This post is part of the seven part series Eurovelo. To see more from this series check the series index.
I felt ruined as we were greeted by the warm mediterranean breeze at Thessaloniki Internal Airport. I’d had less than three hours “sleep” the previous night at Glasgow Airport while armed security guards walked around us and bright spot-lights shone down from above. Trying to sleep at an airport is not an enjoyable experience, but it would be worth it for the upcoming six weeks of adventure.
We were both apprehensive as we waited at security for our passports to be checked. We grabbed the least-broken looking trolley to put our abnormally big load on – two large bike boxes and two bundles of duct-taped together panniers – before taking it outside to inspect. The boxes had clearly been handled roughly, but it was the state of their contents that counted.
After the logistical nightmare of finding doors big enough for our trolley to fit through we found a sheltered area and started hacking away at the tape on the bundle with my panniers in. If we could just reach my Leatherman opening the other packages would be so much easier; over the next two hours everything slowly took shape as we began to build the bikes back up, preying that there wouldn’t be any damage to either of them. Both of them went together with nothing worse than having to re-bend a few fenders back into shape.
Pedalling away now we had six weeks on the road ahead of us for our Eurovelo charity expedition. This wasn’t the first tour for Max or I, we completed the infamous John O’ Groats to Lands End cycle a few years ago, but this was different: it was further, foreign, and I was on an entirely new setup. It was unknown. Still though, we had our route already plotted out on the GPS – or so we thought – until we discovered the GPS has been reset during the journey1.
Shakily, and after a few wrong-turns, we found our way to the hotel where we’d be spending our first night in Thessaloniki city – the adventure was underway. Over the next six weeks we would find ourselves traversing mountain passes, cruising long valley floors and sweltering in searing heat as we passed through sixteen countries on our expedition: Greece, Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The 4000km (2500mile) route was all in aid of Mountain Rescue England and Wales, Oxfam Syria Refugee Appeal, and the Shekinah Mission.
Despite all our preparation – our time spent researching and plotting routes – we had to make deviations. Some parts weren’t safe due to the local weather conditions at the time, some were for road blocks, and some were simply to find food, water or accommodation. Despite this, the deviations to our route were relatively minor.
We had the support of a few organisations, without which this trip would have been much more difficult: Solar Technology International, Plymouth University, and Lyon Distribution all supported us and helped us reach the end of the journey by assisting in the financial burdens or by providing us with high-quality gear we’d require to reach the end of the trip.
Writing this now it’s safe to say we’re both glad to stop, if only briefly, and recover a little; 4000km on a bike with a 40kg load takes it’s toll on you. Still though, I’m already itching to get out on the next adventure, to start taking photos again just days after stopping and to get back into the mountains.
As mentioned, we made some minor alterations to the route on the go; the map below shows our final route while you can see the planned route in the Eurovelo Introduction. Our final distance was just over 4000km (2500 miles).
Pro tip: take the batteries out of all electronic devices before packing ↩
More from the Eurovelo series
This post is part of the seven part series Eurovelo. This series is not yet complete; the published parts are:
- Eurovelo: A charity cycle expedition across Europe.
- Eurovelo: Arriving in Thessaloniki: The start of the adventure as we arrive in Thessaloniki, Greece and build the bikes before getting underway
- Eurovelo: Diesel and Dust: From the dust and fumes of Thessaloniki to the remote plains of northern Greece.
- Eurovelo: Into the Storm: Cycling from Bitola, Macedonia to Skopje, Macedonia though the mountains.
- Eurovelo: Kosovo: Cycling through Kosovo
- Eurovelo: Bad Roads and Big Diversions: Resuming the story of Eurovelo after crossing the border from Kosovo into Albania.
- Eurovelo: Montenegro: The story of a brief traverse across Montenegro from Albania to Croatia.