Day 141: Veria – Grevena (101km) – Distance travelled so far 8,087 km “Beautiful Greece”

Feeling stronger than the day before we were eager to get back to the old routine of hitting the 100km mark. The morning started well with a respectable 50kms before lunch.

Since arriving in Greece the cost of living has greatly increased. So aswell as cutting out on accommodation by camping, we are also eating supermarket food. Thankfully Lidl are a big player in Greece.

After a large shop in Lidl we stopped in a park in the town of Kozani for some good auld ham/cheese sandwiches.


Mike snoozes in the park after lunch


Beautiful Greece


An ostrich farm outside Kozani


Our first Christian country of the trip

After lunch we soon came across a large river. It being Istanbul since we last washed our clothes, we ceased the opportunity to do some laundry oldstyle.


Paul and Brian take a dip


You plunge, and you scrub…

and if they’re not clean after that…….


…you plung and scrub!!

Today has been one of the most pleasurable cycles we’ve had to date with spectacular scenery and a wonderful aroma from the trees and flowers.


Splendid


Greek roadside memorial


Nearing the end of the days cycle


The engineer in Brian likes to take these snaps…

We arrived in Greneva at 830 and had a quick coffee and filled up our water bottles in preparation for another night in our tents. We headed out of town in search of a campspot and came upon a local park where we waited till dusk to pitch our tents.


Campsite for the night…

Before dark we had noticed clouds gathering. Maybe tonight the tents would be put to the test……..

Day 140: Thessaloniiki Suburbs – Veria (67km) – Distance travelled so far 7,986 km “Struggling to keep pedalling”

After a peaceful nights sleep we hit the road, with our plan to cycle the highway for aprox, 20kms and then turn off onto a much quieter and safer country road.


A strange looking stone arch in a field

After a tough 50kms on the bike, we parched ourselves in a small town called Veria for a couple of coffees. Mike was feeling the affects from his stint off the bike and found it difficult to get back into the swing of things.

.


Having a coffee in the town of Veria


After leaving Veria, on the highway

With Mike down in the dumps, it wasn’t long after our break before we were searching for a spot to camp for the night. Finding a quiet spot a few hundred meters from the highway we all pulled out our tents.

Brian and Paul now have cheap (15euro Dunnes Stores style) but quick to assemble tents. Mike however had purchased a tent before the trip and was now using it. It’s quite hard to describe how to assemble the tent, so here are a few pics of Mike getting down to business with his Bikeamper.


1. Remove front wheel off bike


2. Keep the bike stable by bracing it from the handlebars to the ground


3. Attach the Bikeamper to the handlebars of the bike (note, Paul begins tent assembly)


4. Place front wheel of bike in the bottom of the tent and peg end of tent into the ground


5. Peg the rest of the tent in the aquired peg-holes


Using your foot, if need be!!


6. stretch the coversheet from the bikes saddle, over the tent (note, Paul completes tent assembly!!)


7. Clip coversheet into the required slots

Mikes tent took 20 minutes to assemble. Poor fellow wasn’t a happy camper…..

After a quick feed of pasta and sardines we hit the hay…..

Day 139: Thessaloniiki – Thessaloniki suburbs (25km) – Distance travelled so far 7,919 km “Goodbye to our Thessaloniki hosts”

After spendiing 3 dyas in Thessaloniki and also having a great time with our CS hosts, we decided it was time to leave this wonderful city. After the whole day of saying our goodbyes to everyong we were finally back on the saddles.


Bidding farewell to our wonderful host, Efie


Saying our last goodbyes to Emily and her housemates

Leaving Thessaloniki late we didn’t cover much ground that evening. Cycling on the highway for 25kms we decided to call it a day and made a turn-off to find a campspot. The road quickly turned from tar to very uneven rubble, making it quite difficult to cycle on.


25kms outside the city, a pack of dogs chase

Even though we had only managed a mere 25kms our impression of cycling in Greece was all positive. We found a nice spot in between 2 marshy fields and pitched our tents for the night. Yes, now the Thaireland crew has a tent for each man. We all aggreed that it would be easier this way.

Thessaloniki

We arrived into Thessaloniki in the evening and were greeted at the main square by our Couch Surfing host Emily and her boyfriend Stefanos. Being keen cyclist they guided us straight to their local bike shop.

