Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Last Hill - May 21

We planned an overnight adventure on Zante, an island south of Kefalonia. Murry and I decided to ride our favorite scenic route around Kefalonia's north and west coast to meet the ferry. Along the way, we would change our airplane tickets to leave the island Monday night instead of Monday morning.

Each of us had bags to cart some belongings. Murray's large bag fit on his aerobars. He carried sunscreen, energy bars, a map, shoes, inner tubes, bike lock, shorts, cell phone, passports, and some personal items. My bag fit on the back of my bike and was smaller. I carried a change of clothes for me, bike jacket, the rest of Murray's clothes and my personal items. This was indeed roughing it for me. One skimpy bottle of shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb and deodorant. No makeup, no hair products.

We made good time on our ride to the airport, although we missed the turn for the airport since the road wasn't marked. We rode up and down hills until we found out destination. After changing our tickets, we found a cafe along the beach for lunch. We had not been along the southern coast, so it was fun to see how this differed from the rest of Kefolnia. We discovered orange and lemon orchards and a grassy landscape.

After our late lunch, we traveled along more hilly roads to the port out of Passada to catch our 5:30 ferry. The trip would take almost two hours. We arrived in Zante at 7:15 without a room reserved for the night, with the idea to take the road along the eastern coast until we found a place to sleep. We had ridden 46 miles on our journey to the ferry, and the last thing I wanted to do was ride a long way to find someplace to stay.

Back on the bikes and up a big hill out of the port. More hills to tackle as we headed south. Mostly, these were rolling hills, which provided some challenge but were over before my legs felt too fatigued. Then we came to a much steeper hill. I was moving rather slowly at this point. It was hot, and I was tired and out of water. We passed a man and a child in a car parked along the hill. Murray rode by him first.

"How are you doing?" the man asked.

"Tired," replied Murray.

Next, my turn. I traveled about a half mile behind, and I didn't hear the man talk to Murray.

He asked the same question: "How are you doing?"

I provided the same answer as Murray: "Tired."

By this time I was getting crabby. This was my worst nightmare - riding at nightfall in the middle of no where without a place to stay.

As we reached the top of the hill, we could see a village in the distance. It appeared to be a straight shot from our location to there.

"I predict that was the last hill," said Murray.

"I don't think so," I said.

Just as the words left my mouth, we turned the corner and there before us was the mother of all hills. It was a monster - 10% grade as we started up. But we had no choice - it was forward or sleep outside. The hill went on and on. The steep part lasted about a mile and a half and still the climb continued.

We finally saw civilization as we reached Katastari. We saw some men at a bar and asked if they knew where we could find rooms.

"Go down the hill toward the beach," the one who spoke English told us.
Down a big hill toward Alykes. There was a hotel. We stopped and asked. No room. One of the men sent us to the Brazil bar where two rooms were reputed to be available for the night. We couldn't find the bar. Murray stopped at a hotel to get directions, and he asked about a room there. There was room - thankfully. We thought we'd compare this with the room at the Brazil bar.
As the sun set, I stood on the beach, waiting for Murray to come back with a report on the room. I saw Kefalonia in the distance as the sunset warmed the scene in Zante. It was a beautiful setting, displaying the island we left behind and hinting at what was to come on our day tomorrow.

"How was the room?" I asked Murray as he returned. The rooms at the Brazil bar weren't available. This was another room at an adjacent place.
"We're not staying there. It is under construction and stank of damp."

We stayed at the Astoria Hotel. It wasn't luxurious - but we couldn't complain. 40 euros per night including breakfast. Not too bad for a place on the beach with a view of the ocean.
Total miles: 55

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