Day 6 – Greece
I didn’t make a lot of progress the previous day – I got to Thessaloniki where I stopped at a bike garage to try and fix the oil leak. Spent most of the day there and at first it seemed like oil leak was gone, but after about 10 minutes on the road it started leaking again. It was getting late so I wasn’t turning back to the garage and kept going. I found perfect camping spot at olive tree farm about an hour past Thessaloniki.
So far it was mostly motorway miles, but I was finally in Greece and from now on it was only going to be scenic country roads and some mountain roads (until I start heading back home where I would use motorways again).
This was the route I did that day:
First I wanted to ride to the mount Kajmakčalan. After riding on the motorways for so long, now I wanted to pick as small and as scenic roads as possible. I took right turn at some point towards the mountain. It was fine at first – road condition was not perfect, tarmac with some potholes and patches every here and there but it was okay. At some point I passed tiny village and that’s where road turned into uphill track covered in stones. Few metres after stones started, there was sharp (uphill) turn. I didn’t think I would manage that but I thought I would try.
First few metres my handlebars felt very loose on the stones so it was really hard to control. I started coming into the turn – no chance. My bike didn’t have any crash bars fitted so if I dropped it, damage would be inevitable. I wanted to turn back but I knew I couldn’t turn around – since I was on the hill covered in stones I would simply drop it as soon as I would attempt to turn. The only way was to slowly slide down backwards. I felt like I had very little control and it felt like forever to go back these few metres. At some point some farmer passed me going uphill in a tractor and gave me “what are you doing you dafty” sort of look.
If I had crash bars fitted and off road tyres I would probably try and keep going up the hill. Not sure if off road tyres would make handing much better but crash bars would give me more confidence as I wouldn’t mind dropping it that much.
Finally got back to the tarmac and went back the way I came towards the main road. I still wanted to try and ride towards the mountain but from the other side. I didn’t know whether it would be tarmac, gravel or stones on the other side but I thought I would check.
Got back to the main road and after a while I took another turn towards the Kajmakčalan mountain from the other side. Tarmac was again not in the best condition, some potholes and patches but it was okay. No stones or gravel on this side.
Weather so far was okay also – not the best and not the worst. It wasn’t sunny but wasn’t raining either. It was still quite early in the morning though so I was hoping it would get nicer later.
Next I started heading towards Kastoria. I could see some lake on the map there and some small road going around the lake on the map. After that I wanted to head to Pindus National Park and Vikos Gorge.
Shorty after I started heading towards Kastoria, the sun started coming out and views were absolutely stunning:
Here’s the video from this part of the ride (I didn’t get first part on the camera though where I ended up on the hill with stones and had to turn – or rather slide – back):
After a while I got to Kastoria. It was a nice small city. I found a small single track road that goes around the peninsula in the middle of the lake and decided to just ride around the peninsula instead of the whole lake.
Then I started heading towards Pindus National Park that I was really looking forward to.
There were some nice views along the way:
Pindus National Park:
Then I came around the corner and there was this breathtaking view right in front of me:
(Vikos Gorge, located in Pindus National Park)
Went for a short walk around the gorge then got back on the bike. Stopped one or two minutes later to take more pictures (below). What I didn’t realise though was that I was riding on wrong side of the road for this minute or two! I always thought that I never made this mistake, since I’m used to riding on the left hand side in the UK and everywhere else in Europe it’s right hand side. I always thought that I never had any issues with changing sides when leaving UK or when coming back. That was until I watched my videos later when I got home and realised this. (I cut this part out of my videos though!).
From there I wanted to continue through the southern part of Pindus National Park to Ladon Lake, using the smallest and twistiest roads I could find on the map.
And finally Ladon Lake:
My bike got a bit dirty that day:
By the time I got to the Ladon Lake it was getting late. Since the lake is located quite high it was really cold there.
I wanted to get close to Meteora this evening. At the same time I was really hungry and wanted to stop somewhere for some food. Well, not where I was anyway. There was absolutely nothing except tiny country roads and amazing landscapes, so first I had to get back to the main road.
Views continued to be absolutely stunning:
After riding all day on small country roads with hundreds of corners, I was so tired that I was glad to be back to the main road. After few stretches of motorways I got back on the back roads (although not as small as earlier). Shortly after I left motorways I found a restaurant on the side of the road.
I didn’t take any pictures – screenshot from Google Maps street view:
I ordered some grilled sausages and chips. Turns out that I was lucky as it was getting late and they were closing soon. Once I finished my food I asked if they know of any camp sites nearby. They didn’t know of any so I asked if they know of any nice wild camping spots? There was a bit of land behind the restaurant on the hill and they said that I can put my tent up there. They also said that I can put my bike inside the restaurant but they were not back until 8am next morning, so I ended up putting my bike on the balcony (on the same level as the drive way) so at least my bike was under the roof and that way I wouldn’t have to wait for the owners to come back in the morning.
They waited until I put my tent up and then left. It was almost dark so I went to my tent and went to sleep.
I did so many corners that day that I could still feel them in my head after I lied down and when I woke up in the morning!
Deja vu? Similar thing happened when I was in Montenegro and couldn’t find a place to camp. It was getting dark and there was a restaurant on the side of the road, in the middle of nowhere. I thought I would stop and ask. They said I can camp across the road. Then they showed me around Montenegro the next day and ended up spending most of the day with them. Blog post about this here -> click.
Moral of the story? When in doubt (or lost, looking for place to visit, eat or stay) – ask locals!
Video from Pindus National Park: