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.
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.
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.
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.
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.