Dayb13 - Grevena - Kastoria
It’s hard to believe that it is Day 13 of our Ride with the Gods cycling tour in Greece. Today, our 10th ride day, was our first full day in the Macedonia region. It was a bit chilly and damp when we rolled out of our hotel in Grevena. The first kilometer was downhill and then instantly we began our first climb. Many of us discussed making today an “active recovery” day, not pushing too hard and just enjoying the ride. I took this quite seriously and kept my head down, not trying to follow anyone’s wheel and tried to keep my heart rate under control. We had 6 climbs and some amazing descents, first through green farmland, over a ridge and into a valley that is in a rainshadow. When I saw the grapes, “golden” hills and windmills, I thought I had been transported back to California. It was uncanny!
We passed a lot of archeological sites, but most were 10s of km from the main road and with an 80 km day (50 miles) none of us stopped!! Much of the ride was rolling up and down. At 48 km (nearly 30 miles) we all stopped for a break in the town of Neapoli. Steven, our tour organizer, provided donuts (which all of us swear we never eat but all inhaled!) Rather than a coffee I had a Coke classic (no fake sugar!) which really helps me on long warm rides. I saw my backpack in the trailer and climbed up to grab the Voltaren to rub into my sore quads. It made a huge difference!! I’m definitely putting it on in the morning!
We had only two more climbs after Neapoli (both of which averaged 3%) and then we rolled up and down the final 20 km, much of it along a mountain ridge on the old national road, into Kastoria (into a headwind of course!) There were a lot of signs for wildlife, including bear and wolves, but we saw neither, just more dogs!
Kastoria is an interesting and charming city. They have been a fur producer in Greece dating back to the 14th century when they produced ermine pelts for the robes of Byzantine royalty. Of course today fur is frowned upon in much of the world and this has been hard on the town’s economy. They do have mink farms (in fact a few of the riders spotted a mink on the road) however the businesses have been propped up by the government as the market has nearly collapsed.
The old city sits on Lake Kastoria and we are just a block from the lake in the cobble stone streets of the old part of the city. We had a lovely dinner in the town square, which was quite lively with lots of people and children playing. It was a lovely end to another challenging riding day in the mountains - 80.8 km (50.2 miles) and 1011 m (3317’) of climbing.
Tomorrow we have another challenging climbing day that will take us to Nymfaio, one of the highest mountain villages in the Pindus mountains, where we will have a chance to visit the bear sanctuary!