121km Dolichi to Thessaloniki

Mount OlympusWell, after our “firsts” from yesterday – two flat tyres – we continued with the trend today by fighting off our first sheepdogs and hitting the motorway.

The sheepdogs were an early wakeup call, not far down the road after we rolled out of our tent at the base of Mount Olympus. The pack of five dogs were quite fierce, baring their teeth and trying to circle around us, but we kept our bikes as a barrier between us and the dogs and after a few minutes of barking the shepherd came out and called them off. We got another scare a bit later in the morning when a dog on the road, which we thought was asleep or had been hit by a car, leapt to life just as we were going by. Once again we used our bikes as a barrier and slowly walked by while keeping eye contact, which seemed to keep the dog just far enough away for us to pass.

In the afternoon it was time for another adventure. We never thought we’d be singing the praises of a motorway on this trip but our experience on Greece’s road to Thessaloniki was rather successful. Normally we avoid motorways at all costs. In fact, most times we aren’t even allowed on them. But this time we had little choice. There are simply no viable alternative roads to Thessaloniki from the south, unless you want to make a significant detour which, on a bicycle, would mean a whole extra day.

We briefly thought of taking the train, having no great desire to bike on the motorway, but the train wouldn’t take our bikes so instead we ran our bikes up the ramp and put our heads down for the journey into Greece’s second biggest city. We had our work cut out for us since we’d already put in almost a full day getting from our campsite at the base of Mount Olympus to the coast but with the wide shoulders and gentle grading of the motorway we made excellent time and covered 70km in less than three hours.

Everyone gave us plenty of space and the only time we really had to watch out was when we had to cross ramps leading on and off the motorway. It certainly wasn’t ideal cycling but we did get where we had to go and probably more safely than on some smaller roads where twists and turns and other hazards mean we have to come a lot closer to cars.

It was early evening before we got to Thessaloniki and we took nearly the first hotel we saw, perhaps paying a bit over the odds but sometimes the ability to put your feet up immediately is worth the extra money. Our room is also right in the centre of the city so we were able to walk down to the seafront and enjoy a nice meal in the pedestrian area. A nice end to a long day


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    Road notes: We took the route via Agh. Dimitrios and Fotina around Mount Olympus, which really only has a short climb and then is downhill from before Agh. Dimitrios nearly all the way to Katerini. Agh. Dimitrios has hotels and restaurants and Fotina has a few services. Watch out for the sheepdogs on this road which are quite fierce.

    What we spent: €70 hotel, €2.80 ice cream, €2.30 coffee, €10 groceries, €16 gloves

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