Day 12: A long driving day on challenging roads on the Mani Peninsula. The people of the Mani claim to be the descendants of the Spartans. This area was notorious for its vicious family feuds up until the 19th century. In the harsh landscape, you can see why people held onto any bit of arable land with their lives. Nice cycling, though tiring. Somehow I managed to drop the bike 3 times. There were several compounding factors that contributed to it. Each time we fell I was stopped perpendicular to a slope. Once was coming onto a paved road after being in the dirt; another was after coming to quick stop while trying to read a Greek road sign; and the last time was at a blind intersection with traffic coming in either direction. No damage to either the bike or us, though.
I needed a rest so we stopped and ate ice cream on the beach in Stoupa; the home of Zorba the Greek. Here, for once, the English outnumbered the Germans. At the campground I discovered that the bag on the side where I kept falling was heavier than the other one. I resigned to lighten our already overload bike. I got rid of some tools, a deck of cards, our rain ponchos, and some other junk I knew we wouldn’t need. The stuff I knew we wouldn’t need but couldn’t bring ourselves to get rid of, we planned to mail the next day.
Day 13: At the post office in Kardamili they told us we could only ship 2kg at a time and it would have to be at noon after he delivered the mail. Unfazed by this we continued to Kalamata where we sat in line to discover they didn’t have boxes for sale at that post office. I got a box from a hardware store, packed our stuff and got back in line. When we saw that it was going to cost us 40E (about $50) to mail the 5 kg (12 lb) box to Italy we balked. The stuff in the box wasn’t worth that much. The very kind woman at the window suggested we try an independent shipping company and gave us directions to where we might find one. When it was obvious that we wouldn’t find the place, I stopped at a dumpster and threw half the stuff away and repacked the rest on the bike.
On our way, a few kg lighter and feeling better, we began the climb up the pass over the Taygetos Mountains. At the pass we had lunch at a restaurant which served homemade sausages with dill seed and orange peel in it. Tasty! On our descent into Sparta we passed the cliff where the Spartans threw babies to weak to survive the rigors of Spartan life. Once in Sparta, we set about doing some laundry and making plans for the next day. Luci wanted to go to Mystras, the ruins of a medieval town, and I, being overloaded with archaeological sites, bought a map of the Taygetos Mountains with the intention of climbing the highest peak which is, subsequently, the highest point in the Peloponnesus.
Day 14: Thunderstorms in the night and light rain in the morning was not conducive to hiking so, in a break in the weather, we went to Mystras together. More tourists than we expected for such a crappy day in the off-season. The ruins are on a steep hill with the fortress at the top. We hiked up to the fortress and saw most of the upper city before the rain began again. Everyone went ducking for cover and we ended up under an arched roof with a German family and a German couple. Walking around amongst crumbling walls and surprisingly well preserved frescoes, we found a pit full of human femur bones. I couldn’t shake the feeling that we were taking cover in a crypt so we move shelter to an old chapel. We hung around looking at the frescoes until we found ourselves trying to read the old Greek script and knew it was time to make a dash. We were only about 10kms from the campsite, what could go wrong? When we started out it was drizzling lightly; halfway into the ride it was pouring. At the campsite our tent was in the open and dripping. It is a tough tent though and was dry inside. We moved our camp under cover and put stuff out to dry. Of course, we chose the worse part of the day to make our dash and it got better to the point that everything got dry.
We went into town to recover our day and go see the ruins of Sparta. They are miniscule and deserted and we saw most of it from the seat of the motorcycle. We checked on the long term forecast and it was grim. Ten days of rain they were calling for. That night Milan played Liverpool in the Champions League Finals. Milan scored in the first minute and was leading 3-0 at the end of the first half. Luci called her father to celebrate their almost certain victory. To our envy, they said it was sunny and warm in Milan. Then, by some miracle, Liverpool came back with three goals in twenty minutes and won in overtime.
Tags: Greece 2005