Lots of wine and off to mount Olympus!
End of day 14: 30th of April, 2012.
Distance covered so far: 609.71 kilometers (381.07 miles).
The ride to Larisa was a bit tougher than I anticipated. It was all a flat road, but I didn’t ride under the best of conditions. I was already tired from the previous day, I had gone to bed very late and I set off at high noon, so the burning sun was not doing me any favors. Regardless, I got there in one piece and decided to spend the weekend.
Larisa is a big city with a little bit of everything. It’s got a lot of green to it and a lot of ancient ruins, but I can’t say that it left me speechless.
I was staying with a couchsurfer who was also hosting a bunch of Italians made it a whole lot more fun. A whole lot of wine was involved on Friday night (no, seriously. A LOT! we’re talking the jugs, the singing, the laughing, the stumbling, the chocolate munchies at 7am… the whole thing!) and a whole lot of relaxing was enjoyed during the rest of the weekend, so I felt more than ready to continue my trip early on Monday morning.
Monday comes and I’m already on the way by 7am. It’s an easy ride up north, as not many mountainous roads are involved but there’s a catch. I am supposed to go through the valley of Tempi and in the map I don’t see anything resembling a side road.
As I’m riding that way, my worries are confirmed. The police pulled me over and told me I cannot continue down that road because the side road ends.
The alternative they were giving me was riding back and making a huge circle by following an entirely different route, which was clearly not an option. After talking about it, I convinced them to let me through and continue with my journey.
The valley of Tempi is indeed beautiful and one of the greenest areas one could come across, but to be honest, I didn’t have time to stop and observe it more closely. I was too busy trying to cycle as fast as possible and in as a straight line as possible to get the hell out of there. The road was narrow as hell, no hard shoulder and the edge of the lane was full of debri.
That was by far the one scary leg of my journey. Having successfully survived it, I was off to the main destination of today’s trip: mount Olympus!
Mount Olympus has a lot of history and mythology to it. Almost everyone who knows Greece has heard about the twelve Gods of Olympus and all stereotypes that go with them (grapes, women, goats, thunder, sacrifices, cool gadgets…). I had been told about Palios Panteleimon, a beautiful village up on the eastern side of Olympus, that is worth visiting. It sounded like a great opportunity to climb this legendary mountain!
As expected, it was a very challenging uphill battle! Mount Olympus is nothing to take lightly, even if I wasn’t going anywhere near the top. It was almost high noon. The sun was burning, there was no shade for me to rest and the incline of the road was constantly as steep as it can get. I could see the sweat drip from my forehead onto my bicycle! My iPod began to look like a candle-dripped piece of art. I finally made it up though and it was beautiful.
The village of Palios Panteleimon is not only picturesque, traditional and beautiful.
It was also the first location where I finally got to lay eyes on the endless, blue Aegean sea! After mountains upon mountains upon mountains, I craved to gaze upon the sea!
After chilling up there for a bit and riding back down, I felt energetic enough to continue riding. I rode and I rode and I rode. I had already exceeded 100 kilometers for the day and still kept on going. At some point it started getting complicated. The roads were getting from bad to worse until the paved part even ran out. I ended up pushing my bike through farmlands and dirt paths, wondering if I would ever get to a village to stop for the night. After an hour of struggling through the gravel, I finally reached the tiny, seaside village of Makrygialos.
I was exhausted. I had covered more than 130 kilometers in one day. I found a hotel and before going to my room for the night, I had a brief talk with the owner about my travels, his travels and our way of life. I guess I made him comfortable enough for him to not miss out on the opportunity of offering me a couple of prostitutes up to my room if I so chose to. I stared blankly, smiled and thanked him and walked up to my room. Ten minutes later there was a knock on my door. Luckily it was just him bringing me a mosquito repellent. Guess he’s an all round thoughtful guy…..
Things I learnt:
- There is no side road when going through the valley of Tempi! I do not recommend that stretch!
- Olympus is massive! (duh…)