When he put up his tent near Ralang monastery in Sikkim, an artist painting one of the monastery’s walls saw him and invited him in. The Tibetan student inside lent him his friend’s room for the night. “The student told me about his great escape from China. He had to walk for a month through snow, surviving on nothing more than
(barley flour),” says Ilias.
Ilias Vrochidis is a 24-year-old Greek traveller who pays for his trips by writing travel articles for Greece’s top motorcycle magazine. And that’s not the most exciting detail about him. Ilias set out from Europe on a bike. On his Honda XR 250 for one-and-a-half years now, he rode his way from Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city after Athens, out of Europe through Turkey and into Asia through Iran, Pakistan and now India.
He became a national celebrity when he set out. “A lot of Europeans take bike trips. But in Greece, I was the first,” he says.
Six months after he arrived in Amritsar, Ilias is still in the same country. “India is a big country.” He depends on youth hostels and locals for his lodging. Other times, he sleeps in his tent. But he is not always welcome. He ended up taking shelter at a police station in Jalpaiguri, after the locals refused.
Ilias knows details about India that would surprise most Indians. “The best place for auto spare parts in Delhi is not Karol Bagh, but KRP in the Nariana industrial estate. If you have the time and the money, they have what you need.” More India details: “Don’t ever think of renting a dormitory in Colaba in Mumbai. They charge eight times the cost in other places in India.”
Forty-six thousand kilometers later, Ilias is getting ready for his return. His route includes Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. Preparing for his ride, he has picked up Lonely Planet (LP) guides to Afghanistan and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries. He jokes about the possibility of kidnapping and narrates how he is reminded of how the Greek embassy in Pakistan told him they wouldn’t pay ransom money in the case of an eventuality.
“The best relationships I built were with people whose language I didn’t understand. I never feel lonely. I am here because I love adventure,” says Ilias. He leaves for Pakistan next week.