Day 31 – Monday 4th May
Santoremo – savellerii (back on the coast)
As usual it took me a long while to get to sleep last night, I find myself listening out for all the odd noises when we are wild camping. Up at dawn, Ginette also awake so we set off early this morning. As we set off I realised I had a puncture from taking the bike over the fields (1085 miles – first puncture).
As we reached the first town all the shops were shut (not a surprise really it wasn’t even 8.30am) cycled into Giord Del Colle stopped had a wander round and stocked up on food. While buying bread an old man who spoke English offered us to house to eat breakfast, unfortunately we had only just eaten so sadly declined, but it was a really nice offer.
Ginette – cycled throw a storm of bees, a little eery but fortunately they were not interested in us.
Gary – Today felt like it was cycling along B roads and playing dot to dot with the towns (to name a few Putignano, monopoly) unfortunately when we reached Monopoli by the coast no camp sites to be found we did not pass goal and we did not collect our £200 instead we had to cycle a further 8 miles down the coast against our old friend ‘mr headwind’.
The camp site was ok, it had a laundry so we did a wash, it was right next to the Adriatic sea, the beach formation was nothing like I’d seen before. I loved it! lots of tiny eroded inlets, making lots of tiny bathing areas. The swimming was great but I could have done with a mask, so that I could avoid stepped on anything, over the rocky shallows. I did find a small inlet deep enough to swim in.
Sunny day and even managed a little bit of sunbathing.
Day 32 – Tuesday the 5th May
Severelli – Brindinsi
We both woke early (5.00am) to go to the toilet and watched an amazing sun rise over the sea. Our beds still called so we tried to catch up on some much needed sleep, I managed this better than Gary, but we were both awake by 6.45am.
After breakfast I went to the bar area to do some much needed internet updating (facebook, emails, blog, iPod downloads etc)
After a lazy start we left the campsite at about 10.30am
Gary; we thought about lounging around on the beach again but decided to do this later nearer the port.
Ginette – We had thought we had an easy 40km ride down the coast, but this was not to be the case. We had a head wind within the first couple of miles. The coast road was flat, long and really hard cycling.
Gary – The road stopped in a dead end and we couldn’t find another route past the main road so we decided to divert in land and visit a village Ostendi, this turned out to be up a hill! The temperature was 33 centigrades it was very hot and a really hard cycle ride. We both had to stop several times to take on more fluids, in short we where knackered.
Ginette – Just before we reached Ostend a couple of ladies on their bikes gave us a round of applause for climbing the hill with our laden bikes, we met them later and they were on a cycling holiday from Holland. At Ostendi we stopped for a much needed break from the sun, a lemon soda (quickly becoming our favourite drink) and a pizza It was bliss. We contemplated stopping for the day but decided to keep going for Brindinsi.
Fortunately the next part of the ride was much easier, we passed a couple of towns before we reached Brindinsi at 4.30. We passed several beaches and as we neared the port Gary suggested a swim and some sunbathing, but we had not purchased our tickets for the ferry, so we cycled on to the port.
Just as well we factored in some additional time, although we found a travel operator at 6.00pm we still had a mile to cycle to the ferry (which was due to depart at 8.00pm). The travel operator offered us cabin seats at €98 euros or a cabin at €285 euros, there was no way we could justify €200 euros for a bed so opted for the cabin seats. Finally got to the ferry and was informed we needed to cycle back to the reservation desk, it was not a problem because we still had plenty of time, got on to the ferry at 7.30pm.
After selecting our seats/beds, and getting washed up we headed to the restaurant, we had naively thought it would be reasonably priced as the ferry was full of truckers, but our meals (very basic chips and meat cost €29! and our drinks €11.
For medicinal purposes (to help us sleep) we purchased a bottle of wine from duty free.
Had a cyclist overtake us today and said hello to us, and I replied it wasn’t until he had passed us I realised we had both just welcomed each over in Polish, I bet the fact I answered him took him by surprise.
Bumped into a guy outside a small shop we stopped at for drinks, he was a keen cyclist and showed us his last route on his phone of 109km, and photos of his Specialised €8500 carbon fibre bike. It turned out that he had once been to England to work for a week at Rolls Royce, Filton, Bristol- it’s a small world.
