4 August 2008 - Ioannina, Greece
I am having to re-write this page, as, for some reason, the August journal has been lost. I have my suspicions that it was the internet cafe I used this morning, as it was also doing peculiar things with my email.
I spent my last couple of days in Italy looking forward to a new country. I became fed up with the different encounters with and attitudes of Italian men. I found a very nice campsite next to the sea just south of Molfetta. There was an Aussie-Italian working in a restaurant near the campsite and so it was very nice to have a flowing conversation with someone. I had a rest day here, as I had done quite a few high mileage days. So, I pampered my bike and swam in the sea and sunbathed a bit, stupidly letting myself get a bit sunburnt.
The next night, Thursday, found enjoying the quietest night I'd had in the whole of Italy. The campsite was huge, but SO quiet throughout the night and even the next morning! Amazing and wonderful.
On the Friday, whilst cycling along minding my own business, I had the most horrible encounter! For, suddenly in front of me, right in front of me, so that I nearly ran over it, was a very long, very black snake. Aaaargh!! Shock, horror. I don't know who was more frightened of the other, it or me. I almost swerved the wrong way, in front of the snake, but managed to turn away from it just in time. It took me ages to stop hyper-ventilating and to calm down. Yeuch. Anyway, there's no way I am going to wild camp now. Wimp, or what?!
Now, I am in Greece, having first gone to Corfu for one night on a very friendly campsite in Palaeokastritsas, run by Diane, a Scot, who took a 6-month sabbatical from work and never went home. That was 15 years ago.
I cycled north along the east coast for a bit, thinking I would take a photo of the Albanian coastline, but, after about an hour of busy roads, tourists, heat and the beginning of hills, I decided to take my photo from where I was and assume that it was Albania!And then I returned to Corfu town and the ferry terminal, had 3 rude, unfriendly, unhelpful encounters with staff and so was only too glad to just about get onto the 2.30 ferry before the doors went up.
I arrived on the mainland in Igoumenitsa and found the most beautiful campsite about 10 kms south. It led directly on to a beautiful beach in a beautiful bay, with beautiful clear water. I had a glorious swim and relax. It is fantastic to end a cycling day in such a refreshing way. That night I slept just under my mosquito net (suspended from a tree); it was too hot for my tent, especially with the problem with my 'vapours'.
Yesterday was a gruelling day; the worst to date. I travelled 69 miles to Ioannina in terrific heat and 80% up hill. There was no alternative but to carry on, as there was no option of accommodation of any kind along the way. Anyway, with the grace and strength of God, we made it! Somehow. I am now on a rest day, camping right onto the lakeside with a whopping big mountain as a backdrop. Much of my subsequent cycling is going to involve hills.
Quite a few people have emailed me saying how crazy I am to be tackling the hottest country at the hottest time of year. Yes, I entirely agree with you. Not recommended.
12 August 2008 - Nidri, Greece
Well, I had my first accident last Saturday. I was knocked off my bike, whilst passing a parked car, who opened the door just as I was passing and sent my bike, panniers and me sprawling all over the road. I thank God because it could have been a lot worse than it was. I am now laid up (on a campsite in the middle of nowhere, cos the insurance company are not really being that efficient and I don't have authorisation yet to go into more accessible - and comfortable - accommodation). Anyway, the lovely young Italian woman, Federica, who knocked me down, has been very good and helpful (one reason why I am able to do an albeit brief journal entry now). My left knee is injured and needs a week or 10 days before I am probably in a fit state to carry on. I need to get a new Kliklok for my basket attachment to the handlebars.
Told you it was going to be brief: my lift back is here and must go. Anyway, I'm OK and will update as soon as I can. Cheers. XXX
15 August 2008 - Lefkada
I am now in the main town of the island, Lefkada, in a really nice flat; the owners live above. All hotels were full. The flat is actually preferable to a hotel: away from the tourist area, amongst the local community, less expensive, more friendly. Just as well! Last night at about 3.40 in the morning, I locked myself out of the flat! I had woken up and wanted to know the time, realised my cyclometer was still on my bike in the hallway, went out to get it .... and the flat door shut tight!!! As usual, it could have been worse: I could just have been in my knickers, but at least I had put a shawl around me. So, what to do? I prayed for the door to open miraculously - but God doesn't always work like that. :-) Anyway, the long and the short of it is that the owner heard the hall lights keep switching on and came to investigate. There was no spare key and so, after we had tried picking the lock (!?) for about half an hour, I ended up sleeping on the settee in their flat. This morning everything was then sorted and I was able to go back into the flat. :-)
As for the campsite at which I had been staying prior to coming to Lefkada, I met some lovely people there: Federica and her friend, Bernadetta, came and saw me a couple of times (her parents and brother were also on the campsite); Ricardo was another young Italian, (it's a very popular site for Italians) from whom it was enough that he just passed the time of day with me and was very pleasant; Stavros and Kyriakis, living in Athens, backpacked to the site by bus and walking and just having a few chill-out days mostly smoking languidly on the beach; Eduardo, an Italian on a motorbike, just there for one night traveling around the Peloponnese; Nico, the campsite owner.
