Odyssey Day 7 Elati to Sarande 60miles 1240m

The last 50k on Greece was through lush woodland with even more flowers.

Then into Albania. Anticipation of difficukt border crossings proved false: far smoother that UK.

Almost at once the differences, on the surface, were apparent. A different plateau with only scrub on the hills. Mercedes seem to dominate.

A common theme is ascending a hill with steep drops. Then finding the next valley is different again. Back comes the trees and irrigation channels. 1€ for two coffees sets us up nicely for the chunky ascent to reach Sarande.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Odyssey Day 6 Metsovo to Elati 49miles 1350m

More war memorials. A civil war 1946-49 that was a proxy for the start of the cold war. Later on today we finished in villages which have left some buildings in ruins as a reminder of the Greek resistance and WW2 damages.

A rich land, and the dense broad leafed woodlands a surprise. This region, in the Pindos mountain chain has (we were told) the first number of different flowers at 2500, with an area in Spain coming in a poor second at 500. So the few we saw today, including orchids, were are mere sample. They were offset by some fine old arch bridges of various ages and croaking frogs.

Our route took in some old roads and some which were just gravel. That the latter was also a steep (10-20%) incline was a bit of a dampener. We’re also beginning to learn that when at the bottom of a valley most of the sparse villages are at the top… And we go there, to bump over the cobbled surfaces and admire the stone roofs. There’s plenty of scenic other distractions to keep the eyes away from the horizons…. including the wary eye for roving dogs.

Odyssey Day5 Kastraki to Metsovo 62.5 miles 3000m

The highest road in Greece meant one thing: it was a bit hilly. The excitement was added to by the rockfalls and collapsed roads along this quiet mountain road. Following a valley floor for the first part, farms dotted the road, occasional merging to become a small hamlet. Nice to see working places, no more so than the hair touch of sheep being herded along

Soon ascending and looking up at the mountainous snow capped skyline, little thinking we were going up there! That’s one of the three surprises for me about Greece. Snow, poppies and flat agricultural plains. You get to know this road is little used by the dearth of coffee shops: the water spouts gurgle their invitations to make up for that.

Switchbacks up, and down. The last decent descent was through a beech forest before rejoining civilisation and a more substantive but less attractive new road. Made it!

Odyssey D4 Lamia to Kastraki 87miles 1217m

Another day of contrasts. Despite these are being ‘predictable’ it’s great. Hills to the top and then flat agricuktu6ral plains, this time spreading for miles.

The hills were accompanied by the dogs. This time aggressive, which gets the heart rate up more than the cycling.

Various war memorials: 1897? Turns out this was a Greek-Ottoman war of 30 days over Crete (Greece lost war, won the peace).

Good to pass through some towns which had good cycle paths and people using them. Young populations too: the anticipation had been of younger people leaving to go to Athens.

Animals crossing the road: did the tortoise make it? bright green lizards scurrying. Either that or they risked getting washed away in the biblical downpour which we avoided by seconds.

Odyssey D3 Delphi to Lamia 57miles 1809m ascent

Hi ho, it’s back up the hill we go, then some more. With the sun rising in front of us if was a great view of illuminated broom and the valley below. Not to mention the road arching is way towards a crest.

Take a right and wow: a flat green plateau with scattered housing. This turned out to be an empty holiday home settlement, presumably full in the ski season. Then into some old national highways, traffic free in the main and undulating. What a great descent into another different landscape: a lot dryer. But before passing reminders of recent history: a WW1 British graveyard (I didn’t know we were fighting in central Greece) and a memorial to Australian WW11 casualties. This land seems to have been a war zone for done.

Lamia looks relatively new: of course it traces its history and development back millennia.

One of our group was fairly badly injured in an accident today: thoughts are with him and his friend.