6 weeks and we finally crossed into Greece
I was excited to eat my weight in feta, olives and stuffed vine leaves, though it turned out that cycling Greece was more expensive than anticipated. So unfortunately we didn’t eat out as much as we planned, though with the “Lidl-supermarket-take-over” – a new Lidl store on the outskirts of pretty much every town or city we cycled through. We were able to still eat most of Greece’s delights, at a more affordable price. We could tell we were going to enjoy cycling Greece!
Greece turned out not to be the easiest country for wild-camping. The first night we spent outside a BP station, the second in a bush behind a “kantina.” Most of the time we had to resort to finding an official campsite or hotel as there was too much exposed farm land, shepherds and stray dogs. We also spotted “bear warning” signs, though with all the farmland I’m not sure where the bears would actually hide.
At the beginning of the trip, I had planned to fly to the UK from Thessaloniki on 13th June, to surprise my Nan for her 80th. Michael was going to stay in Greece to “fine tune” the bikes. We were ahead of schedule, and actually needed to slow down a bit. If we kept going the rate we were going, we would have to spend a week hanging around Thessaloniki or the “three fingers”. So, we decided to take a 300km detour to Meteroa, as a few people told us it was worth seeing. To our discoverer the road to Meteora was extremely hilly and challenging. When we finally arrived, it was well worth the detour and heartache. Meteora is made up of strange rock formation, jutting out of the ground. Some of these rock formations had ancient monasteries located on top.
Summer is here!
From Meteora we headed further east towards the coast – and what turns out to be a tourist hotspot for Serbians, Romanians and Hungarians. There were still the odd thunderstorm, but it was mostly was sunny. We finally got some hot, sunny days to go for a swim at the beach. We hit the coast near Platamous, then made our way, slowly up the coast, passing Mount Olympus and the ancient ruins of Dion. Finally we arrived in the Greek port town, Thessaloniki – where we had a much needed break from cycling.
Cycle touring definitely takes it’s toll
While cycling Greece, we were headed up a hill on a busy highway, battling the winds, rain or occasionally hot sun, I often question why I’m doing this. Why am I putting myself through all of the pain and suffering? I’m definitely aware that I bitch and moan more than Michael, he seems to love it all. I do however like the odd luxury. I often have days where I completely hate cycling, while other days I find it quite enjoyable. I’m sure if I could record the thoughts I have while cycling, then play them for you now, you will think I’m nuts. A mixture of exhaustion, dehydration, boredom, and excitement can do funny things to your mind.
One thing I have come to realise is that the side of the road is usually the crappest part of the road – broken glass, blown tyres, road kill (so many hedgehogs), stones. People also honk for every reason you can think of, and somehow we are just supposed to know what the honk means.
A week off the bike… I was excited!
This was my holiday! No more cycling Greece for me. I was in the UK for a week, and the time flew by. It seems like a dream now. My Nan had no idea I was coming, and was quite surprised to see me walk through the door. I was greeted with shock, confusion and many questions. “Aren’t you supposed to be cycling in the Amazon, or one of those ‘funny countries’?” “Where is your bike?” “Where is your boyfriend?” “So, who knew about this? I don’t know who to trust anymore, no one tells me anything.”
My mum was also over from Australia, so I got to catch up with her as well as the rest of the family. I’m glad I took the opportunity, even though it took a week out of a cycle tour, which means we are now cycling like crazy to make up the time. It was worth it – plus it got me out of fixing and cleaning the bikes. Thanks Michael.
Another change in plans
After a week off the bike, spent in a comfortable bed, eating and drinking my weight in food and drink, picking up and few things from Go Outdoors. I headed back to Thessaloniki. Our original plan was to cycle North along the coast and cross into Turkey, and then on to Istanbul. Here we planned to sort out our visas for Iran. After reading a bunch of cycle touring blogs and threads that told of the horrors of cycling into Istanbul we decided against. We’ve both been to the city before – it’s beautiful, but it’s huge, in size and population and it’s just plain crazy, especially in the summer season.
Greek Island Hopping
We decided to take a ferry from Thessaloniki to the Greek Island, Chios. Here we spent Michael’s birthday. Unfortunately, there is only one ferry per week, with Nel Lines, which meant we had a couple more days in Thessaloniki. It wasn’t too bad. I got to explore the city, we changed/added/cleaned a few things on the bikes, and even went to a Bob Dylan concert – such a hard life. We only spent one night on Chios, as we discovered, the Iranian visa agency (Touran Zamin), messed up our application, and we only had 21 days to cycle 1600km across Central Turkey. Fun times ahead! So, from Chios we caught the ferry to Cesme in Turkey. Turkey you better be ready for us!
Europe leg – completed!!!
Cycling Greece was awesome, but we were ready for the next leg, Asia! Hotter, longer, harder. I think it’s safe to say, our training is now over, and the real cycle tour is about to begin. Who knows whether we’ll make it, but there is only one way to find out. Bring on Asia!!!
Cycling Greece Stats
Accommodation: 3 nights wild camping, 6 nights in a cheap hotel, 5 nights in an official campsite, 1 night with a couchsurfer, 6 nights at Nan’s house (in England – while Michael stayed with a CSer), 1 night on a ferry
Total days spent in Greece: 18 days in Greece and 7 days in England
Spendings: Too much – lost count – no more than 20 euro per day
Bicycle maintenance: New cassette, new front brake pads and new chain for me; new cassette, new chain, new clogs, new tyre, new front brake pads, new inner tubes (probably more stuff I don’t know about), for Michael. We also had both the wheels on both bikes, trued as they were a bit out-of-line
Punctures: Me: 0 – Michael: 7
Our little treats: Michael – ouzo and coke and helva; Me – chocolate milk and stuffed vine leaves