2006 Greece and Macedonia Cycling
Arrive at Thessaloniki at about 2 am after flight from Zurich. Have problems getting a taxi as we have bikes in big cardboard bike boxes. After all queue has gone find a cabbie who folds seats down and takes us. Go to really scummy hostel. Walk up to 3rd floor and go into dorm. Noisy from traffic and then cold in night. Try to leave in morning before the ^warden^ comes but we are too slow so have to pay the 13 euro but leave bike boxes there in basement.
Pedal off for breakfast and then go to look for bus station. Eventually find it a few km away and take bus to Kilkis and have no problems with bikes. I have a bit of cold so buy throat sweets and then we cycle to Serres. Nice roads with hills but slight rain and a little cold but sun comes out towards the end. First hotel there says that all town is full but go round corner and get a room no problem.Go out for food and then have ice cream and bed. Town is ok.Try to get bus out but there is no bus station and we cannot find where the bus to BG would stop. After asking loads of people and searching the back streets we give up and bike. There is quiet road by the main road and it is actually ok. Have lunch in Sidirokastro and sit outside which is quite cold. Continue to Sandanski and then ask guy where bus station is. He leads us there in his car. We then get bus to Blagoevgrad and stay in hotel where we stayed last time – even in same room. Nice place. Then go and have some food and beers.Cycle along the road to Bansko. Find a quiet road next to main road which is good. Then turn off and do the long climb over the pass. Stop at top and have some food.Then find hotel on main street and have a wander round. Go to look at CM and take some pictures. Eat in nice gostilna at night and then have drinks in the English pub and chat to old couple from Spain .Go to some agents and then go with guys to the notary. Do the stuff which takes about 2 hours. Then rush around a few more agents and open bank accounts and then get the bus back to Blagoevgrad. I buy tyre and then we quickly eat a pizza and then go to bus station to get bus to Macedonia. We find however that this bus no longer runs due to disagreement with the BG and Mac governments. So we load bkes in taxi who takes us along beautiful road which climbs up to the border. We cross and ride down in 20 mins to Delcevo. Go to change money and meet dutch trucker and then go to hotel. Nobody there so girls call owner. Talk to local bloke who invites us to come and stay with him. Hotel wants 40 Euros. Then meet german speaking guys. We go to eat with them and then they take us to a womans house where we stay for 5 euro each.Get up for the 6am bus. Chucking it down with rain. Bus is full so we have to wait for next one. Go and sit in restaurant place and have breakfast. Then get later bus. Beautiful journey, sleep a little and then arrive in Veles. Meet posh local English speaking girl on the way. We have to then change bus to continue to Bitola. Cycle into town and only cheap hotel is full. So we wait for rain to clear a little and then cycle to hotel 3km away. Then go out and we jump in taxi with woman back into town and do not pay anything. Walk along strip and have food in huge restaurant. Then go to a few bars with not much happening and then find a good bar. Chat to a few locals and have lots of vodka and coke. Get taxi back to hotel.Want to cycle next day but weather looks bad so get a bus to ochrid. Roads are beautiful. Then go with guy from bus station to his house to stay. He becomes rather annoying as he seems to use our room as the entrance to his house as does his wife later on. Anyway we cycle off through town and along the lake to xxx. Lovely ride with a few hills. Loads of BG tourists there. Buy some snacks on way back and return on same road. Simon pumps tyre every so often due to puncture. We then go and buy him a new tyre and then go for food. Then into bed as we are tired.Got up and ate in restaurant of hotel. Had the most greasy omellette possible. Then set off out of town. Road was quiter than yesterday and after 6km or so we turned off on smaller road and headed into the hills. Went through a couple of small villages before about an hour long climb on a good asphalt road. Went past bits of snow and then started the descent at which point the asphalt stopped and the road become quite rough. Helped jump start a van for a few guys in small village with a nice church. Continued down the rocky and muddy 4 wheel drive road and I felt a puncture which we then had to fix in a village further down. New tyre is really hard to get on and off and Simon’s spare tube already had a hole in it. So I mended my tube and used this. Continued on to Bilisht where we looked to have a pizza, but the pizza place either didn’t have any or we were in the wrong place. So we went to the take out down the road and sat on the steps of the shop to eat. Then continued along a large well surfaced road to Greece which luckily had little traffic. We got to border and there was a huge queue but we were sent to the front by one of the border guards. Quick look at passports and we were through. 5km down the same road in Greece we turned off to the right on aother decent track and headed again up a little and round the hill to Leropigi. From here we enjoy a nice decent to Mesopotamia where we have some fruit juice. Continue on to Kastoria which is set on a lake surrounded by hills. We go down the strip and have some ice cream and then go to look for a hotel. My LP is 10 years old and a lot of the stuff in the re no longer exists. We then find Hotel Europa where we nearly stay until the woman tells us we have to pay 3 euro to park bikes in garage next door. We carry on looking and find a hotel for same price nearer the centre. We go an have a sleep and the n go out for food. We then have drink in posh bar but not much happening and we are both tired so go to bed. Get up leisurely and have breakfast in a little cafe place by bus stop. We have cheese in a greasy pastry stuff. very difficult to find places that are serving breakfast. Then we set off around the lake. A nice relaxing ride and then go around the peninsular which is quite nice nad have food by the monastery in restaurant with tables almost in the water. Then cycle over to the bus station and put bikes on the boot extension of the double decker coach. Journey must be nearly 3 hours to Thessaloniki and we both sleep a bit. Then get off and find a hotel which is almost the same price each a the dirty backpackers and just along the road. Chill for a little in the room while it chucks it down and then go out by foot to eat. Wander around and there is quite a bit going on and then decide on restaurant with free drinks. Sfter 10 mins or so the student group on the next table start dancing on table which is very entertaining. Food not great but we drink loads of wine and watch the `show`. As it gets late we go back to hotel and realise it could be difficult with a taxi and the bike boxes. Guy at hotel calls a taxi for us but it turns up and does not have fold down rear seats. He calls another guy however who then takes us no problem. We get to airport early and check in no problem and just hang around. At least we got to the airport which was the main thing. Flight leaves at 4:40 and have a short sleep and then arrive in Zurich at 6:10, leave simon, collect luggage and then go straight to work battling the public transport with bike still in box and panniers.
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