Long Way Home
A few days ago we arrived in Greece, the ferry docking in the little port of Igoumenitsa just on dawn. Since then we’ve dropped back a gear, relaxing into the more chilled pace of life. In fact given that we’ve cycled on just two of the six days that we’ve been in Greece, we’d better not get too laid back – it’s still a long way home from here!One of the reasons for slowing down is the fantastic scenery of northern Greece. The stone villages of the Zagoria and the trek through VikosGorge were highlights.
Other reasons for slowing down are the mountains. Crossing the Pindos Mountain Range over Katera Pass meant that we spent quite a lot of time in ‘granny’ gear, grinding away for hours. The motorhome ‘cheer squads’ are funny though, nothing like looking up though a haze of sweat to see a group of people on the side of the road, waving and cheering you on, taking photos and video of the ‘berks on bikes’ as we toil away. The Greeks too are a friendly bunch, from the gummy grins of the goatherds to the well oiled businessman pulling over for a chat.
We are definitely going to enjoy the next couple of weeks here! Cycling in towards the towering rocks of Meteora yesterday was a bit like approaching KataTjuta (the Olgas) in central Australia. The huge rocks have the same sort of mysterious looming presence and it feels oddly familiar. It is an amazing place and we’ve had a fun morning zipping around the monastaries on the bikes, dodging tour coaches which have suddenly appeared by the dozen.Tomorrow we head off on some little back roads to explore a bit while making our way across to the coast and towards Mount Olympus.
Newsletter 3 -Frogs, Goats and Millipedes
Hi everyone,It’s been a long time between newsletters….. the creative juices must have been lost along with litres of sweat on a rather gruelling stretch between Bursa and Ankara. But we are now recovering by the pool with a few cold beers at the oasis of Kose Pension in the Cappadocia region of central Turkey.
After leaving Meteora in Greece we headed across to the coast to make our attempt on Mt Olympus – home of the Gods of Greek mythology and the country’s highest mountain at just a smidge under 3000 metres. We stored bikes and gear at a campsite on the beach and booked a couple of nights at a refuge hut at around 2000 metres up the mountain. Unlike bushwalking huts at home this palatial residence slept up to 130 bods in spacious six bunk rooms, had nice dining rooms with big open fires and even provided meals. A daily delivery by mule ensured the beer and food supplies were topped up, and there was enough snow to keep everything cold (including the shower).
We headed up to the summit on a gorgeous sunny morning. At the summit ridge we halted, staring up at the rocky spire ahead and the tiny figures clawing their way up with a stomach churning drop looming below. As we dithered about, four fat Germans and a doddery old Pom whom we had strode past on the scree slopes below arrived. They stepped past us without so much as a nervous peek out into the abyss and began their final ascent. National pride was at stake, we looked at each other and at the fast disappearing figures and off up we went. With the summit successfully in the bag (yippee!) we were soon back down to sea level and off on the bikes again.
One of the first things we noticed in Greece was the amazing variety of insect life. It’s hard to avoid creepy-crawlies when camping – fail to zip up the mesh doors of the tent and all kinds of opportunistic bugs soon move in. It’s even more important to check helmet and gloves for uninvited guests such as millipedes and assorted beetles. The sensation of (lots of) tiny feet prickling through your hair and along your scalp beneath your helmet is indescribably awful and prompts a roadside performance which is no doubt quite amusing to watch …… the ripping off and hurling up the road of the helmet, the frantic upside-down hair tossing, and anguished wails as offending creepy-crawlies are located and evicted.
We found a perfect bush camp one night, up high in a meadow, overlooking a lake and with no farms or houses in sight. Ahh the serenity we thought, as we lay back to watch the sunset…… and then we heard the faint jangle of bells, closely followed by the arrival of approximately two hundred goats, six dogs and an Albanian goatherd. Later that evening we curled up, watching lightning illuminate the tent while thunder rolled around the hills, debating the possible effect of a direct lightning strike on a steel-framed bike. Happily we didn’t get to find out for sure and pedalled safely off the next morning.
A few days along we were headed for the border. Recent storms leaving water everywhere had resulted in an explosion in the local frog population. Tiny frogs were abandoning the waterways in waves, leaping out to try their luck on the road. We zigzagged around madly, not wanting any froggy deaths on our conscience, but it was hopeless…… soon a layer of seething frogs carpeted the road, and the smell of froggy corpses baking in the thick humid air was revolting. We pedalled quickly away from the scene of the carnage.