Monday, November 25, 2013

Greece - Pedaling a Rugged Coastline to Almiri

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Andy and I climb the rugged hills near Nea Epidavros. Panaramio photos are copyright of their owners. Photographer: thsallas [2013-07-28]

27 miles - Tuesday, November 1

A pleasant morning. Cooler than usual, but clear and damp. Free camping felt liberating – and though we lacked a hot shower – it was unexpectedly spiritual and simple. I wake to glistening dew under the olive trees.

Andy and I coasted the remaining kilometers to a rugged coastline. We head north. Sweat pours down my knees as we ascend one 5 k incline plus another more grueling rise. It's brimming with beauty. It reminds me of Texas hill country: dusty red soil, pine trees. Herds of goats roam in the distance; bells chiming like faraway music. An occasional store or cafe sends Greek music filtering outside. I'm pleased the local people have escaped the Rock and Roll craze.

By noon time we descend 1000 feet to touristy Almiri. Signs advertise several campsites; we choose the first available one. This one is adequate, and importantly – we can reach Pireas docks tomorrow, allowing island transport plus possible ferry connection with Turkey.

Almiri Beach. Panaramio photos are copyright of their owners. Photographer Kiriakst

After an obligatory swim – I can't pass up any opportunity to dip in saltwater – we stock up on food and retreat to our site. Across the bay Andy and I study a relatively flat coastline – tomorrow's route – but more congested. The only unspoiled view from the beach is an oil refinery; stacks spew brown clouds. We are the solitary campers until a small R.V. pulls in at 7 p.m.

After a failed attempt at locating an English newspaper we strike up a conversation with the campground host, delighted he speaks our language. It's a chance to probe for any information that might aid our travel and in return we happily answer his questions. A phrase that is a common remark in Greece and throughout Europe: “Americans drive big cars.”

A few more facts about Greece:
  • half the population lives in Athens
  • like the U.S., population is in decline. Families are having fewer children.
  • Albanians, Turks, Africans illegally live in the country
  • young men must complete a 1-1.5 year military tour
  • visitors mainly arrive from France and Italy. Germans used to drive when Yugoslavia wasn't experiencing internal conflicts.
  • this campground sees approximately 15 bicycle tourists per year, mainly from the U.S.
  • young men learn English and young woman learn French as a second language

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