Monday 18/6/12 Ferry to Pireaus, 11k bike to bus, 3hr bus to Patras, manic 5k ride to ferry!
Had a fairly comfortable journey and sleep on the 7 hr ferry. Nickie woke just before dawn and went up on deck to watch the sun rise up over Turkey on the horizon. What a beautiful sight. We miss Turkey, what amazing people and landscapes. We have enjoyed Greece but the Greek people haven’t been so forthcoming and “interested” in us. Maybe it’s because here is a touristic place and even with our bikes we aren’t so “unusual” . Maybe the greek folk are naturally more reserved or maybe its because we’ve only been here a few days, we’ve been more self sufficent and we haven’t had the opportunity to engage with them in the same way as we did in Turkey, where everything was new and different for us and we sought out their help. The Greek Elections were held yesterday and it’s been a hot topic for our short time here, every TV tuned to the elections. We know that many Greeks are worried for their futures. Don, aged 60 something of Invercargill, has lived in Greece 30yrs and who is the owner of Chios, has some interesting theories/experiences of Greek business and politics. He shakes his head about the “free enterprise” “ no regulations” and “corruption” “tax dodging” “ every individual is out for what he can make, without thought of the impact on the masses” He has a greek wife and several sons, one who is 9yrs old. He is optimistic that Greece can make a turn around, with the right government. We hope for that too. We have noticed that prices for everything about a 1/3 to ½ cheaper in Turkey, than here using the Euro. We docked at about 11.45am and tried to get our bikes onto the transit buses to the station, no luck, people pushed in front of us on masse, no eye contact made, their need was greater than ours so it seemed!! The buses drove off with the doors open and suitcases hanging halfway out . What to do?? It was sooo hot and we had to ride now!!... If we had any chance of getting a bus Patras. We didn’t bother to put on cycle shoes or wear gloves, no time for that!! We were immediately sweating and it was a challenge to hold the handgrips with sweaty palms. Garmin did a good job navigating us through the narrow back streets, where we leapfrogged taxis and buses, ran red lights, rode double in lanes so cars wouldn’t try to squeeze past us. Nickie used arm and hand signals like a traffic controller, she was making sure that no-one was going to cut her off!! Exhilarating, a wee bit dangerous. Eyes and head swivelling like a chameleon, alert to 360 degrees, too bad we didn’t have sirens and flashing lights. That would have been fun! No problem with getting the 1.30pm bus thank=goodness, even had time to have a change of clothes and an icecream. Took a few photos from the bus enroute to Patras, the road and rail line services a narrow corridor of towns and farms bordered by sea or rugged, dry hills. Tough climate. We hurriedly threw our bikes together at Patras bus station, front wheels back on and panniers attached. Nickie couldn’t quite get her front bag to “click in”, never mind only going 5ks, and we’ve got 20 mins to get on the ferry!! Fortunately very little traffic and we could just see the ferry ahead of us. We bumped up onto the footpaths when we hit a red light, then we were ahead of the traffic again. Haha, on one bump back down to the road Nickies front bag flies off!!! And skids right into the middle of the road, the drink bottle rolls and rolls fortunately to the side of the road. Nickie has to use quick reflexes not to run over the bag and crash! Pete collects the bag, Nickie scoops up the bottle and we pedal twice as hard!! Phew, that could have been bad! ?Only 30 secsonds wasted? We race into the port, hearts thumping … Which one of the 3 ferries is ours?? Its now 10 to 5pm. We ask a customs officer checking in the trucks, ”where do we go?” he replies “go to the terminal and check in first” . Of course we don’t go to the correct office at first, and waste time waiting. Tickets finally checked and we are told to follow the “redline” outside on the road..?? is that back to the truck check in?? ??where is this redline?? Nickie has to go back and ask again…5 mins to 5pm now….We sprint 500m on the redline on the road,, Pete twists his ankle getting his bike up a kerb, so now he is limping,… we weave through the trucks at customs check and now we are on the dock… yes, it seems we have made it, we are laughing and congratulating ourselves, what a ride!! The steward is laughing too when we skid to a fast stop in front of him. We ride up the ramp into the ship right on 5pm. The sirens bleep as the ramps are closed up, deafening. We tie up the bikes and sort out gear to take aboard for the next 24 hrs, sleeping bag, change of clothes etc. We make straight to the bar for a beer!! We talk about the day, the decisions we have made, the close calls, the frustrations, the doubts, the delays and things we can’t control, the helpfulness or indifference of people, the uncomfortable sensation of dry throat, thumping heart and burning legs when “sprint riding in city streets” , being hyper alert to 360 degrees around you, trying to anticipate the traffic, the rush of adrenalin and endorphins when you stop and are safely at destination, being able to sit still and relax, mission accomplished. Now we ‘relax’ for the next 24 hrs. Next stop Ancona, Italy , next mission is to try to catch up with Alessandra, who was an exchange student to Ohope last year when we hosted Alexandra from Sweden.