inhabited areas. Since the scenery was not of much interest any more, I took the paved road to the capital city, Maseru. It was the last weekend before the elections and people were celebrating everywhere with loud music and lots of alcohol! I finally left the country one day before the elections, just to be sure I will not be caught in any violent protest after the election results would be announced. Unfortunately this kind of things happen in many African countries…
Finally, I headed north riding a few more kilometers in this small country. I crossed the border to South Africa and I bid farewell to this beautiful, mountain kingdom, leaving with the best impressions…
More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller
After I returned to Cape Town and received my new passport, I could finally go on with my journey heading east. As last time I had done a detour via Route 62 and the Garden Route, this time I decided to mostly ride on dirt roads. I took a taste of the endless savannah of Karoo and I crossed many mountain passes, like the famous Swartberg Pass which is considered to be the country’s most impressive one.
The peak of my nature loving explorations was at the mountains of Baviaanskloof, which belong in the area that is a UNESCO world heritage site. In order to cross the gate, one has to be on a 4×4 by law due to the roughness of the trails. It is one of the few national parks in Africa where motorcycles are allowed, so I did not miss the chance to explore it. The landscape was truly beautiful; the route was interesting with plenty of river crossings and a lot of stones and I met many different kinds of antelopes!
So, I finally reached Port Elizabeth, where Mark and Tine hosted me. They are a very interesting couple that actively work on projects to benefit the lives of poor locals. Despite them being white, they are absolutely free of precautions regarding black people. They live among them and they help them. Happily, I met people like them in South Africa and they made me forget for a while the racism and hate by which most South Africans are characterized.
Together, through Calabash, we visited a public school in a neighboring township where we planted trees, vegetables and herbs. The students and teachers are going to take care of them and they will enjoy their fruits. Unfortunately, the young generation in the townships does not know how to farm. The elders, that can remember how they were doing that many years ago, happily pass the knowledge to the younger ones. I find such projects very important since they focus on the most important thing for those people to survive, the producing of their own food.
Passing through Port Alfred, I headed to East London through the quiet beach road. In South Africa I have seen more river mouths than I have seen in my entire life! Each and every one of them was so beautiful and different that I was stopping to take pictures all the time.
I knew some people in East London, so I had a pleasant break there. I met the entire Greek and Cypriot community of the area. They welcomed me and treated me like a king! I could again enjoy home-cooked Greek dishes that I had missed so much and they took me all around sightseeing: from the forested mountains and waterfalls of Hogsback to the huge farm of Mr. Plato that is full of different kinds of antelopes.
Next was the South African part that was meant to be one of my favourites in the country: the Wild Coast! It was called “Transkei” in the apartheid era. It was one of the areas that the white government had declared as “homeland” for the black people. They had been promising them that they would be able to live free and independent there and the whites would no longer harass them in their “homeland”.
What they truly wanted was to group all the black people, who were consisting approximately the 80% of the country’s population, in an area that was only the 14% of the country’s surface! They did not, of course, handed them over the areas that had gold, diamonds, infrastructure or fertile soil. They just gave them what was not useful to them. As if that was not enough, the blacks were not allowed to leave these areas, except if they had a special permission to do so. That is if the white needed them for cheap labor force in the towns. Sadly, that was the apartheid era, which I heard with my own ears being called a “golden era” by many white South Africans, including Greeks and Cypriots…
Until today, the area is inhabited almost entirely by black South Africans. Roads are mostly gravel and I also rode some pretty rough trails. Some steep slopes were full of rocks and truly exhausted me going uphill. It was also raining that day, so the ground was remarkably slippery. As the sun had already set, I wild camped in the green bank of a river, hearing many exotic birds singing all around me.
Next day, I had to ride on the most difficult and steep part of the trail. My overloaded motorcycle fell twice landing on huge stones. I had no other option but to get off my motorbike and push it uphill meter by meter. The ground was so rough and slippery that even my footsteps were unstable on the rocks. It took me two hours to cross those 100 meters (328 ft.)… but where there’s a will, there’s a way!
I knew that the principle of the yin and the yang, the good and the bad, would show up again. The bad was just gone. So after all my efforts, a lovely, green, overgrown trail was ahead of me and the view to the ocean paid me back! What truly caught my interest in the Wild Coast was that one could experience the original South African countryside there. The area is full of small settlements formed with these characteristic round huts, all coloured in shades of red, green, blue or yellow. Some of them were surrounded by small – mostly corn – fields. People there mostly work on agriculture and cattle-breeding. There were cows grazing freely here and there and I also saw many goats, some pigs and a few chicken, donkeys and horses. The shepherds were walking among their cattle with their sticks across their shoulders, hanging their hands on it and forming a cross. There were not any fences around. That way of dividing the land is an invention attributed to the white people.
