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Dog Smuggling, Island Hopping, and Familiar Faces

Borba_beach_elafonisos-1

You may have noticed that we’ve been a bit lacking in content on the blog lately. One reason for this is due to the fact that we’ve been spending less time in the saddle and more time doing, well, not much at all. Over the past several weeks, we’ve been visiting with friends and family, traveling to Argentina, and reenergizing before tackling South America.

We spent our last week in Turkey waiting for paperwork for Sora in order to enter Greece (which we didn’t even end up needing). Nestling down at the Bodrum Ecofarm with lovely new friends, including several Americans who banded together to whip a Thanksgiving meal for the staff, we took a full week off from riding – the longest of our entire journey. It felt both strange not to be exercising for 6+ hours a day and wonderful to just rest.

From Bodrum, we made our way to Greece where we had dates to meet up with our friend Lisa from Alaska (now Washington) and my parents, brother, and his girlfriend, visiting from Seattle and Eastern Washington on respective points on Crete.

Our venture into Greece began with a ferry ride to the island of Kos, and included novelties such as a snapped rope thanks to the fact that the jostling of the boat rendered it impossible for the fellow on the dock to unhitch the knot, a jolty roller coaster ride over the Aegean Sea where water poured in from the bow and slithered across our feet, and me puking in the bathroom no thanks to the Dramamine I gulped before walking aboard.

Dog Smuggling

As for the paperwork we waited for in Bodrum? We didn’t even need it. Good thing we stressed about it for weeks. My family and Lisa had already purchased plane tickets to Greece and we had purchased ours out of Athens months prior. It was imperative that we make it to Greece.

So, what is one to do when they are carrying such weight and nervous that we didn’t even have the correct paperwork for Sora? Why, you hide her your pup in her trailer and don’t say a word about our furry friend inside as you pass through customs.

Either they didn’t care, didn’t want to bother a green-faced girl, or we lucked out when the customs guy stepped away from his table as we arrived, but we managed to sneak Sora into Greece without a hitch, and pedaled swiftly away to secure our escape.

Kos & Syrian Refugees

Kos is known as the cycling island of all the Greek Isles. With flat roads, few cars, and a fantastic network of cycling infrastructure, the island caters well to those of us getting around on two wheels. Given our wintertime arrival, coupled with the economic turndown, many shops and restaurants in town were shuttered and only the locals remained.

It was in Kos that we also saw our first real sign of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. On account of its close proximity to Turkey and Greece’s EU status, the refugees make their way on inflatable rafts towards Kos. Along the shores, the streets and beaches were littered with discarded life jackets, clothing, rafts bumping in the waves, and refugees lined up to register with the police. On the morning of our departure, I noticed a line of rafts containing life jackets and two shattered wooden boats bobbing in the port.

This scene finally made the crisis real to me. It seemed that we had traveled along the refugee path for so long during our tour, but had yet to see real evidence of the plight. Even surrounded constantly by the news, nothing hit me more than seeing the pieces of their stories left scattered around Kos.

Volunteering

From Kos, we took the short ferry to Rhodes, where we volunteered for a week at a Work Away in the town of Theologos with a woman who cared for four fluffy cats and five energetic dogs, all of whom stole our hearts. There, Sora got into a bit of a fight with one of the dogs who sunk his tooth into her cheek and caused several gashes in her ears. We call him Fuckin’ Alan.

Fuckin' Alan
Fuckin’ Alan (who was a very nice dog, after all).

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Boopie (the Golden) and Kiara (the Doberman)
Boopie (the Golden) and Kiara (the Doberman)
Sora and Carla went on many adventures together.
Sora and Carla went on many adventures together.

There, we helped our host sand and paint beds, tile a bedroom floor, and clean the bathrooms and kitchen. In exchange, we got a free place to stay for the week, all the animal love we could muster, and plenty of free time to run, watch movies, and explore the area.

Learning Greek Ways

As we made our way to Crete from Rhodes to meet Lisa in Sitia, our ferry experience served as an introduction to Greek culture. Instructed to arrive at the ferry terminal one hour before our departure, we cycled along the dark roads at 2AM.

With no indoor or sheltered place to wait the hour for our ferry, we walked around and around and around to stay warm. We hunkered behind our bikes to block the wind and paced back and forth like a bored snow leopard at a zoo.

And we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Ferries spotted in the distance never came our direction and the minutes ticked away. Three o’clock became three-thirty, and eventually four in the morning. There was no one there to announce the delay or whether our boat would ever arrive.

This was actually the ferry from Kos to Rhodes (which left on time). Photos from the Rhodes to Crete ferry would just show darkness.
This was actually the ferry from Kos to Rhodes (which left on time). Photos from the Rhodes to Crete ferry would just show darkness.

Finally, I found a man who worked for the ferry and he informed me that bad weather was to blame and that the boat would arrive “soon.”

Around 4:30, the boat docked and all the cars and trucks and people gathered in a disorganized mass as we all boarded at the same time the cars and people on the ferry attempted to disembark. It was a chaotic mess.

We found a spot on the ferry, assembled our camping gear, and promptly passed out until 11AM, with five hours still to go before arrival.

Friends and Family

Lisa and my family’s visits were our main reason for visiting Crete, a welcome treat after so many months without familiar faces.

Upon landing in the sleepy town of Sitia on the eastern end of Crete, we met up with Lisa and set to exploring the nearby gorge. We crossed streams and hopped over rocks and ate lunch by waterfalls. After spending seven months on a bicycle sharing the road with cars, it felt wonderful to actually get inside nature again.

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Biomimicry

A week later, we met up with my parents, brother, and his girlfriend for Christmas and New Year in Chania, where we had access to a car that could take us to far away lands like Elafonisi Beach and Agia Irini Gorge.

Elafonosos_Beach-1

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What Dave calls his “Bone Thugs n Harmony” photo á la Crossroads.

While we appreciated the ability to travel longer distances more easily, spending so much time in a vehicle made us realize a) how much faster we travel in a car, b) how nutso the drivers are, and c) how much we prefer to travel by bicycle.

On New Year’s Day, Dave and I embarked on our last ferry (which left on time) while my family flew to Athens. There, Dave and I packed and finalized some things for our journey ahead. We discovered that Athens has lovely parks for running, savvy dog owners, and fantastic falafel.

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The final kilometers of our European bike tour – pedaling the streets of Athens before everyone awakens.

We spent a lot of time hiking, running, baking, sightseeing, and eating. It was lovely to be with my family and get to know my brother’s new girlfriend (if he’s reading, she’s nice, we liked her!).

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As I publish this post, Dave, Sora, and I are in Buenos Aires for a few days before we head to Ushuaia. It’s hard to believe that we left Europe behind and arrived in South America.

In the next week or so, we will be posting statistics and favorites from our time in Europe, as well as a post about cycle touring on Crete.

Thank you for following along our adventure so far, and we hope that you continue to join us as we make our way through South America.

Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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