Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09: Almost the Last Day – sorta

With Turkey off the map I had another day to spend in Levsos. There was a hot spring resort just out of town so I made the long climb back up from the harbor area in search of the hot spring. I spied a village on the shore of the bay way off in the distance as I came over the crest. Why not was my mantra and I happily peddled to it. What a great choice.

A small chapel under a large tree was next to a large factory building. As I walked around the chapel I keep trying to place the smell that was coming from the factory building. It was an ag. smell that reminded me of hot farm silage. The ground around the outside of the building was covered in the brown gravel looking substance. A worker came out and I asked what it was. He motioned me away from the building but with a smile (no English). Just then another worker comes running from the darkened interior chased by a huge cloud of steam and smoke. I snapped photos of this event. After the first worker motioned me to follow and lead me through the guts of the building. Hot pipes and huge turning gears had me ducking as we weaved our way from one end of the building to the other. Two gentlemen sitting in chairs were as the workman put it 'the Bosses'. One spoke English this is his answer to what was it that they did here. After all the regular olive oil is extracted from the olives the remains are brought here to be heated to rid them of moisture. They then are hauled to another factory where they are squeezed one last time for industrial grade oil. I thanked him for the impromptu tour and made my way outside to my bike.

I made my way to a rocky beach to have my lunch, and then headed back looking for the hot springs before Mytilini. Somewhere I had passed the hot springs. I asked at the store, where? They said it was close by on the water side of the road. I went back and forth three times never seeing a sign or any building that looked right. I asked again at the store as I had covered the entire road from the store to where the road turns away from the water. But now I had land marks to use in my questions. Before or after the gas station, before or after the abandoned tennis courts, I had it narrowed down to about a hundred yards but I was still blind. I was lucky as I stopped still not sure where it was, a guy walking by pointed me to a small drive next to a run down set of buildings that looked like the driveway to those buildings, this was the unmarked entrance to the hot springs.
The hot spring resort was tucked down into the cliff close to the waters edge. Not visible from the road. It really wasn't very appealing by it lack of maintenance or it having separate pools for men or women. I paid the fare for the day but left after 20 minutes as the water was just a tad warmer then a swimming pool.

I had seen the Castle in Mytilini as I had left town on my first day

so decided that I would head back for a little castle exploration. I got there just as they closed and locked the gates.
As the castle employees disappeared for the day I saw a carved rock that said if my reading of ancient Greek is right 'Step here to breach the walls'. Up & over the first wall on a faint path I climbed, I wasn't the first person to use this route and now I was walking between the outer and inner wall. It took me almost 20 minutes to walk around ½ of this castle. I again followed a path that took me past a closed gate and into the main body of the castle. This interior area was huge. A good guess would be close to twenty acres enclosed inside of these castles walls.

The same way in was the same way out with me taking tons of photos along the way.

I repeated last night's dinner in the same café. It was as good the second time. It was now shopping time for tourist trinkets to take home I even had to buy a small clock as the ferry loaded the next morning at 5am

Friday, November 27, 2009

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09": It is/was Turkey day

From the camp by the shore I could see the last line of ridges need to be crossed to return me to Mytilini. My plan was to ride to town. Get a ferry ticket for the following day to Turkey then ride two days in Turkey before catching a ferry back to Athens.
But first a bakery, (just so you all know I have not eaten a slice of bread nor a single bakery item since I returned from Greece) Much to my surprise there was a nice bakery not a half mile from my camp area. The road being closed had sliced their walk in traffic by 2/3rds. Greek wife & Aussie were the owners. He gave me a sesame bread ring, 12' in size, which was out of this world delicious. Why had I passed these along the way? All the bakeries offered these and now I find out how good they were.

The long climb to crest the last ridge ended right where the city began. I coasted down passing the detoured closure now onto tight streets with one-way traffic. I pulled over to stop several times as this was a long downhill run. My Squealing brakes worked as a loud horn keeping me from plowing into a lady who looked right past me then stepped into my path. I swerved, she jumped back but the passing margin was so close I could smell that she had eaten a garlic roll for breakfast, with eggs and sausage, Pork sausage.. okay the pork sausage was just a wild guess it could have been beef sausage.

