We both felt great after a day off from riding the bikes, but by the time we finally got ourselves organised and left it was 11am and already the temperature was 35 degrees celcius.
Despite this we marvelled at the incredible view the road presented us with as it wound its way around the coastline, and even began saying to each other that this made the Great Ocean Road look tame...
By 6pm we had covered 100kms and we finally arrived at what we thought was a bridge but what turned out to be a tunnel, connecting one side of the peninsula to the other. Without the use of this tunnel, a 600km round trip or a ferry ride would be necessary, so we were surprised to find that bicycles were not allowed, particularly as the tunnel was only a kilometer long, shorter even than some of the unlit tunnels we rode through in China.
Eventually a man pulled up in a ute though, so luckily we were able to load our bikes on the back, getting a free ride across. Two hours later, our stomachs full with 1.60 Euro lamb gyros and we had finally found what we thought was the perfect camp spot on the beach, with only one caravan 00 meters from us in sight.
We dozed off to sleep almost immediately after swimming and washing our things in the ocean, but were woken at 11pm by some sort of disco somewhere (it was so far away we couldn't see it but loud enough that even with ear plugs in we struggled to get back to sleep.)
Sleeping once again and at 1am a couple with two young children and two dogs arrived. Deciding they liked our spot even more than us, they camped right near us, and set about setting up camp for the next year, or so it seemed... Finally back to sleep and two hours later at 4am the family's caged dogs began letting loose with a cacophony of growls and barks...
We enjoyed our rest day in Astakos, even splurging on a hotel room so we could wash clothes, stay cool in the air con and get a good night sleep!
We walked the streets of the beautiful town, swam, ate delicious food, and made friends with a Greek lady and her mother (see photos). It was interesting trying to talk to our new friend - she spoke a little English (and we spoke no Greek) so a few things got lost in translation... Sam tried to tell her that his sister was married to a Greek man and they were expecting a baby, but when she repeated details back to us it sounded like she thought Sam went to school in Athenia and had two Greek children... and when we tried to tell her that her beautiful home on the coast would be worth more than a million euros in Australia, she told us we would stay with her next year when we came back to work... It was a great experience and they were two of the nicest people we have met.
We loved Astakos - it is one of the nicest towns we've seen and we would happily go back.
I didn't want to ride. I wanted to stop and rest. I dreamt of sitting by a beach all day and sleeping in the shade. But we weren't in a good spot. The water wasn't clean enough. We needed to ride to the nearest coastal spot. And I could tell from the squiggles on the map there were more mountains.
I felt sick. I felt tired. I sooked a lot. But we rode.
Most of the time it wasn't too bad. Relatively flat, roads in good condition, a cool breeze to temper the heat, and we even managed a tailwind for some of the time (although this backfired when we missed our turn-off and had to ride back almost 10km).
With 10km to go to Astokos - our coastal destination - the road wound up the mountain. It looked hard, but once we got into our low gears and found our rhythm it was manageable. It reminded me of Mt Dandenong and I found myself enjoying the ride. Especially when it was time to come down!
The town was so picturesque, sitting at the bottom of the mountains alongside the water. When we stopped to buy drinks the shopkeeper said it was 40 degrees that day! We knew it had been hot - we had been reminded of the sting of sweat in the eyes and it had been dripping off us all day - but the coolbreeze had made it tolerable.
We swam in warm, clear water again - it felt so good! The water was almost too warm. There were rocks of all shapes and colours and we spent almost an hour pointing out different rocks, finding perfect ones to skim across the calm surface.
Often it is the difficult days that we end up covering the most distance... I started the day feeling like I was pedaling through quicksand, and skeptical that I would make the 60km to the bridge near Patra... but I was surprised at how much distance we covered. Especially given the fierce headwind, that seems determined to plague us no matter where we are in the world, and which direction we are riding. We often dream of what it would be like to be going the other way, and firmly believe we're going the wrong way around the world.
Around lunch time we stumbled upon a sight familiar to us in Bayswater, but which we haven't seen for the past 5 months. Aldi. We dumped our bikes at the door and excitedly scoured the aisles. 500ml chocolate milk for 50 cents. Chocolate and vanilla pudding for 28 cents. The bargains were even better than at home! We grabbed a heap of food, spent 6 euro, and proceeded to gorge ourselves outside. Boy did I feel sick! There are very few occasions I can remember feeling so sick...