I was tired of hearing from the white South Africans how dangerous this area is. They told me I should be aware of the four-legged animals that are moving freely in that area but also of the two-legged animals! Yes, that’s exactly how a Greek-South African called the blacks! It is true that in the cities of that area criminality was high, since the white people had forced the black people to wretched living conditions. Nowadays things are not so bad in the cities, while on the countryside, where I was traveling, criminality is minimal and people are very friendly!
I will never forget the manners of the villagers when, awkward as it was, I had to change three tubes in one day! While I was climbing some rocks, my motorcycle felt unstable. I immediately thought I had a flat tyre. When I checked, I could not believe my eyes… I had two flat tyres! Both of them had been punctured! I had never experienced such a thing. The rear tube was punctured by a nail. I did not find any nail on the front tyre but there was a small hole on the outer side of the tube. Maybe there was a nail there too which was gone later.
The last thing I wanted was all the villagers to gather around me asking me questions, trying to help me and messing with my motorcycle’s wheels. That did not happen actually. The villagers who were passing by were very discreet. They were asking me if I need any help and when I was kindly refusing, they were leaving quietly. Two women that were walking with their babies on their back, offered me something to eat. I refused again without offending them but they asked me: “Aren’t you hungry?”. They only left when I assured them that I was carrying some food on my motorbike.
As if that was not enough, I could not even ride 100 km (62 miles) and I felt the motorcycle unstable again. I could not believe it… The front tyre was flat again! I had broken the record for bad luck! Seems that the Chinese tube I was carrying as spare from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was of a really bad quality.
Leaving the coast, I headed north towards Lesotho. The scenery slowly was changing into mountainous. I ascended to 1,600 meters (5,249 ft.) approximately and I could see everywhere green mountains and cows grazing peacefully. Whenever I was reaching a high spot wherefrom the view was panoramic, I could see little lakes among the green pastures. Wet period has its upsides… The greenery had gone wild and everything was beautiful! However, that was only an introduction to the beauty I was about to experience in the next country I would visit: Lesotho…
More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller
Getting off the barge I used to cross Orange River, I stepped into South African soil and found myself at the other half of the /Ai/Ais – Richtersveld Transfrontier Park which is shared between two countries: Namibia and South Africa. I was in a deserted landscape and the truth is that the South African part of the park is a bit monotonous. There was a strong wind coming from the Atlantic Ocean, creating a sandstorm that was making difficult riding through the gravel roads.
Once I reached the paved road, I saw on my mirrors an orange light approaching me. South Africans usually install an orange cover in front of their headlights, so that they will be easier noticed by other drivers. It was Phillip on a KTM 990 Adventure. He waved at me and we stopped at the side of the road. As soon as he asked me where I was coming from and was really amazed to find out, he immediately decided to follow me! I explained to him that my plans were to reach Cape Town the next day, as I wanted to explore some dirt roads and small roads near the ocean. Without a second thought he offered to follow me and wild camp anywhere with me. That is the charm of motorcycle riding… I suddenly had the company of a South African, whom I did not even know five minutes ago. The thirst of exploring united us in a moment!
Using my GPS we discovered nice, empty dirt roads which were going up and down the hills. Every now and then we were coming across picturesque farms among that idyllic landscape. We soon reached the seaside again and we wild camped at the beach, in front of the waves which endlessly come through the ocean. The next day we headed south following the coastline wherever that was possible. We were passing through small picturesque towns and little villages whose names I had never even heard before. Admiring all that beauty I was thinking how pity it would be for someone to hurry his journey and reach Cape Town through the faster, yet far less appealing alternative of the highway.
Getting closer to one of the few cities I was excited to visit, the silhouette of the legendary Table Mountain caught my eye. That’s the mountain which lies above Cape Town. Its peak is flat and therefore the mountain looks like a giant table. That is why it was named the Table Mountain. I had seen it numerous times on videos and photos and it was so touching to finally being able to see it on my own eyes and feel that I had made it almost to the southernmost point of my journey…
Cape Town is definitely a milestone on my journey. Not only it is almost the southernmost point I’ve ever reached but it is also the approximate middle point of my trip. Here is my chance to renew, maintain or fix my equipment. South Africa, in many aspects, is like a European country in the middle of the African continent. After one and a half year on the road, it’s very welcoming to have access to spare parts, equipment, tools and everything else the rest of Africa could not offer.
