Greek coffee and tons of mosquitoes

August 8, 2017 0 By teveve

Balkans cycling trip, Day 30

The day starts with a romantic ferry trip and breakfast in a forgotten village. Then we finally cross the border and arrive in Greece! Roadside dinner, mosquitoes attack us and we take a shower under the stars on our 30th day.
4 August 2017: Ksamil – Igoumenitsa (Greece)
Distance: 65 km
Total distance: 1438 km

Rural idyll near Butrint

Our last night in Ksamil was anything but ideal. Two groups of guests arrived at the campsite around midnight and it took them nearly an hour to to put up the two simple tents. Then, when we were trying to go back to sleep, one of them started to snore like a freight train. In the end I got fed up and woke him with a well-targetted kick in the ass. By then it was 2 am and we had precious little time left to sleep.

 

After such a night we couldn’t wake up as early as we planned and we were still sipping our free ice coffees at 7. We had three more hours of pleasant weather and tried to make the most of it. This part of Albania is pretty flat so we advanced fast and reached Butrint in ten minutes. The view of the hill with the Byzantine town and the surrounding agricultural land was beautiful from the road. And it was fun to cross the canal on the little ferry we only saw from the pier in 2009.

The canal with the hill of Butrint on the left

The canal with the hill of Butrint on the left

Anita and Aron with the Venetian fort across Butrint

Anita and Aron with the Venetian fort across Butrint

Canned fish for breakfast?

Then the road meandered a bit and our energy levels were getting low; after all, we only had that one coffee in the morning. The road goes past Xarrë, a sleepy village on a small hill. We thought it could be a good place to have a bite to eat. The local foodstore had fresh bread and one type of canned fish and we could eat on the terrace of the central bar.

Grazing sheep near Butrint

Grazing sheep near Butrint

We said goodbye to the kind bar owner, a heavily built middle-aged lady, and the local kids who gathered to check out our bikes. We rode past pretty Mursi, situated by a small lake, and from Shkallë we continued on the SH97 towards the border.

Mursi and its lake

Mursi and its lake

One last glimpse of Albania from the pass

One last glimpse of Albania from the pass

On Greek land

We stopped in Konispol for our last Albanian drinks at a roadside pub, full of alcoholics. I helped the young assistant to mend the large crate where she held the watermelons. Then we started the last long uphill before the Qafe Bote pass, which is the entry to Greece. There was a huge queue of cars but we didn’t want to risk the sun stroke so we just overtook them all and in 5 minutes we were on Greek land.

On Greek land at last

On Greek land at last

After a quick photo we were back on our bicycles again and descended from the pass to the sea level and the first Greek village, Sayada. From there, I was planning to take some back roads to avoid the traffic but some of them were covered with gravel and there weren’t too many cars anyway. We could withstand the heat until we left the next village. There was a tap and some shaded benches by the road, where we stopped and spent the next 3 or 4 hours. We slept, listened to music and ate the water melon we bought at the greengrocer’s down the road.

Miniature church by the road

Instead of crosses, they have miniature churches as shrines (kandilakia) by the roads in this part of Greece.

The temperature was more bearable after 4 and we tried the minor roads again, this time with more luck. After some kilometres past olive groves and orange plantations we found ourselves under Kestrini. There we had real Greek frappe in a small bar and bought the ingredients for our dinner spaghetti in the attached shop.

A challenging evening with mosquitoes

Then we cycled towards the lagoons and the sea, suspiciously watched by the grazing cows and the enormous stray dogs, which were too lazy to run after us, fortunately. There is a long strip of sandy beaches next to Igoumenitsa (Drepano Beach), the city from where the ferries go to Corfu. I thought it was probably possible to sleep there somewhere behind the bushes when the people have gone home. 

The lagoon in the evening. Beautiful but full of mosquitoes...

The lagoon in the evening. Beautiful but full of mosquitoes…

It was good to see that there were some free showers but the beach was full even after 8 and we were dirty and hungry. In the end we looked for a quiet place on a hill to cook our dinner, hoping the place would be deserted by the time we returned. It was, especially because it took us much longer to get back to the sea. As we were trying to avoid the potholes in the semi darkness, I had a puncture. I changed the inner tube as fast as I could but we were under constant attack by fierce mosquitoes and it was still so hot I sweated like a horse. 

Then we returned to the beach, where only two men were having a romantic chat knee-deep in the water. We had a quick shower in the moonlight (without the men) and then put up our tent in the sand. It was far from idyllic but at least we could sleep and we were away from the mosquitoes. (By the way, there is an official campsite nearby if you prefer comfort to adventure.) The next morning we had to get up early if we wanted to reach the 7 o’clock ferry to Corfu.