We both really loved Greece,
by its calm roads, its beautiful landscapes, the wonderful wild camp spots we would find, its nice people (but that didn’t change from before, people have always been nice with us, since the beginning). The last flat days, under a nice and hot sun, without wind, reaching back a 90 km a day made a super finish to those 9 days we used from Sarandë to Piraeus.
We started by having two more days in Albania with our friends James and Claire. The weather wasn’t the best waking up in our 2,50 € per person per night in Sarandë but bags were set, bags on/bags offas James would say, and we took the road. Going to the Greek border after the national park of Butrint wasn’t really the road that our Irish friends expected to take but the gang will of staying a bit longer together was stronger.
We split shortly after the border, they will go through Greece towards Thessaloniki whereas we went along the coast towards Igoumenista. Contact was kept and we will make sure to meet again in Turkey or Georgia.
So were we biking towards Igoumenista harbour in the hope of joining the ferry for Patras…. but we realized quite fast that wasn’t possible. There is in fact a ferry coming to Igoumenista and going to Patras even in winter but you can’t get in. It comes from Ancona and people are only allowed to go out at Igoumenista harbor. Not in. Don’t ask why. As we noticed the 240 km up to Patras, to reach later our one time a week ferry in Piraeus in time, we started to stress a bit.
Angélique would have asked earlier Heidi and Hans, two Austrian Couchsurfers who settled in a village near Igoumenista for retirement. Finding this German speaking community in this small restaurant was particularly funny and we had a nice time with them, beside a recap of German language for Xavier (and a bit of struggling understanding Austrian German). That would be a pity to forget it all after our travel.
We kept going south for five days, having four wonderful wild camping spots, either in mountain landscape, close to river, or on the classical beach spots. Rivers, if even cold are greatly appreciated by bikers, five days without shower start to scratch. The last spot at the road’s end of Kato Vasiliki was gorgeous. Alone in that bay, seeing Patras on the other side of the sea, we realized biking in winter had the advantage of no tourist. Local people actually don’t care you would wild camp. Everybody is anyway too cold to hang out after sunset.
Passing the bridge between Antirrio and Rio (you can go with your bike on it for free, no need of paying the toll, as do pedestrians) was for us a first achievement, like we were reaching some sort of first goal of our trip.
We were so wrong. Our idea was to meet George in Patras and spend one or two days with him and then easily take the train to Pireaus. There is however no train in Patras, the line has been cut in most of Pelopones, replaced by buses and you have to go to Kiato to get the train, which is another 110 km further. Good luck.
We still met George for a frappé (coffee with ice, that everyone drinks) in Patras as he has been following us for the last five days. We were initially supposed to meet him after our ferry from Igoumenista. Fixing a meeting date through Couchsurfing or Warmshowers is actually not easy when more than five days ahead. So much is unpredictable by biking: rain, wind, bike or body issues, closed road…
Hopefully the Pelopones road from Patras to Kiato is completely flat, on the sea side. It goes nicely between small villages making us happy at the end to have done it. We managed 90 km a day before to reach Kiato, which is so far our best since the beginning.
It’s a bit under stress that we went into Kiato train station, not fully certain we could take the bikes. But no bad surprise there, and we went down finally in Piraeus surprisingly easily. First target was to get the so desired ferry tickets but we also took the time to change our tires. That’s something we should have done in Germany, before to leave. That would have avoid us time and money in Albania. We are now equipped with four new Continental Travel Contact Plus tires. A real shower and a laundry finished the job and it’s once more reloaded that we went towards the harbor and the ferry for our next destination, leaving behind Europe for, we hope, quite some time. End of season 1.