I drift in and out of sleep, in a very cozy morning haze. I think I hear a truck crunching over gravel… probably Pietro off to milk his sheep. Before I drift back into unconsciousness, the thought: "so glad that's not me" crosses my mind. I roll over, and fall asleep again, tangled up with Tyler to the sound of the waves rolling in and out, in and out.
Soon I awaken again, this time to the feel of warm sunshine streaming through the walls of our tent. I smile and remember where we are. The ocean continues its perfect soundtrack, and the air is filled with the jingling of bells. Curious to see what sort of visitors we have, I unzip our vestibule door and peek my head out quietly.
Good morning, ladies!
I rouse Tyler and point him, bleary-eyed, through the peep hole I've made. He smiles and we begin our morning routine, him checking email to make sure nothing "blew up" with work, and me tidying up camp. We've begun talking and making noise, and the sheep suddenly realize they aren't alone. They take off in a panicked flurry of bells and baaas, as if shouting "RUN AWAY, RUN AWAY!"
We exit the tent, beginning to pack up in earnest. As I organize our belongings, rolling up our bed and stuffing it away, I feel like a Disney princess, able to talk to the animals, or at least like I'm in a morning version of Goodnight, Moon.
Good morning, free-camp! Good morning, ocean!
Good morning, little snails! How cute you look today.
Our idyllic start to the day comes to head when I spot dark clouds swiftly rolling our way. In reponse to the threat, we work as a team in double-time to get everything into our panniers and dry-bags. Camp safely stowed, we make our way over to the nearby church to eat breakfast. As we enjoy our leftover pizza, we rest easy knowing we can dash inside to stay dry if need be.
The storm never comes, and we begin wheeling our bikes up the last few gravel switchbacks before connecting with the pavement once more.
Now high above last night's picturesque camp spot, we bid it a fond farewell and continue on to greener pastures.
This morning I am thankful for pavement. Sweet, smooth pavement. Our off-road adventure was fun but it is nice to cover ground with ease too.
As we pedal up a small hill, we pass an old woman splitting wood in front of her house. She is beautiful, clad in a black sweater and modest black skirt, her icy white hair blowing in the wind to the backdrop of a cherry tree in a full bloom.
She raises a hatchet in one weathered hand and brings it down with purpose on a dry limb of cherry wood laying on a chopping block. The branches split with a satisfying crack. She takes her piece of wood and throws it into a pile, preparing a stack so she'll have fuel to burn. The sight of this woman in charge of her own survival is so beautiful and inspiring to me. I hope to be like her when I am old.
Seaside towns behind us, it is time for The Big Climb. Tyler has prepped me for it, so I approach the series of fifteen switchbacks ascending rougly 800 meters with confidence and ease.
Here we go, up, up, up!
Well hello, sheepies! My, you have a nice view.
And cute ears, too!
Something about rusted, heavy machinery really does it for Tyler:
We climb, we climb, we climb some more. Music on our iPods, ample scenery to treat our eyes, we are happy and our slow ascent is easy and peaceful.
Phew, that's a lot of climbing!
Finally, we make it to the "top" and cruise down into a vibrant valley.
Unfortunately we also have to climb out of the valley, but it is no trouble. At the real top, we break for a snack before cruising down, down, down.
In the middle of our descent, we are stopped by a friendly construction worker named Kostas. Traffic must be halted for a few minutes while a backhoe with a pneumatic drill attached to it pounds the mountainside into oblivion.
Our imposed break gives us a chance to chat. We learn of his upcoming marriage (congratulations!) and hear about some of the worries he has about the economic crisis here in Greece: his fiance is having trouble keeping work, and he can't find a job that suits his more impressive skillset. Good luck, Kostas!
We wave goodbye to our construction worker friend as he smiles and ushers us through the rocky work zone. Our coasting ends in a quaint town with a river flowing through it. With 30 kilometers left to get to Hania, we realize we'd be riding into a city at dusk.
We've finally learned our lesson. We double-back in search of a free-camp. Finally after much hunting, we find the perfect spot in an olive grove. Tyler treats me to camp set-up and fried potatoes for dinner before we fall fast asleep at the early hour of 9PM.
Tomorrow we have a short day ahead of us to reach Hania!