The mountains of Southern Euboea

Yes yes I keep banging on about how much touring I have done, how many countries I’ve been to, deserts crossed etc ad nauseam, and still I take too much food and too little water and too many clothes. Idiot you may say, goats on my mind I say.

I left Krystos to ride up Mt Oxi, a 1300 meter peak, not to the top, but wherever the path took me. I had 2 GPS’s and a map, how could I get lost.

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Shorts, sandals and a t shirt, I couldn’t have picked 2 worse forecasted days, 40kph winds, rain and the mercury dropping to UK levels. No worries, I’ll be ok. Off the main road and up a track. I stopped a bloke coming down, the road had been completely empty for 20 mins so thought it prudent. After a few minutes he seemed to concur that I could get to the sea while going over the mountain, he said the words with a slight smirk on his face.

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Lunch at the top, 750 metres up, peach jam on bread, a little piece of heaven. Huddling under an overhanging rock, sheltering from the howling wind, drops of rain were starting to fall, I think my winter jacket is necessary from now on. Pedalling hard to get down hill, hands turning blue.
How incongruous to see a signpost in this desolate area and how typical that the places signed to were not on either GPSs or the map. I plunged further down, the road kicking and banging my bike about, into one of the town signed, the shop/cafe had an old woman sitting watching TV. Greek coffee to Jolt my sagging spirits, she gave me some dried figs and a bottle of tap water, I had already filled up my half litre water bottle with stream water but was dubious of its provenance.
20 mins after leaving the café I had taken a wrong turn 2 hours later I was completely lost. Well let’s face it I didn’t know where I was going at the start so not really much more lost then before.

2 hours searching for a camp spot, vertical slopes each side were not conducive to sleeping. Eventually near sea level a ravine with a stream offered some flatish spots. I lugged my bike 30 metres up a slope. Happy times also to discover a smashed bottle of pesto sauce in my bag covering everything.

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I had not slept in a bivi (a bivi is a semi waterproof bag that your sleeping bag lives in) before and had not slept under a tarp (a tarp is just a waterproof sheet to ward off the rain) before but the principals of pitching are the same put it on flat ground. The tarp strung between trees, I felt satisfied. Instant noodles eaten. I rolled out the bivi and sleeping bag and crawled in. Instantly I was sliding, the worst thing is that you never slide straight but at an angle, then it started raining, the wind started howling. So the tarp is bouncing and rattling in the wind hitting my face, the bottom of the bivi has slid out of the protection of the tarp and is now soaking wet. I have  manoeuvred my bum onto a rock to stop any more sliding. It was at this point I decide to fire up my tablet and write my competition prose for the Haute Route Pyrenees, inspiration hits at the strangest times!

The next morning after minimal sleep I rolled up all the sopping stuff put it in my bags and hoped for the best. Porridge and coffee for breakfast. No rain thank god. I fired up my GPS and followed the line it gave, back the way I had come, forever up.

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Then the road split, I knew it would guide me to the steeper route. It’ll take a better man than me to make it to the top without falling off. I probably made 30 metres, the gear so low I ground to a halt. What’s the point of having a bike and then walking. But try as I may I could not get riding again, steep slope, wheel spin, boulders, all contributing factors. Twenty metres walk, find a flat patch, get back on and ride. 3 hours I followed this sequence until there was a pitch long enough to continue riding, I had followed the contours of the mountain to near the top. The ride down exhilarating, testing my technical skills to the limit. Then suddenly thrown onto tarmac, I hate it.

I had to make a decision at this point, take a turn onto a rough track and ride for another night out or cruise to the hotel in Nea Styra where Kathleen is waiting.

It was a trip for the purist howling gales, pouring rain, steep and arduous cycling. No stars to be seen on a cold night out.

When can I go again.

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Greek pack list

Two weeks in Greece, you cannot get better than that. Maybe a day or 2 cycling. I am going as minimal as I can. I’m hoping for a few off road sections and a night out under the stars in my new bivi bag, who needs a tent anyway, let’s hope for no rain. Weather forecast is saying blustery.

Porcelain Rocket: Frame bag, Bar bag. Great bags, although I have already broken one zip.       

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I put the staple in to stop it from ripping apart

Buggy Bag: Behind seat tube bag. Idiots put the zip on the drive side. WPO

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Carradice: Super C Saddlebag. Their side pockets are useless (things can jump out) so I sewed in some drawstring tops.

