If I thought I had already done a bit of cycling then I have to conclude that I was really only playing at it….. or perhaps I have lost some fitness while idling away the winter?
Whichever it is, one thing is for sure, these first two days in the most beautiful Greek hills with so many colourful spring roadside flowers have been the most strenuous yet! Yesterday I was pretty panic-stricken and no matter how hard I tried, for about 50km, all sorts of less than positive inner chat went on…. “so perhaps I should give up now and go home” …. and the counter “your blood sugars must be getting low, you will have to eat soon”! The only thing is, I had not quite taken enough picnic with me, and with no sign of a village big enough to support a shop (the only one was closed for siesta as I passed) it was going to be a matter of careful timing to make it last for the whole day!
An afternoon sleep under a shady tree helped to deal with the unexpected heat wave, and much friendly greeting from passing farmers, goats and sheep cheered me up enormously.
I finally keeled over feeling very grateful for my little tent, under an olive tree, high above a valley and overlooking mountains to the east and crimson sunset lakes to the west. Such are the wonderful rewards.
It is illegal to wild camp in Greece, but I was so well hidden although only a few yards from the road, that I went straight to sleep, with loud ducks, sheep bells and dogs rioting below!
Up up and away after porridge, next morning, just before the sun streamed over the mountains; only after 3 miles of climbing did I gather from a kind woman giving me more water that I had come up the wrong hill. It’s so much less demoralising to go up first and then have to come down, and as I felt so much better for a restful sleep, I wasn’t too upset.
More fun was ahead. Although the signpost was clear I began to lose a little confidence in the road when it first deteriorated into a single progressively eroded riverside lane, with slabs of broken tarmac indicate a drop and finally where there might once have been a bridge, two cars sill deep and stuck in the river. The guys waiting for the tractor to pull them out assured me that over the other side was the village of Efyra that I was heading for, so in we went and crossed valiantly in not quite knee deep water. This made me feel as though I have now earned my wings as a cycle adventurer as opposed to a cycle tourer!! I could have done with putting on my flip flops; instead of which I sat and wrung out my socks and tipped the water from my boots, so I was squelching around for the rest of the day. Sir G didn’t turn a hair of course, but later on as I was flying downhill, spat out some drying mud from behind the mudguards, just to remind me what a hero he is!
My attitude today was much more ‘in the present’ and with a more laid back ‘I wonder where I will get to today’ instead of making a rod for my back, made a much happier job of nearly the same distance…. it was also mercifully quite level for the last 5 miles or so and the lure of the sea most encouraging!
Thanks to so many kind suggestions along the way, as well as route assistance, I have taken an easy road back to the seaside resort of Kourouta not far from Pyrgos and now that my tent has dried out am feeling a little more confident that my strength might grow if I keep at it.
I am hoping to go from here to ancient Olympia and from there to Andretsina and the valley of Vasses….. my kind cycling buddy, Lydia in Athens tells me that it is not at all flat, but something spectacular to go over the mountains….. Hmmm? At 46km it might just be possible if I break it up into little sections!!
For tonight I have found a beautiful room close to the sea front and might even take an extra day to rest and dry my socks out!?
The photos run… St. Francis in Bitetto, near Bari, Italy; sea front cafe near Kaminia, Patras, Greece; Town avenue, Patras; Port front, Patras; distant town of Portes nestling in the hills; camping wild and sunset high up the wrong hill, overlooking the Pinea lakes; approach to what was supposed to be a bridge to Efyra; from the other side….. where a bike can sometimes be an advantage and, note to self, best to take off boots before wading through rivers!