Finally I was back at the harbor that was the heart of the city of Mytilini. Bustling cafes, street merchants, pedestrians jamming the sidewalks this city was alive and happy.

I found the ticket office for the Turkish Ferry Line. I had stopped here and inquired about the ferry to Turkey just before I left on the start of this island ride.
I was told then that the ferry ran everyday between here and the Turkish mainland.
Today I asked to by a ticket for the next morning, sweet lady said the ferry only ran on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I asked but doesn't the ferry run every day? 'Yes, Yes' she answered.
'So can I have a ticket for tomorrow?'
'No, only Tuesdays and Thursdays'
So I concluded that everyday is any day that begins with a 'T'

I found a nice guest house two blocks from the harbor run by a Greek who was a former Chef in London. We drank Ouzo together as we talked about the fun of being a Chef, running restaurants and the like. This place was just a block from all the hustle and bustle of Mytilini but with a large high walled private courtyard filled with orange trees in bloom that cut out all the noise of the city.

Free again from my bike I was able to wander this city until my feet started to hurt. A small café right across from the harbor had a chair that called my name. I sat down with a beer and a roast chicken dinner that was the best meal I had had the entire trip.
The server was Russian, finally an accent that I correctly guessed.

No Turkey allowed me to wonder what was going to be plan 'B'

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Slept late, found bakery for a fresh cheese bun, found coffee by following a group of men that headed into a tavern on the harbor. Still amazed by the coffee standard that the Greeks use, Nescafe right from the jar was what was being whipped up. This Barkeep added a tourist tax as she charged me $2 Euros for a single cup. I gave her a cold stare when she said two dollars and she just shrugged her shoulders. I didn't press it, but I know she knew she was overcharging me.

All the fishing boats were in the harbor with the fishermen tending to their nets. They had been out fishing during the night this was cleanup time.
The morning light was perfect and the photographs were some of my best on this trip.

I went off with no clear route in mind. I was less then 30 miles from a complete tour of the island and in no rush to head back to the capital city. I stopped in the next village at a real full sized supermarket to load up on some deli cheese and meats. A bakery for a few fresh rolls and I was rolling. Went looking for a castle up a side road that twisted and turned until I came to a unmarked Y in the road. I went left as it looked like the most used road. Gee was that fun. Back in the same village I had passed through an hour or so ago. I was back on the main road again this time just waving as I rode past the castle turnoff. The salt marshes off to my right, a nice warm breeze, some sunshine, I could get used to Greece. Next was the search for the 4thBC Greek Temple. It was marked on the big roadside map as the second road on the left after the bridge. I made a quick map on a post it and was off. Crossed the bridge after about 10 miles and started looking for the second road to the left. After passing the first one went several miles without seeing the a second road. Turned around and went back. Followed the first road after the bridge for a few miles it turned into a muddy mess that then dead ended.
I was confused, on my way to return to that roadside map when I came across another dirt road that was maybe a mile before the bridge. It went in the right direction, I was in no hurry and off I went. Big mud puddles went from road edge to road edge, rock walls on either side forced me to ride through and eureka a little less then a mile and a half up this road was the temple. I still don't know why I kept riding on this road as there just was zero indication that it was the way to the temple. Dumb luck!

The place was abandoned but had been recently mowed. I walked through the ruins touching columns carved 2500 years ago. Saw a lava kiln that these folks were able to get hot enough to re-melt the lava. That's not an easy chore I was impressed.

The road makes a nice climb that had several sections of modern roadway. Wide two lane with shoulders that would go back to traditional 1.5 lane shoulder less Greek road.
I much preferred the small highway as trees shaded the roadway making riding pleasant.
A manned detour blocked my way. No English vs. no Greek, universal hand gestures about me & bike being able to make it, then he waved me through.
I was now riding along another large bay on this empty road when I spotted an olive grove that looked abandoned. This was a rare sight.
Most olive groves that I had passed were fenced in and being pruned. No fence, no house, no DOG, equal invite. I parked at the top of the drive and did an investigative tour. No tire tracks, no houses or buildings hidden down in the trees. My last night here will be stealth camping by the shore under a full Greek moon

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09": The great circle route

Don't know what to call this day. Heavy rain clouds rolling past with huge patches of clear blue sky. I headed back to Koloni found coffee and then went off towards the beach on the nearby Bay of Koloni.
Passed the second bike shop, stopped in and traded a 'Livestrong' bracelet for a generous coating of chain lube a good trade after all of the rain and mud so far on this trip.

