Wednesday, 13 November 2013

128. It's not so far to Tipperary - on across northern Greece

After delaying our departure for a couple of extra days on Limnos island where we were staying with Ellie's brother Toby, we dragged ourselves back onto the boat (the same boat that had been impounded a few weeks prior to our arrival for its poor safety record and also because the company was apparently having problems covering the running costs of the ferry) and headed back to the mainland at Kavala. Dark skies full of rain greeted our arrival and we abandoned our attempt to escape the city at night to find a campspot and opted for a friendly guesthouse up the incredibly steep and windy lanes of the old town, where we heaved our loaded mounts up just before the deluge.

We left in the morning during a lull in the downpour but it caught us later again. Our campsite that night was a building site for a fancy looking sea-view apartment in whose shell we pitched up and dried off. 

In Thessaloniki we were hosted by a comedian and radio show host, Alex, who put us up at short notice and we swapped cycling tales over his homemade tsiphoro (the Greek version of grappa).

Our route across northern Greece to the Adriatic port town of Igoumenitsa followed the old and largely deserted national roads. After Veria, we camped in a leafless orchard and experienced the first cooler night in Greece now that we had left the warmer Aegean shoreline. Winding up to a monastery on the way to Kozani the next morning, we returned to stunning autumn scenes in the deciduous forests on the lower slopes. A couple of days later we were in the coniferous forests in the higher Pindos mountains, camped on a forest track beside a bear-warning sign when something stumbled up on the tent's guy rope. The jingling bell indicated something more domestic however like a goat or sheep. 

It's hunting season now and on permitted days the report of shotguns booms across valleys. Camouflaged middle aged men drink their coffees at the ubiquitous caf├ęs, weighed down like Pancho Villa with cartridge belts slung around their waists and their dogs whining loudly from the nearby pickup trucks.

Our final two days were a washout as we packed up our soaking home in the high Pindos before stopping in the pretty but touristy town of Metsovo where we sat in the brief sunshine drying ourselves and clothes in the central square amid well-heeled visitors and curious locals. We rode on into Ioannina in a dusk thunderstorm with ocassional flashes of lightning guiding our way. Neither our jackets and trousers nor our panniers give any pretense of being waterproof any longer. Indeed my jacket seems more adept at keeping the water in than out.

Yesterday we reached the Adriatic and stocked up on provisions for our 17 hour journey up to the Italian port city of Ancona. Celebrations for our own mini Hellenic Odyssey were a gyros (wonderful Greek fast food) and a beer. As our tent and clothes dried off in the warm passenger terminal, truckers from across Europe waited for the midnight sailing. A loud Tipperary accent shouting endless expletives down his mobile phone stood out from the rest.

Ancona, Italy
Pedalled: 81,332 km

PS apologies for those following my route on google maps. It is doing stupid things and won't display my updated info at the moment.

No comments: