Friday, February 27, 2009

DAY 101

As I sit in this internet cafe in the greek island of Chios and look back over Greece, it certainly brings a smile to my face. From the first hour I arrived till this hour as I await for my ferry to Turkey, its been great. The Greek people were so welcoming and I was surprised by amount of people who could speak English. Athens was crammed with the sights, the museums,the history, but it was through all the little towns and villages that I loved most. The food has been the best of the trip so far. If there was no menu and they were unable to communicate in English what was on offer for the day, they would grab you by the arm and bring you into the kitchen to observe what was cooking in each pot. Then you would be shown what was in the fridge, and the different fish would be pointed out.This happened a few times. I remember I arrived into 1 place at a cross roads. The owner saw the bike and correctly presumed I was hungry. "You like the special??",he asked. I'm sure it was his only sentence of english, but it was the best omelette I ever had.
The traffic has been quite (apart from Athens and the 50kms before Athens). Most of my time in Greece has been spent hugging the coast,so the scenery has been super and finding a special campsite has been easy. Its just a 1 hour ferry ride across the channel to the Turkish town of Ceseme. If Turkey is half as good as greece has been,it will be twice what I expected. And as for Chios;well for an island not much bigger than Achill Island it packs quiet a punch. Its got a World heritage site (a monastery where the Virgin Mary appeared), a monument in recognition to Homer (a poet from the 5th century BC whose enjoyable stories of myths and legends turned out to be based on facts after discoveries from archaeologists in 1870s,-as apposed to the Homer whos on SKY 1 at 7pm every evening). And Chios also claims to be the birthplace of Christopher Columbus (some explorer who visited America almost 1000 years after St Brendan left Cahersiveen and headed West). But I think I'll remember Chios best for its mountains. Its just zig-zag roads up and down through cliff-edge. I was lashing on the sun cream in the morning and riding through a hail storm in the afternoon before returning to sea level to camp up for the evening. All in all Greece has been super, But now its time to face into Turkey. I'm not too sure what to expect. Its highest mountains are 5 times the size of anything we have in Ireland and when I look at Turkey on a map of Europe, I see its more than 10 times the size of Ireland so I guess you'll be reading about me eating kebabs for a while.
Good luck,-I've a ferry to catch.


I'm 100 days on the road. Its about time I introduced ye to my bike.
Leonardo Da Vinci may have invented the bicycle, but it was Koga who perfected it.The Koga Signature series is no ordinary bike,in fact its probably the greatest touring bike ever built. Its hand-built in Holland to the highest specification and I have dragged it through practically every terrain there is. I dont know how it puts up with me.
Two years ago I took a 1 way flight to Amsterdam to check out Kogas latest creation-the Signature series. I took a test ride around town and basically didnt want to give the bike back. Over the next 24 hours a bike was built for me using just the components that I selected. Everything from the frame down to what dust-caps on the tyres was arranged. Some people may think €2100 is a crazy price to pay for a bicycle,but then, many people spend double that on cars that are just used for a schoolrun. That bike will take me where ever I want to go. And I want to go around the world. How did I get it home from Amsterdam? I cycled it. How did I test it for this present trip ? I took it to the most difficult terrain in Europe. I took it around Iceland for a 6 week spin. I didn't even get a puncture.
In many ways the bicycle becomes your best friend on the trip. It almost seems to grow human qualities;- a personality of its own. When its left out all night in the pouring rain or driving snow,it will squeak and cringe all the following morning until it gets a fresh coat of oil on its moving parts. As the day continues it gradually comes to enjoy the rolling hills and appreciates its freedom from the banal life of the garden shed. Its not just me who is grunting and heaving on those 15%+ mountains. As I stand on the pedals and rock the bike from right to left, the racks,which hold the pannier bags to the bike, creak under the strain. This trip will test both our limits,but its definitely me who is doing most of the cringing,squeaking and groaning on those mountain climbs.
I think the bike is unamused with my weakness.........

