Thinking the dramas were all behind us now that we were heading for the Greek Isles, I was excited to leave Italy for the next part of our adventure…but that feeling was soon to fade!
We saw our ferry coming into the harbour the morning we were due to set off. We had intended on stocking up with food supplies before we left, but were limited in choice, with the campsite grocery store being the only viable option, where a tin of tuna was over 6 Euros! We used nearly all of our cash to stash up on some measly, over-priced random food goods that would have to suffice and readied the bikes for the short cycle to the ferry terminal.
Andy waited with the bikes whilst I joined the never-moving queue to check us in. After a good hour all was fine and we headed onto the ferry. Having been advised to find a spot immediately for sleeping, we could see that the best enclaves had been nabbed by the pros. We settled for the top deck, the only people it appeared who planned to do so. Once we began sailing and the wind picked up it became clear why we would be able to enjoy the luxury of the top deck to ourselves! We went in search of a new set-up and found a spot along the side filled with bodies and Thermarests.
Wanting to save some money, we decided against buying a coffee and instead lit our gas stove and began boiling some water. Andy secured a tight windproof nook on the corner of the deck and all was good until ‘Mr Jobsworth’ (one of the crew) loomed over suspiciously, unbeknownst to a rather proud of himself Andy. “What are you doing?” He bellowed. Andy spun around and after a quick scolding, the flame was extinguished, thankfully having heated the water enough for us to get a pot of coffee out of it!
Next to our ‘pitch’ was a family from Switzerland who really had thought about everything; they had a double air bed which, when the sun set and they had finished sharing their tins of cold ravioli between their 4 children, the 6 of them snuggled together on their sides like a scene from the Waltons. The simplicity and family spirit made me a little envious; how desperately I wanted to jump on the bed and snuggle in amongst them all, slotting myself in like a missing piece of the jigsaw! Instead I lay down gazing out over the sea cooled by the breeze coming over the boat side and settled down for the night.
We slept surprisingly well, considering we were right next to a door that kept being slammed shut whenever those less adventurous indoor sleepers came out for a cigarette. Andy being Andy made friends with someone within minutes of being on the boat. Our new pal was called Eric and was from Grenoble. Sharing a passion for mountain endurance activities, the two of them hit it off and chatted for hours on end. It was with sadness that we parted the next evening after 36 hours on board. The 2 of the also befriended a slightly strange man who couldn’t decide if he was Persian, Swiss or American. He reeled off stories about time in Iraq when he saved a community form extinction, whilst prancing around deck with his satnav; informing us constantly of our location. Finally, we drew into Patras; the sun was beginning to set but having checked the route on google maps, we only had a short cycle to our bed for the night…or so we thought!
It turns out that for once the Lonely Planet was right…the port at Patras has been shifted to the south of the city, around 3 miles down the road. We decided that we would ignore the old faithful blue book on account of the number of times it had let us down and would instead rely on the wonderful web. Unfortunately, having set off in what I suspected immediately was the wrong direction (given that the signs pointed the opposite way to Patras and we were pretty much cycling on a motorway that was clearly heading away from the city), I realized that my phone battery was dying and I was the only one with access to the internet and a live feed of google maps. Andy was adamant that we were on the right route, according to his screenshot from the day before, but as the city dwindled away behind us, I made my concerns known, again, and he had to conceed!
We turned off of the main road and onto a side street, aware that the light was starting to fade. Typing the hotel address into my phone we quickly realised that yes we were going the wrong way and according to the satnav would have a further half an hour of cycling to go to make it to our destination. Andy took the lead with my bleeping phone in his hand and we blindly headed off into the hub of the city.
Daylight faded away quickly and soon we were travelling along traffic filled streets with no lights. Without my glasses I was really struggling to see and was aware of the cars moving swiftly past, spotting me only at the last minute. Having increased in confidence since the last time we did a night cycle, I was quite proud of myself, until I had to make a left turn across 4 lanes of traffic and found myself lifting my bike over the central reservation when I freaked out waiting at the traffic lights for the left turn; Andy’s face said it all! He cycled off into the darkness, aware that the phone was about to die on us any minute. I shouted ahead at him to slow down so that I could keep up and to let him know I could hardly see anything. My words fell on deaf ears – onwards he pedaled until…the phone died. He was raging, apparently it was all my fault that Samsung phone batteries die if you don’t charge them and I had made a ‘poor choice’ when I opted to stare out to the ocean rather than sitting inside the ferry lounge feeding my phone with electricity.
I suggested we pull over to ask someone the directions. We stopped on a dodgy looking dark street where Andy left his bike with me and began heading to the other side of the road:
“What…you’re leaving me here on my own? What happens if I get mugged or raped??!”
Never have I seen such disdain from one person! Quite clearly he didn’t care if I did.
Having rinsed some wifi from the café over the road it turned out that we were only 2 blocks away. Silently we pedaled on.
On arrival we were welcomed by the warmest woman, so keen to make our stay a pleasant one. Despite the heavy air between us, which she surely must have noticed, she continued with her introduction; offering us a welcome drink made from local cherries, “Oh and here is a home made cookie for you each”. Nods and an acknowledging grunt came from Andy while I tried to mask everything with a smile through gritted teeth “Thank you so much”.
Just before she left the room I asked:
“I just want to check; we read online that we can take our bikes on the bus to Athens. Do you know if this is the case?”
“Oh I don’t think so no…but we can phone them in the morning to see if you like, because they are closed now”.
Great; not only did we have a 5:30am start and a night of tense silence ahead but it now looked unlikely we were going to be able to make it to catch our ferry in Athens!