Monday, July 26, 2004

Postcard from Patras

Our island hopping schedule took us from Kefalonia to Lefkada, seemingly the windsurfing capital of the world, for a couple of days of swimming and lying on the pebbles.  The lounging around gave us plenty of reading time and we have now reduced the weight of books we're carrying to such an extent that we can be seen hovering round the English language sections of the Greek Waterstones.  Or maybe that's because (call us Ishmaels) we're too scared of Moby Dick.

We are now in Greece's 3rd largest city, Patras, and have been here a couple of days doing big city things.  Yesterday we went to the cinema for the first time since Darlington to see Troy (when in Rome...) and Spider-Man 2.  We were prepared to set up camp at the multiplex until we saw the rest of the films on offer - although we were briefly intrigued by "Rrrrrrr!!".

The plan for tomorrow us to catch the train down to Kalamata and then ride down through mainland Greece before a quick hop to Kythira and Crete.  It's been a while since we've done any proper cycling and we're a bit nervous.  Not as much as we were at the start but then Stockton high street will do that at the best of times.

We were wondering when we'll start to feel the pull toward Australia rather than the pull away from England.  At the moment we still get the English papers if we can and the general feeling is of looking back not forward - when we're not simply looking out at the crystal blue Aegean that is...  We reckon the Trans-Siberian will finally snap the invisible cord tying me back to England.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Updates!
 
The stats intro, altitude sickness and Vs cheetah pages have been updated.
 
Also, an all new Big Trip reading stats page has been added !

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Grecian 2004
 
We have moved on since the last post, as we must really.  The journey from Catania in Sicily to Taranto in Puglia (on the arch of the sole of the boot of Italy) was a 2 day, 1 ferry & 6 train epic which involved far too much loading, unloading, waiting and dashing for our liking.  The lastest "should we send BoB home" referendum saw a swing from 1 yes and 1 abstention to a landslide 2 yesses  (does that look right?) with Brindisi earmarked as the end of the road for our trusty trailer. 
  
BoB's big day in Brindisi finally arrived courtesy of Rob Walsh's Italian cousin at Tavoni shipping.  The original measurement and, as a result, price were on the high side but a bit of creative dismantling and the discovery of a box which could have been made to measure saved the day.  We had a night at the youth hostel (typical guest book comment: "THIS PLACE ROCKS!!!!!!!") to repack our stuff, get rid of any unwanted items and generally rejig things.  It was a bit surprising how easily this was done, especially as we are carrying enough books to be able to make an impromptu shelter should the tent fail us.  (And having read 'Robinson Crusoe', don't think we couldn't...)  Packing BoB off was a slightly sad affair but it will make our lives a lot easier when we catch ferries and trains although it will mean a reduction in the number of admiring glances and inquiries we receive.
 
Our destination from Brindisi was Sami in Kefalonia which, we were unreliably informed by the ticket agent, we could reach from Igoumenitsa in Greece.  We duly disembarked at 4am after a pleasant night sleeping on deck only to be told (when the port woke up) that we'd have to continue on to Patras.  That was where our boat was headed before we got off.  Nevertheless, 2 ferries later we were there.  Well, here really.  The budget is loving the place almost as much as we are although its appreciation of the hills, crystal blue water and pebbly beaches leaves a bit to be desired.
 
I went for a ride today; a 50km round trip up the island's high point, Mount Enos.  The views were incredible all the way with towns, valleys and the coastline showing themselves as I climbed.  On the way up I managed to outsprint a chunky farm dog (thankfully he was more built for 1-on-1 savagery than speed), outfox a herd of goats (I manoeuvered them to the side of the road using pebbles (no goats were harmed in the making of this blog)) and outsmart anyone who said I'd fall off twice (the last 7km were up a loose gravelly road - ask my knee and elbow if it was easy riding).  On the way down I managed to overtake a car and clock up a rather alarming 72 km/h on what was the best descent of the trip so far.  Well, since the last one...

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Downtown Palermo

It seems appropriate for us to be in Sicily to mark the passing of screen legend Marlon Brondo. We passed "Corleone" on the train but it's wasn't known if they were in special mourning for the man who will be forever linked to their town.

We spent a couple of days in Palermo then caught the train to Catania to avoid the drivers, hills and heat. That was yesterday and today I cycled 30-odd kilometers up Mount Etna. Well, once you've conquered the mountains you might as well move up to volcanoes. I got to 1900 metres which is as far as the snack bars and tourist tack and that was as far as I could go. The road from here is for minibuses and hikers so I left them to it and freewheeled home.

One of the best things about riding the bike is that it gives my hair a devil-may-care windswept look. It hasn't been cut since we set off and the last time it was this long the A-Team were on TV... I have also discarded my conscientious shaving regime in favour of getting the orange plastic razor out every week to 10 days. Or couple of weeks maybe. As I result I go from being a shaggy scruff to a shiny, clean shaven scruff. A miraculous transformation which has hoteliers and campsite owners wondering if my younger brother has turned up.

This post is brought to you courtesy of local restaurant opening times. As soon as the clock strikes 8:00 we're decamping to the Chinese over the road. Sweet and Sour pizza and fried rice please mate.

Friday, July 02, 2004

We're off to Sicily and Updates Available Now

We're currently waiting for our ferry to take us from Sardinia to Sicily (cue the whistling of the Godfather theme).

We're not cycling much in Italy as bascially every Italian driver is nuts and thinks they don't need to change their line when overtaking us (cue me seeing a campervan overtake Banz with about 2 inches to spare).

We'll see a bit more of Sicily as well as visit some good friends in Southern Italy before we get a ferry to Greece and continue riding there. Rural Greece is meant to be very quiet (though hilly), so we're looking forward to that.

In the meantime, just so you haven't forgotten our smiling faces (they are except when hill climbing), we've updated and added the following pages to the Galleries -

England

Belgium

France - Nord Pas Du Calais

France - Picardy

France - Champagne

France - Burgundy

France - Rhone Alps

France - Provence

France - Corsica

Italy - Sardinia

as well as updating the following pages -

Overall Statistics

Physiology Changes

Burning Questions

and of course, scroll down for the latest poll.