Forget the tour bus or hire car, go by buggy

Day trip to Lindos on the Greek island of Rhodes.

Like most tourist hotspots, the Greek island of Rhodes has no shortage of car and scooter hire. It’s 120km by road around the island, and with plenty to see and do outside the World Heritage-listed old town, having your own transport is a smart move.

As well as the usual suspects (Avis, Budget, Sixt etc) there is a virtual plethora of mum and dad-type hire operators. One, though, stood out. Parked in front were a couple of off-road buggies, the type we would never see on the road back home in Australia. That appealed. Entering the premises confirmed we had indeed found the right place. Scattered across the floor were cat treats and lapping a water bowl at record pace was one very contented feline. Anyone kind to animals must surely be a decent type with which to do business, should it not?

I laid my 70 Euros down for a one-day hire, gave the moggy a pat and in minutes we were heading south out of town, tourist map on lap, and wind literally in our hair. It’s what you might call minimalist, the Joyner Python 800 – devoid of windscreen, little by way of body work, exposed engine right behind your back. The essentials, though, are there: protective bar work above, below and around us; supportive seats with race harnesses; hydraulic four-wheel disc brakes; independent double-A swing arm at the front, independent trailing dual swing arm at the rear. 

Lindos ruins

It’s a blue-sky day, about 23-degrees Celsius, so being so exposed to the elements is no problem at urban speeds. But once up around 80-90km/h on the open road, wind rush and tyre roar challenge the senses. The Joyner’s Chinese-built engine puts out 38kW (52hp) @ 6000rpm and 47Nm @ 4000rpm, not all that much to send an email home about, but then it’s hauling only 530kg (dry weight) plus our combined 150kg (Instant disclaimer – some 88 of that is mine).

The triple-cylinder engine can handle the pace, but another cog to the four-speed manual box would be handy in cruise mode, something that would be superfluous bashing around in the bush. With generous suspension travel – 254mm at the front, 203 at the rear – ride quality is pretty much compliant. Not so reassuring, the road holding. Although the Joyner is wearing 12-inch road rubber instead of its usual chunky off-road tyres, it wanders a touch at speed, with constant steering correction needed to keep it tracking true. SUV-like ground clearance of 280mm obviously doesn’t help.

Lindos acropolis

Lindos is our destination, about 50km or a little over halfway down the eastern coast of Rhodes. We see it from the distance – and what presence it has, an ancient acropolis on the top of rugged cliff picked out against the sky overlooking the azure waters of the Agean Sea, below it a village of white-washed buildings snuggled around the hillside and cascading down to the base. 

We will spend five or six hours here, stepping back in time as far as 300BC to when the Doric Temple of Athena Lindia was built; advancing to the 1300s when the Knights of St John fortified Lindos into a formidable stronghold. We return to the now and lunch on Greek cuisine of the best kind at one of the many rooftop restaurants offering proverbial views to die for.

What a cracking day, made even more memorable by not just turning up aboard a tourist coach or in a Yaris with plastic wheel trims (sorry Toyota), but arriving in a something as left-field as an American-built, off-road buggy. 

View from acropolis