It’s a buggy life…

2 November 2018

At about six thirty the next morning Martina and I were awake and listening to the buzz of the gazillion mosquitos outside our tent that had come to visit us again. As had happened the previous evening, they were there for about half an hour and while we were thinking that we were going to be bitten to pieces when we ventured out, they disappeared – just like that! We have no idea what that was all about, but what we can say is that neither of us got bitten, which we think is an absolute miracle. And their disappearance gave us the opportunity to breakfast at our leisure looking at the lake view which now resembled a Turner painting – all rather washed out.

As we were packing up we noticed that numerous spiders had spun webs on our bags overnight and there was an abundance of flying insects and creepy-crawlies all the tent, which we had to shake off as we went. At this point Sebastian, our Swiss friend from the previous evening, came by with a pot of fresh coffee for us – what a star! Martina doesn’t drink coffee, so I had it all to myself! We chatted to him in between packing up our kit and it turns out he’s a real cycling fanatic….but his girlfriend might take some persuading to go on a tour like ours! We said our goodbyes and were on the road at 10am, a bit later than normal, but it was well worth the delay to talk to a kindred spirit over a fresh coffee!

The start of our journey skirted the remainder of the southern edge of the lake and we took a road which was squeezed between a set of mountains to the north and some lower hills to the south. It should have been quite spectacular, but unfortunately the weather is fairly humid and much of the scenery wasn’t visible through the murk. We passed a second lake, which when we looked across at the western shore we were looking at Macedonia. We did contemplate dipping into a different country as it would have been a short hop at this point, but we’re not just racking up countries for the sake of it, so continued on our way. We have already decided that a future cycling tour for us will be along the Dalmatian Coast and we will try to take in Macedonia when we do it.

By lunch we decided to make the town of Kilkis our end-destination for the day; no idea what is there, but we thought we’d go and see. Four days of humid, sweaty cycling and three nights of wild camping meant that we were a bit stinky by this point so we’d decided to look for somewhere with a shower for the night. Fairly dull cycling for the afternoon except that we cycled through a plague of flying ants for over an hour, which really wasn’t pleasant. The approach to Kilkis was topped off with a long gruelling climb up to the town, which just seemed to go on for ever!

Accommodation in Greece is different from what we have been recently used to.  Gone are the great-value guesthouses with use of a kitchen, which really suited our needs, to be replaced by much higher-priced hotels. Hotels are still the lowest of our accommodation options as they are usually difficult with the bikes and all of our baggage and because of this we’ve only used a couple to date; the one we found in Kilkis was the exception though. The chap on reception let us wheel our bikes straight into the foyer and unload them next to the lift and we were allowed to do the reverse in the morning! We did feel a bit bad though as when we got to our room and started opening our bags, miscellaneous creepy crawlies, ants (both dead and alive), spiders and the odd earwig escaped into the room. We did try to scoop as many up as possible, but I’m sure some got away into our newly refurbished premium room! The poor cleaning lady had her work cut out for her….

The upside of a hotel is that it often has breakfast included, so when it does we make the most of it – and so we did! Having each eaten our own bodyweight in bacon and eggs we were off again; this time heading towards Edessa, where there is a big waterfall and a nice old town where we will stay for a couple of nights. But as it was too far for one day’s cycling, it was back to wild camping. The cycling was a bit dull to be honest – uninspiring scenery and murky weather meant we didn’t see an awful lot. We cycled to the town of Koufalia, where a large street market was just closing, to have lunch. Whilst negotiating our way through the stalls we met a nice bloke who we talked to for about 15 minutes. He was interested in our journey and we gleaned a few more places of interest that we may visit if they are on our route. We had lunch outside a high school and watched the “yoofs” larking about while chstting to another guy who had taken an interest in our bikes while we waited for his bus.

One of the places of interest the second bloke mentioned was the archeological site at Pella where the Macedonian kings lived between 300-500BC. Turns out that Pella was 8km away in the right direction so we decided to pay a visit. It’s an enormous site to walk around and really interesting to see the ruins of different houses and workshops etc.

It’s also the birthplace of Alexander the Great and even we’ve heard of him so it must be important! Plus the philosopher Aristotle lived there whilst in charge of Alexander’s education. Rather bizarrely it was a port town all those years ago and now it’s quite far inland, so it’s difficult to picture exactly how it might have looked. The best part though was the mosaic floors … to think that we were walking in the footsteps of all those ancient Greeks.

To be honest we had no idea that this site was so historically important and only actually found out when we read up about it later!

We headed away after 3pm as we knew we had to look for a camping spot in the next hour if we were to have any chance of setting up and having dinner before it got dark. We asked a couple of farmers at the side of the road if there was somewhere to put our tent and one of them led us to a derelict house just down the road, which he owned, where we could set up camp in the grounds.  We now realise that the clocks have gone back, but we hadn’t noticed initially as our iPhones automatically updated.  It means that bedtime is all happening a bit earlier than we are used to.  We were a bit puzzled as to why it seemed to get dark at 6pm instead of 7pm from one day to the next!

Although it wasn’t the most salubrious spot we’ve ever camped in we both managed to have a pretty decent night’s sleep and were up bright and early next morning. One of the farmers came to see that we were OK – but more likely to check that we hadn’t set the place alight with our stove as the grass is scorched dry!

The weather had changed again and it was clear skies and warm sunshine on our way to Edessa. It’s pretty flat here so there wasn’t much to see until we got nearer the town itself and then we saw the humongous hill looming in the distance.  I reckon it was about 1km of reasonable up followed by another 2km of 15-20% of painful up! We both managed to get to the top without stopping, but there was a lot of grunting and sweating (25 degrees) on the way, that’s for sure! The road into Kilkis a couple of days ago seems easy now in comparison!

But the climb was with it as Edesss is a lovely town.  One of our reasons for coming here was to see the waterfalls in the area. We’d expected them to be in the hills outside of the town, but actually they’re almost in the centre itself. Rivers which run off the mountains cut right through the town and cascade over the cliff we’d cycled up, which is all very spectacular. As it was a beautiful day there were amazing views of the falls and the scenery below.

We ventured behind the main waterfall and down to the bottom of the other nearby falls, which were just as spectacular.

We then went to a restaurant recommended by our AirBnB hosts and had yet another great Greek meal. We both like Greek food anyway, and the standard has been excellent so far.

Thursday was mainly a rest (we’ve just completed 12 straight days cycling, of which a lot was through hills and mountains) and admin day. Firstly we went for a meander around Varossi, the oldest area of the town.  It’s quite small so this didn’t take very long; however there are prehistoric, Roman, Byzantine and early Christian remains which are interesting.

Next stop was the statue of Alexander the Great in the centre of town and the Byzantine bridge nearby – again both interesting, but didn’t take a lot of time to see.

We did a food shop for the next few days and headed back to our accommodation for lunch and a snooze. Then it was admin time, so we found a coffee shop to get internet and passed an hour doing what we needed to do! Later in the afternoon we went back to the waterfalls for a second look and at one point had them all to ourselves which really was nice. Basically it’s been a relatively quiet day, which we needed and don’t seem to do often enough!

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