greek gods

Following the Greek Gods

The Annual 1,000 Miglia offers a heady mix of imposing mountains, tranquil beaches, and ancient history.

Among the many annual events and excursions of the H.O.G. Athena Chapter in Greece, the 1,000 Miglia always stands out. Previous rides set out from the northern towns of Kastoria and Ioannina, and for 2017 the route was planned to take in the beautiful scenery of the West Peloponnese. More than 100 riders have enrolled to take part in the event, running from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday, October 8, and expectations are high, as indeed they are every year.

The Heritage Softail® is loaded from the previous night, and my toiletry bag is added to the luggage just before I start the engine at 7.30am on our first day. The route to our meeting point is barely enough to even start warming up the motor, but the sun will warm us up soon enough. We gather and then embark on our journey, the sound of motorcycles filling the air and raising the spirits. Before long we arrive at the Isthmus of Corinth, which marks the crossing to the Peloponnese.

TAKING IN THE VIEW

Soon the route is running alongside the sea, and we drive on provincial roads at a low speed. We pass by Míloi, Xiropigado, Chania and other small and beautiful villages, whose residents are watching with surprise as we roll by. To our left we see the Argolic gulf with its wonderful beaches, tempting even at this late stage in the year. We make a brief stop for coffee at the port of Astros before moving on towards Leonidio, passing by the Moustos lagoon and the charming village of Tyros along the way. The landscape is picturesque and the roads are safe and well-maintained, making our journey all the more enjoyable.

Having left Leonidio behind us, we wind our way round snaking roads as we head towards Mystras through the Parnon mountains, taking in a lovely village called Kosmas. We reach our second scheduled stop at Mystras – this town was an important medieval state and was built around a castle erected in the 13th century by the Franks. Here we have the opportunity for a quick snack break, and the chance to take in some of the area’s history.

MASTERS OF THE MOUNTAINS

Between us and our base for the night lie the Taygetos mountains, and one of the most wonderful routes that Greece has to offer. We ascend and then descend Mount Taygetos, enjoying the diverse green landscape and the new riding experiences on offer. On the other side of the mountain lies the town of Kalamata, where we spend our first night. The reception is warm, and we pass an enjoyable hour speaking with the townsfolk before returning to our hotel to enjoy a well-earned welcome drink. Tomorrow we will dig deeper into the secrets of the Peloponnese, but for now, good night!

The feeling of waking up knowing that you’ll be spending the day driving through beautiful places is hard to beat. The weather is great today and we depart from the hotel at 10.30am, heading first to Gythio in Laconia. The Laconian part of the Mani peninsula is the wildest region of the Peloponnese, where partially ruined towers oversee the territory and wild promontories invade the sea, telling stories of pirates and naval adventures.

Following a road with many twists and turns, we arrive at Kardamyli, a charming village full of narrow streets and bright colours. We continue on to Stoupa, which boasts one of the largest beaches in the region, and Agios Nikolaos, a fishing village that looks like it came out of a movie! We pass by Oitylo, close to the southernmost edge of Mani, before we reach our stop at the large portof Gythio.

EXPLORING ANCIENT CASTLES

Our next stop is Monemvasia for lunch and a tour of the imposing medieval castle walls that surround it. Monemvasia means ‘single entrance’, referring to the fact that the settlement can only be accessed via a lone causeway. By the time we have absorbed Monemvasia’s magic it is already evening, so we start our return to Kalamata, only stopping briefly in Sparta to fill our tanks. Luckily the route back is extremely safe as we are able to create a tunnel of light with our headlights, now that the sun has set. We arrive relaxed, and it’s not long before small groups start leaving the hotel in search of food, drinks and good times – things that Kalamata always offers in abundance.

For Saturday’s itinerary we are to visit the Messinian Mani, another mesmerising area of the Peloponnese that is a little more accessible to visitors. We leave the hotel at 10am; Kyparissia is first on our route, and we continue without stopping to Filiatra, Gialova and Pylos, enjoying the ride through olive groves. The view of Pylos appears dramatically as we descend towards the town.

We arrive at Methoni with its Venetian castle around noon, and spend a few hours taking in the town and its restaurants before leaving at 3pm in order to return to Kalamata a bit earlier: a large event organised by Harley-Davidson Athena awaits us, and we are all looking forward to some more partying! However, we still find time to pass by some beautiful spots on the way back: the stunning Foinikounta beach, Peroulia, which features an ingenious elevator to transfer visitors to the beach, and the quiet village of Petalidi. Each one would make an extraordinary summer destination and we all start making mental plans for next year!

Our return to Kalamata is carefree and we make good time. By 9pm, the central Kalamata square is filled with more than 100 motorbikes from Athens, Patras, Rhodes, Bulgaria and Lebanon, local friends of the chapter and many others.

Before things get started, our Director, Nikos Diakodimitris, takes the stage and personally thanks all the volunteers of the H.O.G. Athena Chapter for the work carried out over the years. He also thanks the Road Captain, Dimitrios Koufos, who has joined us on his widely known Americana bike. Dimitrios responds by making a burn-out in the Kalamata square, to the crowd’s applause and the loud music of Sober on Tuxedos, who then take to the stage and perform like there’s no tomorrow. The night, of course, does not end early...

DIZZYING HEIGHTS

It’s now our final day. We leave the hotel at 9.30am, passing through the villages of Kalo Nero and Zacharo, and the wetlands of the Kaiafas Lake. We arrive at ancient Olympia, the cradle of the Olympic Games, and are awe-struck by the archaeological site. Next we drive through the Arcadian mountains, gaining height until we arrive at Lagkadia at an altitude of 950 metres, where we stop for lunch at a local restaurant with an astonishing view.

We continue on towards Levidi, located at 850 metres. The motorbikes’ modern fuel injection systems almost eliminate altitude and temperature differences, and the engines run smoothly. We cross Mount Mainalo, join the Tripoli-Athens national highway and finally arrive at the Megara service station at 8pm on Sunday, having completed the 1,000 Miglia 2017 (and most likely many more than a thousand miles!), with no complaints.

All in all this has been the most wonderful and successful excursion, full of happy smiles and great riding experiences! 

THE DREAM TEAM

Dimitrios Koufos (Head Road Captain), Argyris Tsitouras (Secretary), Nikos Diakodimitris (Director), Yiannis Resbithas (Road Captain), Nikos Katerinakis (Historian, Membership), Vassilis Ioannidis (Road Captain), Christos Kalamatianos (Road Captain), Andreas Vourakis (Road Captain), Nikolaos Katerinakis (Historian)