The ferry is mainly full of tanned lorry drivers (the stereotypical kind), the accents and appearance has changed suddenly from what we have been experiencing. Ginette – I definitely preferred the eye candy in France, Spain, Italy. Gary – Our French, Italian and Spanish is pretty poor but at least we can make out what they mean, but we are surrounded by people that we cannot understand a word.
We secured our seats and optimistically thought they would be slightly better than in an aeroplane, they were recliners with more leg room than a plane and as a bonus we thought we would be able to walk about as we pleased.
Brindisi to Patras
We should have known we were being too optimistic when we saw some regular travellers arrive, they already had there blankets and roll up mattresses and headed for well known spaces on the ferry. They bunked down on any spare floor space they could find including behind the seats, across rows of four seats and even under the stair wells, there were sleeping bodies everywhere.
The reality soon kicked in, the seats were really uncomfortable, the lights remained on all night, it was noisy, very hot (no air conditioner) and some people had no intention of sleeping. After trying to get comfortable in the chairs, Gary and I tried to copy the regulars and find some floor space to sleep on, but the floor was really cold (even with a sleeping bag) the engine made an irregular knocking noise and a dog barked constantly on the floor below. Gary persevered but I climbed back on my seat. As for walking about, there were bodies all over the floor so you couldn’t go to the loo without waking people up.
If this wasn’t bad enough the ferry stopped at 4.30am (we had suspected 2 stops when we were asked to tell the boat crew we would be getting off in Patras but no-one had told us there were two stops!). Alarms started going off at about 3.30am and by 4.00am everyone was awake and announcements were made from the speakers informing people of their stop – what a nightmare!
The good news was that the ferry is now nearly empty, hardly a soul around.
Once the boat left dock Gary and I found ourselves some comfy settees and settled down for an hours much needed kip. We woke at 6.20/7.20am (depending on which device we looked at) to the sound of people moving around. On a positive note we hadn’t planned on cycling far today, we know there is a campsite 20km west of the port and although this is in the wrong direction to where we need to be going, it is the only camp site we can find in the region and neither of us are up to wild camping tonight. Amazingly we’re both still smiling, we will chalk this up as another adventure to add to our ever growing list of adventures.
Patras to Tsolis
Had a leisurely morning on the ferry, it was virtually empty which was very eery, a few truckers and a young family with a couple of foot passengers.
Leaving the ferry was very strange! Previously we have had to wait for all the vehicles to leave before we can disembark, but we simply had to be given the nod. No passport control (that we could see, although we did take a short cut to the road). On deck I had commented to Gary that it would have been easy to jump over board in the night and no-one would have noticed, after getting off the boat and no-one counting us, or asking for our details, I am sure this would be a possibility but I think you would need to be a non swimmer, or very drunk/drugged for it to be an easy option. Strange the things you think about whilst waiting for a ferry to dock!
Once off the boat within the first mile we saw a number of shrines at the side of the road to mark the deaths of young men. It did feel a little cut throat, no clear lanes and cars, motorcycles and trucks everywhere. I was feeling a little intimidated, but Gary seemed to be relaxed. He did get beeped by one stupid lady, she had decided she wanted to turn into a shop, no indication or regard to the fact that we were on the road. Another driver witnessed her appalling driving and double beeped her to let her know that she was in the wrong, and later at the traffic lights he confirmed he was really annoyed with her.
We stopped at a supermarket for some much needed supplies and were accosted by a young girl no more than 10 years of old with a very small baby, for money. I refused but Gary gave her one euro. Once we left the supermarket the mother of the two children was present and started accosting us again, a customer gave her some formula milk before the supermarket manager came out and moved her on. I felt really bad about not giving her money (she may have been asking for formula, nappies etc, but we could not understand her) but I could not condone using children to beg, especially when the baby was being used like a doll. The young girl rocked the baby with no regard for it’s safety and at one point was running with the baby. The mother seemed to pay no attention to the children. I am not sure what the welfare system is in Greece and I can only hope that the family will be looked after. This incident played on my mind lots throughout the afternoon.
Gary had located a tourist information centre on his phone but we could not find this, as a plan B Gary went into a bookshop to ask for directions and was fortunate enough to speak to a guy who could speak some English. Gary was informed there were campsites on the route to Athens. This was good news because we had intended going in the other direction, the bad news was, we were unclear of the mileage or whether it would be open.
