Finally, on the road touring. It feels light and free. A fairly easy, mostly smooth, 70 km day.
It took me forever to find my way out of Iraklio. I wanted to find the “old road” which is quieter than the new main road, although they sometimes merge. I followed signs for the airport which is where the old road heads, but it felt wrong; I was heading too far south. Then I discovered the signs were taking me to the motorway to the airport. Back into town. The off-line maps app on my iphone and its GPS saw lots of use today. Finally found the right road and was off. Warm, sunny, heading east on a fairly quiet rolling road near the coast through small holiday towns. Stopped at the Palace of Malia to see the ruins of an old Minoan town, but it was a disappointment after seeing the ruins on Santorini. Made a good break though and made me realize what a treat it was to visit Santorini.
I’m following a route from an old cycling guidebook. It suggested doing a hard climb on the old road after Malia to avoid riding through an unsafe tunnel on the main road. I followed the advice only to find the old road closed and the main road the only way over the hill. I dug out my tail light (at the bottom of a pannier, of course), and set off on the main road with trepidation. I’ve cycled the tunnels in the Fraser Canyon and on the Trans-Canada highway in the Rockies; I know that tunnels can be unnerving and sometimes dangerous. It was a long climb, probably only a bit short of the climb on the old road. I laughed when I reached the tunnel: only 200 m long, straight, lighted, down hill, wide lanes. Clearly the author of the guide had never ridden it, he’d been warned off and took the warning as true. I was through it in less than a minute and there was no traffic. At the end I thought, hell, after getting worked up about nothing, I should go back and do it again! I didn’t.
After the tunnel I returned to the old road and had a quiet 15 km descent to Agios Nikiolaos through olive groves. Beautiful.
Got a lovely hotel room overlooking a small bay they call The Lake.
In English Agios Nilolaos is Saint Nicholas. This must be where he hangs out in the summer. No sign of elves or reindeer, but a number of stout elderly tourists. No bushy white beards, but perhaps he shaves in summer.
I met a French couple at Malia as I was unlocking my bike. We chatted briefly. (Come to Greece, practice French.) What they found surprising is that I’m doing it solo. Vous êtes seul! It is sometimes lonely traveling solo. I appreciate the comments posted on the blog and sent by email. Inge and I keep in touch by email and FaceTime, but it isn’t the same as traveling together. The comments are another connection. And please share – post them on the blog.
Tomorrow looks like a ride that should be easy, but the following two days will be hard.