Bikes on a Bus

Trip Start May 22, 2009
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Trip End Feb 16, 2010


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Friday, November 20, 2009

Well, they’ve been on planes, boats, trains and cars.  High time they traveled on a bus!

Going down to Monemvasia was an area I wanted to explore, but a risky venture.  Easy enough to get into, but not so easy to get out of - at least considering our onward trajectory.  A few roads head north, but get lost among the craggy shoreline and stop.  A few go up mountainsides to insane little towns and then stop.  A few others move inland and take bizarre twists and turns trying to navigate a way through the mountains. It would have been tough cycling with no campgrounds and little or no villages to pass through either.  Running out of time on the Visa, I started exploring other options. 

The most obvious is boat.  In summer, they skirt up and down the coast linking otherwise inaccessible villages and transporting people easily and quickly to the busier centers like Athens.  However, in this little town the boats are unreliable in summer, and unheard of it winter.  I had hoped to jump up the coast aways and get somewhere to explore for our last remaining days in Greece rather than cycle in pain!

But even without boats, there are still busses so all was not lost.  Boarding the bus required removing all the bags from the bikes and taking off the front tires.  But there were only 3 of us on the bus, so space wasn’t an issue.  Our ticket would get us to north to Tripoli, and from there we would catch another bus east to Naphilo.  Little did we know that the ride to Tripoli would requite changing busses 3 times before arrival. 

When we finally did arrive, it was to be dumped off on the side of the road into a wild her of taxi drivers ready to strike.  Without the main bus station, I bounced around between local bus stations (which didn’t go to Naphlio) and train stations (which only went to Argos) while taxi drivers offered to take us where we wanted to go and Brian re-assembled the bikes.  Thankfully many people were friendly and helped to guide me down the road to the main bus depot where there was a bus to Naphlio.

Finding the right bus was the next challenge.  A station crammed with about 9 or 10 busses and people everywhere.  We wanted to find the bus early enough so we had time to load all the bike stuff on.  But we could not find the bus.  Half of the busses didn’t have numbers.  The other half had signs in the windows of their destination (that is IF the driver remembered to change it from his last route).  Strange words yelling at us over the loudspeakers were of little help either.  Wandering from bus to bus and driver to driver asking ‘Naphlio?’ did little to help as they all shook their heads!  But we weren’t crazy, our bus was just late.  So on we jump and off we go.  Not sure why I felt that this would be easier than cycling…

Observing traffic, we thought that moped drivers thought that they were the most important things on the road.  But bus drivers feel they are even more important than moped drivers.  Horns would honk whenever they approached a vehicle from behind.  If the car didn’t peel of the road to let the bus pass, they would slam on their brakes and honk and honk until they could pass. 

I must sympathize a bit.  Driving a bus on these roads can’t be an easy job.  Winding through the mountains on an oversized luxury bus where there’s barely room for 2 lanes of traffic, 100 foot drops with no guardrails, and hairpin turns must be hair-raising.  Reading a map, the roads look like intestines all bunched up on one another trying to make their way. 

For one stop, the bus had to drop down off the main road to get to a little town.  On the ascent back up, it actually got stuck on a hairpin turn.  The pitch of the road was so steep that the front end of the bus ground into the pavement.  Couldn’t move back or the rear could get stuck. 

Sat for awhile while the driver got out and took some photos with his phone and then made some very important phone calls.  An elderly couple got off and started walking the rest of the way home.  A bunch of teenagers loaded into a truck going by and the man got to play ‘bus driver’ taking them to their destinations.  I guess with the decreased weight everything was alright as the driver jumped in and continued on as if nothing had happened in the first place. 

Loading up the bikes in Naphlio caused many strange looks, but we were eventually on our way.  Trying to navigate roads in a new city without a map and find the obscure campgrounds on my map.  But this is the type of travel we’re at least used to.  And with only one wrong turn (up a 15% grade hill) we were finally on the right trace and ‘home’ for the night.


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