Up at 6:30 – stepped onto the balcony and rapidly stepped back in. Cold. Bright sunshine, but only 1C, heading for a top of 14. Yippee. The Olympic is a four star hotel – a rare extravagance, but I was so shattered on arrival yesterday that I didn’t have the energy to look for something less exy. A bed is a bed, and other than that all I need is a hot – even lukewarm – shower.
So. The major difference is that 4 stars offer a huge cooked breakfast, plus a wide range of other stuff. Determined to eat my weight in food, I hoed in. Scrambled and fried eggs, beans and fried potatoes with toast to start with, then cornflakes with honey, then two mini croissants, and a couple of cakes, washed down with OJ and coffee. Monsieur Creosote would have watched me with envy.
Waddled back to my room, packed all the gear, and was ready for the road. Long compression pants, jumper and Winter cycling gloves on – it was very cold, and the wind rips down the valleys.
Risking life and limb with the peakish hour traffic I followed to road down to the lake edge, skirted the castle walls, and headed out past the airport, aiming North. At Perama, on the North Eastern edge of the lake, I joined Eurovelo 8 for the first time on this rip; no signage to celebrate that, in fact I saw no EV8 signage anywhere.
I missed a turn at Kapalki, about 20km North of ioannina. In my defence, the Greeks don’t give the road numbers at junctions, and the signposts are in lower case Greek often, which makes it quite difficult to read for us More Western types (it’s like a blend of Iraqi and Egyptian script, with the odd letter that you recognise, but they pronounce it differently anyway, so what’s the point? Exactly. Nah. I stuffed up; Should have gone West, but carried on North. Into the mountains. And climbed. And climbed. And then climbed some more. And then, for a change, I did some more climbing.
Even I realised that after 15 km without a village or a road house that I might have erred.
So I did what any other bloke would have done, and carried on, in the true belief that it would sort itself out. (I have none of that GPS wizardry, just offline maps on a tablet) By pure chance, I eventually found a sign pointing left, claiming there was a Hotel 15km thataway. So I took it, trusting is wasn’t a gingerbread cottage type of trick to lure in weary travellers.
And it wasn’t ( though they charge like highwaymen, let me tell you) The Hotel Bourazani. It’s a huntin’ and fishin’ lodge, full of deer antlers, dead animal heads and such. Still, it’s fine. They’ll feed me, and the room has a hot shower.
And… the Albanian border is 3 km away. The road from the border post will, after some 50 km, let me rejoin the road I missed earlier. Next time though, I’ll get lost on the level stuff; the climbing was hard – though I saw some country I’ll never see again, and it was wonderful. It isn’t the destination anyway, it’s the journey.
It’s fortunate that I bulked up at breakfast: I’ve had nothing to eat since – partially from choice – but I found nowhere on the road today to get a feed. Things should improve once I near the coastline; there it’s very much about tourism; up here in the mountains they don’y seem as interested in our money.
See you down the road.