Day 10 – 16th April 2014 leave 10.30am Miles rode 119 Bitola – Thessaloniki

I slept all night again and woke feeling refreshed, a good feeling after months of stress.

It’s snowing! I didn’t envisage this!
As I didn’t have a long ride planned today I was going to walk around the ‘Old Bazaar’ and slowly prepare for a short ride to Thessaloniki in Greece.

It’s snowing!!!

I made an error, I decided as it wasn’t far to ride to Greece I would. I would regret this decision in an hour. I passed the boarder into Greece after 30 mins and whilst it was snowing it wasn’t too heavy, yes it was settling on the fields but not the road. The snow fell heavier and it started settling on my visor, I was getting cold and had about 100km to ride. Would it stop around the corner? It was Greece in April, it must be a freak event, I would be fine (I’ve just realised that my dad would have thought the same!), I continued and it got worse to the point that I was having to use my rubbish summer gloves to wipe the frozen snow from my visor every 3 – 5 seconds. I had put all of my thermals back on that I had packed away a few days ago thinking I wouldn’t need them for months so I was wasn’t cold other than my hands and toes which were freezing.

There were no villages, no petrol stations open, no one at all only the odd car. Another 20 minutes and I thought I may have a problem, if it came to it I could stop put the tent up and try and keep warm with the clothes I have and the blanket that I borrowed from a hotel in the alps in case such an eventuality arose.

My thumbs and toes were now very cold and the road started climbing (not another fucking mountain!), I had asked a polish guy at the hostel who drove this way a few days earlier if there was a mountain, he said no, had I known I wouldn’t have left. As I rode higher the snowing turned into a blizzard and I knew it wasn’t a good situation, the snow was settling on the road, I was getting colder and I was still climbing and there were no cars about. My gut feeling was not to carry on (I told myself to remember that I should always follow my gut feeling), at this point as the snow on the road was getting bad I came into what seemed a deserted village and I saw an old man, I stopped and he told me in broken English that I should go on in another direction and after 10 – 15 km it would get better.
I followed his instructions and the next 20 – 30 minutes were hell! Hardly any cars and no houses at all, even the petrol stations were closed, I had to continue and hoped the old man was right. The snow got so heavy that my hand was permanently used as a windscreen wiper on my visor, I was cold and knew I wasn’t in a good situation.

Eventually a petrol station was open in the middle of nowhere. As I pulled in I could see it was practically derelict and a massive dog ran out barking at me. A guy came out of a shack and I asked if I could have petrol and warm myself, he said ok.
As we walked to his shack I thought it would be just as cold inside but when we entered in the middle of the room was the biggest wood burner glowing red with heat, as I stood in front of it with the snow melting the guy told me to take my snowy outer clothes off and went to his laptop and started showing me pictures of his motorbike and his biker friends.
Over the next 20 minutes I thawed out and we talked bikes.
When I went out to the bike I was in a happy place and the snow had eased a bit.

It’s all about the people.

The following hour wasn’t fun at all, but it wasn’t as bad as the previous hour and I wasn’t as cold. I found a small town 30 minutes from Thessaloniki where I got food and coffee and when I left the sun had come out and I took my wet weather clothes off and rode the final stretch in the sun with a smile on my face. The hostel I booked was fabulous and I went out that evening down to The Aegean. Another blue sea and I’m happy again:) As I tend to do I found a great bar.