Here is where I replaced the marvelous AFAM drive chain that lasted 44,000 km (27,341 miles) breaking my personal records! And imagine that thousands of those kilometers were ridden in sand! 3P Racing sent me all the ball bearings for the wheels, in order to prevent the troubles I had in Tajikistan Sena Bluetooth sent me its brand new intercommunication system, the 20S, which I use a lot even now that I am travelling alone. Not only for listening to music while riding on boring paved roads but also for live recording my narrations in my videos while I ride. There is also a radio on this model and a very useful voice command mode, so that one doesn’t have to leave the handlebars while riding. But what impressed me the most, was the amazingly loud sound coming out of those tiny speakers! When I adjusted the volume at the highest level, I though I was having some kind of high fidelity sound system inside my helmet!
Another thing I had to replace was my tent… Seven Heaven tent poles were not proved that sturdy since they broke many times during my journey, starting from the very first months of it. So, my old tent was dispatched to me from Greece, the one I was using in Asia. The only problem was that this tent was not waterproof any more. I got a waterproofing spray and I hope it will work… Last but not least, it was about time to get myself a pair of off-road boots! Motomax sent me the Alpinestars Tech 5, which are sturdy and offer great protection but I can also wear them all day long.
It seems like Santa Claus visited me in Cape Town! This is the place where I had the most special new year’s eve… In the afternoon, after a three-hour hike, I climbed the Table Mountain and from the top of it I enjoyed the last sunset of 2014. After watching the city lights tremble, I descended the mountain with the help of my torch. I rode my motorbike to Camps Bay, where various groups of friends and families were waiting for the midnight countdown. We sat on the beach and suddenly the sky was filled with fireworks! 2015 had come…
The most important thing I had to arrange in Cape Town was replacing my passport. Although the one I got expires in 2017, its pages are full with all those African visas and stamps. So, I had to visit the Greek consulate and apply for a new passport. The process would take an entire month’s time.
Luckily, in the meantime I could travel around and get astonished by the countless gorgeous landscapes that this country has to offer. I started with the Cape of Good Hope. On the way to the Cape, Chapman’s Peak Drive is considered one of the world’s most breathtaking routes and I can really tell why! While riding on the rocky coastline, high above the nice blue ocean water, I was stunned! This combination of green and wild, steep mountains right next to the ocean is one of a kind…
Unfortunately, as I was speechless because of this country’s beauty, I was also speechless because of the racism that exists here… I met many white South Africans, descendants of the colonizers, who were talking so badly about their black fellow citizens that I had to stop them! It’s mostly white South Africans who live inside Cape Town and in many rich suburbs. It was unbelievable to see more white citizens than black within an African town! The black residents usually live in the townships, in poor slums, located outside the big cities, where they cannot interfere much with the white people. There is also a third group of people, the “coloured” race, who are descended from mixed ancestors. They usually live in small, simple houses, all similar, that look like social housing.
I did not expect to face such a segregation… Happily, this is no longer forced by law, as it was some years ago, in the apartheid era. Nevertheless, it is still happening because of the unwritten social code. The different races hate each other. Therefore, most of the black people would not choose to live in a white people’s neighborhood, even if they could afford it. Also, if a coloured person chooses to live in a white people’s neighborhood, he would lose his friends as most of them would make fun of him and would stop hanging out with him!
It was time to head east and explore the mountains and the meadows… I started with the paved Route 62, which was kind of boring. From Calitzdorp I hit the gravel to Oudtshoorn, which is surrounded by picturesque ostrich farms. I visited the large Cango Caves, I rode some mountain passes, like the glorious Montagu Pass and I finally found myself in the legendary Garden Route. Oh, what a beauty… Especially the route from George to Wilderness has some of the most amazing landscapes I have ever seen!
So, after 540 days on the road, almost one and a half year, having covered 44,620 km (27,726 miles), I reached the southernmost point I have ever been to, Cape Agulhas! This is where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean. My GPS indicated I was at 34.5 degrees south. That is the latitude where the Greek island of Crete lies but on the other side of the equator! That’s why this region got a Mediterranean climate. The thing is that when it is winter in Europe, it is summer here, so I enjoyed swimming in the Indian Ocean