13 – 16 March 2017
This section covers 200k down the Greek west coast from Lefkade to Patras from where a ferry goes to Brindisi in Italy. After wintering 3 surprisingly cold months in Greece, spring finally came and it was time to move on – the last leg of my 5 year world journey riding through Europe to Denmark.
As previously mentioned, I would bike with my Greek friend Sonia. She has done some long distance biking though much less intensive than the way I travel, so we had many upfront conversations to align expectations and highlight potential challenges – mostly that I ride faster and longer. We agreed to do a trial period (of 6 weeks) until San Marino from where Sonia could take a ferry back to Greece should it not work out - even to split up before should the differences be too big. When biking with the New Zealand guy in Canada and the French guy in Iran/Armenia, riding together became challenging after about week, so for me a 6-week commitment seemed very long – still, this time it was with a friend and I was in no hurry to do Southern Europe as I couldn’t cross the Alps until May.
It’s always a bit ambivalent feeling to start again after a long break. We finished packing, said goodbye to Sonia’s grandmother and headed out around noon. The first 20k was pleasantly flat but then it became rolling hills which was quite hard work being completely out of shape after the long break. We took the small and generally quiet coastal road taking us through countless cosy villages and providing stunning views of the beautiful Greek coastline. The weather was pleasant – sunny with a temperature around 16-18C though the semi-strong wind made it feel cooler. To my surprise, people were friendly smiling and waving at us – very different from what I had experienced 3 months’ earlier. I suggested, it had to do with biking country roads (instead of main roads) or being with a local, but Sonia said was more likely to be the warmer weather – Greek people really don’t like the cold winters.
Despite the often remote countryside, camping wasn’t so easy as most areas were stony or private/fenced. Still we managed to find some nice spots with little but sheeps around (we never experienced not hearing their bells). The second evening we reached Mesolongi, where Sonia called a friend (who had hosted her on a previous bike trip) and we stayed in his Summer house by a lagoon 5k on the other side of town – more a junk yard than a house but great hospitality and nothing wrong with the beautiful location by the sea. It was only 200k, which would normally be a couple of days. However, Sonia was concerned how far she could ride and with a ferry every 2-3 days she suggested we used 4 days to be on the safe side. Reaching Mesolongi in 2 days, we had done 140k and were in very good time, so on day three we didn’t leave until early afternoon and took time for sightseeing a famous village built on the water – though the water level was low so it wasn’t particularly interesting.