I’d had a nice evening in Preveza. It was an unexpected treat with an old town meeting the harbour, a lively jumble of tavernas and bars,with the air of serious yachting money sprinkled everywhere. The harbour was full of lovely boats from all over the place, I saw the flags of Australia, South Africa , Norway and Italy. There was even a swanky yacht from Skibbereen in Ireland which made me smile.
Todays planned route was about 30 miles to a town called Arta. This was actually part of a 85 mile detour,around a freshwater lagoon, all to avoid a one mile tunnel connecting Preveza to the next bit of mainland,and through which bikes were not allowed . What a pain.
Here’s the tunnel…
…and here was the diversion around it…..
So in acceptance of my tunnel fate ,my diversionary route was planned. But when I went to book my accommodation in Arta, the room I’d seen previously had disappeared (I blamed Toby Lerone) and there were no other options in this small provincial town. Time for a rethink .
I wondered whether bikes really were banned from the tunnel. Maybe I could blag it, or play the stupid foreigner card and just wing my way through, and be gone before anyone noticed 🤷🏻♂️. Was worth a try at least, and seeing I was on scene, as it were, I decided to ride up and have a look.
Hmm. Seemed pretty unequivocal to me . As I pondered, I was joined by another cycle tourist who told me glumly he’d tried the very same trick but had been greeted by flashing lights and a booming loudspeaker direction of NO BIKES NO BIKES STAND STILL before being escorted out by a tunnel person, who put his bike in the back of a yellow pick up truck and deposited him back at the start (why couldn’t he have just driven him through to the other side I wondered? )
Apparently pre COVID it was possible to ride through, waving at the cameras so the staff knew you were alive and could track you through. Like so many things though, it was a practice that hadn’t resumed and so off you go for an extra 85 miles you pesky cyclists.
I thought it worth one last try and rode back into the town to find a taxi rank . A queue of taxis were waiting for business and once I’d explained what I was after, it became a matter of national pride to fit my large bike into the smallest of taxis. My cheery cabbie was happy to help, I think doing his bit for the resistance and railing against the “is stupid, crazy stupid Greek Government” that had banned bikes from the tunnel in the first place .
It was an absurdly short drive through in the end, and in typical Greek fashion, there was a turning space before the exit toll booths so my taxi friend could just spin round and go back without further cost. I unloaded the bike and he refused to take any payment, saying “sorry sorry ,Government bad,Greek people good”. Which they certainly were
This though left me with some pretty radical route amendments to make. By now it was mid afternoon and so I decided to head for Palairos, another coastal village about twenty miles away .
But by the time I got to Vonitsa at halfway, I was feeling pretty rough. Stomach cramps, jelly legs and pouring with cold sweats, I think the late start, lack of fluids and unrelenting heat had given me an old fashioned dose of heat exhaustion. It took me by surprise because I’d been super diligent about drinking but I think the fragmented nature of this day in particular just caught me out .
I tried a restorative Coke and set off from Vonitsa, telling myself I only had ten miles to go. Sadly my mind was writing cheques my body couldn’t cash and after fifteen inglorious minutes where I revisited my breakfast at the roadside, I decided I couldn’t go any further .
A stroke of luck found me a cheap and cheerful hotel (Hotel Pegasus) literally about five minutes away, Vonitsa (or more accurately I suppose, Vomitsa 😊) being a seaside place . The kindly old gent on reception patiently and unhurriedly explained everything to me while I was internally reliving that scene from the film Bridesmaids and willing him to Just. Hurry. Up. If you know, you know .
I crawled into bed at about 4pm and slept for 16 hours solid . In the morning, feeling 100% better, I realised this was a really nice little fishing village, with a small queue at the harbour to a woman selling fish straight from a boat and weighing octopus on scales on the floor. I wish I’d seen more of it.
I didn’t have the energy to change my plans again and so I decided to just finish my route from yesterday, meaning an easy ten miles into Palairos. More yachts, more tavernas, and a surprisingly large British contingent. They either didn’t realise or didn’t care I was English as they held court in the main village bar, loudly monopolising the peace and quiet of this sleepy place -Roger was apparently having some trouble with his anchor and no,that’s not rhyming slang.
Tonight’s accommodation was so weird. An entire three bedroomed apartment that wasn’t furnished as a holiday let but as someone’s actual home . More accurately, the home of an old couple who had recently died. Called Samara House, it had a distinct air of probate around it, with family photos and ornaments still in evidence, and it felt really quite spooky to be there .
Still,as ever it was cheap,if not especially cheerful, and it served a purpose. And I had a delicious lamb kleftiko by the waterfront, confirming my recovery from yesterday was complete.