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Bike buddy cage underneath the downtube

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Monkii cage on the fork.

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King cage, stem mount.

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Klean Kanteen: The only healthy option for water bottles, ok so the chainring clearance is a bit tight!

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Superstar mountain bike pedals
Restrap foot straps. That means only one pair of shoes.

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And in the bags are:

Bar bag: silk sleeping bag liner (made for me in Cambodia), sleeping bag, sleeping mat, bivi bag (New from https://www.alpkit.com/explore/bivvy-bags ) very excited.

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Cooking stuff in the frame bag, probably get a little food on there as well.

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Pump, inner tube, levers, lock and Leatherman in the Behind seat tube bag. Might even put in a puncture repair kit.

Clothes in the saddle bag, not decided upon yet. Although I do have some Zappi’s socks for packing. Somewhere I will put my Tablet and Kindle. Garmin.

I’m loving the new cockpit action, the bars look great, bespoke sweep for comfort. – unfortunately I cannot remember who made them, someone I’m America.
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I know I could have put links to all the equipment mentioned, but thought I’d you are interested you could look it up.

What small part of my heart that is left is now breaking.

There is a terrible dichotomy of old age in that everything you do is at less than half the pace of when you were young except your deterioration into dementia which travels at the speed of sound!

‘Mum we have an appointment at memory clinic tomorrow’ I chirpily say to my mother at 6 in the evening. We spend the rest of the evening watching our respective televisions. At about 8 I hear banging upstairs in my mother’s bedroom, and when I return to the kitchen my mother is dressed to go out, I gently ask her why and she looks disappointed up at me knowing she had got her timing wrong, once again I tell her that we have to go to sleep first then we will be going to the clinic.

The bus is at 9am and we are due to have breakfast at about 7.30 or 8. I woke up early (as usual) and walk out to the kitchen, my mother is dressed sitting with the television on (very loudly) her head is resting on the table and is fast asleep, I have no idea how long she has been there. I make breakfast and wake her from her slumber with a lovely warm bowl of porridge. Porridge eaten, coffee drank I vaguely know the timing to get to the bus

Leaving at 8.30 we start to walk, it’s slow excruciatingly slow; mum has a white stick and a small trolley. This speed is about half, no a quarter of my normal walking pace, patience Mark we will get there on time.

On the bus we chat casually about the appointment, I have no idea what it entails and so have little ability to assuage her fears. A long walk up to the hospital and into the Memory Clinic. We are met by the Doctor and shown into her office.

There is a short preamble of pleasantries then into the evaluation proper. It is gently and non aggressive although I feel the Doctor could talk just a little slower and enunciate slightly more clearly (in fact afterwards mum did say she did not understand some of what was said) The questions were answered by mum and myself. Mum will nearly always say ‘yes all seem ok’ I do have to remind her of some things she has done or not done. Forgetting some words, forgetting names, saying ‘blob’ as a substitute for some words. The doctor does a small verbal questionnaire: ‘What day is it?’ Mavis doesn’t know, I don’t know. What date is it? Mavis doesn’t know, I don’t know. ‘What town are we in?’ Mavis knew, phew, I knew the answer to that as well. ‘What county are we in?’ Mavis doesn’t know, but I do. I’m one up now my competitive side is kicking in, oops that not the purpose of this. Mavis was asked to remember 3 words and then asked to recall them later; she couldn’t remember any I only got 2. She was asked to spell something and couldn’t, but this could be slightly forgiven as she has been clinically blind for 10 years or so and has not read or written so recalling spelling has not been on her list of things to do or know.  During the talk Mum is obviously conscious of being assessed, she looks slightly nervous and is wringing her hands together, I touch her arm and smile for reassurance. Although I satire this questionnaire, without a doubt mum’s memory is deteriorating. We are to get a tablet that will hopefully slow the deterioration.

We leave hospital, once again at our snail’s pace, We cross the road at a traffic light and start to walk towards town, I realise we have crossed the road when we should not have, I look to try to recross, a simple job for you or me but impossibly for an 84 year old we troop on towards town on the wrong side of the road. There are no buses into town, so have to walk, about a mile, mum does well to keep going, her back is bent like a hunchback causing her pain at every step, she has degeneration of the spine on one side. Relaxing cup of coffee.