The guys at the shop did not have the parts available to fix the bike but they informed us that they could order them and that they should arrive in the next 2 days. We had originally planned to meet Mike here so waiting 2 days wasn’t gonna be a problem for us and thankfully Emily and Stefanos had no problems with us hanging around their place alittle longer.

That night we stayed in Stefanos’s house where his sister Efie also lived and then headed out for a few beers to meet Emily and Stefanos’s friend.


from the left, Paul, Emily, Brian, Efie, Ermis, Stefanos and Apostelia


Paul loved this guys T-shirt so asked for a pic with him

We spent the next few days chilling with Efie and her friend Ermis, Hillis and Alex and when Mike arrived we had another night out with the full gang. It was a big one! The first time we let our hair down since China so we feel we’ve earned it.


Brian attempting to dance


Ermis the legend with “Moon Child” by Rory Gallagher as his ring tone


Some of our new Greek mates!


Such posers!!


Crazy Hillius with his homemade Tshirt (Translated – Sh%t happens)
And the back (Translation – every day)


Street dancing

Our last day in Thessaloniki we moving to a new house as Efie’s mother and sister were coming to stay and the last thing they needed to see was 3 messy Irish guys nursing sore heads.

We moved to Emily’s house for the last night and hung out with Stefanos and his friend Nicos for the evening.

We can’t thank Emily, Efie and Stefanos enough for the wonderful time we spent in Thessaloniki. Hope to hear from ye again lads…..

Day 133: Ipsala – Alexandropouli(56km) – Distance travelled so far 7,894 km “Disaster strikes for Brians bike”

Ipsala is a small town 5 kms from the border and unfortunately it did not have any bike shops so Brian decided it would be best to try and get to Alexandropouli in Greece where he hoped he could find a decent bike shop.

It was quiet the ordeal to cross the border with a crocked bike. There was a good 3kms of walking to get to the greek side. The nearest town was 15kms away and there was no public transport. So we spent an hour at the border begging any passers by to give Brian a lift to Feres.
When Brian finally found a sympathetic pick up driver he hit the jackpot. The driver was from Alexandropouli but offered to driver Brian to the near by Feres to see if they could fix the bike and if that did not work out he would drive him to Alexandropouli.
We did not stop in Feres for very along as the bike shop mechanic quickly informed us that we would have to go to Alexandropouli as he did not have the tools.
So Brian headed for Alexandropouli and arranged to meet Paul there in a few hours


Brian crosses the border on foot


Entering Greece and the EU


The very green countryside of north Greece

Brian was directed to the best bike mechanic in town named John. After quiet alot of persuasion John finally opened the hub to inspect the damage and quickly discovered that the bearing rings were broken and the axel treads badly worn.
A break through, we had finally found the problem but the wheel was still determined to cause Brian as much touble as possible. The axel and bearings needed to be replaced but unfortunately the bikes we have are not like normal mountain bikes. Our bikes have 36 spokes as opposed to 32 and so the hubs are different. John did not have the parts available to repair it so he recommended that Brian head to Thessaloniki where they would have much bigger bike shops and would surely be able to fix his wheel.

Thessaloniki is 300kms from Alexandropouli. We had planned to pass through there by bike and had arranged couch surfing there while in Istanbul so we contacted our CS host and informed her that we would be arriving 2 days early. She had no problem with it so we got a bus the next day and arrived in Thessaloniki in the evening..


A sad sight


Brian in the bike shop with the troublesome wheel


John the friendly bike mechanic

Day 132: Istanbul – Ipsala(72km) – Distance travelled so far 7,838 km “Disaster strikes for Brians bike”

After a much deserved 3 days off in Istanbul Paul and Brian headed for the Turkish/Greek border. We took a bus out of the city to avoid the crazy commuting traffic.
As usual we found it hard to get back into the swing of things after a long break.

The story of the day…

Whilst in Istanbul Brian decided to get a full bike service in a shop called Pedal Sportif. The service included cleaning the bike frame, checking the break pads, cleaning and checking the chain and also greasing the hubs.
When the job was done the bike looked like new. We all agreed that they had done a fantastic job on the service but we were soon to find out that we had been dealing with a bunch of useless clowns that ended up costing Brian alot more than the 40Euro service.