Once I regained my ability to function we rode to the huge suspension bridge (for my roads friends I read that it is the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge) joining the Peloponesse to the mainland. It was quite a sight! The bridge is considered an engineering masterpiece, as the difficulties around its construction were deep water, insecure foundations, seismic activity, and expansion from plate tectonics. But the engineers met the challenges and the bridge stands! We were lucky that a lane was closed for roadworks, but no works were happening, so we ended up with a whole lane to ourselves while we crossed the 2.25km structure.
On the other side we met a German couple cycling the 'right' way. In a combination of English, German, French and Italian we managed to communicate about our trips and the conditions of the road each was about to face. We were told no hills. Less than 10km later we were hit with two massive hills. Through the wind we battled. We were inland and we wanted to make it back to the coast, so we could wash before going to bed.
In the late afternoon we arrived in Mesologi. Our legs ached and we were tired. We ate some delicious souvlaki pitas for 2 euro and rode to a pier for a swim. The water in this area was surrounded by land on all sides, not really an ocean after all, so a bit dirty and stagnant. We found a pier to jump off, but when we landed we sank into various silt and sea plants that made us even dirtier. We crawled out not sure if the plunge had been worth it.
Our camping spot for the night was on a patch of dirt, behind some trees along the main road into the town. Barking dogs, noisy cars and the heat made sleep hard to come by...
Waking to the sound of the waves rolling along the beach and the sun rising was nice, pushing and carrying our bikes up the steep rocky path back to the road was not so nice. But of course it was worth it for getting to camp in such a beautiful spot.
But before we packed to leave we went for a swim in the ocean, again. Nice and cool, great start to the day.
After approx 20kms we came to Mellisio, a town with a post-office (were we sent some more things home), an internet cafe, two bike shops (the first we have seen in Greece) and a nice little supermarket.
All of a sudden it was almost lunch time so we headed off, only to be greeted by another incredible head wind. Wow, it is so hard riding into this kind of wind... so we stopped on the side of the road at an abandoned beach cafe, and went for another swim, and laid on the deck overlooking our own private beach...
When we got started again it was almost 5pm, and still the wind was strong and the sun high and hot. But after an hour or so of riding we rode through an incredible little village were the waves that had been strung up by the wind were crashing into the side of the road as we rode along, spray streaming through the air and sprinkling us as we rode past.
After a while we looked at each other, smiles on our faces, wondering at the amazement of such a road, by the ocean... if you close your eyes for a moment, maybe you can picture it too, the wind and the water spraying you through the twilight of the evening sun, the centuries old Greek villas lining the road on your right side, nothing but ocean on your left...
Very hot day, feels almost like Thailand!
Left our beautiful campsite, and rode for most of the day through a really difficult headwind along the coast.
Saw some amazing villages, houses, streets... and we rode across the Corinth Canal, way cool!!!!
Here is an excerpt from wikipedia about the canal:
The Corinth Canal (Greek: Διώρυγα της Κορίνθου) is a canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland, thus effectively making the former an island. The canal is 6.3 kilometres in length and was built between 1881 and 1893.
Remains of Nero's canal project in 1881 Several rulers in antiquity dreamt of cutting a canal through the Isthmus. The first to propose such an undertaking was the tyrant Periander in the 7th century BC. He abandoned the project due to technical difficulties, and instead constructed a simpler and less costly overland portage road, named Diolkos.According to another theory, Periander feared that a canal would have robbed Corinth of its dominating role as entrepôt for goods. Remnants of the Diolkos still exist next to the modern canal.
The Diadoch Demetrius (336–283 BC) planned to construct a canal as a means to improve his communication lines, but dropped the plan after his surveyors, miscalculating the levels of the adjacent seas, feared heavy floods.
The historian Suetonius tells us that the Roman dictator Julius Caesar (r. 48 to 44 BC) projected, among other grandiose engineering schemes, a canal through the Isthmus.He was assassinated before he could bring the scheme to fruition.
The Roman Emperor Nero (r. 54–68 A.D.) launched an excavation, personally breaking the ground with a pickaxe and removing the first basket-load of soil, but the project was abandoned when he died shortly afterwards. The Roman workforce, consisting of 6000 Jewish prisoners of war, started digging 40–50 m wide trenches from both sides, while a third group at the ridge drilled deep shafts for probing the quality of the rock (which were reused in 1881 for the same purpose). As the modern canal follows the same course as Nero's, no remains have survived.
The modern attempt at construction began in the 1870s following the successful opening of the Suez Canal. A French company was hired to build it, but due to financial difficulties, the company ceased work after only the two ends had been dug. Finally, in 1881 the Hungarian architects István Türr and Béla Gerster, who had also been involved with early surveys for the Panama Canal, were hired to plan a new canal. A Greek company led by Andreas Syngros (the main contractor being Antonis Matsas) ultimately took over the project and completed it in 1893.
