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Off-Road in the Corinthian mountains?
Piece of cake!
In 5 days. Nooo problem!!!
With 12 inexperienced foreign riders, staying in luxurious hotels,
visits of archeological sites and riding lessons.
Marc Dammen (HondaPark
Belgium), Chris Tassoulis
(eXTra products) and
Spyros Katsimalis (Off-Road.gr),
organized a “different” route of the
Corinthian mountains off-road, tarmac, with plenty of food, adventure,
forests, rain, mud, dust, rocks, paths, lakes, cliffs and kilometers.
The idea was broached over the farewell lunch in honor of Marc, after
last years “Rodopi Rally Raid”.
Marc: “I want to organize an
off-road trip for a small group of Belgian riders. Can you help?”
A year later Marc, Chris, Thanasis and my self got
together on a Friday morning in front of the hotel were the 12 riders
had slept the previous night.
Marc would take care of the communication, Christos the motorcycles and
the support, Thanasis the general duties and myself the route and
During the first day’s briefing, I discerned several feelings in the
eyes of the riders ranging from fea, when they listened to the
instructions about handling the motorcycles up the hills climbs covered
with rolling stones, to excitement at hearing that we would stop for
lunch at the Corinthian canal, were we reach after many kilometers
“The guys” (between 22 and 58
years old) would use TTRs, XRs and Degrees motorcycles found by
Christos. We considered them ideal: light, not a scary throttle
and friendly to the riders.
We would spend each night in a different place, so our personal
belongings would be transported to each hotel in a van which at the
same time would transport two backup motorcycles in case one of the
main motorcycles presented a serious problem.
Due to various reasons the group set off after 10:00. Warm up in
extraordinary hairpins of mount Parnitha and after 4 kilometers we went
It was 28th of October and a big bright sun had dried up
Dust, rocks, which are quite usual for Greek riders, scared the
friendly Belgians who -some of which- had only had the chance to ride
on sand and dirt free of rocks.
We soon reached the “Fili” intersection and took the old classic dirt
road heading for “Vountima”.
Near the creek and just before reaching the “Skourta” plateau, we
stopped over a short break, exchange of impressions and evaluation of
the trip so far. A doctor, member of the group, who had been
off-road for the first time, had already crashed once and his Degree
was lacking some… parts!
The short break turned into a picnic in the country with biscuits,
juice and plenty of chocolate.
“Today we ride as far as “Trikala” Corinthias which will be easy,
Marc suggested not going directly off-road. It would be just to
the inexperienced riders the chance to get used to their first off-road
We continued through village of “Pili”, we passed by “Vilia” and then,
after a short trip through the pine trees, we went down the road
We could not help short breaks along the route to take pictures of the
wonderful scenery. The “Psatha” coast simply breathtaking,
and wild fills us with peace.
“Is it a lake or a sea?” What was taken for granted by us, was a
reasonable question coming from our visitors.
“It’s a sea…It’s a sea!”
have been riding along the sea flat out at 30 kilometers per hour
(!!!) by the time we stopped to refill at a gas station at
There we found a note by its owner:
“I’ll be right back. In case of need call 69….”
The riders had occupied the whole area which soon got crowded with
At the moment it was quite hard to explain to the
far-too-willing-to-drive Belgians that the gas station owner had simply
closed the gas station in order to have lunch!
“Why isn’t there anyone to replace him?”
Until that time, Jan became seriously sick and it was better for him to
return to Athens .
So Christos accompanied him, back to Athens to facilitate the
We told the van driver to come and pick up Jan’s motorcycle and we set
off once more with mixed feelings.
A little bit later we went off-road towards “Gerania” mount.
road is too slippery and the bottom of the cliff looks very far.
I choose the long route around
mount “Gerania” since after “Loutraki” there would be no more off-road
trip for the rest of the day. The winding road was flanked with
trees, covered with rolling stones and dust.
32 kilometers later we reached the center of “Loutraki” covered with
dust. Time for lunch. And ideal lunch was souvlaki at
overlooking the canal.
We contacted Christos who informed us that they were at “Nikaia”
hospital with hardly any doctors on duty.
Christos would spend the night with him and would try to join us the
After we had taken the necessary photos at “Isthmos” we rode slowly
from the old road as far as “Xilokastro” were we refilled.
To reach “Trikala” we took the old road. Being full of turns,
abandoned for years, in a bad condition, it gave riding a different
Just before the intersection for “Trikala” it started drizzling.
the time we got to the “Kissa Hotel” light rain had turned into a
That legendary hotel had recently been restored in a tasteful
have very little time to settle in our rooms, take a shower and have
some rest before our evening meeting for briefing and reorganization.
