--Há uma versão em português logo abaixo--
The crossing from Italy to Greece took about 16 hours, the ferry left Brindisi around 20:00 and arrived in Patras at 13:00, local time (Greece is one hour ahead of Central European Time). I was very excited, not only because it was a new experience, the first country I wouldn't be arriving in, by bike, overland , but also because it would be my first time ever on the high seas.
People who choose this option don't care about comfort, they sleep everywhere. When I got on the ship the deck was already infested with sleeping bags and makeshift beds, outside even tents could be seen. Without a second thought I took my 5 star cabin and went to find a place to pitch it.
And because I was already almost a crew member, I decided to pitch my tent close to the bridge of the ship, not only because there were no people sleeping there, but in the event that something went wrong with the ship my tent would be a reminder of the instructions, being something like: women, children and cyclists first!
Well... at first it was OK, I was well installed in my tent, enjoying the refreshing breeze and the wonderful starry sky. After a while, when I was already napping, things started to change. What was once a refreshing breeze became a persistent wind, and when we hit the high seas that persistent wind became a hell.
At the beginning I even laughed at the situation, but when I found myself lying with my arms spread wide, holding the tent because it was shaking so much, the laughter disappeared. Being the very stubborn person that I am, it took a while to convince myself that the "refreshing breeze" wouldn't stop soon.
Arriving in Patras, I slept a night there and the day after started heading towards Athens, which was less than 250 km away.
In Patras I had a CouchSurfing host, and already staying in his house was a nice Austrian girl. She‘d been travelling through Europe by car for more than a year. And alone! For me it's always a pleasure to meet this kind of person and to share our views about the different worlds we're seeing.
The temperature was always around 35 degrees, so in the afternoon I would stop cycling and enjoy the sea. Well in Italy I did it once in such a hurry that I decided not to change out of the shorts I was wearing, thinking that because it was so hot they would dry quickly. While still in the water I started to feel something in my pocket, it was my cell phone vibrating to announce its retirement. Oh boy!!
He's from Germany and is cycling from there to Israel, where he’s taking a plane back home. We had a very similar route: leaving Rome, crossing to the other coast, taking the ferry to Greece and from Athens flying to Israel.
Even though he left Rome before me, I arrived in Athens (a few minutes) before him. He took the ferry from a different place and arrived in Greece more to the north, having to face some hilly areas as far as Athens. And from Patras to Athens I had a flat road always next to the sea.
And on this trip the major differences I have with other travellers are my low budget and my policy of saving money. Rule number 1 on this trip is never pay to sleep, even in campsites. When I can't find a CouchSurfing host (if you don't know what CouchSurfing is click here) I try to sleep in a church, if I can't find a place to sleep with the church staff then I camp. In these 13 weeks, I only paid on my first day, because there were already so many uncertainties starting this type of trip, and I didn't want one more, so I had a bed and breakfast booked, but on my second day I already knew the ropes, so my tent was waiting for me. And when I left Prague, due to the floods and the ensuing situation, for safety I paid to camp in a campsite.
In the same neighbourhood I found an Orthodox Church. After some problems communicating, they allowed me to camp in the garden, since they didn't have a place where I could sleep or even have a shower.
I had a garden hose shower and after getting my tent and things ready, I went to eat something. Fortunately the place had WiFi, so I read my host's message and explained to him what had happen saying that it was OK, I'd be camping at a church that night and the day after I'd go to his house.
I can say for sure that this is the most kind and generous host you will ever find on CouchSurfing. At the same time he was also hosting two French guys, and when he left to go on holiday two days ago, he told us we could stay in his apartment for as long as we needed to. That was not only very kind but also very unusual for the world we live in today.
I was planning to stay one more week in Greece, maybe even visit other islands, but the price of the ticket would double if I didn't catch the cheap one I found for tonight.
Unfortunately this didn't leave much time to spend in wonderful Greece, but at least I managed to spend some time in Athens, visited the Acropolis (a mandatory stop) cycled around the city and spent some hours on a bus tour.
So today I say good bye not only to Greece but also to Europe. This is the end of the European stage of this adventure. Tomorrow I start the most challenging part of my journey: the Middle East.
And I'm very excited, as I wrote here on my first post, the Middle East was what gave me the idea for this trip, so here we go!
There'll be no need for me to be scared about things that are not out there waiting for me. What must happen, will happen, it's always been like that. And I know I have the companionship and protection of THE great Friend, and also the support of nice friends and people that are travelling with me via the internet.