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.
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
Heading south through gravel roads, I reached Lüderitz, another one city where the influence of the German colonizers is obvious until today. I also enjoyed a relaxing ride around the deserted and windy beaches of the peninsula that protects the city from the wild Atlantic Ocean waves.
A place that I definitely wanted to visit was Kolmanskop. This village was established in the desert in 1908 when a local worker found a diamond in the area and without knowing how much it was worth, he showed it to his German supervisor. They figured out that there were so many diamonds in the area that sometimes they didn’t even have to dig the ground to find them! As expected, the German government soon declared the area forbidden to everybody. German miners started to gather immediately, while of course the locals were the ones that were used for the heavy labor.
The security precautions out of fear of diamond theft were very harsh. The workers’ hands and legs were tied and they were left to look for diamonds crawling on the ground. They were even mouth gagged so that they would not swallow any diamonds and transfer them in their body. Despite all that, many workers had thought tricks beyond imagination just to grab one of those precious stones and change their whole life. They even used pigeons to secretly transfer the diamonds! This led pigeon ownership to be forbidden in the area up until today.
The city of Lüderitz and nearby Kolmanskop were Southern Africa’s richest cities at that time. At Kolmanskop, in the middle of the desert, they had installed pipes to bring water from the sea. Then they could make ice for the Germans to cool their beers! They even had a big swimming pool. Tons of drinking water were carried overland by that era’s means of transport… Tons of coal were imported from South Africa so that the electric power plant could operate. The settlement also provided a school, a casino, a bowling alley and a theater where famous artists were coming all the way from Europe to entertain the diamond miners. That was also the place were Africa’s first tram was introduced and it also facilitated a hospital equipped with the first X-ray machine in southern hemisphere! Do not jump to conclusions that the German employers were worried about the health of their workers. The X-rays were used to find out if anybody was hiding a diamond inside his body, a technique that is common even today! Imagine that the workers were not allowed to leave the settlement for the entire two years their contract was on…
I rode some gravel roads again to reach Fish River Canyon. On the way my motorcycle’s engine started to stall. While I was riding the endless straight roads with a steady speed of 70 km/h (43.5 mph), I did not notice any problem . But while I was slowing down, I was realizing that the engine was not working properly. I thought that I should clean the carburetor since I had been riding thousands of kilometers in rough off-road conditions with fuel of uncertain quality.
I did actually remove some dirt from my carburetor, despite I have a fuel filter installed! The weird thing though was that the problem was not solved. I was now at a lower altitude than before and I thought that maybe the valves’ clearance should be adjusted since the heat might have led them to remain open. I wild camped at a beautiful place in front of the canyon and I let the engine to cool off completely. In the morning I adjusted the valves’ clearance, which I had neglected for 11,500 km (7,146 miles). Unfortunately that was not the solution either…
The first thing I did was to check whether there was a spark at the spark plug or not and that fooled me. When I checked again, I realized that the spark was not steady and strong. That led me to the correct conclusion… The suspects were: the CDI, the ignition coil and the alternator, with the first one being the more plausible. While traveling with Christina, diagnosing faults was a piece of cake! I was exchanging the suspected spare parts between the motorbikes and I could immediately spot the problem. But this time I was traveling alone in the desert of Namibia and there were no spare parts within a range of thousands of kilometers!
I struggled and made it to a settlement where fortunately my mobile phone could get some reception! Thanks to PlanetSim that works all over the world! I called Dimitris Katigiannis from NRG, the mechanic that always saves me in situations like this… He suggested an old trick that I would never have thought of; to hit hard the CDI in case the problem was caused by poor connection or something and can be temporarily solved by hitting the unit.
I fitted all the parts on my motorbike again, I pressed the start button and everything was working fine! I could finally go on after two days of searching for the problem! I had hundreds of off-road kilometers ahead of me and I was hoping everything would function properly until I reach Cape Town in South Africa, where I would be able to find a permanent solution…
With the problem solved, obviously more relaxed, I visited the Fish River Canyon. It is considered to be the second largest canyon of the world, after the Grand Canyon, but this depends on the way somebody measures a canyon. It is definitely impressive, anyway! I reached Aussenkehr, where I was hosted in a huge vineyard at the banks of Orange River that separates Namibia from South Africa.
That was where I ran across a dilemma. I wanted to make a long detour heading west and enjoy the picturesque and quiet off-road route next to the river. I would enter in South Africa through some forgotten border that one can reach after crossing the river on a barge. As I wasn’t sure if the CDI would keep functioning properly, I was thinking if it is more wise to take the paved road to reach South Africa through the quick and easy way. Well, you know me, what do you think I did? After all, I had already covered thousands of kilometers on dirt roads and the motorcycle was running perfectly well!
I spent an entire month at this amazing country and I realized that I was dreaming about it all these years for a reason! I explored it thoroughly and I feel satisfied and complete. I rode almost 5,000 km (3,107 miles) in Namibia and 3,000 (1,864 miles) of them were far away from the boring tar! This is an even greater percentage of off-road riding than we had in Mauritania, Guinea or the Democratic Republic of the Congo!