DAY 6 ASTAKOS - LEFKADA
Day 6 of our cycling tour in Greece, Ride with the Gods, is now a wrap. With our 5th day of cycling complete we have already completed nearly 340 km (210 miles) since the tour began. I am so glad tomorrow is a rest/touring day!
We all rolled out from the seaside town of Astakos early today (between 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.) as the weather forcast was showing thunderstorms and everyone wanted to arrive before the rains. We climbed up to the coastal road and once again enjoyed the rolling terrain of the coast with stunning views of islands and mountains. The landscape was mainly farms with sheep and goats (and a few loose cows along the road), and some villages with fish farms and and recreation sites for water skiing, windsurfing and sailing.
As we rolled toward our first stop, the seaside village of Mytikas, we encountered a herd of sheep on the road. The Shepard was calling them by speaking “sheep”. His “baaa” was a good as theirs!
There were campers parked along the bay in Mytikas, and small sailing boats. We did a brief stop for a drink and then continued up and down along the coast following the Bay of Ormos Palairou. We went through the town of Palairos which had lots of homes (Ionian villas for sale), small cafes and even a “yacht club”.
Just before our last two climbs out of Palairos we happened upon our tour organizer Steven who was serving leftover stuffed peppers, along with some bars and bananas. Knowing what was ahead I grabbed a banana and began the first of the two final climbs of the day. The first was only 900m (0.5 mi) and though it averaged 4% it had a short pitch of 10%. Then we had a respite of 1 km with a small 2-3% grade before tackling the final climb of the day. It was EPIC - 6.5 km in length (4 mi) with extended sections at 13%. I was so grateful for my new gravel gearing. The road was not in the best of condition (it is a small single track country road with rough paving and lots of holes.) There were a few goats out and even 2 puppies sleeping in the road. Farms lined both sides of the road and evidence of livestock was rampant!
I finally reached the summit and immediately began rolling down the west side, grateful we had climbed up the other as this was even steeper! About 1/2 way down we encountered the abandoned village of Palia Plagia, destroyed by an earthquake on October 29, 1966. Though only magnitude 5.9 the only things left standing were the two churches that bracketed the village, and the main fountain. Due to the report of vicious dogs I didn’t do much exploring but I did stop to take photos of the unreinforced masonry/stone buildings (once a seismologist always a seismologist!)
I then continued rolling down, passing the Agia Mavra castle and fort crossing the causeway to Lefkada, on the island of Lefkas where we are staying for two nights. The castle was built by the Sicilian governor at the end of the 13th century to protect the island from pirates (at that time there was a land bridge/isthmus between the mainland and the island. During the 15th century it was taken over by the Ottomans who built a mosque on the site. In the 17th century it was taken over by the Venetians and the island became a Venetian province.
I did stop on the causeway as there were more flamingos in the water. They make a hilarious “quacking” type noise. Then it was into the hotel and feet up! After 79 km (49 miles) and over 1000 m (3450’) of climbing today I’m ready for a day off the bike. With thunderstorms predicted for tomorrow I’m not sure how much touring I will do.
We were all supposed to take a cruise around the island and so some swimming and snorkeling but with the bad weather rolling in our excursion was sadly cancelled. I guess I need to return!