Day 12 Metsovo - Grevena
We should have known that the descent yesterday afternoon into Metsovo meant climbing out today as we began day 12 of the Greece “Ride with the Gods” (our 9th ride). Starting uphill, on cobbles, for our first 7.2 km (4.5 miles) and climbing 335m (nearly 1100’) on cold legs was a challenging way to start our day! The ride rolled up past one of the ski resorts, further into the Pindus mountains. There were numerous farms with sheep, cattle and horses grazing. We had one more serious climb before a long screaming descent along the river. There were numerous trees that were recently chopped down and being readied for milling as well as more hunters along the road. Unfortunately there were also more dogs loose on the road. On one hairpin (luckily downhill) several of us encountered a pack that gave chase. They were barking and growling chasing us. Luckily is was able to get away (though it meant I did not stop for a photo op!) One rider stopped and swung her bike around to fend off the dogs. Finally someone came and called them off. This was unnerving.
We had a wonderful stop at 30 km to learn about foraging mushrooms and enjoy a delicious homemade soup and mushroom/spinach pie. Unfortunately this required a 3.5 km (2 mile) climb to meet the naturalist/mushroom specialist. The naturalist showed us what was edible and what wasn’t. We even enjoyed a spontaneous salad made with Amanitas Caesarea that we foraged, a mushroom that Caesar prized and had his slaves pick only for his enjoyment. It was truly delicious! He only added salt, pepper, some chili flakes and olive oil. The mushrooms grow in this particular place where there are black pine, juniper and walnut trees. They tend to be hidden in tall grasses. We learned about edible and non-edible (and poisonous) species. Apparently there are also bears in this particular forest but we did not see any. The naturalist said he saw one just a little further into the forest a few weeks ago while picking wild strawberries.
After our stop we rolled back down to the main road and of course encountered yet another climb. I can say with great certainty that my legs are totally exhausted. We had several long downhills as we rolled into Macedonia and our home for the night in Grevena. Of course the hotel was up an extremely steep road to end the day (16% near the hotel).
At least tomorrow we do not start on a climb! We ended the day with 70.3 km (43.7 miles) and approximately 1150 m (about 3800’) of climbing.
The pine trees here are at lower altitude than yesterday and from the hotel we have wonderful views of the forest and farms.