Two guys, two bikes, two continents pt.2

While in Italy we heard news from Turkey that a military coup had gone of in full swing, so in the back of our mind we had some decisions to make. For me, the thoughts of stopping in Greece were put on hold I did not want to face the reality of not going through Turkey, thereby not be able to cycle to Iran and end the trip in Dubai as wanted. But since everything is too uncertain the outcome was finally to stay in Greece, see some more of it and head back home to our respective countries.

Day 24-29, July 24th – July 29th (Hilly hot mountains and great people) – Igoumenitsa to Athena.

We got on our bikes a bit late on this day, because we wanted to take it easy. Scott took the coast and I took to the mountains. Out of the bat it was up, up and up in the hot heat of the Greek weather. Though here it is not hard to find water springs/sights every now and then, fresh mountain water were pumped into small fountains that continuously ran(for now). It was clear that it would not be hard to find a secure spot to set up camp along the way, this is due to the multiple rest stops, mainly with small shrines(Kandylakia) in remembrance of a deceased who have been in a tragic accident or praying spot, according to Wiki. On these rest stops there were sometimes benched or as said, watering spots or just a clear spot to set up camp. And the locals don’t mind that you slept at one of these spots for the night.

The mountains here are beautiful, and the roads are not as bad as I had first thought, there are some missing pieces here and there and of course bumps and lumps but not much out of the ordinary. The only thing not welcoming me were some of the dogs, mainly the guard dogs or sheep herting dogs. Most of the times I got of my bike to not have them give chase. Then proceeded to walked slowly passed them and make some Caesar Milan noises when they got too close.

During my mountain stage I had the great idea of going on an alternative way to save time. And of course it was far from it, the alternative route ended up being steep climbs, unmaintained roads, off roads and to top it all up a hiking route through the woods. In the end I had to back track two hours plus going for another alternative off road route for another hour to get back on the main road. I have been so happy to see asphalt before in my life. Another thing worth mentioning was that the whole time that I went deeper and deeper towards nothingness, thunder and rain was with me the whole time. Being at 1700 meters high listening to the sound of thunder while being the highest point on a steel bike, scared the crap out of me. And of course the dogs, what would I do without them. After my backtrack I finally made it out of the woods and a pack of dogs decided that I was a thread to the hert of sheep’s the leader of the pack was the most aggressive(duh) and it really wanted a piece of me, even when I made my way around they still would not let me pass. Until I found the sheep herder, soundly a sleep under a small shelter, he woke from his sleep swung his arms around said some noise, and the dogs were chilled and the sheep’s.

After the whole off-road experience and a huge amount of swearin, once back on the main road, I found a nice place to eat and a place to stay for the night. At this restaurant that I had decided to stop at, one of the guys here turned out to be a motorbike tourer. We had great discussions about our trips and experiences. He had done 30000 miles from Greece through Turkey, Russia, Mongolia and many more and back again, he told me that he is planning a new trip to the Americas but that it required a lot of money and that he would try to find some sponsors. After our chat and some food and tea he showed me to a church nearby where I could setup my tent, which also marked the end of this days adventure.

Because of my adventure in the Greek highlands and some other dog related events, with some added summer monsoon. I got a bit behind schedule and was in a mood to treat myself, and what was better than a train ride to Athens. I got the train from the small town of Kato Tithorea into Athens railway station. From the station it was a small ride to another one of my closest friends place (Sofia), where we would meet up before her brothers wedding on Lesbos that I kindly asked if I could crash. Here in Athens once again, the wolf pack would also be assembled.

Day 30-36, July 30th – August 6th (The Greek wedding and sightseeing in Athens) – Athena to Skala(Lesbos) and back again.

Prior to our relaxation in Athens the wedding would now be upon us, since we’re not heading for Turkey, there would be no packing of bikes of any kind, which is a bit of a relieve but also a longing for the other continent.

Here on the island of Lesbos it would be maximum relaxation a la beach, eat, lay in the sun and repeat. As for the wedding goes, none of us had any idea of how it would go and what to expect, we have not watched (the great) Hollywood movie My Big Fat Greek wedding, but merely read bit on the web about traditions, rituals and such. Another thing worth mentioning was that we did not know the couple either, I had asked my friend Sofia if anybody would mind if Scott and I were to attend the wedding about a month before the wedding, just to make sure that we were welcomed. As for the soon to be husband and wife. Well, we had only met them on the beach on Lesbos once before the wedding and that was it.

The wedding was beyond any expectation, alongside the beautiful ceremony at the church we were treated with candy and some Greek wonder water mastiha and a gorgeous sunset. After the ceremony and some transportation related issues due to the hundred something guests to a nearby town. There was food, lots of food, Greek folk dancing, tons of ozo and beer, this all went on into the break of dawn and beyond. As for a none Greek tradition goes, the bouquet tossing was snatched by my great catching skills, I’m so proud but also feel a bit sorry for all the ladies and my friend Mads for not catching the bouquet. I would like to say BIG thanks to the happily married couple and give you BIG congratulation and wish you all the best in the future. From the small and brief encounter, I see why everyone loves you so much you are both great people with big and kind heart’s and lastly – best wedding ever!!!

