A few weeks ago, in the heart of Greek summer I decided to go and see my girlfriend in her house in Zacharo city. I decided to start in the morning and try to reach Zacharo before sunset (and have a swim there). I’ve never done big rides like this during the summer period, so this was a good opportunity to experience a big hard trip under the blazing sun. Also, I knew that the scenery along this route is pretty nice (I’ve done it in the past) and the traffic in the majority of the trip is very thin. On the way back I regretfully rode on the National Road.
My plan originally was to ride the national road all the way to Zacharo. So I was planning to get up early so that I can have some sun-free hours of cycling in the morning. But by the time I was eating breakfast I was start having second thoughts about my plan (I’m so thankful I did). So, few minutes later I was on google maps trying to find a better alternative with less traffic and better scenery. After an hour of searching I decided to take a route I have done in the past and it was harder, but more rewarding and less dangerous. Ofcourse, I didn’t do it in one day and in so hot conditions! Also it is probably my personal record as the longest loaded bike distance in a day.
Back to the beginning of the journey. Because of the change of plans, I had to leave the house two hours later (08:00am). Barely two hours without the hot sun!
I just strap a big suitcase on my Rackatabla and I am ready to go!
The first 20 kms were very easy as I was fresh and strong, appreciating the beautiful morning breeze on my face!
The scenery is very nice with mountains and fields in every direction and delicious fruits like figs, pears and wild berries are offered generously by mother nature !
This strange little club is called ‘Midnight’ and it is located in the middle of nowhere close to a tiny village. I don’t know it’s story, but in my mind weird rituals with aliens and villagers take place here during the midnight. Scenes from Men In Black comes to mind.
The sun is not that bad yet and I feel very energetic. After some climbs thought, I feel my stomach protesting for some food. So I took out my special meal for the day. Potatoes, eggs and mustard. Not particularly tasty, but always does the job!
Fast forward to 12:00 , the sun is getting crazily hot. I’m dripping buckets of sweat in the big climbs and I try to keep my self hydrated as much as I can. I’m carrying 5 litres of water and I know that I have to reach a village with a spring before I drink up all the water . A big pounding headache is on its way while I’m desperately cycling to find a spot under a tree for a small break.
By the way look my gear. I don’t like sun creams you see! I like traditional methods. Longsleeve shirt, a tshirt for the back of the neck and a handmade nose protector from an old pair of sweaters. They did the job I must tell you!
I keep eating hard kms as I’m ascenting. Fortunately the road doesn’t have traffic at all, but it has big climbs. And the sun is now brutal. I’m sweating like crazy and my head is spinning. I have to find some shade!
And the good news don’t stop here! After some more climbs I reach the first milestone of the Journey. A beautiful little village with a source of pure cold water! I’m having a small rest as I’m filling my bottles with fresh water. I’m ready to pedal hard again.
The next milestone is not very far away. I am in beautiful Foloi forest where the mythical Centaurs used to live according to greek mythology. Those trees make it easier as they offer its precious shade whenever I need it.
After Panopoulo village I know that the hardest part is over. From now on, the big climbs are rare! I ‘m eager to fill the freedom of rolling downhill!
I’m starting to feel tired and my head is still hurts from the continuous pounding of the sun, but I’m very close to Ancient Olympia. I know that this the place where I need to leave the small road and take the busy national road. I hate that part but It’s not very big. Also its a sign that I’m close to my destination!
And then…. a strange phenomenon occurs! Big heavy clouds are gathering up as I’m moving slowly closely to Zacharo. After all those hours of sun torture, 10 km from my destination and the sky decided to rain! I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Later on I was told that this phenomenon kept occuring every day for an hour or so.
At this point I don’t enjoy the ride. I’m on the side of an ugly very busy national road, it’s raining heavily and my head is buzzing. But I keep my self calm, I am very close!
From that point on I got some precious rest and prepared my self for the hard journey back. And they trip wasnt very nice! National road all the way to Patras!