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.

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