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   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.

  

South Africa: From the mountains to the sea

   After leaving Lesotho, I entered South Africa again. The first place I visited was the picturesque Rustler’s Valley, where I camped. The next day I reached Clarens through some beautiful routes. This town is considered the art capital of South Africa. Various artists have gathered there and that is obvious in the atmosphere. There was a beer festival going on that weekend with live music, plenty of grilled meat which South Africans adore and of course, plenty of beer! Clarens was full of visitors and the characteristic sound of Harley Davidson motorbikes was all over the place.

These impressive rock formations can be found close to Fouriesburg.

These impressive rock formations can be found close to Fouriesburg.

   I could not wait to visit the Golden Gate Highlands National Park that is located on the Drakensberg mountain range! They are called Dragon Mountains because, if seen from far away, they look like a dragon’s back. I was hosted inside the national park in a beautiful place in front of the huge Brandwag Buttress. The park is famous for the golden colors that the rocks get around sunset.

Full moon over the famous Brandwag Buttress... Magic!

Full moon over the famous Brandwag Buttress… Magic!

   I was riding around while I ran across beautiful animals including wildebeests, impalas, springboks and zebras! I was looking forward to hike for a day to Sentinel Peak. This is considered one of the country’s most impressive hikes but unfortunately, the weather was not on my side… I was constantly walking in the clouds at an altitude of over 3,000 m (9,843 ft). I was right next to the world’s second-tallest waterfall, Tugela, but I was not able to enjoy that fabulous view.

The Golden Gate Highlands National park is famous for the stunning golden colors that the rocks get around sunset...

The Golden Gate Highlands National park is famous for the stunning golden colors that the rocks get around sunset…

   It was time to leave the mountains behind and descend to the sea. I reached Zululand through beautiful forests. I had a chance to visit a traditional Zulu settlement and learn a few things about the customs of this warlike tribe which is famous even in Greece. Actually, for some reason we have many jokes in Greece involving the Zulu tribe!

This is a sangoma, a Zulu traditional healer.

This is a sangoma, a Zulu traditional healer.

   I reached Mtunzini through some quiet country roads, riding up and down green hills. I enjoyed the Indian Ocean coastline, the tropical vegetation of the region and a nice boat-ride in the river. However, it was time to leave South Africa, so I headed northeast to enter in the tiny country of Swaziland…

A quiet boat-ride in Mlalazi River, where the settlement of Mtunzini is.

A quiet boat-ride in Mlalazi River, where the settlement of Mtunzini is.

More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

Lesotho: Kingdom in the sky!

   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…

Nature's glory in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho...

Nature’s glory in the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho…

   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…

Climbing the legendary Sani Pass (2,876 m / 9,436 ft)...

Climbing the legendary Sani Pass (2,876 m / 9,436 ft)…

   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…

A settlement next to the picturesque lake formed by Katse Dam.

A settlement next to the picturesque lake formed by Katse Dam.

   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.

Looking down from Matebeng Pass (~2,960 m / 9,711 ft).

Looking down from Matebeng Pass (~2,960 m / 9,711 ft).

   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.

The huts in Lesotho are made out of stones and mud, are usually round and have a roof of hay.

The huts in Lesotho are made out of stones and mud, are usually round and have a straw roof.

   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.

Frantietier, a very friendly and kind shepherd I met while wild camping.

Frantietier, a very friendly and kind shepherd I met while wild camping.

   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.

Horses are the most common mean of transport in the countryside of Lesotho.

Horses are the most common mean of transport in the countryside of Lesotho.

   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.

Public transport between Lesotho villages

Public transport between Lesotho villages

   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…

It was very beautiful to hike on this plateau and see how the villagers of this small mountain kingdom live...

It was very beautiful to hike on this plateau and see how the villagers of this small mountain kingdom live…

   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…

The BNP party fans were celebrating dancing with a paper dummy of the party leader!

The BNP party fans were celebrating dancing with a paper dummy of the party leader!

   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…

Most of Lesotho residents are friendly and smiling, like these guys!

Most of Lesotho residents are friendly and smiling, like these guys!

More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

South Africa: From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean

   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.

Farm at the brink of Karoo

Farm at the brink of Karoo

   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!

The Baviaanskloof mountains belong in an area which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Baviaanskloof mountains belong in an area which is a UNESCO world heritage site.

   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.

The backyard of the house where I was hosted in Port Elizabeth!

The backyard of the house where I was hosted in Port Elizabeth!

   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.

The students who will take care of the trees that we planted in the school yard.

The students who will take care of the trees that we planted in the school yard.

   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.

In South Africa I have seen more river mouths than I have seen in my entire life and they were all beautiful and different!

In South Africa I have seen more river mouths than I have seen in my entire life and they were all beautiful and different!

   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.

Playing with lion cubs! This one is ten weeks old.

Playing with lion cubs! This one is ten weeks old.

   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…

Women painting one of the round huts that are very common in the Wild Coast.

Women painting one of the round huts that are very common in the Wild Coast.

   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.

While wild camping next to the river, I woke up from the exotic birds' singing.

While wild camping next to the river, I woke up from the exotic birds’ singing.

   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!

It took me two hours to climb that rough and slippery slope that was full of rocks!

It took me two hours to climb that rough and slippery slope that was full of rocks!

   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.

The cattle graze freely and there are no fences in the Wild Coast.

The cattle graze freely and there are no fences in the Wild Coast.

   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!

Typical image of the authentic South African countryside...

Typical image of the authentic South African countryside…

   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.

How is it possible to have three flat tyres in the same day?

How is it possible to have three flat tyres in the same day?

   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.

The typical round huts of the countryside with the traditional straw roof

The typical round huts of the countryside with the traditional straw roof

   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.

This is why it is called the Wild Coast...

This is why it is called the Wild Coast…

   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…

Heading towards Lesotho, the scenery became mountainous and the greenery was only interrupted by small, beautiful lakes...

Heading towards Lesotho, the scenery became mountainous and the greenery was only interrupted by small, beautiful lakes…

 

More photos and reports at: Live Trip Traveller

 

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