73km Igoumenitsa to Vrosina
You know what they say about the best laid plans….. our firm idea had been to stop in Igoumenitsa at a campground, rest up and tackle a few little tasks like getting a Greek road map before setting off into the northern hills. Instead, we ended up with a bit of a “baptism by fire” on our first day in Greece. We rolled off the boat in the wee hours of the morning when it was still pitch black and tracking down a coffee was one of the few things we got right. After that, we tried and failed to find an open campground, set off instead into the hills and cycled in the sun but without enough food or water to see us through the terrain and heat. The end result was that we were completely ragged by the end of the day. We were very glad that we weren’t going through Greece a month ago as the sun would have certainly been unbearable, although perhaps we would have enjoyed the fruit from the many fig trees and blackberry bushes alongside the road. At this time of the year there are only shrivelled leftovers from the summer bounty. Our real test came late in the afternoon when the road was still climbing and we had no idea where the top was. By 4pm we were hungry, thirsty and still not at the peak. We flagged down a passing car to ask about local services and the terrain and were thrilled when the driver responded by saying “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” – German comes in so handy in the most unexpected situations! We learned that we were really in the middle of nowhere with no shops for 15km but the good news was that we had just a short climb left before the start of the downhill run. Down the hatch went all our remaining chocolate and it was back on the bikes for the final slog upwards. Near the top we really got a life when we spotted a big truck by the side of the road having a break and realised the vehicle and its driver came from Iran! This country, which we really hope to see, seems so much closer now. A few more turns of the pedals, a quick snapshot of the chapel at the top and we were on our way down. By the time we reached the shops in Vrosina we were on our last legs and could barely wait long enough for supper to do the shopping. We gulped down our food, a salad with feta cheese, and then turned our heads to the problem of where to sleep. The mountainous terrain and incredible amount of garbage by the side of the road didn’t offer a lot of promise for wild camping so we decided the best spot was probably in the town itself, really not more than a village with a river running through it and a nice picnic area. The weather is still warm so we just spread out our mats and bags and slept under the stars by the river. A good choice and one that let us rest up for what will probably be another challenging day ahead.