Northern Greece and the bears we didn't meet.

snow-topped mountains in Greece?

We arrived into Igoumenitsa at 6am. It was freezing and an icy mist gathered about our ears. We were a bit fed up, but the scenery was at least impressively Greek from the outset. There was no-one else on the roads and we felt like Adventurers, and stopped to make coffee by the road-side. A French woman pulled up in a Renault (what else?), and gesticulated bizarrely at Adam. We rode on.

The mountains were stunning, with the mist still swirling, and lots of pine trees and craggy rocks. We stopped to make lunch in one of the prettiest logging sites I have ever seen, and fell asleep on a convenient log and got covered in tree sap. It was a good snooze though and we needed it after the bloody ferry experience.

lunch and a snooze...

There were lakes with salt-flats and marshland and we resolved to wild-camp.

see, quite nice isn't it?
We looked around for ages for a good spot, following little dirt tracks to nowhere and having to heave the bike back up again- we dropped the bike too for the first time on a ridged track- it was worse than it looks on the photo...

the first bike toppling. the road was worse than it looks!!!

Eventually it started to get dark and chilly and we spotted a reservoir. We stripped and had a freezing, naked reservoir wash, slipping off the rocks into ankle-deep mud at the bottom. I even tried some intrepid leg-shaving...

its a lot colder than it looks.

Two minutes later our deserted spot had a car driving through it, with a young family in. Had they timed it even slightly earlier, their young, impressionable eyes would have been subjected to two naked, white, goose-bumped individuals in the middle of their lake.

We had the tent-erection pretty much underway (it’s a lengthy process) when, in the middle of nowhere, a police car appeared. They pulled up looking shellshocked and were fairly pleasant in a nonplussed sort of way, but let us know we weren't going to be allowed to camp there. We tried to squeeze a reason out of them, but only got a general impression of Danger. Eventually they gave up and shrugged- we could do as we wish. We wished to camp, but slightly less than we had wished it earlier. We set up just as it got dark (very dark), and I had a very restless night wondering abut axe-murderers and werewolves- why were the police driving round deserted reservoirs with binoculars? Adam took the hammer to bed with him. I had a very scary midnight piss a foot away from the tent.

We survived. A month later we would discover from a knowledgeable English couple that Metsovo, the nearest small town to the reservoir, had had an inhabitant killed by a bear whilst camping, two weeks before we camped there. You would think the Greek police would have at least been able to mime ‘large ferocious bear’.

Nevertheless, we were still there in the morning, and the friendly local police dropped by again for a chat (and to check for bear-mauling). It was a peaceful morning and a strange fellow with a big stick wandered down to the water, shouting to hear the echos.

the bear is just off-camera...

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