It got dark, the clouds have surrounded the hotel and it seemed that
the next day there would be no dust at all.
It did not stop raining all night long.
Quick breakfast and further instructions due to the fog.
From the very beginning we have been using system D. The
indicates the route and at every intersection the second one stops and
waits for the last one to come.
The third one becomes second and this
way they all take it in turns and the group moves fast and goes on.
Raincoats for the riders and instructions for the van driver to wait in
the middle of the route.
We started riding with caution through the village. There was
thick fog and some drizzling.
We decided to ride down and take the dirt road soon after “Pitsa” which
leads to “Karia”. A big circle.
3 kilometers off the village the weather cleared up, the fog
disappeared, the rain stopped and the group started to enjoy it again.
We took the dirt road and started going up. Many of the dirt
roads were in poor conditions and practically forgotten.
a certain point we entered the first footpath.
300 meters further at an
old bridge, we had our first stop to smoke a cigarette (those that
smoked anyway), to eat chocolates (the ravenous ones) and take photos.
Everybody was more than happy. They acted like excited children
playing with a new toy. 300 m off-road and they felt blissful and
shared this feeling with them!
We are already high enough; the rain of the previous night had
thoroughly watered the earth turning it into mud. Sliding is
unavoidable while the mist created a fairytale atmosphere.
Soon after the monastery of “Esodia of Theotokou”, the road turned into
a muddy hell.
The last 5 kilometers before reaching the “Karia” tarmac proved quite
A few kilometers off road and the group came out of the mist at
“Dasiou” lake. This is were the course took place. The
divided into 2 groups: beginners and experienced.
The experienced ones followed several paths through the incredibly
beautiful forest of the area while the beginners moved to the nearby
truck were they were initiated into the basic techniques by Marc.
hour later we continued the route through a narrow lane. The
were so thick that you could hardly see the sky. Imagine how it
like for someone who had never ridden his bike off-road. The
an ideal route.
We reached the so called “horses” plateau (were wild horses run freely)
over “Goura” and we met 4WD friends who were looking for the way to the
We gave them instructions and we went on descending to “Messino”.
Narrow road, rolling winding stones, full of jumps, with a cliff making
our adrenaline run high.
After “Messino” we reached “Doxa”(Feneos) lake where we stopped at the
chapel at center of the lake.
Our stomachs were rumbling and the “Doxa-Zarouxla” route completed with
rally raid tempo!
We reached the tavern of the village at the busiest time (15:30) making
it difficult for us to find a table for 14! The food was perfect,
practically ate everything.
Our evening meeting was in “Nafpaktos” it was about 17:00 and we had
just ordered coffee and desert.
The group was extremely excited, our spirits were high due to wine and
there was no reason for us to hurry.
In the end we rode slowly to “Akrata” and after stopping on the
“Rio-Antirio” bridge to take photos we end up at 20:00 at the luxurious
Our van was already there and Christos had ridden his BMW back to our
I know it is hard to believe but once again we went out to dinner!
Early rising for the... organizers. We should service 14
The sun was shinning and Christos who was waiting for us finally
decided not to load his heavy BMW on the van but he would do on it
(with tarmac tires) the route of the day.
Tarmac tires, evidently, was no object for him!
We said goodbye to Thanasis who had to go back to Athens on business.
Mountainous Nafpaktia and mount Giona were waiting for us.
After the first kilometers on the tarmac which brought us into the
mountain, a quick stop and off we went into the woods. Change of
greenery with deciduous trees, in autumn colors, sandy land free of
The winding uphill route challenged us to games. Several
but the group moved swiftly despite its volume. We were bonded
everything happened automatically and we enjoyed the ride.
In “Tricorfo” a hill climb lesson took place. We choose the toughest
natural route to the top, instructions to each rider and vroom….
Party at the top of the mountain!
The sun had dried the soil making it dusty. Far ahead “Mornos”
8 kilometers down road the game started. Chris
with BMW, Marc with TTR and “Duck” with Degree took part.
The winner would be the one to ride 8 kilometers down road with turned
the winner was Christos with his heavy BMW although he was on
tarmac tires. Not even once did he slow down. Marc and Duck
Games on the sand, on the shore of the lake. Dakar is here!!!
Quick lunch at “Lodoriki” and vroom for “Giona”.
The west side of the mountain was very steep and there was only one
narrow, winding road on the brink of the cliff going up. It
the east edge of the lake and climbed almost vertically.
