1971 - Athens or bust



Nothing succeeds like success and after returning safely from Morocco we thought we'd look east for the following year. Everything was doubled up - two bikes, four of us and we had a month rather than two weeks . The destination was going to be the Athens wine festival with a stopover in Corfu on the way back.


I'd bought an old (even then) Honda 305cc CB77, which came with an additional 350cc Read Titan cylinder and pistons. These were soon fitted in the hope that the additional capacity would bring it closer to John's Yamaha and make it easier to ride when loaded up with pillion and luggage. I was really happy with the result and used it for several months trouble free but about six weeks before departure one of the pistons disintegrated without warning. No spares were available and I was faced with the prospect of no transport. My options were to try and rebuild it back to standard spec or borrow my brothers 125cc Yamaha AS1. Two up to Athens, with luggage, on a 125cc two stroke twin? ... hmm! I actually did consider it seriously but in the end took a chance that my rebuilding skills were up to fixing the Honda.


Our companions were going to be Jacqui and Brigid. Jacqui was a veteran of previous Pisquick Tours van trips - she'd been on the 1969 winter trip to Innsbruck, but this was their first long distance bike trip. I'm not sure they knew what they were letting themselves in for!

















We set up camp in a site conveniently located next door to the wine festival. The pricy entrance fee was soon forgotten once we realised all the wine was free. A few days later we discovered that one of the free entry days to the Parthenon was coming up so we vertured out into the Athens traffic to try and find it. To this day I've not been back to Athens to visit it again - despite the best of intentions. I don't suppose it's changed much!



After leaving Athens we were heading for Igoumenitsa and the ferry to Corfu. The route took us past Delphi, site of the ancient oracle and as I was reading Robert Graves "The Greek Myths" at the time I wanted to visit the site. Unfortunately I was outvoted! The others had been reading "My Family and Other Animals" and wanted more time in Corfu.








After an overnight stay at a proper campsite on the Rhine near Bonn (somewhere I have fond memories off and have tried unsuccessfully to find again) we continued south on the German autobahns, through Innsbruck (again) and over the Brenner Pass into Italy. The picture on the left, of John and Brigid, was taken half way up the pass.

The past really is a different country and in that land one piece leathers, full face helmets etc were not available for another few years. Neither was much of an idea about luggage distribution! Unfortunately the rear frame layout on the Honda was not really designed for luggage and it meant that I had to be very careful about the amount of weight loaded onto it. The Yamaha ended up disproportionately burdened.


Over the years we became quite skilled at loading more and more onto an overburdened rack. The approach was to start with a groundsheet laid on the rack and pile up flat containers such as suitcases. Other objects went loosely at either side but were contained within the ground sheet when it was folded upwards. The original 1970 version was tied in place by John's mum's washing line but by now we'd added a few elastic straps as well. The pinacle came in 1972 with a trip to Rome on a 350cc Suzuki where more power and more weight meant we had trouble keeping the front wheel on the ground.


The day after this picture was taken the rack broke and we needed to find a welder in northern Italy to fix it. This was a surprisingly easy thing to do - flag down local biker, show him broken rack and follow him to welder!

Once over the channel our route took us along the Belgian autoroutes and into Germany. Near Liege, cruising at around 60mph, I'd just overtaken a large truck and pulled in when there was a loud bang and the bike started bucking and weaving. A rear tyre blowout! Somehow I managed to slow down and stop without Jacqui or I ending up under the truck.


I repaired the tube and we set off again but a repeat performance, fortunately without the truck this time, had us deciding to stop where we were until we could find a new tube. Nothing was available until the next morning and we spent the night on the motorway under a bridge support - picture on left. In it I'm just finishing refitting the rear wheel after fitting the new tube.


This didn't bode well. An engine blow up and now a near death experience. What was going to go wrong next? Actually, surprisingly little mechanically. I remember an ignition wire breaking in southern Italy reducing the bike to one cylinder for a while and I had to rewire the indicators in Athens after a short circuit burnt out the wiring. What did take its toll (on me) was the constant strain of trying to spot what was likely to go wrong - listening to rattles, stiching in time etc.





















The route

















We travelled down the east coast of Italy aiming to catch a ferry to Greece at Otranto. Otranto is right down in the "heel" of Italy and the ferry was somewhat down at heel as well. But in keeping with the Pisquick Tours philosophy it was cheap.


We frequently didn't manage to find a campsite each night while we were on the road and if nothing materialised we'd be happy to set up camp at any convenient spot. The next few pictures are from one such overnight stop in the Greek mountains.


We'd stopped because we were too tired to go on in the dark and were just happy to find anywhere to pull off the road. The next morning though we awoke to the sun breaking through swirling mist spilling off the surrounding mountains. A magical sight and the sort of thing that made bike touring so enjoyable. By the time we'd packed up the mist was starting to clear and everything was warming up. The top picture of the three is Brigid (left) and Jacqui (right). Underneath are both the bikes with Brigid in stripy top with me in the background. You can see the secret of our approach to luggage on John's Yamaha. Plenty of washing line still in evidence!
























































































































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Just to prove that not all the memories are of rose tinted friendships spent on warm sunny days in idyllic surroundings, take a moment to read the girls body language in this picture! Mostly though we did get on ok although differences did naturally occur.