There was one lovely day in particular when a sailing boat, moored and flying the Union Jack, invited me on board when I called to them as I was swimming along. They were 4 Brits just starting a week's sailing: Abi, Lauren, Ian and Rob. They were great. I had a lovely mug of English tea and the first extended conversation with any Brits since I'd left UK. So, thanks, guys. :-) Hope you had a lovely week and found the 'parking' easy. :-)
I now have until Monday am to decide my next course of action: either continue my trip, if my knee is up to it; be repatriated to UK and then returned when better to continue the trip (the insurance company is being a bit slow and unclear about this); flown to Cyprus (my suggestion, as my father is there); or I stay at a local campsite from Monday night (when I shall be paying for myself again) until I feel I can continue, which could be a week or more, I need to see how my knee is over the weekend.
Lefkada has quite a lot to see and so, for once, I have the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing, if I want to.
25 August 2008 - Chlorako, Cyprus
Whilst in Lefkada, I had to walk quite a way each day (as the accommodation was not sited centrally), which aggravated my knee to some extent. I came to know one particular internet cafe in particular and the little back streets away from the main tourist ones.
One evening I happened to be in a part of the town where hundreds of locals were gathering to go on a celebratory procession around the town, as part of the festival of the Virgin Mary. It was very vibrant and colourful, different groups representing various countries and local towns; music and dancing within the individual groups. I went to a restaurant, Cafe Uozeri, not far from my accommodation, and had a couple of enjoyable evenings there. The chef was a Canadian Cypriot, Anna, which was great for me to be able to have a conversation with someone. I was feeling pretty lonely and low at this time.
Now,as you can see, I am in Cyprus, staying at my father's. The last 10 days have been really difficult mentally and emotionally for me: my knee is nowhere near ready to enable me to continue cycling; the insurance company pulled the plug on me last Monday and withdrew all the options they had been offering the previous week; I am finding it hard to deal with the change in plans for my trip: an extended break from cycling: (7 weeks, until the end of September ) and the fact that I had to change my plan of only cycling and going by boat to taking bus, plane and taxi (crumbs, what a hassle! and my bike was slightly damaged in transit!). There were a couple of enthusiastic young lads , George and Noah, at the bus station in Lefkada who helped me prepare my bike for the bus ("cos a woman should not be doing this"), which I was glad about, cos the pedals were really hard to undo. They also supplied me with food and drink "to keep my energy levels up for my cycling". George is a keen cyclist and both of them were very impressed with my trip.
Even so, I've been very much in the doldrums. But, there is good in everything. My father is delighted that I shall be spending so much time with him. Things are not easy for him, as his wife has Altzheimer's. He appreciates the company and the presence of an extra person in the flat.
Since arriving here, I have had to battle with the very high humidity!! Everybody says it is extremely unusual, but this is not a huge comfort. Most of the time seems to be spent existing in a perpetual sweat bag. Talking of which, I have bought some medication (Isoflavins) to try and counteract my hot flushes.
Whilst I am in Cyprus, there will not be much cycling trip news to pass on and so be prepared for a bit of a lull.
BTW, I left UK weighing 64.5kgs; I arrived in Cyprus weighing 57kgs! And I feel great. For about the first time in my life, I am unable to say, "does my bum look big in this?", cos I don't now have one! I think, with current temperatures, I am unlikely to put on too much weight; but I need to be prepared for the fact that I shall lose a great deal of my fitness in the next 6 weeks and, once I set off again, it will probably be quite hard going initially.
All this is part of my trip and I should just accept and embrace it as part of the whole experience. Which I do. :-)