Monday, February 23, 2009


When I arrive into a hostel, I often get asked "Whats in all the bags?"
So this is everything I left home with:

1 Koga Signature series bicycle with 1 pump,1 water bottle,1 flask and 1 bike computer
1 lightweight solo person tent
1 4-season sleeping bag
1 sleeping matress
1 stove
2 pots
1 frying pan
1 steak knife
1 of the following-fork,tea-spoon,mug,can opener,cork screw

1 wind proof ski pants
1 hiking pants with zips-off legs to turn them into shorts
1 cycling pants
2 base layer pants
2 shirts (not the Ben Shearman type)
2 base layer tops
1 Wind proof jacket(I turn it inside out and in becomes my pillow)
1 Waterproof jacket
1 waterproof pants
1 pair of hiking boots
1 pair of cycling shoes.i.e. they clip into the pedals
1 pair of cycling gloves
1 pair of waterproof ski gloves
1 balaclava
1 baseball hat
Jocks and socks
A small zip-lock bag with washing powder

1 Laptop computer(with waterproof,shock proof case)
1 ipod (with case)
1 phone(its always switched off,I'm on holidays)
2 digital cameras (1 which is broken,just in case I get mugged-I give up my dud camera)
1 tiny camcorder(with waterproof case)
1 headtorch
1 headshaver
1 world plug adapter
And an annoying amount of cables,leads,chargers,headphones and batteries to go with this lot.(all kept in a waterproof bag)

1 basic maintanence kit & collection of spares for the bike
1 (very) basic medical kit for me
1 (very,very) basic bathroom bag. ie even my toothbrush is foldable and toothpaste comes in a 12ml container to keep weight down
1 towel

A couple of books,maps and a guide book for whatever country/region I'm presently in.
1 compass
3 bike locks
1 whistle (Always around my neck)
1 strainer (always strain the fuel before filling the stove)
1 cigarette lighter

2 wallets (1 full of old bank cards in case I get mugged)
laminated photocopies of all important documents
1 pair of reading glasses and cycling sunglasses
Any amount of food and water depending on distance to next shop and what time of the day it is

I think thats it.


In a city with over 130 museums you have to accept that with a 4 day visit you are only barely scrapping the surface. The National Archaeological Museum alone took the butts of a full day. With more than 20,000 exhibits, its regarded by many to be the world's greatest museum. And then there is the Acropolis on the hill top looking out over all Athens. Its probably one of the greatest structures of the ancient world. And then of course, there was plug sockets, laundry, hot water and a chance to catch up on the emails and news and a chance to send off some saved emails I wrote over the previous week. Well the news from all in Ireland seems to be a universal gloom and doom since Christmas. All emails discuss job losses, banking scandels etc etc. So I don't think I'm in any hurry to return there. Instead, I'm booked on tomorrow nights ferry to the Island of Chios. And from here I'm only 20kms from Turkey.

Friday, February 20, 2009

DAY 93

Pedalled on up that road another 70 kms. Today was a treat of a day. I awoke from my beach fly-tent to the sound of a wild wind and sea outside. It was extremely difficult to fold up the tent in the violent gusts of wind. When I got out on the road,this wind was at my back. I literally had to just stand on the pedals and let the wind blow me on down the road. Today we visited the remains of the ancient city of Corinth. Most impressive was the 5th century BC temple of Apollo. The museum contained 2900 year old vases. After a lunch of a few mars bars on the road(kinda lost track of time in Ancient Corinth),we made it over the Corinth Canal. This waterway,which is cut through solid rock,is a project that was first considered in the 7th century BC,but it wasn't finished until 1893. My timing was perfect. A boat was making its way through the canal. I'm presently camped up on a cliff edge and all around I see the lights on the surrounding Islands. My phone,ipod,camera and this computer are all in need of a plug socket. We'll have lunch in Athens tomorrow

DAY 92

I keep changing from my origional plan,but then my origional plan was never set in stone. The origional plan was to head to Delphi; the home of the oracle and to find out what the future held for me. Fred and David recommended crossing the Andrio-Rio Bridge and taking the flat coastal road across to Peloponnese and all the way into Athens. This route will allow to visit the ancient city of Corinth and also cross over the Corinth Canal. Delphi is at a massive altitude so a flat coastal road takes first choice. And anyway, even if the oracle recommended a U-turn and a return to Ireland, I think I'd pedal east anyway. The oracle told Alexander the Great; "He was unbeatable" and I feel Great too,so I'm gonna follow his footsteps. I'm heading East.

