Arriving in Greece on the 20th of February, we stayed in the country until the 10th of April, 40 days during which (almost) nothing went as expected.
A Chaotic Greek start
Adam, unable to pedal due to a knee injury, was forced to reach Meteora by bus and train via Athens, taking two days. Meanwhile, Sylvain and I cycled on the motorway to avoid a 200km detour. After a police car escorted us to an exit, we thought we were making good progress on a main road up a 1800m pass with Meteora on the other side. 50km further uphill we reached the pass. A wall of snow faced us. Impossible to advance any further. A local man with good English gave us a ride through the motorway tunnels and we were deposited on the other side of the otherwise impassable mountain. Thanks to his help, we met Adam the next day.
In Meteora, we managed to climb one multi-pitch before the rain ruined any further hopes of climbing. At least Adam’s knee was getting better and we were back on the road for our last week as three. We alternated camping on deserted beaches with under olive trees until we met a new friend. A man, who spoke as much English as we speak Greek – practically nothing… He refused to allow us to look for a campsite in the vicinity. From his theatrical miming and exclamations, we understood that if we slept there, we were likely to get our throats cut… Skeptical, but the language barrier giving us little choice we followed him to a garage/showroom. Here, a safe place to camp. We settled in for the night, between tractors and cars, two tents and three cyclists. Greek hospitality. We awoke to the smell of coffee made by the owner’s daughter and left with a packed lunch of bread, eggs and biscuits.
Athens, rainy goodbyes
Without really realising it, we were in Athens. The good news of the day: it’s the first Sunday of the month, meaning free museum access. To the Acropolis we go. Despite the crowds, the place is magnificent. Another cyclist-climber-traveller couple, Isis and Clement, with their two year-old daughter Yaëlle, were also there to enjoy it. Great to meet them. The next two days flew by. Reorganising the gear, finding a bike box, organising the journey to the airport and of course playing Yahtzee.
Tuesday, 7th of March. In a few hours, Sylvain flies home. I knew it but it’s hard to get along with the idea. It’s been ten years since we’ve spent so much time together. It made me so happy to realise that nothing had changed. Together, everything is easy, natural. I am annoying and he knows it, and he also knows how to make me aware of my mistakes. We still play like kids, challenging each other on who can build the best bench from tree trunks or searching for the most beautiful place to camp. Adam and Sylvain, they climb trees together, throw stones into the sea and they are always enthusiastic when making a fire and getting it ready for cooking. In short, as a three, we’re a great team.
As for hiding my tears, the days after Sylvain’s departure were miserable. Our plan of resting on the beach and swimming in the sea where ruined by heavy rain. The said beach, that we had found thanks to Google satellite, was in fact an abandoned resort which Tarmac floor made us realise that our inner-tent was leaking from the bottom… A romantic way to spend our first wedding anniversary…
Kalymnos, an explosive welcome.
It’s 4am, Sunday the 12th of March. After a sleepless night on the ferry, we set foot on Kalymnos. It’s pouring with rain and the wind makes it impossible to cycle straight. We say goodbye to the notion of camping on the beach, hello the bench. We wake to the sound of dynamite. No one seems to worry apart from us. We learnt later that it’s a Kalymnian tradition. There was once a Turkish military base on the Island. After a few locals attacked it with explosives, the Turkish left the Island. Since then, these mini-bombs or firecrackers-on-steroids are a way to celebrate event, especially Easter. Today, it’s just training. Everything’s normal.
The mission of the day is to find a place where we can set up for at least two weeks, both close enough to the crags and away from prying eyes. To be able to leave the bikes and our stuff whilst we are climbing. Apartments aren’t expensive for a holiday but it would make a dent in our budget. We prefer camping anyway. Whilst looking for a beach, we across an abandoned nightclub. Five levels of open-air terraces with sea view, a former covered bar that was quickly cleaned and converted to a comfortable kitchen, water/supermarket five minutes away by bike, hundreds of climbing routes a mere ten minute walk away and the feeling that no one comes here. We couldn’t have asked for more.
As summarising a month in Kalymnos within a few lines would be impossible, another article is being written…