27 November – 10 December 2016

This section covers 1,100k from Istanbul through northern Greece to Lefkada, an island in the Ionian Sea. It was already very cold when I left Istanbul, so I skipped what could have been a few interesting detours and rode straight to Lefkada.

Staying in Istanbul and doing a return trip to Denmark getting new equipment, I had been off the bike for over 5 weeks. It was a nice physical break gaining 10kg, though as always it meant a tough beginning being out of shape. It was also a nice mental break, but it was too short and busy to make a real difference. I was very happy about my new rear wheel, allowing me to focus on enjoying the ride instead of endless challenges. However, with the guy in the Istanbul bike shop messing up my gears, I kept the old wheel on the first day to prevent repetition of the “Singapore-event”, where an overshooting chain broke 7-8 spokes in my new wheel entailing endless bike problems all the way to Istanbul. The weather forecast looked less promising – a few days after leaving, I would encounter 2 days of heavy rain followed by 2 days of hard frost. I could avoid it by procrastinating my departure 6 days, but I preferred a layover in the tent over more time in Istanbul, so I headed out.

From Istanbul, it was 250k to the Greek border. A fairly boring ride, the first half through endless suburbs and the other through open countryside – all the way in cold, overcast weather riding into a strong headwind. Either I was in rare bad shape, or I pushed harder than usual in the combination of rolling hills/strong headwind, because already at noon on day two, I got pain in my right knee. It probably came from compensating for my bad left knee and although I pushed less, my left knee began to hurt a few hours later. The weather forecast was spot on, so day 3-6 I had to layover because of rain and hard frost down to -10C. My sleeping bag takes -9C, and with the strong wind it was stretched to the limit. Wearing several layers of clothes in the sleeping bag helped me keep warm though I struggled with my feet getting very cold every time I went outside 15-30 minutes for eating - my sneakers are really not made for this kind of weather. I tried to leave the third day, but my gear cables were frozen from the rain turning into snow and frost, so I ended up staying two more days. Maybe for the best, as the strong headwind would have made it freezing cold. Nothing is so bad that it isn't good for something. The small forest I camped in turned out to be a very peaceful place where the only sounds were the distant road, a tractor passing by on the dirt road and a few dogs barking. The 4 days provided an opportunity to sleep, relax, read and reflect upon life. I realised how much I’d missed peace and quietness in 2016 - always biking on and sleeping just next to noisy roads and when taking breaks being in busy hostels...

Crossing into Greece, the first 500k to Veria were easy riding being mostly flattish with only a few big hills. Most of the way I rode secondary roads, but a few shorter stretches I had to ride the highway, and a couple of times I did it to make progress. Once the police past in the other direction using the siren at me, so I pushed hard for 3k to reach the exit before they could turn around and catch me. The road offered lovely diverse nature – through open countryside, over hills and past wetlands, lakes and rivers as well as along the sea. The weather improved somewhat – half the days were still cold and overcast but other days were sunny, increasing the temperature and providing great views especially riding the coast.

I was happy having had some easy days to get in shape, because the 350k from Veria to Lefkada were very hilly having to cross several mountain ranges; the highest point around 1,600m elevation. Hard work but beautiful riding at this time of year, being so desolate except for a few locals in the villages. I was lucky with mostly sunny days increasing the otherwise low temperature and greatly improving the views. The downside to the clear skies was bitterly cold nights – every morning waking up to a frozen tent and bike. In the desert, it was always about finding a tree/bush to protect the tent from the morning sun, but now it was about finding a camp spot offering morning sun to defrost my stuff (an myself).

