North Evia: Unspeakable beauty comes with a (painful) price
End of day 4: 20th of April, 2012.
Distance covered so far: 153.65 kilometers (96.03 miles).
After a very intense day riding to Amarinthos, taking a much needed day to relax was the way to go. The beaches, the good food and our gracious, fascinating host, Stelaras was just what we needed in order to recharge our batteries before continuing the long journey ahead.
The following morning we got up and back on our saddles early. After my current morning ritual that involves a freshly baked, warm cheese pie and an orange juice, we rode back to Eretria where Elvira took the ferry back to Athens.
And now, I ride alone towards the north. I don’t mind riding alone. Besides, that was the idea from the beginning. Very quickly I realized though, that having someone riding alongside you is very helpful for the tough parts. Not only does chatting make the distance go by quicker, but also it helps me to have a co-rider to see as motivation to push myself further. If one is riding, the other will keep on riding too. But if you’re by yourself, when you’re feeling like you don’t have any more energy to give, you’ll jump off and walk.
Having said that, my goal was to cover 80 kilometers and reach the village of Neos Pagontas. The part I did not know is that there is a 30-kilometer endless climb through the green mountains in order to reach there. It was VERY HARD! I would find excuses to stop as often as possible to take photos of beautiful homes and breathtaking views, but the uphill battle wasn’t going anywhere. It was still there, waiting for me to jump back on the pedals and leave a tiny trail of sweat behind me. My energy was dropping fast. I reached a point where even flat stretches were hard. At times, I would get off the bike and push it up the hill, just to give some muscles a chance to rest. I was going through my water supply like crazy and could feel every muscle of my leg pounding. Luckily, though, I know my limits and I knew I wasn’t even close to hurting myself. I have a lot of miles ahead of me and it’s not worth injuring myself for the sake of a day’s goal.
At some point I finally found a taverna and sat down for some delicious greek, authentic cuisine. It certainly hit the spot and the owner was so impressed by what I was doing that offered me all I ate and drank for free! Wonderful guy and I’m immensely thankful.
The uphill struggle continued, although Giannis, the owner of the Taverna had assured me that there was a nice downhill stretch coming up soon. Indeed, he was not wrong. 15 minutes later, I found myself flying downhill, turning left and right through lush forests and going back down the mountain I had struggled so hard to climb. It was exhilarating. The wind in my face and the constantly increasing speed was just what I needed and felt highly rewarding. What I didn’t know was that this was only half the reward I was in for.
No, I didn’t fall off a ledge and landed on hundreds of soft pillows with the most beautiful harem one has ever seen and warm mint tea flowing freely. That’s from another story. Where I did find myself, at the bottom of this mountain, was a valley that could only be described by fans of stereotypes as Switzerland. Endless green fields on my left with purple flowers scattered randomly and tiny cottages right in the middle of them. My right side was home to an endless forrest of large plane trees, in the middle of which ran the clear, refreshing, running waters of river Kireas. The sun was setting behind the mountains that surround this hidden paradise and there I was, in the middle of it all, riding my bicycle on this empty, flat road, with my eyes and mouth wide open, not knowing what to admire first. I started wondering who to consider the luckiest: the people that live there, or the ones that lay eyes on it for the very first time?
I was expecting something good to come out of that long, long, painful struggle uphill, but I had no idea it would be so spectacular. It is moments like these why I chose to embark on such a challenging journey.
I decided to spend the night at the nearby village of Prokopi.
At first I started looking for a place to put my tent, but when I realized that the local church has some sort of a guesthouse (which is very church-themed, whatever that means to you), I thought it’d be worth the experience to stay there. No, I’m not religious at all. I just enjoyed the irony of it.
A quick, refreshing beer and off to bed for another early start.
Things I learnt:
- People I meet will often offer me free stuff (mainly food or drink) to help me on my journey.
- Riding a bicycle is no different than riding a motorcycle when it comes to being advisable to keep your mouth shut as much as possible.
- I am more stubborn than I thought…