Closed hotels on a long empty beach, workers scurrying around getting ready for the season, lots of laughter and music drifting across the road. They eyed me as I rode past I know they were thinking damn the first tourist of the season, I thought we had more time. The tourist are coming, the tourist are coming.

Another bakery fed me, another café provided coffee I was getting into a real routine.

I wandered snapping photographs, running across a bicycle rental place (closed) that I had emailed a half dozen times from back in the states. Unfriendly barking dogs guarded the shops doorway and the steps that lead to the residency above. After I had found out that the Airlines wanted $200.00 each way for my road bike to fly with me. I had explored the option of renting a bike here on Lesbos. This place was the one and only bicycle rental shop. But six emails with zero reply forced me to go with plan B. (buying a folding bicylce) It turned out to be much better overall that they didn't reply.

With a re-supply from the only market I went looking for the famous bird viewing areas.
I sorta could see (sorta could see - defined as not lost but working on it) where I wanted to go. How I got there was really another story. Down muddy lanes with much wandering, great puddles that were inches deep to several feet. Oh but wait a large river that had a paved fording spot. Knee deep and cold, I had to shuffle across as I was holding the back end of my bike up to keep the Panniers out of this river.
I made it! A raised viewing blind that was locked up tight. You could still climb the steps to a small landing. The view was great; from there I saw the closed plant where I had spent last night it was just a few miles away. I think this was the great circle route.

Never been big on bird watching but there were flamingos so close that I sat and watched them until the rain started back up.
Making the choice between pavement or mud I rode back to the beach on the great circle route figuring that my ride total for the day was eight miles as the crow flies or 30+ as a wandering fly.

Looking for a place to stay for the night I asked a gentleman sweeping out a beach patio if he spoke English? He replies I would think so, I was born there. He knew of a local tavern that had rooms above. The tavern owner spoke no English but with hand gestures was able to direct me around back where he had a few rooms upstairs. The room was perfectly acceptable with its own private bath. I was also able to store my bike in the taverns back room. His daughter who spoke limited English asked me to come back as her dad wanted to cook me a traditional Greek dinner. I showered and changed ready for that traditional Greek dinner. Okay what can I say 'daddy can't cook!!!' It was horrid. I ate enough to be polite. Gestured that I was more then full and escaped. I said a little prayer before closing my eyes to ward off that meal coming back to haunt me.

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09": waking without coffee

Coffee, coffee, coffee, normally I have this sweet little Lexan coffee press that allows me to make my own coffee first thing in the morning. I came to Greece light bringing no cooking gear of any kind. My early morning craving for caffeine now signals that this was a real mistake. After breaking camp I back tracked towards the village I had passed thought yesterday afternoon. A gathering of cars and trucks in front of a mini market (the only thing similar to an American Mini Mart was the name) gave me a solid clue that there either was a big sale going on or coffee was available. I did a Nescafe double shot turned my bike around and headed out.

As I was now into the good habit of not predicting the road ahead I enjoyed the roller coaster ride of climbs and descents. It was only a few hours into the ride on this lesser road when traffic dribbled off. I had the road to myself..
The Mediterranean to my right the sun giving me warmth, a cold beer and a sandwich in my pack waiting for lunch this is the day we see in our mind as we plan our trips. Today was my high millage day of the whole trip. By late afternoon I had come halfway around the bay of Kalloni and was in a bustling town. Traffic was everywhere. Parking was on both sides of the street and a row down the middle. People stepped out into the street and crossed with confidence. I latter learned that if you hesitate everyone knows you are not Greek.

