Waking up at 630, after a night of dogs barking, I realised that since we were in Greece, the clocks had gone forward and so it was now 730. Well, bollocks, already lost an hour. Informed Ryan of this news, and we broke camp as fast as possible, eating some oranges and sharing an apple before heading off in the direction of FIliates. That first hill coming out of Sagiada was hell. My legs, already hurting from Llogara and the rest of Albania were not functioning properly, and I actually checked to see if I had a puncture, I was that confused at how slow I was going.
Almost two hours later, we arrived in Filiates – a measly 12km away from Sagiada. Taking stock of our speed, and the condition of our legs, I began to get a little concerned about how long it would take us to get to Ioannina. I thought that worst comes to the worst, it would take us another two nights to get there, so we loaded up on a couple loaves of bread and some extra ham’n’cheese. Munching on some turkish delight and a pot of greek yoghurt, I pored over the map, trying to decide whether to take the E92 or the main motorway. Finishing my food left me no better equipped to make the decision so I decided screw it, let’s take the scenic route, even if it takes a lot longer. Well, it was a good decision.
From Filiates to where we camped, we basically had two monster hills to climb. The first, between Filiates and Neraida, wasn’t too bad and we stopped for a spot of lunch at the top of it before making our way down. The downhill, leading right into a nice flat valley, was beautiful and made me dream that the rest of the day would be like that. However, the second hill happened. From Neraida to where we are camped, a little village called Agios Georgios, it was just one big hill. It took us at least three hours, at a slow climb, to make it to the top, and fifteen minutes to come down the other side. Although it sounds like a hard day, it was actually one of my favourite days so far. We absolutely nailed the dog problem that a lot of people complain about. Any time we see a dog, we get off, talk at it as we walk past, then jump back on the bikes and move on. We only had one dog, out of at least twelve that even barked at us, most of them just raised their head then put them down as soon as we passed.
Coupled with smashing the dog problem, we met two lovely people. The first, a Greek guy called Chris, stopped when I was climbing the second hill to warn me about ice on the roads. We got to talking (him being a cyclist) and we told him all about our adventures. I was still chatting to him when Ryan pulled up ten minutes later and we had a great conversation about cycling and the world and things. He’d rafted down the Kalamas river, before rafting was even a word in Greek, and went to university in Bradford so his English was impeccable.
The other person we met was a shepherd called Harry. Just as I’d dropped our bags and was about to get the tent set up, I spotted two dogs come along the road towards us. Bike warning mode – engaged. As soon as I noticed them, a small herd of sheep, led by a shepherd carrying an axe and a crook, followed them around the corner. We wandered over to say hello, and his dogs were just adorable. I love a good dog at the best, and worst, of times, and so within seconds I was play-fighting with Bilbilly, the male, and scratching Lucy, the female, behind the ears. I was in heaven. These were the terrifying sheepdogs I had been worried about and people had been warning us about – telling us to make sure we had a stick or a rock to hit them with – and they were total sweethearts, all wagging tails and playfulness.
We talked with Harry, the shepherd, for a little while before his dogs bolted off to catch a squirrel or something, and he soon walked off after them, shouting ‘Ella, Ella’ – I think greek for ‘Come’. We had about forty minutes of daylight, so spent it doing some bike maintenance and getting camp all in order before getting some dinner and turning in. Only got about halfway between Filiates and Ioannina today, which is a disappointment, but we couldn’t have really cycled any harder, so fingers crossed tomorrow will be less strenuous and we can ge some distance down. Think we need a good rest day to get our legs back to normal, as by the time we get to Ioannina we’ll have had four days of constant climbing.