Macedonia – Greece
One more petrol station stop refuelling on the Macedonian side and a power nap for Jeff, after that off we went. We had some bad cobble stones and bad road surfaces. After we crossed the border I had the feeling that my rear wheel was loosing air. Getting the tire off was difficult, back on as well. But what shells, I changed the tube but I was not really happy. Jeff had another rest and we were surrounded by two dogs. Jeff, who is totally scared of dogs, did not realize them. Suddenly Pawel showed up we were happy to meet again, he headed on to find a bike shops in the early hours of the day for some safety patches. I stopped sometimes to pump up my rear wheel during the early hours, Jeff headed on and I was asking the baker who prepared my breakfast where to find a good bike shop. His recommendation was excellent, in the next village ‘For Bikes’. Simple name and easy to find. The guy was amazing, I got an amazing espresso, he changed my tube again and provided me with additional spare tubes and food! I could not convince him to pay for it! Thank you so much for your efforts and your generous help! I sent Jeff my location and it turned out that he was behind of me. So we made a decision which route to follow. Mine was shorter but definitely not faster. My idea was to have a great last day, pass several monasteries and climb some beautiful hills and scenic villages. We took many rests in the shadow and had several bar and supermarket stops. This day was tough is it was hot and the climbs had been constant and on gravel or sand. Shadow was missing all day long. We had scenic views on amazingly blue lakes green hills and mountains, blue skies and we passed several monasteries similar to Meteora. For sure it was not the most gravel per day but it was a lot. Patrick told me that I should not go this road, because he did and it was tough. The funny thing is that I met Patrick last year in Greece, in a corner where -for sure- not many riders chose to go through.
As I wanted to have an amazing last day, I still chose this route. I was happy that Jeff joined even when he complained many times, before we rode into the night he already pointed out that he was done with the race and all he wanted was to arrive in Meteora.
I was happy that Nelson sent a message asking me if he could help in any way for the time behind the finish line. So the issue for bike box and accommodation was solved with one message on the phone, brilliant. The head was free for enjoyment. We had some dogs, Jeff had enough courage to stop and see that they do not come closer. But at the very end, we passed a sheppard family together with their sheep and dogs. The dogs were as big as the sheep and more than ten, maybe fiveteen. We stopped but as soon as we wanted to head on, they got aggressive again. So we shouted out for their owners who blew the whistle and the dogs led us go. Life can be so simple. Finally we reached the paved road again and almost hit the starting point of the parcours. The parcour was only from top to bottom, so we descended into Kalabaka, the special shape of the Meteora mountains was almost not visible although there was a special feeling in the air. Here and there, people sat around watching the sun going down and enjoying this special evening! For me it was definitely special, coming down from Geraadsbergen, more than 4000kms this year! This was just amazing and we made it to the finish line without any damage to personal health or the bicycle. Just wonderful. As we reached Kalabaka I had to realize that this was a huge tourist spot, which I was not aware of, before! Riding through the main road over to the finish line at the other end of the city. Wow, really! We made it! We could them hear cheering! That was a great arrival, and even better now it was time for the finisher party!
As I did not plan anything in terms of transportation or accommodation this year, I did also not plan the return back home. As I did not have any motivation after the first finisher beer, to arrange a return flight for the next day, I skipped this decision to the next day. This maybe was a mistake, but finally after waiting for a day, I returned home, so happy to be back with Nico and the kids.
It is amazing to know that Nico is fully supporting what am doing -in terms of riding-, probably the greatest gifts to me, thank you!