I had one flat along the way and looked for a bike shop to purchase a replacement tube.
The only bike shop in town (I latter found another on the outskirts of this village) had bike brands that I had never heard lined up out front. Inside the store there were another couple of dozen bikes but lining the shelves was not the typical assortment of bicycle related items but electric irons, rice cookers, electric tea kettles and other kitchen items.

'Honey I need to go get my bike tuned can I bring you home a rice cooker while I am there?'

A sidewalk café provided me with a great dinner, hard to beat a charcoal roasted chicken, Greek salad and fries washed down with a cold Amstel for less then seven dollars.
I had seen on a billboard tourist map that there was a large bird sanctuary just outside of town. I had figured that I could find some accommodations to pitch my tent. My choice was limited by the sun disappearing faster then I wanted. There was some kind of plant that was abandoned at the crossroad. I made a quick scout of it. It was new but empty and had been from the look of things for several years. I wedged my tent into a small patch of grass hidden for the most part of any casual by passer for the night.
Clouds hid the stars and sometime in the middle of the night it started to rain. Me I just slept through it all

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09": I'm singing in the rain
After almost a two day lay over I was ready to ride.. I had come to Greece ready for some rain and this rain was not going to slow me down. Riding in rainy weather is my middle name, I said out loud as I repacked gear in the gallon zip-lock bags I had brought along. With everything inside of zip-locks and the rain covers over the outside of my panniers I was ready to roll. Raincoat, shorts and sandals made up my riding gear along with a pair of yellow tinted shooter glasses. I will give a plug here for these: On an overcast day these really add to the crispness that you see. In rainy Southeast Alaska we called these sunglasses as you could almost believe it was a sunny day while wearing them. They also help to keep you from getting hit in the eyes by rain drops. 10-15$ at any place the sells sporting goods.

On the rise leading out of this village I looked back kind of sad to be leaving. I had written down on a yellow post-it the villages I needed to pass through to get to my next destination. It works fairly easy follow the signs from one place to another until you get there. Write on the back side places that would be wrong ways. Worked for me.
The road forked at the next village, and I uttered those words that always comeback to haunt me. 'There must be a pass over those mountains'. 'No son there will be a ton of climbing, switchbacks and hairpin turns for the rest of the day but a pass you have got to be kidding' was the reply that the bike gods laughed in my face. The climb took me into a pine forest where I met the prettiest goat herder who was trying to get her goats away from the road. I watched and took photos as the pictures attest this is not who comes to mind when you image a goat herder.

This end of the island is normally arid and quite desolate. As it was still early in the season the spring rains had allowed patches of green to invade the otherwise brown landscape. I took my lunch on a deserted beach that was off the main road. I debated on camping here or moving on. The sun had joined me again so I pushed on Sigra wasn't that far off. I stopped in the village for a meal. Loaded up on fresh veggies and fruit and went off in the pursuit of a camping spot on a beach. As I had already learned you only drink Ouzo with friends I drank some local wine then slept under a zillion stars.

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09": Rain day

Most of yesterday and all of last night the rain beat against the roof. I woke to low hanging clouds combined with misting light to heavy rain. As my only set of cycling shorts was still wet from the wash I had only one destination for the day, a bakery.

I could smell it from my window now all I had to do was navigate the twisting maze of streets until I could find my reward. (Now I know how a rat feels) eureka! It was only 10 minutes of wandering and I now was munching on fresh raisin buns still hot from the oven. I went up to the castle making a complete circle around it outer walls. It was closed for the day but the view from the promontory was still stunning. This village clung to the cliff walls under the protection of this castle for hundreds of years. From the castle I roamed the streets until I was back at the Mediterranean. Just call me 'Joe Tourist' as I took hundreds of photos and asked questions from anyone who would stop and talk to me. The only thing I was lacking was the loud Hawaiian shirt.
Dinner that night was in a small harbor restaurant where the female owner who spoke as much English as I spoke Greek cooked me a meal of five types of local fish from the fishing boats docked just a stones through from the restaurants door.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09": Barking Dogs

