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Operation Bike Boxes – the end of the journey



The remainder of our time in Greece was spent dotting between Milos and the islands of Serifos and Sifnos. We had been advised that Serifos would be the quieter of the two, but on arrival at the campsite, which resembled a battery cage for hens with tents literally touching one another, it became apparent that this was not the case. The beach was beautiful, as was the town, but the high winds and partying of our neighbours made getting a good night’s sleep difficult. Thankfully Sifnos was a lot more relaxed. We stayed at a lovely (still busy) campsite right behind the port and spent our days wondering around and exploring the island. Sadly, the ferry pulled in as the sun set on our last night of island hopping and we boarded it to return to Milos where we had to wait until midnight for our ferry to Athens.


The Island of Serifos


Tiny church on the Island of Sifnos


Yummy treats at a farm on Sifnos

Visiting a farm on Sifnos

We decided to pass the time with a visit to our favourite taverna in town, where we knocked back copious amounts of wine to aid our sleep on the boat that night. Unfortunately, as we rode up to the port at 11:30 (wobbling around) it became apparent that the ferry was going to be a little late. Clearly, we decided that this was a perfect excuse to crack open the bottle of local wine from the back of the bike that we had purchased to take to Athens. What followed was a wine fueled dance fest on the end of the harbor, much to the amusement of any passers by, but we truly did not care. We were high on life and making the most of our last night of adventuring and what fun we had…until the boat eventually arrived at 1am and we found ourselves lying on the floor for the next 5 hours.

Having a great old time!

Having a great old time!

At sunrise I awoke; dehydrated with carpet mouth and no idea where I was as we pulled into the port at Athens. A word of advice to anyone travelling with bikes on trains through Athens, don’t do it with a hangover! The next few hours were hellish!

We somehow managed to ride to the train station where we basically rammed ourselves and our bikes into the tiniest space possible. This was interesting enough, but we needed to change stations and I had never realised how difficult maneuvering a packed bike up and and down escalators was!

Eventually, hours of being squashed like sardines in a hot tin, we made it to the airport. We had been prepared for a nightmare for our last night in Athens due to needing to pack the bikes up. The reason we flew out of Athens was so that we would be able to visit a bike shop and purchase/get a used bike box like the ones we had used to travel over here. However, after many phone calls to numerous bike shops in the city over the past few days, it had become apparent that this was not going to be an easy task. Due to the economic situation in the country; people hadn’t been able to afford bikes and so there was a lack of empty boxes in the shops. Added to this, none of them sold bike bags or boxes. Our airline stipulated that the bikes had to be in a bike box and were not allowed in one of the clear bike bags we had heard about, so we were beginning to panic. If we stayed in the city that would allow us to search out some shops, but it would also mean having to drag our bikes in boxes to the airport in the morning. This was not going to be easy: the flight was too early for the train so we would have to get a taxi, which would cost a small fortune if we wanted to get the bikes in.

So I thought it would be best to stay near the airport. Knowing that we had the box dilemma I decided to book us into the Sofitel (much to Andy’s distaste). My thinking was that for only $50 more than other hotels, we were right at the gate and were in a situation where the hotel staff would have to help us out! The day before arrival they had, however, advised me that they wouldn’t be able to help and that we could wrap the bikes at the terminal (effectively in cling film). This was not going to work. My vision was that we would get hold of as many boxes as we could and somehow fashion 2 bike boxes out of them. Andy was ever dubious, but went along with it even buying some brown tape to help with the process.

After numerous discussions with the front desk, who were not very keen to assist us and denied the existence of any boxes in the whole building, one of the concierge guys pulled me to the side and asked me to head on down to the basement storage with him We headed to the rubbish dump of the hotel where he showed me a box that had stored a bed! “Would this work?” He asked.

“Perfect!” I responded, almost kissing him with gratitude.

Now if I’d have known the hardship that was to follow I probably wouldn’t have been so overexcited. We took the belongings to the room, moved the furniture all over the place and began Operation Bike Boxes. Using only a Swiss army knife (resourceful) we managed to cut the box in a million pieces and then somehow cobbled together something that fitted a bike, watched youtube clips on how to disassemble the bikes to make safe to travel, and packed them inside with various bits and pieces we could stuff inside that would provide extra support. This only took 4 hours…per bike! It looked like we were going to get room service but 20+ euros for a spag bol was just taking the biscuit, so I went over to the terminal to get a take away. It wasn’t exactly the romantic 5* hotel experience one would have imagined, but by midnight we had done it! The bikes were in boxes, well bits of cardboard in some kind of cuboid shape, and the bags were packed.

A few hours later we woke up, headed to the terminal and then paid $10 for our bikes to get wrapped in cling film (our only guaranteed way that the check in desk would not notice our boxes were homemade and falling to pieces). We then proceeded to check-in. It worked! It was such a relief. Days had been spent dreading this moment (funny how the smallest things stress you out when you’re so relaxed).

I don’t know what advice I would give to anyone doing something similar. Heading on a cycle touring trip when you depart from a different destination from arrival limits the option to keep a box/bike bag in storage so check you can get hold of one beforehand. Perhaps the best piece of advice, one I wish I had offered myself, is to make sure you know how to ride a bike, at least with enough confidence and fitness to cover the expected distances! Hey…it was an adventure for sure and the constant changes and unexpected surprises along the way just mirrored life and the beauty of the journey. Freeing ourselves up to change course whenever it felt right was so liberating and, well we got there in the end!


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