On April 7, 2010, Australian daredevil Robbie Maddison performed a moto-x jump over the canal.
So that night we found what we both considered our best campsite ever, in a perfect secluded spot right on the beach.
Maybe you can also be the judge of this from the photos...
Distance: Maybe 30kms...
Stayed in Athens for 3 days waiting for Sams fevers to abate.
Saw some street fights, some beautiful buildings, a lot of big people (there are more here than in Australia guys, somebody is pulling our leg saying we take the crown...), ate some average food- All in all Athens was so so. But maybe thats just because I was sick with the measles...
Anyway, after 3 days I was finally well enough to ride again and we left the city via the coast, finding the second best camp site of our entire trip... you should have seen it, overlooking the ocean where there was a huge ship laying overturned. We swam out to the ship, washing ourselves from the sweat, and dived off what used to be the officers quarters!
Wow, beautiful water, perfect spot, photo's with proof to come soon.
Distance: 25km riding, lots more on a ferry
We attributed Sam's fever to our lack of sleep for a couple of nights and his ongoing health problems, and the itchy rash to one of the noxious, spiky plants we'd cleared for our tent the night before.
When we woke we rode back to the small shop Sam found the night before and bought some cereal and yoghurts for breakfast. We went to a nearby deserted beach and ate, before spending some time swimming in the clear water. We decided to relax for the day and just enjoy the beach. We found a small water trough and tap nearby and washed a lot of clothes, towels and our sleeping sacs and hung them to dry in the hot sun while we swam.
It was a great day and we enjoyed going back and forth between the water and the rocks (not sand). We ate some delicious bananas and more yoghurt, and happily packed away our dry laundry a few hours later.
In the afternoon we headed back to the port to eat some food and get ready for the overnight voyage. Onboard the ferry we locked our bikes in the hull and took some of our bags up with us. We had bought the cheapest tickets which entitled us to a seat outside on the deck all night. Again, the ferry was well below capacity, and we happily sat on a deserted section of deck watching the sun lower in the sky as we sailed out of the port.
A scout of the ship to find a place to sleep revealed a deserted foyer inside with carpet and a power point! Both cameras, the video camera and laptop were all out of power! So we set up and started charging things. A couple of hours later a noisy group with many adults and children (Arabs yelling at each other incessantly for no discernible reason) decided it was a good spot and started to set-up in our corridor too. We didn't hesitate - we packed up our things and moved to the next foyer. We didn't want to be kept awake by their noise (and they were SO noisy already).
Around this time Sam started to get the shivers again. He said he was freezing cold and we pulled out one of our sleeping bags for him. For a while he was ok to sit there in the sleeping bag, but the shivering got worse (even though his head was burning) so I blew up one of the mattresses for him to lay down. Despite ear plugs, an eye mask and head rubs from me, he was unable to fall asleep. I got some panadol to try and bring down the fever, and I was very worried! Some children started running around the corridors and up and down the stairs (even though it was well after 10pm by this time), Greeks and Asians were determined to yell at each other, and when I walked around the ship I couldn't find anywhere quiet to go. The best place was outside on the deck - where the strong cold wind prevented people congregating, except to smoke by themselves.
We moved our things outside - careful that nothing blew away in the wind - and set up on the deck. The noise of the wind drowned out any other noise and we were able to get a decent sleep for the rest of the night protected in our warm sleeping bags and comfortable on our mattresses.
When we arrived in Pireaus the plan had been to ride away from the city and start our journey through Greece, but Sam was exhausted and weak, so instead we found the cheapest hotel we could find with a shared bathroom- but still $30 Euro per night... expensive by our standards.
For a few hours we explored the streets of Athens and in the afternoon we watched a football game in a public square surrounded by expensive (for the cool people...) cafes while we surfed some free wifi.
That night the mad fever came back and the rash got worse... So it looks like we'll be staying another day.
Thanks to everyone for all of your support and positive comments on the site, it really keeps us going.
Distance - 25km riding
The city of Ephesus - once the second largest city on the world (behind Rome) and home to the Ephesians (of Paul's epistle).
Here we found some amazing ruins of a once great city - and the ruins clearly indicate how grand that city was. Huge columns ornately carved, mosaic tiles lining walkways, and two stadiums for entertainment. Walking the streets we imagined how the city would have looked in 2 AD - when it was at its peak. We imagined the man-power that went into carving each piece and constructing the buildings. It was all very impressive.