Today was one of those great days that only an elite group of biking tour-ers get. That first real total feeling of disconnect, you wake up to a gorgeous sunrise, hear the waves lapping at the shore and ponder 'what day is today?' No watch, no cycle computer, today is today wow what a great feeling.
I broke camp and peddled back to the hot spring. At that early hour I was all alone and used the small pool of hot water that bubble up on the outside of the dome as a sink. A good wash with a hot towel shave and I was ready to face the day but only after finding coffee.
I crested a small hill and saw a few miles away a large castle that loomed over a cluster of white and tan houses. The road ahead had a four way split, barking dogs to the left, castle to the right. I headed towards the castle and what I hoped was town. (cue laughter)
Several miles later the road forked again with me taking the lower fork. Mistake as I got no closer to the town or the castle. But here was a sign pointing to a campground. So I took another road and after a few more miles I was back at the barking dogs now to my right and the castle to my left. Not more then 20 yards to the right was what had looked like an closed business with a water truck parked in the driveway. In reality it was the office of a local camp area still closed for the season. The gate was open. I did a short tour it was nicely laid out. As I was not sure of my plans for that day I just made a mental note how to get back here if needed.

Back to town and this time I actually made it all the way. It was still early but I found a small café with coffee (Nescafe) and pizza, 2 slices. This little café was a gathering spot for the locals with the same early morning clusters of men coffee in hand meeting and greeting as I have seen in rural towns across America. Just as I finished my second cup a man walked up and asked if I was looking for a place to stay? He said he owned a small guest house a few blocks away that was available. I hesitated but asked how much? Shocked when he said twenty a night, I said sure as I wanted to wash some gear. A much larger issue was overhead. Big black rain clouds heading towards us. I had seen on an extended forecast before I left Athens that I was in for a few days of rain . It looked like today was the day.

We walked up to his guest house on real narrow cobblestone paths. This village had some streets wide enough for a small car but there were many that were just wide enough to allow myself and my bike. When we arrived I was in for a shock this place was nice. This would have been a 100+ per night room in any B&B. Here I was sharing a house with no one, had my own private bath, kitchen facilities, a garden courtyard, and a sunning deck,
I planted my bags and this became base camp for the next two days.

Did my laundry in the sink, glad that I had a roof over my head instead of hunkered down in my tent as sheet after sheet of hard rain washed over this village

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Biking In Lesvos Greece -April 09: as the sun starts to set

The gravel road wandered up and down, the sun shimmered on the sea and I was riding my bike in Greece. I have to keep saying that as sometimes the steepness of the road or the sweat pouring into your eyes makes you forget that this is not Kansas.

The road ahead was blocked by two small cars. One gentleman stood next to the other car passing the time of day with the driver. I used my entire knowledge of Greek and said ya-sue (phonic spelling) a catchall greeting meaning hello. The man standing greeted me back in English as the other man in the other car drove away. He asked if I was English and said that he spoke good English because he drank Ouzo. I then replied that I needed to drink Ouzo as my Greek was crap. He told me to wait and walked his house 30 yards down the drive soon returning with a 2 liter coke cola bottle ¾ filled with Ouzo, two glass tumblers and a bottle of tap water. 'I show you how to drink Ouzo so you can then speak Greek. He poured about an inch of Ouzo in the glass added the equal amount of water handed me a glass and said cheers. We moved to the shade of a large pine tree drinks in hand and proceeded to solve all of the worlds problems. Two hours and a good ¼ of that coke bottles contents later I begged off one more for the road.After that I was not sure if the road was crooked or if it was the Ouzo. Thankful with the exception of the car that blocked the road where I stopped, I had yet to see or be passed by a car the entire time I was on this section of gravel road.

One of the reason I had picked this island to tour was it had Hot Springs. One of my favorite ends to a day of riding is to take a dip in some natural hot springs. Here ahead was the hot spring building with it white doomed roof from my internet research. Five months ago it was just a photo on my computer. Now I was going to sit in its pool of hot water. Way Cool. The place is open year round with admission charged in the summer months. In the off season the large pool is open to all with the rest of the building locked up tight. There is a small changing area with a few benches from this room you have two choices one is to go through a small portal to the hot spring pool or the other is to exit outside through a small door to a beach area and the sea. I slipped out of my bike clothes and into my shorts then headed to the pool. Okay I love hot hot springs.
But OH MY GOD this water was ready for coffee grounds. It was 109*-112* at the cool end. I would have whimped out except for three young ladies who entered wearing just their underwear and climbed down into the pool like it was only warm. I had my honor, my country and my pride to protect as I joined them by lowering myself into this steaming cauldron. I also had one almost topless and two nearly naked Greek women sitting next to me, in Greece, in a hot spring. When I die, I want to come back as me.. After a few long minutes they used hand signals to tell me to follow. We all ran out the door into the cooling waters of the Mediterranean. My first hot spring experience in Greece was complete.

