söndag 30 december 2012

Happy New Year

On Christmas day I was back on the bike again after a not very traditional Christmas Eve. But since they are not celebrating it here I never got into the Christmas spirit, I only saw the occasional Santa Claus in some stores other than that it felt like any other day. But it was very nice to sit down and skype with my family in the middle of their Christmas celebrations. I haven’t been home sick before but this day when family come together and have a big feast I do wish I was back home eating a great Christmas dinner with loved ones
After a few rainy days Christmas-day morning had blue skies, and even if it weren’t that warm at least I wasn’t wet. And after a nice Turkish breakfast at the guesthouse where I was the only guest I started the day with a little climb and was soon warm. After turning south in Söke I had a long straight road ahead of me, and with the wind in my back and music in my ears I was speeding down the road. But eventually the flat straight road ended and it was back up the hills again. And for some reason they don’t like making the nice winding roads up the hills, most roads are very straight up and down and not that nice to cycle up on. The only good thing about it is that it’s a lot of fun going fast downhill. So as of now my new speed record reads 73.6 km/h.
The first day on the bike after my Christmas break ended up being a long one. I reached Milas after about 110 km and was thinking about finding a cheap hotel because I was a bit hesitant camping since I still hadn’t gotten rid of my cold. But after passing through the town and with the weather still being pretty good I decided to go for a night in the tent after all. I turned in to a little village just after Milas to ask the people there for a place to set up the tent. After asking the people I met there no one had a place for me or didn’t understand my attempt on explaining myself in Turkish. But I found a decent place among the olive trees on a little hill just outside of the village and slept in my tent for the first time since before arriving to Athens. It was nice to be back “home” and even though the nights are starting to be a little cold I manage to stay warm in my tent. 
The next day started with a long and boring road uphill, I was averaging 6 km/h for more than an hour. I was struggling uphill most of the day with the occasional downhill. Tonight I had an invitation from a guy outside of Mugla, so the thought of a warm shower kept me going. I met up with Veli outside the university where he studied and stopped there for dinner before riding our bikes to his home. The next morning we slept a little too long so Veli and his roommate had to hurry up to make it to class in time. I packed my bike and had my breakfast in the little town center where a nice man gave me some Turkish tea. My host knew a man running a bike shop in a town on my way and suggested I swing by there on my way. To Köycegiz I only had about 50 km so it was nice to take it a little slower today and stop there for the night. The beginning of the day was mostly downhill and the last bit down to the sea was a great nine kilometer winding road.
When arriving in Köycegiz I quickly found the little bike shop and introduced myself to Tarkan the owner and explain that I had stayed with his friend the night before. I sat down with him and some other men for some çay that they were making on a nice little stove by the road. He made a call to someone who had a campsite there and said it was ok for me to stay there for the night. The location of the campsite was very nice right by the beautiful Köycegiz Lake. But the campsite was another story, it was run down and if it was just closed for the season they had a lot of work ahead of them to make it nice for the summer. But for me it was fine and after walking around there looking for the best place for the tent I noticed some small cottages on the ground. Most of them were locked and the once that weren’t locked was very dirty and smashed up inside. But I was lucky to find one open that had a bed with a mattress inside where I could also fit my bicycle. In the morning I had a very nice breakfast at the bike shop with Tarkan and some other people before getting on the bike for a ride to Fethiye.
The day started with a little rain that intensified and the fog was so bad that at times I could only see 50 meters in front of me. When the rain was at its worst I stopped to seek protection by the side of the road. When I stopped a man in a little house waved me in and I sat down with three old men who were having some drinks in the middle of the day. They were very friendly and one of them spoke a little English. He made me some lunch and one of the men was playing his Ney flute. The rain never stopped but I only had about 20 km left to Fethiye so I got back on the road for the last bit through the rain. 
I had looked up a cheap hotel and got there soaking wet. But when they didn’t have Wi-Fi and with no other guests at the hotel they gave me an offer from there other hotel that was a bit more expensive but very nice. I decided to treat me self to a little luxury and stay there over the New Year and since it looked on the forecast like it was going to rain for a few days it felt like a good idea. The contrast from my previous night in the run down little cottage on the camp ground to this nice hotel was big and I feel a little out of place in a hotel like this. But Turkey isn’t very expensive so I can stay in a nice hotel and eat at a restaurant here for the same price as a campsite and lunch back home in Sweden.
The start of the next year looks like it’s going to bring some warmer weather and a stop of the rain that has been going on for a couple of days now. So from here I will be continuing along the cost towards Antalya.   

måndag 24 december 2012

Christmas Turkey

Last Monday night I got on the ferry from Piraeus heading for the Greek island Chios. I had company with my Malaysian roommate from the hostel which was nice. The ferry left at 9 pm and arrived in Chios at 5 in the morning. So I was hoping to get some sleep on the boat. But that was easier said than done when you’re sitting in a seat that isn’t really made for sleeping in. But I did the best I could to make it comfortable and got a little sleep. I woke up just as the ferry was coming into the port in Chios and got on my bike and headed out into the dark morning. I had been in contact with a couchsurfer and had a place to go to once I got to Chios. Christina was very kind and got up to let me in early in the morning. We were both very tired and I crawled in to the little bed in her little student room.
 After some well needed sleep we headed in to town on our bikes but turned around quickly when it started raining really hard. The streets turned into rivers and we got wet in an instant. We decided biking wasn’t an option and hitchhiked into town instead. In Chios Christina showed me around in town and at her university before we relaxed at a cozy coffee shop for a while. After a nice evening with some Greek cuisine and wine with Christina and two of her friends we headed back to her student dorm where I got a few hours of sleep before it was time to get up and cycle back to the port for the boat to Çeşme and Turkey.

