Lost: Thessaloniki to Beyond Arnaia. - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

January 21, 2014

Lost: Thessaloniki to Beyond Arnaia.

THE ONE DAY OFF THE BIKE in Thessaloniki is a busy one updating this journal. I gave up on finding a map of Greece. The one non-cycling day could either be spent wandering around a strange city looking for a bookshop for a map, or journal keeping. And the later is preferably as it involves sitting resting the legs. So with now only a big map for the whole of Europe at hand, my navigation is very much reduced to looking for the position of the sun. You could say I'm lazy but I'd argue not. I just don't like shopping and as a cyclist, it's important to keep the weight off the legs to recover on such days.

I don't remember but on checking out this morning, the old guy behind the hotel reception desk had it down that 25 euros had been paid when I arrived Sunday afternoon, leaving a balance of just 20; meaning the room effectively cost ten euros a night which is well within the budget. I didn't enlighten him, as the hotel wasn't worth 45 euros for two nights. The shower water was lukewarm and the woman serving breakfast took ages doing anything. I'd come in at eight thirty and the bread would be finished and I'd stand waiting for her to stop talking to the handyman and bring out more. The same with the cups. I can't wait to drink coffee first thing and there's no cups. There are cups. I see through the open door, clean cups on a tray by the dishwasher waiting to be brought out, if only she will stop chatting.

On a short walk around the centre, I saw the waterfront, and thought that's the way I would like to leave the city; avoiding the busy highway I'd entered the city by and which continues east.

Well the road I'm on is the continuation of that Thessaloniki waterfront. It was a nice road with palm trees and the coast on my right for quite a few kilometres. Then it wasn't so straightforward as it went inland through the suburbs along narrow congested streets. I followed the main body of traffic which eventually led me onto a motorway where, I rode along on the shoulder to the next exit. Riding up onto the roundabout, the only minor road alternative is this, numbered 16.

Although I haven't a clue where I am or where this road leads. Its a pleasant sunny fifteen degrees celsius and interesting scenery: a wide valley with brown hills either side with fruit and vegetable cultivation and small fields of rich brown earth being prepared for spring sown crops.

As I write I'm sitting in a roadside café. Actually as much a bakery as a place serving coffee. There's such a selection of pastries and buns that it is hard to make my mind up what to have. Luckily the girl speaks good English; so, I ask what is this and what's that. I finally choose a pastry with mushroom and black olive filling. I think that I'm only getting the one. A snack. But when she come out there are two on the plate, and what is more, the coffee, which as always in Greece is good and served by the mug, has a complimentary wedge of madeira cake. It is enough for lunch and the coiled paper receipt on the table shows a reasonable four euros.

An hour after leaving the café the road come to a left turn-off to a place called Lerissos, which of coarse isn't on my all of Europe map, but I assume its east. The road climbs up out of the valley to a ridge with a view far north to where I see a long lake or sea inlet which is on the map. The lake partly separates the peninsular to the south-east of Thessaloniki that I am on from the mainland and, it's where I need to eventually get to to continue east.

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I don't make much progress in what remains of the afternoon, because after sweeping down from the ridge, the road meets with a succession of steep hills. Here the main activity is goat farming. I pass a few large herds being herded by the roadside. After five, as the sun is sinking, I've descend a fair bit, when I pass through the small town of Arnaia and thereafter, the slopes are more gentle to the side and are clad with birch and pine-trees.

It has been a good day when I push the bike off the road uphill on a track through the birch to where it levels out and find a suitable place to camp. The sun has just gone down but there's enough afterglow to see what I'm doing to set up the tent and sit and eat a banana sandwich. I linger until its dark, then climb into the tent and lay down to sleep.

Sweet Dreams
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I then hear a goat bleating. Gracious Molly its you! What ever are you doing here in Greece. How did you get here? And Daisy too? I see the older goat standing behind Molly and like Molly, she is looking up at me with beady eyes. Molly bleats again, a friendly how are you doing Sean and why did you leave me. Molly I'm sorry. I bend down and pet her and put my face down to her's and say I won't leave you again. I then go over and pet Daisy. But Molly frowns and throws a tantrum. Her eyes says "that auld goat always hanging around" she's so jealous when I pet Daisy. And in one swift move turns to face Daisy, lowers her head and charges at Daisy. But poor old Daisy, may be old but is sharp and agile and quickly gets away from the jealous goat wanting to give her a good headbutting. Daisy runs ahead of the chasing Molly letting out a lamenting bleat.

Meet Molly.
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The goats settle and stop the jealous sparring and after a little while wonder off, one behind the other, good friends again and I follow behind. We cross over a rugget hill and drop down into a plain to a settlement with a circus in a park. The two goats without being seen, peep through a tent's curtain-door upon two known characters playing cards. The two card players seeing the time, have to interrupt their game, as they have to go and perform; but, put their hands face-down intending to continue the game when their act is over and have returned to the table. There's a lot of money riding on this card game and either man stands to gain or lose a lot.

The men come out pass where the goats have backed off into the shadows as not to be seen. Seconds later loud applause can be heard as the men enter the ring. At the same time Molly and Daisy are eating the playing cards.

Luckily, I just happen to have a bag of cookies in my pocket with which to coax them out of that tent for their own good. Once they turn and see a cookie, their favourite food in my hand, they stop chewing and make towards me. I give each goat a nibble, then turn and stride off toward the hill with goats in pursuit. I rush now as the two card players have returned and it sounds like all hell has let lose. The next thing I stumble and fall and roll, then open my eyes. Its been an unusual dream.

Today's ride: 79 km (49 miles)
Total: 9,672 km (6,006 miles)

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