Cycle touring is often as much about the people you meet on the road as the sights you see. On our bikes, we seem to form an instant bond with others in a way we rarely, if ever, experience travelling in the confines of a car or train and find ourselves making friends with complete strangers. Today our journey will be remembered not only for the seemingly endless hills but also for our meeting with two Russians, Dimitri and his 8-year-old daughter Polikot.
The two of them rolled up to our lunch spot just as Friedel was rushing off for a pee in the bushes (is this a Murphy’s Law of cycling?) and they only spoke a few words of English but with much miming and cartooning we determined that they had travelled 8,000km from Russia to Finland, over to Brest on the west coast of France, down all the way to Bari in the south of Italy and now they were heading across Greece. Their goal is Vladivostok, clear on the other side of Russia, although we hope they will take a break at home before carrying on in the spring! After a few minutes of charades, Dimitri insisted that we have a can of Russian beef as a present and we returned the favour with oranges.
They then cycled off but we met up again throughout the day and as the rain started to fall in the early evening we all took shelter by a church in the mountain town of Metsovo. We had a great time together, sharing tea and supper and trying to find out more about each other. We discovered that Polikot had been doing long cycling trips since she was six and that her mother was a singer but didn’t like the rustic lifestyle that goes along with long bike tours. “She want hotel,” said Dimitri, doing an impression of his wife painting her nails.
The evening went quickly and it was completely dark before we realised that none of us had put up our tents so we just spread out our sleeping bags on the benches and slept in the open air once again, a nice change from our recently stuffy tent