Failing to plan is planning to fail... Or is it? I prefer not to plan life, and certainly not travel, which always leads to some interesting situations. So here we were, 1 week out from the start of our trip, and absolutely no idea where we were starting. Good plan, right?
One late night in front of the computer browsing train tickets and sky scanner, led us to 30 euro tickets for Thessonalique. Greece it is!
In our excitement, or stubbornness as some might suggest, to live off 15 euros a day we decided not to book a hotel, but instead arrive at 9pm with bikes in a box and the faint hope of a dream camp site. Luckily in the days before our departure Manon had a mild panic attack while thinking our bikes might fall to pieces on some distant mountain highway, and decided to buy every bike tool known to mankind. So we were extremely well prepared to build our bikes next to the taxi stand, while getting some bizare looks from the local taxi mafia.
Unfortunately we weren't so well prepared for the dream campsite. I'd taken a quick look at google maps before we left and spotted a national park 15km from town, so with that good old Aussie attitude, "she'll be right, mate", off we rolled with nothing but a fading picture in my mind.
4 hours later, it's 2 in the morning and I refuse to admit defeat. When we rolled down a dirt track and found what looked to be beautiful wetlands under the faint light of the moon, I was happy to claim success - "Told you I can navigate by the stars, Manon". Little did I know we were camping next to a mosquito infested swamp, with aerial bombardment skills that would make the American airforce jealous, and we'd be woken up at 7am by the local fitness patrol on their morning run. 2nd round of strange looks in 24 hours, we should probably get used to that.
It was only the 2nd day before it became clear what rookies we were, and how challenging this adventure would really be. Here we were struggling up 500m high "mountains", tears and swear words streaming, and I'm thinking there's no hope we'll make it to the Himalayas. Don't be fooled by all those beautiful pictures you see, this is bloody hard work. To top it off, I was rolling down the other side when I flew past Manon, while she was pedalling full speed, downhill. Turns out her fancy disc breaks were bent on the plane, and she'd been riding 2 days with them completely tight. Looks like we've got a lot to learn..
The first few days aside, cycling northern Greece was a dream. Nights were spent camping on empty beaches by the Aegean, with days riding smoothe, empty roads. Not to mention the fact we can eat whatever we want while cycling 80km a day, so feasts of cheese, olives and grilled lamb it was!
But by far the biggest impression Greece made was its people. They say that taxi drivers and corner shop owners are the modern day philosophers. And they didn't disappoint. Friendly shop owners didn't waste the opportunity, and requests for cheese quickly turned to 30 minute tirades on the current problems of Greece. Their favourite analysis was blaming the Germans, and one particular man would put Socrates to shame: "You know before Merkel, we'd work 4 hours and then go to the beach with enough money to enjoy life. Now we work 12 hours and have no money, just tax, tax, tax. So I think Merkel has this whole thing wrong".
Now's not the time to analyse the Greek economy, but I like where he's going. Less work and more play! So Turkey here we come.