The boat to Turkey only took about one hour and today was sunny and almost warm to begin with. After relaxing in Athens for three weeks my bum wasn’t used to being on the bike for a whole day and it felt a bit after 95 km to Izmir. I was lucky to find a couchsurfer in Izmir as well but it was a little harder finding the place in the third biggest city in Turkey. But thanks to my friend the GSP and a helpful taxi driver I found the place and could hide from the rain and wait for my host.
Mehmet and his roommates made me feel at home and Mehmet cooked a great dinner that I really enjoyed with nice company. The next day I got to see the city which was bigger than I had thought. I hadn’t looked it up before and was a little surprised to learn that it had 3 million inhabitants. During the day Mehmet went to university where he studied to become a ship captain, but in the evening we went out to see the city at night, eat a nice dinner and went to a bar where there was a meeting for couchsurfers which was nice. I just wish it hadn’t been on the balcony where the heaters were struggling with the 3 degree cold. My last day in Izmir I stayed inside trying to get well from the cold I have had since leaving Athens. I had a couple nice of days couchsurfing and I’m thankful for my hosts hospitality.
After leaving Izmir I turned south again and cycled to Kusadasi. The weather hasn’t been very good with gray skies and some rain. It’s okay when I’m cycling but as soon as I stop for lunch or something I get cold. And since I’m still struggling a bit with my cold I thought it was best to check into a room instead of sleeping in my tent when the temperature drops to freezing during the nights. I found a nice little cheap guesthouse where I’m staying over Christmas. And from here it’s close to the ancient city on Ephesos where I went for a trip today. I hadn’t heard about it before and was really impressed with the place.

Tomorrow I’m back on the bike again and it looks like it’s going to be a little warmer for a few days.

söndag 16 december 2012

Three weeks in Athens

Tomorrow I’m leaving Athens on a ferry to Chios and then to Turkey. I’ve been here now for three weeks and it feels like more than enough. I’m not a huge fan of big cities and it will be nice to get back on the road for a while.
I spent the first week here in Athens at a hostel a little bit outside the most touristic area which had its benefits with the food being a little cheaper and that the hostel had a nice kitchen. The downside was that the neighborhood wasn’t very nice. There was a lot of trash in the street and even if I didn’t have any problem it didn’t really feel safe. The first night my roommate had been attacked by some guys who tried to rob him. He was lucky to get away with only a little scratch on the cheek from the knife they put up to his face. So I didn’t feel much for going out alone at night.
But then all of a sudden I was told that that hostel was closing for the winter and that they were moving the remaining guests to another hostel the very next day. So there was nothing to do but to back up and move. The other hostel was right in the middle of the Plaka district next to Acropolis. It was very touristic and a lot of expensive restaurants everywhere. But the hostel was nice and I only had to pay the 7 EUR per night as I had done at the other hostel which was a good price since the normal price here was twice that. And there have been more people staying here which is nice and I have met a lot of people and made new friends.
Two things I planned to do while here in Athens was to get some new parts for the bike and fix it up and try to get in contact with someone who could help me with the pannier that was broken. The parts for the bike I ordered online the first day here to be sure that it would arrive in time. But then I had to move to the other hostel so I got a little worried there would be problem getting the package. But they assured me someone would be there to get the mail. After two weeks the package hadn’t arrived so I had to do something even though I didn’t have a tracking number because I chose the free shipping. I went to the post office close to the previous hostel hoping it would be there. And the people working there weren’t very helpful and only told me it was impossible to find. But after a while I got a man to look through the shelf with what looked like undelivered packages. He didn’t find anything but when another woman came by and saw my name on the paper she told me she recognized my name and found my package quickly on the shelf where the man looked just a minute ago. So after a lot of frustration I got the parts and now the bike feels great=)

