Arriving in Corfu
The cold, painted steel was covered in salt residue. The ramp was about 5 meters long and in a slight, upward angle. My trusty BMW R1150GS and I looked at each other and exchanged the exact same thought: “Looks very slippery, let’s take this slow”. I engaged the clutch, kicked it in first gear and drove off with a slow, steady pace. People waiting to enter the ferry were watching, people already on the ferry were also watching, a bit too judgy to my taste. I started to feel the pressure. My packed up, very heavy bike and I had to do this right. “To hell with all this cautiousness! Let’s just gun it!” the macho in myself decided. So my right hand became all pumped up and manly and twisted the throttle, just a bit too far. My rear wheel started spinning, the bike’s back end broke loose and I felt a bit of a panic coming up. I was on the verge of making a massive fool of myself, all while hundreds of people were watching, judging. In a split second I decided I was a master in motorbike control and sure enough, I more or less saved it. Apart from parking my bike on a different spot then I intended, everything was fine. And that is the story how I entered the ferry from Igoumenitsa, Greece, to Corfu, while drifting.
How I got to Corfu
It was the end May 2015, I already had two months of motor biking behind me and I looked a bit like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. That morning I had crossed the Bulgarian/Greek border in Lozengradtsi and drove 600 km’s to Igoumenitsa to catch a ferry to Corfu. I took the E90 from Komotini in the East all the way to Igoumenitsa in the West. The road was empty and stunningly beautiful. Landscapes changed almost every corner. It started out with mountainous scenery on my right and endless flats on my left. Before I got to Thessaloniki, the road started making his way up into the mountains, giving me monumental views of the Aegean Sea. After the mountains came the flats around Thessaloniki, long stretches of road where, I will be honest, I may have broken the speed limit a couple of times. Once past Thessaloniki the mountains start again and it’s only when you are about 5 km’s from Igoumenitsa that the mountains open up and lead you straight to the sea, the Ionian Sea this time. Goose bump moments in abundance.
The ferry takes about two to three hours and, depending on the time of the year, it can get a bit crowded. I found a free place at the top deck of the boat, giving me a perfect view of my surroundings, the dry and dusty mountains of the mainland on my right, and in the distance, the contours of Corfu. As we got closer to the island, I was amazed about how green everything was, it’s nothing like the sun burned shores of the mainland. Trees grow everywhere, right up to the pebble beaches, giving the sun hungry tourist the possibility of a time out of getting that perfect tan, and use the shade of the trees to cool down.
Just before docking, you sail around Corfu’s main city: Kerkyra. Being subjected to many wars, the view you get is that of a massive fort, build to withstand almost everything. Once the boat makes his turn for the harbor though, you get a chance to see the other side of the city, busy little streets packed with shops and crawling with people, taxi’s and crazy men on scooters. Lovely!
Finding a place to stay
I had arranged to work in a youth hostel for a month, The Comfy Hostel, until the end of June. I wouldn’t get payed, but I had free accommodation and a lot of free time. Not to mention all the interesting people I got to meet. I was looking forward to it.
Getting my bike off the ferry went better than getting on it. Luckily. I told my satnav to guide me to a place called Ypsos. The hostel would be at the end of the beach, 100 meter landward. The road to Ypsos is not particularly pretty until you arrive in Ypsos. There it takes a dive towards sea level and once around the bend, there it is. The sea. On clear days you can see Albania in the distance. Ypsos itself is basically a very long beach. The road runs all the way across from one side to the other, bars, shops hotels and apartments are everywhere, the beach is full of tourists enjoying the sun and the refreshing water. After not running over people blindly crossing the road on their way to the beach, I arrive at the Comfy Hostel. Spiros, the owner, is waiting for me and takes me to what will become my home for the coming month. A room with a private bathroom, two beds and a balcony. I can see why it is called the Comfy Hostel. It’s very comfy indeed. All the rooms are the same as mine, apart from two rooms where you can sleep with six people, both with a private bathroom and balcony. After Spiros explained to me what my job would be, I fell on my bed. Completely exhausted I fell asleep.
What to do in Ypsos
When I woke up it was getting dark and I decided to have a look what the night life would bring. Walking from the hostel to the beach takes about 5 minutes and when you are about to come on the main road, you will pass a place called “Tweaty Pie”. Go there and order a Pita Gyros. You will be amazed. You can get Pita Gyros everywhere in Ypsos, but the ones at Tweaty Pie are the cheapest, not losing in quality.
I turn right and begin my exploring. The first bar you cross is Dirty Nellies, kind of an irish bar with a bartender that lets you choose your own music, as long as you stay long enough. You will find UK people here, which are the best company if you want to spend your night drinking and laughing. A bit further up the road you will find Olea. A bar where they have salsa nights, at least once a week. Always good fun. Then you come to Montecristo. Ypsos own disco bar. It’s fun when there is enough people, so July and August are best. When you are done with Ypsos, take a 2 minute taxi drive to Dasia and tell the driver to drop you of at Tartayas. They make the best cocktails.
What about diving?
One night I was out and I met some people who were running a dive shop. Waterhoppers Corfu. From one thing came another and the next day I was taking a dive with them. Their dive site isn’t located in Ypos, but at Krouzeri Beach. They take you by boat from Ypsos. It’s a lovely place, you will get a lecture before the dive besides an enormous olive tree and underneath a roof made of grapes. The dive itself will last about 15 to 20 minutes and you will go to about 5 meters depth. You do not need any experience at all.
Fancy a week of sailing?
Not a problem at all. After my month of working in the hostel, I had to go, Spiros already planned the next worker to take care of the hostel. There was one problem though. I really did not want to leave Corfu. So I took my bike and drove to Gouvia Marina, 10 minutes from Ypsos, and went looking for a job as a sailor. And sure enough, some sailing company was in need of a skipper. After some formal signing of papers and discussing what I would make every week, I was officially working for OCC Yachting. If you decide to book with them, you get a week of sailing on your own sailing boat. They will plan the route for you, call restaurants and make reservations, the only thing you have to do is enjoy your sailing holiday. You do not know how to sail or drive a boat? Not a problem at all. You can hire a skipper for the week, the job I did from July until October. During the day we will accompany you on your boat, teaching you everything there is to know about sailing. At night we leave you be so you can enjoy some quality time with family/friends. The skippers sleep on another boat.