June 15, 2013
Distance: 51.2 miles Climbing: 3520.3 ft
We rose early and made a quick breakfast next to the tennis courts. It was a short ride over to Agrinos where we stopped for some coffee and wifi at a little café. We didn’t have much of a plan for the day, except to avoid the highway at all costs. As we were pulling up Google maps, the internet went out and never came back, so we were left with the line map on the GPS, which doesn’t have elevation contours.
We picked a route with minimal squiggles hoping this meant it would be a less mountainous route. The road rolled through small hills along some reservoirs which must have been part of some hydroelectric scheme. As we swung around a bend we saw a small vegetable stand. We really love buying our produce as locally as possible because the quality is usually better and so are the prices. It’s always a fun social interaction too, where we learn the local names for things, and promptly forget them. We’ve barely seen any produce stands in Greece compared to the hundreds we saw in Turkey. There are a lot more supermarkets and centralized shopping centers here, so most people must get their veggies there.
The lady running the stand at first came across as pretty brusque and unfriendly, but as we lingered a little while we could see she was amused that we had stopped by. She showed us the water spigot to fill our bottles. We pulled out our nearly empty bottle of olive oil in the hopes she would have some for sale. She called down her daughter from the house, who disappeared with our bottle and came back after a few minutes with it filled up. I pulled out 10 Euros, but the lady waved me off, still not smiling. We rode off loaded with fresh eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes and sweet green peppers, cold water and a liter of olive oil. We learned that you don’t have to be friendly to be kind and generous.
The riding slowly climbed up a narrow valley and traffic was really light. We came into a small town next to a large lake which had really splendid views. We saw the valley opened up but off in the distance an imposing wall of mountains bounded the edge we were shooting for. We realized we should probably escape the valley before we ended up having to ride through some big pass in those mountains. We took a left and climbed and climbed on the very steep, but well paved road. It was déjà-vu from yesterday and wasn’t exactly “fun”, but we were still happy with our trade of miserable highway traffic for near solitude at the price of lots and lots of climbing.
We crested the ridge and then descended through a few small towns where people sitting at cafes and at their houses waved to us, as long as we initiated the wave. I heard a scream from behind me, so I hit the brakes and turned around. Jenny was still upright, so that was a relief. She rode up with tears in her eyes, and said she had been stung by a bee! We get wacked by all kinds of bugs while riding downhill, but this bee had managed to sting her thigh during its brief impact. This was the first time Jenny had ever been stung by a bee, so we were a little worried at first. We do have an epi-pen with us for emergencies since she is allergic to a lot of random things, but the spot just swelled up a tiny bit and she didn’t have a seizure or anything so on we went.
After some strategic meandering, we were eventually forced back on the highway. The road followed the coast for a while and gave some nice views, but it was hard to take in while concentrating on hugging the shoulder. I think a lot of people tour on highways and just get used to it, but we really like quiet roads even if they aren’t direct. Because we spend so much time on small roads, our misery is amplified when we do have to ride on the highway, so it wasn’t long before our moods sank and we just rode along in autopilot.
We hit 50 miles in an agricultural region just south of Arta, which looked like a decent sized town on the map. The crops were oranges and olives here, and it was full swing orange season. Since everyone seemed preoccupied with tending the oranges, we ducked into an olive orchard and tucked ourselves away in the back corner out of view of the road. Soon we had the hammocks set up in one of the trees and we took a nice break reading before cooking up a big pasta, cheese and veggie diner.
It was another long day of climbing, but we were feeling a lot better about Greece. We weren’t charmed out of our socks, but the views were fantastic and when we were off the highway we really enjoyed the cycling.