Town was roughly 5 miles farther on and I started to look for a place to camp. There was a hill close to the sea that looked interesting. Interesting was the right word as this hill was infused with abandoned camouflaged army bunkers. I camped at the bottom of this hill on a section of beach. This time I set up my tent making a proper camp for the night.
Sitting on the beach as the stars came out listening to the waves, the lights of Turkish villages clear across the channel it was great to be here.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another day in Greece

Woke at 3am, tried to get out of the wind. Wrapped in sleeping bag looking east hoping for a ray of sunshine so I could start my day. Discover this morning that I had left a few pieces of clothing back home. Had planned on traveling light but forgetting the second pair of bike shorts was going to mean more laundry days then I had expected.
Cold sunny brisk morning, two shirts, fleece pull over and jacket needed kept me warm. Unknown to me last night those rolling hills I had been climbing and climbing was about to give a nice 3 mile payback coast. Coasting when you are not completely warmed up wasn't much of a treat. I spied a village still asleep in the early morning sun and my first thought was coffee.
Lesson one learned in Greece; coffee = Nescafe. Small cups of sweet Nescafe are what you get when you want coffee. This turned out to be the case the entire time I was there. You could order coffee and get a blank stare, but could ask for Nescafe and they start the process. Many places did have espresso but sometimes getting that was interesting. They even use a whip to froth the Nescafe before pouring in the hot water.
It was close to Turkish coffee in many ways from the little propane cooker to the brass long handled pot they boiled the water in. But as they say when in Greece do as the Greece do.
Found a small market and stocked up on fruit, juices and snacks for later in the day. Wandered the town taking photographs and was lucky to stumble on the town's bakery.
Pastries, breads, fresh sandwiches, I was like me in a bakery wanted one of everything.
The owner's wife was an Aussie, tossing in a few free sweets as she told me how she had ended up in this remote Greek village. Sat in the sun, eating my breakfast this was already a great day.

(I look at my journal, its entry) climbing, climbing, climbing, found stream to wash up in, more climbing. Getting passed by many small trucks and mopeds with orange milk containers.

Stopped and watched a farmer with his arms behind his back, giving commands in Greek to his donkey. Together they came up a small steep path from a farmhouse down in a narrow valley. As they got closer I was able to see that the donkey had four 5 gallon (roughly) goat milk containers strapped to his back. This would be a twice a day procedure seven days a week. Climb ½ mile with donkey to truck; haul milk to milk plant, take empties back to farm, repeat.

Later I came to the milk plant that was really just a collection area for the farmers. There was even a horse tied up with empty milk jugs hooked to its saddle waiting for its owner.
Curious me had to ask; so now I know, Goat milk pays to the farmer around 15 cents a pound.

Stopped at a nice valley overlook to take a lunch break, fellow pulled in and I with my acute knowledge could see that he was a runner. I think it was the shorts and the pre run stretches that gave it away. I was looking at the road ahead as it still had climb written all over it. He wandered over and after we shared a greeting he said it was 4k to the top then a nice 4 k ride to the next town. He then asked if I would not mind riding on ? he kicked the ground a few times and I said gravel which he nodded in agreement. He then said a gravel road followed the ocean for 20 or so miles but would still lead me to the next big town.
I followed his instruction on where to turn off the main road and was lead down and down until I ended up at a small town of maybe two dozen homes, two restaurants and a little market. There was a small harbor with a fleet of colorful sardine boats, the largest boat being maybe 18 feet long. The harbor cats were jumping out onto the boats then jumping back to land with a sardine in their mouths. That was a first for me.