DAY 90

After a good breakfast in Preveza we biked south for about 20kms before we came to a T-Junction where Charlie turned right and I turned left. His plan is to Island hop his way to Crete. My plan is to head towards Athens where I can get a ferry to Turkey. If you're ever in Ireland Charlie,give us a call and we'll find some bar that sells Ouzos. I continued on down my scenic road with the coast on my right hand side till about 5pm,when up the road in front of me pedalled two more touring cyclists. Brothers David and Fred from France were half way through their epic journey of biking to every capital city in Europe. It was going to be dark in an hour so we all camped up on the beach and spent the evening chatting over a fine sized bonfire. We didn't leave our camp till about 11am the morning. I hope David and Fred see Dublin before I do.


So before I left Italy I called into the Cathedral in Bari where St. Nickolas is buried and thanked him for the best present of my life-the little blue bicycle I got when I was 6 years old. Then I hopped on the overnight ferry to Greece. Country No 7 greeted me with open arms. Within an hour of arriving, I was blown away by everything.-The welcoming waves and hoots of horns from passing vehicles, the scenery,the mountains, the food and the all important great surface on the empty roads, And everyone I met was so friendly and welcoming.I was sitting on a park bench at the top of a hill admiring the coastal scenery when I spotted another touring cyclist coming up the hill and heading in the same direction as me. Charlie from Austria was a giant of a man and is 1 week into his 3 week trip of Greece. We got some lunch and made our way towards Preveza. Considering you can get a twin room for the price of two hostel dorms and Charlie had no tent , we went looking for a cheap hotel. The paint was peeling off the walls in Hotel Avra and considering it didn't boast any stars, it seemed within budget. We hit the town with vast quantities of food and even vaster quantities of ouzos(the local drink). Ouzo is great fun on the night of consumption but an utter torment the following morning. All plans of leaving Preveza the next morning were abandoned. Instead Charlie decided to get an new tattoo. We went for breakfast at lunch time,lunch at dinner time and dinner at 10pm. We were wandering around town after midnight , when we came upon a punk/metal venue with a kicking band on stage. This seemed to be one of those 'Greek Only' clubs. We managed to slip past the steep 15 euro entrance fee and were the only two non-Greeks in this club. We decided on 2 things;
1. No Ouzos!!
2. We'll keep a low profile.
I'm not too sure what Charlie's interpretation of a low profile is,but he quickly had the shirt off and was hopping around the dance floor like he was been electrocuted. More people were amused with the 6ft tourist with the shaven head (apart from pony tail and locks) and about 10 facial piercing and covered in tattoos than what was happening on stage. The after gig DJ had everything from the 'Dead Kennedys' to the 'Sex Pistols' coming through the speakers. We jumped around like crazy. At least we had no Ouzos!!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

DAY 83

We finally crossed Italy and I'm camped up on the east coast next to the Adriatic sea. I'm only 25kms from Bari and from here, I'll get a ferry on to the next country. This is my seventh night in a row of sleeping in bushcamps, so I'm quite looking forward to rolling into Bari (the locals will probably smell me before they see me-running water is way better than babywipes). The past week has the legs a little stiff, but not uncomfortably sore. They wouldn't want to be sore- The mountains in Greece are twice the height of these in Central Italy. Last night I camped in the middle of a giant meadow. Today was a glorious day of downhill free-wheeling with the wind at my back through a region similar to the burren in Clare. It even had a few dolmens, loads of beehive huts and stone walls everywhere.And also got to visit an Unesco world heritage site- Castel del Monte. By 11am tomorrow I should be in Bari. I'm in bad need of a shower,a plug socket,wi-fi and a ferry heading south east. I dont know where yet. It depends when they are leaving. I'll go to Albania,Corfu or somewhere in Greece. I just need to head south east (the opposite direction to Ireland)

DAY 82

Tonights accommodation has no roof, but the best of views. I'm camped in the remains of a derelict house in what seems like a village abandoned hundreds of years ago. This place reminds me of the abandoned famine villages on Achill Island and Co. Donegal. Todays road summited at about 950metres. Thats not far off Irelands highest peak,Carantoohill, though theres no roads up there. We're crossing Italy from West to East and I reckon we're over the worst of the mountains now. So tomorrows diary should all about the downhill.-I hope tomorrows diary is all about the downhill.