It was indeed a shorter day in the end and nothing untoward happened. Following coffee in Mitikas it was a relatively short cycle to the much nicer Paleros where I had planned to meet Ed Cox. Ed is cycling from Bristol to Brisbane and he had contacted me many months ago asking my advice about cycling the first leg of his journey through France, Switzerland and Italy. To a certain extent it replicated the route that I followed in 2010 and it was interesting hearing his account of that first segment of his epic ride. He appears to be in no rush to make it to Brisbane (although he does expect to be there by March 2014) which is a nice attitude to take compared to many people who now race around the World in the wake of Mark Beaumont. On a more practical level it was useful hearing about Ed’s travels from the north of Greece which have already paid off in terms of finding somewhere to stay tonight.
I climbed out of Paleros behind Ed who then bid his farewell on the northern side of town. He headed back to the sailing resort where he is currently staying (and where he used to work) and I cycled north towards the tunnel to Preveza. Ed had already told me in an email that cycling was banned in the tunnel and I was hoping that I would be able to thumb a lift through. On arrival I parked up the bike in a prominent position just in front of the toll booths (had they been on the other side of the water I would have cycled through and played the stupid tourist role) and started to identify cars, trucks and lorries that were possible candidates for giving me a lift. The traffic wasn’t that heavy – perhaps a couple of vehicles per minute – and a few choice candidates just drove by. Bastards. Then, after around an hour of trying to look like the normal person that I am (as opposed to the I’m-going-to-do-something-nasty-to-you-in-the-back-of-your-van type), a Volkswagen van passed and then braked. I pushed Reggie towards the passenger door and a cheery fellow in his 50s asked where I was going. He turned out to be German George who was en route to pick up his son who was arriving for a holiday. George spends half the year in Greece and the other half back in Germany and the back of his Passat van was completely empty apart from a bed that was made out on the back seat. I avoided thinking too much about that as there was ample room for Reggie to stand, fully-panniered in the area between the back seats / bed and George and me in the front. We had a quick chat as we were passing through the tunnel which was surprisingly diverse to say that it was a journey of only a few minutes and included the fascinating fact that the sea above our heads had been the place of a great battle involving Antony & Cleopatra. As would 95% of the rest of the population I then had images of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in my mind bobbing about on the sea trying to look glamouress. Go on, admit it; you did too! George deposited me at a junction just to the north of the tunnel (he was keen to take me further but I was happy to believe that the bed made up on the back seat was just for the evenings when he needed his own space rather than anything else) just opposite a Peugeot dealership.
I needed to consult my online map at this point. I knew that I didn’t have much further to cycle if I was to make it to the campsite that Ed had suggested but after having been in George’s van-cum-bedroom for 5 minutes I was a little disorientated. I needed shade to consult the screen of my iPhone so I made my way to the thin strip of shadow beneath the overhang of the roof of the Peugeot dealership. Shadow is a very elusive thing in these parts due to the position of the sun in the sky especially during the middle of the day. Trees are you best option but car dealerships come a close second. No sooner had I started peering at my phone than a voice invited me in. It turned out to be the very affable Dimitris Letsios. He offered and I accepted cold water for my bike bottles and we then chatted about my journey north. Dimitris’ son Dinos joined in the conversation and we spent a pleasant half an hour chatting about the sale of Peugeots, the Vespas they also had in the showroom and the large range of bicycles. In a sign of the economic (and hopeful environmentally-friendly) times, Dinos explained that the profits came from the bicycles rather than the cars. That, I thought, is good news although I’m sure both father and son would love to be selling 208s as if they we going out of fashion which, for all I know, perhaps they are. Dimitris also told me about his trips by motorbike to the Middle East. He saw in me a kindred spirit and even called me back once I had left for a group photo. Such a nice father and son and if they can continue to successfully sell bicycles to the Greeks, good luck to them!
The final leg of today’s cycle was the short trip to Kanali which is where I am now. Despite the incessant thumping of noise from the beach bar and that generated by the campsite restaurant (both are operated by the management and I would have thought some kind of synchronisation of music would be in order), it’s a pleasant enough place, especially after a beer and a plate of energy-giving carbonara. The girl who served me the plate of food in the otherwise deserted bar looks like a woman who doesn’t scrimp on her portions and that certainly wasn’t the case with me. As long as the music is at some point turned off I should have a decent night’s sleep later this evening.
Tomorrow I head north east to Ioannina to contemplate my Albanian journey. The time of being outside my comfort zone is rapidly approaching…
Update: July 2014
I have received an email about the experiences of some other cyclists who have travelled through the tunnel at Preveza. This is what they have to say:
three weeks ago we started our tour in Rijeka, following the coast through Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Albania. Now we are in Amfilochia, Greece, and succeeded this morning to go through the tunnel of Preveza.
We noticed the cameras and the signs “no bikes”. Nevertheless we continued because the traffic was not worth to mention. Suddenly we heard a voice in the tunnel: “Stop – bicycles are not allowed.” Impressed we got off the bikes and decided to walk on the sidewalk, giving us enough space. Three minutes later a service car appeared, stopped and explained that no cycling was allowed here.
Possibly he felt pity for us. Whatever the reason might have been, he put the bikes on his car and gave us a lift through the tunnel. We wished to thank our hero with a tip, but he refused, asking us whether we are German. We confirmed and he smiled “tschuss”, meaning “Adieu” in German. What a wonderful chap.
By the way – the hotel director in Preveza said to us crossing the tunnel with bikes would be possible, the Tourist information could not say a word about it.
Tomorrow we continue to Patras. Some helpful informations including tracks will appear onhttp://radtouren.bonn-castell.de.
Ute & Martin