The first part of our Greek story: Greece I.
It’s time for camping! Finally!
After four weeks of continuous Couchsurfing we feel like pros in that area. It’s time for a new challenge. Let’s see how we like sleeping outside.
We have once tried wild camping in England, just to test our equipment: we BlaBlaCared to Devon one weekend and slept in a tent for two nights. I was a bit afraid then that I wouldn’t like it much, but it was terrific fun! We’ve enjoyed the freedom, the spirit of adventure and most of all the novelty of it all, and decided we will be able to do it… for a year or two.
We looked forward to our camping days in this spirit, but we needed to wait for better weather. Because most of our trip will be spent in warm countries, we only carry light sleeping gear, it’s not comfortable below 8 degrees and torturous below 5.
For tonight it was predicted to be 6 degrees. The time has really come! (And also, we had no other options.)
Kavala, in the hills
During the day we’ve cycled the Route 2, that follows the line of the coast, but higher up. We had continuous ups and downs, but the scenery and the 25 degrees and blazing sunshine made up for it all. This was our most glorious day of cycling so far!
We stopped halfway and rolled down to the beach for our usual lunch: fresh bread, home-made olive oil, tomatoes, onions. We skipped breakfast and now we couldn’t stop eating, which, non surprisingly resulted in dosing off on the sandy beach. Zsolt had a proper nap, and I used this time to drop off my clothes and start evening out my tan.
We made it to Kavala late afternoon and cycled around this lovely and lively seaside town, that’s residential area crawls high up to the neighbouring hills.
After catching up with emails and world news in a cafe (Zsolt has a serious reddit addiction), we looked at possible campsites on Google Streetview. Zsolt picked a nice location as it started to get dark, we got our water supply for the night and made our way towards it.
Yes, Zsolt choose. On in the hills.
It will be steep, but only 2 kilometres… That should be fine, should’t it?
Forty minutes and 1.5 kilometres later I was pushing my 45 kg monster of a bike up a 10+% hill, with all I have. Zsolt mumbled something that resembled a sorry, so I guess my thoughts were written on my face:
What was wrong with camping on the beach?!
We ended up not going as far as we’ve planned, but we found a reasonably good spot behind some hedges, not too far from the main road. It was hidden and if you tiptoed a bit, you could even see the sea below.
Zsolt managed to start the whisperlite (camp stove) for the first attempt, which was lucky, as this was one of our equipment, that we did not test before the trip, at all. Bold, huh? But it was all good, and ten minutes later we were sipping tea and cooking pasta for dinner.
It was barely past 9 when we jumped to bed, wearing our cycling clothes from the day and everything else we had. It will be 6 degrees after all.
10 hours later we woke, least than well rested, and sat down with our coffee and porridges to draw the lessons of last night:
- 6 degrees is COLD,
- Sofia needs an extra pair of socks,
- we should go further away from the main streets because the Greek like to go home in the middle of the night loud and in high spirit,
- even if we’re on a hill, we should look for a flat surface to sleep, so we won’t end up rolling onto each other.
But there was one big advantage of last night’s steep climb: in the morning we just had to roll down to the coast.
Keramoti, on the beach
Just a few hours of sunny cycling later we were ready again to pitch camp. As we arrived to Keramoti in early afternoon, we could search for the perfect spot in daylight. We choose a quiet spot on the beach, but in the cover of huge pine trees. Perfectly hidden, perfectly flat. This should do.
We only pitched camp after sunset, and cooked our dinner for the night: basil and tomato pasta. This night went a lot better than the first one. The weather was warmer, and woke well rested and enjoyed our porridge sitting on the sandy beach in the morning sun.
Mesi, by the cemetery
The third night we were facing challenges.
We were excited to cycle by the Vistonida Lake, which is filled with flamingos, but reached it early evening and clouds of young mosquitoes hardened our way.
Cycling by the lake was like being in a video game: from the left, we had cars coming, above and on the right side of us were the mosquito clouds. We zigzagged between them, ducking our heads and if we run into one, we patted our chest and face furiously. We must have made a hilarious site for the people driving by.
But the lake really was gorgeous.
The last rays of the sun found us still firmly in the saddle, as we couldn’t find a suitable spot to set camp.
From the unfriendly village of Mesi we rather left, then as we approached a seemingly perfect spot nearby, wet streams soaked our feet. On the third try, wild mosquito families attacked us, then 500 away two dogs jumped out from the hedges just as we were about to pitch tent.
Tired and annoyed, we decided it is okay with us to camp by a cemetery after all, and pitched our tent by the low walls of the cemetery, on the remains of last year’s cotton crops.
In one of our water bottles we were soaking beans since the morning, so I set to cooking, while Zsolt pitched the tent. Beans and rice with tomato sauce and veggies, it turned out to be quite delicious. Either I’m becoming a master chef, or we’re just appreciating food more.
It was only in the morning, when we noticed the small well by the cemetery. By that time, we had three days of dust and sweat on us and it was, and it was high time for a proper clean-up.
Baby wipes can’ do much, if you’re cycling all day, so we welcomed the running water, even if it was cold. We washed ourselves, and some bits of clothing, and we only counted three people who have possibly seen our white buttocks while they were driving to work.
Near Maroneia, in the National Park
Clean and fresh we started our day, but only too soon we had to stop as the road ended in front of us. As it turned out, it was simply swept away by floods. The detours added an extra 30 kms for our day and it became clear that we won’t reach Maroneia before sunset.
But again, it couldn’t have turned out better!
Not only that we cycled through wonderful scenery (today’s route was even better then the one coming to Kavala!), but the sunset caught us in a National Park. We couldn’t have wished for a better spot for camping.
We spotted a quiet clearing from the road and again, while Zsolt pitched the tent, I started making dinner. Today it was time to test Julia’s recipe for the couscous. Once again, the food turned out to be delightful and we wolfed down double portions.
The night only had one surprise for us: I wake for distant barking, then a few minutes later, a huge dog sniffed loudly only centimetres from my ears. We were both awake and lay motionless inside, holding our breath, while the dog sniffed around the tent, but after two rounds he decided he’ll leave us alive and made his way back home.
It ended up to be another great night camping out.
We adored Greece!
No, really! This was our first time here, and we had no idea what to expect, following only the economic news about the country. But it was fantastic. Apart from the Western European prices, we loved everything: the kind people, the delicious food, the generous weather and the most beautiful scenery we have so far seen.
We wouldn’t have been anywhere else!
So, if we come back to Europe again, we’ll be definitely returning to Greece. We have to cycle the Southern regions of the country, visit Crete and save up the money for a nice house in Serres.
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