The road turned out to be packed gravel with quite a few streams that flowed across it. I was glad to be wearing my biking sandals when I pushed my way across all of these. I was only at the most 20 feet from the Mediterranean for 70% of this ride. I could see Turkey on the other shore it was only 8-10 miles away. All along the shore was an array of damaged & broken rafts, kayaks, paddles, and water ski vests. There was one every 10-15 feet and I had surmised that this was the result of a container ship losing a container of these items. I found out later that day (and later verified by a local officer) that this eight mile beach was the main landing spot of illegal aliens trying to enter Europe through Greece. After being dropped off by a fishing boat in the middle of the night these folks would paddle to shore, then slash the rafts so they could not be put back into the water by the authorities if caught.
So much for my lost container theory.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Riding in Lesvos Greece pt1

April 1 - April 12 2009

After the long flight from Portland Oregon to Athens, Greece I was ready to start riding. But wait there is a snag in the plans. The ferry workers of Greece picked my travel day to stage a 24 hour strike. It turned out not to be as bad as the hotel clerk had lead me to believe. The no ferries was really only a 6 hour departure delay. One minute after midnight they were allowing the ferries to start loading with cast off as soon as everyone was on board. So with a few extra hours to kill I took the metro back to downtown Athens, then walked some of the sites. My hotel charged me for an extra night for the now needed late check out but also allowed me to store my two duffel bags there while I was out riding for the next 10 days. On the flight over I was able to use one duffel for both of my panniers,trunk bag,and handlebar bag and the other was used for my bike. (no airline has ever asked me what is in the duffel bag and I have traveled using large duffel bags for years.)

The port area is separated from the main streets. Once I crossed into the port area it was a blast to be riding as the streets were wide and the traffic was sparse. I waited with a small group of passengers to board the ferry Lesso for the 12 hour sea cruise to Lesvos. Once on board I found out that they have a checked baggage area that allows you locked storage for the entire trip. I pulled my gear off the bike hooked it all together with the velcro strap on my trunk bag and turned it over to them. I was able to lock my bike against the side of the ship in a fairly secure place. Happy now that I did not have to worry about my gear sitting on the back of my bike or worse having to haul it and tend to it for the ferry ride.

What can I say about a Russian built ferry. All the comforts you would expect on an old Russian ferry.
I made sure to remember the name as this was one ferry I would avoid riding again.

The Island Of Lesvos came into sight around noon. I looked at all of the high ridges and mountainous terrain and said " damn this island isn't flat". I had met a local and was asking her to point out all of the sights as we cruised past. But much to my regret she had been car bound most of her life. So besides pointing out the town she was from she knew very little of her own island.

The ferry docked on the edge of Mytilini the capital city of Lesvos a little after 2pm. I put my bags on the bike, flipped a mental coin going with the choice of the Mediterranean sea to my right, I was off. I was out of town in less then ten minutes. After passing through the walls of a huge castle I was sandwiched between several blocks of buildings build right to the roads edge. Traffic zoomed past, no honking nor close brushes,the sun was shining and hello I was riding in Greece.

Was really glad to be on the Giant folder. Those fat 20" tires were suited to the mixed bag of surfaces that these greek roads were offering up. The bike was handling the bumps without giving me any wobble. The only issue was the new set of cool stops on the front brake had a righteous squeal when applied hard. (later this become the best horn I have ever had).

I must have stopped a hundred times in the first 20 miles to take photos and look out at the landscape. My Nikon may be heavy but the quality of photos is well worth the weight. I took 10 gigs of memory cards with me planning to fill them completely. Evening was approaching, the sun starting to set over my shoulder when I started to look for a village to stop for the night. The road wound away from the coast and started to climb hard. I had in my excitement to get moving had not packed a lunch or taken extra water. now with the light failing these items were becoming an issue. After taking my last swallow of water I saw an old army firing range a few yards ahead. There was a large long concrete pier that was used to give elevation to the shooters. I was able to make camp behind it completely out of site from the road. I ate some power goop for my dinner then climbed into my sleeping bag for a cold nights sleep.