About 70kms from the Greek border Brian noticed that the back wheel was alittle stiff and pedalling was becoming difficult. He complained to Paul but agreed to try and keep going till the next town. About 2kms later the back wheel ground to a halt as if the breaks were on. He inspected the wheel and noticed that it was no longer spinning on the axel, so he opened the hub to try and fix the problem. After a few adjustments he thought that he had found a solution so hopped back on the bike. 500m down the road the wheel seized once again but this time he was unable to open the hub.
We were out in the middle of nowhere with a very broken bike and it was now getting dark. We agreed that it would be best to try and get to the next town to try and get the bike fixed. After an hour of failed attempts Brian finally got a lift to Ipsala.

It was late by the time we arrived so we decided to wait till the morning to fix the bike.


Paul and Brian bid fairwell to Mike and Joanne


We met these guys a few days ago and again when leaving the bull…


Paul takes an early break


The country side gets greener as we come close to the border


Dogs still a problem in Turkey!


Unaware of the disaster unfolding in his back wheel


Brian attempts to fix the wheel

Day 129: Istanbul

We had a very relaxing stay in Istanbul where we spent the time chilling out and doing a few bits and pieces like getting ourselves 3 separate tents as we knew that we would be almost exclusively camping our way through Europe due to the massive accommodation costs.

Here’s a few pics of our time in Istanbul


Taxsim, the busy main street of Istanbul


We actually met the guy on the right on our first day in Iran. Small world


The hugh motorway bridge across the Bosphorous that we were not allowed to cycle across


This area was full of Hugh boats and fancy cars


Aya Sofya Mosque


Besiktas Stadium

Day 128: Izmit to Istanbul – (98km) – Distance travelled so far 7,766 km “Reaching The Bul and couchsurfing with Hakan”

Well rested, we set out today to reach Turkeys historic capital Istanbul and to take advantage of some well deserved rest days!!!

 


Traffic beginning to look heavy


Vrooommm!!!!!!!!


Exactly what we expected…chaotic traffic


Brian feels a hamstring strain so decides to give it a rest


We are here….yahoo!!!!!!!!! – Reaching the ferry crossing


All a board!


All aboard – Mounting the Ferry


I think we are going to enjoy Istanbul


Betty, Sally and Roxanne….


Mike and Paul help push this stalled car off the ferry….We are serious gentlemen us!!!

 

We reach the central regions of Istanbul. For the next week Mike will chill out in beautiful Istanbul with Joanne. Brian and Paul will take about 2-3 days rest and then head onto the Turkish/Greek Border. For tonight we (Brian and Paul) have organised a couchsurf with a Turkish student named Hakan living in the Levent region of Istanbul….Noice!!!!!

Until later…

Slan

Day 127: – Duzce – Izmit (102km) – Distance travelled so far 7,668 km “The Mega Mac at McDonalds and eeking closer to The Bul”

We have been really enjoying cycling in the last couple of days. Our giddy behaviour has only been exaccerbated by the fact that Istanbul is so damn close to us and that Greece (another conquerable country) is only around the corner…Oh yeah…and the weather is gettin HOT!!!!!!!!!! – 3 nil to the boys. Must work on those tanning those white arses!!!!


Getting out of Duzce…Cloudy for now…


Our beloved Cay House


Celebration Time….100kms to The Bul…Oh yeah!!!


Maybe we could try this if we get tired!!!!


An English teacher named Puk gives us a quick geography lesson regarding the city of Izmit
(the guy in the back just couldn’t help himself!!!)

After some general guidance from Puk, we headed into the very stomach of the city only to find some of the most recognisable and truely wonderful arches ever built in the world…..Yes….You guessed it…..The Golden Arches of McDonalds. Lucky for us our bellies were in serious need of some nose bag, and seeing as Ronald and company had “Mega Mac’s” in huge supply, we were forced to stop all things at once.


What a wonderful sight!!

Day 126: Just outside Eskipazar – Duzce (135km) – Distance travelled so far 7,566 km “Trying to beat the Tunnel on a technicality “

Last nights camp worked out fine. Pauls sleeping mat is now only offering 4-5 hours of comfort which is a bummer…Roll on some camping stores in Istanbul.


The green roads are the highways and the blue ones are free-ways..What to do time!!


Us pilgrims ain’t allowed on them there highways….


Back seat driving!!


Brian tries out a new saddle position


Drawing the curtain on The Cay Houses – We are goin to miss fraternising with the elderly gentlemen of Turkey

Tunnel talk


but we thought cyclists were banned on these roads!!!

Tunnel problems


This man will NEVER stray from the rule book…