Despite the cold weather, I really enjoyed the ride. Most importantly, the new rear wheel meant a lelaxing ride with no problems except one flat tire. The only equipment problem was my phone - the screen constantly froze so I had to restart it and on the last day the charger in the phone broke (once again) so I finally took the consequence and bought a new phone when I got to Lefkada. Except for a few short stretches, the roads were good and more often with a shoulder and I only had one flat tire (and not because of the broken wheel). Riding in mostly desolate areas, I didn’t meet many locals and the few I did meet, looked at me like I was an alien. They don’t bike much in Greece and certainly not long-distance on a big bike in the middle of the winter. Just before Lefkada, the road split and I unsuccessfully tried to stop 20 cars to ask for directions – everybody went way around, so I was happy not needing help for a big problem.    

My initial idea had been to stay fairly short time in Greece before continuing to southern Italy, but the cold biking and camping made me change my mind and procrastinate departure until spring.

Istanbul to Lefkada
A rare beautiful day r...
Istanbul to Lefkada
It was a bad night, sl...
Istanbul to Lefkada
We biked for some hour...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
New tent and fixed air...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Being exhausted I had ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
A strong headwind of 3...
Istanbul to Lefkada
In the afternoon, the ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I passed a few village...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I found a great spot a...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I tried to leave on da...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Nothing is so bad that...
Istanbul to Lefkada
It was still hard fros...
Istanbul to Lefkada
20k later the headwind...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I was running late and...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I slept well until 2.3...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I was a bit sore but i...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Lots of snow on the mo...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
It looked like it had ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The last small hill be...
Istanbul to Lefkada
From Alaxandroupoli, i...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Finally at the top, it...
Istanbul to Lefkada
... with beautiful vie...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Down in the valley, I ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
30 flattish kilometres...
Istanbul to Lefkada
A few kilometres out o...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The dogs barked again ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Despite the sun being ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
5k before town, I head...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Kavala is nicely locat...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
The coast was built up...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Several of these eyeso...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
I was surprised to see...
Istanbul to Lefkada
For a while the road w...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Stunning views and dow...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The day ended with a n...
Istanbul to Lefkada
.. and the next day be...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Great timing with perf...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
A few times the road t...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
... soon however, I fo...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
In Asprovalta I had a ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The afternoon offered ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
The valley being fully...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The next morning offer...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
As I left at 9.15 the ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
It was an easy flat 23...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The afternoon clouds w...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
I was in good time to ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The weather improved s...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Once again I ran very ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Condensation was dripp...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
As I finally got ready...
Istanbul to Lefkada
It was a tough climb r...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
This time it wasn't co...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Starting at 550m, asse...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Wanting to check the G...
Istanbul to Lefkada
A few kilometres later...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Not much of a view for...
Istanbul to Lefkada
... before 10k switchb...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Strong headwind but ot...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Leaving the highway, I...
Istanbul to Lefkada
A cold and overcast mo...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Back on track towards ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
In Grevena, I stocked ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
7k flat out of town an...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Lots of bear warnings ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The last steep climb u...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I had around 2 1/2 hou...
Istanbul to Lefkada
The weather suddenly i...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
It was constant rollin...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Few places to get off ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Just before the next s...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Nice view...
Istanbul to Lefkada
As expected another ni...
Istanbul to Lefkada
It took longer for the...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Passing Milea early mo...
Istanbul to Lefkada
... for a 5k and 400m ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Over the top, and on t...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Rolling hills before t...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Approaching Metsovo......
Istanbul to Lefkada
Rolling downhill past ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
On the way down I had ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I considered riding th...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Far below, the highway...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I didn't regret taking...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Once again getting clo...
Istanbul to Lefkada
A long downhill, dropp...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
While the highway went...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Lovely views spoilt so...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Lots of rocks and ston...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I had a great night's ...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Nice and warm downhill...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
... until I rolled int...
Istanbul to Lefkada
It took some time to g...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
With more than 150k to...
Istanbul to Lefkada
To avoid Preveza, I de...
Istanbul to Lefkada
After the tunnel, it b...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Istanbul to Lefkada
A last downhill to Agi...
Istanbul to Lefkada
Approaching Lefkada wi...
Istanbul to Lefkada
I climbed up countless...
 
 
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