Thursday, September 25
Meteora to Stealth Camp Spot west of Larisa, Greece
I had a dream last night (Thurs nite) that I was working for some people as a counselor/consultant. After a meeting one of the principals pulled me aside and asked if I would please trim my mustache. The tone of the short conversation was that she really liked my unusually incisive and perceptive assessments, but that the other principals were having a hard time taking me seriously because I looked kind of ragged.
That’s how I feel this morning and will just need to be patient as I get into a better environment to put some pieces back together again. The first issue was that my phone data plan suddenly terminated itself Wednesday evening! Unlike two weeks ago when it frustrated me, this time I am looking at it through the lens of negotiating different countries. Why should I expect all that to go smoothly when hopping from border to border? If only Italy and Greece could agree on a few things for my personal convenience!
Handling it yesterday was somewhat comical. I first went to Vodafone who informed me that because I purchased my plan with Wind that I needed to go up the street to them. I appreciated the referral. I went to Wind who has originally sold me the plan in Italy. But, unfortunately when I crossed the Adriatic Sea my phone switched over from Wind to Cosmote. The Wind folks said that they couldn’t address this issue because Cosmote was my carrier. Oh boy! Wind sold me the package, but Cosmote picked up the service from Italy to Greece. This wasn’t looking good.
I walked another hundred meters (anything close here is referred to as “just a hundred meters!) and found Cosmote. Cosmote explained to me that my Italian phone number would not work in Greece and that is why it was terminated. Funny it worked for five days first. I don’t get it. I finally agreed that I would need to buy more data to get me through another ten days (I actually wanted fourteen days, but they wouldn’t sell me that much.) We signed all the papers, he did his gadget work, and voila! Damn. He said the phone number he was using wouldn’t work on an iPhone. He sent me back to Vodafone saying they are the only provider who can give SIM cards that work for iPhones.
I thought I was getting close. The clerk at Vodafone gave me a suspicious look when I returned. I am sure she was thinking, “I already told this American I couldn’t help him.” I explained what had happened and that I was ready to purchase more data for another ten days. That she could do. She took my passport, I signed the papers and then she realized that I had the iPhone 5s that requires a nanochip rather than a microchip. That would cost me 5,00 euros more. “No problem. Let’s do it,” I said. Only one problem. After looking through about one hundred cards she discovered she was out of nanochips, but could get them in a week. Sigh.
I am now traveling with Antonio from Spain who is also headed to Thessaloniki. I had a planned to go north through the back country, but he was hoping to avoid more mountains and was planning to go south. The possibility of companionship for a day, two, three or four sounded good. Plus there are larger towns on the southern route where I can stop in a Vodafone store to get my phone working again (which by the way, we did at the next major town in Tikala. But, of course, we arrived at about 2 p.m. and it was closed for siesta time.)
I am writing from inside my tent in a little forest of trees that was planted as a wind break for a farm. All the trees are neatly lined up like kids in a kindergarten class. This is my first night of stealth camping. The town is just 500 meters away on one end of the forest and the farm is only a hundred meters away. But, we are fairly well hidden and the worst that will happen now is that we’ll be discovered and moved on just as we are moving on ourselves. It rained off and on during the night. I smell sweaty and salty from the day’s cycling and really hope that we will be able to find camping or accommodations on the coast where I can shower. I cooked last night for the first time on my newly purchased backpacking stove. It worked well, but I didn’t have enough water to do a thorough cleaning and so my cooking gear is just gross.
But, we had a leisurely day of riding. Both of us are still recovering from the three days of mountainous terrain. Yesterday was completely flat as we rolled by thousands of acres of cotton fields. They are in the middle of harvest now. The trucks continued to do their work clear through the night waking meat strange intervals.
My dream seemed to catch how I am feeling—a little ragged. My mustache is too long. My beard is scraggly. My hair is always going all kinds of directions—either from waking up in the morning, wearing my helmet, or on those occasions when I am not wearing my helmet and I get a windblown look. My one T-shirt I brought is now stained with grease, food stains, and sweat. My turtleneck is fraying at the end of the sleeves and neck. I shouldn’t be out in public. My towel is wet, but not yet mildew-smelling.
But, it will all work out. I’ll be patient. I just would like to feel not quite so gross! At some point I’d like to come home—but I am not sure I’d be welcome in this state.