After a couple of hours exploring this historic city we drove back to Ayvalik to catch our ferry to Lesvos. Leaving Turkey was the most simple customs process yet. We walked into a building and the desk was right there. Within minutes our passports were stamped and we were in no-man's land. It all happened so fast we forgot to spend the last of our Turkish money. Luckily there was some overpriced food and drinks on the ferry for us to buy. As we waited for the ferry to leave we watched hundreds of small fish swimming on the surface of the water alongside the pier. It was an amazing site.
The ferry was practically empty - about a dozen passengers on a boat that could carry almost 600. We lay down on some seats and slept for an hour until we arrived in the port of Mytilini.
In Mytilini we bought tickets for a boat the next night to Athens. These tickets were cheaper than the ferry from Turkey! Even though the voyage was almost ten times longer.
After buying our tickets we had less than an hour until it grew dark and we needed to find a camping spot outside of the city. We jumped on our bikes and rode hard - hoping to reach the outskirts of the population and set up our tent before dark. We stopped a few times to check out places, but it took us almost all of the light to find somewhere. As we rode, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the sunset and wished we could stop to enjoy it, but we had to find a camping spot. When we did, we weren't sure if it was a public park or part of someone's huge property. Either way, we climbed a small fence with our bikes and set up behind a patch of trees - the beach across the road. It was a cold night and we decided to forgo a swim until morning.
We had no water so Sam went in search of a shop while I got the beds ready. It was a long time before he returned and I was getting worried. He'd had to ride back about 15km before finding a small shop. We sat on some rocks by the water eating the best yoghurt ever and drinking our water, before climbing wearily into our tent.
It was a restless night - with Sam plagued by extreme fevers, profuse shivering and itchy hands and feet.
Distance: 86km riding. 250km in a car (through the night)
It was dry as we left in the morning, but flying down the mountain to the town the air was cold! It made me wonder about the Giro d'Italia riders who were riding at over 2500m in the snow just a week earlier. I started out with my light jacket on but as cold drops of rain began to fall we pulled over so I could put my warm jacket on and my shoe covers. What a difference they made! Now I felt warm I didn't mind riding in the rain.
We stopped for more terrific food - potato gozleme, salad, meatballs, bread and the best profiteroles I've ever eaten. As we sat there, wet, in the cold wind, we began to feel chilled. But it didn't take long back on the bike to warm up again.
Over the past few days we'd encountered some terrible roads - many were made of the rocky asphalt we'd hated so much in Australia, except much more coarse. Other roads had been ripped up for some future resurfacing. And others were full of potholes or terrible patching jobs. On this day we encountered all the above. On this day there was a stretch with a dirt road next to it, and we chose that as the better surface.
During the day Sam kept asking if there was anything wrong. He would check my bike - were my brakes rubbing? But it was just my tired legs taking their time to cover the distance.
In the afternoon the rain stopped and the hot sun returned. We rode into Ayvalik to find out we'd just missed that day's ferry to the Greek island of Lesvos (Lesbos), and would have to wait until the next night. We decided to hire a car and spend the next day at the ruins of the city of Ephuses, which we wanted to see but didn't have the time to ride there.
Before leaving Ayvalik we had a swim in the cool ocean to wash ourselves. Just finding a spot to swim was a challenge though, as it was the first time Sam had driven a car (manual transmission) on the opposite side of the vehicle, on the wrong side of the road. Those first few minutes, trying to find somewhere in the city to park near the beach and swim, were quite stressful. But he quickly got the hang of it. As we were driving south along the coast we witnessed the most amazing sunset. Dark clouds still lingered but the pink hues shone through and we had to stop the car and admire the beauty of the sky.
That night we drove through the huge city of Izmir. It was quite an amazing sight - millions of lights covering the hills where the city was built around a bay. Unfortunately Sam didn't get to enjoy the beauty of the city as he was trying to follow some very confusing signs through a busy city. We wondered if this road trip was worth the hassle... To be truthful, we encountered the most aggressive and dangerous drivers we've ever come across. Maybe some of our readers have had similar experiences in foreign cities, let us know...
On the other side of the city we planned to stop and camp. But it was dark now, and we couldn't see anywhere to camp. So we kept driving.
We started going down some side streets into towns, but they were all lit up and we could see nowhere to camp. We were getting very tired. And very grumpy. Whose idea was this stupid road trip anyway?!
Eventually made it to Selcuk, the main town where Ephuses is. We had just decided to go to a hotel when Sam found a spot in an abandonded service station. Just as we settled in the tent the man from across the road came with flashlight and yelled at us in Turkish, peering in our tent, gesticulating wildly at us with his bright light in our eyes... but when he heard our tired English replies he let us be...
Sam and Shanna Evans are from Melbourne, Australia