Gary navigated us out of the busy town (lots of bars, restaurants and shops) and onto the old road to Athens. This zigzagged across a railway track and the new road (which we had been advised to stay off). Eventually we came to a sign for a campsite, we were both very tired and a little tetchy through the heat and lack of sleep. Unfortunately we could not find the site, but we were informed by some scuba divers who had just surfaced that a camp site was approximately 4km down the road.
On our way to the campsite Gary’s back pannier fell off his bike, Gary had redistributed all of the cooking equipment to one pannier a couple of weeks earlier but this made the bag really heavy and we agreed we needed to redistribute the weight before the bag broke. I had threatened that as an alternative I would but more clothes for my bag as this counter balances his bike. But I would have needed a lot of clothes/shoes.
We found the campsite and although the reception desk was closed we set up camp, showered (Gary went for a swim) and relaxed.
It was a lovely site right next to the sea, with free wifi, clean showers/toilets and relatively quiet.
Hayley called to say she had received the Garmin and that she was in the process of getting it mended – we both commented on how grown up and independent she had become, we are very proud of her.
Day 34 – Thursday 7th May
Tsolis to Akpata
Last night the campsite had good wifi so we made some plans. We booked a hotel in Athens and booked a self catering apartment in Rhodes for the week before the family arrive.
Slept really well – Very little provisions for breakfast so we had biscuits and a cup of tea/coffee and set off fairly early. Stopped within 2 miles at a roadside stand and had a panini each and a lemon soda. Freshly fuelled we set off again to stop at the first bakery we saw, Gary stopped and got some bread and chocolate spread (I think he was worried we wouldn’t see any shops, in fairness they’d been pretty scare the previous day). Less than 1/2 mile down the road we stopped again at a supermarket. Gary went in and stocked up on all the necessities, although we planned to stop early there was no guarantee that the camp site we had seen online would be open (it is not open all year) and the next camp site was 40 miles away.
The roads were not very pleasant to cycle on, full of pot holes, with heavy traffic going passed, making it very dusty but it was safer than the new road, which we could see from our road was much busier. We had to pass several sets of roadworks along the way. As we got closer to the campsite the roads got a little quieter and the road a little more undulating, with some good sea views. We stopped approx 5 miles away from the campsite for a quick drink and a snack. The camp site was open, quiet, beautiful (lots of flowers) and right next to the sea – heaven!
We spent a lovely afternoon trying to turn our white bits a little bit brown, the only downside for me is, it is a stony beach, but Gary prefers stones to sand so he was a happy bunny.
Day 35 – Friday 8th May
Akpata to Corrinth
Had a restless nights sleep and got bitten several times by some mosquitoes in the tent.
Got up and had a shower at 6.30am, early breakfast and on the road before 9.00am
Easy first 10 miles, the old Athens road is sandwiched between green mountains, railway and the sea. We stopped after the first 10 miles by the sea or a much needed drink of water and a light snack (we bought two bottles of water from the camp site at a €1 each, the campsite owner must have been a happy bunny, you can purchase bottles of water from the supermarket for 16 cents a litre).
Stopped for lunch in a busy town with a square and a large church. A simple affair of bread (greek bread, yuk, no comparison when compared to French and Spanish bread) cheese, crisps and cake, accompanied by a lemon juice.
We stopped again after a further 10 miles as we were very hot and needed further refreshments. The drivers in Greece are not very considerate to us or to other drivers, they pull out on each other without a care in the world. The men are more lecherous here than in the other european countries we’ve been through. I’ve also noticed that the Greeks are bigger (fatter) than in the other european countries we’ve cycled through.
Camp site was again by the sea, simple but functional. We spent the afternoon sunbathing but we were both bored after an hour.
Made use of the kitchen to cook our dinner and wrote up our diaries.
Gary; In a small shop I was asked in English who had won the election, then he went on to inform me that the same ones had won again and then mentioned Cameron, so it seems the election back home has stirred up the political interest of the local Greek shop keepers.
Corrinth to Pereaus
Another bad nights sleep, went to sleep really quickly but woke after 4 hours and couldn’t settle. I didn’t want to sit outside because the mosquitoes have taken a liking to me – do they serve any purpose at all?
