Just over 2 months and we have finally left Greece. It actually turned out to be the longest single stretch in one country. We weren’t planning to stay here quite as long but that’s the beauty of being flexible, and being in Europe. We have probably gone on enough about it being a cold winter but we were lucky to hide out the worst of it and catch up with family and friends. Extremely glad to have spent time with my Mum, sister, brother-in-law, and niece, over Christmas, then Geoff and Sue, Andy’s parents at the end of January. It had been about a year since we’d last seen them all and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing them all and spending some time with them. Following that having the opportunity to catch up with Annie and Paddy was also just what we needed.
February 20th to 23rd. 203km
We haven’t done much since our last update. We’re into Albania now after a really lovely final few days in Greece. We were lucky with the timing of our rest day in Paleros, thunderstorms and heavy rain coming down all day outside our hotel window. It’s nice when it works out like that. It was still overcast when we left on the 20th, but it stayed dry. Our route took us inland up towards Preveza. There is a big lagoon in our way, with the option of passing through a tunnel, or taking the long way around the inside of it, adding about 100km. It’s a no brainer, the one issue being that bikes aren’t allowed in the tunnel. We stuck to our tried and tested method of ‘winging it’, hoping that smiling and playing dumb would work. Unfortunately, once we got to the toll booth, it was immediately clear that they wouldn’t let us pass on our bikes. But, they told us to wait beside the road, and that we’d be taken through in a service van. Perfect! We didn’t fancy riding through the tunnel anyway.
February 11th to 18th. 422km
On our last night on the yacht, it was super windy. Not the nice warm wind that comes from the south, but the harsh, bitter wind bringing cold from the north. Enthusiasm to get back on the bikes and ride north into the cold wasn’t particularly high on the morning of the 11th. We were risking overstaying our welcome on Encore, so we layered up and hit the road after breakfast. It was only a short day, we rode up and over the middle of the peninsula to the western coastline, then up past Anavyssos to Bike Shop 34 (https://www.facebook.com/34Bikeshop/) on the main Athens road. We’d realised that our current drivetrains had done almost 10,000km so were well overdue a change. We hung out there for a couple of hours while Argiris and Tasos got on with giving our bikes some TLC. We used the wifi to scope out a camp spot on Google Earth just around the corner. Back in the tent for the first time in a couple of weeks, protected from the wind behind a beach resort in a sheltered cove.
Cyclades islands, january 30th to february 9th
Along with Marmite, Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes and other home comforts, my parents brought the weather with them from the UK. We had four days of rain and cold near Athens, but we had a good time regardless, even if we did spend most of our time inside. We ticked off the one token bit of sightseeing by visiting the Temple of Poseidon on the headland near Sounio, a taste of old Greek stuff with the classic marble columns. You can tell we’re not real history buffs.
January 12th to 23rd 283km
We left Santorini on the late afternoon ferry which gave us a last glimpse of Thira and Oia in the sun as we sailed out of the caldera to the north. Two hours later we were rolling off the boat in the beautiful port at Naxos. Clare had scoped out a beach around the corner from the harbour, where we pitched the tent just as night fell. Behind our tent on a small rise were the remains of the Temple of Apollo, lit up at night. The following morning we went for a wander around it before setting off on the bikes.