Rocks, rocks, rocks and cows, lots of cows for at least 20
The view was simply stunning. There were no trees the atmosphere
crystal clear and we started shivering with cold.
“Amazing special stage!” exclaims Tassoulis.
“But… the cliff???”
“It does not matter. Would trees make it look any better? Stay on
the road. The rest is of no importance”.
We reached “Triseli” and start going downwards to “Taratsa”. A
bit later we met an Acropolis Rally special stage “Karoutes”. The
perfect end for the day.
Descent, wide slippery road, non ending side slides.
We reached “Agia Efthimia” sweaty and tired. Stop for a cigarette
to calm down.
Everybody was grinning. A few more kilometers off-road and we
finally reached our hotel in “Itea”.
The usual stuff: a quick shower, chitchat and, of course, tremendous
quantities of food, this time seafood.
On Monday Christos got up early and rode on his BMW taking the way back
The weather got worse and “Parnassos” is hardly discernible. A
stop at “Delphi” –we took a look around- and then we went on heading
for the mountain.
It was icy cold! Our fingers got frozen on the γκριπ. We
schedule. Instead of a long ride on mount “Parnassos” we took a
one and move lower.
Everything is wet and I chose a new route which I was familiar with
since the 2nd day of “Roumeli 2004 Rally Raid”.
Short stop at “Gravia” for coffee, tea and hot chocolate in order to
We set off for “Iti”.
Slippery grass and mud raise our adrenaline high during the downhill
towards “Papadia” bridge.
Those that had participated in the 2004 Rally Raid must remember the
“rocky road” before the “Eleftherochori” lakes. Imagine it wet,
Those who hadn’t fallen off by that time, had the chance to do it
then. The hope that the situation would “get better”, when
the road to “Mendenitsa”, vanished into thin air on its first hairpin.
walking was too difficult. We went on with difficulty riding
along the edge of the road. Only a few kilometers before
the situation became normal again since the ground turned rocky.
The off-road route “Medenitsa-Kallidromos” would have been impossible
to find if I had not passed by so many times when drawing the 2004
We went down the slope, we passed by “Kallidromos” and reached
“Regini”. However, the day was long and hard and a couple of our
riders were ready to give up. A decision was reached
The tired ones would ride on the tarmac to “Livadia” with Marc and the
most experienced ones would go on off-road at a quick pace.
The quick wide road with lots of jumps and the fact that now our group
consisted of the more experienced riders, “eager-to-ride” off-road,
resulted in flat out riding.
We were so excited that we hardly realized how quickly we reached the
challenging down hill road.
At dusk we reached “Orchomenos” We slow down, we kept on with
on and before getting completely dark we reached “Livadia”. We
completely covered with mud which made it difficult for us to enter the
Marc got there before we did and was waiting for us in the parking lot
holding the hose, of course not for the motorbikes but for the
Having eaten just a sandwich we were hungry like wolves!
sorry to come back!
We had to be back to Athens by 14:00.
In the meanwhile it did not stop raining all night long and the fog
outside the hotel was thick.
The time was limited but the guys wish for some more off-ride road.
We came back taking the national road. We stopped at “our
We got there at half past ten and we had a chance to see most of
It was Tuesday morning and there was not a single soul in the area!
Paths, rocks, wide smooth roads, we tried everything! And not
that. 2 more lessons followed. Riding over trunks and going
down a slippery uphill.
The first one was given by Marc on a classic path and the second one in
a slippery uphill.
Five days in the mountain and the “inexperienced” riders of the first
day went through all the difficulties we found on wet “Parnitha” with
ease. Their improvement was amazing!
Unfortunately, nothing lasts for ever and so at about 14:00 we reached
a gas station close to Athens to clean our motorbikes. The guys
excited but also sad because their trip was about to end.
They were looking forward to their comeback next year joined by others
and of course we will prepare new challenges for them.
But, we did not say goodbye there. A rich dinner and the last
Collins concert followed.
We had already booked the tickets and
together with Jan who had completely recovered we had fun till late
Greece a paradise for off-road riders in Europe?
Needless to ask.
Not only do we have the right terrain but there are also high standards
of facilities, people with excellent knowledge of the object,
archaeological sites and great will.
The participants got their “homework”, to fill out a special form
commending on the negative aspects of the trip, because to know
negative aspects will help us bring about improvements.
What I can say in all certainty is that the satisfaction I could see in
their eyes every time we did a bit of the route filled me with content
till the next time.
A few days later when we talked this over with Marc, he reaffirmed the
excitement and the satisfaction of the riders.
The preparations for the next trip have already started!