Oct 062011

(Photos at the bottom of post.)

September 29, 2011 (Day 9)
Itinerary: CycleGreece Day 6, bike from Lampei to Kalavrita with a lunch stop and tour of Cave of the Lakes, dinner in Kalavrita

Bike Data:
Trip odometer: 46.4 miles
Moving time: 4hrs 22 min
Max speed: 40.5mph
Max elevation: 3389 feet
Min elevation:  1489 feet
Weather: cold morning around 60, warm to 85 at lunch, cooler 75 at end

We got a nice early start to the morning waking up at 6:30am for a 7am breakfast.  It’s a longer day of cycling with lots of climbs, so we want to make sure we have time for it all.  Breakfast at Hotel Lampei Ori could have used a piece of fruit in addition to the breads, but the egg, fresh from the chicken out back was the perfect addition to this small town breakfast.

Brrrr, it is another cold mountain morning out!  Today both Mark and I were happy for our bike sleeves as the start of the ride was all in the shade.  The profile of today’s ride shows most of the first part of the ride as a series of small ups and downs as we ride the ridge-line of the mountains and then a huge climb at the very end.  We aren’t so sure about that climb at the end, but we’ll see how we feel when we get there.

For  now, the slight downhill at the start of the ride felt great, though it was chilly.  The pavement has been pretty smooth every day and today was the first day we felt anything close to the chip-seal pavement we have in Houston.  The scenery was superb as usual for Greece and our group split up pretty fast according to biking ability.  Pete, the driver of our support van has started learning all of our cycling styles and he does a combination of driving ahead a-ways and then waiting for us to bike past in case we need any water or snacks.  He’s fun to watch in the driver’s seat as he bops his head to all the tunes he’s playing in the van.  Sometimes I wish he would blare the music more for us to hear it, but other times I’m happy for the quiet mountain air.

We reached the climbing portion of our ride too soon and it was time to start climbing up to an area called Cave of Lakes.  Ooof, what a climb it was too!  There were some steep sections that made us feel as if we were going straight up into the air, and we had to stop at almost every switchback to catch  our breath.  We keep wondering how long we’d have to spend cycling in Colorado before we can be used to this climbing stuff.

The Cave of Lakes was 1/4 of the way up our big  mountain climb after about 5km and we were so happy to stop since the headwinds had picked up in addition to the climbing.   The Cave of the Lakes was a limestone cave made famous for it’s series of underground lakes deep inside the cave.  No photography of course.  Apparently  most of the underground lakes are visible in the winter and now in the summer they are mostly dry.  However, we were very impressed by the drapery formations in the limestone.  They cave seemed to have almost exclusively draperies instead of the typical stalagmites and stalactites.  Our guide spoke only Greek, but we had Pete with us to translate and the tour was impressive.

Outside we were greeted once again by the shop owner who started setting all kinds of foods on the table for lunch.  He always told us that it was on the house if we didn’t like it, but of course we loved everything he brought out.  We never ordered any food, we just ate what came.   For dessert, he brought out spoon candies which were little fruits and nuts candied and placed on a spoon.  It was very interesting and very sweet as well.  They also had homemade honey in the shop that we sampled throughout lunch.

After lunch it was time to roll out and climb the rest of the mountain!  We had about 9km of mountain to climb and the winds picked up to the point of nearly blowing me over when I was standing still.  So you can imagine why we had to stop ever 0.1km on some of the headwind portions of the switchbacks.  But the switchbacks with a tailwind were amazingly easy!  I thought we would never make it up the mountain with all that crazy wind, but somehow we made it to the top and celebrated our victory with high fives and photo ops.  From here on it is straight down the mountain into Kalavrita!

The downhill was thrilling!  Possibly more thrilling than the downhill along the Lousios Gorge, but also more technical as with the crosswinds and tight switchbacks, we had to brake a lot.  Just before we hit Kalavrita, we stopped at a WWII massacre memorial.  You can read more about the massacre here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massacre_of_Kalavryta.  The memorial featured a large white cross on the mountain side that I’m sure would have been very prominent from down below.

In Kalavrita we found the rest of our cycling group and met up for a beer (I managed to find a stand selling chocolate milk for me.)  After beer and snacks, we walked across the street to our Kynaitha Hotel with it’s large rooms and balconies.  We were excited to see a slightly larger shower, and cleaned up for dinner.  I had every intention of using some of the 2-hour break to type up blog entries, but instead sank into the bed and slept away my free time.  =)

We found a place in Kalavrita for dinner that usually caters to banquets and receptions and the food was very good.  We  had our first taste of a garlic dip appetizer that we both fell in love with instantly.

Tomorrow is our last day of cycling, sadly.  While we can’t wait for a day of sleeping in and relaxing our sore climbing muscles, we will be sad to leave the cycling lifestyle behind.  This has been a superb way to see the Greek countryside and I’m so happy that we chose CycleGreece as our tour group.


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