Had a lovely breakfast of boiled eggs and cake (served separately). Gary also managed to eat a bowl of cereal and a banana! I don’t know where he puts it all, he has definitely lost weight during this trip.
Our first stop of the day was ancient Corinth, which as I should have known was at the top of a hill. I know I should be impressed by the ancient remains, but to be honest without any information all I see is a pile of stones. I like to hear the human stories that sit along side the stones, who lived there, what was it like etc.
Gary; Ginette was not well this morning and was cycling slowly especially up the little bump to ancient Corinth, she told me this morning she was having trouble with her ectopic heart beat so I thought this hill must just finish her off but somehow she survived.
The ancient part of this town was all fenced off, the entrance was surrounded by small cafes and trinket shops so was not too appealing. You could see everything from the outside including an acropolis but obviously could not read the history. We did not go in Ginette just wanted to get today over with.
We cycled inland toward Corinth and passed through a small town and stopped to witness a church service where loads of people were gathered outside listening to the preacher singing loudly his sermon. We were there as it was just finishing, they then handed out drinks from one table and a well decorated paper goody bag from the other table, they looked like they contained food. As we cycled off the side doors of the church opened and it packed inside as well.
Ginette: Our next stop was the Corinth Canal, we arrived at just the right time the bridge was just coming up, Gary got very excited (his engineering brain kicking in). It was amazing to watch.
Gary; we missed the boat that must of gone through but witnessed the bridge being raised horizontally back out from the depths of the water where it had been lowered for the boat to pass over, never seen one like this before
Gary tried to cycle across the bridge which was still wet and got his wheel stuck, I decided to walk mine across the pedestrian side, where I saw lots of little fishes caught on the bridge flapping in the sunshine, Gary came to take a look and tossed them back into the water though the gaps in the wooden slats.
Just before lunch we cycled through a real industrial area made up of refineries, lots of metal pipe work and big cylinder tanks – very ugly.
Gary; I never noticed this huge refinery in 1987 or the large ships in the bay, but I am more involved in both these industries now so maybe it was here when we honeymooned in this area?
We stopped for lunch in a town where we had stayed for our honeymoon. The hotel was closed, so we had a kebab lunch opposite, sitting in the cafe was Jabba the Hut no tee shirt and huge belly on display. It was hard to imagine how the town had been when we were there 27 years ago. We both remember walking down the high street and being jokingly told off by the local police for walking too fast. The town is now a busy high street with buses and vans speeding through, definitely not somewhere you’d like to go for your honeymoon.
I found the morning really hard, I have an irregular heart beat and it would not settle down into a natural rhythm, which made me feel tired and a little queasy. It seemed to settle down in the afternoon which made riding much easier. Which was just as well because our planned camp site didn’t exist. We were advised by some locals that we could go back 10km to a hotel, or forward 20-25km to a campsite. It was still fairly early so we decided to cycle on to the campsite. We cycled and cycled and cycled some more but no campsite. We soon realised that we were only 10 miles away from our planned stop for the next day so made the decision to go there and book an additional night. Normally we would have wild camped but there was no where to be found we were surrounded by main roads (which were horrific to cycle on) and ports or industrial areas.
Gary; We tend to find the campsites are on the outskirts of the towns, having been informed back in Magara (which is where we planned to stop) about this potential camp site, I kept cycling. we cycled past some great secluded beaches where we could have wild camped but I was aware Ginette was not a happy bunny in her body so kept on looking for the elusive campsite. however after entering this last town it didn’t end, it became more and more built up and eventually we decided to just continue to Piraues, Athens and hope to find room in the hotel we have booked for the next night. Althougth the roads were busy the cycling was easy.
Arrived at our hotel at about 7.30pm and fortunately were able to check in a day early. The hotels is set in a port town, lots of stray dogs, big buildings, and ships in the harbour.
Our room was like a boudoir, the bed was draped in pink chiffon, a full length mirror ran alongside the bed and there was only dim red lighting in the room. We quickly unpacked and went out for some dinner and a drink.
We failed to find anywhere to eat and as I wasn’t that hungry Gary made do with a take away and we picked up some snacks from the supermarket. On the way back we stopped in the bar outside of our hotel and had a much needed glass of wine and played a game of backgammon. Gary thrashed me, I was being too noisy watching the young locals playing board games and cards, not something you would see at home. The bar was noisy so we left and had an early night.