After the maxin and relaxin on Lesbos it was back to Athens for some sightseeing. It was of course all the usual touristy selfie spots, also as I did on my last tour, a trip to the cinema with the newest installment of Star trek – awesome movie, just want to put it out there.

Day 37-43, August 7th – August 13th (Greece round two) – Athens to mount Olympus.

After a lot of back and forth on what to do after the decision of not going to Turkey. The idea was to take another round trip here in Greece, at first I wanted to go for a short trip, taking it easy. Of course taking it easy and hang out is never the case when you are in a bike, so I spend two days cycling on the island of Euboea. On the second day it finally rained, I had not seen the rain since the 26th of July during the summer monsoon. This was also where things would get a bit slippery. In the morning during my climb the visibility was at maximum 15 meters, after it had cleared out during my decent I decided that 50 km/h on the wet road would be a good idea. I approached a corner at this speed, too speedy, I pumped the brakes just a bit too hard, that the back wheel locked up, one second later I had to take the choice of going off to the side and try my luck in stopping the bike. Luckily there was a side I could veer off into and not just a metal railing leading to a drop. I took a small breath, thank all the gods and continued, a bit more careful this time around.

After my lucky strike, I called my friend Sofia to calm my self down a bit and just tried to take it a bit easy in the future. During my ride on the island of Euboea I decided to make my way to Litochoro where I could hike mount Olympus. As with all other places I get to, I first had to find a spot to sleep, here there’s a lot of coastline and I found the perfect spot. A man was fishing by swinging fishing lines manually into the sea, wich were then held by some bamboo sticks on the shoreline, he told me that the reason for this was to pass the time while guarding the floating sea cattle for the hotel that owned it. We had a small chat about his days/years at seas as a captain, after that I went off to bed while he was would continue to fish into the break of dawn.

The hike to the nearest campsite to the top would take about 8 hours from the bottom, starting from a town at the base. To begin with the sights were as usual, forest, tourists, souvenir salesmen. The scenery changed as I got higher and higher, from being foresty and touristy, to beautiful waterfalls and rivers that one could swim in and jump from rocks down into the basin to cool down, and one did! Closing in on night time I could finally see the campsite where I would spend my night and have a go at the top in the next day. I started the hike as lite as possible to be quick, and quick I was. The peak was reached in no time and the descent as well – sidenote from the mountain: I kind of wish that I had spend one more day up there at the other campsite it was super beautiful up there, sidenote end. On my way down I met a girl from Germany we had a chat on our way down and near the end of our decent I found out that she attended Glasgow university, which to me was a funny coincidence, we got to the bottom(ish) to where the parking lot was, hitchhiked to the town at the base and parted ways. I got down from Litochoro, then to a small touristy town called Leptokarya and found a small campsite, rested my legs till the day after, by spending time riding around town eat good food and visiting the local Olympus Geological History museum. 

Day 44-51, August 14th – August 21th (Last daysTrikala to Patra and back to Athens.

I didn’t want to do the same trip back on the bike so I took the train out from Leptokarya, bikes as far as I could to get as close to the mountains as possible, here I found myself a spot with some nice dogs barking all night(as usual). In the morning when I was all rested my mountain etape would commence, it would take about two days and one night to get to the other side. The mountains were rough to get through having to climb for about two days and ending in a long way down, long way down. Besides blue beaches the mountains in Greece were amongst my favorite, here I got to see the beauty that I had missed on my first days in the mountains and along side I got to enjoy it with a full moon.

Sidenote: while on the bike, I thought that it would just have been easier to take a plane to Iran and resume the journey from there. Well too late for other ideas.

Getting down to sea level I clearly felt what I also could enjoy being above it – the chilled weather. It became apparent that I could not set my up bevy, for it was too hot and by not being able to do so, the consequence was bites from mosquitoes accompanied by other various bug. Aside from sleeping outside I finally spend my first night Couchsurfing, I got the contact through Scott of a person in Patra that is now a friend of mine, thank you … for putting me up for the night, that was super awesome. I got to socialize(having conversations, drinking, eating) with another person for the first time in a long while since leaving Athens – socializing is very unappreciated while being able to from my side. What a great experience for a first time couchsurfer. After Patra I took the coast to … Trying to make my way to … to see the ancient city of … to get some culture and to see a bit more of Greece. The ride from Patra to Athens is a very beautiful ride and should be done if possible, though the last mile into Athens is a bit busy because it is one of the few roads into the city, cars go fast while the shoulder is narrow and bit to mention the amount of cars. 

What was suppose to end in two, ended up being one – one guy, one bike and one continent. What I have learned from this tour is that nothing really goes the way it “suppose” to, it is rather better to enjoy the moment and make the most out of what is in front of you. Mainly the road of course, from this shorten trip many experience have been had. New friendships, new places discovered, new culinary experience etc. Everything is greatly appreciated and would not have been otherwise, would do it again another time, though maybe in a car next time 😛 happy trails to all!


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