And the problem with the broken pannier seems to be solved also after many emails to the company. Eventually a got help at a store here in Athens. When I had almost given up on getting a new bag they received an email from the maker of the bags that they were going to send a new one. So hopefully there won’t be any more problems with that and that the Greek post office won’t lose it.
The plan now is to cycle from Çeşme to Alanya or Taşucu and then take the ferry to Cyprus where I plan to stay for a while, if I don’t change my mind…

tisdag 27 november 2012

Settling in Athens

When leaving Patra I was eager to get to Athens. I have been setting small goals for myself, after a rough start my first goal was to make it out of Sweden after that it was to get to the Adriatic Sea. My third goal was Greece and Athens where I planned to stop for a little while.
So cycling from Patra to Athens I just wanted to get there, and it felt nice to stop for a while since the longest I had been in one place was three nights in Tirana. To begin with the ride towards Athens was nice along the cost and the landscape was flatter than it had been in a while, so I was able to get some distance on the bike. But when I got closer there was less and less nature and mostly towns to cycle trough which I don’t like so much. After a night in a park area by the sea I had about 120 km left to Athens. I didn’t want to cycle in to the city that day because it would have gotten dark by the time I got there. So the plan was to stop when I found a nice place not too far from Athens. But I had problem to find a place to camp and after passing an area with oil refineries and realizing I was only about 20 km from the city I set up my tent not far from the road once it had begun to darken. On Sunday morning there was some kind of market along the road where I had slept so I got a few strange looks when I came out of the woods with my bike.

 It was nice to cycle in in the morning and having all the time in the world to find my way to the hostel. And I’m glad I didn’t cycle in when it was getting dark because it was crazy enough on a bike in Athens in broad daylight. But I eventually found the hostel and took the rest of the day to just relax and settle in.
Yesterday I went to see Acropolis which is a must if you are in Athens. It was really nice but I think my expectation was maybe too high and when they are restoring old ruins the feeling at the sight isn’t as genuine. But I still enjoyed it and the view of Athens from Acropolis was amazing.
I haven’t decided how long I’m going to stay here, but I think at least two weeks. I’m in no hurry since I don’t plan to cycle through central Asia in the winter and having 15-20 degrees here in Greece isn’t too bad.

torsdag 22 november 2012

Finally in Greece

I set out from Sarande with only 40 km left to the Greek border. The weather was perfect and it felt great to finally reach Greece and eventually Athens that has been the goal for the first leg of the trip.

 And Greece couldn’t have started any better, I had a nice lunch at a small beach and met some people who were taking up there boat after a fishing trip. And before leaving they gave me some food and fruit. So that was a great start for Greece and I continued on in lovely weather and on a nice road along the cost. In the afternoon I came to Igoumenitsa and cycled a little bit outside the city where I found an abandoned campsite that looked perfect right beside the beach. I wasn’t the only one that thought so because at the beach I met Ian, another long distance cyclist who was from South Africa. We had company for the evening and decided to sleep in one of the abandoned houses on the camp ground. It’s always nice to meet other cyclists, to cheer experiences and to get inspiration. The next morning when we woke up we knew exactly why the campsite was abandoned. Because we had been eaten up by mosquitoes. And looking back at that night it would have been a good idea to set up the sent where the mosquitoes can’t get in. The next morning I continued on south while Ian was staying in Igoumenitsa and wait for spare parts for his bicycle. I followed a smaller road along the cost that was more hilly but it was worth it because there where beautiful sights along the road.
 But when evening came and I needed to find a place to sleep I got on some smaller road leading away from the touristic area. After a few tries I got permission to set up my tent next to some houses where I had a nice little bench next to a light where I could cook me some dinner. The next morning when I woke up I could hear raindrops on my tent. But It wasn’t raining very much so there were no problem. I set my sight on Preveza where I sat down at a café to look up some things online and also to get away from the rain which had gotten worse. But I didn’t have a lot of time and had to find my way out of the city and under the water through a tunnel to the other side. After that I changed my mind on where to go twice and finally ended up outside of Levkas. Where at the second place I asked for permission I got a nice place for my tent on a lawn. But when the father came home he wanted me to set up where they used to grow vegetables that had a roof and dry ground. That was perfect and it didn’t matter how much it rained during the night, I would still have a dry tent. The lovely Donous family even invited me for coffee and later dinner. And before leaving the next morning they gave me some bread and fruit that filled up my bag to the max.
That day I took a smaller road that was a shortcut on the map but it was a little work uphill in really bad weather. And when I was going down the other side towards the cost still in heavy rain I almost had a crash with a goat. I was going a little fast downhill and all of a sudden a goat with big horns jumped out on the road and came right at me. But at the last moment I managed to avoid the crash and took it a little slower for the rest of the ride down the hill. And even if it was still raining a lot and I was having a terrible headwind I couldn’t be happier that day. Because I got a massage that my sister had given birth to a healthy little boy.
Yesterday I cycled in to Patra where I had made plans with a guy through couchsurfing. I had to struggle a bit with the wind. But there were no rain in sight and it’s always a great feeling knowing that I have a place to sleep for the night. The only problem I had coming here was crossing the Rio–Antirrio bridge. A man at the toll booth told me to cycle on the side where people walked. That worked great until I got to the other where I could see that the only way off the bridge was a steep staircase. The only thing to was to get all the bags of the bike and carry everything down.
And it was great to take a warm shower and have a couch to sleep on. And from here it’s not far to Athens where I plan to stay for a while and start sorting out some visas for Asia.