Conquering Greece – Day 5 : Patra to Karpenissi

  • Weather: Cloudy then rain and fog
  • Departure: 11h30
  • Arrival: 19h30
  • Date: 04/08/15
  • Distance: 180 km

Patra_to_Karpenissi

Bridge from the Pelopponese to the mainlandQuickly I was out a Patras. Near the bridge to cross into the continent, I grabbed coffee, a sandwich and managed to get my brake pedal bent back into place at no charge thanks to the friendly owner of the bike shop nearby.

It’s a good thing I got that pedal fixed as it saw intensive use during what will probably be the most technical day of riding on this trip. I made due on my promise to explore the tertiary roads. For the whole day I was riding in steep mountains, negotiating hairpin turns after hairpin turns, avoiding rocks, working the brakes on extremely steep grades, swerving away from goats and riding on the gravel and earth where asphalt had been washed away, all in extraordinary scenery. Greece is not flat, it is rugged high peaks and deep valleys; sparsely populated save for some small villages hanging on mountain sides. Progress was slow. You cross a pass and enter a valley. One hour later, you’re on the other side at no more than 5 kilometers in birds flight.

Using road signs as target practice is common place in these wild lands

Using road signs as target practice is common place in these wild lands

IMG_1334I had the road to myself but the absence of traffic did not mean I could be careless. There was no room for mistakes, entering a turn at the wrong speed or misjudging the surface would have propelled me into a long free fall. Surprisingly, not once did I get lost. Not all the villages were on my map, but those that I could spot, the name was written in both Greek and Roman alphabet, which was extremely useful in finding my way in this labyrinth. On major roads, there will usually be a Greek direction sign soon followed by a Romanized translation but outside them, it’s just math symbols.

The directions, all in Greek

The directions, all in Greek

The storm is coming

The storm is coming

Around the middle of the afternoon, I could sense the weather was taking a turn for the worst. A storm was brewing and I had to find shelter. Luckily, on the next pass was a pretty café where I stopped five minutes short of the deluge. While enjoying a Greek coffee and a baklava (Greece has excellent honey and produces heaps of it), I watched the rain pour on the mountains and the winds picking up, culminating into into hail the size of marbles. I have ridden into heavy rains, it sucks and it’s dangerous but hail, no thanks. While I was waiting for the storm to go over, I had an intermittent conversation with the family that ran the place, where the youngest girl kept me fed with candy while attempting to communicate and show me things in her language. The Greeks have a surprisingly good level of English, that coupled with them being generally well intentioned and helpful makes them very enjoyable and useful hosts.

Eventually, I saw a break in the clouds and jumped on the bike again. Soon after though, the rain restarted. First a drizzle and then proper pouring with thunder. By that time, I was too far to come back to the café, it was getting late and I had to push on. Unless you have proper equipment, there is no stopping the water from getting everywhere while on a motorcycle. I had had a taste of how wet and cold I could be on another trip in Lithuania and this time it was no different. Soaked, freezing and loosing sensibility in all my extremities, I had to pay extra attention no to slip on the road and make a bad situation even worse.

Dam, lake and rain

Dam, lake and rain

I had no objective that day but it soon became clear I would have to stop in Karpenissi as I was no longer in condition to drive. Once downtown, I parked at café to get some shelter from the elements and ordered a hot beverage while shivering and trying to remove my equipment with no dexterity left in my fingers. The lady at the counter kindly directed me to an affordable hotel and in little time I was naked under a hot shower, feeling the tingling in my fingers as they were gaining their sensitivity back.

After a quick walk around pretty Karpenissi, I went back to my room and started working through the backlog of things I had to write, taking a look at the overcast sky once in while, hoping it would clear up for tomorrow.

 

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