Onto the next bus into Oxford to buy some trousers. Size 12 or 14, god knows? I’m not used to this job or putting me into more uncomfortableness buying knickers.

You would have thought that an 84 year old woman bent double, nearly ninety degrees at the waist, and a little bit sideways, white stick in hand and pulling a small trolley behind her would have afforded some courtesy, but it seems not, people standing in the way, pushing barging, heads down buried into texts or phone calls. LOOK UP YOU FUCKERS, CAN’T YOU SEE THIS IS AN OLD WOMEN!

I stood observing at the bus stop and incredulously watched a young woman barge past an older woman then  proceeded to put her bags down straight in front of the old woman then proceeded to text someone, the old woman halted her step watched then circumnavigated the young woman. Why I didn’t say something I can only lament a missed opportunity to lambast her.

The return journey was uneventful but I look at my watch and it’s nearly 3. A quick cup of tea and out into the garden, I’m deadheading some flowers and look up to see my mother she is kneeling down sweeping the floor of some soil we had spilt the day before (she remembered discussing that had to be swept) but as I walk up Mavis gets up she is slightly pulling her shirt down as if she know something is wrong, but cannot quite understand what, I gently put my hand on her arm and whisper in her ear, ‘Mum you need to put your trousers on to come outside’ Luckily she does not seem embarrassed . But I am crying tears of sadness inside.

I made two date and walnut cakes and roast parsnips and potatoes for dinner, were both happy with that.

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My heart has been ripped out.

Unfortunately my mother has become ill and it necessitates me to return to lend a hand in looking after her. When we are growing up our parents look after, care and nurture us, it is a small thing to ask that we should do some caring for them as they age. The flight is booked for Wednesday morning, by Wednesday 16.20, I will be at Heathrow. Oooo excellent looking forward to the coach back to Oxford.

Each day has been a joy for me, the cold of China, snow on the road , the searing heat of the deserts, the frozen toes, the frozen nose, the lack of water, the early mornings, the beautiful sunrises, the sunsets, the mountains, the lakes, the friends I have met, and the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the………………………….

I have met oh so many people of like minds who have encouraged and supported.  Ridden with me, we have thrived off each other’s dreams. Knowing that what we are doing really is an adventure of a lifetime.

Maybe I am destined not to ever be out of UK for more than a year. If I had not been knocked off in June 2011 I would be finishing my trip now.

Obviously by going back to the UK it will break the continuum and if I try to cycle round the world again, I will once again, have to start at the beginning. Third time lucky, maybe. Seldom do the gods allow a 3rd bite at the apple.  Seldom do all aspects come together, money, time available, incentive, desire……

Thank you Thank You Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me and the Multiple Sclerosis charity – Does that mean I have to give all the money back that I have raised as I have returned early.

Guys at Zappis I hope to be with you on a Saturday very soon (After the 6 Nations, let’s get priorities right.) And I need to get a suitable bike.

OH GOD I MIGHT HAVE TO GET A JOB! (I have not worked for 4 or 5 years now) Having said all this there is a slight possibility that I may resume in the near future, but I’m not holding my breath.

The next ‘I’m sleeping here tonight’ spot will be from Oxford.

I cannot describe the feeling I have in the pit of my stomach. If there is something that would drive me back to drinking this is probably it.
I have found something in life, a passion that I can pursue, a ‘raison d’être’, it fulfils my benevolent side; it fulfils my athletic side, it allows me to see the world through different eyes. It is what I do, it is what I am.
When asked ‘What do you do?’ I will no longer be able to say ‘I am cycling around the world’.
And I really hate that.

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Revamp

I am revamping my website at present so sometimes it may be closed to the public. but soon it will be back with a vengeance. No passwords will be needed.

Thanks for your patience.Jumping near Angkor Thom

Jumping near Angkor Thom
Serenity of the faces or Angkor Thom

Serenity of the faces or Angkor Thom

Serenity epitomised!

Serenity epitomised!

What more holiday!

I have got to Kanchanaburi in western Thailand, my friend Paul lives here, and I have now found out that he has a beautiful house.

I pleaded and he agreed to put me up for a month while I revamp my website and sort out the bike into a situation I like lots.

I did ‘Spot’ tracker when I got here but it did not send the message so I will have to redo it, Suffice to say you do have to worry I am alive and kicking.